Day 24 – The Birdsville Track – time for a long walk
I walked down through the back gate heading east towards where the sunrise would hit me in the face. Five forty-five am, that time just between the dark of the night and dawn. I had a torch with me but it wasn’t needed. Camera at ready, I kept walking. This walking is helping my leg and back which is still giving me grief of late. I saw lots of birds down to the right in the wetlands area but not a single animal. There was a slight southerly wind building up and it was quite cold.
I got a few pictures of sunrise and birds then I headed back to the gate and started walking south towards the turn off to the Birdsville track, 1km away. I could hear a vehicle in the distance and wondered if it would call into Mungerannie. Looking back towards the Hotel and campgrounds I could see about eleven camper trailers all just in the tree line, most of them having breakfast and preparing for their days drive.
A young couple were rolling up their swag-tent getting ready to venture on the track again. The swag-tent was a brilliant idea. Same canvas structure as the old swag I used in my younger days, working in the bush as a painter. There is small loops in each end to feed through the support poles and hey-presto, a swag sleeping bag inside a tent, absolutely brilliant. It’s probably an old idea, but very new to me. It would be somewhat heavier than my two-man tent but much easier to handle in this wind.
The cold southerly has now become nearly gale force and swirling dust everywhere. I can see the other campers madly packing their gear. I went over to the dining room and grabbed some toast and coffee. Phil (the owner) said today will be nasty, he’s not too fussed on these days as the dust gets into every little crevasse, especially through the doors and windows. Sitting here with my hot coffee I could smell the dust in the dining room air.
Phil has been here at Mungerannie for nineteen and a half years, he doesn’t mind the heat but never has liked the winter southerlies. Over the last few days it has been quite busy. Phil has had to order stock weekly just of late, usually a fortnightly task. All his stock is trucked in from Adelaide. I had wondered about the grocery shopping he would need for the kitchen. The food here is wonderful. The salad with each meal was always so delightfully crisp and fresh. And with the number of customers just in the last two nights having been huge he would need so much stock. All the Woodend Rejects rally drivers and passengers and last night the motor bikers. In total I counted 15 motor bikes plus a support vehicle, plus some of the campers, sure is a lot of mouths to feed.
I watch the travellers come in, order a meal (burger with the lot) a cold drink and a receipt. Probably unaware of the work behind the counter to provide them with their needs during their rest stop, they expect the meals to be fresh and the drinks are cold.
The place is always clean and tidy. Paul and Penny, two seasonal workers (second year working here for the winter break) mop the floors inside; wash down the verandas, but not on windy days like today. The dusting is a daily chore which is often done twice, once for the lunch time travellers and then in the arvo ready for the evening travellers that are stopping for the night. The old rule, first impressions will always be remembered.
One of the dining room windows was ever so slightly open and the wind howled through the tiny opening. An eerie noise, I closed that pretty quickly. It’s a big jacket day today, all the staff are wearing them while doing their morning chores.
The last of the trailer campers are filling up with fuel and have ordered hot coffee, no cold drinks today. They’re heading to Birdsville and have a helping tail wind on the way. Not like the poor bikers, three different groups of them, all fifteen of them in total, heading south to Marree in that horrid head wind. Hope this southerly stops somewhat before I set up camp at Cooper Creek Camp or Clayton Wetlands Camp.
The afternoon came quickly and many travellers came into Mungerannie for the night. Sitting in a chair on the veranda I watched two campers arrive only to notice one was Ellie and family. Ellie my ‘lane buddy’ from the swimming group I swam with in Picton was on an outback journey with her son Dale and family. They were heading to Birdsville then on to Quilpie.
The sun’s going down and I’m standing in the solar powered Telstra phone box, cold southerly wind still blowing, waiting for a dial tone. It seems like I’m in the middle of nowhere here, in the camp grounds. Wow, I have a dial tone, tap in the phone number hoping someone is home. Even when it goes to that ‘not at home right now’ message, I still get charged. I do like the phone card, no need to carry lots of coins. Funny, I have a mobile phone but no Telstra service, not until I reach Marree, that’ll be seven days without mobile service. It’s still great to be able to contact family on the old ‘phone box’. Feels like E.T., ‘phone home’……ha.
Cheers Kenny Mac