This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2006 Travels July 19

WEDNESDAY 19 JULY     LITCHFIELD

Another day off, for us, though M had to work.

I did some chores in the morning. Fitted in my washing between M doing the camp and cafe washing, and B doing theirs,  in the one and only machine. Cleaned the van.

After lunch, headed off to explore another new walk – Greenant Creek and Tjaetaba Falls – a return walk of nearly 3kms. Just a stroll, in the overall scheme of things!

This time, we drove back to the east, past the Wangi Falls turn off. Greenant Creek was between that and the Tolmer Falls turnoff.

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The lush little valley of Greenant Creek

The walking track followed the small Greenant Creek –  lushly vegetated, green, cool and pretty. Most of our way, we could hear the creek burbling along.

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Eventually came to the lookout point where we could gaze out over the top of Tjaetaba Falls.

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We lingered for a while there, then retraced our steps back to Truck and thence to camp, to laze away what was left of the afternoon.


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2006 Travels July 18

TUESDAY 18 JULY     LITCHFIELD

It was our day off.

Yesterday, we’d asked boss 2, very sweetly if M could have the day off, too. He agreed, before he went off back to Darwin for his break. Fait accompli!

We had, last week, arranged to go out to neighbouring LaBelle Downs today, and be taken by the owner, P, on his boat cruise on part of the Reynolds River. He had recently developed a camp ground on his station, near his homestead – as we had seen on the promo board by our front entrance.

Needed to be up early, to get out to LaBelle at the 8am specified.

With M in the back seat, we drove the gravel Channel Point road to the homestead.

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Location of Labelle relative to our camp and the coast

Passed the new campground near the house. It looked rather good. Sites were laid out and had shade. There was a row of individual shower/toilet rooms. P later explained that his concept was that, upon booking in, you got a key to one of these, for your group’s sole use. Throughout your stay, you were responsible for keeping it in the state that suited you. One way to save on the cost and labour of daily cleaning – made a lot of sense to me.

It was early days yet for the set up, but it was certainly attractive enough to make us think about camping here at some future date.

P drove us in his vehicle, along station tracks, from the house to the river, where a good sized boat was moored. There were some gates to open and close and I did those.

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Labelle Homestead complex and Reynolds River wetlands

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We paid him $40 each for the cruise – before we left on it. When we paid him, he put the money into a kind of money belt, that was stuffed really full with notes – and just tossed it back onto the back seat. Very casual.

The cruise on the river and billabongs took the best part of a couple of hours.

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The scenery was beautiful and the cruise really interesting.

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There was lots of bird life, and some crocs, of course. They were large ones too!

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Some of the way was on fairly open river channel, some was through more shallow billabong sections, and backwaters.

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The vegetation beside the river was varied, but always lush.

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One section featured several Leichhardt Pines.

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Everywhere, we disturbed birds, that flew around.

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Whistling ducks

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How many crocs?

Back at the house, we were treated to drinks and talk with P. He essentially allowed us to wander around the living rooms of the house – a fairly modern one – and browse things like paintings, photos, books. Again, it was all very casual. I was not sure if we got standard treatment, or if this was much more friendly than normal, because we were “neighbours”.

P seemed quite lonely. He told us he was divorced recently and that his ex-wife had gotten to keep their Kimberley cattle station, near Fitzroy Crossing. We got the impression that it had been his favourite place.

Eventually, feeling that we had stayed long enough, drove back to camp, where we had a leisurely lunch.

Then, since we had a rare day off all together, decided to go out to Walker Creek, for an explore.

Drove out past the Woolaning settlement, and on to the parking area for the Walker Creek track.

This was a 3.5km return walk, mostly along side a beautifully clear little cascading creek.

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Walker Creek

The track passed through some stands of cycads.

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It was, in the Park information, graded as a moderate class walk, but we found it easy going. There was quite a lot of shade along the way, which made it feel easier.

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Only walk in camping was allowed in the handful of sites we passed – no vehicle access to these. This, clearly, limited their popularity, and none were occupied. So it was lovely and peaceful, with no other people, unlike somewhere like Wangi.

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Reflections in the creek

The section of track where the main stands of cycads were, had been burnt fairly recently.

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The Park Rangers had told us they were plagued by the local indigines, who persisted in setting fires, even though they had been asked not to, and the reasons why had been explained. So areas that the Rangers did not want burned, were – and it was an ongoing task for them, once things had dried out, like now, to keep control of these fires. They believed it was not so much that this was traditional country management, but more that it was a way of annoying the white people Park authorities.

There were a couple of places we could have swum, had we wished – in some lovely, small clear pools, under little sets of cascades, and in the larger plunge pool at the Falls. But I think we had rather acclimatized to the temperatures up here, and somehow it did not feel like swimming season.

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It was a really lovely little walk. It occupied us for some three hours. Much enjoyed.

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We were becoming conscious now that we did not have all that much more time left here, so had to make the most of our days off. One of the benefits of time off in mid week was that there were less day tripper crowds from Darwin. There were still all the tour groups and lots of tourists at the popular places – but not as busy as on weekends. Which, of course, was why we were given mid-week days off.


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2006 Travels July 11

TUESDAY 11 JULY     LITCHFIELD

We had a day off. It was much needed. after yesterday!

Slept in and lazed about.

Eventually stirred ourselves to go for a drive. M went without a lunch break, so she could finish early and come with us.

I wanted to have a look at the Tabletop Swamp, to see if I could get some good photos there, but it was not as photogenic as I had hoped and I didn’t bother.

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Pink dusk sky from bushfire smoke

We visited the Tolmer Falls, to view the sunset from there – and saw the moon rise, as well as the sunset.

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Tolmer Falls

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Sunset and moonrise


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2006 Travels June 14

WEDNESDAY 14 JUNE     LITCHFIELD

Today we managed to get more energetic. Drove to the Wangi Falls carpark.

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The Wangi plunge pool was still closed to swimmers, which was a great disappointment to many tourists, especially the backpackers. It was quite late in the year for it still to be closed. Officially, it was because there was still so much water coming over the falls that there were dangerous currents. But we had been told by the rangers coming into the cafe for a coffee, that they were still not sure the pool was clear of crocodiles, after the big wet season. The traps were still in there.

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After looking at the falls from the pool level, for a while, we took the track beyond the viewing point. Now we were venturing where the majority of travellers who visited Wangi did not bother to go. It was the falls and the large plunge pool/swimming hole that defined this place for most people.

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This climbed up the side of the falls, sometimes on steps. It was quite a steep climb, in parts.

I spotted a frogmouth owl, tucked away in a tree beside the track, just sitting there with its beak in the air, pretending we were not there.

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Frogmouth Owl blending into the background

The climb was interesting, in that we transitioned from the monsoon type forest down at the falls level, up to the much more dry, short and sparse growth up on the stone country at the top.

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Climbing up from the forest level

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Stone country at the top of Wangi Falls

The track crossed surprisingly small creeks up on the top. It was hard to believe that these created the volume of the falls themselves.

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At the top of the Falls

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The track continued on, came back down the escarpment at a lower point and looped back to the falls and car park.

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Wangi Falls and the walking track (Zoom)

It was a pleasant outing, not too hard, and very pretty. However, my heel would be sore for a few days after the walking – really annoying.


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2006 Travels May 16

TUESDAY 16 MAY     LITCHFIELD

Day off.

I did our washing.

Then we drove to Batchelor.

We saw a mechanic there. he was not sure what might be wrong with the clutch. There went that hope of a quick and easy fix. We would have to go to Darwin, sometime soon, to get it seen to.

At the PO/store, collected a mail parcel that contained all my cooking aprons, that I’d made for use at Pungalina last year. I hadn’t brought them with me, because I had not expected to be cooking, at Adels. Amongst them were the striped ones that I’d made for John’s use at Pungalina, although he had rarely needed them. They would be useful for him here, when he was helping with the bus groups lunches, and especially when doing the washing up from same.

I had been hoping to hear that my next grandchild was born, by now, so I could have sent a card and gift whilst in Batchelor, but it apparently had not yet made an appearance in the world.

On the way back to camp, stopped at the Magnetic Termite Mounds and did the circuit walk there.

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The name of these was misleading, because the mounds themselves were not magnetic. They were built to have really thin sides that faced north-south, and broad sides that faced east-west. This alignment was in response to the sun and the necessary heating and cooling  of the mound interiors, not from any sense of the Earth’s magnetism.

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Called in at Tolmer Falls again, for another walk to the viewing platform and gaze at the spectacular falls.

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2006 Travels May 10-15

WEDNESDAY 10 MAY – MONDAY 15 MAY     LITCHFIELD

Working days continued as already described.

There were a couple of nights when I didn’t finish until 6pm,  and a couple of days that were so busy that I got no lunch break at all. My preference, rather than take the break and finish even later, was to keep going and just grab bits of salad and cold meat as I worked – snacking.

I noticed that we were more busy over the weekend. I guess that might be normal, as locals from Darwin did day trips out to the National Park. Litchfield has an advantage over Kakadu in that it is well within day trip feasibility. The two parks are very different in character, but I think I preferred the more obvious “in your face” scenery of Litchfield, plus its great range of walks.

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It was becoming clearer that one boss was not the really lovely guy that our friend had described. She had obviously seen his best side, when working nearby and being a cafe customer. He was demonstrating regular bad moods and temper and I did not like the way he treated his lady. She tended to tippy toe around his moods. So far, he had not been too nasty to me, though he was being somewhat temperamental around John.

I was really looking forward to M getting here.

The environment here was really very pleasant. The working days were compensated for by our quiet, green camp area.

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It felt like the weather was starting to cool down a bit.


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2006 Travels May 9

TUESDAY 9 MAY     LITCHFIELD

It was a day off. The sleep in was much appreciated.

I needed to do our washing. There was no facility for staff, for this – we had to use the one and only machine, which was in the boss and B’s donga. It was only a fairly small domestic machine, in the bathroom section of the donga, which was complete with partly rotted out floor! I felt intrusive, but there was no other option. I just had to try to find a time when they were out and about, rather than asleep in the next room, and when B was not already using the machine to wash tea towels and other linen, if the safari camp had been in use. It was just one of the several hassles about the place.

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Monsoon Cafe environs. Safari Camp top centre, beyond open car park area; dense vegetation along creek line, amongst which was our camp. (Zoom satellite)

After I’d managed to get the washing done and hung it on the clothes line nearby, we went for a drive.

Decided to go to Batchelor first – almost 80kms away – to see if we had any mail. There wasn’t. This was disappointing, because I’d asked house sitter to pack up my working aprons, which were stacked in a cupboard at home, and mail them. I was trying to get by with just one apron I’d had with me, in case, and the few provided by the cafe, which were pretty scrappy.

I bought some things at the store – mostly packet cup of soups, to supplement the cafe offerings, for tea. Stocked up on yoghurt too. These were mostly what I felt like eating at nights, anyway.

Refuelled in Batchelor – had done 275kms – $1.57cpl.

Then we headed back, but side tracked to go see Florence Falls.

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Multi-tiered Florence Falls

There was lots of water coming over the falls.

There were not many tourists about yet. Within another month, this place would be packed.

We did not have the energy to walk down to the level of the plunge pool – particularly since we would only have to turn around and climb a ton of steps back up! It was still too humid for much exercise.

Then we went back to Buley Rockholes. Looked at these, walked around the different levels.

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Buley Rockholes

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The flow in these was still quite fast, and although the water was tempting, we decided not to go for a dip in the pools. Again, once the tourist numbers increase, these would be packed out with bodies!

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When the flow was not so ferocious, this pool would be packed with people cooling off

Our final stop was at Tolmer Falls, where we had to walk a distance on a path, to get to the viewing platform.

Travellers could not access the lower levels at these falls, because it was the habitat of a rare bat.

They were very impressive falls.

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Tolmer Falls

After that exploring, we went back to camp to relax for the rest of the day.

The clutch on Truck had begun, today, to occasionally stick down to the floor, which was a worrying development.

My troublesome heel was still sore – at a fairly low grade level while I was doing work days, but tended to become more acute after activities like today’s walking. It was annoying.

Yesterday, the part time worker told the boss that she would be leaving shortly. Her husband had received an unexpected transfer to a more distant community. I asked if friend M could replace her – if there was enough work to occupy her full time. That was agreed. So we’d phoned M, who said she would now get a move on, from Qld, to get here soon. She had already phoned Adels, to be told there would not be work for her there, so our news was timely.

There was some cloud about, which made for interesting sunsets.

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2006 Travels May 2

TUESDAY 2 MAY   DARWIN TO LITCHFIELD   180kms

We got away at 9.45.

On the way out, we stopped at Repco, by the highway, to buy fuses. John hoped he would then be able to fix the CB radio, which had not worked since we were at Adels.

Travelled back down the Stuart Highway, then took the Batchelor road.

Stopped at the Batchelor Store and PO. I posted off the remaining books I’d had on loan from the Mt Isa library. Made ourselves known to the lady there, telling her that we would be getting mail c/o her Post Office. Although we would we working some 75kms away, this was the nearest PO.

I checked out the range of supplies in the store. Although “keep” was supposed to be part of our working terms, it did not hurt to know what I could get here.

I bought some post cards and a rather lovely small set of wind chimes – stained glass, featuring a green frog. I have a weakness for frog “things”.

I packed a sandwich lunch this morning and we stopped to eat this at the Magnetic Termite Mounds display area, in the Litchfield National Park. We did not spend time exploring or walking around these, thinking we would be exploring the Park on our days off.

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Litchfield Magnetic Termite Mounds

The Litchfield Road was quite winding in parts. There was a fairly steep climb up the Tabletop Range, and a corresponding descent on the other side. These gave some distant vistas over bushland.

Occasionally there were interesting rock outcrops near the road.

We traversed a number of shallow floodways across the road, some of which still had water in. There were some larger floodways where there was quite a bit of water and swampy areas beside the road.

It was an interesting drive, on yet another hot and humid day, but with blue sky.

I had been to Litchfield once before, on the 1991 school trip, but it was really only a drive through on the way back to Darwin from Kakadu. I recollected looking at Buley Rockholes and Wangi Falls, but finding that the camp area there was full. We ended up camping just west of the Park, in a private campground, which was really just bush and was not a favourite memory! John had not been here before.

Called in at Wangi Falls, one of several superb sets of falls in the Litchfield National Park, and a draw card for just about every tourist that visits here. I wanted to see what it was like after the recent rain.

Walked from the parking area down the path to the large plunge pool. with the falls across its far side. After all the rain associated with the recent cyclone, the water was really thundering over the falls.

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Wangi Falls

No swimming was allowed in the pool yet, due to the strong water currents, I thought, so I was able to get some really good photos, without lots of swimmers in the water.

Dry Season tourists just did not get to see the power and magnificence of such northern falls.

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We found out, later, that a large saltie croc had been taken out of the plunge pool, last week, and that the pool would stay closed to swimmers until they were as certain as they could be, that there were no more crocs in there!

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Continued on to the Monsoon Cafe, about 5kms beyond Wangi Falls. The land there was on the edge of the National Park – a private area, set aside for development. We arrived mid afternoon.

Parked the rig in the large, gravelled parking area, and walked up a path through a lush, lawned area, to the cafe. First impressions were really favourable. It was most attractive, with lots of hanging fern baskets edging a veranda area containing cafe tables. More tables were outside on the lawn, in the shade of large trees.

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Inside, the cafe was quite quirky, with counter fronts faced with some sort of local split timber, and wooden poles supporting the roof. There were more tables in here.

We met the boss who hired us and his partner, B, in the cafe. They were very friendly. They told us we could set up our camp down by the creek, out beyond the cafe, so we drove the rig around and down. There was a flat area that he had made for some previous staff people, that he thought would be suitable  for the van – and it was. We would be side on to the creek, and from under our awning, would look out onto it and the bush beyond it.

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The space between the creek and van

The small creek was flowing – lovely.

The area was pleasantly “bushy”.

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We would have to use the same toilets that the public used, attached to the side of the cafe, and some distance from the camp. Closer, there were two staff showers – rather rustic bush style, rather reminiscent of those at Adels, but smaller.

When we were setting up camp, a little green frog hopped out of our floor matting bag and spent some time sitting on each of us. It was a cute little critter. We thought it must have gotten in there in Darwin, while the bag was lying on the ground under the van. I hoped it could find a suitable new home around here.

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We did the usual set up for an extended stay.

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Unloading the roof rack

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If our friend did come to work, there would be space for her camp just beyond ours

After setting up, we went back up to the cafe, for a bit of an introductory session, in the bit of time that was left in the afternoon. Had a good look around.

There turned out to be two owner/managers. It was Boss 1 we met. His lady, B, did the admin type work, and marketing, and oversaw the outside area that was set aside for bus groups to have lunch. She served in the cafe, also. Boss 1 was responsible for the plant and its upkeep, and the physical development of the place, by and large. Boss 2 handled the financial side. At least, those were the arrangements we gleaned.

Both men had home bases in Darwin and alternated being on site out here – about half a week each. Boss 1 and B had an old donga, just up the slope from our camp, Boss 2 slept in an old caravan that was parked part way between the cafe and our camp. Both men also cooked in the cafe, though my presence was supposed to allow Boss 1 to do other work about the place.

I decided that the work would be alright, for me at least. John’s role was less clearly defined – just outside tasks, it seemed. I just hoped that we got enough hours up to make it worthwhile and also that our pay was correctly handled, in regards to tax and super.

Keep was supposed to be part of the package, but not much was said about that. Yet to be sorted!

We ate tea at our van, made from provisions I had in the van.

It was nicely quiet at night. Could not hear the establishment’s generator. Just the usual bush sounds. As we like it.

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2006 Travels April 26

WEDNESDAY 26 APRIL     ADELS GROVE

I did smoko for the builders in the morning. Made potato rosti, cooked bacon and eggs to go with same.

The mail plane came in and we received the mail that the house sitter had forwarded from home.

The weekly supply truck came in and we helped unload it and put things away.

John used the public phone box to start making calls about jobs. Yes, there was work at Bundaberg, but it was mostly picking vegetables. That was too hard for our physical abilities and mental inclinations!

The lady near Clermont who wanted a teacher wanted him and offered him $700 a week wages. That was equal to what we would earn, combined, here. But there was no role for me. I could not see myself sitting around in the van doing little, for months on end, on some remote station.

An ad for a couple to do our sort of work, at the Bark Hut Inn, in the NT, on the road to Kakadu, seemed interesting. John tried to phone them, but could get no answer to his repeated calls. We found out later that they had just had the cyclone come through and were busy dealing with the damage. That included to the pen that held their “pet” saltie croc, where a tree branch had fallen over the fence. The croc apparently did not like chain saws, because it had attacked the man who was up a ladder cutting away the fallen timber, and taken away the saw! The worker was very shaken. A photo of the croc with the chain saw in its mouth subsequently made the front page of the Darwin paper.

John phoned friends H and D, who we had previously worked with here. They had spent the summer working at a resort on Fraser Island and we knew they were about to leave there to travel. The company had just hired replacements for them, so we were too late there. They suggested we call the Monsoon Cafe, at Wangi, near Litchfield National Park. Last Dry Season, H and D had staffed a tour company’s seasonal camp near there, and gotten to know the cafe owners. They said they were great people and they had previously mentioned us to them, as fellow seasonal workers.

So John phoned and spoke with one of the owners. Then he  wanted to talk to me, and he hired us then and there, because I could cook. He offered me $15 an hour and John $13 for outside work. John took over and negotiated that up to $16 and $14.

We decided to give it a go. It could be good. It would be new scenery in a great part of the country, at any rate. Being paid by the hour appealed too – provided we got enough hours to make it worthwhile. It might even end up being better than here.

It was arranged that we would start in a week’s time.

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Reflections

John phoned the Clermont station to say we would not be coming and explain why.

Then we went and told the bosses that we would be leaving tomorrow. They were really taken aback. One said to John : “But you’ve got all the knowledge!”. I think they were both truly surprised that we were not prepared to stick around, doing some of the work and not being paid, indefinitely. Also keeping M on hold, somewhere, as we’d been asked to do, in case she was wanted later. But there did not seem to be any hard feelings, so that was good. I guess they understood.

As if to underscore the point, the couple we had encountered at Tambo arrived at lunch time. There were staff queued up, waiting for work! I wished them more joy than we’d had!

The back packer bus groups would not be coming until the Gulf Track was open, which would be another month or more. Last year, we had made it through, quite easily, on 10 April. This showed that there could be such variation in seasons and conditions, up here.

We told V and F we were going. V said that she and F would not go off camping tonight – tomorrow was their day off – but would stay to spend a last night with us. We said they had to keep to their camping plans, knowing how much they valued time away on their own.

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By the late afternoon, we had done most of our packing up.

Phoned everyone who needed to know that we were moving on: our offspring, M, the house sitter – asked her to hold the mail until we contacted her again.

An email came in from the Pungalina boss. He said the place was slowly drying out. O had bogged the tractor on the track to the Safari Camp! I found it hard to imagine that track that wet. He said it would be many weeks more before they would be able to get supplies in and open the camp.

Said our good byes to V and F, with promises to keep in touch and see each other when we could.

There was no fuss at night. It was just staff and builders to tea – no guests. The bosses went to the office after the meal, for a video conference with the Isa partners. We helped with the dinner clean up. John helped MS learn a computer program for a while. I gave her some ideas for the builders’ smokos, because it looked like she would now be doing them. Then we went off to the van.

We felt sad to be going like this, but at the same time felt we needed to be true to what we had been feeling. We had been here for eleven days and in that time, contributed substantially.