Rambles Part 4
As mentioned in the last one we did the tourist things we didn't do last time. They were The Telegraph Station, lunched at Mary Dam and then booked in at the Outback Caravan Park. Good facilities and a nice bunch of people there. After tea (dinner for some) Julie went to a bush tucker night and ate her 1st witchetty grub while I yacked to others.
We finally collect our mail and head North once more after buying some meat. Past experience has shown that the meat is cheap here and better than most places. Truly tender steak.
We got fuel and had lunch at Elliott, checked out the remains of Newcastle Waters and had afternoon tea at the park. This once busy town still has a few buildings remaining and a statue to honour the drovers who opened up so much of the country here.
At Daly Waters we went to the Pub and admired the decor of the place. The price for a powered site here is $14.00 although we did not stay. There was a bikie gang in residence and they looked real mean. In fact they were doing The Postie Bike run from Brisbane to Darwin and were really nice. We met them a few times on the road. Checked out the old Airport and headed towards Mataranka. We stopped at a 24Hr rest area about 30K from Mataranka and met a really nice couple that were travelling around Oz in a Kombi and having a ball.
After leaving the overnight stop we trundle on to the Elsey grave site. Interred here are the various people that Jeannie Gunn used as the people in her book, We of the Never Never. It is well maintained and would be a nice spot for a cuppa or lunch. We checked out where the old homestead was.
On to Mataranka and the thermal pools. This time of the year the Red Flying Fox inhabit this area and there are thousands of them. The galahs at Alice have nothing on these as far as noise goes. It is deafening, the smell indescribable and the surrounding trees are covered in them. The footpaths are covered in something else and wearing a hat is probably advisable.
The pools are crystal clear and a constant 34 degrees (approx) which makes this a pretty popular spot for the people staying at the caravan park here. Julie has a paddle and we do the walk around the area always vigilant of the overhead bombers.
This location also has the replica of the original Elsey Homestead that was used for filming "We of the Never Never". Storyboards around the walls tell the history of Elsey Station and Jeannie Gunn.
The mad bikies arrive as we are leaving.
We call into Bitter Springs after looking at the Statues of characters from "Never Never" in Mataranka. It is so damned hot that even I go for a swim in the springs.
It was reported the next day that the 2 white whales from Hervey Bay were alive and well and swimming at Bitter Springs. This of course was later found to be false but sure increased tourism for a while.
We fuelled at Katherine and I purchased 2 Toyota jacks to be used as stabilisers under the truck to stop body roll of a night time. Minds out of the sewer you lot. Walking across the van is enough to make the van move which upsets my head.
Hanging a right at Pine Creek we head out into Kakadu.
After paying $16.25 each we gain entry into Kakadu NP. The Ranger at the entry station points out the camping areas for us and on we go.
We arrive for the night at Waterfall Creek after negotiating a very bumpy rough road. We go to a slide show on bush tucker given by one of the indigenous people. Very interseting and informative. This is a pay area and cost $5.40/person but the facilities are excellent. No laundries though. The name for this area is Gunlom (pronounced goon-lom).
This morning we walk out to the plunge pool. It is where the scenes of Crocodile Dundee were shot of Linda being dragged into the water by a croc. Of course they have nice handrails and things there now. You can swim here but unfortunately there was not much water over the falls.
We leave and find that they are now grading the road. Murphy lives on.
We head towards Cooinda stopping at Bukbukluk (say that 10 times real fast) lookout. Mardugal(mar-doo-garl) billabong walk which is touted as being 1K. Another one done by a bloke with long legs. After returning we have lunch and continue on.
At Cooinda we book on the Yellow Waters cruise and have a couple of drinks at the pub.
The cruise is worth the money and the guides know their stuff.
After leaving Cooinda we go to Nourlangie and do the walk (falling into bad habits here again) around the circuit which has aboriginal art sites. We then seek out a camp site at Malahanjhanjdju (say that with your mouth full). It is a free camp site but has pit toilets. We are alone here and I try out my "Naked Chef" skills but the mozzies beat me.
We go into Bowali(Bor-warl-ee) Visitor centre. You could spend a few hours here watching all the videos but we are here for about 1.5 hours. It is well laid out and gives a lot of information on the NP.
We look around Jabiru and start the run to Darwin stopping at Mamukala wetlands to see the flocks of Magpie Geese. We also are lucky enough to see a family of wild pigs cavorting in the mud.
On to Darwin.
After seeing both Litchfield and Kakadu I have to say that both places are different.
Litchfield is more accessible and things are closer and within reach of the average motorhome.
Kakadu is spread out but has more to see. The guide book that is handed out at the entrances is excellent and has suggested intineries.
If I were to do it again I would enter from the Darwin end and base myself at Jabiru doing everything at that end and then move to Cooinda to do the same thing. To get the most out of it you need a car or better still, a 4wd vehicle and a large wallet to pay for flights and tours in and over the inaccessable bits.
There are ample bush camps that only have pit toilets but there are others that are pay sites that have showers but no laundry. Then there are the commercial parks at Jabiru and Cooinda that have all facilities but you pay a premium. At Cooinda you pay $28/night but if you stay 2 nights it reduces to $20/night.
At most of the major spots the Rangers give guided tours and lectures, these are worthwhile but require some planning to get to all of them.
The facilities that we checked out were excellent. Clean and well stocked with toilet paper. The Rangers are very helpful and evidently take pride in learning about the Park and all its features.
It must be remembered that we were here at the end of the tourist season and it was hot and dry and consequently very little water.
We have not had a day under 38 since leaving Undarra and no night under 25 which is unusual for here. The "build up" for the wet is really starting in earnest with high temps and high humidity.
Flies are abundant here but disappear at dusk. Ah relief you say. WRONG!!!!! The insect air controllers have decided they need more air space for the mosquitoes to come out. And that they do, in their droves.
It is interesting when attending anything with a group of people. We all shine like oiled up Greco-Roman or Nubian slaves either from perspiratation or insect repellant and the perfume of Eau de Aerogard or Essence of Rid wafts in the air. I am convinced that none of these things work for long and the only purpose they serve is to act as a homing beacon for all known flying insects.
I still prefer Litchfield.
We do the Jumping Croc cruise at Adelaide River. To see how fast a croc moves in the wild is incredible and I think I would probably run on water if one was coming at me. It would definitely be a dry cleaning job afterwards.
We were in Darwin 2 years ago and had checked out everything then but one. We checked the brochures and as nothing had been changed much we did the one thing we hadn't done. The Mindil beach markets. Yeah, Yeah, I know I must be getting soft but we were only 35 K away. It was stinking hot and as humid as hell but we cruised the markets which are mainly made up of food stalls. We leave at 9.00 PM get fuel and head towards Katherine.
We stop at midnight just out of Pine Creek at a rest area.
We leave early and call into Edith Falls. It is getting hotter and Julie went for a swim. This would be a great place to stay to just chill out. Another CALM (Conservation and Land Management) managed park, the facilities are excellent and the rate reasonable. Be warned though that if it is 35degrees in Katherine it is 42 in there as it is in a big hollow.
we had done the gorge tours in Katherine 2 years ago so we turn right and head towards Timber Creek and West.
At Timber Creek we go to the pub (again???) and you could have slayed me. We order 1 lemon squash (for me) and a Lemon, Lime and bitters for Julie. Julies drink arrives in a diposable plastic cup and he asks what I want again (good memory, EH) and a plastic cup and a can arrive. I checked out my colour after leaving. The 3 other customers had pots.
We stopped at another rest area about 180K west of TC after pulling over to let a road train driver and his wife check out the motorhome as they are looking at travel options when they retire.
In the morning (sounds like a Mills and Boon) a motorcyclist comes in so we invite him over for a cuppa. We leave and make our way towards Kununurra.
The drive is made into a bit of a puzzle by various bits of clothing lodged in the trees. There is a massive side wind blowing and bras, knickers, blouse and other apparel billows in the wind. Was it a suitcase left open? Was it a disgruntled boyfriend? Was it a hippy backpacker that had decided to go feral? Or (this part was added after reading The Wanderer about "The Anderson Trek") perhaps Peter and Evon cutting down on weight? I will never know but it did provide some entertainment on a boring drive.
We call into Keep River National Park and drive to the first campsite, a distance of 15K. This road is ROUGH. It shakes the voltage regulator behind the dashboard apart and I lose all instrumentation. Every part of the unit is moving like it never had before and the steering is dancing a Fandango. The speed limit is 60KPH. We ignore it on the way out and at 80 it is a bit smoother and driving a 6.5 Tonne 6 Wheeled rally car is good fun although Julie didn't think that 6 wheel slides were funny at all. Can't get rid of "the boy" in me.
The Fridge is also starting to play up. Won't start and then runs for a while, stops for ages and then runs for a long time. It is also getting hot inside.
I stop at the highway and check the truck over and except for some stuff that had moved around in the bins everything is fine. Of course we have no instruments. The fuel guage I can live without but a Temperature guage in this heat is essential.
We turn the clock back an hour and a half and enter Western Australia and stop at the border fruit check. Julie had boiled all the potatoes we had left at lunch time. The only thing we had on board which we declared was a jar of honey. They didn't search us but the backpackers in the van (whizzbang type) in the next bay had everything taken out and was being searched from front to back. Some others (caravanners) I have spoken to since had the same thing done but they had tried to beat the system by bringing plants in. There is enough warning so I have no sympathy.
We drive into Lake Argyle and the look out. The size of the Lake (it is large enough to be classed as an inland sea) is overwhelming. We go to the original Argyle homestead which was moved to higher ground by dismantling all the stonework and rebuilding before the valley flooded. An interesting place that was run by an equally interesting family named Durack. We move on to Kununurra.
It is stifling inside and out and even I am looking forward to air conditioning. We booked into The Ivanhoe Village Caravan Resort. As the name suggests this place is swisho but the rates aren't too bad. $25/night but with a Big 4 discount it is $22.50. We joined Big 4 because their parks are of a good standard and they are pretty well Australia wide.
Julie went for a swim in the pool and spa while I checked the damage behind the dash. Not good. The insides have rattled apart and broken solder joints on the Circuit board. I try repairing it but still no work. I check some more.
The fridge is still acting crazy but I have no idea what is wrong with it. We move the Engel into the van in case.
Julie rang the various airline companies to see how much the flights over The Bungles Bungles were.
A little tip: Negotiating direct with the companies can save money. They don't have to pay the commission to an agent so you get it. It also helps that it is getting close to the end of tourist season too. Even so it still cost $180.00 each. Usual price is $215.00. Just remember that as in life some do, some don't. We are booked on the 6.00AM flight next morning.
The air conditioner in the van is working overtime and I don't care.
We are picked up by the courtesy bus from the airline and are in the air by 6.00AM. Gees!, I seem to be dogged by bad luck and have to sit in the co-pilots seat. Some people really have to suffer. HAHA!!!!!!
We fly over the irrigation district made possible by Lake Argyle, the diversion dam and the Argyle Diamond mines. Flying over Lake Argyle you get the full impact of the size and it makes Sydney Harbour look like a puddle. We fly over Carr Boyd and Osmond Ranges and then The Bungle Bungle loom on the horizon and to say they are spectacular is an understatement. We fly over and around them. With great commentary the whole trip was very enjoyable and proved what I have said for years that this is the only way to see this area. A little turbulence was felt on the way back and we landed about 8.30AM.
Unfortunately I slipped a little on the step getting out of the plane and jarred my back.
Julie is talking to some people a few days later that did a 2.00PM flight and half the passengers were sick from the turbulence. As the ground heats up and the thermals start it throws the plane around. I am glad we did the early one.
We return to the park and I check out the dash again. We go down to the town and purchase a soldering iron. We return, Julie goes swimming and I resolder connections. Still no instruments. I am getting a bit upset. My back is killing me. The fridge has stopped altogether. It is about 39 Degrees and very humid.
I take the truck to an Auto Elec with the intention of fitting an auxillary temperature guage or getting the regulator fixed. There is no other water take off in the head to fit another guage. The Auto Elec has a look at the reg and decides he can't fix it. Another unit would have to come from Perth and would take a week. I decline and make an appointment to have my back looked at. Julie goes swimming and I tighten things, put the dash back in and check for any other faults.
We leave the park and I go to a physio who massages my back. I feel a bit better.
We head towards Wyndham where we go out to the wharves, the biggest Boab tree and the Dreamtime Statues. We go up to 5 Rivers lookout. The view over the river deltas and up the gulf is fantastic. The road up is fairly steep so once again I am glad I have exhaust brakes for the descent.
In Wyndham we also meet the "King of Con." At the toilets (Wyndham has the most public toilets for its size I have seen) we are hailed by an aboriginal to look at a Boab nut carving that was done by his sister who was also present with 2 nieces. He asked in perfect English where we were from. Tooradin I say and he says Aha near Dandenong. Most white people don't know where it is but here is an aboriginal that lives in the furthest town from Tooradin on the mainland and HE knows.
After purchasing his carving he insists on photos all round. He writes his address out (good hand writing) and we leave. Nice family and nice to talk to.
As the afternoon progresses we watch a very, very dark (read black) cloud building up in the direction we are heading. At about 6.00PM in pitch black dark we find it (or it seeks us out) and the ensuing lightning storm is fantastic. The rain on the other hand is not. A full blown tropical rainstorm that the driving lights won't penetrate forces me to stop when I can't see the white line. In 5 minutes it is all over but the humidity has shot through the roof.
We fuel at Halls Creek and continue on into the night.
We stopped at Mary Creek rest area about 107k west of Halls Creek.
Motorhomes Australia 1998-2003.