Map of Trip-2006.
Map of Trip-2008.
Map of Trip-2009.
Map of Trip-2010.
First stop after leaving Townsville was the surprisingly short 2 hour
drive to Charters Towers. For some reason I imagined the famous
Charters to be miles inland
and in the middle of nowhere. Neither Chris or myself have been on the
Townsville to the Three Ways (NT) road before, so this was all
waters for us all.
Charters Towers certainly had an 'Old World' charm
about it. Chris and her love of architecture(!!!!) had the camera
away for what seemed an eternity. We did a walk around the main town
area and visited the local bakery for a couple of after lunch treats. A
lot of these smaller towns have great museums, with all sorts of things
from yesteryear on display. These were harsh days for the pioneers and
it was interesting to see how tough it really was. It certainly makes
the kids realise that being asked to do the dishes every so often is
not so bad after all.
We found a beautiful park in the middle of town for our lunch break
that very much
reminded us of Toowoomba. The only down side was that we had to share
the park with a few million bats and therefore it did have a bit of an
odour to it.
Next stop for an overnighter was Hughenden. The town
has a nice council
caravan park with a 33 metre pool. You beauty. It was as hot as hades,
so it was a lovely way to end a long hot day. Next morning
up early and visited the local dinosaur museum. Ladies and gentleman,
this is 'Dinosaur Country' and everything for the next
200kms revolves around
these prehistoric monsters. There is a full size replica of a
Dinosaur' in the main street, and even the garbage bins have a
prehistoric theme. The museum was a great introduction to the area and
we spent a good few hours looking at all matter of things that roamed
this area over 100 million years ago. Once again I am not so sure about
the old saying 'the good old days'. Many of these guys were
very nasty and extremely vicious. When they were having a bad day,
nothing was spared. I am not sure how the boys got on, but I had real
trouble getting my head around the 100 million years ago thing, the
fact that there were no people, and that what is now inland was once
the bottom of the ocean. Its in the same league as space and the fact
that it goes on forever. I have trouble with that concept as well!!
Next stop and not far down the road was another
Richmond. What a great little place. In 2001 the local council decided
to dig a huge lake in the middle of town and fill it with fresh
water from the local river, and named it Lake Fred Tritton. It is big
to water ski on, swim in, jet ski or sail on. Around the lake is a
cement jogging/walking track, barbeques and shelter sheds. There is
even a small water park to keep the little people amused. And just to
impress a little more, it is flood lit at night, and looks amazing. The
local council caravan park is perched on one side of the lake and made
a sensational backdrop in an otherwise brown canvas.
Richmond also has a dinosaur museum, which is a little more upmarket
than Hughenden. It has a self guided audio commentary with a device
that you simply held to your ear. It gave enormous detail, on
everything big and small. Harry in particular thought this was pretty
cool and stood and listened to everything, some even twice. After the
museum it was a 15km drive to a
council quarry to fossick for, you guessed it, dinosaur remains. It
was hot, dry and very dusty, with young Harry making the find of the
day. We have no idea what it is but it looks like either a claw or very
large tooth encased in rock. Regardless it is impressive and no doubt
very old. To think that it might have once been attached to a
prehistoric creature again has my head spinning. Other than that we
only found a few small
items (pieces of belemnite - an ancient sea creature) to help weigh the
camper down even more.
There was a very noticeable change in the colour of the country from
point on. From Townsville to Richmond, the countryside was green and
lush after all the rain. It really was a beautiful sight and not one
you see every year. From Richmond on, the countryside just got browner
and browner, and dustier and dustier. The change was significant and
dramatic, which is what makes Australia such a fascinating place to
explore. Next stop was Mt Isa where we
planned to stay a few nights.
Now I am not exactly sure what I expected of the Isa,
with my mental
image being nothing like the real thing. This place is fairly large and
is very remote, being only 200 kms from the Northern Territory border
and nearly 900 kms to the East Coast. The first thing to take your eye
is the mine that is smack bang in the middle of the town. Why you would
put the town almost in the mine is a little hard to understand, but
there you are. Town is surrounded by a large mountain range that does
give a lovely backdrop to an otherwise unattractive town. In saying
that, and not wishing to be harsh, it does have a wild west, tough guy
feel to it. We did the rounds of the local caravan parks, none of which
are particularly inviting, and stayed in the 'Copper City Caravan
Park'. We set up down the back of the park on a lovely grassed, shady
opposite a very well equipped camp kitchen. All the caravan parks in
town are filled with permanents, employed at one of the mines, as any
other accommodation is impossible to find or prohibitively expensive.
Our first stop in the morning was at the Isa's 'School of the Air'. We
had a very informative teacher show us around, and being the only
people on tour, it was very customised to our interests. The old HF
radios are no longer used, with normal telephones taking their place.
There are huge advantages in using telephones, with the main two being
that numerous people can talk at once (although they teach phone
etiquette!) and the improved quality of the call. In
the old HF days once the button was pushed nobody else could talk. The
problem being that when the teacher asked little Jonny how his
weekend was, Jonny would push the button and then spend the next 20
minutes telling in great detail everthing he did. The teacher was
unable to interrupt and nobody else could say a thing. The new system
computer operated and very hi tech. We had not been in the building 10
when a teacher walks past and says to me, "I know you!" Michelle
was a teacher at Kepnock about 3 years ago and has been at the Isa
since. She loves it so much she said she would be there until she dies.
I don't wish to sound unfair but these guys really do have it made.
They do one 30 minute phone lesson a day, have no playground duty, no
bus duty and no discipline problems. The rest of the day is spent
marking work that is sent in, with very little preparation as it is all
prepared by somebody else, made into booklets and posted to the
students in term lots. Both School of the Air and School of Distance
Education all use the same standard packages, thus preparation is
practically nil, or very close to it. Then every few
months they jump in a chartered plane or the Landcruiser and visit some
kids on their properties or go on a school camp. I guess the down side
you have to live somewhere rather remote.
Our next visit was to the 'Underground Hospital' which is in the
current hospital grounds. During WWII they
believed that Mt Isa could be attacked by the Japanese. In preparation
for that possibility, the local miners were asked to build
an underground hospital, for no pay and on their days off. They
and completed it within a very short time frame. As we know the attack
never happened and this fully stocked hospital, that had a small
operating theatre, maternity section, kids and general ward was
never used. In fact the entry became overgrown and people forgot it
even existed. It was rediscovered again not so long ago when a backhoe
doing some work, literally fell into one of the wings of the hospital.
It has now been taken over by a group of volunteers and is now heritage
listed. It was very interesting with a very well stocked museum in a
building above, housing all types of old medical equipment and
While we were underground it started to rain, which got heavier and
heavier. Next thing water started flowing into the tunnels at a great
rate. The water around our feet got deeper and deeper. As the rain did
not appear to be easing we decided to do a runner to the museum above.
As we left the tunnel we realised this was not just heavy rain, but
also destructive winds. There were trees down across the paths and
stuff everywhere. The lady in the museum said she thought the building
was going to blow away. All we could think about was the
camper. We got in the car and on the way back to the caravan park the
was amazing. Sheds blown away, roof's damaged and trees down
everywhere. The local radio station was calling it a mini tornado. We
for what the camper was going to be like. When we got to the park, it
was obvious they had coped it as well. More trees down, annexes
destroyed and there was the camper, sitting there in all its glory,
fact there were a few people standing there looking at it, wondering
how in hell it had survived, with so much damage all around. Had I not
left a few windows open, that did saturate the boys beds, we would
have been fine. Not a bad test for the 'The Trailer Shop Camper', let
me tell you.
Now on the subject of the camper, let me tell you what we think thus
far. This thing does not have the comfort of a caravan, and is in fact
nothing more than a tent on a trailer, but it can go places the caravan
can't. Our set up time is amazing, with the basic set up taking around
15-20 minutes, with very little effort. That gives you sleeping
accommodation and an open air kitchen. Pull down takes just slightly
longer. As far as sleeping goes it is great. It has heaps of big
windows and our expensive 12 volt fans have been our saviour. The boys
are very happy on the camp stretchers. Now you must remember it is
early February, bloody hot (very high 30's to low 40's) and we
have never slept so well. A queen size bed with enough head room to
actually stand up,and the fact that we are all together, and not
crawling from one tent to another is luxury.
With all the windows open and the fans on we have been pulling up the
and doonas at night. These fans cost around $100.00 each, are 2 speed,
almost silent and draw around .4 amp. They are the best of the best,
and no camper trailer should be without them. The plastic crates that
Chris bought to pack inside the trailer (from Bunnings) are great with
everything having it's place. The trailer tows really well and so far,
we would not change a thing. We are very happy with our choice and are
living very comfortably (see cover page for contact details if you are
after a great camper). The 'Beast' as we have named it certainly
does get a few looks and comments. She certainly is a head turner.
Anway, back to the travel. We left the Isa, traveled
and crossed the border into the NT. This is a very boring border
crossing with nothing but a scaby old sign covered in graffiti. Next
stop was Barkley Homestead Roadhouse. Now this was a place where I
wanted to stay. No particular reason except it is a place that you
often hear people talking about. I had an impression of an old
homestead with green grass and shady campsites scattered around. What
were confronted with was a dirty old rundown dust bowl with overgrown
far as the eye could see. This place severely is in need of some TLC.
Couple that with the most disgusting, filthy and dilapidated toilet
block in the world and you have Barkly Homestead. As for the homestead
itself, it was nowhere to be seen. Then to add insult to injury, they
charge like wounded bulls. I don't want to go on here, but I forgot to
mention the pool. It gets cleaned as often as the weeds get
mowed. Regardless we had a swim anyway, as the pool was marginally
cleaner than the toilet block, and I spent the whole time being
attacked by some very fast aquatic animal that really packed a punch
when they bit, and bite they did!
Take our advice. If travelling this way go the extra 100kms and stay at
the 3 Ways Roadhouse. Talk about chalk and cheese. This actually does
have lovely, well mowed green grass, clean toilet block and a
well maintained pool with as far as I could see, no resident wildlife.
All this for the same price as Barkly. Not happy Jan. We will know
next time. Next stop was one of our favourite places in the NT, Daly
Waters Pub. We stayed there in September on our last trip around the
block, and nothing was going to stop us visiting again. It was much
quieter than last visit with only one other camper trailer and a whiz
banger (they are those horrid vans with sliding doors). We had dinner
and a few drinks in the pub and looked for items left by friends
through at the same time as we did in 2006. Unfortunately they had
recently painted the inside and a lot of the stuff (I am not sure there
is another word to use here) had been removed, in waiting for new stuff
to be left. Both Wayne and Tracey's and Tim and Katie's memorabilia was
longer, but we did leave a bit of ours this time. Although very quiet,
we had a good meal and a great time, chatting to the staff and the
other campers. This is a very special place and so 'bloody Australian'.
Next day was Daly Waters to Katherine. There is a fair bit to
you are passing through this way, so take your time and enjoy what
there is to see. Next trip we will most definitely be stopping at the
Larrimah Pub, which I believe is almost as well known as the Daly
Waters Pub. It boasts having 'the highest bar in the Northern
Territory'. Now I am not sure if the actual bar is high or if its the
elevation of the ground that the building is on. I will find out next
time. It was a bit too early this time to stop for a drink. Next stop
was Mataranka (covered in more detail in September
2006) where we stopped for a quick swim. We only visited the main
swimming hole at 'The Homestead' and
for most of the time we were the only ones there. That was a pleasant
change from our last visit when it was almost standing room only. While
this is clearly not tourist season, due to both the wet and the heat,
the upside is you have most places to yourself. The down side being
that a lot of attractions are not operating. Mataranka was just
recovering from a very nasty flood that again threatened to fully
caravan park and surrounding area. The swimming hole had only just been
reopened having had a couple of metres of water over it. We then drove
20kms out of town to the graves of identities from Jeanie Gunn's novel,
'We of the Never Never',
and numerous others from the late 1800's, most of whom worked on the
at that time. It was very interesting walking around reading the
stories of hardship and often misery that are so often quoted as the
'good old days'. The day's traveling then continued to Katherine for an
overnighter before the final day's drive to Darwin. We arrived at the
'Low Level Caravan Park' Katherine (a Big 4, that charges BIG dollars
as they all
do) and as we pulled up at our site the heavens opened and down it
We all sat in the car, the boys watching a DVD, while Chris and I
read. Finally it stopped and we set up on very soggy grass. There
lies one significant benefit of a caravan.
Next stop - Darwin.
We arrived around lunch time, with plenty of time to find a caravan
park and set up. We had planned to stay at the Malak Caravan Park as
we did last time. So in I went to book in. When I told the lady I
wanted a site, she looked at me, looked at the camper trailer, and then
looked at me again. She asked if I had heard the weather forcast. On
answering 'no', she informed me that monsoonal rains were predicted for
the next week. She said "Are you sure you want to camp in THAT during
monsoonal rains?" I answered, "I don't know, do I??" Her response was
quick and with much certainity, "No, you don't!" she replied.
Great, now what do we do?? Out came the phone book and we found a nice
holiday apartment in the city for 3 nights. That would give us time to
sort a few things out. The remainder of the day was beautiful and sunny
started to think we had made a mistake, and should have set up the
camper. I was wrong, and she was right. By that evening down it came.
was it heavy, and it went on for day after day. Large areas of Darwin
were flooded and it would have been
absolutely miserable had it not been for that very honest lady.
For the next 5 nights the Health Dept paid for our accommodation as
were unable to get us on a flight out of Darwin. We shifted into a
large two bedroom cabin in a very nice caravan park about 10 kms out of
the city. It was a good
move as the kids had more room to run around. We ended up spending just
on a week in Darwin and what a busy week it was. The road to Wadeye,
the community that we are going to is impassable for over 6 months of
the year. The Daly River is the main obstacle having around 14 metres
of water over the road at present.
So this presented us with a few issues. The first was what do we do
with the car and camper. The road will possibly not open until June and
some years it can be later depending on how long the wet goes. Being
cyclone and wet season we wanted car and camper not only secured but
also undercover. So the search began. We ended up getting a 12x 3 metre
lockup storage shed opposite the caravan park we were staying at. At
$345.00 a month it is not cheap (luckily work will pay for it until the
road opens) but it is nice to know that it is safe and dry.
Our next issue was getting our gear to Wadeye. At present the only way
to get there is to fly. That allows you 20 kg per person freight. The
barge which delivers all the other gear to the community only goes out
once a fortnight and it would arrive in Wadeye nearly two weeks after
we arrived there. That meant we had to split all our gear into 1/ have
to take and 2/ gear that we could wait the 2 weeks for. So the must
take gear included clothes, a few personal effects and food. All the
gear for the barge was sorted and packed into all the boxes that were
on the roof of the car, and a few packing boxes we bought. All sounds
easy but it was a massive job.
We then had to open up an account at the barge company and an account
at Coles. We have to order all our groceries via a list faxed to Coles.
Somebody then runs around the shop collecting all your groceries, packs
them in boxes and takes them to the barge. All that is done for just
$22.00 which I think is a bargain. When you consider how many people in
the NT live in remote and inaccessible places, these stores that offer
this service must be incredibly busy.
All the food is packaged into dry, chilled and frozen foods and once
unloaded from the barge in Wadeye it can be collected from the back of
the local store.
I also had to attend computer training and a couple of meetings while
in Darwin in preparation for the new job, while Chris was busy stocking
up on necessities to be packed for the barge. So our week was anything
Finally the big day arrived. The day we were going to
fly to our new
home for 6 months. All the time and effort we had put in to get us to
this stage. All the phone calls, emails, planning and all those 'are we
doing the right thing' moments. Now was the moment of truth .We were
all excited and a little apprehensive about what lay ahead. At 6.30am
the limousine (true story, thanks NT Health) arrived at the caravan
park and off to the airport we went. Our plane was a 12 seater which
only carries 8 passengers as they take out some seats to fit in the
freight. Chris was not at all happy that it wasn't a 747, while I was
happy it had 2 engines. Finally we boarded and took off on the most
beautiful clear morning we had seen all week. I thought to myself 'what
a great day for a flight'. The trip takes 50 minutes and fifteen
minutes into the trip the sky got darker and darker, very bouncy and
lightning all around us. Then the rain started and the sound of the
rain lashing the windscreen of the plane was horrendous.The look on
Chris's face was priceless with
the boys loving the roller coaster ride. We arrived somewhere over
Wadeye and flew around for at least 20 minutes waiting for a break in
the weather so we could land. By this stage poor Chris was almost panic
stricken, not to mention the gouges her fingernails put in my legs!!
Finally the pilot turned around and said we had two options.
He could keep flying around and run out of fuel or head back to Darwin.
The choice was clear, so back to Darwin we went.Unfortunately for Chris
the trip back was equally as unpleasant. My biggest issue now
was that I had to get Chris back on the plane again somehow!!!!! We
landed safely and then spent the next 3 hours sitting in this
old building, miles from the main terminal with nothing but an 'out of
order' drink machine. As we had expected to be in our new home by
9.30am, we had taken very little food to snack on. By lunch time we
were not only sick of waiting, but also getting very hungry. Luckily
somebody from the airline offered to drive Chris and another lady to
buy some food. So now we were not hungry, but still waiting.
By about 2.00pm we were starting to wonder if today was
going to be the
day. By now the weather in Darwin had again turned nasty with the
afternoon storm clouds rolling in. On our flight was the local butcher
who rang his boss in Wadeye, and was informed that the skies were
clearing. The butcher went in and told the airline staff, and within
minutes we were back on the plane again and back in the sky (things
happen in strange ways up here). This trip was the exact opposite to
the first. The first half was rough and cloudy with the second half of
the trip clear and sunny. It finally looked like we were going to get
there. The view on the way there was amazing. We could not get over the
amount of flood waters that engulfed all the land, as far as the eye
could see. This truly was wet lands at their best, with huge rivers
meandering across the floodplains like huge slithering snakes. Welcome
the Top End. Finally we were back on the ground again and taxiing
towards the terminal. Ha! Ha! Ok, the shed.
What happened next and what were our first impressions?? Sorry. You
will have to wait until next month. Stay tuned.
A ship in the harbor is
that’s not what ships are built for. The same goes for life.