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!

More from Sarina Range

We finished our house sit at Sarina Range officially two days ago, but stayed an extra night to enjoy a ‘happy hour or three,’ plus a meal with Elaine and Larry. Elaine reminds us so much of our friend Eileen from Perth. We told her that on our first meeting, and she was concerned that may have been a bad thing, which of course is so very much not the case. Eileen is the salt of the earth, someone who calls a spade a spade, and within a few minutes of meeting her she feels like a life long friend. A feeling that doesn’t diminish no matter how long one knows her, and no matter how infrequently we meet up. So, to tell a woman that she reminds us of Eileen is to pay her a tremendous compliment.

Whilst we were there we had a lot of trouble with uploading photos as the internet could be a bit hit and miss. The ones I uploaded previously didn’t do any justice at all to Titan. However, saying that, none of the photos since have done him a great deal of justice either. He’s a brindle, and just like our last rescue cat, Fuji, who was also a brindle, somehow the colouring of their coat seems to blend out in photos and somehow disguises the character that otherwise shows in their face and eyes.

We did capture a typical photo of Titan having a day nap with Tommy Tigger. Again, his colouring doesn’t show him up to his best in a photo, but it was about the best we could do. They often snuggled together through the day, and always at night. Sometimes back to back, but more often as is demonstrated in this photo, with Titan having his front paw protectively wrapped over Tommy.

Tommy Tigger enjoying the protective paw of Titan.

Tommy Tigger enjoying the protective paw of Titan.

Much as they both were very comfortable with us, they were both clearly overjoyed to see Elaine and Larry return. Whilst Tommy Tigger in typical haughty, independent cat style (the reason I love cats so much), couldn’t have cared less when we left, Titan looked a little sad. I’m sure if he could have things his way, Elaine and Larry would be his favourite people, but he would be very happy to have dozens more living with him. That’s so as he could do a continuous round getting petted from each person in turn without wearing out his welcome with each person.

The swinging chair is Elaine’s favourite place to enjoy a cuppa or a read. It’s positioned so as to overlook the entry to the property and the two bottom paddocks. Wallabies are usually happily grazing here, particularly in the early morning or late afternoon. A very pleasant place for a read, and I almost fell asleep here as the breeze swayed me two and fro on more than one occasion.

A lovely chair to enjoy a nap in.

A lovely chair to enjoy a nap in.

Our van, and the accommodation is high on a hill, with a steep hill down to either get to the road at the front, or the creek through the back paddocks. I nicknamed both hills, ‘Cardiac Hill’. I’m not sure whether I was getting a good cardiac work out by the time I walked back up each time, or whether I was close to cardiac arrest. Needless to say, poor Titan didn’t get the walk each day that he’s used to, and had to make do all to often with a run around the house area. Not easy to instigate as he doesn’t fetch a ball, but by enthusiastically stamping my feet at him he seemed to get the message that there was a bit of game involved. I’m not sure who looked the biggest idiot, him running in wide circles like an electric train set, or me instigating each lap. I suspect as far as looking like an idiot, I won hands down……

The natural habitat down by the creek - at the bottom  of Cardiac Hill.

The natural habitat down by the creek – at the bottom of Cardiac Hill.

Sarina Range would be a lovely place to live, but staying there only for a short time had us at a bit of loss as to what to do with ourselves.

At Elaine’s suggestion we took a day trip to Eungella National Park one day. It’s almost two hours drive in each direction, but was worth it. A beautiful park with nice walk tracks to water falls, and lovely little concreted fords placed to drive through the clearest of creeks to get to the picnic area and walk tracks.

A cool, clear stream to ford to get to Eungella picnic ground.

A cool, clear stream to ford to get to Eungella picnic ground.

A walk track in Eungella (pronounced Youngilla). A cruel reminder of how unfit I am.

A walk track in Eungella (pronounced Youngilla). A cruel reminder of how unfit I am.

We’ve now moved on and are camping at a farm stay just a little north of Townsville, after spending a single night at road stop stay on the way here. We’re expecting another wet week. This year Queensland’s ‘dry season’ has been unseasonably wet. In fact for our last night at Sarina Range we received 213mm of rain (that’s more than 8 inches for those like me, who can relate better to imperial measurements). We weren’t sure whether or not we were going to be flooded in. Elaine drove us down to the road before we hitched up to make sure the creek hadn’t cut the road off. It was flowing fast, but was still below road level. I’m not sure if that’ll be the case after tomorrow’s expected weather. A stormy day tomorrow is expected with thunder, lightening and lots of rain.

We’re camped in a reasonably boggy place, so it’s possible we’ll be stuck here for a while. We’re hoping though to get a fine, warm day before we leave so as we go across to Magnetic Island off the coast of Townsville.

Watch this space…..