Mt Isa

We’re in Katherine waiting for Kelv to pick us up and take us out to dinner – so a few minutes spare for a quick update.

Firstly, as promised, a little bit about Mt Isa. We stayed there for three nights after leaving the station. It was good to have a bit of time to clean some of the dust out of the caravan, and to just chill down a little after that experience.

Mt Isa is a newish sort of town, located in Queensland not to far from the Northern Territory border. It was only established in the early to mid 20th century when lead, copper, zinc and tin were discovered there. It has since boomed as a mining town, providing wealth for many of the people who flocked here from all over the world.

During the 2nd world war after the bombing of Darwin, it was feared further attacks would follow with Mt Isa’s rich mineral source being a prime target. Within 15 weeks following Darwin’s bombing, the  residents in Mt Isa had built an underground hospital in preparation. Much of it was built by hand, and with only a small population from which to draw volunteers from. Fortunately, the hospital was never used except as a cool place for the nurses to rest during their night shifts. The remoteness of the destination meant there was nowhere for the Japanese to refuel, so the invasion never happened and the hospital has never been more than a tourist attraction. Kudos though to the volunteers who built it in such a short time.

Underground hospital - thankfully never needed.
Underground hospital – thankfully never needed.

Mt Isa is typical of much of Australia’s mining areas – red!!!

The white house on the red hill.
The white house on the red hill.

The towns water is now supplied by Lake Moondarra., a artificial lake built on the Leichhardt River. The lake was created in 1957, a welcome treat for the townspeople who use it for water sports including swimming, boating and fishing. It’s a popular picnic spot.

Man-made in 1957, a welcome addition that provided both water and entertainment.
Man-made in 1957, a welcome addition that provided both water and entertainment.

And that’s about it on Mt Isa. It’s worth a stopover to have a look, but it’s not a holiday destination.

Kelv’s house is finished, and his harvest is almost due to start, so a lot happening at once for him. We’re hoping to stay here for another couple of weeks to help him get started with his garden.

It’s getting humid here now. We’ve debated staying for the build up before the wet, but we have a few things we need to attend to back in WA. That’s our excuse for escaping the humidity anyway, and we’re sticking to it!

This week I want to source some trees and palms for his garden. I love tropical gardens. It’ll be hot planting them out, but it’ll be a pleasure to come back here next winter and see how they’ve grown.

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Juries back – thumbs down

Less than four weeks into our station experience and we decided it wasn’t for us. We were in it for the experience, but when the experience wasn’t proving to be a good one, we saw no point in slogging away at it for pay that worked out to considerably less than the minimum Australian hourly rate. Don’t get me wrong, we weren’t in it to earn big money, we weren’t even in it to earn good money, but we had hoped for a pleasant experience for fair money. Neither were evident.

Not all bad though. Station life was something we’d wanted to have a look at,  so we’ve ticked off that box (even if in this case it’s more a big red cross than a tick), at least we’ve had a snap shot look.

Paul managed to get a few more snaps. The cows, although timid in station numbers, are quite beautiful. I’m sure in a very small numbers they’d make gorgeous pets.

Looking healthy and contented.
Looking healthy and contented.
Yum, lip smacking good 'cow lick'.
Yum, lip smacking good ‘cow lick’.

I had always thought the best sunrises and sunsets were evident over oceans, but  we’ve seen some incredible sunrises and sunsets inland. We were treated to some on the station that makes those over the ocean pale in comparison.

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Gorgeous sunrises
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And bright sunsets.

We had decided on Wednesday that we would leave. We were going to see out the week-end but it rained Wednesday afternoon, and with rain comes slippery mud, and with slippery mud, the ringers can’t work. So, work was off for Thursday and Friday. There seemed little point in hanging around, so we waited for the muddy roads to dry out enough to allow a safe and sure exit, and we left.

Leaving.
Leaving.

We’ve been enjoying a few days of down time in Mount Isa, which I’ll tell you about soon. I must say, it’s been a treat to start the days with a lovely ‘lie in’, enjoying a cuppa in bed as we peruse the internet. Yes, we’re back to full speed internet and phone cover – what a pleasure!!

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.

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’.

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…..

A little more about our house sit

Our caravan is backed into a huge shed on some land in Sarina Ridge. We’ll be here for a little over two weeks, and will be getting some animal and garden time, along with a good chance to polish up the van.

I’m not sure how many acres Elaine and Larry have. It’s a lovely property with a permanent creek running through it. The creeks a bit of a hike, and we’ve only been there once so far. We’ll go again and try to spy out the platypus that live there.

Currently Elaine and Larry only use the place as a weekender. For my overseas readers, weekenders on acreage in country areas often means utilising part of a very big shed as living quarters, and this is what E & L have done here. There is the huge garage where our caravan is housed. That has a lovely new bathroom fitted into a small corner. Opposite is another tin shed used as basic accommodation. It’s drafty and basic but gives the owners a chance to establish their land and gardens and work out the best position for their permanent abode to be built later. There’s a magic sort of quality about living in a basic and very rustic weekender that appeals to anyone with any ‘pioneering’ spirit. It appeals to us.

There’s eleven head of cattle here that keep the grass under control. Titan the dog, and Tommy Tigger the cat travel with E & L weekly between their week house and the weekender.

Our job here is to keep the plants watered, and to keep an eye on the cattle while Elaine and Larry have a holiday. Titans job is to make sure our hands are never idle – he thinks our hands are much better utilised giving him a good pat than they are at doing anything else. He’s pretty good at doing his job! Tommy Tigger occasionally treats us to a ‘real fur’ snuggle, but mainly he leaves the job of occupying our hands fully to Titan.

The days here so far have been sunny and pleasant. The nights are freezing. We’re enjoying the company of the fur babies, and the peaceful country setting. Technology is a bit sketchie. Although full bars show on our phone hot spot, I can’t seem to upload any photos, and after last nights lost draft, I’m now saving several times whilst typing a draft to ensure I dont completely lose another post. I’ll keep trying with the photos.

Apart from the sketchy technology and the freezing nights – what a pleasure.

Ya can go off a place

A week of wet here in Airlie Beach, and today I think we’ve had more rain than that which has been received in total in the preceding week. It’s even cold today at 17°.

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Yep, our vans almost ready to start floating.

Our barbecue table is standing in about 4 inch deep water. Ya can go off a place. Only joking – but seriously……

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Guess we’re not barbecuing tonight.

It’s 30° and fine in Broome – feels like the grass is always greener somewhere else sometimes. Perhaps after nearly 40 years of living in WA we both just became used to predictable weather. In Perth in summer it’s hot and dry, almost without exception. In winter it’s cool, and there’s a reasonable amount of wet days, winter after winter without exception. That’s when folks go up to Broome, where it’s warm and dry, day after day without exception.

I often say, ‘no good complaining about the weather, you can’t control it, so just live with it.’ But this time I feel justified in complaining. Weve tried to put a lot of miles between us and bad weather. Seems we’re destined to live with wet feet lately. I don’t mind crisp cold. And I don’t even mind a day or two of rain, but this is so much more than that. It’s supposed to be the dry season. It’s bloody torrential.

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Im wondering when I should get the oars out for our neighbours.