Monday, October 31, 2016

Camooweal to Lara Station

Shortly after crossing back into Queensland we arrived at Camooweal. The next night was spent camped on the Georgina River just outside town and where we camped not that long ago. 

With the threat of rain yet again for the afternoon of our second nights stay we decided to move away from the black soil that surrounds the billabong to somewhere more safer.

We wanted to shop in Mt Isa but not stay in a caravan park so we drove to the WWll Airfield Rest Area 54 km NW of Mt Isa for the evening. The site has Eco toilets some shelters and BBQ's. Its currently 4:10 pm and we are surrounded by dark clouds with quite heavy drops of rain falling on the van. Hopefully it will help cool down another very hot day with the temperature at Camooweal when we left just after midday at 39 degrees.

The winds picked up this afternoon as we were sitting outside enjoying our evening drinks with the sound of thunder all around but with very little rain. 
The temperature has dropped considerably and is now quite pleasant at 28.5 inside the van.

We are waiting for the wind to subside so that we can put up the awning and cook our meal outside on our BBQ, which eventually happened. We ate our meal inside before having another wine sitting outside, enjoying the most amazing lightning off to the west.

It rained quite heavily on and off during the night and we were up several times shutting and opening windows as the wind changed directions on many occasions. It was cool enough during the evening to pull up the doona for some added warmth. 
This morning was overcast with rain and a cool 21 degrees which makes for a lovely change.
We shared this large campsite with another van and several whizz bang vans.

With more consistent and heavier rain now falling at 9 am we decided to move into the Isa. Just short of an hour later we were looking for somewhere to park the van close to one of the alcohol outlets but that was not to be. Undeterred I still managed to carry the carton of Fat Yak across the main highway and several hundred metres where I had the van parked up a side street. It was then onto Coles and the dump point located next to the race course.

A word of warning...all supermarkets are closed on Sunday in the Isa.

Our original plan was to continue onto Julia Creek for several days but with the free camp surrounded by black soil we have changed our minds.
With light rain still falling we decided to head for Mary Kathleen where we camped in early September. The access road into the old township site was a little boggy in places and we camped on one of the old bitumen streets.

Another enjoyable evening with no road noise from the highway and another four groups camped up for the evening.

We left rather early with a large drive today that would take us through Cloncurry before stopping in McKinlay for a coffee. We stopped here on our way to Darwin and bought a coffee at the Walkabout Hotel made famous by Paul Hogan in the first Crocodile Dundee movie.
This time we ventured down a side street to a local park and found a plaque and statue to honour John McKinlay. He was born in Scotland in 1819 and died in Gawler in South Australia in 1872.

He was commissioned by the State Government to search for the missing Burke and Wills Expedition. 
With his party along with horses, cattle, camels and sheep he left Adelaide in 1861 and reached the Gulf of Carpentaria in 1862. 
He thereby completed the first and greatest transcontinental droving feat.

We then passed through Kynuna and Winton before stopping for the evening at the Crawford Creek Rest Area just over 32 km SE of Winton. 

Our original plan was to camp at Long Waterhole just south of Winton but with the recent rains and black soil that was enough reason not to.
We have often passed this rest area so now was as good a time as any to stop here for the evening. We backed the van in as far as possible to get away from the highway but need not have bothered because there was very little passing traffic during the night.
Later we were joined by another van and 4WD and we all sat together over evening drinks before heading indoors for dinner.
What a shock to the system this morning at 6am with the van interior at just 14.6 degrees. The hot water system was cranked up and after each of us having a hot shower and a coffee we were feeling much warmer.

 We left around 8ish as we headed for Longreach another 132 km away. Here we refuelled before stopping in Ilfracombe for coffee then passed through Barcaldine were we turned south onto the Landsborough Highway.

Our last five day stay at Lara Station was so enjoyable that we just had to come back again. What a shock to see the auction sign as we turned off the Landsborough Highway and onto the 13 km dirt access road into the station.

We were here to spend the next five days and on arrival there were just two other groups who left the following morning.
Jo is no longer able to cope with the crippling debt after the death of her husband in 2014. She hopes to have enough money to pay her debts, purchase 1000 acres near Mt Morgan and do some travelling. The auction is scheduled for the 15th November.

On one of our days we traveled the 41 km into Barcaldine to attend to some shopping and sight see, but the remainder of the time has been spent just relaxing. Ros has identified 27 bird species so far and with one more day here I'm sure the count will increase.

This rack of lamb was purchased before we left home so it was about time it was demolished...

Jo's mare gave birth to this beautiful colt on our second last day and we were so thrilled at the chance to be able to see him with Mum and Dad off in the background.

Mother nature certainly left her best till last with this most amazing sunset for our final evening.

On our last two days we helped Jo and Bill the caretaker move sprinklers around the camping area after the lawns had been cut and trimmed. The real estate agent who is holding the auction was bringing interested groups through for inspections.

We wish Jo all the best for the future.

Friday, October 21, 2016

The Northern Territory

The prediction of heavy rain for last night did not eventuate but we did receive some rain in Camooweal although it was hardly enough to wet the ground.

There was also a rowdy mob at the pub which ended in a fight and the van park we are in is attached to the pub. We were kept awake well after midnight with all the drunks out in the street. Lesson learned...

Departed around 9ish and were soon crossing the border into the Northern Territory. The majority of the creeks for the next 66 km until we reached Avon Downs still had water in them and for our entire journey of 376 km the roadsides were covered with lovely green grass.

A brief stop at Wonarah Bore for our morning coffee before stopping at the Barkly Roadhouse for lunch. Two bottles of iced chocolate a sausage roll and an egg and bacon roll was over $23.00. Ouch..

We were going to continue across the Barkly Tableland past the Three Ways this evening but once we reached the 41 Mile Bore Rest Area I decided that was enough for the day and needed to stop for the evening. The strong head wind we'd been driving into all day was another factor in retiring early.

Last year when we camped here we spent time collecting eight bags of rubbish and depositing them in the bins that were provided. This year we were so surprised how clean the area was until we walked towards the rear of the site and were totally disgusted by the amount of toilet paper and faeces lying about on the ground. Soon free sites like this will be closed all over the country. I'm not sure if it's the backpackers in their whizz bang vans or Australians who have no bloody idea or just don't care.

Several drops of rain fell this afternoon and more overnight but again not what had been predicted.
We left just after 8am and 70 km later reached the Three Ways before turning north onto the Stuart Highway which would eventually lead us to Darwin. From here we continued north towards Daly Waters. Our original plan was to spend seven days camped at Longreach Waterhole but with recent rains we have decided the black soil that surrounds the waterhole may trap us indefinitely. 
As we passed the turnoff we could see that the access road was covered with pools of water so our decision was a good one.

We arrived in Daly Waters and paid $20 for an unpowered site with powered sites at $32.

The campground is no more than a large dirt paddock and a better option would be to stay at the Highway Inn Motel and Caravan Park. It's on the Stuart Highway not far from Daly Waters but has much better facilities, swimming pool and even green grass.

The pubs license has been in continual use since 1930 and it's a little unconventional because over the years many female customers have donated their bras and G-Strings which hang from the ceiling along with all other sorts of memorabilia.

The nearby aerodrome was built in 1930. Qantas used the facility from 1935 as a refueling stop for its flights to Darwin and London. The RAAF also used the strip during WW2. 

It rained on and off for most the night but not quite enough to stop us exiting the campground although we did pick up some mud on our tyres.

We continued further north and were surprised by the amount of water lying beside the road and in the spoon drains. I lived in Darwin in the seventies and the water beside the road reminded me of what it's like during the monsoon season.

We passed through Mataranka before stopping for several nights in Katherine. Katherine received 42mm the night before we arrived and it rained on and off  on our first day. We were here to purchase groceries and alcohol to last us for the next two weeks. 

Alcohol is now only sold from 2pm onwards and each outlet has a policeman stationed on duty to ask where you are staying. 

As we left Katherine this morning the skies were dark with storm clouds. 
We were now on our way towards Pine Creek and drove through some quite heavy rain on several occasions.

Our original plan was to spend a week in Darwin but that turned into two weeks. The high temperatures and strength sapping humidity has meant that most southerners have left to return home. We are staying at Hidden Valley Tourist Park about 10 km south of Darwin and just off the Stuart Highway. At present there are 15 sites occupied out of the 180 sites on offer. 
We wouldn't dare to come here in the busier months when it's wall to wall camping as it's just not our scene.  

We left Darwin after a very enjoyable fortnight. Our drive today of just over 300 km will see us again camping in Katherine for four days. Our Landcruiser is booked into the Toyota dealer for its 30,000 km service and have a wheel alignment.

If you don't mind the heat then the middle of September and October is the perfect time of year to be away north of the Tropic of Capricorn. The days are hot but the main bonus is that there aren't too many people out travelling. We are again staying at the Big 4 park with just ten vans here at present. Beats being squashed in like a can of anchovies.

Daily temperatures are in the high thirties with temps expected to reach the forties later this week.

Our drive today on Monday 17th October will be 435 km with the last 13 over a sandy and slightly corrugated track. We are again camping at Longreach Waterhole just north of Elliott on the Stuart Highway. 

We camped here last year on our way to the Kimberley's.

This waterhole is a permanent body of water on Newcastle Creek. At the southern end is Lake Woods which fills after good rains. Unlike Longreach Waterhole, Lake Woods is on private property and access is not possible.

The area is managed by NT Parks and Wildlife and of course camping is allowed with the only facilities being rubbish collection and a long drop toilet. There are numerous spots to camp beside the waterhole that stretches for many kilometres. 

We spent two days here and on arrival there was just one other van here. We camped about 20 metres from the waterhole and because the ground sloped towards the water I dug two holes so that the off-side tyres would sit in the holes without the need to use our levelling ramps.

Whenever we free camp we like to leave the area in a better condition than when we arrived. Our walk this morning of just over a kilometre with disposable gloves in hand and a bag produced this which we deposited in a nearby bin.

After experiencing the bird life in Kakadu its almost impossible to get excited about any other area we have ever visited. Apart from the several hundred pelicans and the odd kite flying overhead that was pretty much it.
We have often seen the ritual whereby the pelicans work together as a team to herd fish into the shallows before its bums up and heads down underwater to locate the fish. It was no different here watching this spectacle played out many times each day.

It was time to move on and we soon rejoined the highway as we continued south towards The Three Ways before turning east onto the Barkly Highway. Our drive today of 587 km sees us camping at the Soudan Bore Rest Area which is located 132 km past the Barkly Roadhouse.

We thought we would have company tonight but the two groups of people who were travelling together left just after we arrived so we had the whole place to ourselves for the evening. The site is quite close to the road but we only heard the occasional truck pass during the night. 
Yet again the whole campsite resembles a pig sty with rubbish lying about everywhere including toilet wipes and toilet paper blowing in the breeze. I cleaned up the immediate area around our campsite which was a thirty metre radius and deposited what I had collected into one of the many bird proof bins spread around the site. 

Less than two hours after leaving last nights campsite and 132 km later we crossed back into Queensland.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Darwin and Surrounds

Another short drive today of just over 200 km.
After spending the past seven days in Kakadu we joined the Arnhem Highway and soon after stopped at the Mamukala Wetlands.  
The wetlands are at their best late in the season when the water starts to recede causing the birds to congregate together. We were able to take some wonderful photos from the largest bird hide we have ever seen located on the edge of the wetlands.

My parents lived on Myilly Point in Darwin in the late sixties and I attended my final years schooling here. Our house was on a cliff overlooking Mindil Beach.This was before the casino was built.

The accommodation on Myilly Point was set aside for the heads of all the government departments and also included the Army Colonel whose residence was at the very tip. There was one exception to this and that was the private residence of the Paspaleys. That's the Paspaleys who own the largest pearling company in Australia.
Cyclone Tracy hit Darwin in 1974 and the wide spread damage it caused also included demolishing all the houses on Myilly Point.
Apart from the houses that make up the Myilly Point Heritage Precinct as you enter the point the only remaining house on Myilly Point is the rebuilt Paspaleys.  

We had intended to stay at the Free Spirit caravan park but after hearing first hand the conditions there, we opted to camp at a park at Hidden Valley.
We pre booked a site whilst we were still in Kakadu but need not have bothered. Being so late in the season most southerners have left for home to escape the high temperatures and even higher humidity.

We can highly recommend the Hidden Valley Tourist Park.  

We opted for a premium powered large site of which there are six. There are 180 powered sites with the majority having ensuites. On our arrival there would have been lucky if 50 were occupied. We had intended to spend a week here but because there are so few people about we extended for another week.

The Top End just like the remainder of Australia has also been experiencing unseasonal weather. 
Much of Kakadu was closed because of rain and we have been having thunderstorms most afternoons and rain.
As we drove along the Stuart Highway on our second day here heading towards the Mindil Beach markets, the heavens opened up reminding me of what life was like during the wet season.

Each day has been spent heading off in the mornings to a different point of interest then returning after lunch and spending time in the pool and our lovely air conditioned van. 

The Truma Aventa air conditioner now being installed in Bushtracker vans is just fabulous and leaves the one in our previous Bushtracker for dead. With outside temperatures well above 35 degrees and in some cases pushing 40 along with the strength sapping humidity this one has the vans interior on a very comfortable 26 degrees or below each day. 

Some of our outings have included:
Cullen Bay..

The Darwin Military Museum is located at East Point about 8 km east of the city centre. The museum mainly showcases the defence of Darwin during the 2nd WW.
On the 19th February 1942 at 09:58 Darwin was attacked by 188 aircraft from Japanese aircraft carriers.
There was a subsequent attack involving 54 aircraft at 11:45, which killed 235 people.

Also located close by is the East Point Reserve which shows evidence of Darwin's wartime history.

We ventured south from Darwin on one of our days to swim and photograph Litchfield National Park and Berry Springs Nature Park. Litchfield is located 129 km south of Darwin. We were last here in 1996 and boardwalks are a new addition in many places to cater for the larger number of people who now travel. This termite mound is over five metres high and estimated to be over fifty years old.

These magnetic termite mounds are aligned north to south to minimise the exposure to the sun.

Access to Florence Falls was closed when we visited so we took our photos from the lookout.

Wangi Falls is the most popular because of its easy access.

Berry Springs is 58 km south of Darwin and is a wonderful place to cool off.

Today we visited the Australian Aviation Heritage Centre just down the road from where we are staying in Berrimah. 
There are some impressive aircraft on show including a Spitfire, Mirage, F111, several helicopters and the B52 that dwarfs all the other aircraft.

We spent several hours down along the waterfront before stopping for lunch.

On another outing we visited Doctors Gully to view the Aquascene fish feeding that takes place on high tide. This scene has been happening since the 1950's where wild fish come in and are hand fed slices of bread.

We were very disappointed with our visit to the Darwin Botanical Gardens. We were last here twenty years ago and even though it's towards the end of the dry season we thought the whole place was terribly neglected.

On our 2nd last day we visited the Skycity Casino for lunch. The casino overlooks Mindil Beach.

Just as we had finished cooking our dinner on our last evening we experienced a large downpour that lasted for about fifteen minutes. The build up to the wet season as certainly begun.