30.08.2010 - 14.09.2010 35 °C
2 hours after emailing and telling everyone that we were planning to head south we changed our minds and decided to head up towards Darwin through Limmen, Elsey, Nitmiluk, Kakadu and any other National Parks we can find on the way
29 - 31 August 2010 - Mt Isa - Camooweal - Barkly Homestead - Limmen National Park
Off we head to the NT border. No sooner had we crossed the border than the road condition deteriorated and the speed limit went from 100 - 130kph. Amazing. The road eventually improved so it wasn't that bad but in the Disco we really aren't going to drive at 130.
The landscape is still savannah that has been cleared for farming and is flat and dry. There isn't much to look at so we play spot the anomaly. Is there a cow? Perhaps a microwave tower? Maybe a bit of a hill or a tree. This is likely to be a long drive!!
We arrived at Barkly Homestead mid afternoon. It is like an oasis. Thanks to the artesian basin the campgroud is green and has a swimming pool, there is also a bar and restaurant and really nice tent sites. We stopped and had a couple of beers, cooked dinner and went to bed.
The next day, as we mpved through the Northern Territory to Cape Crawford the drive was pretty much the same.. One feature of the drive was the staggering number of dead wallabies on the side of the road. We could only assume that they are shot to reduce numbers. Cape Crawford actually felt the same as Barkly homestead and we did almost the same except we didn't have a beer. Most of the road has only 1 lane of bitumen (for both directions to share) and a fairly well graded gravel hard shoulder. It was pretty good as everyone we met slowed down as they passed - the speed limit is now 110kph.
We headed to Limmen National Park not knowing much about what is there. Our maps still show it as a "planned National Park" so it must be fairly new.
The landscape has changed from flat savannah to valleys with dramatic sandstone formations. We took the turn-off that directed us to the "Southern Lost City" not having a clue what constituted a lost city. The landscape is very dramatic and the Lost City is a result of an uplift of sandstone from the sea bed millions of years ago and the subsequent erosion of the escarpment that led to the formation of numerous, large spires and rounded domes. Fascinating and totally unexpected.
There are a lot of cattle and brumbies roaming around the park. We did see a couple of dead brumbies that had been shot which we assumed was part of the National Park's management of feral animals but at least the dead wallabies have stopped appearing on the side of the road. Good to be in a National Park. We arrived at the Butterfly Springs campsite early afternoon. Wow it's hot. There isn't much shade at any of the sites and there are a million flies. They are driving us crazy.
After setting up the camp site we went down to the swimming hole which was a welcome relief and realised how this area got its name - there are thousands and thousands of butterflies on the rock wall. Unfortunately there are a lot of biting marsh flies so we went back to the tent to try and get away from them. If it wasn't for the flies this would have been a great place to stop for a couple of nights, as it was we packed up early and went on our way!
Limmen NP to Mataranka
On our way out of Limmen NP we found some great spots to stop for rests and lunch with the added bonus of not having to share with anyone else as there are very few people in the park. I'm sure in the not to distant future there will be lots more people coming through to discover the Lost City and the lovely creeks and rivers. When we headed out of the park we planned to stop at Roper Bar for the night, however it wasn't for us - once again a fishing town and really hot so we moved on to Mataranka.
We arrived at Mataranka late in the afternoon hoping to get a take away for dinner as we really didn't feel up to setting up the tent and then having to cook. The shop that sold take away food was closing for the day and the only other place with a sign for take away's was the pub. When we asked about meals they didn't want to serve us as we weren't booked into the accomodation! Seemed a bit odd! We found a good caravan park not far out of town that had a fabulous bar/restaurant area - well maybe not fabulous but we have been camping for the best part of 4 months! Set up tent, had a couple of beers and stayed for dinner. Very nice and relaxing.
Esley National Park - near Mataranka
Next stop Elsey National park just out of Mataranka. There was hardly anyone staying at Elsey NP which seemed strange as the campground is beside the Roper River, it has toilets AND hot showers and most importantly the estuarine crocodiles are "managed", i.e they set bait traps, keep an eye out for them and remove them if they move in. When we finally met the ranger he told us they call it the 1 degree factor; the temperature goes up 1 degree and all the southerners head back home!! The water is beautiful and cool and if you don't think about the croc's, very relaxing!
We walked to Mataranka falls which aren't much as far as falls go but still pretty. It was only 4km return but seemed much longer as we went in the middle of the day and the temp was 38 degrees, the track was mainly on soft, hot sand and there wasn't much shade. The falls were created by tufa deposits - the same as at Lawn Hill NP. We found a really pretty spot to sit quietly in a pool and cool off before walking back to camp. The next day we drove to Four Mile Creek and then walked to Rainbow Springs and the Thermal Pool, another 8 km round trek along the banks of the Roper River. The springs are described as being hot springs but were in fact just a pleasantly warm, crystal clear pool of water that rises from underground at 30.5 million litres per day. It was fabulous. Lots of people but that didn't matter.
In between walks and swims we wasted a fair bit of time watching the antics of a male Great Bowerbird. He had the best bower - well, he wanted the girls to think that. It was surrounded by empty snail shells and other bits and pieces that he had collected for their viewing. There seemed to be a couple of other bowerbirds that were interested and he put on some fabulous shows for them (and us). We still wonder if he ever got his girl!!
Nitmiluk NP - Katherine Gorge and Edith Falls
Before we left Mataranka we just had to go and have one more swim at the thermal pools. Not only invigorating and refreshing but it does seem to help get rid of some of the red dirt that has become ingrained in the last few months
Katherine is only about 100k up the road so only a short drive and we needed to stop and replenish supplies before moving to the National park. After spending so much time in out of the way places and national parks the first thing we noticed was just how noisy it was and after a few minutes we realised that not only was there lots of people but all through the town they broadcast a radio station all day.
We went grocery shopping, bought some needed supplies from a camping store, a fan(for when we have power) and food. There was a Coffee Club in town - just had to stop to have a coffee, it has been a long time since we had a decent cup. Seems every other person moving through town felt the same, it was packed to the rafters with travellers.
Approx 40km out of Katherine is Nitmiluk National Park. Nitmiluk is owned by the traditional owners, the Jawoyn people and jointly managed with the Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory. Some of the Park's features include spectacular dissected sandstone country, broad valleys and numerous, significant cultural sites and a deep gorge carved through ancient sandstone by the Katherine River. The caravan park in the National Park is attached to the information and tour centre for the gorge area and has the best resort style pool and as it is about 37 degrees during the day we were to spend a lot of time cooling off in the pool.
A summary of what we did while we stayed there.
We tried to explore the park in the mornings and stay cool in the afternoons. The walks were great. Up and over the plateau, down to the gorge for a swim then back up and around. Our first big walk was as far as the third gorge, any further and we wouldn't have been able to get back until late afternoon - it is just too hot to be walking at that time of the day. As it was we walked about 14km.
The next long walk was to the top of the gorge across from a Rock art site. The track had a couple of branches, one down to the gorge (had a swim) and another to a lookout. From the lookout we spotted some walking markers and followed a path down to the river and then just walked up until we found a way across the gorge to some Aboriginal Rock Art. It was great! Most people paddle up this far and we wished that we could have pinched one of the canoes and paddled back, instead we climbed back up this very steep gorge - all told the walk was about 12km. Returned home and had a swim. What a relief.
Around the pool area there is a bar and restaurant and on two nights there was a one man band playing - it was very different and a little surreal to be in a national park, surrounded by wildlife and relaxing listening to some old songs. Really enjoyable.
There were lots of wallabies and gorgeous birds to watch from the camp site and a few strange noises in the middle of the night. We are often woken up by the bats screeching and the curlews calling and the very noisy air conditioners from the caravans. One night we were woken to something jumping up to the wall of the tent and we came to the conclusion that it was probably a cane toad and went back to sleep. Oh the great outdoors!!
On our way to Kakadu we stopped for the night at Edith Falls, part of the Nitmiluk National Park. It has a fabulous campground, a lovely 2.6 km circuit walk that climbs the hill around the park to the upper pool and has great views over the falls. Down the bottom near the caravan park there is a lovely swimming hole surrounded by stunning 80 metre high cliffs and pandanus trees.