A Travellerspoint blog

June 2010

7 The Kimberley region

sunny 28 °C

19th June
After completing the pack-up chores we headed south to our free overnight roadside stopover, Leycester’s Rest on the Great Northern Highway.
This was quite a large stopover place, with a basic toilet that reminded me of a Paris Youth Hostel in Paris that I stayed at in the 1960’s. Quite a few other caravanners also decided to stay in the pleasant stop with very little overnight road noise. It appeared to be the remnant of a storage depot from a few years prior when there was a massive realignment of the highway to accommodate a high-level bridge that would reduce flooding over the very old concrete bridge that it replaced.
The site was named after a young lad of about 13 who was killed close by a few years ago and the family and locals clubbed together to have it renamed as a memorial to a loved son.
The roads were now flatter with smaller trees as we weaved through the ends of ranges of red hills. Not one of the great roads to travel because of the lack of significant features.
We set up and managed a good night.

20th June
A rather cool start to the day as the wind rose with the oncoming day. Sweaters were brought out and after quick visit to the toilet block before breakfast we departed. The road views were much the same as the previous day except that we had more straight and flat roads with fewer hills interfering with our travel to Mary Pool stopover. A brief stop at Hall’s Creek for petrol and then we headed south again. We arrived at the Mary Pool stop to find a very large venue that eventually housed over 50 vans, camper trailers and motor homes – with room for another 100. And a better set of toilets!
Brian and Maureen managed to score a site under the trees and overlooking the river. Good planning! We were nearby under a shady tree and got set up quite early. We all went for a stroll over the old concrete bridge that now showed serious signs of old age, and, as for the previous site, had apparently been a work site for a major road realignment and bridge replacement – and put to very good use.

The river stroll soon revealed a pelican, two cormorants, and a spoonbill, all sitting warily on a tree stump. Coming closer we soon saw a smallish (1.4M) freshwater crocodile resting in the sun. Warily stalking it we managed to get a couple of photos to prove how brave we were! Cattle wandered the riverbank also. Many corellas nested in the trees and made quite a noise as dusk approached.
As I was on cooking duty I set up our portable camp gas cooker until Mary noticed that we had a gas leak. Checking the setup I noticed that a rubber ring inside the connection hose was fatally frayed, so dinner ended up being cooked on the inside gas cooker instead. As it was a rather cool night we stayed indoors.

21st June
The shortest day of the year dawned with a very cool and gusty wind that had us all getting out those sweaters again! We headed off a bit early and wondered why Brian and Maureen were so long catching us up. As we stopped to try our UHF radio they arrived and advised that they had had some trouble getting all their van secured. We headed south with a brisk and cool tailwind that seemed to also come from both sides at times, and stopped a bleak rocky outcrop for morning tea in the now even more cool and gusty wind. A hot coffee soon helped and we jumped into our cars and continued our journey to the famous Fitzroy Crossing for a couple for nights. Long straight roads and low trees and millions of ant hills on flat plains were the day’s sightseeing experience. However, we did see one eagle hurriedly leaving his roadside meal, and then a couple of brolgas flying across in front of us.

Arriving at Fitzroy Crossing we found the Crossing Caravan Park and booked in to find ample powered sites among many mature trees and even some actual grass! We were soon set up and, after lunch, headed into the main township (pop 1500?) to find that the only store in town had been broken into and was closed for the day. We found solace in a very welcome ice-cream from the local Shell Roadhouse, and then headed back to camp for a peaceful night. We were not disappointed and slept well, apart from some vehicles moving about the park very late at night.
This establishment is apparently run by local Aboriginal folk who were most welcoming.

22nd June
We headed out to the Geikie Gorge National Park for a bushwalk to be followed by a one hour river cruise. Once again we had the cool blustery wind to start the day, but that soon dropped and we ended up walking in a pleasant warm day. Fascinating sandstone rock formations with black upper rocks and white low ones illustrated the range of wet season floods. In fact the rather bizarre turret formations of the black topped rocks looked as if they had been in the Lord of the Rings series.

The river cruise was a pleasant one of one hour during which we saw the obligatory freshwater crocs and a goanna.
Mary had intended to buy a T shirt after the cruise, but the staff had gone for lunch and everything was closed up. Too bad that they lost a lot of business as others also hoped to buy after the cruise finished. However, we met a lovely young family with an eight year old boy with Angelmans Syndrome, and we had a lovely chat over lunch. Mum, dad and three boys in a camper-trailer and having a great time travelling through the outback. I am sure that the kids got a real education as they travelled.
Arrived back at camp after filling up at the local Shell station to find that a large motor-home had parked in front of us leaving a very small opening for us to connect the van up for departure in the morning.

23rd June
After another quiet night we started departure preparations when the lady from the motor-home advised that they were leaving very soon, and so we managed to get hooked up without any problems and set out for Derby, about 260 Kms southeast.
The journey was uneventful with very long straight sections of good quality road all the way through to the Derby turnoff. Vast numbers of termite mounds looking as if they had been the victims of some small child’s play-dough attack! Increasing numbers of boab trees also became apparent.
We arrived in Derby at the Kimberley Entrance Caravan Park at about noon and managed to score adjacent sites in a very pleasant tree lined setting. One of the best van parks so far with well maintained facilities and not at all noisy.

After setting up we had headed out to find a garage to have my car’s 90’000Km service check done and were fortunate to get a booking for the Friday afternoon – just before departure for Broome on Saturday. We tried to buy a replacement gas hose for our two-burner cooker, but to no avail so will have to cook inside until we get to Broome where we expect a larger tourist centre will be able to provide the specific part.
Had dinner and then watched a travel video for the next leg of our trip. We all felt tired afterwards so headed off to get a good night’s sleep.

24th June
Mary was up before 6am to grab a washing machine to catch up on the growing pile of washing. The two loads were soon on the line and had all basically dried by morning tea. We do love this tropical climate! Time for that coffee and then we headed off to see the Boab Prison Tree, nearby, then to Frosty’s Pool (a ‘swimming pool about 3m square that a corporal made during their time serving the area in WWII), then Mary had to see the Royal Flying Doctor Service for possible souvenirs before we headed to the Derby Jetty to see the tide come in. Weird, eh? However, the vast sand flats from the Fitzroy River system cause huge tidal flows that affect local shipping. Saw an interesting Thai restaurant at the Jetty so we decided that we had earned a treat and booked in for 5pm to enjoy the famous sunset, then followed by dinner. Life is so tough on the road!
Well, just finished afternoon tea and now have to get a haircut – the first in about eight weeks, so can’t complain.
Haircut complete and just in time for us to pile into our car and head for the Point Restaurant at the famous Derby Jetty to watch the sunset and to eat. Arrived just in time to take heaps of spectacular photos and then to eat a sumptuous meal at very reasonable prices. Yes, there should be more day like this, but the budget and waistline urge constraint!

Posted by psstevo 05:05 Archived in Australia Tagged seniors Comments (0)

6 Our Small Paradise and other things

sunny 30 °C

14th June
Mary, Brian and I set out, over a very stony track, to walk through the scrub to see the Durack Homestead that had been relocated from what is now the bottom of Lake Argyle, to a new, dry (!) place not far from the caravan park. It was really warm but we managed to see a number of different bird species (for us). Brian left us part way through our walk to see the view at some cliffs further along the track while we visited the museum/homestead. The Durack family had been pioneers in the Kimberley region for over 100 hundred years, and much of this is related in Mary Durack’s various books. Most famous is ‘Kings in Grass Castles’, but there are several others worth reading as well.
A Great Bower Bird had set up his ‘parlour’ just outside the house and he had attracted a possible ‘bride’ with his array of white objects that he had acquired from around the area. Very houseproud he was too!

There were many fascinating photos of the ‘olden days’ of this fascinating family. Try and read the books.
Mary and I trudged back, in the heat, made it back to camp in time for lunch, but somewhat concerned about Brian who had chosen a longer journey, however, he turned up in time for his lunch too!
Spent the afternoon relaxing in our temporary paradise.

15th June
Another day in paradise? Not quite as I decided to get up early to go fishing for barra at the base of the dam. Shortly after setting up on a rock somewhat higher than I figured crocs could reach I noted a croc lying in the water adjacent to some reeds – and looking at me! Not fazed I ensured that I could safely cast out into the main river flow and still keep my eye on his eyes. Soon I noticed the croc very gently edging closer and closer towards me. Still not bothered I kept fishing until I noticed it disappear under water and apparently headed in my direction. I decided that I needed a break from fishing for a while, so, walked up the boat ramp a safe distance (whatever that is with crocs!) and changed my lure – and waited. However, my ‘friend’ failed to surface, so after about 20 minutes I chose the highest rock to cast from and kept up my casting into the main stream. I was surprised by a noise just behind me in the water, and quickly turned to see the croc noisily swim away from only 5 meters away. I watched it’s movements for a bit and returned to fishing when it had moved far enough away.

Sadly, none of the fish offered themselves up for that evening’s meal, so, after warning another fisherman who arrived as I was packing up I headed back to camp. Now a bit more wary of even the freshwater crocs who normally are not a serious safety issue, but as our cruise boat captain said, any creature with that many teeth and that small a brain, don’t even think about giving the benefit of the doubt.
About 4pm we arrived at the freezing cold swimming pool to view the spectacular sunset across the lake with the red range of rugged hills as a backdrop. We chatted with a charming couple from Adelaide while we waited, and enjoyed the beautiful sunset by taking many photos.

16th June
Packed up and headed east (sort of) towards the small town of Kununurra. A small place and a bit of a wild west place, as we found out that evening when the hoons dragged up and down a few meters from our van as we tried to sleep. The supposed karaoke from the adjacent pub did not help either! Mary & I managed to get some copying done of our old itinerary, which, by now, was rather off tune by several days. No ANZ bank, so resorted to buying a few goodies from Coles store and getting a cash-out in lieu of paying fees at a ‘foreign’ ATM.

17th June
The four of us sat down to chat about the next stages of our journey, particularly concerned by the ’road intelligence’ from fellow-travellers, that Broome would be a problem in getting two powered van sites and at a reasonable price. Apparently all Ned Kelly’s relatives were alleged to now own the van sites and all the other money-making venues in town. One lady told us how she had forcefully informed the van park staff that she just wanted to stay the night, not but the @*)*&^&^%$ place. We soon decided on a date and preferred van park, however, the major van park told me that I could ring them at 8.30am on the day we wanted to arrive, and they would kindly tell us if there was anything available! Customer service is obviously alive and well in Broome in the winter. We found a reasonable place and booked and prepaid for four nights.
The other three decided to visit the Zebra Rock shop in the afternoon, so I decided to play nine holes of golf. It was hot, and the greens were actually blacks, there not being enough grass to make greens so we made do with fine black sand instead. Didn’t help my score though!

Meanwhile, the shoppers arrived back with tales of fabulous purchases of coloured rocks. Mary and I then headed off to the Coles supermarket and stocked up on supplies for the trip to Fitzroy Crossing, some two days drive sort of south.

18th June
Today we headed out, with Brian driving his car, towards the small and once famous town of Wyndham situated on the coast and the most northerly town in WA. It also had the same name as the town in which my dad was born, but that was in NZ. Brian and I were after suitable T shirts but they were a bit hard to find. We visited the old port area, and the very interesting local historical museum. There is something about these old historical museums in Australia because, along they share a common thread of a tough life in the 18 and 19 hundreds, each one has at least one unique event or tale to tell. Well worth the time to browse and be amazed at the hardships form the past.
Stopped for lunch across the road at Capt. Rod’s cafe (for want of a better description) and we really enjoyed the huge barra burgers that he specialised in. We decided that the lunch that we brought with us would do for dinner that evening. After having a look at the two shops that sold T shirts, we headed up the 350M Bastion Five Rivers Lookout. It may have been different from our first sight of the Grand Canyon from years ago, but this was one of the truly magnificent views in the world. The cliffs are almost sheer and discretion dictated that one did not go too close to the edge.

As its name suggests, it is the place from which we could view five major Kimberley rivers, including the magnificent Ord, join together into one large river (even in the dry season – I have no idea what the vista would reveal in the wet with massive torrents of water flowing) that went into the Cambridge Gulf, and so to the Timor Sea.
Apparently this site is the ninth best place in the whole world from which to view a sunset. (Who on earth has the time to calculate such trivia?).

Certainly the wait was worthwhile as all us tourists snapped away at the sinking sun. Hopefully I can get a photo onto this page quite soon (along with the one of Mary trying to eat her second massive barra burger).
As the last rays of daylight departed in ruddy splendour we descended the hill and topped up with fuel and a few souvenirs, and headed home in the dark.

Posted by psstevo 01:10 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

5 The Bush Part 2


9th June
We set out for one of three possible free camp sites along the highway, and finally grabbed a couple of spots at Saddle Creek free camp alongside the highway. It was a beautiful (but dusty) spot with a great view of the massive red cliffs around about us. Mary & I had arrived before Brian and Maureen, who had decided to look at another possible site, and we decided to set up for our sandwich lunch.
Shortly after we started eating a 4WD car towing a sizable caravan swooped in along the gravel roadway from the highway. I could hear an unusual sound as it sped into our tight little camp road, and is the driver turned around in a cloud of dust and gravel; I noticed that they had a flat tyre on the left caravan wheel. The driver just continued his rapid spin around at the camp entrance and sped back out to the highway with campers shouting out to the driver, and running after the fast disappearing vehicle. I jumped into my car and tried to radio on the UHF channel but no response as we observed the vehicle disappear up the road. A few minutes later Brian and Maureen arrived with tales of a large caravan, travelling at some speed, past them in the opposite direction, with sparks and smoke billowing from at least one caravan wheel!
We had a pleasant stopover there and enjoyed the magnificent cliff colouring in the sunset.

10th June
We set out early for Keep National Park, situated some 21 Klms off the main highway, and only a few Klms from the border with Western Australia. Having previously checked with the Park Rangers about 2WD access on a road described as ‘a dirt road’ I was a bit reluctant to go in, however, although it was quite corrugated for most of the journey we managed to keep ahead of the great clouds of red dust stirred up by our passage!
On arrival at the camp site we were very pleasantly surprised at the magnificent beauty that surrounded the camp. Different bird species that we were not familiar with were in abundance. There were two bush toilets that were welcome sights, even if not the odours. We set up camp on well-arranged van sites and settled in to a very relaxing two nights stay.

There was one bush walk, however, it was the accepted practice to do the hour and a half walk anti-clockwise in the morning, and in reverse in the late afternoon. This enhanced to effects of the sun on the spectacular rocks and cliffs and allowed more opportunities to see and hear different bird species – of which there were many.
Many photos later we enjoyed our dinner and spent the evening under the black skies filled with stars in all their created glory, although this was somewhat reduced by the fact that the van battery, which we relied on for powering our water pump for drinking and washing water had failed. To add to this frustration was in finding that the spare water container that I had bought in Katherine for the purpose of providing back-up water supply, had leaked about five litres of valuable water into the boot of the van. I was not happy!
Sometime in the very early hours of the morning my bladder decided to insist that I get up and visit one of the toilets, however, in the almost pitch dark, as I started towards the nearest toilet I heard a dingo howl, quite close to the camp site. The first was then followed by several answering howls from the rest of the pack! A very Alfred Hitchcock effect was all the incentive that I needed to head for the close by bush, complete my mission, and dive back inside the van!

12th June
After my rather restless night, we arose to prepare for our departure from the Park. After some confusion about departure time, we were ready to move out of the Park to our next destination.
Imagine my annoyance when the car battery refused to start the car! Brian suggested that I disconnect the power link between the car and the van (the van fridge was connected to the car to power the fridge while travelling), and thus reduce the power load. Fortunately this worked and we got under way, driving very slowing over the badly corrugated road back to the main highway.
Along the very dusty road we suddenly saw a sole brolga flying past us. Normally a part of the local fauna, but as it was early in the Dry Season, not many had yet arrived from elsewhere. A magnificent sight of a very large bird.
Along the way we stopped at a mystery point with a challenge to climb a small hill nearby to observe a most unusual Aboriginal feature. The brief walk revealed a very clever subterfuge employed by Aboriginal hunters to attract different hawk and kite species into a hunter’s ‘hide’ and thus the hungry of the tribe received a meal of reluctant hawks! Very clever indeed.

We made the rest of the way out to the highway and set off for the nearby Northern Territory/Western Australian border where a quarantine base was located to prevent the spread of cane toads and a range of fruit, vegetables and honey into WA. No problems emerged from either of our cars as we had ensured that we had cooked and eaten all potential hazards to WA before arriving at the checkpoint.
Putting our clocks back 90 minutes to WA time, we arrived quite early at Lake Argyle for a couple of nights camping. However, we shortly realized that we could not do justice to this beautiful place and so we immediately booked another two nights! Mary & I booked for the morning cruise to see more of this isolated oasis.
I spent more than an hour hand washing the (apparent) tonnes of red bull dust from the van. Dust was everywhere and literally got up your nose! Finally, having got the bulk of the cleanup done I made my way to the showers adjacent to our site. After three nights on the road and in the bush with no showers, that was one of the best showers that I ever had!
We enjoyed a fairly peaceful night although struggling to cope with the significant time change, especially relating to dawn and dusk.

13th June
Up early and surprised my hair with another shower! Breakfast and then down to the office for a pre-cruise video of Lake Argyle’s very brief history. Lake Argyle was built in the 1970’s to service the construction of the Ord River Dam project that the Federal and State Governments realised it was necessary to provide nearby farming districts with a reliable supply of water from irrigation. The Ord River floods every wet season and all the fresh water raced into the nearby ocean. The result of three incredible seasons of work (only during the seven to eight months Dry Season) was a 300 meter dam that holds back the potential for 80 Sydney Harbour’s worth of water. I have seen a number of dams around the world, and for the A$22 million it took to complete the project in 1972, it was a fabulous investment. A significant electricity generation system provides a full supply of electricity to the nearby Lake Argyle diamond mine – one of the world’s largest.
With a fresh breeze we enjoyed a two-hour cruise over a small portion of this lake that is large enough to be called an inland sea. We decided not to take the swim option when advised that an estimated 25,000 fresh-water crocodiles call Lake Argyle home! We saw several, so sat back, enjoyed the lovely morning tea and the fascinating flow of information from Scott, our skipper. A wonderful time that we all enjoyed.
Back for lunch, then some more detailed van cleanup before dinner. In the meantime we had tried to find a cause for the flat van battery, but decided to go the recharge route until we get to Kununurra, our next stop, where we hope to get this fixed once and for all!!
No TV reception so managed to get this up to date (on my laptop at least) before another attempt at catching a decent fish in the morning – crocs permitting!

Posted by psstevo 06:15 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

4 Going Bush!

National Park Beauty


Tuesday 1st June (Winter??)
After getting everything stowed away and hitched to the car we raced off and had a shower in preparation for travel to Litchfield Safari Camp, where we were booked for two nights, in the Litchfield NP about two hours drive south of Darwin. An easy ride with no traffic issues made this a pleasant trip, especially after we entered the Park itself and enjoyed winding roads and a variety of flora along the way.
We stopped outside the small town of Batchelor for morning tea, and headed off to our destination.
We drove via the Wangi Falls camp site but were not overly impressed as the sites all seemed to be neatly separated into what looked like a car park with shrubs! Driving on tour destination we arrived just in time for a late lunch. The last, probably one Km, was on a dusty red gravel road that had quite a lot of corrugations, but without incident we arrived at a rather spartan-looking camp site with a lot of greenery. The ‘reception’ office and most of the other ‘official’ sort of buildings all looked very down market. However, we were checked in and asked to select from any of the available sites.
We quickly got set up and enjoyed a brief lunch followed by the logical question - “Now that we are here in the middle of a large National Park, what are we going to do first?” After conferring with our new neighbours we headed up the sealed road to the Bamboo Creek Tin Mine. The mine was abandoned many years ago after attempts to cope with the very dry Dry Season, and the very Wet Season caused flooding over the site making it uneconomic to operate. Back down the road to Walker Creek to explore as the day came to an end. Brian drove us back to camp – very carefully, as there were wallabies crossing the road quite frequently and, having had an ‘argument’ with a kangaroo in a previous trip, wisely took his time. We also saw a wild dingo cross the road and disappear (easily) into his bush camouflage.
One thing that was important was that there was no TV, radio or phone connection to the outside world, so we are totally oblivious to any happenings in the wider world.
Dinner and early night.

Wednesday 2nd June
Another beautiful morning and, after a pancake breakfast we headed to the famous Wangi Falls a few Km along the road. Very beautiful falls to photograph, then we headed off along the increasingly steep climb through the rainforest (jungle) and then along a very rocky ridge and down the quite difficult climb back to the base of the falls. The top area above the falls, like most other falls in the area, was very arid and stony, unlike the tropical greenery around the lower part of the pool area.
Sadly the swimming in the pool at the foot of the waterfall was closed because the water was quite dangerous and still very high, meaning that the dreaded estuarine crocodiles were almost certainly still able to access the pool – and any welcome swimmer for lunch!
Talking of lunch, we then headed back to camp for our lunch, then off down the road to the Tolmer Falls for a short walk. A pleasant place to visit and enjoy, but no swimming here either, so back to camp for a breather after all the fresh air and walking in the heat.
After a very pleasant meal Mary & I watched the WALL-E DVD while Brian and Maureen went to the Wangi Falls ranger’s evening for a talk about the National Parks. Seems that the week prior someone had left their dog in charge of their van for a brief time and came back to see a large python starting to enjoy their lunch of Spot! The same camp had had a deadly adder in the shower/toilet block a few days earlier, so, we certainly watched where we were walking!
A few wallabies came to graze on the nearby vacant camp grass, but weren’t interested in any long-term attachment! Another cool night so we resurrected the doona for the night.

Thursday 3rd June
Another cool night, then we headed off to visit Buley Rockhole, adjacent to the famous Florence Waterfalls. We saw the usual wallaby scamper off into the nearby bush and disappear while we drove to the site. As we approached the Buley Rockhole pools we noted an extremely smashed up small car, apparently the accident was a very recent one that resulted in some serious injuries requiring helicopter evacuation.
Arriving at Buley we headed off to admire the beautiful waterfall with cool water rushing downstream. We then set off through the scrubby bush, much of it having recently been burned off in anticipation of a long Dry season. The track was easier than the previous ones in which we had to really clamber over rocks and logs. A couple of young men came towards us from the Florence Falls end and advised us to watch out as they had encountered a snake on the path just a few minutes earlier. Mary & Maureen immediately went into very high alert mode, while Brian and I kept up our normal watchfulness! No snake was seen, sadly!
The Florence Falls are quite attractive as they manifest as two major falls along with many smaller ones up and downstream. Altogether a very pleasant place to visit, however, as at Wangi Falls previously, we observed the various coach tour companies whisk their customers quickly to the nearest photo opportunity, and then back on the coach for the next photo shoot. I observed to the others that these poor tourists were ‘just seeing the beauty, but we were experiencing it’. Sad, but true, as we took time to immerse ourselves in the place and the moment.
One aspect throughout the whole Top End experience was the absolute domination of Darwinian dogma, almost everywhere that we visited, but especially in the many beautiful rock formations. The explanation, at Wangi Falls, on the birth of their Flying Fox young was patently absurd, but it was all written down in humourless pseudo-science. The other, equally, sad point that I noted was that there were many places from which all, except local Aboriginal people, were completely banned. All in the name of Aboriginal ‘spirituality’ which is apparently superior to all others! NO swimming at this sacred site etc. The patent pagan influence over the whole Top End is quite oppressive, I believe, and needs to be addressed – but I doubt this will happen.
After the rigours of another morning walk and climb (135 steps down to Florence Falls base – and I climbed back up them while the others went another route back to the car park), left us enjoying a peaceful time on a very pleasant day to get some R & R.
Please be patient with the updates. This past week we have been completely isolated in Litchfield National Park, and, the Blognow site can be very difficult to get the updates updated. Thanks.

Friday 4th June
As we enjoyed breakfast we noted that three Stone-faced Curlews were standing under the sprinkler system and just enjoying a nice cool shower! They were not so happy when the sprinkler was moved elsewhere. Isn’t nature lovely at times?
Another day in the Park and this time we decided to do the Greenant to Tjaetaba Falls walk. The first part was very easy and pleasant as we walked through patches of jungle followed by drier low level brush. However, the track became quite difficult with many stones that took a while to navigate, but we managed. A pleasant view of the waterfall from a close-by lookout, and then the descent. We did notice that wild pigs had made a mess of the environment by digging up large patches of ground in search of food. As a mandated pest they are controlled by the Park staff by culling, as are water buffalo, wild horses and cane toads.
During the late afternoon we walked around the perimeter fence and saw many wallabies, who did not wait for us to get too close but skipped off into the underbrush along the pathway.

Saturday 5th June
We reluctantly departed from Litchfield NP and headed to Katherine for our next stopover. We booked two nights at the Shady Lane CP as our previous stay had been a good one.
Near to the Adelaide River village we stopped for morning tea and saw the Ghan train heading south from Darwin to Adelaide. We then went to the nearby War Cemetery at Coomalie where several hundred victims of the Japanese bombing of Darwin in February 1942 are commemorated. Many were service personnel but there were several civilians who had been simply in the Darwin Post Office at the time of the first bombing raids and who died immediately or subsequently from injuries sustained in the attack. A moving experience, and perhaps Japanese tourists should be ‘encouraged’ to visit as we visit Hiroshima, for example.
We arrived back at Shady Lane and were allocated the same site as previous, but by now it was very dusty rather than green grass. We made the most of the stopover with getting all the washing up to date and some shopping to get us through to the NT/WA State border in about a week’s time, being careful not to buy too many vegetables as they have a quarantine station at the border for some items.

Monday 7th June
Although we had everything ready for an early start one of our camp neighbours stopped to share his information on some of our future stopovers. Campsites are wonderful places for the exchange of travel intelligence on road conditions, caravan parks and so on. However, we managed to get on the road and stopped in Katherine for a replacement light bulb for the van, an extra water container (so we could have longer free stopovers in Parks), and petrol. Petrol is cheaper in Katherine than we will encounter for many days on the road into the top of Western Australia.
We looked at a couple of free stops but missed out on grabbing a spot to park and stay, so onwards to Victoria River Roadhouse for a couple of nights, where we were given useful intelligence about van sites in Kununurra (WA), as these are often hard to obtain.
Once again, away from the city glare of lights we could marvel at the beauty of the Milky Way in all its splendour.

Tuesday 8th June
I was woken before dawn by some ‘cowboy’ running a forklift around the main complex. After a while I decided to get up and try my hand at barramundi fishing at the nearby bridge. As all rivers contain crocodile warnings Mary was a bit concerned – possibly by the thought that she would have to drive the van back to Brisbane without me!!
A careful check of the river bank showed no recent croc signs so I set about trying to catch one of the local monster fish. After a while I noticed what certainly appeared to be a croc down river so I increased my vigilance, especially as it disappeared from view shortly after! Not a good sign. However, the fish were not interested in my appeals to them to visit with us for dinner so, after a couple of hours, I returned to the van. There I was greeted by Brian and Mary, ready to take the Escarpment Climb just down the main road. So, a quick coffee and off we drove to the start point. It was getting hotter as we climbed up and quite easy, then a much more difficult climb over the rocky path. We made it to the top and were greeted by spectacular views of the Victoria River and the red/brown vertical cliffs in the area.
The journey down was quite slow because of the unstable rocky pathway, but we made it back to camp for lunch.
After lunch I headed off to try my luck at the nearby boat ramp as this was reputed to be a good fishing spot. It was also a bit more dangerous because it was very low-lying terrain along the river banks. I tried for about an hour and a half, but decided that, as the sun was setting and I was a long way from help if needed that I would stop and go home. However, ever the optimist I decided on a few more casts and was surprised to hook a Long Tom fish (a freshwater Gar fish). As it was a rather skinny creature and would not satisfy the hungry mouths back at camp released it.

Posted by psstevo 06:13 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

3 Intro to the "Top End"


Saturday 22nd May
Well, we are into our third week today! The sun was shining, the mosquitoes were out looking for breakfast and we headed for the ablution block for all the necessary showers etc. Oh joy! No electricity or water for the many toilets. Oh well, we were going on the 9.00am Yellow Water cruise, so we would have plenty of fresh air there! A quick breakfast and off to join the cruise, to find a boatload of French speakers were also on the cruise. Another vessel, so no need to panic!
The two-hour cruise among the water lilies, the many birds and plants, and to everyone’s delight about eight crocodiles, very close to the boat. A most enjoyable morning.
Lunch then we headed out in our car along the road towards Jabiru to do a bit of rock climbing to enjoy the wide panorama before us with the distance escarpment and the flat wetland plains surround us. Further along the road we saw an ‘art walk’ that lead to various Aboriginal art sites. A hot and humid return to Coiinda/Kakadu camp and straight for the very large swimming pool and a most enjoyable cooling off. Showers and toilets functioning OK so managed to get past that hurdle too.
We decided to retain our original 3 nights here so we could enjoy some of the sights on offer.

Sunday 23rd May
Brian drove us to Ubirr, about 50 or so Km from Coiinda, to see some Aboriginal rock art, and to climb some interesting rock formations also. The road was covered by rushing water in two places but no trouble for Brian’s Subaru AWD. The fascinating rock formations along the way, and the infrequent views of billabongs covered in water lilies made for an interesting trip.
Some of the rock formations, covered with greenery and vines, looked just like Incan or Mayan ruins. We climbed a couple of rocky outcrops and were rewarded with fabulous views of the surrounding wetlands. No sign of the deadly rock adders, to everyone’s relief.
The rest of the team insisted on visiting all the art work along the base of the range of hills. I didn’t feel that enthusiastic so took the opportunity to try and get some unusual photos. I did manage to get a nice shot of a very young rock wallaby.
It was another very hot and humid day so we headed to the Border Cafe, on the Kakadu boundary with Arnhemland. Territory of another Aboriginal tribe and we were not supposed to crossover. However, as it was so hot and we were rather hungry Mary and I ordered a Barra pie and Fanta at to famous Border cafe, and were somewhat surprised to be charged $11.00 each! It did taste really nice however.
A rather tired group finally made it back to camp ready for dinner and the next day’s journey to Darwin.

Monday 24th May
We made a reasonably early start for Darwin, via Jabiru and enjoyed the changing nature of the landscape as we journeyed. Mary kept trying to take photos through her open window and wondered why all she got was a blur! There were some trees and flowers to see and we did get some photos when I could find a safe place to pull off the highway.
We hadn’t heard from Brian on the UHF for a while (they had headed on towards Darwin intending to get a replacement food supply as they had had an accident with their fridge and lost all their cold stuff), when the mobile rang to tell us that they were booking the 1300 cruise for the Jumping Crocodile show. We didn’t realise how close to that event until a few minutes later we rounded a corner and saw the sign advising it was only a couple of Km down the road.
Arriving in time to have our lunch and cold drink, we immediately booked for the cruise also. It was an hour on a two-storey boat and was intended to show us how dangerous crocodiles in the wild could be. They used a pole with pieces of pig attached and encouraged the crocs to jump for their lunch, which they did! It was quite spectacular to watch and we managed to get photos of the smaller and a couple of very large crocs doing their thing. One male saltwater croc weighed about one tonne! However, he was recovering from a local battle with another male rival for his lady crocs but had suffered some nasty damage in the process.
However, the highlight of the cruise turned out to be the white-chested (?) eagle who also likes free food. He gradually flew closer to the boat until, suddenly arriving at the precise moment that the croc’s free lunch was being dangled it front of it; the eagle just swooped in a flash and took the lot from the jaws of the unhappy croc. Then the many whistling kites (a local bird of prey) arrived looking for their lunch too. It looked a bit like a scene from a Battle of Britain movie as they surged around and past us in large numbers, and fearlessly grabbing their food morsel as they swooped past, and then eating it as they returned for seconds. The crowd of the boat really had a view of something special that day.
Arrived in Darwin mid-afternoon and headed for an auto-electrician to get the problem with the van brake lights attended to. Found a Peter Brown near to our camp who did an excellent job of finding the problem and fixing it. Safe from prying cops eyes at last!
Checked in and had difficulty getting access to a rather tight campsite, but managed to accomplish it without damage to our gear from the very close and large trees.

Tuesday 25th May
After so many hard days on the road, and with rain at most stopovers, we decide to spend the day tidying up and sorting stuff to minimise changes in the ensuing days. Had a coolish swim in the afternoon to enjoy ourselves as the expected dry season was still to arrive (now three weeks late!) with continuing hot and humid day and nights.

Wednesday 26th May
Mary & I headed for town to look at the sights. I should have expected that the multiplicity of T-shirt shops would have required so much time and attention!!!
Finally started to look at the historic sights such as the underground tunnels that were built to protect Darwin’s oil supplies following the vicious Japanese air attack on Darwin in February 1942 that destroyed many buildings and ships, and cost hundreds of lives in deaths and injured. A range of historic war sites made an impression on the memory that will last for a long time.
I can’t overlook the good news that Darwin Buses provide FREEEEE travel to Seniors!! Oh what a civilised city – at times.

Thursday 27th May
Had a swim to cool off. Did a few easy chores. (We were on holiday you know) and then drove to the Mindil Markets for our evening meal and the sights and sounds, and, their famous Sunset. What would we do without our faithful Tom Tom? Enjoyed a huge Indian beef something and the large crowds of fellow dawdlers for a relaxed evening. Didn’t buy much however, so we watched the free sunset and then some clown who did dangerous things with large fiery sticks as he pretended to be a whirling dervish. Home to sleep in the infernal heat again!

Friday 28th May
We all walked to the nearby (adjacent to Darwin Airport) Aviation Heritage Museum, famous for having one of only two B52 bombers as lead item if interest. The fascinating story about these very famous, and large, aircraft, together with political and historical data went an hour longer than the thirty minute talk that was scheduled. Here was an aviation enthusiast to beat all others. A most fascinating Museum and worth the visit. Highly commended.
Then it rained, and kept raining for some time. Sorry about the dry season!

Saturday 29th May
Mary and I drove towards East Point district and enjoyed a long walk along the low cliff top, even in the heat. We returned along the beachfront and were greatly impressed with the amazing rock colours, so we took some photos as proof. Accidently ran across the old Fanny Bay Gaol and were saddened by the awful place it must once have been.
Tom Tom then took us to the very large Casuarina Shopping Centre to see Robin Hood, the movie. Just missed the 12.50 session so wandered around the shops until the next session. We enjoyed Russell Crowe’s version, although of the scenes seemed more fiction than fact! Never mind, we were entertained. Tom brought us safely home by another route!

Sunday 30th May
We were up quite early for the 0845 church service at Darwin Baptist Church – not too far from our camp. Sadly the signwriter had not yet reflected the 0900 service change! Not to worry, as we headed towards the building a lovely lady greeted us as we realised we were very early – an unheard of event in Baptist Churches! No problem – fresh brewed coffee was made for us, and we learned that Tony is the Associate pastor there and was scheduled to preach in a few minutes!
The service was lively, but ordered and very ministry focused with excellent singers, numerous announcements and special prayers for other ministry workers involved in the community. The impression was of a very dynamic and caring church – a pleasant change from some.
Mary and I managed a few light chores and a swim.

Monday 31st May
The day dawned fresh and relatively cool – the Dry may have arrived!
Major washing was completed in preparation for our departure for Litchfield National Park tomorrow. Mary & I headed off to Casuarina for major food replacements as we were not likely to enjoy reasonable choices or prices for some time as we make our way slowly down the WA coast. Had another swim!
However, our day was marred by a call from our John that his doctor had sent him to QEII Hospital to try and resolve some very serious head pains. Frequent text messages and calls resulted throughout the day as we wondered what the outcome might be. Obviously if it became a serious issue then Mary would fly home (and David would have to drive the van), however, late in the day John called to say that he was now back home and would need some specialist advice about some eye troubles that appeared to be the source of the pain.
We went out to top up with petrol and then tidied up the storage of our stuff in the van and the car in readiness for the departure in the morning.
Another cool evening, which made a very pleasant day. Pity that we seem to have missed the cooler Dry Season by only a few days.

Posted by psstevo 06:10 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 7) Page [1] 2 » Next