Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Katie Joins Us

Katie was arriving in Darwin in the early hours of Friday, so we booked in to our usual caravan park in Darwin, not realising the show was on right next door! We only got a few hours of sleep, as the show was SO NOISY!!
We picked Katie up at 2.15am! This was a difficult time, in that if we went back to a caravan park and had to set up the tent in the middle of the night, we would disturb a lot of people! Also, we figured we’d want to talk so Randall and I came up with the idea of driving straight to Kakadu, to a resort called Cooinda, where they have the Yellow Water Boat Cruises. We booked us in for the breakfast cruise, and for $10 each more, you could book another cruise, so we booked the sunset cruise, mainly so if we missed the breakfast cruise through planes being late, we wouldn’t miss out. It wasn’t easy for Randall driving along unfamiliar roads, and forever on the watch for wildlife on the roads, but we made it in time for the morning cruise. A quick cup of coffee in the van woke us up enough to enjoy the cruise. It took us along the South Alligator River, where we saw lots of birds and a beautiful sunrise. It was really very peaceful at that hour of the morning and we enjoyed it immensely. We saw some crocodiles cruising along the water – they are amazing creatures, quite fascinating, and we got some good photos. The breakfast afterwards was very enjoyable as well!

After the cruise, we had time to fill in before we could check into the caravan park at Cooinda, so we took Katie to see some aboriginal rock art. We tried to make Katie’s itinerary as interesting and as varied and fun as possible.
When we arrived back at Cooinda, Randall checked in and we had to wait for this bloke who runs the show, to show us where to put the van. We wanted a level and long site, so we could fit the van and the car in and still open the rooftop tent for Katie to sleep in.
It is a most inefficient caravan park, as after you check in you have to wait for the resident nazi with his clipboard to show you to a site. So he sends you off in a direction while he continues directing others, and then he forgot about us, so Randall picked a site to suit our needs – spacious and level, only to be told no, I allocate the sites not you, and proceeded to find us a site that wasn’t level or big enough. Randall started to get a bit short and he allocated us another unsuitable site, with Randall still not happy – insisting he wants a level site. Fellow says no such thing! Randall points to an acre of level ground and says what’s wrong with up there, so the bloke throws his clipboard in the air and says pick your own, which we did! Onlything was the sprinkler was on, throwing water all over the van as we set up, but we dared not ask for them to be turned off!

We relaxed for the rest of the day and enjoyed a swim in the very nice swimming pool. Even though we were very tired we went on the late afternoon cruise as well. Saw a few more crocodiles slinking along in the water. We also saw a jabiru high up in its nest, which was amazing!

We all crashed after the cruise and went to bed early. We all agreed that we had a wonderful sleep as we were so tired!
The next day we packed up and took Katie to Gunlom Falls - a beautiful place I mentioned in my previous post. We gritted our teeth for the 24kms of corrugated gravel road (leaving the van at the start of the road), only to be pleasantly surprised that the grader had been over it and it was reasonably ok!

After spending a lovely morning swimming, we headed off, collected the van at the start of the road, and drove to Litchfield National Park, hoping to get a campspot at Buley Rockholes and spend a few nights there. Luck was on our side, and we got a good campspot. Katie loved the rockholes and spent a lot of time swimming there, as did Randall and I! We walked along to Florence Falls, about 4k return. Randall and I had not gone there during our last visit, and it was lovely. The good thing was, you could swim when you got there, and after the return walk, you could have another swim in the rockholes!! It's so hot here, we are never out of the water! You just walk into the water and get wet - not like at home where it takes a while to go under. One night we went for a swim at about 9pm. It was beautiful - no other people there, and the water was superb!!

After two enjoyable nights here, we headed back to Darwin so Katie could check out the sites of the city. We drove to have a look at the Casino, which was quite nice, and took Katie to the city centre to check out Smith Street Mall, then got ourselves a bbq chicken and some salad stuff and headed back to make tea (and have another swim).
We had to get up early the next morning to drop Katie off at the airport for the 7.15am flight home. Before we could take her, we had to pack up the tent so we tried to be quiet so we didn't disturb our neighbours in the campground.
So it is back to just Randall and me again.We really did enjoy having Katie with us, and sharing some of the special places we have seen with her.
Today our car is having a snorkel put on so we can safely travel across rivers, and tomorrow the rooftop tent is being replaced as there is a bit of a problem with it. As I am typing this up the F111 fighter jets have been going overhead. They are so loud especially when about 4 take off one at a time. We are right near the airbase here, and the airport, so we hear all the planes.

Friday, July 23, 2010


From Douglas Hot Springs we headed off to have a look at yet another gorge called Umbrawarra. We didn’t know if we would stay there or not, so we checked out the campground. We pulled up next to a couple setting up their tent, and the woman was a bit snakey as she thought we were going to set up camp right next to them.

We put on our bathers and walked along the path to the gorge. There was a muddy patch and people had made an alternative path past it. “Logic says we go this way” says Randall, and starts walking up the path, only to very suddenly turn around and jump towards me – he had just seen a black snake and wanted to make a quick getaway. He was a bit shaken after that I can tell you!!! The gorge was quite pretty, but no guarantees there weren’t crocodiles, so we didn’t swim there.

When we got back to the car, the grumpy lady came and apologized, and we got into conversation about where to stay and what to do in Kakadu. She gave us some good ideas about the park, so we decided to head in there straight away, as we had limited time as Katie was arriving on Thursday 22nd July in Darwin.

We had to go on gravel road to our first campsite – Kambolgie. Well, we have never experienced such bad corrugations on a road – the car and caravan were shaken to pieces so it seemed. When we opened the caravan we were faced, yet again, with the contents of the fridge all over the floor! I was getting a bit sick of that I can tell you!!

We set up camp and had a yack to an older couple who were also camping there. They had just got their buckets of water from the river – we didn’t need to worry at this stage and didn’t want to risk being close to the water’s edge as there were crocodile warning signs there.

The next morning we headed 24k’s further along the rough road, leaving van behind, to see a place called Gunlom, where there is a waterfall and swimming holes. We had to walk up a steep track to the top, but were greeted with what I call the nearest thing to paradise.

It was beautiful!! The water was crystal clear and warm – it was just magic. Randall and I really enjoyed our time here. The climb back down was steep, and I am very glad I had my new sandals on – they have wonderful grip which you need on a lot of these tracks.

When we got to the bottom, we had a welcome icecream at the kiosk, then went and filled up our 20l water containers from the tap in the campground – no risk of crocodiles there!! We arrived back at our campsite, packed up and headed for a place called Cooinda. The campground was fairly expensive, but we needed service to do a bit of banking and get in contact with people. It had a nice pool too, so we really enjoyed a nice evening swim before tea.

In the morning when we were packing up Randall made the disastrous discovery that the corrugations had loosened the roof racks and there was nothing holding them on!!! It could have been a real disaster as the rooftop tent could have damaged the canopy or the caravan if it fell off. The tent had to come off so that Randall could reattach the roof racks properly, so he called on three other men around the campsite to help him. We were both relieved that we were in civilization and had help nearby. It would have been impossible for just Randall and I to have lifted the tent off – way too heavy.

Once fixed we went to look at a place called JimJim falls. We left the van at the start of the road and gritted our teeth for another rough ride.

I was checking out the rooftop tent through my side mirror all the time, worried that things might come loose again, but all was ok. The last 10k’s of the trip was true 4WD, just a narrow track through lots of sandy patches and a bit of water. When we got to the carpark there were lots of cars and 4WD buses. There was a 1k walk into the falls, and it was very rocky, and the track was sometimes hard to work out.

We really enjoyed our time at JimJim falls - it was warm and beautiful but we had to get back and get a campsite for the night before it was dark.

We set up near a billabong, which was were, we heard from some workers cleaning the loos and emptying rubbish, a fellow just a week before had got drunk and drowned. The crocodiles would have got him if he didn't drown. His beer botttles were still there when we were looking!

Next day we went to look at some aboriginal art, then headed back to Darwin for some shopping and cleaning and tidying the van in preparation for Katie's arrival.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Douglas Hot Springs

We had heard about Douglas Hot Springs, so decided to go there next. The road going in was bitumen, but very bouncy, and then there was gravel road for the last few kilometres. We were disappointed to open the caravan door, to find the contents of the fridge scattered across the floor!
We were hoping to go to Butterfly Gorge while we were in the area but it was closed.

The camping area at the springs was very nice, and there were lots of people there.
There was even a designated generator area which was good as our batteries needed topping up for having been 4 days off power. We enjoyed a nice evening with some people from Geelong - Richard and Marilyn. They travel around selling stuff at the shows and were heading to the Darwin show.
The hot springs are amazing. Very hot water just comes bubbling out of the rocks and flows into a river. You can't go too far up the river because it is just too hot, but sitting a little downstream is very relaxing.

Part of this sign didn't worry Randall!! Can you guess which part???
We don't need to wash in the river anyway, with our trusty rainman shower to keep us clean:

The area was very pretty and we thoroughly enjoyed our stay there.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Litchfield Natinal Park

We headed into Litchfield. We went and looked at the magnetic termite mounds, which were quite different to the ordinary mounds – a different colour too.

Our site at Buley rockhole was not the most pleasant as we were near the toilets. We had to take it so we could set up and put the satellite dish up to watch Katie on Millionaire Hotseat. It felt really strange watching our daughter on TV, and, although she didn’t get the money, we were very proud of her.
The next morning Randall was scanning and as soon as one lot of campers moved out, we moved in! It was a much more pleasant site, and we decided to stay a few more days and take in the sites of Litchfield from there.
One day we headed off to get a good lookat some of the interesting places in the park that were 4WD only. We drove into what was called The Lost City. It was really interesting – all these rock formations that looked like the remains of an old city. It was because of the sandstone weathering into blocks. It was worth the drive in.

We went to a place called Blyth Homestead – a little home that was an outstation to a main homestead. There were 2 river crossings to get there – the first one was fine as you could see the depth of the water which was .4m, but the second one OMG!!!! Well, we couldn’t see the other side, it was murky, so you couldn’t see how deep it was, and couldn’t check because of crocodiles. Randall and I were on the edge of our seats, as there was no turning back once committed.

From Randall’s point of view the trip into see the homestead wasn’t really worth it although I found it all very interesting. Randall’s mind was on the return trip through the water!!!

We decided to have a look at the Tjaynera Falls as they sounded really nice and had a lovely swimming hole. We had to walk in about 1.7km, but it was worth it as the falls were beautiful and the swimming hole was very cooling. We cringed watching some kids climbing way too high and jumping into the water. With no real idea what was underneath we thought it was very foolish.

Our last day in Litchfield was spent at Batchelor. We needed to get phone and internet connection so Randall could do his Supercoach and I could update the blog. We found a nice tavern in the town and sat down for a beer and lunch, and worked on our computers. We have wireless internet and both of us can be on the net at the same time.

After we had done all the things needed to be done we headed back to our campsite for a swim and a relax. The rockholes are really lovely and we enjoyed a swim every day.

That evening as we were relaxing with a glass of wine before tea, Randall pointed to a bright light moving across the sky and I saw it too. I said that maybe it was a meteor, but it didn't have a tail or anything. Then he suggested it was a UFO, and that no-one would believe us because we had had a few wines!!
The next day as we stopped at Pine Creek on our way to Douglas Hot Springs we bought the paper and here is what was on the front:

That was at the Katherine Show, and I'm sure there were a lot of sober people there :)

Friday, July 16, 2010

Darwin and surrounds

We arrived in Darwin and headed straight to a caravan park we had already booked. It was the closest one to the city, and even though someone said it was very noisy with the planes going overhead, it wasn’t too bad as far as city parks go.

There was a man staying in the next door site – no car. He kept us awake with his shocking smoker’s cough, then he would get up in the morning and sit on his chair with coffee and cigarettes.

We had our car booked in for its 10,000k service so we were up early to drop it off. On the way we stopped to look at rooftop tents for the car, so we can leave the van and go off 4wdriving. We walked from the service place into the city on the next mission to find me some good sandals. Well, that was a disappointment! The CBD in Darwin is very small, and there were no specialty sports shops there, so I was starting to get desperate! As we arrived at the appropriately named Smith Street Mall, we saw our first traditional aboriginal performance. The sound of the didgeridoos sent shivers up my spine, it is really quite haunting – it was great to see. We had travelled through thousands of kilometers of outback Australia, but our first real experience of Aboriginal culture was in the city centre!!!

I had an appointment to have my hair cut and coloured in the afternoon, and the young girl there told me that the best place to shop was the Casurina Shopping Centre. So after Randall picked me up we headed there – a huge shopping centre out of town – and – Yay! I got myself a pair of sandals. So I can go walking without having to wear my runners.

We decided to treat ourselves to a nice breakfast while we were in Darwin, so headed into town quite early. On the news it said that Julia Gillard was in town, sadly for a funeral of a young soldier killed in Afghanistan. As we arrived at our breakfast place, we saw her go past in her car with the Australian flag on the front!

We got a rooftop tent fitted as well – it is very impressive. Katie has decided to come and stay with us for a few days near the end of July, so she will have a bed while she is here. It would be too squashy for her to fit into our little van, so it has worked out really well.

After a few days in Darwin, we headed off to Litchfield National Park. Randall’s second cousin and his wife are travelling around like us, and we arranged to catch up with them at a caravan park just out of the National Park, called Pandanus. It was a lovely relaxed park, not arranged in strict order at all like some, and the people who ran it were very friendly. We enjoyed drinks in Penny and David’s motorhome, then had tea at the bistro. The live music sent us back to the van after tea – a bit loud to have a conversation.

Our friend Alf, and his son Bradley, from Melbourne, arrived here too! We arranged some accommodation at the park for them and they arrived late morning. We had lunch and headed off to have a look at the park. Alf has been here before, so he knew all the places to look at. It is all very pretty. One place that would have been lovely to swim at was Wangi falls, but it had been closed for swimming supposedly because there was a crocodile there. Alf and Randall reckoned it was a myth. The powers that be just wanted to control the number of people swimming there.

We swam at a place called Buley Rockhole. That was wonderful – it was a very hot day and the water was just right. There were lots of little rockholes to swim in, with waterfalls between and there were lots of people there. We were amazed at how many people were diving in – to us cautious ones who would be checking for underwater obstacles first.

We ended back at camp for a swim in the pool, then tea at the bistro again. We had a night cap outside the van, and Alf was stirring us up about our rooftop tent. We had set it up to make the bed, and test out a fan that Randall had bought. Alf called it the Rialto at Pandanus, and said it must be the only tent that needed planning permission to be put up!!!

The next day, Alf and Bradley headed off, as did Penny and David. We also packed up and headed into Litchfield National Park to find a camp spot near one of the swimming holes. It was not easy to find one, but we managed to get a site near the Buley rockhole, that we had enjoyed so much the day before.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Katherine and the Gorge

We arrived at Katherine to find a busy bustling township.There is even a Woolworths here, and the petrol price is good, so we feel like we have reached civilisation! Randall found an office which fitted him perfectly:

One of our friends reccommended a park to us, but, as usual, Randall doesn't like to book ahead, so we couldn't get into our preferred park. We settled on one just a short walk away from the Katherine hot springs - similar to the ones at Mataranka and just as popular. We enjoyed several dips while we were there.
The caravan park was quite nice, and, as you can see, we are the smallest van on the block!

We did the obligatory drive around, and found another nice caravan park next to an historic homestead, called Springvale.

We went for a walk along the river behind the old homestead, Randall scanning for crocodiles, to no avail! We found a spring bubbling up out of the ground which was rather pretty. Rather than going back the way we came, Randall did the short cut thing - ended up on the road and no ambience at all!!!
After 2 nights in Katherine, we headed off to the gorge, only 30 ks out of the town. It had a huge caravan park and the best swimming pool we've come across.
We had arrived early, so we checked out was was around. We did a walk to the lookout, which only gave a taste of the gorge, and did a circuit back to our campsite.

We thought we might do a boat tour of the gorge, and I'm really glad we did. We got on, and even though Randall was trying to beat his mate at Scrabble on the iphone, I was really excited about seeing the gorge. Actuall he really did enjoy the tour as well :)

The tour guide pointed out the one and only salt water croc trap, and both Randall and I felt that that really wasn't enough to make you feel comfortable about swimming in the water.(What if they weren't attracted to that bait in the trap??)

As our tour did two gorges, we had to get off one boat, go for a bit of a walk and get on another boat. We walked past some aboriginal rock art:

Everywhere we went was so picturesque. The gorge really is beautiful.

We came back and had a refreshing swim in the pool and sat outside and enjoyed the warmth and the wildlife.

Each evening we were entertained by a couple singing by the poolside. Lots of people sat around listening and eating from the bistro - not Randall's cup of tea - he'd call it slop!!! We ate well anyway from our own kitchen.
We packed up the next morning to head to Darwin, stopping at Katherine on the way to collect our mail we arranged to have sent from home. We also washed the caravan as it was looking a bit dusty, so we headed off on the final leg to get to the top of Australia.