Crossing the border
was filled with
mixed emotions. To say that we were all sad leaving Western Australia
would be an understatement.We spent 6 months in WA and really only saw
a snippet of what this fabulous state has to offer (see 'Cover Page'
article). Unfortunately I think our sadness in fact overshadowed what
should have been excitement of finally reaching the NT. It really does
have 'The Wild West' feel about it and we are now excited about the
leg of our epic journey.
Only 20 kms over the
border is a
profile National Park
called Keep River. Somehow Chris had heard of this little gem and was
on her must see list. The 18 km of corrugated dirt road in off the
highway was a little painful but the reward at the end made it very
much worth while. The camping ground was nice with a limited number of
sites available, complete with pit toilets, fire rings and tables. The
whole area was, to state Harry- very 'Bungley'. And bungley it was.
place is a very well kept secret that the Ranger herself admitted was
in no way promoted or advertised. You could very easily think that you
were in the Bungle Bungles as the surrounding geography was almost the
it on a slightly smaller scale. There are a number of walks all of
we did including the 8 km circuit. It was a fairly tough walk,
especially in the heat of the day but very enjoyable. One of the
walks took you to an Aboriginal rock art site. This was the most
impressive, extensive and best preserved aboriginal art that we have
yet seen. The information said that most of this art was believed to be
over 5,000 years old. That's hard to get your head around!
We were very impressed with our introduction to the NT and hope there is more of this impressive landscape ahead.
As it was a 500 km
Katherine and beyond,
we had an overnighter at Victoria River
Roadhouse to break the trip. This place is yet another example of a
roadhouse providing a great service to the traveling public - clean
amenities, lots of green grass and reasonable fees. And what happens
when you provide good service for a good price, the place is busy of
course. How could such a simple concept be overlooked by so many other
On our way we stopped in Katherine, did some shopping, fueled up and had our gas bottle filled at the cheapest place in Australia. $15-00 to fill a 9 kilo bottle is sensational. We have paid up to $33-00 in other places for the same thing. Katherine looks like a really nice town and we will spend a bit of time there on the way back down. Ross and Dulce Trulson's son, Mitch now lives in Katherine and we are looking forward to catching up with him. He works at 'Tindal Air force Base' and is arranging for us to do a tour of the base. The kids (all 3 of us) are very excited about that.
Edith Falls camp
ground is a very
establishment, really well laid out, with all the sites
surrounding a dozen or so areas of green grass, most with free
gas barbies. Flushing toilets and hot showers took away a little of the
bush camping feel, but boy a hot shower is great. Only 100 metres from
our site was the lovely Edith falls and pool.
The next day after a lazy start (which they all seem to be lately) we set off on the 3 km trek to the top of the falls and to the upper pool. Great swimming spot and very spectacular scenery. This certainly is a place you could veg out in for 3-4 days but we best press on. There is so much to see in this area. It looks like it will be a bit like WA, and we will need a year to see it all.
On our way to Douglas
Hot Springs we
Pine Creek to, of
all things, empty the toilet, and who should we bump into but the
Joiners (there is something ironic in that). We thought we had got rid
of them 2 weeks ago!!! They are on their way back home now, having
completed the Darwin- Kakadu circuit. After a quick cuppa we then
milked them of any useful information before heading off in opposite
directions.We're pretty sure we have got rid of them now!!!
The camp ground at the springs is a huge open grassy area with plenty of shady trees. We set up and went down to see what these hot springs are really like. Verdict- Bloody hot. In fact 60 degrees C hot. It really is amazing and a little hard to describe but I shall try. The hot water bubbles out of the ground, in places bubbling up like a water fountain. It then flows down stream in it's own very hot creek until it meets with the main river which consists of very cold water. The secret is to sit in the area where the two waters blend. This sounds easier than it actually is as it seems to change constantly. One second you are cooking, then freezing. Or worse your front is boiling while your rear freezes. It is a very pretty setting with the only down side being the background smell of sulphur. I mistakingly thought Chris had just let one go!! Could also have accounted for all the bubbles! I'm still not sure.
Butterfly Gorge is another spot we really wanted to see while out here, but unfortunately the road was closed. Further investigation revealed that it has been closed since last December but should be open soon. This particular Gorge is usually only open for a few months each year. We knew that the Rangers had been doing a final sweep in search of saltwater crocs before opening it so we remained hopeful. The fact that this area has had the best rain for the past 25 years made us even more excited to see it at it's best.
The next morning,
fridge (could be a new business here) we set off to see the local
caravan park, 'the arches' and some more thermal pools. Just before we
left the campground we saw the Rangers, complete with boat driving
past. We thought they must have been going into Butterfly Gorge for one
last check. When we drove past the entrance, the gate was open. We
assumed they had gone in and omitted to close the gate behind them so
in we went. The road was in a terrible mess with numerous water
crossings, trees down over the road, huge gouges and long, extremely
muddy bog holes. Because we thought the Ranger had gone through in
front of us we had no fear about getting stuck as they would eventually
be coming back out should we need assistance, so through we went.
Wrong. When we finally got to the end , no rangers to be seen. Lucky
for us, the highly skilled and very talented driver (or maybe good old
fashioned luck) got us through safely. The car that I had spent hours
washing in Kununurra again was covered in mud and completely filthy.
Chris likes it dirty!!. She says it looks like a prissy city car
otherwise. She is becoming a bit of a bushy I think.
today took us through
a very quaint
little place that
most of us have probably never heard of. During WWII while Darwin was
getting bombed, the military moved most of it's infrastructure
and command to this very small backwater, Adelaide River, situated a
hundred km south of Darwin. This was thought to be a much safer site
than Darwin. Situated in this small town is one of the country's
largest war cemeteries. This beautifully manicured area on the
outskirts of town was a very solumn reminder of the devastation and
senseless loss of young lives produced by war. Not only Australians but
also Canadians and British are buried here alongside 63 civilians
killed in the Darwin bombings. The average age of the dead would have
been in their early 20's.
While walking around Harry was asking a million questions about the place, and trying his hardest to understand it all. After explaining it to him as tactfully as we could, he looked up at me and asked, "Why couldn't they just leave all these people alone so they could be happy?". From the mouths of babes. It was impossible to leave this resting place without tears in your eyes and a longing for people to learn from our disasterous past. I only wish.
reason this town is well
because of the local
drinking hole, that not only has the best 'barra and chips' in the NT
but also 'Charlie' the buffalo from Crocodile Dundee I & II, now
stuffed and standing proudly on the bar. The Adelaide River Inn is one
those must visit places. Bar stools made from horseshoes and
memorabilia made it an extremely interesting place to sit and take in a
bit of the wild west. Oh, and by the way the barra and chips alone is
worth the effort.
square kms and
of Darwin. It encloses much of the Tabletop Range, which is a wide
sandstone plateau surrounded by cliffs. On the road into the campground
you have a spectacular view, straight down the middle of the
road in front of you of Wangi Falls. It is a very imposing sight and a
nice welcome mat to this pretty part of Australia.
at the bottom of Wangi
Falls is a very
spot with tourists. Swimming anywhere up this way except in a swimming
pool is a little unnerving due to the saltwater crocs. We had a chat
to the Ranger the other day about the crocs. There is currently over
75,000 salty's in the NT and there should only be around 10,000. The
reason for the explosion in numbers is because the Indigenous people
are no longer eating the eggs and killing the crocs for food in the
same numbers as they previously did, and also because the crocs are now
protected. They are currently trying to pass some legislation to
commence culling. Now for the part that made me a little nervous. The
water hole at Wangi Falls that everyone swims in is 'monitored' daily
for salty's. That seems to involve two strategies. The first are traps
set slightly downstream containing a dead chook. Not sure what their
hit rate is but they do catch them. Not long ago they trapped a
4.1 metre salty. The second strategy is to scour the swimming hole with
a search light each night looking for their beady eyes and then trying
to determine if it is a freshy or a salty. Doesn't sound overly
scientific to me, but hey what would I know.
So my third strategy is whenever swimming I make sure there is another tourist in front of me that I can shove in the crocs mouth, should one appear. It's every man for himself out here, let me tell you.
Now I did mention that this place was busy, very, very busy. The fact that it is so close to Darwin is it's downfall. There is coach after coach all full of tourists descending on this place every day. Of course that doesn't detract from the natural beauty but does mean you need to share it. I think that for the next few months that is something we will have to get used to. While we were here we did most of the walks and swam in every safe??? swimming hole that the area has to offer. One very interesting place we visited was the Blythe Homestead built in 1928. This was actually an outpost to the main homestead that was 25 miles away. The Sargents had 14 children and the older kids (down to the 10 year old) were sent to live in the outpost to mine tin. They were out of bed before sun up and worked until dark. After working all day they then attended to all the other chores like growing the veges, cooking the meals and doing other domestic duties. Every so often their father would make the 25 mile journey and bring in supplies and check on his children. And they call them the 'good old days'. I don't think so. On the way to the Homestead we did our deepest water crossing yet with the water nearly half way up the doors of the car. We are going to look at getting a snorkel put on the car in Darwin so we can tackle some of the over the bonnet crossings in Kakadu. Bring 'em on!! Whatever happened to our pure, white immaculately clean Nissan. You should see it now.
We visited the 'Lost City' which are some amazing rock formations, that with a little imagination look like an old tumbling down city. Actually looked more like something out of the 'Flinstones'. Was that Barney I saw behind that rock??
went to Florence Falls
which we think are
spectacular we have seen in Litchfield. The swimming hole was clear,
cool and safe. Next stop was 'Buley Rockhole'. This was sensational.
Pure spring water leeching straight out of the mountain, flowing
rapidly downstream into numerous pool size ponds, some shallow and some
extremely deep. As far as swimming holes go this is a definite
highlight of this area.
Our next stop will be Darwin. Phone reception at last.
food. A city with a
population of only 100,000 people and nearly as many shopping centres.
This is a place that is attractive from the minute you drive in. Green
and tropical with beautifully maintained gardens, medium strips and
roundabouts. This city has more sporting facilities than the rest of
Australia put together. For such a small population, Darwin is a really
big place. It is very well laid out, and even I found
my way around. The entire city is built around many beautiful
beaches and secluded bays. The climate in the dry is almost
perfect. Pleasantly warm days, cool nights and constant clear skies. A
gentle breeze seems to blow 24/7, making life very nice indeed.
we spent 2 weeks here. The
first week was
Lee Point Caravan Park and then for the second week we moved slightly
town to Koa Caravan Park. Both these parks and one more are owned by
the same guy and you will not find a mention of these parks anywhere,
not even the white pages of the phone book. His only advertising is
'word of mouth'. All his parks are full because he offers a great
service at a great price. An ensuite site for $22.80 a night for a
family of 4. Can you believe it, they don't charge for kids. Can this
guy be cloned??? Tony and Gail have been in Koa for a few months and it
was really good to catch up with them again. Plenty of laughs were had
by all. They will be back on the road again soon so hopefully we will
assure you that Darwin
would be a good
and I am kicking myself that I didn't know that before. There is a
mountain of things to see and do and most are free. In the 2 weeks we
were here we hardly had time to draw breath, the main reason being the
If you have been to Darwin and visited all the markets you will understand what I am on about, if you haven't, you will think I am exaggerating.
We have been to a lot of markets in our time, but nothing like these. Mindil Markets are the grand daddy of them all. Twice weekly (Thursday nights are the big ones with Sunday night a close second) this event takes place during the dry season. Set on the beautiful Mindil beach in a large parkland this is a huge collection of international foods and market stalls. It opens around 4-00pm and goes until late. The food is hot, fresh, cheap and plentiful, the street entertainment endless and the market stalls sell everything from stuffed cane toads to opals.
Then there are the Parap Markets on Saturday, and the Nightcliffe and Rapid Creek markets on Sunday. Then if you are keen you can head off to Palmerston for a few more. All the markets have food, food and more food, (the freezer is full of curries - yum!!), fresh Asian herbs, spices, fruit and vegetables, as well as the usual craft, clothing and jewellery stalls. I thought Chris's eyes were going to pop out of her head. Sticking to the same optical slant, these markets were real eye openers. Sorry about that !!!
have to say that the
are worth coming to Darwin for. So what else did we get up to during
One of the things that is very obvious as you walk around the wharf and city is the impact that WWII had on Darwin. There are a number of plaques and information boards around the city and a big display at the museum. Maybe I was asleep during history lessons at school, or more likely it was never taught, but both Chris and myself were unaware exactly what transpired up this way during 1942. How many of you are aware that more bombs were dropped on Darwin than on Pearl Harbour?? Well over 600 people were killed in Darwin alone, including some civilians. The city wharf, Government house and a lot of town was destroyed. The Military at that stage moved its command post to Adelaide River and everybody except for essential personnel were evacuated from Darwin.
time of the War there
were a large
number of huge aviation
fuel storage tanks at the wharf. As you could imagine they were prime
targets for the Japanese and were destroyed in the first raid. These
were quickly rebuilt at the same spot and you guessed it, bombed again.
Apparently they were rebuilt and consequently bombed a number more
times before they decided a more secure storage facility was needed.
As all the young men were overseas fighting they recruited 300 blokes, all aged in their 50's and 60's to dig out 6 huge tunnels in the side of the hill near the city. They were given almost no equipment for the job, so with pick and shovel off they went. Nearly two years later this engineering masterpiece was finished. Each tunnel was 171 metres long, 5 metres high and could hold 3.8475 million litres of fuel. The day the tunnels were handed over to the military for use was the day the war ended. These tanks never had fuel put in them and have never been used for anything. They are now a great tourist attraction and one that displays that great Aussie spirit of getting in and getting the job done, regardless of the obstacles.
come to the far north without going to one of the many
crocodile parks. We went with the popular choice, Crocodylus. In this
establishment they give a home to the big bad crocs that are caught
from the wild, they do a lot of research and farm crocs as well for
their meat and skin. It is in fact more like a zoo with lots of other
exotic animals, many of which we have never seen. But let's face it, we
are here to see the crocs, big crocs. They have set this place up
well. They have 20 breeding pens, all containing a big male and female,
for obvious reasons. These pens are back to back with two rows of ten
pens each and across the top is a walkway which allows you to look
down into the pens. The water in the pens is dirty but not very deep,
about waist deep at the deepest. Five times a day this skinny little
bloke named Ruben gives a great educational talk on crocs and then
jumps in the pens with the crocs and starts belting the water with an
aluminium pole. His objective is to get one of these 4 -5 metre giants
weighing 500 kg to jump out of the water at him. He goes to great
lengths to ensure that you fully understand these are intelligent,
ruthless and powerful killing machines. He then explains
how you will be slowly ripped apart, remaining conscious for the 20
minutes it takes on average for croc victims to die. It would appear
his role is to educate and to put the fear of god in you, which he
successfully did. As he said, with the increasing number and size of
salties in the NT, more and more people are going to die.
Now the part that really made us stand up and take notice was that on this walkway we were looking straight down (only about 5 foot down) into about knee deep water. We knew there was a croc in that water but it was impossible to see it. We couldn't even see a ripple in the water. Next thing these giants launched themselves out of the water straight at silly Ruben, with such speed we all screamed, with one person dropping their camera on the crocs head.
These guys can leave the water at 35 km/hour and if you are within 5 metres of the water's edge you are history. They can also jump their entire body length out of the water. They have even been known to jump into boats and some attack outboard motors, biting off the props, while they are at it. Nothing, except for a bigger croc seems to phase them. The motto of the story up this way is you don't swim in anything unless it is tiled and has a filter. Good advice I think.
the museum, which is
went to the old
Fanny Bay Jail, did a tour of Parliament House, went to a game of
football, went a couple of times to the free water park and visited all
the beautiful beaches that this city is
built around. Without a doubt one of the highlights was being lucky
to meet a guy in the caravan park where we were staying who is
the 'Safety Officer 'at the Darwin International Airport. As it was my
birthday he offered to
take us all on a tour of the airport. We got to see the main security
room with all the computer screens for the surveillance cameras. We had
a chance to operate the cameras, panning around and zooming in on
different areas of the airport. We then all jumped in the 'Safety
vehicle' and drove all around the airport including driving straight
down the middle of the Darwin's main runway, all 3600 metres of it. A
number of times the control tower radioed us to 'vacate' the runway
while planes either took off or landed, then back on we went. Darwin
airport is shared between the military and civilian aircraft so he even
took us over to the Airforce side to see some military planes up close.
We sat very close and watched a US Airforce DC-Galaxy, one of the
planes to land in Darwin, take off. Now that was up close and personal,
not to mention noisy. It was a great experience for us all and not
something that many people get to do. Alex thinks he would be
the only kid at school to drive down the middle of an 'International
Airport Runway'. I think he could be right. These special events are
what we will all remember forever. These are the things that
money can't buy. It's all about being at the right place at the right
time and meeting the right people. Seems to happen a lot on the road.
over the last week it
has been getting
hotter. We also noticed that most afternoons the cloud started to build
up, but no rain. As you may be aware they only have 2 seasons this far
north, the wet and the dry. It is probably more accurate to say they in
fact have 3 seasons, the latter being the build up. From September to
November it becomes hotter and hotter with a daily build up of
threatening clouds, but rarely rains. The build up is what the locals
don't like. Hot and cloudy but no rain to cool it down and clear the
air. Once the wet starts the almost daily afternoon storms are a
is it for Darwin, a great
we would imagine
a great place to live. Add it to the evergrowing list of places you
saying it but that's
another month gone.
doesn't fly this fast at home when in the same old boring routine. It's
been another excellent month, great weather and not a drop of rain. The
Northern Territory really is the last frontier, so unspoilt, so
natural. You don't notice how incredibly busy and commercialised the
East coast is until you get away from it for a while.
caravan going well,
although the bike rack
we borrowed off
Priestley did snap, with the bikes on it and put a big scratch down the
back of the car. Thanks Rosco! Interesting to note that in the 9 months
we have been away not one of us has been sick in any way, not even a
runny nose. Is it because we have no stress and dramas to weaken our
immune system, or don't bugs live this far north? I think
it must be the lack of stress because as well as not being sick, I have
almost stopped taking the tablets for gastric reflux that I have been
on for years. The main cause of gastric reflux is worry, curry &
I'm still eating the curries, but have no worries. It is surprising the
stress that everyday life puts upon us, regardless of 'how in control'
we think we are.
those that like a few stats-
We have now travelled 26,163 kms, have spent $6,800 on diesel and $5,800 on accommodation, both of which are well under budget. Our average fuel economy for the total trip is 18.8 litres/100km or 5.3 km/litre. We have only had 2 flat tyres, both on the van and I was able to plug both and then have them internally patched at the next town.
One little splurge we had was buying a 'Wireless broadband card' for the laptop. What that means is as long as we have CDMA phone reception we have access to the internet, without having to rely on internet cafes, which though reasonably cheap, are a little inconvenient. We wished we had bought this at the beginning of the trip and would recommend one if you intend to travel.
we are now off to
Kakadu and beyond.
Hope you are all well and working hard. Somebody has to keep the
Stayed tuned for September updates.
Life is a
a combination of states we have to go through. Where people fail is
that they wish to elect a state and remain in
it. An easy trap to fall into, but one that can be avoided.