This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2005 Travels June 20

MONDAY 20 JUNE     PUNGALINA

We were up early and into the work.

John only needed to rake leaves and do a last tidy up, before he went off to do his morning watering at the house.

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Aerial view of Safari Camp. The new tent was by itself out on the right.

I thought we had the place looking as good as it possibly could. It had the “wow” factor that we hoped for – that all-important first impression. It was a pity that A’s wife S would not be with the group – a last minute omission that cut the group down to ten. Originally we had been told it would be twelve. I would be cooking for twelve or more though, as O would eat with the group every night, plus we had to eat too, and O’s daughter may join the group tea at times.

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Not going to run out of food!

M gave the amenities a final clean, after our morning use of same. We put the jugs of cold drinking water into the tents.

When John came back from watering, he brought the supplies I’d requested from the house: defrosted pieces of roasting beef, greens, frozen kabana, pita breads, pawpaw picked from trees there.

I marinated the chunks of meat in a mix of red wine, grain mustard and garlic. I defrosted the packets of pita breads and made some roti dough. Got loaves of bread started in the two bread machines – O’s from the house, and mine. Set out the morning tea of the biscuits I’d made, onto plates.

The group was only coming from Adels Grove, so they arrived mid-morning. There were two planes: the main group in A’s company’s twin engined one, and a couple in their own plane. We heard the planes coming and saw them fly low over the camp – showing the guests how it looked from above.

They were transported from the airstrip to the camp in the Billycart – a proud achievement.

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Billycart arriving at camp

We got the group seated around one of the big tables, that we’d carted out and set up in a patch of shade, for morning tea and the welcome briefing about the camp. This covered things like location of facilities, charging cameras at the switch box, not leaving tents undone, and the like. I told them the tent allocation and they were escorted to these after they finished the morning tea.

One of the guests – a relative of A’s – had brought a home cured side of gravlax, in an esky, to donate to the camp food supplies. I found a space for this in a fridge. Got the impression that he had not been sure the camp catering would run to any upmarket items!

A had brought up my laptop computer, fixed and delivered to his home address by our obliging friend.

Then the men took over, taking the guests out for a brief drive around, before lunch. M and I cleaned up after morning tea and kept going with prep for the rest of the day.

I made the pannacottas for tonight’s dessert and put them into some of the limited fridge space. Made jam drop biscuits and a carrot cake. Made the tuna salad for lunch – did one bowl with mixed greens, tomato, chick peas, flavoured tuna, cucumber, capsicums. The other bowl had tuna, cannellini beans, red onion, garlic, oregano. Both of these turned out ok, but I made a mental note to try using large tins of chunk tuna – less mushy.

We set the table up outside for lunch – just plates and cutlery. We made up a fruit platter – paw paw, rock melon and pineapple.

Refreshed the supplies on the tea tray – teabags and coffee bags.

I cooked the roti bread for lunch, which worked really well. Next time, I would not bother with the frozen bought flat breads at all. Put out the roti and flatbreads on plates, with bowls of hummus, baba ghanoush, with bought tubs of avocado and smoked salmon.

Lunch went well. I think there was enough variety, and it was (mostly) fresh and light. I thought that I should be able to find a better recipe for the baba ghanoush, though.

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Kitchen

There was no rest, or let up, for us. While the guests were eating lunch, we pressed on with the prep for tea, and with putting together the afternoon tea box, to go out with the group as they toured some of the sights. I packed biscuits, sulatana cake, fruit cake, muesli bars. Tea and coffee making gear had to go in, and some fruit. O would be boiling the billy for hot water – and for “bush” atmosphere.

The group went off, and M went with them, to get in some sight seeing.

After a while, a call came in on the portable CB radio set that O had set up for communication over the duration of the camp. There had been a near disaster! A front wheel – one that had a guest sitting directly over it – had come off as the billycart was trundling around a turn in the track. Oops!  No injuries and the incident seemed to be taken well by the guests. John had to take the Troopy out to ferry visitors around. W was summonsed to rescue the billycart and do what he could to restore it for use for the remainder of the visit. Eventually, a much stronger undercarriage was fitted to the beast, but that was later.

I’d put the beef chunks on to roast at 3pm – it had to be slow roasting, to try to tenderise it.

Got the dining tent all set up for tea. First time the new set up of the one long table, created by putting two together, had been used. With the new table cloths on, it looked like one long table. The dining tent looked good, with a couple of low small vases of bush flowers, and candles.

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Setting up the table in the dining tent

I refreshed the water jugs in the tents with fresh chilled water, ready for the returning group.

We always had to make sure that the fire was going in the donkey water heater, to provide ample hot water for showers (and later for washing up after tea). John did that when he was in camp, otherwise I kept an eye on it.

Made Yorkshire Pudding batter and put that in a fridge to sit. Made up some horseradish cream to go with tonight’s beef. Pan fried some eggplant with dried oregano. Prepared the potatoes, pumpkin and onions and put them on to roast at 5pm. Thank heavens for a fairly large oven!

There was a vegetarian in the group, so I had to be careful not to use meat fat for cooking the little pudding muffins, and to make some extra vegetables for her. I put in some kumara to roast, and would add eggplant to her plate.

Got the pre-dinner nibbles ready: salted peanuts, kalamata and stuffed olives, eggplant strips, kabana slices, semi-dried tomatoes (from a jar), and thin slices of the Gravlax. I put these out where guests could help themselves – or have them taken around – wherever they chose to sit around and have drinks before dinner.

After bringing the group back from the afternoon activities, O headed back to his house, for a break and to freshen up for tea. I cleaned up the tucker box, washed up the afternoon tea mugs.

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At work in the kitchen tent

I took the meat out of the oven to rest under foil, cranked up the oven temperature, and put the pudding muffins on to cook, in my muffin tins, about 6pm. The peas went on the stove top to boil – unfortunately they had to be the dried ones – not enough freezer room on the place to keep stocks of frozen vegetables, even though the latter taste better.

Meat was sliced, Gravox gravy made, to go in the new jugs. I served it all out onto the individual plates, which M and John took to the dining tent. I didn’t think the beef was as tender as I would have liked, but had done the best I could with it. At any rate, there was not much left on the plates when they came back!

John and I had a major disagreement, over clearing the plates. He wanted to go into the dining tent while people were still eating, to start clearing, and hurry them along. I did not want him to make a move until everyone had finished their course – too intrusive. It was important, in my view, to allow a leisurely meal, if guests were so inclined. In the end I had to pull rank – “my kitchen, my job, my way” variety. There were times I did not like working with my husband!

I opened the cans of raspberries to go with the panncotta desserts. Arranged a platter of cheeses – a good cheddar, a brie, blue, with water crackers, dates and walnuts, and put some after dinner mints in a bowl.

The main course plates were duly cleared, the pannacottas arranged – they looked yummy – and delivered to the diners. Later, after they were cleared, the cheeses, mints and hot drink makings were taken to the dining tent, with a kettle of boiling water.

Guests who had wanted wine with their meal had earlier had to select their own from the drinks fridge, writing the item in the drinks book by that fridge, for later tallying up and payment before they departed. This honesty system worked well.

We tackled a big wash up! Oh for a dish washer…..But it did not take too long. The group had adjourned to the fire pit, where O had lit a camp fire, and they sat round talking.

The group did not stay up too late. We had to wait around to close up until all had gone to their tents. Turned off the camp generator on our way to bed. We were in bed by 11.30pm – pretty damn tired!

I think A was really happy with the appearance of the camp, and with the catering, to date. He might not be so happy about the wheel coming off the billycart, though.


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2005 Travels June 18

SATURDAY 18 JUNE     PUNGALINA

I think we were all starting to get uptight about the coming group visit.

It was amazing, though, what had been achieved in a relatively short time. There was the long track made negotiable for some 80 kms, to the lower Calvert. There were motor boats placed in three water holes. Canoes were at the ready at the Escarpment water hole. The track out to Crocodyllus could be used, though it was still too muddy to put canoes out there. Bubbling Sands was accessible. The cavers had ensured that at least a couple of caves could be shown to those who were interested.

M and John worked around the new tent, getting it all in order. They set rock in place and levelled the area in front of the tent. It looked good. We set it up with furniture, as best we could. There were only camp style stretcher beds available now, but they were in and made up. This tent would have to be for the boss and the pilot, not the paying guests.

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Landscapers resting after their labours

M and John also cut a little track, going off from the main clearing, through the jungle like growth, to where the source of the Camp Creek could be seen. They paved the first part of this path with left over slate, and we christened the creek source Merranna Springs.

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The path to the springs

It was amazing how much water came steadily out of those springs, constantly.

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The springs at the start of the Safari Camp Creek

I did some more sorting work in the kitchen tent, and made a boiled fruit cake. The big shelves that O and John had made were fully utilized with all the new gear, and extra food stuffs.

In the afternoon, we took a bit of a break, and did the walk along the Safari Camp Creek, which O had recently slashed to create a pleasant walk from the camp. It would be good, one day, to have a walk track all the way along it, to the house.

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The walk was pleasant, lovely and green, with the burbling noises of the creek always present, and lots of bird talk too. It was quite hot enough, though.

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2005 Travels June 17

FRIDAY 17 JUNE     PUNGALINA

Mail plane day, as usual. The ordered supplies arrived with the plane.

O arrived back with the trailer full of our truck consignment. There was so much! It even included a dozen or so outdoor chairs – white and green plastic. It was all hands on deck to unload and get some order into it all.

Unpacking everything, checking things off against my copies of order lists, finding the invoices so they could be sent to A for payment, putting things away, all occupied me for much of the rest of the day.

I was pleased with the items that came. The crockery, cutlery and glassware from Curreys was not fancy, but it would work well in this general environment. At least, the table ware would match!

It was also good to have some decent saucepans and pans for cooking with. Now the saucepans, servers and other items of mine, that I had been using to date, could go back in the van and stay there! I would continue to use the cookware I brought from home to use here – slice trays, pannacotta moulds, my bread and loaf tins and the like. For next season, the owners would have to buy in this sort of item – I would make suggestions.

A’s wife had sent a consignment of “soft” gear I’d asked for: shower curtains and rings, towels, tablecloths of a sufficient length and same colour. The towels would need immediate washing before being put into the tents. I asked A to do that for me.

After lunch, M and John decided to landscape around the new tent. John decided to get some slate slabs for this. He knew where there was some suitable stone – across the river, of course! He and M went to go off with the Daihatsu ute, to get it. This vehicle had issues with gears, and was waiting for W to fix it. John had a lot of trouble selecting a gear, and tried a bit hard – the gear lever came away in his hand! After waving this around in front of a rather horrified M, they called W to the rescue, and he managed to get it back into place. Off the  rock getting party set, complete with Scunge dingo, who was always up for a ride somewhere.

They gathered a load of rock into the back of the ute and headed back, across the river. The ute was now too heavy, and got stuck in the central part of the ford. Scunge abandoned ship and swum off home. M and John offloaded some of the rock and made it to the side of the river closest to the house. The bank was just too steep. Despite all John’s efforts at revving the vehicle, it would not go up.

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Aerial view of the Calvert crossing, by the house – which would be about where this caption is. (Zoom)

Apparently O heard all the noise and headed off on the quad bike – in the opposite direction! W was more generous – he appeared with a tractor and pulled the ute up the bank. He appeared quite amused by the antics.

After their “little adventure” M and John called it quits for the day. It had been a very solid day’s work done by all.

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Scunge guarding the load of rock

Some of the new chairs had long abrasion marks on them, in places. When they were being unloaded, we’d commented on this. O shrugged and made a vague comment about rough handling. Some time later, the real story emerged. O had been driving back, along the rough track in, with the trailer, when it suddenly tipped up, dumping the trailer contents along the track. Fortunately, my glassware and crockery boxes had been in the Troopy – more good luck than judgement! The chairs seemed to fare the worst of all. O said he’d put the spare trailer wheel onto the A frame when he was loading the trailer – in the dark – and forgotten to secure it anywhere. It had sat there until a rough and rocky patch, then fallen off and under the trailer, upending it. Could have been a disaster!


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2005 Travels June 12

SUNDAY 12 JUNE     PUNGALINA

Day off, except for the garden watering.

We went exploring.

Drove out to Bubbling Sands, which was an area of springs, a few kms SE of the Safari Camp.

Clearly, there are in places on the property, limestone formations – hence the caves. Presumably, the various springs that occur are related to this limestone and ground water stored in it, which means the springs flow all year round. Therefore, geologically, the Bubbling Sands would be related to our spring fed creek at the camp.

To reach Bubbling Sands, we followed a track that circled round the outside of the camp area – the same track that went to Croc Hole, on Karns Creek. This track went past an old, overgrown,  air strip, then divided, with the straight ahead track going on to Croc Hole and the right turn taking us to Bubbling Sands.

The presence of springs and resultant creeks was shown by lines of pandanus and other lush vegetation, contrasting to the dry grassland and scrub around them. The creek that was formed from the Bubbling Sands springs drained into Karns Creek.

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Bubbling Sands from the air (Zoom). Karns Creek in lower left corner

Bubbling Sands was “different” in that we could actually see the bubbles of the upwelling springs, in the sandy base, through the totally clear water of the pools. It almost looked like there was no water at all, it was so clear.

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The nearer greenery is actually on the bottom of a metre deep pool! The central brown area was where the water was bubbling up from underground.

There was a series of pools, fringed with bright green vegetation, and with fronds of greenery growing in places in the pools.

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Apparently, the biggest of the pools were waist to chest deep, and snorkelling in them was interesting. We decided we must try to do that while M was staying with us.

Spent some time wandering about, exploring and taking photos.

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Then drove on, taking the turn off to Totem Pole Cave, which O had earlier showed John. It was not far from either the Bubbling Sands, or from Croc Hole.

The cavers had begun their explorations already, and were active at the entrance hole to the cave.

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Cavers at work. One is part-way down the cave entrance.

We wandered about, looking at the stromatolite formations on the nearby slopes.

John found some Black-eyed Susan berries, which we had learned at Adels,  were quite poisonous.

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On the drive back to our camp, saw a big wallaroo, standing up tall in the grass, just watching us.

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2005 Travels June 10

FRIDAY 10 JUNE     PUNGALINA

Mail plane day. This had become a highlight of the week!

It brought my very small food order. Also brought a note from friend M. She would be at Adels Grove by the time we received this and planned to head this way after a few days there. She wrote that she would try to get a phone message to us when she set out, so we would have a rough idea of when to expect her. And to be looking out for her. Despite our advice to the contrary, she had not set up her travelling Troopy with a HF radio and did not have a satellite phone.

I had previously written to her, with detailed instructions of how to get here, sent c/o Mt Isa Post Office.

I was really looking forward to her visit. Looked like she would be here in the lead-up period to A’s visit. Some extra help in that time would be very useful!

O asked us to go with him to help put a boat into the river at Bathtub Springs – the last of the three powered boats he had on the place. One lived much of the year round at Croc Hole and was accessible for all but the wettest times. The other two were seasonal. We had already helped to put one in at Bluff Water Hole.

O had now managed to clean up the hitherto boggy track into Bathtub Springs. But he needed to manoeuvre the boat on its trailer some distance from where he had to stop the Troopy, so our help would be needed for that. This was the first season he’d put a boat there – it was the one he’d brought back from Brisbane after Easter.

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Approaching the river at Bathtub Springs

The expedition went off well. The boat was launched into the water and tied up to solid trees on the bank. This provided another fishing and sightseeing experience for visitors. Later, we would be able to come and explore it properly ourselves.

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Calvert River at Bathtub Springs

On the way back, O took us off the main track, east, to where there was another cave opening in a low, rocky outcrop. We found what looked like an aboriginal stone “quarry”, nearby, as well as some of the stromatolite formations that seem to accompany the cave occurrences in this country.

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Stromatolite fossils

The mechanic – W – and his wife A – arrived during the afternoon. W seemed to be a very jovial person. O had mentioned to me, the other day, that A was “a simple person”. From the way he spoke, it seemed like she was mentally slow. But this was not so – she was just a normal, straightforward, country woman, who seemed very pleasant and adaptable.

They had brought in their camper trailer, that was now parked near the house, by the old caravan near the vegie patch. It seemed that A would now be cooking for them all, at the house. I could see why O did not want them there until after the friend’s visit. O’s house was basically just one room – kitchen area, living area, his bed area, all in one, just areas partitioned by shelves.

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Kitchen, with wood stove in the tin-lined alcove

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Sleeping section, looking over river

They also brought with them their dog – a rather small, white, fluffy creature. I worried for its welfare, amongst the dingoes – thought they might see it as a potential meal. Obviously, A would have to watch it carefully, until – if – they accepted it as one of the pack. I also wondered how long it would stay white!

Now, finally, some of the machinery on the place would get some long overdue maintenance and repair work! The first priority would be to get the 4WD people transporting wagon, that O had started to build – the Billycart – in working order. There was much to be done on it and this was really needed in time for A’s visit.

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2005 Travels June 3

FRIDAY 3 JUNE     PUNGALINA

O and friend set off early to go camping at the coast for two nights, taking the Troopy.  He had been planning this for a while. On the last truck consignment, he received a chest-style camping fridge that he had ordered with this expedition in mind. He said that it could also see some use as an overflow fridge in the kitchen tent when there were guests in. As the main fridge in the tent was not very big, this could help greatly. I had already realized that I could use the outside drinks fridge to keep some prepared dishes, like salads, cool – when there was room amongst the grog!

Mail plane day. John and I dealt with the meet and greet of the pilot, and the handover of mail bags. We received my groceries, and a new box of books from the library.

John and I were really wondering if the mechanic was ever going to turn up. A few “supposed” arrival dates had been and gone. O was vague about it.

John refuelled Truck from a diesel drum. Had managed to put up 521kms since last fuel. That did include our tripping about on days off as well as my going to and fro between house and camp.

Since this was supposed to be our day off, we drove back out to Lake Crocodyllus and spent a few hours doodling about and doing a bird count. That was an enjoyable outing, and not too far away from the house and camp, which were unattended.

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This was another night on our own on the place, effectively, since O was about 80kms away, at the lower Calvert, near the coast.


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2005 Travels May 31

TUESDAY 31 MAY     PUNGALINA

The dings had gravitated to our camp overnight. Guess they liked company too!

Usual morning tasks. I helped with the watering, doing the pumpkin and melon areas outside the vegie garden, the paw paws, and running the hose at the base of the lemon and lime trees, for a while.

Campers were expected tomorrow. Two or three couples, for a week.  O wanted to put them out at the Bluff camping area and had done some cleaning up and slashing of that camp area, but John was to go out and make sure it was all good.

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The camp area had been slashed and cleaned up

He was also to construct a bush toilet out there. He found an empty drum, and cut the centre out of an old chair. Equipped with these and some other items, we drove to the Bluff camp – on the Calvert, north of Fig Tree Camp. The camp area was back some distance from where O kept the boat there.

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Bluff Water Hole – Calvert River

The toilet was the drum, sunk a bit into the ground, and secured with rocks. The chair was placed over that, and a screen around it. John set up a carton containing ash and sand, by it, for the campers to cover the drum contents as needed. I suspected John was hoping that drum emptying duties did not fall to him, at some stage!

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The camp area was a pleasant one. A reasonable grass cover over the soft river sand, plenty of trees around for shade. The area was big enough to fit them all with room to spread out of they wanted.

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The Bluff Camp Area

 


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2005 Travels May 29

SUNDAY 29 MAY     PUNGALINA

Our day off.

After the morning watering chores, we drove ourselves off to Lake Crocodyllus, east of the home area by some 20-25kms.

Took the usual runway, then track out route. Some distance down the straight stretch, turned left. Because there had been little traffic out that way – to the lakes and to Fern Springs – so far, this season, this turn off would have been easy to miss.

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The route to Crocodyllus

O had told us that Lake Crocodyllus – his name for it – had not been there when he and his original owner mate first scouted the place. It had just been a big hollow, like lots of others found around the property. It filled up in the huge wet season of 2002, when an intense ex-cyclonic low pressure system remained stationary over this area for the best part of a day. That was when Mark 1 of O’s new airstrip was washed out.

Lake Crocodyllus had remained with water in it, since then. I thought, from O’s description, that this and the nearby Jabiru Billabong were probably perched wetlands – not linked to any underground aquifer.

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Lake Crocodyllus – Google Earth. The edge layers indicate there have been higher water levels

It was not hard to follow the somewhat winding track, made by vehicles in previous seasons. Much of the way was through scrubby grassland and low rocky outcrops. O had already cleared away any fallen stuff on this track, as he’d brought our previous guests out here for a look.

Lake Crocodyllus  was most unusual. It was hard to describe, or portray in photos, its surreal and eerie beauty. The many dead, large, trees around its edges, and in the water, demonstrated that there had been long prior periods of dryness – enough for big trees to grow, before they were subsequently drowned in wetter times. Clearly, the lake had extended much higher than it was now, in some of those eras. As a result of such change over millions of years, the soil around the lake was fine, silty, and easily turned to mud.

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Muddy area at the edge of the lake

The lake edges were still very muddy. O planned to put canoes out here, for guest use, in another couple of weeks, when the mud had dried up a bit more. We thought it would be great to go our paddling on some of our days off.

Despite the name, O did not think there were any crocs in this body of water.

We spent some time bird watching. Of course, the many hundreds, if not thousands, of water birds that were here, kept away from us and were concentrated across the far side of the water – a fair distance. Canoeing would be a good way to try to spot these water birds and estimate numbers.

The area right in front of where the track reached the lake, was fairly open water, with only a scattering of dead trees in the water. Across the other side, and on the southern end of the lake, the dead trees were much more dense.

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Had our packed lunch, sitting on a dry patch that was well back from the water’s muddy edge, watching the bird movements. Clearly, this was a significant little wetland area for birds. Pelicans, swans, herons, ducks were all evident and there was a constant background noise of birds.

It was starkly beautiful.

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Explored – walking – around the lake edges for some distance, both ways.

Eventually made our way back along the same way, to our camp, and relaxed for the rest of the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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2005 Travels May 14

SATURDAY 14 MAY     PUNGALINA

It had been arranged that we would take the Troopy and follow O’s tracks, well to the north of the Calvert crossing, to where he hoped to be with the slashing today. We would collect him and return to the Calvert crossing, where we would all camp overnight. Tomorrow, he would finish slashing the track and, maybe, he and John would get in some fishing.

Across the river was actually the Seven Emu property, but O had an arrangement with the owner of that property, to be able to have the track to the lower river through his land.

We made reasonable time to the Calvert crossing because the track was slashed and as clear as it was going to get, and because I’d been over it in the Troopy a few times.

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Mystery Shovel Water Hole

The Calvert River at the  crossing point was in quite a wide and shallow valley. The track dropped down a slight incline, changing from the usual hard dirt, to river gravels. There was a swathe of saplings and weeds like Noogoora Burr – seeds deposited by the river and growing above the usual flood level. The crossing point was very shallow with a gravel and stone bed. One could understand why it might have seemed a logical point for Leichhardt to have crossed – had he not found somewhere a bit further north for this. I doubted, though, whether his place could have been as good as this one.

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Calvert River ford

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Upstream side of the Calvert crossing

The far bank was an area of gravels and dirt, with some trees and scrub growing. This was not all that wide, then there was a sharp climb up a ridge line, with a tributary creek to one side. This was crossed a bit further along, where it was dry.

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The track stayed away from the river for some kms, keeping to mostly solid, rocky ground. Various water courses were crossed, mostly dry. In one section, we climbed slowly up a series of low “steps” formed from ripple rock.

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There was a pretty little creek and lagoon here – I called it Ripple Rock Creek. The track was still a little boggy just past there due to another tiny creek.

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Ripple Rock Creek

We found O at 55kms from the house. He had done well and was pleased with himself. He was well into a section where the track had approached close to the Calvert again. John and I had a look at the river, whilst O finished up the bit he was doing.

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First stop at the lower Calvert River

The Calvert was an impressive body of water here. It was tide influenced here, and actually was for almost all the way back to the crossing point. Predominantly fresh water for some of that way, but with some rise and fall of level, and becoming more salty the closer to the mouth it reached.

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There were small islands in the channel in this reach and some broad sand banks.

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At one point, not far from where we met up with O, the track followed very close to the cliff that was the top of the river’s valley – a bit too close for my comfort. I hoped it had not been undermined during the wet season floods!

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A bit close to the drop off edge!

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Our way had come along the top of the high bank

 

It was late afternoon by the time the three of us got back to the Calvert crossing.

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Calvert crossing – looking across to where we camped

Camp was to be on the narrow, fairly flat bank section, on the northern side. John and I set up the dome tent. O had a swag.

O put up the sign that John had made – nailed to a tree by the crossing.

Tea was steaks cooked on a grill over the open fire, with potatoes in foil done in the fire ashes at the side. We opened a can of fruit. Sat around the campfire, chatting, for a while, then turned in. We went to sleep to the sound of the river water running over the stones of the river bed at the crossing.

O told us that, when he was down here before Xmas, he saw a 4 metre saltie croc at this crossing – but he thought it was merely passing by on its way up or down stream! Certainly, the river seemed too shallow at this point to be a main home to one. But we would be very careful at the water’s edge!


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2005 Travels May 8

SUNDAY 8 MAY     PUNGALINA

Today, O planned to start on the cleaning up of his track to the coast – in reality, the 75-80kms to the lower, tidal section of the Calvert, rather than to the actual shore of the Gulf.  However, he thought – from what he’d seen by flying over the area – he might, this year,  be able to forge a route from the lower river, over the tricky salt flat bogs, to the actual coast, but had not yet tried to get there by vehicle. Traversing such coastal salt flats needed to be undertaken with great caution. Such terrain could swallow vehicles totally.

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Salt flats west of the Calvert River mouth (Google Earth)

O thought the ground would be dry enough, now, to begin to clear the ravages of the wet season, and cyclone, on his track north.

Over the previous dry seasons, O had surveyed the eventual route of his coast track in his light Jabiru plane. He had used GPS fixings to plot a possible route, then went out on quad bike and foot to determine the actual best route on the ground. He had then slashed and evened this to be suitable for the 4 wheel drive Troopy to be able to drive over.

This track gave visitor access to the fishing of the tidal reach of the river, as well as seeing some great scenery.

O was taking one of the tractors, with a blade on, so he could push aside trees that had fallen over the track. Cyclone Harvey, in early February, came right over Pungalina. The winds got to over 100kmh and 6 cm of rain fell in a short time. This might not sound like all that much, but runoff was enough to raise the level of the river by metres.

Trees around these parts get weakened by termites too, so it often does not take much to make them fall. Thus there was a lot of debris to be cleared off the track.

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Unusually marked tree along the route to the coast

We were asked to take the Troopy, follow the tractor tracks and pick up O at about 4pm, from whatever point he’d reached, and bring him back to the house. He estimated that, even leaving at dawn,  he would not even get half of the distance and wanted to leave the tractor there so he could continue the work from that point.

We had a little sleep in, and left our camp about 10am, to go collect the Troopy from the house, then set off. Initially, the way took us on a familiar route, north past the Fig Tree and Bluff Water Hole turn offs. From there it was new ground for us.

After that, we were trying to follow thin tractor tracks through high, drying grass. We needed to travel slowly, because the ground was rough and we often couldn’t see rocks and ruts in the ground until we were onto them.

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Following the path of the tractor

As we progressed further, tracking O became harder and harder.

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We came to one place where the tractor traces entered a small creek, but we could see no exit signs straight across the other side. We hunted, on foot, for a while, and eventually found that he’d gone down the creek bed itself for some distance, before driving out on the other side.

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Tracks go in, but then where?

We eventually caught up with O, a bit beyond a beautiful lagoon, at 4pm. Great timing, right as instructed. We did not tell him that this was rather accidental, as we’d thought we’d have caught him a lot earlier. We had considerably underestimated how slow the going would be.

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Mystery Shovel Water Hole

The beautiful lagoon had been named Mystery Shovel Water Hole, by O. When he was initially surveying the track route, he’d found an old shovel there. No idea of how or why it had gotten there, except that it definitely was not recent. It was a really lovely spot, on a tributary creek of the Calvert.

O drove the Troopy – and us – back to the house, at a faster pace than we had made! But it was still dark by the time we got there. We collected Truck and went back to camp, for a fast meal and early night. The physical effort of bracing over the rough track and the concentration of trying to follow the way, had been really tiring. But it had been a really interesting day. Exploring Pungalina was quite fascinating.