This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.

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2006 Travels August 8


Packed up, hitched up.

Went up to the cafe to say goodbyes. Boss 1 and B had still not returned from Darwin. There had been no acknowledgement from him at all – no thanks, goodbyes, or anything. At least we parted on good terms from boss 2.

So – goodbye to the Monsoon Cafe. It would be a while before I would eat hamburgers or mango cheesecake again!

Goodbye to Litchfield – wonderful area. Hoped we would return – but as tourists!

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We took the sealed roads back to Darwin. Called in at Batchelor to check that there was no final mail for us.

We passed a couple of the day tripper buses heading out to the attractions of Litchfield, and lunch at the cafe.

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There seemed to still be lots of tourist traffic on the roads.

Went into our pre-booked en-suite site at Hidden Valley Tourist Park, booking in for two weeks. It cost $35 a night, but the seventh night was free.

M appeared, soon after we pulled onto site. She’d spent a few nights with her friend at her Cullen Bay apartment.

We did a full set up. The site was not huge, but the en-suite was very pleasant. It was a very practical design for this environment, with plenty of air circulation, and metal door structures, instead of wood.

M was on an ordinary powered site, some distance away. I told her to use our bathroom if she wished, rather than the shared amenities block.

We had happy hour at our site, catching up on our respective happenings of the past few days, and discussing what we might do now.

First item on the agenda was to get Truck fixed – hopefully, properly this time.

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2006 Travels August 2 – 7


Well, my grand solution for the cafe did not work out so well. H had resigned!

I came on duty on Monday morning, to find all hell had broken loose. Yesterday, Boss 1 was in one of his worse moods, and had prowled around the kitchen, being negative and difficult. Showing his true colours, for the first time, to H.

This morning, H started at 7.30. Boss was checking everything out. He found a little – almost microscopic – piece of slimy capsicum, in prepared salad, and promptly threw the whole large container of same in the bin. With words. That was the last straw for H, who had not had a comfortable day yesterday. She said she would serve out a week’s notice, but would not work with boss 1, only with me or boss 2, or on her own.

I had lasted months – she did not even manage a few days! The nice man she thought she knew was not the reality.

I think the three of us probably did not do anyone a service, by putting up with the crap dished out by the boss. Just led him to think everyone would be as immune to him as we were. Not everyone could just find him pathetic and rather amusing, and not take him personally, the way we did. Several times, John had challenged some of his more outrageous instructions, and stood up to him, saying if boss didn’t like it, he could sack him – and of course, that did not happen.

Boss now had to try to smooth things over, because he really wanted D to do the building work. It looked like D would stay long enough to do that, and H would just veg out at their camper, once her week’s notice was up.

I just hoped this would not affect Boss 2’s holiday plans. But not to the extent that I was prepared to reverse our decision to leave!

About 8.30am on Wednesday morning, in the aftermath of all that, H was in the kitchen with me, in tears over the issues with boss. He had been in such a bad mood that he’d stormed out of the kitchen and promptly had a confrontation with B. So she was in the office corner of the cafe, sobbing her heart out. I was slicing up a particularly strong batch of onions, so had tears streaming down my face. A customer came into the cafe. Despite my tears, I was the only non-upset person around, so I went out to serve him. He could hear two sobbing ladies, and there was I with eyes streaming. He looked very alarmed. I said  “It’s OK, it’s only onions!”. Not sure what he really thought, but he ordered his coffee and went and sat outside, away from the drama. I made the coffee, wiped my eyes and took it out to him.

So things were a bit strained. I did not even try to talk H around – because boss 1 really was horrible to work for – and she was less tolerant of idiots than I was. Anyway, the problem was not of my making!

Thursday was M’s last day. She finished with no fanfare. Friday, she packed up camp and headed off to Darwin, to stay with her friend there. She took our mail to post there.

Eventually, things got lighter, because on Friday, Boss 1 and B headed off to Darwin as usual, for the weekend. That left John and Boss 2 to run the bus group lunch area, and H and me in the kitchen. I was grateful that H was working out her notice. Being solo in the kitchen through the busy weekend lunch period was not something I would have enjoyed!

D, whose original trade was as a mechanic, and who knew Landrovers really well, reckoned our ongoing clutch problem was with the master cylinder. He gave John the name of a good place in Brisbane to source Landrover parts.

When there was time, we had to do all the necessary paperwork arrangements with boss 2, for pay finalization, group certificate issue, and the like.

On Monday, the afternoon was fairly quiet. With H still on deck, boss 2 said we could finish at 3pm and do some packing up of our camp. Much appreciated.

I was quite looking forward to a change of scene, and going back to being tourists. Our three months here had been  – well, interesting would be one way of putting it. And I had loved our camp by the creek.

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2006 Travels July 20 -24


On Thursday, boss 1 ordered John to clean out the grease trap outside the kitchen – by plunging his bare hands into it and hauling out all the accumulated gunk. John refused to do it, if he could not use tools and gloves to do the job. Boss berated John for being squeamish, but backed himself into a corner by doing so, because he then had to do it himself, that way. It was an absolutely revolting job.

After that, it was a usual sort of weekend period.

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Told the bosses we were going to leave. Did not tell boss 1 the real reason – that we could not work continuously with him – but did hint at that to the other boss. The latter was not happy, of course – well, neither of them were, though boss 1 wouldn’t show it. But we had already lasted a couple of months longer than any other employees they’d ever had, a telling fact in itself.

However, I had also managed to present them with a solution to the cook problem, for the time boss 2 was planning to be away. I had been in touch by email with H, who I had worked with at Adels in earlier times. She and husband D had been travelling in WA and were now not too far away from here. They were interested in topping up their funds. They knew the place and the men from working nearby last year – it was H who put us on to this job in the first place. So, they were prepared to come and replace us.

I only had one reservation about this arrangement. Felt that H did not know the real boss 1 – she had told us he was a charming man – and it would be a real surprise for her, if he revealed the self we had been working with. Could only hope he would control himself, in the light of really needing the help.

Boss 1 was really happy with the solution and substitution. He knew of D’s abilities from last year and said he would get him to help build some needed structures. In particular, he wanted to fit a coolroom container outside, opening through the window wall of the kitchen, so there would be no more need for the daily trek to fetch goods from the school down the road. This modification would, however, reduce the already limited bench and prep space. Not my problem!

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M would leave a few days before us, planning to meet up with friends who were travelling up that way, before catching up with us again in Darwin, where we planned to go after here.

French John, one of the WOOFERS, who had been here for some time, was leaving at the weekend. On his last night, a group partied on in the cafe, after closing time, to farewell him – led by boss 2. The other boss was in Darwin, but due back next day. M went to the party for a while, but then left them to it. We had been too tired to go at all.

When M turned up to work next morning, she found a body out on the lawn! French John! It gave her a big fright. He was out cold, but still breathing. She managed to slightly rouse him and help him over to his tent at the safari camp, to finish sleeping off his indulgences.

Then, she found chaos in the cafe. They had apparently been playing indoor cricket – with fruit, mostly oranges, which had not proved to be very durable cricket balls.  Red wine had somehow been spilled on some of the window curtains. She cleaned up, and washed the curtains. Later, she thought up an excuse for B as to why she’d suddenly decided to wash curtains.

By the time I started work, the cafe was pretty much back in order again. But boss 2 was very late turning up to work and was not a happy man – he had a huge hangover.

Monday night J and M went to Batchelor to bowls. John took some letters I’d written, to mail there. He put 20 litres of fuel in Truck, in Batchelor, at $1.56cpl.

At bowls, M and John committed themselves – and maybe me – to play in the Rum Jungle bowls team at an annual grudge match against Humpty Doo, called the Rumble in the Jungle! It would be held at Humpty Doo in August or September. So that kind of committed us to staying in the area until then.

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2006 Travels July 2 – 3


Flights out of Darwin were not easy to get, at this time of year. Son managed to get John onto a Jetstar flight on Tuesday night.

Now that the cafe trade was steadily busy, we were consistently running low on supplies by about Sunday of each week. When boss 1 came back from Darwin, after the weekends, he brought supplies with him, but they were proving not to be enough to last the week out.

Cabbages had become quite expensive, this winter, up here, and sometimes not even available at all. I convinced boss to try womboks instead, which were both cheaper and in supply. He was initially sceptical about wombok coleslaw, but after a trial batch, had to concede that they worked quite well.

Monday night, M, John, and French John went off to bowls at Batchelor. I worked till 6.15pm, finishing off the cheesecakes for the next day.

Resize of 06-14-2006 28 Monsoon safari camp kitchen area

Campfire circle in the safari camp section

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2006 Travels June 21


We both had a day off.

I did the usual washing and cleaning up in the van.

For a little exercise. we did the short walk around our Monsoon Creek. Boss 1 had made this a while ago, for guests to use. It was only a few hundred metres, but it was quite pretty.

Resize of 06-14-2006 52 Light and shade along the creek Monsoon

Light and shade along the creek

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Lemon breasted flycatcher

John had a funny event happen, in relation to the creek walk, a while back. Some German visitors asked what there was to do and he directed them to this walk, and jokingly called after them “Watch out for crocodiles!”  Then there was a shriek and they came racing back saying there was a croc on the little log footbridge across the creek, that is the start of the walk. John did not know it then, but there was a resident freshie hangs out in that area of the creek and it was having a sunbake. It made the tourists’ day!

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Little croc lived in there


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2006 Travels June 7 – 12


These were mostly routine days, occasionally enlivened by the shenanigans of boss 1.

One morning, I turned up in the kitchen at the usual 8am. He was there and called M in from her usual tasks, because he had decided to dismantle and clean the stove and oven. So we both had to scrub away at the rather revoltingly dirty parts, while our normal morning work waited. It put us both behind for the rest of the day, and I didn’t finish until 6.45pm. On well, at least on an hourly rate, he was paying for it!

That boss, when he cooked the fish poached in cream and garlic, for evening meals, had a bad habit of letting the cream boil up out of the pan, all over the stove. He never cleaned it up, but left it for whoever happened upon it, next morning. As M had gotten into the habit of cleaning up the kitchen, first thing, ready for the coming day, this was usually her.

Another morning, he told M to clean something that involved the use of heavy duty bleach, which he informed her was on the top shelf of the store room. She went to get it down – and the top had not been screwed on, just rested on the top. Bleach spilled all down her front. Fortunately, most of it went on her apron – my green one – which was thus rather ruined. She was convinced that he had done it deliberately. Had it gone on her face, would have been extremely nasty.

There was a bit of a cat and mouse game going on between them. M would stand up to his tactics and tackle him back, so she was a challenge for him! A couple of days after she had started work, he came storming over to where she was working, telling her the fern baskets along the front of the cafe were wilting, and why hadn’t she watered them? She replied that no-one had told her that was part of her work, and now that he had bothered to do so, she would, in future, water them. Challenge on.

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I had noticed for a while that the bulk pasta salad  was not very popular with diners – there was often a lot left, even after all the others had been used. So I decided to try making up a rice salad and see if that was better. Cleared it with boss 2, who said to go for it.

So I used boiled rice, put some orange juice on it while it was still hot, so this soaked in. Then put in peas, corn, chopped red capsicum and red onion, and dressed it with a little sesame oil. This was very well received, with M reporting that people were going back for seconds of it. Boss 1 was not happy about it when he got back for his duty turn, but by then it was a proven addition. From then on, I did not make the pasta salad, though he sometimes would.

Resize of 06-14-2006 45 Helicopter in day wear Monsoon

Helicopter in day wear

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Helicopter at work. The art display rotunda that boss & John built is to the left

It was a long weekend, so we were exceptionally busy. We sold a lot of cheesecake!

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2006 Travels June 1-5


Officially winter down south. Wouldn’t know it up here. The weather was very pleasant now, and we were acclimatized, so did not feel it as all that hot – unlike the tourists.

Thursday was a long day for me. It was M’s day off, so I did not have her help in the afternoon, cleaning up the kitchen and washing the cafe’s lunch dishes.

As we got steadily busier, it became later in the afternoons before I could get to the bulk salads prep, and then the cheesecakes. It all compounded.

It was 6.45 before I finished on Thursday! Even John did not knock off until 6.30. Without M, his outside work cleaning up after bus groups took longer, too. B tended to be busy serving in the cafe so he was on his own out there.

There was now a helicopter in place, on a cleared area a bit away from the cafe buildings. It was there to do joy flights over the Park. The pilot was accommodated in an old donga up behind our van area. He was getting a few customers each day.

Resize of 06-14-2006 01 Helicopter in pyjamas Monsoon

Helicopter in pyjamas

I found it got a bit noisy at times and the chopper stirred up a lot of dust. But it was an added tourist attraction, I guess.

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Joy Flights banner went up by the entrance

Sunday saw a minor disaster in the cafe. The electric grater broke down! Given the very large amounts of grated carrot needed each day, I hoped it would soon be fixed, or a replacement bought. Using the old stock standard circular metal hand grater was a royal pain in the butt – and on the fingers too, when some skin invariably got grated. It also added to the prep time needed, greatly. It would have to go to Darwin with boss, during the week, for repair.

In the event, a special part was needed from “down south”. This took almost two months to arrive. Boss told me that NT stood for – Not Today, Not Tomorrow, Not Tuesday, Not Thursday, Next Train, Next Truck……and that was to prove true, so often.

On Monday after work, John and M again went off to bowls at Batchelor. I didn’t finish till 6pm, so had another solitary evening at our camp.

John put 25 litres of fuel in Truck at Batchelor – $1.58cpl.


Resize of 06-12-2006 Dusk at Monsoon Cafe

Dusk at the Monsoon

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2006 Travels May 30


Our day off. We spent it very quietly, relaxing at the van, although I did have to do our washing and clean up the van.

Boss 2 did had to make an early morning dash out from Darwin with hamburger rolls!

After lunch, I went for a little walk down around the back of the cafe’s large block area. There was a tip down there, in the rather scrubby area. Boss had done some burning off down there fairly recently and I was intrigued by things starting to sprout green shoots again.

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Pandanus seem well able to cope with cool season burning

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There were some self sown watermelon vines – seeds escaped from the tip rubbish, no doubt – but some critter had chomped into the ripening, hanging fruit. Feral pigs? Or large birds?

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Something ate a big hole in the watermelon

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No two termite mounds are the same

John took his laptop into the cafe, when it was quieter in the afternoon, and did an internet download via their line. We received some photos of baby grandson. I thought he looked like his mother’s brother – definitely resembled that side of the family.

John did an internet deposit into house sitter’s bank account. $180 of that was to cover an electricity bill she had paid – we would have to sort out later what proportion of that was hers, and what was ours, accrued before we departed from home. He added $300 for ongoing cat care costs – that should last for some time. He sent her an email too.

There were lots of birds around our camp, which was quite delightful. Today, I noted a varied trilled and an olive-backed warbler.

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Well camouflaged insects

Since we hadn’t worked today, I felt a bit more like an evening meal, so raided the cafe for decent plates of cold meats and salads.

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2006 Travels May 26-27


Friday was busy, but within the routine that I was used to, by now. After the lunch rush died down, made quiches to stock up the supply in the fridge, which was getting down.

Boss and B left for their spell off in Darwin, in the afternoon, and other boss arrived out from there.

On Saturday, I made apple pies, in the individual pie tins that were usually used for quiche making. These were to sell in the cafe, in place of the usual cheesecake. I could not make cheesecakes, because there was no cheese, but there were some tins of pie apple.

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Cafe serving counter

The getting  of supplies for the place was proving to be rather erratic. Apparently, the usual wholesale suppliers and/or transporters, would not deliver to the cafe, because of some big disagreement boss had with them. So the bosses and B had to go round in Darwin, buying what was needed, in person, and bring it out. There was a whiteboard in the kitchen, to record what was running low and needed – but that only worked if whichever boss was going to Darwin actually looked at it! It also meant that the quite bulky supplies of sliced bread and burger rolls had to be frozen, rather than arriving fresh every day or two.

I finished at 6pm on both days.

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2006 Travels May 20-22


Usual work days.

The weekend was busy, again, especially Saturday, when I did not finish until 6.45pm, and John 6.30.

M settled in quickly and well. She was such a good worker. I gave her a couple of my aprons to use.

Monday was exceptionally busy – as much as at the weekend.

Boss had said we could have a three day break. On Monday, I suspected he may be regretting that – although he would be away too and other boss coping with the cafe.

We thought this generosity may have been a money saving exercise? Or maybe he was just trying to be nice and make sure we did not over work? With that man, it was hard to tell.

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Turkey Bush Litchfield

The cafe was part of the WOOFER scheme, so we had a regular procession of young Europeans coming, to work a few hours a day, in return for keep. They were accommodated in a tent in the safari camp area, and scavenged for food like we did – although their duties usually included helping out in the cafe in the evening, serving and waiting food – so they got fed an evening meal, when there were dinner guests. Some only stayed a couple of days, departing when they thought they were expected to do too much, or when the boss was unpleasant to them. Right now, we had a lad in his early 20’s – called French John, to distinguish him from “my” John.

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