A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: cecandlen

11. West MacDonnell Range to Uluru

semi-overcast 19 °C

The West MacDonnell Ranges

The rain stopped, Len's foot felt much better and we headed to the West MacDonnell Ranges. With a motto of "leave no gorge untrod" we visited Simpsons Gorge, Standley Chasm, Ormiston Gorge, Ellery Creek Bighole, Serpentine Gorge, Glen Helen Gorge and Redbank Gorge. They all have something different and were all pretty special. Ellery Creek Bighole, apart from being a lovely permanent waterhole won "the best little bird moment" when we spotted a gorgeous Striated Pardalote going in and out of a hole in a tree where she obviously had a nest. The best walk had to be at Ormiston Gorge where we once again climbed to the lookout and then descended into the gorge where we had to cross the waist deep river and clamber our way along the river bank over boulders and at one stage climb down a 15 metre drop to get to the end. Exhilarating stuff. The best view was from the top of the Serpentine Gorge where you looked over the narrow, winding Serpentine Gorge and its series of semi-permanent waterholes and on the other side the wide expanse of the valley. A just reward for a fairly steep climb

The whole time we were driving through the area we were surrounded by these amazing quartzite cliffs with valleys that seemed almost lush as the grass/spinifex was green instead of yellow and such a contrast to the red cliffs.

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We based ourselves at Glen Helen Gorge for a couple of nights where there was a pretty spectacular backdrop of steep, red cliffs that in the moonlight looked like a pale shroud had been draped over the sky and blocked out the stars.

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We drove to Kings Canyon via the Mereenie loop. The track had been closed until a couple of days earlier due to the rain, and was pretty washed out in parts, but it did save us back tracking to Alice Springs and then heading out another road to Kings Canyon.
On the way we stopped at Tnorala (Gosse Bluff) Conservation Reserve which, apart from being an important place of cultural significance to the Aborigines, is the site where it is believed that a comet crashed to earth some 142 million years ago. It also has some pretty lovely little blue wrens living there. We spotted our first wild dingo of the trip, who crossed the road in front of the car (we were going pretty slowly on the washed out gravel road) and then he just stopped off to the side and watched us drive by.

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Rock Collecting
We think our walks are taking longer than they should as we keep stopping to admire and photograph all these amazingly coloured rocks that we are walking over. Yes, we are easily amused!! We also realised a long time ago, that we like nature's creations much, much more than manmade creations. We hardly ever take photo's in towns and cities!!

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Watarrka (King's Canyon) National Park
The campsite at Kings Canyon is bordered on one side by the National Park that is part of the George Gill Range and has a fantastic view of the canyon. It also has visits from dingoes who live in the park, one of whom put on a good howl as we were walking past it one afternoon. Until now we didn't know that dingoes don't bark, they only howl and cough and if one does bark it is a cross between a dingo and a dog.

The main reason for coming to King's Canyon was to go on the 6 km rim walk around the canyon. It was another one of those unforgettable walks with the most amazing sandstone formations and a massive canyon that looks like something out of this world. We think it is one of the top 10 sights and walks to do in Australia - every corner was a "wow isn't that beautiful/amazing/stunning....".

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Yulara, Uluru(Ayer's Rock) and Kata Tjuta(The Olga's)

We arrived at Yulara, set up camp and the rain and wind came. It's been a while since rain played much of a part in our travels but luckily we have the time to be able wait for the sun to shine again, a luxury quite a lot of visitors to this part of the world don't have. Eventually the rain cleared so our first venture was to walk around the base of Uluru, just under 10 km. It was a lovely cool day and walking all the way around really gives some perspective to the size of "The Rock" and you get up close to see the wonderful caves and sculpted shapes that have been formed by erosion and other chemical changes.

Kata Tjuta, meaning "many heads", is about 30 km from Uluru and has a couple of great walks. One of the walks, The Valley of the Winds certainly lived up to its name; it was blowing a gale as we completed the 7km walk.

We took the obligatory sunrise/sunset photos, photos in the rain and the sun and any other time that the rock had different colours but it is all so overwhelming that a photo just can't capture all that you feel!! Thank heavens for digital cameras, we try and cull the photos most days but we know we will need to keep on doing this for months!

We wanted to get some idea of the size of the land so we took a 1 hour sunset flight over Lake Amadeus, Kata Tjuta and Uluru. Lake Armadeus is a 120km long salt lake not far from the park. After the recent rain, the salt lake has some water in it and in the late afternoon sun it looked somewhat like the glistening waters around the Whitsundays. The sunset was spectacular and our pilot must have been enjoying himself as he flew around for 20 minutes longer than the planned flight.

And yes, there was a dingo in the campground!! As we were preparing dinner Len saw one catch and eat something crunchy in the sand dunes at the back of the tent!

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We will now head towards South Australia with only half formed ideas about where we will go.

Posted by cecandlen 15:58 Archived in Australia

10. Darwin to Alice Springs

sunny 28 °C

Random thoughts:

  • The worse the road, the less people on it
  • The less people on the road the more remote the place
  • The more remote the place the more we enjoy it!!

Darwin

We stayed in Darwin for a week, exploring this interesting and diverse city, recharging our systems and restocking our supplies. The public transport system seems to be one of the few government run transport systems that we have used that understands what the term "public' is really about. Cheap fares, free for pensioners, and the bus drivers are happy to accommodate prams, wheelchairs, walking frames and motorised scooters (for the disabled) sometimes on the same trip. It may have been a little chaotic but everyone managed to get to their destinations, safely and in good humour.

My sister Leonie and her partner Phil have a property at Wagait Beach near Mandorah on the Cox peninsula, west of Darwin. To get there you can either drive the 130 kms from Darwin or catch the local ferry from Darwin, a relaxing 20 minute journey across the beautiful harbour. We chose the ferry!! Our delay in arriving in Darwin meant we didn't catch up with Leonie as she had already left to stay with Mum in Sydney. Phil was our guide and showed us around Wagait Beach, where they have their block, and then we had lunch at the Mandorah pub which does a rip roaring trade on a Sunday as lots day-trippers come over from Darwin It was a great day, and we felt as though we had been on a tropical island.

There were great markets, the art gallery and museum interesting and informative, the city was easy to get around and we left Darwin rested and- ready to continue our adventure.

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Litchfield National Park

Litchfield had been highly recommended to us by a number of people who thought it superior to Kakadu. Our first stop was at the "magnetic termite mounds" . It seems that no-one is 100% sure how the termites know how to align their mounds in an almost north-south orientation but the colonies are thriving so there must be a good point to it.

Next we stopped at Florence Falls with the intention of cooling down in the waterhole and having some lunch. We soon realised that we have been really spoilt in our travels in not having to share our waterholes and picnic areas with squillions of people. Florence falls were very pretty but there were way too many people to spend any time there. We went for a walk and eventually found a nice quiet place for lunch that had a little bit of a pool in which to cool off. Popped in to anotherLost City for a walk, which did raise a couple of questions: How many lost cities are there? And, who lost them?? By late afternoon we had been to a few more falls and walks so it was time to find somewhere to rest our heads.

The intention was to camp at one of the National Park sites but they have recently been upgraded and now suitable only for caravans or those people who don't mind putting their tent up on sharp stones. We decided to move to a campsite outside of the park and save the floor of our tent. First stop was a ground that had safari tents, the deal was this: a tent with twin share for $25 per person or a double bed for $50 per person. So it is half price if you sleep apart! This sounded like someone was having us on, so we went up the road and pitched our tent! There are a lot of burn-offs happening around the NT and the smoke was pretty bad but the upside was that the sun was a huge, red ball at sunset. Very spectacular.

We explored some more of the park, went for a wonderful walk along the crystal clear Walker Creek and then drove down the 4WD track to Tjatnera Falls and Sandy Creek falls. It was a challenging 4WD track with about 5 river crossings but was lots of fun. Lots of sand and corrugations and at one river crossing Cecily found a snake in the creek while trying to test the water depth! In preference to walking in snake infested waters and frightening both snake and human, Len found an alternate route up and down a very steep sand bank
Fact: On Northern Territory roads if they say that the track is suitable for 4WD's with high clearance, they are serious! The Land Rover is earning its keep and handling the rough conditions really well!

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From Litchfield NP to Tennant Creek

We are now heading south towards Alice. We had a couple of days driving where you realise just how big and sparsely populated it is in the centre of Australia, someitmes it seems that you are driving for a couple of days and there aren't any towns, only roadhouses. The maps show that there is a small town but in reality the town consists of one building that is a petrol station, pub, caravan park, motel, grocer etc. And this is the main highway from Darwin in the north to Adelaide in the south.

We were running low on petrol so we headed to Daly River crossing, another small community that has a beautiful river (where we were told there is a world famous annual Barramundi fishing contest) a Police station, a shop, a pub and a caravan park. At 4pm the pub was already pretty full and noisy and the caravan park was right next door. We decided to move on.

We spent the next couple of days driving towards Tennant Creek. We had a couple of interesting stops and as we got close to Tennant Creek the scenery started to become more to our liking. Low, dense mallee scrub with plenty of small birds and beautiful coloured rocky ranges

We spent a few days in Tennant Creek and still couldn't work the town out! There is a fabulous art and cultural centre that went some way to explaining about the local aboriginal people, the Warumungu's, relationship to the land and the immense disruption and suffering they encountered since the arrival of white man. It was very emotional. There were also displays that covered the Aboriginal involvement in the cattle industry, their land claims and bush foods from the area. Cec went out to the garden and tried what she thought was one of the Acacia seed pods and promptly realised that it was the wrong tree!

Interesting sign seen first at Tennant Creek: No loitering, no humbugging! We had to ask what humbugging meant! We'll leave it to your imagination.

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[b\]Davenport Range National Park[/b]

We wanted to see some of the land east of the Stuart Highway before we head to the more famous parts to the west. Our original plan was to stop the night at Whistleduck Creek in the Davenport Ranges National Park before moving on to Old Police Station Waterhole. Whistleduck Creek was pretty dry and the campsites were exposed and once again covered in sharp pebbles. We moved to Old Police Station Waterhole where there was a fabulous bush camping ground beside a lovely permanent waterhole. There were hundreds of corellas nesting in the gum trees beside the creek, some beautiful diamond doves, zebra finches, rufous herons and quails. There were also lots of budgerigars, ones that are free to fly around, not locked up in cages and they are also their natural colour of brilliant green - no blue ones to be seen!!. On the first night there were only 2 other campers, after that once again we were on our own. It was so peaceful, if you can call being woken by the corellas first thing in the morning peaceful. We spent our time there walking along the river, looking at the ruins, going for swims and generally keeping busy watching the wildlife. Hard job but someone has to do it! Next Alice Springs.

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To Alice

It was sad to leave The Davenport ranges, not only is the area stunningly beautiful, but we are pretty sure that we will soon have to share the scenery with lots of tourists and lose the peace and quiet of the more remote camping areas we have found.

We had a funny trip to Alice. We drove a lot further than we intended on the first night as the towns that we passed didn't look much and more importantly didn't sound very inviting, as all the camp grounds are attached to the local pub. We ended up staying at Aileron, which also had a pub but the accommodation area was a little bit away from the bar. It turned out that it was pension night and the locals all visit the pubs and hang around outside talking and driving back and forth to who knows where. Perhaps this is what humbugging really is!! Just after midnight, long after beer had stopped being sold, the owner went out the front and at the top of his voice suggested to them that they should all go home! They did!! We thought that was what their wives and girlfriends had been trying to tell them this since 4pm !!!.

Anyway, it was an interesting night and we woke early to get to Alice Springs. The drive down was fabulous. There had recently been a fair bit of rain, so there is lots and lots of wildflowers on the side of the roads. It was so beautiful that we had to keep on stopping to take photo's. The grass at the moment is green, flowers of all colours are blooming and all against the gorgeous red, desert soil. We can't believe how lucky we are to arrive after rain and how amazing it is. The MacDonnell Ranges that run to the east and west of Alice Springs are very dramatic and we arrived in town feeling very enthusiastic about what we are about to see.

Alice Springs turned out to be a really good town. We stayed longer than we had planned (what's new?) as it rained quite heavily for a few days and Len had hurt his foot and we don't want anything to stop us from going on long walks once we leave Alice. The temperature has dropped to a very pleasant 27%C - what a relief from 38%!

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The East MacDonnell Ranges

While in Alice we went sightseeing and walking in the East MacDonnell Ranges. Wow. There were some great gorges to visit - the creeks and waterholes are all full from the recent rains and as we said earlier, the flowers are fantastic and there are lots of budgerigars flitting in and out of their nesting holes in the gum trees, they are so cute!!

On one of the trips we took the turn off to the John Hayes waterhole in the Trephina Gorge Reserve. There were lots of warnings regarding the state of the track, telling you that you need a 4WD with high clearance etc. As we drove down what appeared to be a mostly dry creek bed we realised that that was all too true. The only real surprise was when we went on a walk over the range and back through the creek bed. The walk was one of the most memorable walks either of us has been on - there was just the two of us, there were beautiful views from the top of the hills, then we scrambled down and rock hopped our way back along the dry creek bed at the bottom of the gorgeous gorge. Hard going but spectacular. There weren't very many signs telling you the best route to take but with cliffs on either side we guessed they thought we wouldn't get lost. About 2/3 of the way through,we came to an abrupt halt as the creek had filled with water and there was a 75 metre long waterhole in front and sheer cliffs on either side. Len went back a bit to try and find a way out by climbing to the top of the gorge, but when he got to the top there was another gorge to traverse. He scrambled back down, off came the shoes and socks and it was down to our underwear for a wade through the waterhole. It wasn't that bad, only thigh to waist deep and all our stuff managed to stay dry. It had started to rain again so we were thankful that we got through without having to walk back the way we came.

After the walk we drove the few kilometers extra to Trephina Gorge. When we got there we were stopped by a couple of women who were frantically waving their arms and asking us to stop. They had driven over a rock while admiring the red rocks behind them and couldn't move their hire car as it had become wedged on the rock. Len came up with the solution: jack the car up, dig around the rock, tie a tow rope around the rock and drag it out. After a couple of attempts it came free - they were very grateful, wanted to buy us drinks to thank us, instead we swapped email addresses. They were great fun and it ended a very memorable day.

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Posted by cecandlen 14:17 Archived in Australia

9. Kakadu to Darwin

Kakadu National Park

For those that haven't been to Kakadu it is one of those places in Australia that you feel you really should go to - so we did. It is well and truly into the dry season so the rivers, creeks and waterholes are drying out and the birds are starting to congregate at the remaining billabongs. We had two bases while were where there. The first at Cooinda and the second at Jabiru.

From Cooinda we explored Yellow Waters lagoon and saw our first Kakadu croc, some lovely Jacanas, whistling ducks, magpie geese, egrets etc etc all living in a beautiful lily pond. Before we set out for Jim Jim and Twin Falls Len tried to put his boots on - he hadn't worn them since we had our only rainy day back at Katherine Gorge. He couldn't get his foot in so looked in and saw roo poo and "paper". He shook the poo out but the paper stayed. After much banging and bashing, out jumped a cane toad. He broke his walking stick bashing it over the head. Poor thing - it didn't know what a pest it was! For our overeas readers if you want some more information into the environmental disaster that the cane toad is go to: http://www.derm.qld.gov.au/wildlife-ecosystems/wildlife/threats_to_wildlife/cane_toad.html or just google them. Guess it was a cane toad we heard in the middle of the night at Katherine Gorge!

As we scrambled through the gorge towards Jim Jim Falls we thought of Mum and Dad who had come here many years ago. It was a hot and hard walk, scrambling over the rocks and boulders for 900 metres but at the end there is a beautiful waterhole that was cool and refreshing and surrounded on 3 sides by 150 metre cliffs. As it is the dry most of the falls have stopped and we once again wondered how amazing it would be to see this area in the wet when the rivers and creeks are full and the falls in full flow.

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Further on from Jim Jim falls the road deteriorates as you drive the extra 10km to Twin Falls carpark. To get to Twin Falls you have to catch the barge up the creek and then there is a nice walk to the falls, spoilt only by the fact you can't swim here - the estuarine croc's are left to their own devices, unlike Jim Jim falls where they are "managed".

On the way from Cooinda to Jabiru we stopped at Nourlangie rock and Anbangbang waterhole. Nourlangie rock has some fabulous Aboriginal rock art sites and great views from the top of the plateau. We spotted our first ever Black Wallaroo (chocolate brown actually). We had a lovely if somewhat hot and fly bothering walk around Anbangbang billabong where there were once again lots of magpie geese, corellas, egrets and jabirus and we saw our very first spoonbill. The damage to the lily ponds caused by feral buffalo and pigs is really noticeable but the area is still full of birdlife.

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Our first and the main area of exploration from Jabiru was Ubirr, an area located near the East Alligator River area(misnamed by early exlorers). We had a fabulous day! We spent the morning following one of the rangers and listening and learning about the history and social aspects of the traditional owners of the area and learning some interpretation of the rock art sites that depict ancestors as well as animals such as wallabies, barramundi, catfish, mullett, goannas, turtles and even a thylacine! One piece of art depicted a Black wallaroo which was pretty special as we had only seen one of these elusive critters the other day.

The scenery from the lookout was what we had expected to see in Kakadu, escarpments with flood plains and billabongs filled with magpie geese, jabiru's etc. Breathtakingly stunning. Just as we thought we had seen it all we decided to have lunch by the river. A 3 metre croc surfaced just below us so we grabbed our cameras only to have another one surface further out in the river, then another! All told there were 5 different crocs - one 5 metre (we assume male) and the others all about 3 metres. One of the smaller ones would float around with her front claws sticking out of the water. It was great to watch. They floated down the river with the tide then gently swam back up against the flow with mouths open catching lunch. We sat and watched this for ages!!

To top the day of there was a festival on that afternoon/evening at Jabiru lake. Bush food, spear throwing and didgeridoo competitions, painting and weaving demonstrations, bands and general fun and all alcohol free. What a day!

We spent the rest of the time in Kakadu exploring other walks and waterholes - we are starting to find the constant 38 degrees a little tiring and trying to decide where to go next!

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Stuart's Point and Mary River National Park

A little way west of Kakadu is Mary River National Park which protects part of the Mary River catchment area. We went there because of Len's interest in the early explorers and the hardships that they endured. Port Stuart in the north of the park marks the point where the explorer John McDouall Stuart completed the first European crossing of Australia from Adelaide to the Van Diemen Gulf in 1862. The park also has some beautiful billabongs, paperbark and monsoon forests, lots of dense scrub and to our dismay, swamps that we had to wade through to reach Point Stuart. We didn't see anyone else as we traipsed through the sand and swamps to reach the marker (the tree he carved his initials in burnt down), not surprising really, it wasn't much of a walk and we had to drive 40km on a dirt road to reach the 6km return walk! We were rewarded by seeing a Rufous Owl, a couple of stunning Emerald Doves and the gorgeous Pied Imperial Pigeon. There is so much wildlife when you get away from the crowds but it also made us realise just how hard it must of been for the early explorers to cross this vast land in those days.

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We stayed at the Point Stuart Wilderness Lodge for the night and decided to head to Darwin in the morning.

Before setting off for Darwin we went for a short walk in the National Park and spotted the largest orange footed scrub fowl's nest that you are likely to see. It was enormous and you wonder how such a little bird can scrape the leaves and debris up that far. Nature is remarkable! Next a stop at the Mary River ato watch some more wildlife; big crocs, lots of finches, wallabies etc and still no humans!

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We drove to Darwin that afternoon and booked into a motel in town to get some respite from the tent, heat and flies.

Posted by cecandlen 15:54 Archived in Australia

8. Camooweal to Katherine Gorge - a change of plan

sunny 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!

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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.

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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!!

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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.

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Posted by cecandlen 15:54 Archived in Australia

7.Heading west Mareeba to Mt Isa via Lawn Hill National Park

sunny 36 °C

10 August 2010 Mareeba to Chillagoe

So, we are finally about to head west. We left Mareeba after going shopping and having a huge breakfast of bacon and eggs. Not much to say about Mareeba, it just isn't our sort of town.
We are heading to Chillagoe to visit the limestone caves. Pretty uneventful trip, mainly on sealed roads and where the roads were gravel, compared to some of the roads we have been on, it almost felt like we were driving on a highway. We booked in for the afternoon tour of one of the caves. It was really interesting, as all caves are especially when there are micro bats flitting around! We climbed over the surrounding limestone outcrops and these rocky formations were all the more remarkable once you realised that the caves you had been walking around 1/2 and hour ago are under you!! Spooky.

We were welcomed back to our campsite by Apostle birds! Long time since we have seen them and they are still very cute!

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Croydon/Normanton and Karumba

We only stayed the one night in Chillagoe then headed towards Croydon. We want to stop in Croydon to see if we can trace any ancestors of our neighbour (Brian) in Burleigh. His great grandfather migrated from Scotland to Croydon back in the gold rush days.

It is really flat, cattle country out here and lots and lots of posters for Bob Katter!! The road is sealed but pretty ordinary - it goes to one lane for fairly long stretches and unfortunately, on one of the one lane stretches an idiot sped by and flicked up a lot of stones. Two of the stones cracked the windscreen. Ahhhhhh. Len has taped it and we are hoping to make it to some as yet,unknown town to have a new windscreen installed. Heavens only knows where that will be. The corrugations now feel huge as we are concerned that every bump will be spreading the cracks.

We didn't find out much about Brian's great grandfather however, we did find the local genealogist who will do some research and email if he finds anything. Our next stop was Normanton to pick up a new camera and other assorted mail from the Post Office. We also managed to vote and then stopped the night at Karumba which is on the Gulf. This is fishing land and there isn't much for us to do but we did watch a spectacular sunset over the Gulf.

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Leichhardt Falls
We arrived at Leichhardt River Falls around 3pm and decided to set up camp for the night. This is the perfect bush camping area. We camped on the dried river bank of the Leichhardt River about 10 metres up from the current water level. We sat and tried to imagine what it would look like during the wet season when the river is in flood and our campsite would be completely underwater.

At the moment it is an oasis for lots of birds and wallabies. In the river, the water is drying up and the pool below us (some 100 metres long x 30 metres wide) has stranded various fish including a Sawtooth Shark, a freshwater crocodile, long toms and lots of other fish we can't identify.

Sitting around the campfire at night with only millions of stars for company was fabulous. We had planned to stay only one night, however the temptation to stay another night and walk down the drying river bed the next day was too much. It was a great walk and further downstream, after a couple of additional creeks had added some volume of water we found a full flowing river. We took so many photo's that it makes you realise that you can judge how much you like a place by the number of photo's you take.

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Gregory Downs

With cracked windscreen we gingerly made our way along the gravel and corrugated roads to Gregory Downs. We thought we were heading to a small country town. Well, this one has only a pub that doubled as the petrol station, caravan park and sold snack food and meals. The sign in the bar admitted to these other non pub activities but reminded you in no uncertain terms that it was first and foremost a pub. Just love country Australia. We are miles from nowhere and they think all we need is a beer. Perhaps we do!!

The beautiful Gregory River is a few minutes from the pub. It is a cool, spring fed river and we had lots of fun floating down the river, catching rapids and keeping cool.

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Boodjamaulla (Lawn Hill) National Park

Len has wanted to come to Lawn Hill National Park for years and we happily left Gregory Downs to head to this wonderful place, our only worry is whether our windscreen will stand many more miles of corrugation, dips and bumps. We are still in savannah/cattle country with lots of grass plains and long distances between towns and stations. We did arrive at Lawn Hill with the windscreen still in one piece, we had to add more tape as we went along but it is still hanging in there. We set up camp about 50 metres from the river/gorge and spent the rest of the day going in for swims and thinking we were in heaven. It is just glorious and such a change of scenery from the dry savannah plains - a real oasis.

The walks around the park and along the gorges were sometimes a bit of a slog but always with stunning views. It is pretty hot at the moment; the temperature has been mid to high 30's in the afternoons so our walks are always in the morning. In the afternoon we go for swim and hang around the spring fed river to keep cool picking up ripe cluster figs and feeding them to the resident turtles. We hired a canoe for a 2 hour paddle up the main gorge. What an amazing setting - the red cliffs edged by pandanus, palms, river gums and cluster figs all surrounding turquoise waters. So peaceful. Around the first corner we spotted a darter sundrying itself, then a few minutes later we startled a nankeen night heron, it didn't go very far so another photoshot presented itself. We were the first people on the gorge that morning and there were crystal clear reflections of the gorge as we paddled our way to the small falls. The falls were formed when the waters of the river, which is rich in lime, flowed over any obstruction such as rocks and deposited skins of lime minerals (called tufa). These build up to form small dams.

We ported our canoe up and around one of these little dams to the higher gorge. Same peaceful setting only this time we had the added bonus of coming across a 2 metre freshwater crocodile that was sunning itself on the banks just 5 metres away - the largest freshie we have seen so far. We took much longer than the planned two hours for the paddle - this was an exhilarating experience!!

There were loads of fish and turtles and we spotted an orange coloured snake swimming effortlessly across the creek - wish we had our reference books to check out what it was!! On one of our walks we stopped and watched a bowerbird parading in front of his bower - he was making such a racket. They go to such elaborate lengths to attract a mate. We had so many David Attenborough moments; it was fabulous.

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Mt Isa
Reluctantly we left our campsite at Lawn Hill NP to head to Mt Isa. Our first stop was Riversleigh about 50km from the campsite at the southern section of the park. Riversleigh is an area of fossil rich limestone outcrops where they have discovered a 25 million year old collection of fossils including turtles, crocodiles, lots of mammals, giant wombat like marsupials, an ancestor to the thylacine and flightless birds. You would need to be a paleontologist to be able to identify any of the fossils at the site so we went to the Riversleigh Fossil Museum in Mt Isa to get a better understanding of the World Heritge listed site.

Just like Weipa we didn't have any plans to go to Mt Isa but the windscreen needs fixing, Len's tooth needs filling and the computer is finally getting too unstable and needs replacing. The windscreen made it, albeit the spider cracks are now going all the way to the top so it didn't have many more miles nor bumps left before it disintegrated completely. Isa has turned out to be much better than Weipa. It is a larger town with more facilities (including decent coffee). Once we leave Mt Is we have decided to turn left at Tennant Creek and head towards Alice Springs and then south through the middle. It has taken us much longer than we thought to get this far and it is starting to get pretty hot. We are still living in the tent so there isn't any air-con and the thought of more 38 degree days isn't very appealing. We will come back up to Katherine, Kakadu etc next time.

Next stop Camooweal.

Posted by cecandlen 14:44 Archived in Australia

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