Long awaited photos

We have today off, so have driven into town so as to be able to catch up with internet things, one of which is a quick a blog update with some photos from the station.

Before I get to those though – Paul’s dad? Last we heard Social Services were trying to get a care package in place for his discharge from Shawside, either last Thursday, or this coming Monday. We’ve asked to be notified. As we haven’t heard anything to the contrary, we’re presuming Social Services didn’t get their act together for Thursday, so we presume dad will be going home tomorrow – but we’re not holding our breath.

Monthly internet gets updated at the station on the 14th of each month, and runs slightly more efficiently for the first couple of weeks following the update. More efficiently, means we can almost guarantee we’ll be able to get emails through at some time during a 24 hour period, but it may mean going on line around 3am when no-one else is on line. After the first two weeks it goes really slow, and for the last few days before this months renewal we couldn’t get anything at all, at any time of day. Our mobile phone doesn’t get any cover at all, so for anyone trying to contact us, please use email, eventually we’ll pick it up.

And now onto some photos:

A few of the 28,000 head of cattle.

A few of the 28,000 head of cattle.

And a few more.

And a few more.

You’ll notice most of the scenery is miles and miles of wide open spaces, baron and brown. But there’s dams and water holes dotted all around, and the Flinders and Norman Rivers that provide water. With the water comes trees, with the trees comes birds – and with water, trees and birds, and no people for miles and miles comes a peace and tranquility that’s almost spiritual.

The murky, but tranquil Flinders river running through the property - croc habitat, so didn't get too close.

The murky, but tranquil Flinders river running through the property – croc habitat, so didn’t get too close.

The wondrous beauty of the Australia outback. But – would I like to live there forever. I appreciate it’s beauty, but it’s a bit too isolated for me for any real length of time.

Now – onto life at the station. Juries still out I’m afraid. I love the job itself and Paul’s okay with what he’s doing. However, we’ve often said we don’t care what we do, as long as we’re doing it for, and with a nice crew. And there in lies the problem.  We’d thought with only a small crew of around 15 all living on the station that there would be a bit of family type atmosphere with a bit of jovial comaradie. It’s not like that at all. There appears to be a big divide between the managers and the crew, and it doesn’t make for a particularly good working and living environment. It’s looking more and more unlikely that I’ll get to say, ‘what a pleasure’, and being a bit hedonistic, we like our pleasure. That doesn’t mean we don’t like the hard work, we don’t mind that at all. We don’t mind the low pay either,  but the atmosphere has to be right. There seems to be an undercurrent here of discontent, sometimes surfacing into full blown battles, between either management and the boys, or the managements off sider and the boys. Everyone’s unhappy, and the atmosphere gets  heavy.  Shame, it could have been good. But for now, we’ll wait and see. It’s still a bit early to make any knee jerk reactions.




A broken record

Another frustrating weekend as we try to deal with the UK Social Services debacle. We don’t mention it much anymore because nothing changes and we just end up sounding like a broken record.

Now though with the technology limitations here at the station, individual emails aren’t feasible, so the best way of letting everyone know what’s happening with Glyn is via the blog.

Dad was transferred from hospital to Shawside a little over two weeks ago. Social Services bi-passed Paul who has Power of Attorney and went straight to Glyn for approval to admit him to what we gather is one of the most expensive care facilities in Oldham. They had Glyn sign a two week contract whilst he was in hospital being treated for pneumonia, a UTI, and resolving delirium with hallucinations. The two week contract expired on Friday and he should have been sent home.

We went into Karumba to stay overnight on Saturday so as to phone him at home. After several unanswered phone calls we called Shawside – he was still there. Paul spoke with him. He sounded ok, but had no idea why he hadn’t been sent home. No-one seems to be informing either him, or us of anything that’s happening.

We phoned back and spoke to the ward matron enquiring as to why he was still there. Apparently after Social Services obtained his consent they dumped him at Shawside and have made no contact since. This isn’t supposed to happen. Shawside, having assessed him found him fit to return home, but with some daily support. They kept trying to make contact with Social Services to arrange a home care package, but Social Services wouldn’t respond. Showing a proper duty of care Shawside felt they had no option but to keep Glyn in rather than sending him home unsupported. Apparently this isn’t an unusual occurance lately and Shawside sound like they they are about as frustrated with Social Services as we are.

So, another sleepless night worrying about what can be done followed by another morning sending emails to the relevant people to try and make sense of it all. This time I’ve located the complaints department for Social Services and have lodged a complaint. I’ve located the Ombudsman for follow up, should that fall on deaf ears, and if all that fails, I’ve found a UK lawyer that specialises in lawsuits against Social Sevices for negligence. An awful path to have to go down, but I think we’re running out of options. Poor Glyn. I just wish there was something we could do to make his life more comfortable. It shouldn’t be this hard.

Could’ve, would’ve, should’ve – and did!

Not much to report yet on our cattle station experience. We’re both still settling in, and haven’t as yet had a chance to take any photos.

For me, I’m enjoying being back in a kitchen, especially a kitchen as well equiped as this one. The cool room alone is bigger than most commercial kitchens I’ve ever worked in. The only complaint I could make about the equipment is that the oven doesn’t get up to temperature, and in fact sometimes barely gets hot at all. But I have a good electric frypan and a good deep fryer – both of which came to the rescue the other day when the oven went decidedly cool in the middle of my first roast dinner. The next day, the oven was fine again, so I guess it’s a bit temperamental – not unlike myself.

Pauls on a big learning curve, driving a few sorts of machinery he’s never driven before. He’s out in the heat, and still finding his feet, but he thinks he’s going to like it. I can see he’s enjoying being back with boys. The comaradie men at work seem to enjoy.

Technology, or rather, lack of technology is going to be the hardest thing to take. I’m only able to write this as we have the week end off, so are staying overnight in Karumba. We”ll be catching up with emails while we’re here, and Paul will phone his dad tonight. At the station we don’t have any phone cover at all, and email is appalling. At the beginning of last week we were managing to download emails, but each one was taking around 20 minutes to fully download. By yesterday nothing would come through at all. I believe the Internet at the station is renewed on the 14th of each month though, and runs faster just after renewal, so hopefully we’ll have a couple if trouble free weeks coming up.

We’re both still definitely finding our feet. The money – if converted to an hourly rate is woeful. Neither of us can remember a time when we earned such a low hourly rate. But, then again, we can’t spend anything either, and our keep is included. So, we can’t remember a time when our outgoings have been this low either.

At the end of the day, it won’t be a monetary job worth writing about, but taking incoming and outgoings into consideration it’ll even out ok. The biggest thing for us is that at the end of our days – when we’re looking back over our road travelled, it’s going to be a Would’ve, Could’ve, Should’ve experience, that we will be able say,  yes we took that opportunity, we did that! One of life’s little experiences that will have helped us live a full, rich life, and that’s what’s it’s all about.

Juries still out though as to whether or not we can actually say, ‘what a pleasure’. Watch the space – I think it’s coming….

The work adventure begins

What a learning curve – what an awakening….

This will be just a brief introduction into the initial stages of life for us on the cattle station. We haven’t had time yet to take any photos. Hopefully by our next weekend off ( which I think will be next week-end) we’ll have photos, and a better idea of whether we’re coming or going. I mean that literally. Our settling in, (or should I say my settling in) hasn’t gone that smoothly, enough said…..

I must say, getting up at 5am and working till nearly 8 pm has been a bit of a shock to the system. We haven’t done those sort of hours since we owned the cafe 21 years ago. Not to mention that we haven’t done any work at all for the past two years. So, we are both tired and a bit ‘shell shocked’. But the work will get easier.Our backs and feet will adjust, as will we.

The cattle station is 670,000 acres (yes, my dear UK readers, you’ve read that correctly, 670,000 acres) , and has 28,000 head of cattle. By station standards, Glenore isn’t a big station, but it’s nothing like a James Herriot, Yorkshire cattle farm. There’s a population on the station of around 17, not 17 thousand, not 17 hundred, not even 17 dozen, just 17.

My day starts at approximately 5.15am when i drag myself out of bed to commence breakfast for the station hands. They either come in at 6am or 6.30am. Yippee to the 6.30am starts, I get an extra 1/2 hour in bed. I put cold meats, cheese, bread etc out, and the guys and girls make their own lunch if they’re going to be out for the day. For those remaining near the station house I make morning tea and lunch, feed the chooks and pigs, burn the kitchen rubbish mid morning, clean the kitchen and dining room, and cook dinner. Dinner is at 7pm. Then there’s the after dinner clean up, so my day finishes between 7.30 and 8pm.

Once I’ve settled in, I’ll get time off after lunch, but for now I have too much to learn, so by choice, aren’t taken much of a mid afternoon break. Perhaps a mistake though as tiredness makes everything that much harder, and makes me a bit of a cranky pants. But the hardest is now hopefully behind me.

The main thing I have to learn and get comfortable with is how to make big station type cuts of meat resemble the cuts of meat I buy from the supermarket. The head stockman does the kill and initial dissecting. The cuts then get hung firstly in an air conditioned meat room for a few days to set, then the meat trolley is wheeled into the huge cool room. I have a lot to learn, but am looking forward to learning it.

Paul has been out with the Borerunner doing something with solar panels to operate the pumps and bores. Apparently there’s water provided at distances of no more than a 6km walk for any of the cattle, as 6 kms is the optimum amount of distance cattle should be travelling in any one day. Next week though I think he’s going to be delivering cattle lick – we gather that’s some sort of food supplement booster. He’s hoping he doesn’t get lost. There’s a big map of the station with all areas on the station named and posted in the map. Only trouble is, when you get to a place it’s not signposted. Apparently all clear to the station hands, but to greenhorns like us, about as clear as mud. His truck will have a two way, and he’ll have water, so should he get lost, I’m sure he’ll get found again.

We have very little in the way of Internet at the station, and no mobile phone coverage. So emails sent and received are very hit and miss, as are blog posts. This post is only able to be posted because we’ve come into town, almost a 300km round trip.

Keep watching this space, hopefully the next blog will have photos, and hopefully we’ll have settled into the rhythm of station life and be enjoying the experience. Hopefully I’ll be finishing off with, ‘what a pleasure’.

Yeh hah, the news we’ve been waiting for.

I don’t know if any of you remember what happened when we last applied for work on a cattle station,. What an experience that was. The agency we went through virtually told me the cooks job at Anna Creek was mine, and the manager would phone and confirm it within a few days. That was more than two years ago – and I’m still waiting. Then the mad dash from the NT to the Qld/NT border for similar station jobs, only to be told by email the day we arrived they’d employed someone else literally hours before we arrived. After which getting employment on a cattle station seemed like a bad idea.

BUT, about a month or more ago I put a short advert in the Grey Nomads on line magazine asking for work for Paul and I and briefly outlining our skills. I didn’t really expect to get anything worthwhile from it. Least of all did I expect a call from a cattle station. We’d no sooner arrived at Mataranka when we returned from a swim to find a message on the phone from a cattle station.

A few days later, and the necessary checks have been completed, and we’re packed up and ready to move off at first light tomorrow, heading back up the road a bit to Queensland and up to the Gulf of Carpentaria. It’s times like this the old Aussie Country Mile comes into play – the ‘just up the road a bit. It’s actually 1700 kms up the road – but that’s nothing in the scheme of things in this big, vast, wonderful country of ours. In fact we’ll leave Mataranka and turn onto the main highway after around three kms. Then we only turn two more corners I think before we turn into the station. I think we’ll hit a couple of sets of traffic lights in Mt Isa , but that’s about it for traffic lights. I guess that’s hard for my UK readers to comprehend. Its what gives Dorothea MacKellar’s poem about this big sun burnt country it’s meaning, all the wide open spaces. I love that poem. For those of you not familiar with the poem, please google it, I think it’s called, My Country. It sums up Australia perfectly.

Anyway, details of the jobs are still a bit sketchy. I know I’ll be cooking for around 15. I think Paul is going to be a station hand/handy man. The job will last for the season, and will finish up before the wet season sets in at the end of the year.

We’re both excited. Paul will be pleased to be using some of his life/work skills. I think he actually misses his trade, so I think he’s hoping they’ll be in need of some welding repairs around the property, but even just to be out and getting ‘work dirty’ will be good enough. For me, I’m really excited to be getting back into cooking. And I couldn’t think of anyone better to cook for than appreciative hungry men with good appetites. At least I hope they’ll be appreciative, but I’m sure I’ll win them around once they realise I’m not going to poisen them, and they’re going to bed with a full, contented belly.

If any of you remember a scene from Forest Gump – the one were Bubba is talking about all the different meals made with Shrimp…. That’ll be me in a few months, only it’ll be beef instead of shrimp.

We don’t know the details yet. The station manager will phone us tonight.  I do know it’ll be full on, possibly hard, hot and dusty work for Paul, and possible long days for me. I’m sure my feet will feel it for the first week, but after that, I have no doubt I’ll settle into it well.

Despite  having worked the past 10 – 15 years in the tax office and in office administration, I’ve never felt like an office worker. I’ve always referred to myself as a cook as far as work goes, and I’m really excited to be going back to it. Hopefully it’ll work out well for both us and the station, and as we’re planning to be up in the top end around this time for the next few years, maybe we’ll be invited back. But I’m getting ahead of myself, we’d better wait and see.

One thing I know is, Internet and mobile phone coverage is sketchy there. We’ll endeavour to check each at least weekly, and update the blog when time and technology allows. So, please watch this space…..

Mataranka Thermal Springs

We’re camped at Bitter Springs in Mataranka – history repeats, yes, we’ve been here before. That tells you how good it is, a repeat trip, and this time we’ve booked in for a week.

The campground is only a short walk from the natural springs, which are pleasantly warm at around 34 degrees. We’ve been starting each day with a walk to the springs, where we do two gentle lengths before walking back for breakfast. A length consists of slotting our thongs (flip flops) over the ends of a noodle (floatation device). Then into the water and let the current gently take us down stream to a bridge, climb out, and walk back to the start to do it all it again. The returning foot track is a bit stony underfoot, hence the thongs.

Gently does it.

Gently does it.

Happy and relaxed, a real pleasure.

Happy and relaxed, a real pleasure. His burkies on the ends of the noodle make him look like a contortionist.

There’s other springs here at Mataranka, but none have been left as natural as Bitter Springs. It’s a very popular place, so camping nearby allows us to take advantage of the early morning and/or late afternoon quiet times before and after the tourists all arrive and leave.

How gorgeous is this.

How gorgeous is this.

And this...

And this…

We could swim back to the start rather than walk, but swimming against the current, and worse, the crowds is too much like hard work, so we prefer to just drift. It’s forced relaxation.

Here he comes - note the sandals hanging on the ends of the noodle.

Here he comes – nearing the exit steps, where the crowds build up a bit.

The flora is gorgeous, and there’s no shortage of fauna to watch going about their daily business of doing what birds, spiders, turtles etc do. The Fly Catcher birds are a joy to watch as they flit down snatching small flies from the water’s surface. With luck there’s sometimes turtles to be seen resting on the nearby banks as we drift down beneath many  colourful spiders centred in their webs waiting for their next meal to get entangled.

We had a quick catch up with Kelv in Katherine the other night. He’s looking well and seems to be settling into his new job as 2IC at Mambuloo Mango Farm. The job comes with a brand new house – currently being built and nearing completion.  He seems nonchalant about having a house after so many years in his caravan, but I suspect he’s quite exciting and looking forward to it.

We’re still waiting for news that will dictate where to from here and could see us doing an about turn and heading back to Queensland and up to the Gulf of Carpentaria. If that happens,  I gather we’ll be there until the wet is due to start around November/December, at which time we’ll be heading back this way again on our way to WA. Hopefully we’ll get to have another catch up with Kelv again at that time, and get to see his new house.

Waiting for news is never much fun, but I couldn’t think of a better place to be waiting than at Bitter Springs. Despite the awful name, there’s nothing bitter about either the springs, or the experience of being here.

What a pleasure!



Outback Icon – Daly Waters Pub

We left Queensland earlier this week, and much earlier than was in the plan. This year Queensland is having an unseasonably wet ‘dry season’, thanks to La Nina,  and we found ourselves unable to do what we had been hoping to do. Sitting around in a caravan waiting for the rain to stop so as we could go snorkelling wasn’t in our plan, so we’ve upped wheels and headed for the warmer, dryer weather on offer in the NT – again! The northern Queensland coast and Tablelands will still be there for us to peruse at another time during a more favourable dry season.

We left Townsville last Monday. On our last trip up in this neck of the woods we missed out on seeing the iconic Daly Waters outback pub. We made sure we didn’t bi- pass it this time. Whilst no longer quite typical of the outback, it offers a very memorable outback experience.

Dusty main street into Daly Waters.

Dusty main street into Daly Waters.

There’s very little in the town. With a population of less than 50 people there’s no supermarkets or general stores. All they have virtually is a pub, a caravan park, and a small souvenir shop.

Outback souvenir shop.

Outback souvenir shop.

Loved the sign - sure beats neon.

Loved the sign – sure beats neon.

They serve meals all day, with a basic menu, small, fresh and well cooked, good honest food. We shared a fish (barramundi) burger for lunch, and both had the famous Beef and Barra barbecue for dinner.

Every area of the pub has something covering the walls - over the bar it's women's bras.

Every area of the pub has something covering the walls – over the bar it’s women’s bras.

Tin roofed open air dining shed.

Tin roofed open air dining shed.

For my overseas readers - Dunnies is Aussie for toilet, Sheilas is Aussie for female.

For my overseas readers – Dunnies is Aussie for toilet, Sheilas is Aussie for female.

Each night they have entertainment. Tonight they had a country and western singer for happy hour (5 – 6pm cheap drinks hour). He sang until 7.30pm and then was followed by an an old rock’n roll singer who was still singing the same rock ‘n roll songs he was probably singing in the 50s when they first released. These songs were even to old for Paul and I to relate to – in fact they made us feel quite young. We hadn’t heard of most of them, but the grey nomads there that were ten years or so older than us were rockin’ away and enjoying the memories of music from a by gone era.

Loved this photo - outback stage with water tower and gum trees in the background.

Loved this photo – outback stage with water tower and gum trees in the background.

We’re now camped at Mataranka Springs, just south of Katherine. What a magical little place this is. I’ll post some photos soon.

Where to from here – well somethings in the pipeline that may see us doing an about turn and heading back to Queensland,  this time near Normanton in the Gulf of Carpentaria. I’ll know more tonight.

In the meantime though – Mataranka, what a pleasure!