Halls Creek

Just arrived here after 2 days at Purnalulu National Park, that’s the Bungle Bungles. Wow, amazing place, very, very tired after lots of walking and lots of bumpy driving.
Have a small problem with the car at the moment, blown a gas line, running on petrol for now. Will be on the lookout for someone to look at it tomorrow. They have a Toyota Dealer here in Halls Creek,a very small Toyota Dealer!
We are all going ok, looking forward to Broome and the beach! More soon on the Bungles.

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Kununurra

"Welcome to Kununurra"

Wow, made it to Western Australia. It’s hot here, we had 38 today, but not humid like Darwin, so it’s ok. Spoke to a local this morning whilst fueling up, he warned us about the coming hot day, “mate, it’ll get up to 38 today”, he said.  I’m thinking, mate, we’re from Melbourne, thats just a summers day for us! Anyway, missed a day or two of the blog, sorry. Short version goes like this….woo, hoo, woo, hoo! Last post was from Darwin, so from there, we went straight to Katherine. As we now have new batteries in the camper, we stayed at a non-powered site in Katherine for two nights and the fridge stayed working the whole time, as did the lights, excellent.

The girls with the Ghan.

Wandered around Katherine, checked out the sights. Managed to finally see the Ghan at the railway station, we were just popping in to ask about timetables, and there it was. It had stopped at the station for passengers to have a wander and a leg stretch and to change drivers, so we were very lucky. Took some pics, then watched it pull out,  the girls very keen to run beside the train so they  had walked all the way to the end to wait for it to leave. As it left, the girls ran alongside it for only about 200 metres, where it stopped again to wait for another freight train!

Hot springs at Katherine, not as nice as Mataranka

In Katherine, we did some shopping, visited the Katherine hot springs, not as nice as Mataranka though. Lots of people in town on this day, was Tuesday 2nd Nov, took us a while to realise it was Melbourne Cup day, and more locals were in town than normal. Had my last (for a while) McDonalds capucinno, back to the camp and settled in for an early night.

After Katherine, drove straight through to Kununurra, 514 kms. Two driver changes, two short, meal/snack stops and a thorough inspection at the WA border for restricted fruit and vegies….we were clean! Also learnt then about the time change, gets us every time! It was just on 3 pm when we got there, and it was 1.30pm when we left! Still trying to get used to it, I got up this morning at 6am, Wendy got up just before 5am!

Anyway, uneventful drive to Kununurra, apart from lots of roadwork. Drove through the Gregory ranges, more spectacular than the McDonnel ranges, thats for sure! Staying at a Big4 park in town, with no 3 reception on our phones, but we brought our “emergency phone”, a Nokia with an old Vodophone sim card we got years ago that we don’t pay rental on, just pay for calls. Turned it on, full reception, excellent!

Our sometimes traveling companions from Melbourne, packing up to leave

Caught up with our travelling companions Steve, David and Tracy, from Olinda in Melb. They had invited us to travel up on the Tanami track with them, which we declined at the time. They have since travelled on the Gibb river road, and informed us that almost all the popular attractions along the road are close for the off peak season. El Questro gorge is a very popular place, they actually have a booking office in town, and they confirmed it today, all closed.

So, our travel plans have to change. Now, we are going to the Bungle Bungles tomorrow, probably camping out there for a night or two, then onto Halls Creek, then Fitzroy crossing and onto Broome. Your next blog update will most likely be from Broome, so, wish us luck!

Us at Lake Argyle, the Ord River dam

A little extra bit for you all, today, we went to see Lake Argyle, the largest man-made lake in Australia, formed by the Ord River Dam, built back in the early 60’s. Back when not much notice was taken of enviromental concerns, even less notice of Aboriginal issues. As the pamphlets say, many sacred sites, campgrounds and hunting grounds were inundated when the dam was built! Imagine what happen today if the government tried to do something like that! Anyway, it has been good for the region, and it is a spectacular lake, great to finally get to see it.

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yesterday…

That's Wendy holding onto the pole...scary stuff!

Been trying to keep up with all the attractions in Darwin, there’s heaps. Yesterday we went first to “Crocodylus Park”, which as the name suggests, was a kind of crocodile farm. They actually farm them there, have a breeding program, lots of research as well as handbags for $1,500! They also had other animals there, lions, tigers, monkeys, kangaroos, lizards etc. They had a feeding tour which we went on, and Wendy and I had a go at feeding a croc. The first time you hear a crocs jaws slam shut is scary, its loud, and final! Then we got to hold a 12 month old saltwater croc, not that big, but still cool. All the spikey bits are really soft and rubbery, we thought they would be sharp and hard.

Croc hunter...Not!

 

    Went home for lunch after that, then headed off to the Darwin Museum, which is free entry, and really good. It was very much a natural history museum, with animals, stuffed and otherwise, but also had a section on Cyclone Tracy, including a sound room where a 7 min recording made by a priest during the actual cyclone is played. Very loud and confronting, it was a completely dark room, to simulate what it was like at 2.30 am, with no power or lights, and the noise of 200 mph winds and 1000s of sheets of corrugated iron being flung around. There was a warning outside the room for people who had been through the cyclone, that the room may cause distress. They also had an Aboriginal art gallery and a maritime history display, and a lovely kiosk for a drink afterwards. Highly recommended for visitors to Darwin.

Box Jellyfish....no wonder nobody swims in the sea up here, these AND crocs!

    After the museum, popped home for a quick swim and to try out the new goggles. Also tried out the noodles, and Dad tried something silly….the noodles are hollow, and I tried to breathe through one! Next time, will empty the water out first, got a big mouthful of water and it went down so far that I had to swallow it, yuk! Salt and chlorine didn’t go very well in my stomach either, felt sick all that night, which was a pity because the next activity was the “famous” Darwin deckchair cinema.

forgot to take the camera, so this is from their website!

This is basically an outdoor cinema that operates during the dry season, with steel-framed deckchairs permanently set up, seats about 250 on those, with a further 100 plastic chairs, plus some table and chairs up the back, and a big grassy area up the front for picnics. They are licensed, and have a buffet style food service, really, REALLY nice! We saw Toy Story 3, and with a mild, warm evening, no clouds, it was excellent. Just wish my tummy was feeling better!

    Well, thats it for yesterday. Today, I will cover for you you tomorrow. Goodnight!

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…about to leave Darwin

Yes, it’s almost time to leave. Today is Sunday, 31 Oct. We are about to go and have tea, it’s Roast night here at the “Free Spirit”. Out by 10am tomorrow, pick up the camper all fixed, and hit the road….or the shops, see how we feel!
Got a new toy today, see if you can gues what it is! Had a bit of fun with it this arvo, will try not to loose it. Just a quick update for now, another with more detail later.

Girls in the pool, with new goggles, shot taken with new toy!

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Still in Darwin

The girls looking lovely, feeding fish at Aquascene, Darwin

We did three things today. Fed the fish at “Aquascene”, which is the old Catalina flying boat depot/dock from the war, thats been converted to this cool tourist attraction. Every morning on high tide, thousands of fish come in to shore to meet all these tourists, who have pieces of bread ready to feed them. Quite bizarre, walking down the ramp into the water, surrounded by hundreds of fish, all brushing against your legs and feet. The lady running the show walks around the various feeding spots, commentating all the time, telling us all the different breeds, how to feed certain types, actually talking non-stop, but very informative. Took a few pics with Wendy’s phone as I left the camera’s memory card in the computer, silly boy!

171 metres long, oil storage tunnels in Darwin

Next on the list was the WW2 oil storage tunnels, under the city. Fascinating stuff, we went into an access tunnel to the end, where there was a hole in the wall where we could look into storage tunnel 6, about 70 mtrs long, lined with steel, built to store liquid fuel or oil. Thought that was pretty big, until we passed along another short tunnel into storage tunnel 5, about 170 mtrs long, with a doorway cut into the end, so we could take a wander along. Wow, couldn’t even see the other end, that was big. Along the way, every 30 mtrs or so, they had a floodlight and a photo board with shots of various wartime activities, all of which had nothing to do with the tunnels! On exiting the tunnels, I queried the caretaker, the old guy by the table at the front entrance, who informed us that the rest of the tunnel system was still covered by the wartime official secrets act, or something like that! Then he sold us a pamphlet for a dollar, that basically told me almost everything I wanted to know! The funny/sad thing was that the tunnels were never used for their intended purpose, storing fuel and oil during the war. Two tunnels were used after the war by private aircraft companies to store aviation fuel, that it!

The originals long gone, this is made of wood, fibreglass and sheetmetal

Last on todays list was the military museum at the East Point Military Reserve. Here they once had two 9.2 inch naval gun emplacements, installed in 1924, for Darwins defence against possible future attacks by sea. Unfortunately, apart from three test shots each, these guns were never fired in anger as they could only defend against sea attack, and Darwin was attacked by air. So, in the sixties, the government at the time sold both guns for scrap. The one remaining gun is actually made of sheetmetal, fibreglass and wood. Looks good though! Lots of other sobering exibits there, as well as a 15 min commentated video with photos and some movie footage of some of the results of the bombings.

     Arrived home after getting lost on the way, fun! At least now we have found all four McDonalds in Darwin! Had lunch at 3.30pm, hmmmm, then a rest, a read, a big chat with Jeff, our travelling companion, then a big swim with Jeff, Kim and their two boys…who are both a bit keen on our girls too! I’m not too worried, they are prep and grade 4!  Had a nice rainstorm whilst swimming in the pool…..the rain was icey cold, and the pool is like soup, interesting contrast!

    Did a bit of shopping, Wendy and I had tea in the bistro, “beer battered barra and chips”, and the girls had sausages and bread at home. It’s now 12.30, and I should be in bed….

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Darwin

Still hard to believe, but here we are in Darwin! Today is Thursday, 28th Oct, and we arrived yesterday afternoon. You can check the weather yourselves if you like, but I can tell you it’s hot, humid, overcast with big blue spaces, occasional rain storms……actually just like Melbourne, only a little bit more humid. Walking through the shops today at the Darwin Mall, it was quite annoying as  every shop has their air conditioning blasting, so you just get used to the heat walking along outside, then go into a shop and you’re freezing; then it seems even hotter when you get back outside!

    We are treating ourselves again to a cabin, at a place called Free Spirit Holiday Park, quite nice, with a much better cabin than we had in Alice Springs, and cheaper too. Last night was Schnitzel and quiz night, at their bistro. We had, yes…Schnitzel for tea, and won a first prize in the quiz too! Recieved a voucher for free entry to a place called “crocodylus”, for one adult and one child, which we were going to anyway, woo hoo!

    On a serious note, we have put through about 4 loads of washing so far here. Never enough time at other caravan parks when you arrive late, and have to be out before 10.00am, so the dirty washing builds up. We have also been shopping this morning, stocking up on various necessities, like clothes, shoes, stuff. Took the trailer to the local Kimberly Kampers agent (brand of the camper trailer) for some items to be looked at, hopefully will pick it up tomorrow.

    We are going to the Mindle Beach Sunset Market this arvo, 4.30pm to 10.00, the last one for the season too, should be something differant. Tomorrow will be up early to go and feed the fish, a thing called Aquascene. Starts at 8.30am, at a place called Doctors gully, where right on high tide, lots of local fish come in to be hand fed, looks like fun. A “Dad” activity tomorrow will be to visit the WW2 Oil storage tunnels underneath the city, built to protect Darwins oil supplies during the wartime bombardment. Well, the girls might like it too!

Jocelyn having fun in our pool at Buley Rockhole

 My last, very short post was from Batchelor, in the Lichfield National park. We had some really hot weather, but found some lovely, amazing places which luckily, weren’t too crowded due to the fact it was a weekday, and not school holidays. At only 100 kms or so from Darwin, the various gorges, rock pools and swimming holes are popular with locals and Darwinians alike, but not so much during the week. The main attractionsfor us were Buley Rockhole, Florence Falls and Wangi Falls. Could have stayed all day or more at Buley Rockhole, in fact, anytime anyone goes camping to the Northern Territory, you have to set up camp at Buley Rockhole, and just enjoy it. It has a campsite, toilets, picnic areas, many pools to choose from, and lots of creek to explore and play in. The photo in the previous post was from there, we claimed a nice big pool that had a high side you could jump or dive in from. I tried a few times to touch the bottom, but, without trying too hard, couldn’t!

Had a great time here, swam out one handed with the camera up out of the water for some good shots!

Florence Falls was awesome. Where Buley Rockpool was a creek flowing through various large pools, Florence was two big waterfalls into a big plunge pool, great fun to swim in, lots of really deep sections, and very handy rock in the middle to rest on, more people there though, bit like going to the local swimming pool on a hot day.

The smaller of the two falls is where the snake was, we swam over and kept slightly away from it. p.s need a waterproof camera!

Wangi Falls was a nice compromise, big waterfalls, big plunge pool, almost a lake, quite a few people but plenty of room to move. A group of Aboriginal schoolgirls was swimming at the same time as us, very noisy but really friendly. It was very funny when they swum over to the waterfall, only to find a snake trying to get out of the water, and they all went screaming over to the other side, carrying on. My theory was that this snake fell into the water and was trying to get out. We swam over there for a look, the poor snake was tired out, he climbed onto a rock and was just lying there puffing like he’d run a mile! Last I heard from the schoolgirls, he had rolled into the water and not come up, poor thing.

Bizzare to be swimming where we are told there are crocs!

Before we left, we went for a walk out onto the boardwalk, a nature look-out, walk along the edge of the lake and over the creek. Just at the creek, Dee called out, “look, a crocodile” and sure enough, in the creek flowing out of the lake was a nice, average sized, fresh-water croc lazily swimming downstream…..COOL. Dad was too slow with the camera though, sorry!

To finish this episode off, another wildlife story. The following morning, just as we finnished packing up, I was walking around the back of the camper, and caught my thong on something, I thought maybe a stick.

Not the best shot, but not really meant to get too close! My snake encounter...

As I looked down, I thought, my, thats a big lizard, and jumped a bit so I wouldn’t step on it, then the big double take, hmmmm, that’s a snake! Only a little snake, yes, but still a bit exciting. Of course, we took some pics, had a close look, and as he hid behind the camper wheel, we carefully drove off, making sure he was ok. The morale of the story should be, don’t wear thongs around the campsite on stinking hot days! Well, it’s lucky I was in thongs at all, usually barefoot! At least my thong survived!

The girls at Mindel Beach Market

For a postscript, we have just got back from Mindel Beach Sunset Market. Had a great time at a most interesting and unusual market. Very big, food stalls everywhere, arts and craft stalls everywhere else. Buskers, jugglers, had it all and more. An Army band was playing up until dark, then the flame jugglers put on their show, then the fireworks display started. After the fireworks, another band played. Two tired girls, one wanted to stay till stumps, the other needed to go home, so left at 9.30, and just arrrived home. A big day, bedtime soon, good night.

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Batchelor

    Hi all, been having some fun since the last post, staying at a place now with Telstra reception, but been nice and let the girls have some time on facebook. Now its ten pm and I am battling the bugs outside, or the heat inside….either way, this will not be a massive missive, just a little letter!
    So, its Monday, 25th, we are at Batchelor, on the outskirts of the Litchfield National Park. At a Big4 park now, camped out last night and will do again the next two nights whilst we explore Litchfield.

Spent a few hours here today, Buleys rockhole in Lichfield

Well, thats about it for tonight, I’ve had it with the mozzies and bugs! Catch you all next time.

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Leaving town

We have had a lovely time here in Mataranka. The “Territory Manor” in Mataranka have been our hosts for the last three days, and it has been really nice, would recommend this place to everyone. It was like camping in one huge parkland.
The town itself is clean, well cared for and has a general feeling of safety and relaxation, unlike some recent adventures, Elliott and Tennant Creek to “out” a couple!
So, thats it, we are outa here. Heading north (of course) to Katherine, Bachelor and Lichfield Nat Park. Who knows what sort of reception we will get (electronic and local!), so, catch you next time…..
John, Wendy, Danielle and Jocelyn
aussie adventurers

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Thermal Springs

    What a busy day. Here we are in Mataranka, it’s Thursday, Oct 21, 2010.

Barramundi feeding at Mataranka, zoom in, you can just see the head of the fish

First on the agenda was a visit to the barramundi feeding demo again, this time with Dee and Wendy. Both girls had a go at feeding this time, whilst Dad took the photos!
    Straight after that, we headed off to the Mataranka thermal springs, to meet up with our traveling friends, Jeff and Kim, and have a leisurely soak in the hot spring pool. Ended up staying in there nearly two hours, chatting and playing with the kids, getting all wrinkly AND sunburnt, d’oh!

Wendy and the girls in the Mataranka thermal springs

Even though we are traveling the same route, we are having different experiences, so it was a good time to exchange stories. They wanted to see the barramundi feeding which was at our caravan park, so we all headed off at 12.30 for the 1.00 show. It would have been our third time, so Wendy and I sat in the bar, in the shade with a drink whilst Jeff and Kim enjoyed the show. After the show, we all had lunch, barramundie fish-n-chips…yum!
    Jeff and Kim were ready to set off, but they got distracted with a quick demo tour of our camper and annex, then we had to have a look at their camper van, then all the kids started playing under the sprinklers and cooling off, having fun. Jeff and I talked about the camper and his set-up, Wendy and Kim talked….they didn’t end up leaving till 3.00! Sorry guys!

Remember when we were kids, and we could play under sprinklers?

    Anyway, after they left, we hopped into the car and went to another local thermal pool, called Bitter Springs. This was more of a natural type pool, with slimey edges, black looking water and flowing faster than the other spring pool. The aim with this one was to swim/float downstream, with the pathway following, and get out the other end, about 100 metres. We did it, the little girls and I, not without the occasional “oooh, yuk”, but it was fine. Wendy walked down the path with our thongs and towels, thank you Mummy! No photos from this place, sorry!
   Drove though town on the way home, checked out the worlds biggest…termite mound! Actually man-made, but interesting with an info board, and a talking feature….that didn’t work! Bugger! Headed home with a tired and happy load of campers for an icecream and a chocie milkshake (the milkshake was for me) and a relaxing swim in the pool….after all the hard work of swimming all day!

Dee with one of the friendly, if not noisy Peacocks

    Tomorrows activities include canoeing on the Roper river, visiting the various WW2 memorials, museums, displays and other things, like airfields, old buildings etc. Already been to Daly Waters Airfield the other day, really interesting place. Also will go back Mataranka thermal springs for another soak, stay here one more night too, then head north again.  
    Another warm, humid night coming up, not made better by sunburn on various members of the party, you’d think we would learn! All tired enough to sleep well, for sure. Goodnight all

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Garnets galore – backtrack

   

Wendy and Dee fossicking for Garnets at GemTree

Sunday, 17 Oct. Woke up this morning after our first night at Gemtree, a small outpost on the Plenty Highway, that goes from the Stuart Highway, all the way to the QLD border and beyond. Gemtree is 70 kms along the road, all bitumen, and has fuel, accomodation and a little pub thingy, very cute. We had to get up early this morning to join the Garnet tour, where we were given a pick, shovel, four sieves, a bucket, a tub and a 20m Ltr container of water. The guide then took us and two other familys in our own cars to their own fossicking area, about 30 kms down the road, given a demo of how do it, then left on our own! Initially frustrating until we realised that small gems were all we were going to get. My theory is that the area they took us to was an older area of theirs that had been checked for bigger stones already, so all that was left was small ones…makes sense, as all we found, we could keep, they didn’t want us finding great big valuable ones!

After grading, 7 is the biggest, the big bag is the junk! Still good though.

Anyway, found some nice ones, fossicked for three hours, then headed back. We stayed out the longest too, ha ha! The shop back at Gemtree did grading, cutting and setting too, but it was a bit pricey, so just got them graded, that was part of the package.

After the fossicking, came home, had lunch and relaxed for an hour or so, then decided to go for a drive/walk down to the creek. The weather was high twenties, so a lovely day, except for the damm flies. The girls had a great time, paddling and splashing in the creek…well, more like a river in size, and was flowing nicely too. The road crossed via a ford, and the girls wanted me to drive through and splash them, but as I went to get the car, another car came flying past, saw the girls there, floored it and thoroughly splashed them! 

Wendy and the girls on the river crossing at Gemtree - note the flynet on Wendy, and Jocelyn giving the aussie salute!

    Stayed another night there, had a campfire again, very nice and relaxing, especially after the flies had gone home for the day! Up early the next day, packed up, battling the flies again. Can’t say enough how BAD the flies were. Finally got away from there, headed back to the Stuart Hwy and north again.

    Dropped into Wycliffe Well for a wee stop and a quick-make lunch and on the way again. WycliffeWell call themselves the UFO centre of Australia, and certainly have the paintwork to prove it!

Wycliffe Well, UFO centre of Australia!

 Lots of spooky alien paintings, cut-outs, statues and newspaper clippings lining the walls inside with UFO stories and articles, some of them even mentioning Wycliffe Well! 

    Didn’t spend too long there after making lunch, ate in the car on the road.

Devils Marbles, NT.

Next stop was the famous Devils Marbles. We pulled over and had a good old ramble and wander around, really cool and a bit spooky, reminded us of Hanging rock, in Victoria, with all the little crevasses, hidey holes and caves. Took some pics, then on the road again. 

Next stop was our resting place for the night, Tennant Creek. More on that place later. Not much more though!

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