All packed and ready to roll
A busy week has been lived with the vehicle serviced, prepared and packed for the next 7 weeks. Kate is moving in to look after Harvey and have a little holiday at the same time. The kids are out of school for the next two weeks which Sam’s teacher was very excited about. She even told me that she has given him 5 books to read and that they are learning timetables. We will have something extra to do in the car now. So this is it – the start of another adventure holiday and blog. Which way will we end up going? Oodnadatta has had roads closed with food drops into William Creek until a week ago. There is little rain forecast for when we are approaching there which could make things exciting. Emily thinks we should just go the way planned and deal with whatever comes, “its camping dad”. I think a check of BOM on Sunday night will answer the question – the black top or the Oodnadatta Track.
Take care everyone and we hope you enjoy our holiday.
Day 1 – Cullulleraine (on the Murray) Mildura – Victoria
Well four excited people got on the road by 6.30 pm heading north. The morning was certainly fresh but the roads were quiet, dry and trouble free. We drove through to Sea Lake where we stopped for lunch and needed to take the jumpers off as the sun was shining. You could feel the change as soon as we crossed the Great Dividing Range. We drove on to Mildura where the tanks were topped up and we headed towards Renmark. On reaching Lake Cullulleraine we turned right headed down to the Murray River and camped at Loch 12. A great spot all to ourselves with plenty of fire wood.
The Eco-billy was brought out along with the other camp fire cooking items and a no gas night was set. Dinner consisted of beef sausages and fried tomatoes on the hot plate with roast potatoes, pumpkin and onions in the camp oven. Dessert was banana sliced open with chocolate shavings inside, wrapped in foil and melted through in the camp oven.
The night was awesome with no wind, no rain and perfect conditions that was mild enough to wear a t-shirt until bedtime.
Day 2 – Cullulleraine to Rawnsley Park – South Australia
What a great night sleep – 9 hours. Huh never get that at home. The weather god was kind as it was mild all night, no rain or wind, in fact it was perfect camping weather. Up at 6.30 a.m., where we took our time with breakfast and breaking camp before heading into South Australia. Once through the Quarantine check point we stopped in Renmark to buy fresh fruit and veggies for the next six nights. The girls went shopping whilst Sam and I topped up the fuel, cleaned the windows. We crossed the Murray River in Cadell on the ferry where the weather changed. The rain was coming and setting in for the rest of the day. Kathy decided to have a drive after lunch whilst Sam sat up front as chief navigator as we pushed on toward the Flinders Ranges.
Well the rain set in and as at 7.30 pm it hasn’t stopped. I’ve just checked the road conditions and found that the Oodnadatta Track is now closed again between Marree and Oodnadatta. Oh well we will head across to Port Augusta and up the Stuart Hwy to Kulgera which will put us back on track. That’s camping.
Dinner tonight was beef strips marinated in a honey soy served on Singapore noodles with capsicums. Dessert was simple Cadbury Chocolate.
Day 3 – Flinders Ranges to Coober Pedy – South Australia
It’s stopped raining but the clouds are threatening. We took our time before heading off at 9 am taking a 130 km detour from our planned route. We had to drive down through Quorn, around to Port Augusta before heading up the guts of the Stuart Highway. It’s not as scenic but it is what it is with outback roads. We topped the fuel tank up again in Port Augusta despite not needing heaps and headed due north. At lunch we stopped at Woomera missile base where Emily and Sam had a big look around in amazement. As Kathy and I had travelled this way only 12 months earlier it was good to share the experience. We decided that we would drive on to Coober Pedy as it was going to rain and we would be better off north of our location which will set us up to be at Uluru one day earlier. The good side is that means another day up our sleeve around the top end. We camped at Riba’s Caravan Park which for a few extra bucks we got a full tour of a Opal mine which gave us all a much better appreciation of the work and gamble taken by those seeking their riches. This was the third mild night where no extra heating requirements were required which is a plus.
Day 4 – Coober Pedy to Petermann – Northern Territory
A beautiful morning in Coober Pedy with clear skies until 7.30 am when a full white out fog drifted in. A full white out is with visibility down to about 20 metres. We headed off at 9 am and drove to the Big Winch for some photos and to over look the township. Unfortunately the white out stopped this and then all of a sudden (5 minutes) the fog cleared and visibility was back. Freaky! We went to an Opal working mine at the top of the town where we were greeted by a local who moved from Hong Kong to Coober Pedy in 1978. We bought three small pieces of rock with different colored opal in it for show n tell.
We left Coober Pedy at 9.45 am moving north in convey with all the other caravanners and campers. The drive through the Opal fields is mesmerising when you look at all the diggings where people have sought their fortunes. By the time we reached Marla for lunch, which is also the other end of the Oodnadatta Track, it was jumpers off time. The sun is shining and temperature is rising. At 3.00 o’clock we crossed the border into the Northern Territory. The mandatory stop for photos and onwards we go reaching Kulgera 15 minutes later. This is the exact location we should have been coming out tomorrow, had the roads not been closed.
We turned left off the Stuart Hwy and headed for Ayres Rock. Despite the kids knowing that we will be stopping and camping a night before seeing it the excitement was incredible. Sam pleading to just go and have a look not understanding time and distance. We pulled into a camp about 100 kilometers before Curtain Springs on the side of the road. Nice open land with plenty of space. We were greeted by the resident Dingo which was hanging around hoping to get a spare scrap of food to no avail. Dinner tonight consisted of an Emily salad made of red and green capsicum, an onion, grated carrot, lettuce and cheese whilst Sam served us up beef hamburgers and mashed potatoes. A fine feast.
Day 5 to 7 – Yulara (Ayres Rock) Resort – Uluru (NT)
Day 5 – We are up and super super super excited about going to Ayres Rock today. We spent the night 150 kilometers out so today’s drive is going to be short and easy. Sam couldn’t help enough this morning just wanting to hit the road. We travelled a short distance before the less famous Mt Connor came into sight. I had three lots of oohs and ahhs going in the car whilst the whole time chuckling to myself. The disappointment on realizing that it was not Ayres Rock was incredible. Then when we did come around the bend and see the Rock off in the distance the debate started about whether it was in fact the rock or not. Of course it was. We checked into the resort and got ourselves a powered site paying for 3 nights for a 4 night stay option. We climbed the sand dune at the back of our camp and spied the rock. We decided that we will hold off visiting until tomorrow as we want to make the most out of the 3 day park pass that needs to be purchased ($25 per adult). We took some photos, the kids had a swim in the icy cold pool and had dinner. Tonight was satay chicken and camp salsa (cucumber, onion, tomato, red and green capsicum) in pita bread wraps. Delicious.
Day 6 – After breakfast and some washing we headed into the National Park and made it to Ayres Rock in time for the Marla walk. This being my third visit to the rock and having previously climbed it twice I looked in awe at the size of it. I knew it was huge but this time was different. A very special place to visit and we joined the Marla Walk tour from the local rangers which the kids found very informative. Seeing the joy, looks of astonishment and anticipation on the face of Kathy, Emily and Sam was very satisfying. All three were touched by the experience. After the walk we took our own time exploring around the base of the rock before visiting the Cultural Centre to watch some documentaries and read about the Indigenous story time. We went back to camp for a couple of hours before returning to the sunset viewing area for some photo shoots. We got back to camp after dark and it was cold. Scrambled eggs and bacon on toast was the menu tonight as it was so late.
Day 7 – OMG! It’s 5.45 am and I am awake so we can to drive over to the rock for the morning sunrise. The number of people attending to pay homage and worship the rising sun over Ayres Rock is impressive. I love people watching and this was a very rewarding time whilst waiting for it to rise. We took the obligatory photos before having hot chocolate and coffees in the car park whilst everyone tried to leave at the same time. We returned to camp for breakfast and packed the car to head out to The Olgas (Kata Juta) for lunch and hiking. It was 20 degrees and sunny so perfect conditions for the 7.4 km Vally of the Winds. The distance is not an issue but throw in the rocks, uneven surfaces, ascents, descents and it is far to say we burnt some (needed) calories. Damn it got hot and our feet ached by the end of it but it was so worth it. After refreshing we headed around to the Walpa Gorge walk. Kathy and Emily decided to sit this one out so Sam and I headed off. Another 1.5 km trek across the terrain and I declare that my feet hurt, my legs ache but it was worth it. Father and son hiking, chatting and laughing is a special moment locked in memory – oh and the gorge was awesome. Back to camp by 5 pm and it was a long day out. So I sit in the car tonight typing today’s events, drinking a hot coffee and listening to Richmond v West Coast Eagles on the HF Radio.
Day 8 – Ayers Rock to Rainbow Valley – Hugh (NT)
We are all in camping holiday mode now with the wake up at staggered times. Emily is definitely growing up as she is the last one up of a morning and prefers to bury her head and sleep. So it was a big pack up as we did the full set up for the four day stay. It took a fair bit but we were still on the road and saying good bye to Ayres Rock (until next time) by 9.30 am. Quick stop at the Local IGA to get some fresh milk, bread and bananas that were later devoured in sandwiches with sugar sprinkled. So today was an easy drive day being out from the Rock to the Stuart Highway which was our lunch stop and the north bound to Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve which was to be our stop for the night. I have wanted to visit Rainbow Valley for more than 10 years having seen photos in magazines and reading articles. The camp sites were well laid out with fire pits, shelters and benches to sit at. The pit toilet provided was clean and even had paper provided. We set camp and went for a walk just before sunset and all I can say is WOW! The view of the mountains with the setting sun doing magic to the minerals stored within the rock was truly amazing. We took so many photos to capture the moment in time. A simple dinner tonight with camp fire veggies in the oven with huge rump steaks all cooked over the fire.
Day 9 – Rainbow Valley to Devils Marbles
Another great sleep and another great sunrise. I woke to the sound of “dad I need a wee” so up I got. Looked at the clock and saw that is was 6.20 am so no point going back to bed. Coffee and sunrise was the menu for the morning. After the sunrise I decided that seeing how come I am awake everyone else might as well be too. We headed north into Alice Springs where a treat was in the menu with egg and bacon Mc Muffins for breakfast before picking up fuel and fresh fruit and veggies. Yet again another visit to Alice Springs and it is just like every other time. Nope I wouldn’t live here but the Mc Muffins were good. So with the groceries done it was time to roll some kilometres over. We pushed on north bound up the Stuart Highway hoping to make the Devils Marbles in time for a camp site. First in best dressed is the order here and if you are not in by 4 pm forget it. Snappy lunches and quick stops saw us arrive in time to get a site and have enough time for a climb and adventure through the marbles. The weather today was a very nice low 20’s with no clouds and just blue skies.
Day 10 – Devils Marbles to Daly Waters
The last big day of driving to be had with another 500 kilometres to roll through today and then we are in the hot weather with very short days ahead. The first 100 kilometres saw us arrive in Tennant Creek for fuel and morning tea. The scenery here is rolling hills with scattered trees and very little to stop and explore in between. The drive is long and the kids really are awesome travellers despite have the rightful fight between them. No winners except dad. So we arrived at Daly Waters and the outside temperature was 32 degrees and full sun. We arrived at the pub for camp and it was already full. The camp ground was chockers and even though we wanted an unpowered sight we still ended up in overflow out the back. We booked in for the pub dinner with the kids choosing Fish and Chips, Kathy having the steak and I went for the Baramundi. We started drinking a a beer called Great Northern Brewing Co. and I must say I am a bit of a convert for this drink. Went for our first swim today for the holiday and the water in the pool was just like their beers – icy cold but then it had to be done. As usual the food at the pub was first class, the salad as much as you can eat with live entertainment and icy cold beers. Life is great! The kids had a ball dancing and Sam was mesmerised with the guitarist performing.
Day 11 and 12 – Daly Waters to Mataranka
No rushing this morning. We need to drive a whole 150 kilometres in total today. We packed up camp and went off to explore the WW2 history in Daly Waters. We walked around the aircraft hanger and airport that is now Heritage listed. I really hope that they do restore this airfield to its historic glory. From here it was around the the Stuart Tree where one of our earliest explores (John McDougall Stuart) blazed his initials in the tree around 1850. When looking at the old black and white photos of once thriving towns and communities I find it very rewarding to think back to the time. I try to image life, laughter and real mate ship during the war time in our history. Our for fathers are to be admired as they certainly did it tough out here. Another short drive saw us in the bush exploring a former WW2 airfield. Again to picture all the planes parked in line down this incredible long and flat section in the middle of bushland that was cleared by man power and discipline. Inspirational. So we drove on and arrived at the Mataranka Homestead which is famous from the book and movie, ‘We of the never never’. Bathers on and down to the hot spring pools built by our soldiers for the officers during the war. The concrete and steps have stood the test of time and millions of travellers. 30.5 million litres of 33 degree water flow through this pool every day into the Roper River. A short walk down there found us a nice fresh water croc bask in the warm waters. We all had a great time swimming before venturing around to Bitter Springs Caravan Park where unpowered bush setting camp was attained. We hired some foam Noodles from the cam ground at $1 each and headed down to Bitter Springs for another swim. This is the same Aqua-duct fault line that feeds Rainbow Springs at the Homestead except this time there is no concrete, just natural river that floats you away. Another couple of hours spent swimming, floating and relaxing fore heading back to think about dinner. Tonight we had a campfire cook up in the Dutchoven which consisted of potato, pumpkin, carrot, onion, bacon and marinated steak cubed all chucked in together and cooked as a casserole with a nice red wine gravy finishing sauce. Desert – toasted marshmallows (on sticks of course). The camp ground at Bitter Springs was so clean, neat and well managed that in the morning another night’s stay was warranted so we decided two nights was now in order so more swimming and relaxing could be had.
Day 13 – Mataranka to Hayes Creek
Bitter Springs are so good that we decided to go for an early morning swim before packing up and heading off. The morning was not cold but obviously colder than the water as there was steam coming off the surface. It made a really awesome sight with the river flowing through the palms and mossy banks. A few floating laps and it was time to go back and break camp to keep the push north. We filled the water tanks and headed for Katherine about 100 kms up the road where we did some grocery shopping before driving around to the Katherine Springs. A snappy lunch of fresh banana sandwiches before more hot spring swimming. I never tire from natural hot springs despite the outside temps and we had never swum here before. These were also free and just a couple of minutes from the centre of town. Not to shabby but I do like the natural river environment more. At about 2.30 pm it was time to top the fuel tanks up and head further north toward Hayes – Douglas for the night. We found a nice little caravan park in Hayes where a powered site was needed to give the camper battery a big charge before Litchfield and Kakadu. We had time for a kick of the footy and a stroll around the area. Tonight we dined on Roast Chicken (Woolworths Katherine) and hot chips from the Hayes pub with fresh bread. Yum yum yum after all the camp cooking.
Days 14 to 16 – Litchfield National Park
This morning was a quick and easy pack as we headed off for a 150 km drive day to Litchfield National Park. Our aim was to arrive about 10.30 am so we could secure a camp site at Florence Falls for the next three nights. First in best dressed here in a magnificent bush environment. We arrived at 10.29 am and bingo – three to choose from. We set camp and headed down to Florence Falls for a swim. This is one of my favourite locations in Australia to swim with waterfalls. After a couple of hours we were starving so we walked up the 135 stairs to camp which upon reaching the top, the bum muscles are screaming and you are so hot you want to turn around and go back for a swim. After lunch another swim was the order of the day so down we went to the falls for an afternoon of swimming and playing. Dinner for the night was pasta with a fresh made bolagnaise sauce from scratch with fresh veggies. Our second day in Litchfield was a sight seeing day with the magnetic termite mounds being our first port of call. All these mounds face north and are made from a variety of termite not found anywhere else in the world. We then headed to the Lost City for a walk and hike before heading to Wangi Falls for some lunch and ice creams. After this we headed to Blyth Homestead which is part of an old silver mine at Mt Tolmer. As the day was getting on it was time to return to camp for the daily trek down to the falls for a refreshing swim and play with the GoPro. I will have to wait until we get home to assess the footage and upload any video to the blog. On climbing the stairs back to camp I walked past a family heading down which had pulled into the camp next to us and I couldn’t help but to stare. I saw a face that I knew but I didn’t. Hmmm. Our third day we were greeted by our neighbour next door coming over to have a look at the Nissan and Tvan setup. Again that face? It turns out that Scott (as he is named) is from the Police Academy and is one of our training instructors. He was holidaying with his wife Bec, their children and her parents. Small country yet again. Day three was spent with the first few hours at Buley Rock holes where we all had fun bombing from the rocks into the plunge pools.
Days 17 to 19 – Kakadu National Park (Jabiru)
Pack up morning as we prepare to drive over to Jabiru in Kakadu National Park. Everything was very relaxed as we went through the motions getting on the road by 9.30 am. We decided to drive out of Litchfield via the back road which took us through the town of Berry Springs and of course a swim in the natural hot springs had to be encountered. These were huge with three levels of pools in pristine clear waters. We spent the best part of an hour soaking and watching Sam swinging into the river from a rope tied in the tree. Kathy had a chance meeting with a Wodonga local from back home named Trevor Pearce who was traveling around Australia. Lunch was in the car park before it was time to drive again. We refueled in Humpty Doo and topped up the green groceries before the long drive into Jabiru. The drive in was relatively easy going as we searched for Crocodiles in the rivers below as we crossed the bridges. We arrived at the Kakadu Lodge Caravan Park at about 3.30 pm where the kids quickly got changed and headed to pool for a swim whilst Kathy and I set camp. A cool refreshing swim after this was definitely in order. It is hot with no complainants. Happy Territory Day! The next morning I set about swapping the auxiliary battery from the car with the one from the trailer to give it a big refresh on the charger. The heat in Florence Falls with short drives really took its toll. This saw us off at 10.30 where we drove to Cahills Crossing to watch the tide come in and the salt water Crocs come up to the crossing for a feed of fish. We were so lucky as one of the crocs decided to climb out of the water in front of everyone and walk across the crossing to the other side. They are so majestic yet you have to be so aware of their cunning nature. We then drove up the road to Ubirr (5mins) to walk through the rock art sites and climb to the top of the Plataue over looking the wetland out the next mountain range. You really are at the top of Australia and the world sitting up here looking out. I find it very tranquil and spiritual in a way that is hard to describe. Again the weAther has been good with us today being overcast and keeping the burning sun at bay as we climbed. Still it was very hot and time to return to camp for a much needed swim in the pool. We had a late lunch and feed as we had to head off into town to Jabiru to watch the Territory Day fireworks. It works likes this. You can buy fireworks on the day, as many as you like and let them off until midnight. No rules or regulations. We headed over to the town lake and watched the shire fireworks and then the families lighting them and setting off their own. This was great and I was thinking how lucky the kids are to experience this. We started to walk back to camp but the track we took was on fire so we needed to walk the road way back. We passed a house with all the neighbors and friends who were letting off crackers, bangers and some best described as explosives like I have never seen. It was ace! The kids could not believe their eyes as time and time again one would go amiss and ignite the reservation and trees opposite the houses. In true NT style the fire brigade casually turn up, extinguish the flames and drive to the next park fire knowing that the same bit of bush can’t burn twice. We could not have asked for more of a show than we got here. We walked on back to camp after 45 minutes of entertainment and later laid in bed listening to explosion after explosion. The last morning here was meant to see us doing a day trip out to Jim Jim Falls,Twin Falls and some other local spots but we were advised that there is no water coming over the top. A tough decision was needed as a long bumpy dusty drive to look at a rock wall that normally offers great views or back to Cahills Crossing for some croc watching with an afternoon of swimming in the pool. Crocs and pool won. So it was to be for a relaxing afternoon.
Day 20 – Gunlom Falls Kakadu
What a magnificent morning. The temperature is 22 degrees and the sun is shining. Its going to be a hot day and we don’t have far to travel. We set off for Gunlom Falls camp ground still in Kakadu but on the way stopped in at Maguk Falls for a look. We hiked in the one kilometer and on reaching the billabong and falls we were all wishing that we wore our bathers. Beautiful and inviting. The water was so clear, fresh and the waterfall was spectacular. Definitely made a mistake here by not bringing the togs and to many people to nude up. Never mined it is etched into my memory bank for a swim next time. We returned to the car and as we neared I was stopped by a woman walking the path. “I know you” she said. I looked at her puzzled and the she said, “Robe”. It was a lovely family that we camped near in Robe whom Sam made friends with their son Jackson. 18 months later and a long way from the SE coast of South Australia. After a brief chat it was time to drive another hour to camp. The road into Gunlom was corrugated, dusty and unforgiving for one family whom rolled their vehicle and camper trailer just prior to us. Our assistance wasn’t needed so we continued to the camp ground. We picked a nice spot and commenced setting camp. Just as we finished we were greeted by Dick and Sally (best friends of Chris, Donna and Johanna – Kathy’s family). They were spending the night also camped in Gunlom. In the afternoon we hiked to the top of the waterfall for a swim and to take in the views across the Savannah. What an awesome place to swim and unwind. Dinner was hamburgers in fresh rolls we bought in Jabiru with lettuce, tomato, onion, cheese, egg (with runny yolk) and capsicum.
Days 21 to 23 – Gunlom to Howard Springs (Darwin)
Goodbye Kakadu. This morning we pack up and head into civilization for a few days. Today is only a drive to Darwin but not before visiting Adelaide River WW2 cemetery and paying our respects. The drive out of Gunlom was slow going, dusty and very corrugated. It is always a good feeling when you get back onto bitumen and run your tongue across your teeth to check if any fillings have fallen out. So down the black top we travelled into Pine Creek for a toilet break and some ice creams for the kids. The drive to Adelaide River was interesting however we had already travelled this part of the road on the way to Litchfield NP. The were some fires burning very close to the road to the extent the flames were easily seen. We arrived in Adelaide River for lunch which we had in the park land opposite the memorial. We all walked around the cemetery reading the names, ages and inscriptions on the grave sites. This was the first time that death and war sunk into Emily and Sam as they read the ages of 18 and 19 etc.. So young to have sacrificed their lives so we can live in a democratic society. We have been doing the WW2 historical sites on the way up so this piece of the puzzle gave true reflection. This is the second time I have visited the cemetery and I truly believe it is the most beautiful war cemetery cared for and managed. Back in the car and to the Big 4 Howard Springs on the outskirts of Darwin we go. We arrived at about 2.30 p.m. which gave us plenty of time to set up and head off to the pool for a swim. I had noticed that a friend of 18 years was in town so arranged to catch up after dinner. The rest of the afternoon was nice and relaxed with plenty of swimming. Phil Brake came over to our site and we sat around and talked about life, travels and the good ole days. It is always great to catch people you know when you are a long way from home.
Day 2 in Darwin saw us spend the morning frolicking around the pool and camp before we headed out into the city centre. First stop was the wharf to check if any warships were in town. The NZ navy were docked and there was a frigate moored just offshore. We drove up to Fanny Bay of the east point of town to the big WW2 gun installations and home of the museum. We explored the old war infrastructure and discussed what it would have been like in the days before and after the bombing of Darwin in 1942. It was really hot in the sun so down the road to a park where the kids had a play and a quick check of the watch showed 4 pm which meant that it was okay for a beer. A short drive on and we were at Mindil Market on the foreshore where we spent the rest of the night until 8.30 pm. Kathy caught up with her girlfriend Nicole Hayman who is a police officer on Melville Island 20 minutes north of Darwin. Market food for dinner with ice cream dessert at the end.
Day 3 in Darwin was designated nothing day. It was the last day that Emily and Sam were to have on this holiday so instead of spending time in the car driving around I decided a morning, lunch and afternoon by the pool was in order. I potted around camp preparing the camper and vehicle for the next part of the journey. We headed out at 3.30 p.m., and went and bought a replacement jockey wheel bearing for the camper trailer as the fitted one had collapsed. A quick reccy was done on Darwin Airport so we would know where we’re going tomorrow and we’re the check is before heading to the Darwin Motor Trailer Club for sunset dinner with the kids. The sunset was spot on for the night as we feasted on Fish n chips, Nachos and Pizzas all cooked by the sports club. The last night with the kids sleeping with us for a few weeks. Day 4 in Darwin and it is a bit of a sad morning for me knowing that soon we will be at the airport waving goodbye. We had a swim in the morning before showers and getting ready to go at 10.40 a.m. We arrived at the airport on time, checked in for the flights and then went upstairs and watched other planes and aircraft taking off and landing. The dining room was directly next to the gate for the kids flights so when the Qantas plane pulled in front Emily and Sam watched as it was prepared and made ready. 12.25 p.m., came before we knew it and with a very heavy heart and holding back a tear or two we hugged and said, “see you soon” as they walked off with the flight attendant into the plane. We watched and waited until the plane took off before resuming the day. The afternoon was spent packing up Emily and Sam’s belongings and storing them into the gear sack on the roof and general pack up and preparing for our departure from civilization again.
Day 25 – Darwin to Delamere
Woke this morning to an empty tent missing Emily and Sam. It’s not the same but then it is what it is. I looked at the temperature back home which was 5.4 and our temp 19.5 which made me think twice about being home. Most of the pack up was done yesterday so we took our time this morning making sure everything was packed properly and the water tanks were full. Our destination today is not known but merely the direction we are heading. We have nothing booked between now and home with just a home by date. So we drove south to Katherine where we got some groceries before heading west / south west toward the WA border. We found a nice roadside free camp in Delamere being 100 kilometres SW of Katherine and 200 SE of Timber Creek. The sunset tonight was exceptionally colourful.Day
26 – Delamere to Limestone Gorge
The free roadside camp last night served us well and we woke to an awesome view across the Savannah. No rushing today as we had no clue where we planned to stop. We drove to Victoria River Roadhouse and had a look around. I picked up a free Gregory National Park map and saw a place called Limestone Gorge. I thought that’ll do us. It’s only 60 km off the highway and just before Timber Creek. The scenery here changes to mountains and rocky outcrops with scattered Boab trees. Very picturesque. As it was only 11.30am when we drove into Timber Creek we decided to have lunch here and then head into the Gorge. I checked out the Hotel which was also the service station and decided their fried Dim Sims looked eatable. I dined on 3 of these lucky bags and sampled a homemade meat and veg pastie whilst Kathy had a Spinach and Ricotta pastry. Bloody scrumptious they were but I don’t know whether that’s because we’ve been having healthy lunches for the past 3 weeks or not. After lunch we headed back up the road 10km before venturing down into the National Park. The gravel road down was good with a couple of creek crossings before we turned toward the gorge. The sign said no caravans so as the Tvan is a camper trailer off we went. The first 5 kms were easy going and we came to a sign advising high clearance 4wd and low range. Having done no research and not knowing what to expect we ventured on. The next 3 kms was low range up a very rocky river bed with large rocks and twists and bends. Yep we said – no caravans for sure. It was slow but good fun. We got into the campground and only one other car and trailer were here for the night. As it was only 1.30 pm I decided I would pull the trailer jockey wheel apart as I had a collapsed bearing in it and had bought a replacement in Darwin. 30 mins later all fixed, done and serviced. We spent the afternoon walking along a billabong and river trying to spot crocs and watching the birds. A very nice spot to camp.
Day 27 & 28 – Limestone Gorge to Keep River N.Park
A great night sleep in the camp ground. It was quiet and warm and we had left all the canvas open for the night. To wake to a sunrise over a limestone mountain was perfect. We had some brekky and hit the road back to Timber Creek. We decided that this was the best location and last location for the next five days to get up to date on publishing the blog and making phone calls. We continued our drive west toward the border and stopped in at one of my favorite National Parks in Australia – Keep River. This a small park with two campgrounds but so much to see and experience. We got ourselves a nice shady spot that I could put the solar panels out in the sun and set about relaxing for the afternoon. It is hot still and not much of a breeze at all. We had some drinks before dinner with fellow travelers. Next morning we went for our first hike of the day which was the Jarnem Loop 7.3 km walk through ancient lands. We took our time stopping and gazing from the lookout across the lands to the next mountain ranges. By the time we got back it is fair to say we were exhausted, hot and needing some shade. We relaxed until about 2.30 pm when it was time for hike number 2 – Jinumum. I remember this walk from 3 years ago when one of my best mates, Pav and I went exploring this area. I took Kathy off the beaten track and along a mountain wall to show her the true Aboriginal art depicted in these parts. The gallery was as preserved as it has been for thousands of years. After walking for another 4 kilometers up and down rocks and hills our feet were sore and we so needed a cold drink and shower. We drove back to camp and did just that before unwinding for the evening. We dined on camp Souvlaki tonight.
Day 29 – Keep River NP to Zebra Rock Mine
Big drive day today. We have 32 kilometers to drive back to the highway, 11 kilometers of road before 10 kilometers to camp. 53 km for the day as we are going to camp at the Zebra Rock Mine. This is a mine site the sits of the edge of Lake Argyle that offers camping and tours of the lake. On arrival we checked in, paid our money for camping, then $90 for the sunset cruise with all the beer you can drink and nibble food provided in addition to the $28 for Fish n Chips dinner which was to be ready 8 pm on return from the cruise. But wait there’s more – fresh cooked scones with jam and cream at $3 each plus all the tea and coffee complimentary. So for the record, “the scones were bloody awesome”. A real unwind and lazy day was had as we waited until 4 pm for the bus trip out to the river cruise location. This is a first in best dressed cruise as there are only 20 seats per day so you must get in early. The cruise itself was worth every cent with Max the boat driver pointing out all the different bird species that live around the lake in addition to driving up and down the little rivers. It wasn’t hard to spot a fresh water croc as their population at present is between 30 – 40,000. I decided that the cruise was worthy of taking the SLR camera on instead of just the iPhone in case there was a good shot to capture. I took so many photos and some that I’m really happy with. We returned to camp at 8 pm where we had our Fish n Chips which was disgusting. The fish was Cat Fish which is a bit of a popular feed up here but to us, was like white pulp, lacking in taste and texture. Note to self – no fish up here again unless it is Barramundi. A few facts about the region. Lake Argyle has 73 islands, holds 21 times the volume of water compared to in Sydney Harbour and is man made due to building a dam wall on the Ord River. Very impressive bit of Australian History in these parts. In addition to this is the family history of the Durack’s being an Irish pioneering family that have done so much for this region since the late 1800’s to present.
Day 32 – Lake Argyle to Kunnunurra
Awake at stupid o’clock again or to be precise 5.20 a.m., with the sun shining. It is dark by 5.30 pm and sunny at 5.30 a.m, over here in the west. We eventually got up at 7 a.m., having dosed on and off and set about packing up camp. We really took our time as we had nothing booked, didn’t know where we would camp for the night or what the day entailed.
On hooking up the camper it was time to drive over to the dam wall that has made Lake Argyle what it is today. We drove over the wall and over to a viewing area where they create hydro electricity from the water pressure. It was very impressive to watch the water flowing out of one of the pipes and the pressure it created. There was a really cool pelican who would fly up to the water pipe and the float down the rapids only to do it again and again.
We drove into Kunnunurra where we filled the fuel tanks and went to the shops to get some fresh groceries. There is nothing within the town proper to have a good look at so we drove out to the Sandalwood factory before heading over to the Ivanhoe Crossing. Apparently there has been problems with people breaking the gate that prevents vehicles traversing across the river so the council have dropped a big rock in the middle of the road.
As the day was starting to get on we decided that it was time to find somewhere to camp the night. We scanned the maps and found a boat ramp on the Ord River that looks like it may have camping so we headed out of town for the location. It turned out we weren’t to be alone this night as there were others camped here also along with the 100 head of cattle up on the roadway and the 100 Kangaroos coming down to the river for a drink before dark.
Day 33 – Kunnunurra to Durack
Well we are still here to keep traveling and the blog to keep being written. No crocodiles visited us during the night because they are supposedly big up here in the Ord River and on going to bed last night all we could here in the water was splashing which was most likely fish eating inspects.
We continued on the dirt road we came in on heading west toward the township of Wyndham. As we drove along we noticed a road on the map to our right that took us across a place called Parry’s Lagoon. I had never heard of this place and it looked like the track will still bring us into town so we took it. WOW! So glad we did. We drove up this track to a ridge top that over looked the swap land that feeds into the Ord River. We could see birds a plenty off in the distance in the water but was really cool was the place we stopped at on top of the mountain. It was an old radio telegraph station set up to assist ships in navigating into Wyndham but was also used used during WW2 as a tracking station for German ships approaching our ports. This mountain ridge was home to about six families working for the Government. They had the best outlook. We drove down the mountain toward the Ord River continually being enticed by the abundant birds in the water. As we approached I noticed a bird hide and it became clear that this was a billabong just off the Ord River and part of Parrys Lagoon.
We drove into area opposite the Pelicans swimming and with the binoculars started watching a couple of salt water crocodiles on the other side basking in the sun. They were huge as estimate of size, and fat. These two would have been nothing less than 4 meters long each and so well fed. Then we noticed what the Pelicans were actually doing. They were swimming in a group of about 50 in circles and then simultaneously they all dived there heads down into the water for a feed of fish. They were actually working together to bring a school of fish in between them before diving and feeding. It was graceful, synchronized and mesmerising. We watched this for about half and hour before heading off across the swamp lands towards the township.
In Wyndham we were greeted by a sign advising that today was a safe day and no cyclones were approaching. There were about four different locations that these board and signs are posted within the township. We went to the jetty, visited the pioneers cemetery with headstones dating back to the 1890’s before venturing up to the five rivers lookout where we had lunch. Looking out to where the five rivers join to make one mighty size river heading out into the Gulf is incredible. You really get a sense of border protection up here when you see some of the radar and infrastructure in place.
After lunch we headed off to find the Prison Boab tree down a track 50 kilometers out of town. The road out again was across another swamp land and clay pan before it met up with the King River and followed its path. We noticed on the map an indication of “Rock Art” so we ventured off to find this also. We turned up a dirt road and there was an old sign in amongst the tree growth indicating Aboriginal Art site. We walked over to the side of a mountain and proceeded to climb up to the ledge above the river where we found the art. There was a good assortment and all of it looked really old and original with no touch ups. I took a heap of photos so I can have a proper look back home on a bigger screen but I am truly addicted to the original art sites. The sun was absolutely belting down now and it was bloody hot even in the shade. I would like to have explored this site more intensely but the day was getting on, we hadn’t reached the Boab and again we had no idea where we were going to camp. Next time I will make sure I have at least half a day here to explore.
We continued on down the track until we reached the Prison Boab. A magnificent sized tree with the entrance carved into the hollow of the tree. I reckon you could have fitted five prisoners in here at any one time and it was definitely secure. Only one way in and out and I’m tipping the exit was guarded with a loaded gun for those wanting to poke their heads out. The shame of it all was the carved graffiti into the tree. I know it was the thing that was down in the past but to see inscriptions from 2015 is just wrong. No wonder we get locked out of historical and ancient sites when a lack of respect is shown.
On to camp we headed. There was another track marked on the map that took us to the Pentecost River crossing on the Gibb River Road near Home Valley Station. As we were thinking about staying here it was decided that we would take this track. On reaching the gate I read that it was actually the Old Karunji Track of which I had read about years ago but had no concept of where it was. There was a warning that the track was not a Gazetted Road and not maintained but not to be deterred we thought we would have a look at it, after all it was only 52 kilometers long. After driving for about 2 hours and having covered about 32 kilometers we came across a nice clearing alongside the Pentecost River and decided that this would be camp for the night. The track had been deteriorating and becoming a bit more challenging so best finished after a good sleep and plenty of sunlight to assist. We had the place to ourselves and shared only with the cattle grazing nearby and walking past our camp. A huge day finished with an awesome campsite and cold beer. Utopia.
Day 34 to 36 -Durack to Purnulula (Bungle Bungles)
Another perfect morning with the sun shining inside the camper trailer. It was an easy morning with a quick pack up as we had stayed hooked up to the car last night. Another big day awaits and we have decided that we are going to aim for the Bungle Bungles tonight for camp instead of Home valley or Elquestro.
We continued on the Karunji Track toward the Gibb River Road and within 200 meters the decision to stop the night was justified. We had a dry river crossing with a collapsed back followed by some really large washed out ruts that were deep enough to tip a car or trailer over. Low range and first gear was in order so the car could slowly negotiate ensuring each wheel was placed in the right spot. This seemed to be the order for the rest of the drive out. A couple of times we lost the track and relied on the digital maps to point us in the right direction. Eventually we made it out onto the Gibb River Rd right at the most iconic photographic crossings in Australia being the Pentecost River with the Cockburn Ranges in the background. Spoilt we are, as people from all over Australia talk about the sheer beauty and magnificence of the Cockburn Ranges of which they view from the Gibb River Rd. We had just driven along the base of range over the past two days with its ever presence just to our left and seen parts that most people will never venture to see. Yep – spoilt!
We played around the Pentecost crossing watching cars, trailers and photographers all with big smiles traversing the ford to the other side. I decided I would show Kathy a view of the Cockburn Ranges and Pentecost River that you can only see from a vantage point up the Gibb River Rd about 20 kms past the crossing. We drove up, parked and admired the view that is shared by those only traveling west to east. I noticed that I had phone coverage so I sent Emily a text wishing here well for school camp only to be shocked at the sudden and quick reply. She was on her iPad at school so we were able to exchange a couple of messages back and forth. Back down to the Pentecost River for a few more crossing with Kathy on the west side with my camera in hand trying to capture the perfect photo. Unfortunately it was a busy time of day and we couldn’t get a clear shot without other vehicles in the pictures but still I got to drive and tow across the crossing four more times.
By 10.30 a.m., it was time to head for camp. A long drive to the Bungle Bungles was to be had but first we had to drive another 50 km or so of corrugated roads to the end of the Gibb River. The road was in really bad condition compared to three years ago and it did feel good to be on bitumen again.
The journey south officially started on turning right onto The Great Northern Highway toward Halls Creek. Apart from a detour into the Bungles everything from here is heading in the direction of home. We turned off to drive the 53 kilometers into the National Park where we were treated to more badly corrugated roads that shook us continually for the entire trip. The drive in took about an hour and half and after the mornings drive and playing on the Gibb I was exhausted. My concentration capacity was well and truly depleted. Listening to Kathy with wows and oohs on seeing the ranges, landscapes and mountains was a good driving force. On paying our registration and camp fees we were told that fires were now banned in the park and the fire pits had been removed. Ripped off. I was looking forward sitting around a fire at night. Never mind we found a good camp spot.
Day 2 in the Bungles saw us head off to do a couple of hikes into Echinda Chasm and the Mini Palms walk. In all an easy 7.5 km of hiking for the morning to see the amazing sights that the Bungle Bungles are. We climbed to a lookout and overlooked the Osmond Ranges to our left and on reading the information board was amazed that they have been dated at 1.6 billion years old. How do we understand that length of time. Back at camp it was time to catch up on some washing and sorting of the vehicle and clothing. The nights are now getting cold so some clothes can go away and the winter ones can come out for the journey home. A very relaxing day.
Day 3 saw us awake before 6 am again so it was breakfast and coffee before heading off to look at t he southern end of the Bungle Bungles. We drove down and check out the other two camp grounds and some of the good sites within them before heading around to the airfield where Kathy wanted to watch a helicopter doing the take off and landings. I was secretly hoping she would shout herself a short flight just for the experience of being in the chopper with no doors on. To my surprise Kathy had arranged a price for the two of us to do a 42 minute flight over the Bungles right up to the giant domes. My god the nerves and vertigo kicked in before I even got off the ground. So after waiting for half an hour our chopper landed and it was our time for a flight. The wind was blowing and I could feel the chopper getting buffeted from side to side and on looking out I was hoping that I wouldn’t fall out but in all it was an incredible experience. The views form the air of the Bungle ranges was simply stunning and I don’t know the words to describe what we saw. An informative flight detailing so much about the history and formation of landscape in conjunction with the experience making a moment that will never be forgotten.
Back on the land it was time for us to drive around to hike into Cathedral Chasm and around the mounds and springs. It was around midday and the sun was pounding down on us but we still had the cool southerly breeze blowing across giving relief. The hike in and out was peaceful’ relaxing and breathtaking. It is a shame that our time in the Bungles must end but it has been a time that won’t be forgotten. Back at camp we secured a few things easy for the next day’s trip down the Tanami Road across the desert.
Day 37 – Purnulula to Wolfe Creek Crater
Another perfect morning weather wise and we were up, fed, packed and on the road by 8 am heading out of the National Park. It was to take us an hour and half to drive the 53 km of corrugated roads to get out and head south toward Halls Creek which was 110 km away. The drive was very uneventful (which is good) but the scenery was incredible. There were so many volcanoes and bolder strewn valleys. I had no idea that this area was so volcanic in its day but I made a note to google and learn more when we get home. We pulled in Halls Creek with hardly any fuel left in the tank and stopped at the Shell Service Station. The local indigenous community were all in town for the day and were enjoying the beautiful weather, sitting in gutters, against shop walls and some were even having a midday nap in the sun lying down beside their friend sitting on the kerbs. As I went to put fuel in I noticed that all the diesel pumps were out of order – oh no, no fuel! We found another service station around the corner being an old Caltex where they still serve you. So the tanks and jerry cans were filled with as much fuel as I could carry for the desert journey and as I pulled out of the servo a kangaroo bounded into town up the road. I reckon he must have turned the corner and seen the locals because he came bounding back past a minute later heading for the safety of the scrub.
We commenced our 1050 km drive down the Tanami Road for 110 kms before turning off to Wolfe Creek. The camp sites here were big, spacious, level and clean. The area itself is very very dry and a real fire hazard. After having some late lunch and setting camp we drove the 400 meters to the meteorite crater and hiked to the top of the ridge. The crater has slowly been filling up with sands blown into the middle to the extent that it is only 20 meters deep now as opposed to the 120 meters on impact. It was a spectacular sight and so distinct to the eye. The second largest crater in the world in our own backyard. We spent a bit of time mesmerized by what lay before our eyes before heading back to camp for the afternoon and night. Hope we survive the night and a quick check of my car batteries show they still have heaps of charge in them (for those who have seen the movie).
Day 38 to 40 Wolfe Creek to Alice Springs
We are alive and the car started just fine. Thank goodness it is only a movie. Sunny morning and we are ready to tackle the corrugations to return to the Tanami Track to head toward Alice Springs.
The drive down the Tanami to some would be boring to myself I found it magnificent. I truly love the unmade open roads that just flow into the distance and leave only a tyre print and dust haze in your mirrors. There is a lot of areas that cannot be travelled along the route as they are marked as Aboriginal lands only. Not sure what is out there but the explorer in me would oneway like to apply for some permits and venture into the unknown. The road condition for the most part of the drive was good, the road was better than expected and we we made it to a place just south of the old service station site. This would be as far as we would travel for the day as it was a long day on the road. Our campsite had recently been subject to fire but was still off the road enough to provide some coverage for the evening.
Day 41 – Alice Springs to Chambers Pillar
Now we are definitely heading south as the morning was a little fresher than the past weeks. Camp was kept basic so an easy and timely morning pack could be achieved. A check of the fuel situation and the jerry cans emptied into the tank so endeavour to make it all the way to Alice Springs. A few more checks and it was time to drive, window down and sun on your face. We drove into Tilmouth Well Roadhouse for morning tea and I was surprised and disappointed at the poor state of the toilets. The roadhouse is a major fuelling location for travellers and so poorly kept that I decided that I would not risk putting diesel into the tanks. Some quick calculations showed that I we should make it to Alice Springs.
The road from here on was a mixed roadworks, bitumen and gravel. This is the start of the end for the Tanami Track and what will oneway be the Tanami Road. You cannot stand in the way of progress so I am somewhat satisfied that I have driven the road when it was unmade and red sand.
Into Alice Springs we drove and filled the fuel tanks, jerry cans and then did a quick shop to top up on essential grocery items for the last drive through to home. As it was not a long time the shop was short and sharp so with some lunch in our stomaches we were off to camp. Chambers Pillar was our destination for the night.
Having driven this dirt road numerous times I wasn’t really expecting to much but to my surprise as I crested a rise in the road I could not believe my eyes. Army everywhere. There were tents, trucks, dozers, 4wd’s, cranes and all sorts of trailers, trucks and vehicles. The road off to the right was a huge tent city. As there were no signs signifying what was happening and nothing to say don’t enter – I decided to enter. I drove down through the vehicles and made it to the first tent where I was stopped by the mechanics in their workshop. It turned out that the Army were on deployment to build a water and community infrastructure within the community at Maryvale. It was a very interesting, open and frank conversation held and being a man of respect one could not show respect and appreciation for their service. This was one of those things in life I will never forget.
Chambers Pillar was again magnificent in its presence and structure. The flies were kind to us and the camp site was clean and well maintained. There was plenty of day light left for us to explore and climb the pillar and again visit in the steps of our early pioneers that opened upon this magnificent country. This is a location that I will travel to time and time again although each time I do the road is a little wider and more maintained than it was the first time.
Day 42 – Chambers Pillar to Mount Dare