At home with Mango Bob – Humpty Doo

Sorry that I accidentally posted an unfinished draft of this post a few weeks ago. It should be a bit more interesting now..

We left Darwin to travel South on the highway to our new home! We were to be mango picking at Bob’s farm just outside of Humpty Doo. Our new accommodation was a bus caravan, surprisingly spacious with loads of cupboards. Our ‘living area’ an outdoor shelter with TV, washing machine, fridge and BBQ.

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With the mangos wanting a few more days to ripen, we would base ourselves here until the work started later in the week. We stocked up on food in small town Humpty Doo and whiled away the day in our new home.

Day 408 – Litchfield National Park

We spent a good day exploring Litchfield National park, about 150km South of Darwin. On driving through the park we stopped at some huge termite mounds, perfectly aligned north to South so they were flat and able to regulate the temperature inside. Despite being impressive, a graveyard of homes, it was rather an unusual stop.

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The dramatically beautiful scenery of Litchfield is in its steep gorges, dramatic rock faces and cool swimming holes. We walked from the swirling rock pools of Buley rock pools down to Florence Falls following a path which was described as shady track. There was no shade, very little tree cover at the end of the dry season. Florence falls however was a lovely swimming area under some big falls where we splashed around. Ricky finally struck gold snorkelling, finding $1.

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We took a walk to Tolmer falls using a path which follows the gorge and then drove on to have lunch at Wangi Falls. The falls were another big lake which dropped away steeper to accommodate fish life. Although you know there is unlikely to be crocs, the signs never quite rule out the possibility that there may be some.

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Day 409

On another days adventure, the boys took the fishing rods out and dropped me in town. I headed to Darwin museum of arts and history which had an impressive display of aboriginal art, sculpture and culture.

Another exhibit was Sweetheart, the stuffed corpse of a croc who unfortunately drowned as they were trying to remove her from a lake where she was being quite aggressive. Measuring 4.5 metres she was a terrifying sight to imagine face to face.

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The most memorable exhibit was of Cyclone Tracy which passed through Darwin on Christmas morning 1974, devastating the town. Footage of the streets was of course shocking, but the sound room, with recording of the cyclone tearing roofs from buildings was quite terrifying. With 90% of buildings flattened, mass evacuation followed and a rebuilding the town took years.

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Thursday night is market nights down at Muhzil beach which is where I headed to wait for Ricky and Luigi who had continued on their fishing quest. Full of art and Asian food stalls it was a nice place to explore but rather different to the Asian price tags. I found myself watching a whip show in which Mick of ‘Micks whips’ was giving a demonstration on how to crack a whip.

We did some odd farm jobs over the weekend, including changing all the sprinklers to be ant proof, driving the doorless Toyota farm vehicle around to pick up discarded branches and cuttings, and power washing the verandah.

Monday morning at 8am we were ready for our first day of mango picking. Joined by Scott and Steven, both Aussies, we climbed aboard the machine. Two pickers stand on an elevated platform with scissors on picking sticks, two pickers on the ground. When they cut the stem they throw it at the tarpaulin on the machine where everything filters through to me at the back with a big bath top. I am quality control and de stemmer, rubber gloves on and ready to go. Oh, and the whole thing moves!

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Mango picking is like handling hand grenades. There sap burns skin, also their own skin, so you have to pull the stem off avoiding the fruit and yourself, easiest done under the water as if you pull the stem it can squirt up to three metres. Some people react badly to mangos and get a rash, just another thing in Australia that is out to get you..!

The days are long and hot, around 38 degrees in the day falling to 25 degrees overnight. On the first day we sent 3.5 tonnes of fruit to the packing shed.

On day three of picking the wheel axel broke and we spent a day and a half picking into the lugs, “the old fashioned way” stacking the mangoes so they don’t de stem and detonate ruining the whole box. Each of us would work our way down a row of trees, select picking the mangos. If anyone is interested in the distinguishing features of a mango, the front side is rounded like a puffed out chest, the side which must appeal on the shelves, however the backside is the telltale to the picker. The mango develops cleavage, must fill out in the shoulders, and at the bottom must turn from ‘beaky’ at the point, to a smiling face as the fruit fill out.

We’re proving to be rather hardy, many French backpackers have come over the weeks and only lasted the day.

By the end of day four we had caught up with all the fish which had ripened and had three days off. That being said, there isn’t much to do around Humpty Doo. Luigi and Ricky set about trying to catch the geese which roam the farm. They set up a trap with a mango crate, some mangoes to lure them in, all propped up by a stick tied to some fishing wire a house any of them take the bait. When this failed, Bob lent them his shotgun, Ricky and I scaring the geese towards Luigi, but to no avail!

Once we had explored to the boundaries and exhausted the movie collection we headed to Darwin for the day. We called first at the National park on the outskirts of town, a site of a lot of Bomb dumps used regularly when WW2 infringed on Australia’s borders. The Bombing of Darwin on 19 February 1942 was both the first and the largest single attack ever mounted by a foreign power on Australia. On this day, 242 Japanese aircraft attacked ships in Darwin’s harbour and the town’s two airfields in an attempt to prevent the Allies from using them as bases to contest the invasions of Timor and Java.

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From here we took a picnic to the Botanic gardens which was a beautiful and collection of gardens and plant life. The shade provided a little respite from the days heat. A short way up the road is Lake Alexander where we could swim in view of the ocean but free from Crocs. The water was far from refreshing as it had warmed in the sun, but had a beautiful outlook with ocean behind and greenery in front.

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Northern Territory television is amongst the most hilariously bad thing I have ever seen. Re runs of traffic cops and border control dominate, filled in with American shows, but broken every 5 minutes (literally) with adverts. A half an hour show can have 4 sets of adverts, coming back the final time just to run the credits!! The adverts are low budget and mostly advertise shops you have seen on Darwin high street, using the same employees you saw in store. Scott is living on site with us and is from Darwin. He is a very laid back Aussie who watches the TV in every moment off duty. Whilst picking I asked him what it was like growing up here. The coldest he has experienced is 10 degrees on a trip to Brisbane!

Another thing we have grown accustomed to is sharing our home with wildlife. Quite often you will share the shower with a frog or two, one hopped out of the toilet at me and there is always the resident tree frog on the sink come evening. We have also seen a snake in camp and a possum in the tree.

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As we head into the rainy season we witnessed a spectacular storm overnight. The thunder rumbles shook the bus and woke me, something that is unheard of. I watched out of the window as lightening forks split the sky.

After a week or two all working on the same machine, Ricky and I split off to a different, rather older machine nicknamed ‘the dinosaur.’ Our small 2 man team plodded along however in much preferable design, the grader (me) gets to drive the machine and control all the levers. I even get my own drivers seat that swivels and the mangos come to me up a conveyor belt rather than have my hands in water all day. She’s a bit lacking in power, often not able to get over a mango, defeated by her very design, but we love her anyway. Go team dinosaur.

Who knows where it’s off to next, but it’s home for now.

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