Archive | July, 2015
28 July 2015

WA (wait a while)

We’ve left the NT (not today,not tomorrow, not Tuesday, not Thursday) and continued into wait a while (WA). Its Friday. Our first task was to book a flight over the Bungle Bungles – not today not tomorrow but next Saturday, 8 days hence. Talk about wait a while. Not therefore a real option. 8 days in Kununurra does not present as a great way to spend our time. Nevertheless there were quite a few things to see around the area. Lake Argyle, the Ord River scheme, Wyndham for the river delta, El Questro, the Grotto, the Gibb River Road etc.

Our first outing was Wyndham. Some 90 km north west of Kununurra it is the meeting place of some five rivers – The Ord, The Durack, The Forrest, The Dunham and The Chamberlain. It is a majestic sight and photos can’t really do it justice as it is so expansive, but….DSC06362 (1024x232) DSC06363 (1024x232) DSC06369 (1024x683) DSC06370 (1024x683) DSC06371 (1024x683) DSC06373 (1024x684) DSC06374 (1024x684) DSC06375 (1024x684)

On the road to Wyndham is The Grotto, a massive earth fault with tessellated rock paving and a deep water hole. It is quite breathtaking ……

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The sign says the water hole is believed to be 300 feet deep. It is just the strangest hole in the ground.

We were told by someone close to us that El Questro Station would be a great place to stay for a day or two. It is accessed via the Gibb River road, perhaps 50 or 60 ks in from the main highway but that this section of the Gibb is paved. Given that we were passing the Gibb River Road start on the way to Wyndham thought it might be wise to check it out in the Suzi before we brought the Winnie out. Just as well. The first part of the Gibb River Road is in fact quite good but the turnoff to El Questro, some 20 km is not – it is atrocious and precedes two relatively deep water crossings…..

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and even the donkeys weren’t likely to get out. But, El Questro is a surprisingly lovely place. Certainly worth a visit but not in The Hovel. A very well set up resort in the middle of nowhere, but surprisingly well patronised. But we can say we’ve had a go at the famous Gibb River Road.

On the way into Kununurra we’d actually called in to the Argyle Dam Caravan park only to find it full. So, back to the dam and the Ord River for a visit – a beautiful spot as well as a fantastic vision for agricultural futures. Initially sat through a video of the building of the dam back in 1969 – 1972. A mammoth project in what then was the middle of nowhere. Kununurra was the township built at the time to support the development and subsequently the centre for the agricultural spin off from the dam. Lots of stories suggest that the project has failed but there is still new agricultural land being developed and we believe it will eventually prove viable. It is an ambitious project but no more so than we should be attempting all over this country. The dam itself is a very picturesque location….

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covers approximately 1000 sq km and is reportedly equivalent in volume to 28 Sydney Harbours. We drove through some of the areas around Kununurra currently being cultivated but it appears the major crop now is just sandalwood. The sugar industry has closed down but there will be more agriculture when the next area is operational (some 45000 hectares).

Next stop the Bungle Bungles. In the Purnululu Ranges National Park some 200 km south of Kununurra. We opted to stay at the Bungle Bungle Caravan park just 1 km off the highway into the Mabel Downs Station through which the access road to the Bungles goes. Bloody expensive unpowered site at $35.00 per night, but the best option to access the Bungles.

The road in is terrible, probably the worst we’ve yet subjected the Suzi to. 80 or so K’ each way with 6 or 7 water crossings the trip took two hours each way. But, it was worth it. The Bungle Bungles are stunning…..

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These are probably the most spectacular rocks we’ve yet seen. They’re weird, different but stunning. I remember that Dawson and Margaret McDonald, our long past neighbours at North Ringwood used to rave about this place as an artists heaven –  we can now understand their thinking. They frequently came here to paint – maybe they actually painted these hills.

We have booked to fly out to and stay at the horizontal falls out of Derby but can’t get on until the 30th July, so we’re now filling in time. There are a few places to go and things to see in the meantime.

We’ve now covered over 14000 km, 9000 in the Hovel, 3000 in Suzi and another 2000 or so in Robyns Prado. The one that matters is the Hovel – fuel consumption is now down to 19.3l/100km. Great. What we save on fuel is now being chewed up in repairs – $300.00 for the fuse problem which is still not right, 137.00 for the CB fix, 153.oo for the aircon fix in Kathryn and now it has failed altogether and a yet to be expended cost to repair the washing machine once again. Ah well! this must be the cost of retirement travel.

19 July 2015

Filling the gaps

 

We came out of Litchfield, on to Adelaide River to fuel up before we go back out to Daly River. Adelaide River is on the highway. Its the home of  a Commemorative War Grave site –  worth a look…..

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It also holds a memorial to those who died in the raids on Darwin. It is a very serene scene.

After Adelaide River comes Daly River. Its a spot on the map to which we’ve of course never been, so whilst here we must see it then. After 40 or so K’s of bone jarring, rattle inducing bitumen road after leaving the Stuart H’way we hit the Daly River Road ironically one of the best roads we’ve yet been on. The good book says that the Daly River Tavern would be a good place to stay but upon arrival we find that its camp ground has been closed due to dunny deficiencies. Anyway, we found a place to prop, right on the Daly River. There ain’t much to see at Daly River….

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but a salubrious marina and a randy peacock. Apparently plenty of people come here to catch barramundi, providing they can keep them from the crocs. We didn’t see any crocs but were told they were plentiful. Nothing else to hold our attention so after a very nice dinner of barramundi in the caravan park bistro (barra provided by Mr Barra delivered frozen from Darwin that very same day) and a good nights sleep we headed back out to the Stuart via the same road by which we came in. I should add that the road in was so bad before we hit the good bit that the Suzi had moved on the trailer and all the tie downs had bounced nearly off – caught it just in time. So, the trip back out entailed a few check stops to make sure the car was still tied down.

We were headed back to Katherine to then turn west but on the way back down we were passing the entry to Kakadu out of Pine Creek and being very conscious of our low opinion of the National Park and having missed Gunlom Falls on our first run through, decided to check them out first. At Pine Creek Robyn left us for the return journey home after nearly 6 weeks with us so we checked in to Pussy Cat Flats, offloaded Suzi and headed up to the Falls. About 100 km in and 37 k’s of dirt we got to the falls….

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dry! Some water in the pond but looking pretty dirty. Regrettably, still another bit of the Kakadon’t experience.

4 days in Katherine trying to recover from a throat infection but finally got out to see Cutta Cutta caves…

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We’ve made our way across the border into WA, now in Kununurra. Lots to see and do here so keep tuned in.

 

13 July 2015

Kakadu, Kakadon’t

Edith Falls interrupted our journey from Katherine to Kakadu. Robyn had stopped there years ago and remembered it as a nice place to be. But, like so many other nice places up here, demand for sites is high. You’ve got to get in early. So, just 50 or so k’s from Katherine, we were early. Good God – not early enough. We got a site allocated to us that would take us and Robyns van end to end, manouvered the truck through some very cramped turns only to find a caravan already inhabiting the allocated site, in fact parked in the middle so neither of us could get in. Blocked the roadway and walked back to the booking kiosk only to be told that some other person had booked in the offending van and hadn’t recorded it so Robyn would have to go elsewhere and we had to negotiate with the other occupier to make space. After an awful lot of ‘negotiating’ he moved just sufficient for us to park up without blocking the driveway altogether. Didn’t have room to slide out the lounge though. No services here although there were showers and toilets of the bush variety – adequate.

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It was a lovely spot ultimately. We did go for a swim and believe it or not it was most pleasant after the HEAT of the day.

Well it was another day. On to Kakadu. Now this is one of those places that continued to appear on our bucket list. We had anticipated via the power of advertising a tropical paradise. As we drove into the National Park the expectation grew, but all we were seeing was subtropical landscape, not at all dissimilar to what we might see at home but without the usual tall gum trees. Oh it must get better as we get further north, surely. Small palms did actually eventuate, hidden between other trees of nondescript breeds but they hardly seemed tropical. Our first stop was the rangers station to acquire our National Park passes for $25.00 per head but being Sunday there was nobody home. Sign said go to the Cooinda Resort to get your pass so since we planned to stay there anyway we did. The objective being to take the Yellow River cruise to spot crocodiles in the wild one had to stay somewhere in proximity so the Resort was it for us. Queued up to get in, half hour to check in then relegated to the backblocks down near the mosquito swamp. No outside socialising this evening. Booked the morning sunrise cruise (with breakfast) @ $99.00 per person. Two hours on the water followed by brekky starting at bus stop at 6.15 am. They should be paying ME. Sat in the boat as mozzie food for 15 minutes or so whilst the sun came up. But it did and it was good..

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Then we went to see (Yellow River anyway). Like sailing on a pond with the odd ‘log’ crossing our path..

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some beautiful scenery, but is this the great tropical north? The crocs were docile the birds were plentiful but is this what we’re in Kakadu for? We’ve seen pictures of jumping crocs, people swimming in tropical pools, beautiful vistas, romantic encounters – where is all of the advertised propaganda? Well. we’re still looking for most of it.

Nourlangie  had to be it. A bit further in, a haven for Aboriginal art and a supposedly stunning rock formation….

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It was OK, but we can’t understand the ‘art’.

Overnighted in Jabiru. Quite a nice park, actually lucky to get in apparently. School holidays and of course peak season when all the southerners descend on the north, but not as busy as usual. Still a queue to get in though.

Next stop Ubirr, another repository for Aboriginal art and great rocks. This is the most northerly accessible bit of Kakadu…..

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Again some beautiful scenery, incomprehensible art work but no hot springs or tropical pools or romantic hideaways although there were a couple of hot chicks wandering about.

Next day out of Kakadu. Stopover at the Bark Hut Inn for nibblies then on to Adelaide River to tease some real live big game crocs. We were advised to take the small boat as opposed to the big cruise ship if we wanted to get up close and personal with crocs. Found the spot some 15 ks along a dirt track. A bit of a trial for the Hovel but we made it in and out in one piece. The ‘cruise’ was up to expectations – we really did get up close and personal with some seriously prehistoric beasts ……

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and our cap’n Harry in the little boat. These were all different crocs. We were continuously warned to keep body parts inside the boat. You better believe I needed no second warnings. These are seriously dangerous critters, but fascinating to see them in their own environment. One of them, I think the first, was over 5 metres long, about half the length of the boat. This is more like it – this is what we came to see. But, its outside the park. Kakadon’t

This night we pulled in to Darwin. It is/was a Wednesday 1st July. Wow, a new FY. Where’d the last one go? Found ourselves ensconced in the back yard of Terry and Mels 10 acres at Coolalinga, some 20 k out of Darwin, adjacent to Robyns nephew Mitch’s outback shack also in Terry and Mels back yard. Found the company of Mitch’s partner Danielle along with her visiting (from the UK) parents Ian and Anne and for the next week had great conversation and meals and drinkies every night. Robyn, Jude and I explored Darwin over the week and I must say found it to our liking, at least in the ‘winter’ months. Temperature hovered around 32 every day and plummeted to 23 overnight – love winter in the tropics. It was still a bit humid though.

Darwin is now quite a sophisticated city if you can get past the layabout style of the Darwinians. Every one of them reminded us that NT stands for “not today, not tomorrow, not Tuesday, not Thursday” but you can get past this too if you accept the lifestyle. It is “outback, colonial” but is has its attributes. No hurry. Mind you slow it may be in the winter – what must it be like in the ‘summer’ when its wet and really really hot and humid and half the state is closed down cos of water over everything? The crocodile tour operator cap’n Harry probably has the right idea – he spends winter up here and summer on the Gippsland Lakes.

The Darwin Experience at the war memorial/museum is fantastic. An audio visual presentation of the air raid over Darwin of 1942 is frighteningly realistic. The facts surrounding it and subsequent activity around the top end makes for some very interesting study. Stuff that we were not generally aware of and not well known history of this part of Australias’ involvement in WWII.

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Given the ravages of cyclone Tracy in 1974 I didn’t expect the extent of high rise development around the city…

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Mindil Beach markets are a Thursday and Sunday event here. Lots of stalls with foods and clothes, all a bit like Eumundi on the Sunshine Coast in Qld but here you pick your food choices and sit on the beach to gaze at sunsets while you eat. It is quite loverly and clearly appeals to lots of people….DSC06085 (1024x683) DSC06086 (1024x683) DSC06087 (1024x683) DSC06093 (1024x683) DSC06096 (1024x683) DSC06097 (1024x683)

The remnants of WWII provide a sobering backdrop to Darwin. All along the Stuart Highway as far south as Daly Waters are remnants of airstrips. There’s probably a dozen or so. Then there’s the fuel storage tanks under Darwin a couple of which are now opened as tourist attractions. Without going back to Dr Google I can’t remember their overall storage capacity but its in the 1000’s of tons of fuel oil, all because the Japs blew up the existing facilities at the port….DSC06021 (1024x681) DSC06023 (1024x683) DSC06024 (1024x684) DSC06026 (1024x684) DSC06027 (1024x683) DSC06028 (1024x683)

These things are massive. 180metres long 4.0 wide 5.0 high but never fully completed or used. 11 planned, 6 built but only 2 used sometime after the war I think is the story. Budget blowouts back in the 40’s brought a stop to the entire project. An incredible project for the time though. Equally, the Stuart Highway was only pushed through during the war to facilitate the movement of troops and equipment to defend Australias’ northern coastline. There are still also a variety of big gun emplacements around, two of which are at the Darwin Experience War Museum although the guns themselves were sold off to the Japs later for scrap metal.

Whilst Darwin is a fairly young city it does have some historical buildings, some of which survived Tracey….

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A Darwin day was lost waiting for an auto-elec. to check a problem we still have with the fridge. He was due at 8.30am, turned up at 1.00pm. He also checked the CB to no avail but I had it fixed elsewhere, surprise, surprise for Darwin, overnight. Great service from Car Comm. Now the aircon is on the blink and we’re back in Katherine waiting for a serviceman.

After leaving Darwin we just had to take in Litchfield Park. Not only has this place been heavily advertised on Victorian country TV it was also heavily promoted up here as the forgotten cousin to Kakadu. Perhaps that should have served as a deterrent but in we went. I mean, after all, we are here. We probably won’t get back, so do everything that should be done whilst here. Well its a poor cousin to Kakadon’t. Tried the Wangi Falls camp ground first – national Park, cheap rates but gotta get in early. We did but all the sites that would accommodate our ‘big rig’ each housed one ‘wizz bang’. All of the small sites that would comfortably take the wizz bangs were empty. Back out of the National Park to a commercial caravan park, unhitch Robyns Prado and back in to see the sights. Frankly, not much to see. The Wangi Falls are OK, the ‘magnetic’ termite mounds are interesting (north-south orientation), the Lost City is a fascinating rock formation but altogether Litchfield was a disappointing experience……..

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On our way out we stopped at the Batchelor butterfly farm. Lovely little presentation by the owner then left to wander the butterfly enclosure….

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and feed the rabbits and goats….

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Daly River seemed to be the next logical destination as we turned south to get back to Katherine. Katherine is the jumping off point to head to WA, at least if you want to do it on bitumen but there were a couple of places along the return which needed to be visited. We’ll get to them next entry. This has been a big catch up, primarily because reception has been poor in most places (Darwin was OK but we had better things to keep us amused).

Fuel consumption continues to fall, albeit slowly now. We’re down to 19.5l/100km. I continue to hear stories of 200series Landcruisers towing vans getting just 22l/100km so I reckon we’re doing very well in our 10.5 tonne behemoth.