This Adventurous Age

Adventures travelling and working around Australia.


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2000 Travels July 6

THURSDAY 6 JULY     KUNUNURRA

The days are becoming hotter – today reached 32 degrees.

I spent the morning reading up the information I had, studying maps, and firming up ideas for the Gibb River Road trip. I went over these with John, who was happy enough with my thoughts. He rarely becomes interested in the planning of trips. When pressed to become involved, he has been known to point at random to a place on the map and declare we will go there – regardless of road conditions, scenic attraction or other practicalities. The outcomes of these involvements have not always been great!

We went to the shops. Bought the right mantles for the kero lamp – as opposed to the wrong ones bought last time! We are beginning to accumulate cash money for the Gibb, as it is unlikely there will be many places with credit card facilities.

Tea was chicken and pineapple curry, with rice and corn. Very nice.

After dark, there was a big sugar cane burn nearby. Very spectacular to look at. As they do, it flared up really quickly, but also died down before too long. Much thick, black smoke was generated, along with a burnt sugar smell and bits of fine black ash drifting down. Sugar cane is burnt before harvesting in order to reduce the amount of leaves and green matter, and also to destroy harvesting hazards like snakes and disease bearing rats. As we had seen in Qld, some farmers are now harvesting cane without burning it, with modern machines that spread the unwanted leaves and other organic matter on the ground, as the cane stalks are harvested.

I just hoped that any wildlife taking refuge from the flames, did not come in this direction!

07-07-2000 cane burning

Sugar cane burn, not far from the caravan park


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2000 Travels July 2

SUNDAY 2 JULY     KUNUNURRA

It was a clear day that reached about 30 degrees.

We decided to do some exploring beyond the irrigated areas. After being at Keep River National Park, we were curious about the Keep River further downstream, so set out to try to go there. There was a track on my map that went to “Spirit Hills” and beyond that to “Legune” – in the NT, north of the National Park.

Drove out the Ivanhoe road again, to buy some more grapefruit, which we did at a farm gate stall.

Then we came back into town and went out the Weaber Plains road, past the sugar mill. The irrigated area extended for quite a way out there, which was good to see. Since all that effort and expense has been put into developing the infrastructure, one wants to see it well utilized.

Much of the irrigated land was in sugar cane – big farms, with much new machinery.

When the Ord Scheme was first developed, it was envisaged that the main crops would be rice and cotton. However, as happened at Humpty Doo in the NT, magpie geese took a massive liking to the young rice, passed the word around about this new food, and descended in great hordes, and that was the end of that idea! The cotton got some sort of grub. Since then, fruit growing – and to a lesser extent, vegetables – has become the mainstay, and sugar cane too, supplying a local sugar mill. The sugar growing industry is dependent on there being a nearby mill as the cut cane does not lend itself to transport over great distances. As we noted in Queensland, in 1998, in the sugar growing districts, there are lots of sugar mills and they are not that far apart.

It was a gravel road for most of the way to the Keep River ford. We crossed back into the NT to get there – no quarantine checks on the border there! No signs to mark the border there!

Once we got close to the river area, we passed several other vehicles – all seemed to be parked where they could fish, or be looking for same. Being a Sunday, they were probably out here from Kununurra. It was not a place that most tourists would think to venture.

Some men fishing near the ford told us there was a big saltie croc, upstream of the ford, and a smaller one hanging about downstream. We were actually not all that far from the sea, here, so their presence was not surprising.

The river ford was not a particularly attractive place, so we did not stay there long. Turned around, then took a side track to the north, to a tributary creek, and ate lunch there, looking at birds.

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Callistemon in the bush

While we were out there, John tried to radio phone friends from home, who had left us a message on the mobile, last week. They were travelling in these parts, having tacked some extra leave onto the school holidays.

We drove back the way we’d come. It was quite a decent day’s outing, with some really  spectacular range scenery along the way. We did 148kms.

Tea was chops, potato, tomato.

After tea, had some phone calls with family members.


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1999 Travels April 5

MONDAY 5 APRIL     HOME

I spent the morning doing housework and cleaning, and meal preparation.

My friend T was coming to tea. He arrived about 4pm and took us out to see the block of land he’s bought in a nearby estate. We thought it was an excellent block, in a pleasant estate, with some good views. He described the house he is planning to have built on it.

I cooked roast lamb for dinner, and served stewed figs with ice cream for dessert. T seemed to enjoy the meal. John is trying to persuade him to take up bowls!

T and I revisited the great flowering sugar cane debate that has been going on for nearly a year, since I mentioned in a letter about the cane flowering near Cairns, and he replied that sugar cane does not flower! Seems the variety that grows on his family’s farm in northern NSW does not flower – but there are varieties that do. So we are both right!

I thoroughly enjoyed his visit.


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1998 Travels June 25

THURSDAY 25 JUNE    WONGA BEACH

A fine, warm day.

We drove into Mossman for some supplies. On the way, there was much burning of sugar cane, prior to harvesting. I presume this is done to clear out undergrowth and vermin?

06-25-1998 sugar cane burn.jpg

Burning sugar cane, prior to harvest, near Mossman. The foreground area has already been harvested and ploughed over, in preparation for the next planting

John spent the bulk of the day organizing tax paperwork and financial records. It is quite complex this year, because of our ceasing work, termination payments and the like.

I went for a walk on the beach, and did some embroidery.

I went and saw manager T and paid for an extra couple of nights – $12 with no weekly rate. He is happy for us to leave the van stored here, while we are up Cape York. He has promised to keep a very close eye on it and said that it will not cost a great deal. We are quite happy with this arrangement. The van will not be connected to power, of course.

Tea was flake done in a wine/garlic marinade, with salad.


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1998 Travels June 23

TUESDAY 23 JUNE     WONGA BEACH

Another fine day.

For a couple of weeks, I have had an intermittent toothache of an upper tooth, to one side. It is getting worse. Yesterday, I phoned the dentist in Mossman and he fitted me in this morning. I felt I was lucky that he did so, on such short notice.

So, it was a drive into Mossman, this morning. John got diesel – 72cpl. Picked up mail from the PO.

The verdict is that there is nerve deterioration in the tooth, and when we get back from the Cape, I will need to have a root canal filling done, in Cairns. In the meantime, as there is some infection, I have to take amoxicillin for a week. I am not altogether happy about heading up the Cape with the issue unresolved, but there is nothing I can do, short of delaying our Cape trip even further – and that is not on!

Had the script filled in Mossman, bought some groceries, then back to the van.

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Sugar cane flowering, near Mossman

After lunch, John did some fishing off the beach, with no luck.

I made a lamb shank and vegie soup – one of John’s favourites.


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1998 Travels June 18

THURSDAY 18 JUNE   CAIRNS TO WONGA BEACH   94kms

Again, an uneventful pack up and departure. We are getting to be so good!

I am pleased to be leaving Cairns. As previously said, it has not provided the interest that we expected. We have done little walking and no cycling. The road past the caravan park is a very busy one, and I have not felt like braving the traffic even to run errands; there really has been nowhere to ride.

It was not a long stage to Wonga Beach, but it was an extremely scenic one, as the highway hugged the coast and wound around the bays and headlands for most of the way. We had already been as far as Wangetti, but the rest did not disappoint. The lush tropical greenery comes right down to the sea, in places.

It seems the sugar cane harvest has commenced, in these parts. Around Mossman, we came into another sugar region, and for a while trundled along behind a big truck carrying sugarcane.  There is a sugar mill at Mossman, which town appeared to have all the basic services we might need.

06-18-1998 sugar cane harvest beginning near Mossman.jpg

Two forms of sugar cane transport – little cane railway and big road truck – near Mossman. Sugar cane growing right up to the road – no fences

I had chosen Wonga Beach as probably a good base from which to explore the Daintree area. My Top Tourist booklet showed a good looking caravan park there. We are not quite ready to set off for the Cape yet, as the end of the financial year is approaching, and we need to get together the paperwork required for our accountant. Some of this is yet to arrive. I am hoping that Wonga will provide us with more interest than Cairns did.

As we came towards what seemed to be Wonga Beach, saw a sign pointing to the right, indicating the hotel and caravan park. John swung a last-minute right turn, with only a little grumble. The caravan park was down at the end of this road, and we pulled up outside and went in to book ourselves in. The park did not look as well groomed as Top Tourist parks usually do, but this is the Far North, after all. We booked in for a week and paid the fees of $11 a night, with the 7th night free. Pretty good, we were thinking. Then it dawned, when the lady didn’t want my discount card – this was not, in fact, the Top Tourist park! It was a small, council-run one that had not been mentioned in any of the information I’d read. There are TWO caravan parks in the tiny hamlet of Wonga Beach.

What a fortunate mistake this turned out to be! We had a nice, big, site, although the ground was sandy gravel. There were shady trees all over. The park fronts right onto the most wonderful beach, through a screen of palm trees and low bush, so the sound of the surf at high tide was close by. The amenities, though rather elderly, were clean and adequate. The managing couple – C and T – were very friendly, very helpful, and ran happy hour at their area every afternoon.

06-18-1998-cairns-to-mossman

After setting up, we went for a walk on the beach. This stretches for kilometres in both directions, with superb views north and south. With the tide down, the sand was firm to walk on. This is already a big improvement on where we have been! Although John would have liked better TV! But it is a rare event for John to be satisfied with the signal and picture he gets.

I made a pork and vegie stir fry for dinner.

In the late evening, we were sitting in the van, reading, when we were suddenly frightened by  a fearsome, loud screaming, not far away. It sounded like someone was being really hurt. We couldn’t see anything untoward, looking out the van windows, and no-one in the park seemed to be moving about. Decided it must be happening at one of the houses across the road from the park, but we were too scared to go out and look around, or do anything – just hoped that someone else in the camp ground would take action, if needed. The screaming stopped after a minute or two and was not repeated.

We did sleep well, despite some lingering concern about the screaming, lulled off by the sound of the waves.