The back end of nowhere… and beyondJuly 12, 2009
It would have taken me three days to ride out, which I wouldn’t have minded. It was a beautiful road. That slowly turned from forest area to more open plains. Nothing else but bush and here and there a cow or kangaroo hopping about.
And then there it was.
A little oasis. Complete with palm trees and green grass.
A funny place to pass through,
An even funnier place to live.
With a population of 7 it’s the smallest place I’ve ever spent much time.
It’s a place I’d describe with words like ‘interesting’ or ‘different’…
Not least because of the people working there.
There is the overworked & underpaid alcoholic gardener. Who sends all his wages straight back into the pub. He doesn’t really eat but makes up for it with xxxx gold-cans, his drink of choice. It’s him I am sharing a house with. Not always easy dealing with his mood swings but he’s a decent enough guy. And he keeps the place looking very clean.
Then we have boss-lady.
If a snake or cane toad is spotted she’d be the first one running out with a golf club and baseball bat to murder the animal.
She tries to run a tight ship but lacks dramatically in people skills. She seems very nice to most people, calling them ‘love’ or ‘chicken’, but most people don’t work for her or need to deal with her regime 24/7.
On the other hand I have to admit I’ve never been much good with authority. But when someone tries to treat me like I’m dumb or bullies me for no reason I get annoyed.
And her partner. An -I suspect- slightly autistic man who’s deaf at one ear and never listens with the other. In the 5 weeks I’ve spend here I’ve never quite figured out what he actually does. Apart from barging in on any one trying to do their job while shouting random comments like: “when you sweep the floor, use a broom!”… Or; “when you have nothing to do, stock the fridges!” (like you ever got nothing to do…)
A 21-year-old southern sheila has been here a bit longer than me and is the boss-lady’s pet. So she can’t do nothing wrong. I get on with her well enough but her lack of spine gets tiresome. She’s usually rather happy and finds everything: ‘excellent!’ and ‘cruisy’…
Big kiwi guy does the late shift. He’s quiet, laid back and easy to get on with. Just does the job not bothered about no one else.
The latest addition to the team is a charming lady from Western Australia, a serious breath of fresh air, she bounces around and is easy to talk to. She’s running the kitchen now and is doing an ‘excellent!’ job at that…
I get on best with the last two, funny enough they are both travellers.
They know there’s a whole world out of TS. So don’t take everything too serious. You need that. Or you might end up like boss-lady…
I’ve been having a pretty good time though, despite of some peoples efforts to put me down.
The most interesting thing is the characters passing through here.
We’re not at any main highway so there’s no backpackers.
And just a few retired Australians with camper vans, a.k.a ‘grey nomads’.
One thing I thought would be great is the lack of things to spent money on… But in my first days here I met a lovely couple who go digging around for gem stones in the area and make jewellery out of it… so I bought a pair of earrings…
There are a few aboriginal communities in the area so they come in a lot.
I was shocked to find out that we have a ‘black fella’s bar’ and a ‘white fella’s bar’. And these two don’t mix well.
Everything we do is with double measure.
For example the petrol.
If a white fella comes along they can fill up and pay afterwards.
Comes a black fella, he has to come in to pay before filling up…
Many little things like that.
Before I started work here I was told to get a RSA (Responsible Service of Alcohol certificate)
I did the course online.
Only to find out when I got here that we break just about every rule in the book… From underage drinking to serving after hours and smoking at (and behind) the bar…
But again, the rules are different for different people. And boss-lady is the one to make them up. So whatever you do, it’s never right.
Sometimes there is a crowd, like the night we got Miss Universe ’72. Who came on a rally and had their final night in Top Springs. Including band, BBQ and some booze A pretty good night that was.
Then we’ve got the cowboys and girls. All the people working on surrounding stations come in regularly for a drink.
90km up the road you find one of those stations called Camfield. With its 276.900ha and 35.000 cattle, it’s not the largest. But I wouldn’t call it small either.
On a rare day off I cycled out to Camfield to check out how things work there.
You can imagine my surprise when I saw a lone cyclist coming towards me…
Ida, from Swiss, has been cycling by herself for the past few years nearly the same route as I have and is just about to finish her 20.000km round of Australia. On a single speed bicycle!!! I’m absolutely amazed and was happy she decided to stay two nights at Top Springs.
She’s a proper superhero.
And then the ‘truckies’
They’re a special kind all together. They come in for a heart attack on a plate and to chat up the barmaid.
But they’re good fun and I got to ride in a road train
Not only that, I got to fly in a helicopter too!
We’re owned by a helicopter company. They send flying cowboys out to muster cattle and they regularly stop here to get oil.
Sometimes when they’ve got time they take someone up for a flight. It’s great!
You get to see how very remote you actually are and the pilot took me out to a creek where the bats live.
There is a bit of a bat-problem at night, thousands swarm down in the trees and poo all over the show. That’s a reason the swimming pool has been closed for months already. A shame. Would be nice to be able to swim since there isn’t a whole lot of other things to do around here.
I did go for a run and a ride on my bike a few times, but after you’ve been up and down all four roads you’ve kindda seen it.
But the chopper pilot showed me where the bats go during day time and how they (not the bats…) muster cattle! It was brilliant, so next time an opportunity arose I took the chance. Since both the pilot and I had the afternoon off he said it wasn’t a problem to take me up. Not surprisingly boss-lady came out to spoil the fun and told us I couldn’t go because ‘it was too expensive’
It’s not her paying though. She’s not the pilot’s boss. And she has nothing to say over me on my time off. So when another one came in some days later I flew away.
The main job I’ve been doing here is scrubbing and cleaning hotel rooms and toilets. Not the most exciting and not what I’ve been told I would be coming out for.
I know it needs to be done, but it wouldn’t harm anyone to swap the shifts around a little so we all get to work the shop and bar as well…
When I finally convinced boss-lady to make a roster I got all the cleaning shifts during the week, and an early shift Saturday and a late shift Sunday. It did suit me alright. I just bounce around listening to my mp-3 player. And there was a big draft on last weekend. So I arranged for a ride out on Saturday afternoon and planned to stay the night.
Except that boss-lady had different ideas. She doesn’t like me to enjoy myself so on the Friday night she tells me I’ve got a split shift on Saturday… working the night as well.
I mentioned that I already had plans, and I’ve been looking forward to getting to see the camp draft. Her reply;” If you go out there you don’t need to come back!’
I jumped in a road train and away I was. Together with my bike and all my gear.
It’s wonderful to be free and not have people nagging about silly stuff.
And it was well worth getting sacked for. I had a great time watching people on horses chasing cows around an arena…
I want to be in Katherine next week for the show, a proper rodeo which will be fun to watch. Until that time I’m riding around on the road trains. With people called ‘Bull’, ‘Jumbo’, ‘Buck’ and ‘Bush Pig’.
It’s a good way to see some country…
Like last night when we went to see Lee Kernaghan & John Williamson at the Darwin city Muster. (apparently two of the biggest names in Australian country)
Had a great time and actually recognised some songs from what’s been playing in the truck
And then, finally, I will get on the bike again.
Time to get out of the Northern Territory and go explore Western Australia for a bit.
It’s gonna be great!