Wednesday, 31 July 2013

From the dinosaur trail to green grass, tall trees and mountains.

Tuesday: We arrived in Richmond, the fossil capital of Australia after another eight hours on the road from Camooweal...a long drive. On the site next to us there was much excitement as some fossil hunters photographed their day's finds.  Part of a fish backbone, some shark's teeth and a large rock with circular vertebrae they could hardly lift. Then we had an early night for another big drive today... after drinks with another couple from NSW...The Maccas on the Move!
Borroloola to Townsville,1841 kilometers on three days is a lot of driving! See map above if you don't know where the trip began and ended.
One thing that has really surprised us is the number of 'grey nomies' who pull up about lunchtime to reserve their camping spot for the night in parking bays along the roads. Dozens of caravans side by side in barren and hot roadside laybys on gravel and bitumen. I don't think it would be a pleasant way to camp.
A late start Wednesday morning as the last leg of the trip from Richmond to Townsville was only 500 kilometers. A pleasant drive through some old outback towns on the Dinosaur Trail. Prairie and Bivouac Junction looked like great little places to explore. It is so interesting we intend coming back for a couple of weeks on another trip and spending some time in the region.
 We stopped for lunch in Charters Towers near a historic poppet head from the old gold mining days.
You can't see the red dust on the camper from this far but it's there

And look what there was on the ground...
We were very excited by the green grass. Then back onto the road for the final leg of the day's drive, where the landscape changed dramatically as we neared the east coast. Tall, green trees, mountains and clouds in the sky...for the first time for four weeks.

We've finally left the outback behind us.

A trip to the local pharmacy when we arrived in Townsville to buy assorted creams and brushes to remove the red dust from our heels, feet and skin! Now we know why everyone wears boots out west!

Now the plan is to head north for a week or so toward Cardwell and Mission Beach...set up the camper trailer in the one spot (no driving for a while) and go in search of the elusive fish.
Till our next post...

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

No fish but who cares when there is serenity!

Sunday afternoon was spent drifting along the MacArthur River in 'Just Add Water' with Mark, a local fisherman at Borroloola who kindly took us out for a fish. Casting lures, trolling and enjoying the beautiful scenery,
we travelled eight kilometres upstream and saw a few crocs sunning themselves so definitely no swimming.
A few bites, but no fish however the afternoon on the water was peaceful and serene.

We kept an eye out for the eighteen foot croc that lives on the bend in the river but he didn’t appear.
I took many photos and will get some put on canvas when we get home.

Monday morning, we were up and packing up in the dark as we knew we had a long day ahead. Just under eight hundred kilometres to reach Camooweal so we wanted an early start.
The best laid plans... for the second time this trip, an engine warning light appeared on the trusty Rodeo and we had to make our second service call to the NRMA to be diverted to the NT Road service. It is only a warning light and the Engine Management System needs a reset. It seems to do it after rough driving on red dirt! But a service is scheduled for Townsville later in the week
However we weren’t prepared to head out without having it checked so in the end we didn’t get away till 8.30am. So then 780 kilometres of mostly one lane road (sealed) with ever changing scenery.
Annie Queen of the desert!
We saw cattle, (no fences on the paddocks), eagles, brolgas and for the first two hours we did not pass one other car!
Not a tree to be seen!
Outback Australia is truly beautiful (red dirt and all!)
Sunset in Camooweal

So we left the Northern Territory and crossed the border into Queensland around 5pm. It felt a bit like coming home!
We ‘wheeled’ into Camooweal, , around 5.30 and chuckled when the read the sign reminding us to wind our watches forward five years and thirty minutes!
A scrumptious home cooked meal in the restaurant of the caravan park...we have found over the years that Queensland pubs and truck stops do the best home cooking.
The best thing about our site was the and dry, so we unpacked everything, shook out the red dust and got ourselves organised.
We love our camper trailer...even putting it up and down has been fun and we haven’t had a ‘blue’ since we left home!
Another early start today as we head for the east coast of Queensland. One thousand one hundred kilometres over two days which will bring our total travel to almost 10,000 kilometres since we left home just over four weeks ago. We have enjoyed every one of them and seen something new every day.

Till later...when we pull up at Richmond in Queensland

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Relaxation and red dust

Not a lot to report this weekend...
We left Mataranka Homestead early, without even a shower...the amenities were so bad.  A quick breakfast of tea and toast in the dark, surrounded by more kangaroos.A very quick pack up and we were out of there. One hundred and sixty kilometers down the Stuart Highway and then a left turn  at the Hi Way Inn (which made the most delicious bacon and egg sandwiches!)
Again we were served by the obligatory Irish back backers! The whole youth of Ireland must be in the outback!
We set off travel the three hundred and eight kilometers to Borroloola on a single lane highway
before  we go on the dirt track of the Savannah Way to travel to the east coast (And green grass and white sand!)
On the way we passed a road train loaded with cattle and then came to a property where they were mustering by helicopter. It was surreal to see the stockmen sitting in the middle of battered and dusty utes and small helicopters having smoko.

We are both very much over red dust. It is in everything, including my trusty laptop.

Settled into Borrollola and spent a relaxing morning reading (in the red dust)
before we head out for a fish on the McArthur River this afternoon.
The bad news is ... we have been told the Savannah Way is too treacherous to travel east on and we are going to have to backtrack  a few hundred kilometers to get back to the east coast. Twenty mishaps with vehicles, caravans and camper trailers this week alone so we are going to choose safety over scenery.

We will report in from our next stop...who knows where!

Friday, 26 July 2013

Hot springs, peacocks, sixties music and MORE red dust

Well joy, oh joy. Mataranka does have you do get a blog post tonight.
It was only one hundred kilometres down the highway from Katherine this morning so we had plenty of time to browse Rod 'n Rifle...the camping and fishing store in Katherine. Finally, I gave in. I can't take the red dust new shoes. Blundstones! Very elegant, hey Susanne Bellamy!

New shoes!
The caravan park at Mataranka Springs is crowded, composed entirely of fine red dust and crawling with police! Apparently someone burned down one of the toilet blocks last night so the receptionist was very apologetic as she explained there may be a wait for a shower in the one surviving block!
We may suggest that someone burn it down too. This is the dirtiest place we have stayed in four weeks. Thankfully only one night here.

We found a site in the shade on the red dust and were grateful for the new matting we bought for the annex floor. The annex didn't go up as we are only here for one night before we had back toward Queensland and Gulf Country tomorrow.
The peacocks liked the new floor as well as gherkin dip and rice crackers! At one stage Ian was surrounded by six peacocks and pea hens trying to get his afternoon tea before we were treated to a full feather display.

Before the peacocks arrived we'd been for a long walk down to the hot springs and to another waterhole. The waterhole was deserted and the water looked very crocodiley to me despite the sign saying it was open for swimming. (I still remember Wangi Falls from a previous blog)
The road we walked was long, and hot and dry...and RED DUST. The new boots were much appreciated.
The road to the swimming hole.

However the other intrepid explorer jumped in and declared the water safe but I declined and waited until we got back to the hot springs (choc full of 'grey nomies') The water was very warm and smelled of sulphur.
I waited till we got back to the hot springs.
The sign at the waterhole said 'open for swimming but be vigilant'!
Ian was brave, I was vigilant!
Tonight after an early dinner (Ian is currently cooking surrounded by kangaroos and birds trying to get to the stove), we are off to the bar where we will listen to Dennis Cuthel (ex Aztecs) for the third time in four weeks. We must be following the same route.
Until our  next report...

After note.. we had company for dessert.

And look at the little joey

Thursday, 25 July 2013

A little piece of paradise...

23 July...Tuesday. An R&R day. Shopping and organisation ready to leave in the morning. Afternoon spent around the pool and caught up with new friends...Linda and Neil from the Hunter Valley after dinner.

We were sorry to leave Jabiru .. it became a home away from home for a week and we had a very relaxing time there. A great park!
The pack up

24 July...We headed off to Dundee Beach bright and early.  Spectacular location... a little piece of paradise  (but still with red the beach!)

We watched the sun set over the sea and had a great seafood dinner at the restaurant.
Unfortunately there is a big high pressure system over the Gulf and it is too windy to fish with no charters operating.
Where are all the fish?
A big fishing competition starts tomorrow and all the sites are booked out with a massive influx of crazy fishos, so we decided to head back toward the Savannah Way. Dundee Beach is certainly a place we will return to one day with boat in tow. spots like this make Nambucca Heads look pretty good. I don't care how big the barra are!

But the beach is good... except for the big crocodiles!
And the sunset is magnificent
25 July...packed up and headed back to Katherine via Edith Falls, preparing to hit the Savannah Way after we visit the hot springs at Mataranka Homestead tomorrow. Caught up with cousin David and Rose (think back to bike room in Hollywood mansion blog post) and lunched with them at Pine Creek as they head for Arnhem Land and Maningrida.

Some more shopping in preparation for our trip across the Savannah Way as well as getting all my edit and blogs up to date as we don't know where the internet will come back in! Maybe Cairns!

Looking forward to going home for one reason. Nor red dirt there and our feet will be clean!

Until we pick up internet access again...

Monday, 22 July 2013

Serenity, sunsets and snapping handbags....

Not a lot to report today.
A very quiet and lazy morning lazing around the pool until we headed out mid afternoon for a fabulous sunset cruise on Yellow Water with Gagadju Adventure tours. Yellow Water Billabong, Kakadu's most famous wetland, is located at the end of Jim Jim Creek, a tributary
From the boardwalk before the cruise
From the boardwalk before the cruise

of the South Alligator River. The river system, which is the largest in Kakadu, contains extensive wetlands that include river channels, floodplains and backwater swamps.

It was amazing. Abundant bird life, lots and lots of crocodiles, a spectacular sunset and endless photo opportunities. I took about two hundred photos and had to choose the best to put up here...

The guide (Murray) was great...very informative with a great sense of humour. He knew the best route to take and quickly passed the other two boats to give us the best vantage point for photos.

First of many crocs...

And the next...

And they just kept coming. Soon it was ABC...another bloody crocodile!
And they kept getting bigger ...and closer
Lots of birdlife...ducks, pelicans, cormorants. eagles,  jacanas and many more birds.
White Sea Eagle

And then the sunset. Again no words. The photos say it all.
Not long to go///

Almost there...


Tomorrow...pack up and ready for the next adventure...

Sunday, 21 July 2013

Gorges, waterfalls, four wheel driving and a lesson to be learned

Next time we go on an outback trek please remind me I need to be fit. Today was a lesson well learned. For a few weeks before we left at the end of June... I had said we must exercise and up our fitness level by  walking but the weather and time precluded that from happening.
So today we were up bright and early to a heavily overcast day which we thought may keep the temperature down.
Forty five kilometers down the Kakadu Highway to the Jim Jim turnoff and then fifty-five kilometres of red dust and corrugations and we passed only a couple of cars  before we turned onto the Jim Jim Waterfall road.  Another nine kilometers to go, but this time was some serious four wheel driving.
More spectacular sandstone escarpment on the drive in.

Some small water crossings and then finally we were the second car in the car park and befriended Marg and Merv from  Gladstone who we then spent most of the day with.
Love their plans. They left home in January and told their family they would be home by Christmas!
We travelled together in two four wheel drives for security  (no snorkel on their 4WD) and were happy to spend the day together.
The sign to Jim Jim said there was a 900 meters walk and we had been pre-warned about the boulders. For the first seven hundred meters I thought they had exaggerated, but  the last two hundred meters of mountain goat rock climbing over boulders the size of small trucks was challenging, particularly to my thigh muscles which were still screaming from the Ubirr walk.
This was the very easy beginning of the track
But look what we saw as we were heading to the falls...

Jim Jim Creek

Path to the falls...the easy part

Almost there

Looking for crocs...
We reached the falls and there were only another couple of families there before us.
Check out the beach! Remember this is in the middle of the territory .. sixty kilometers off the highway!
Look at the height of the sitting on rock on right

And on left

I can't believe there is a sandy beach! All the weathered sandstone.

Two hours later, we climbed back over the small trucks
Past the the croc trap...
and hopped in the ute for the nine kilometer drive to Twin Falls. Our first real test of the black ute for 4WDing. Our first serious water crossing  where the snorkel kicked in and we made it through safely.
Jim Jim creek

The route to Twin Falls by boat

Crystal clear water but spotted no crocs

The water is spring fed and pure enough to drink

A rock not a croc!

We then fought for road space with selfish cowboy tour truck drivers who luckily were leaving Twin Falls.
A 200 metre walk to a small boat which kindly ferried us to the next rock climb! Just what I needed.
Richard, the aboriginal guide was fabulous and full of stories including the ones about broken ankles on the rock climb. Thank you!
Then a much less challenging climb and a short walk on a floating pontoon to get to Twin Falls.
A magnificent vista which words cannot describe. Crystal clear watercourses (with numerous crocodile warning signs) plentiful fish, beautiful bird life and no crowds.
One of the falls at Twin Falls

No swimming... crocodiles!

Then a very long drive back to Jabiru... which seemed twice as long as the drive in. Lunch at 4pm followed by a swim and another day in paradise is over.
Oh and a bit of goss today... at Wangi Falls (picture below) a four and a half metre croc was shot and removed the day after we walked there with Alan and Jenny!
Hmm.. I wonder if all the people swimming there that day have heard that story!

Tomorrow.. a sunset cruise on Yellow Water billabong coming up.