A Travellerspoint blog

Leaving the Top End ..

Katherine to Renner Springs

sunny 37 °C

Katherine to Renner Springs
Stuart Highway
Monday 8 September 2014
511 kms

Katherine’s Riverview Caravan Park is actually on the (very high!) banks of the Katherine River and within 5 minutes walking distance of the beautiful thermal springs, so we had to try them out and how enjoyable was that. Closed between October and April due to the Wet season, the water is between 25 and 30 degrees – lovely! Also in the Wet season the river breaks its high banks and overflows almost into the caravan park, a height of about 50 feet, and mud on the tree trunks tell the same story.

Anyway, we finally began our trek south, reluctantly ignoring the temptation to go down the east-west Victoria Highway which goes to Derby and Broome in WA – a long way.

We made good time on this very hot day and stopped in Makaranka for a pee and a drink! We made it to Renner Springs Road House by about 4pm and met with Ryan – a chatty chap – who had many vans to guide into place. We have noticed at many of the sites we’ve stayed in, that there are quite a lot of elderly, yes, elderly, folk who enjoy caravanning albeit with their zimmers, sticks and sometimes even in wheelchairs. We suspect they can drive ok, and both of them sort the rest out. Makes us think a bit …

A beautiful peacock was parading his 4 peahens with total disregard for his audience and we had to admire him. Wow – but the downside of this stopover was the poisonous Springs right next to the “park” – they looked putrid and certainly not worth a look at. Facilities and amenities here were below average – but we enjoyed our glass of red in the sunset nevertheless.

There was no phone or computer connection here and this stopover rates 2 out of 10 for us and not one we would recommend.

However, the sunset, at the edge of the Tanami is certainly worth seeing – and we enjoyed our dinner in a pleasant 35 degrees – dry heat.

Posted by twodubfers 00:18 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Father's Day at Riverview Caravan Park, Katherine, NT

sunny 37 °C

Sunday 7 September 2014

Both the boys phoned to wish Dave a Happy Father's Day, and likewise to Tim. So far from home ? it is so nice to speak to our boys who never fail to keep in touch.

Our pre-breakfast swim in the Hot Springs at the side (but NOT over the edge!) of the Katherine River, set the tone for the day -- not a lot going on here!
The springs were crystal clear and warm - and well away from those 3-4metre animals we are conditioned to be aware of.

After a bit of washing in our superb little machine (stationed in the shower), and a quick shop at Woollies and a must-do defrost our frosted up freezer and frig - we have celebrated this important day with a Roast Lamb in garlic and rosemary, baked spuds and pumpkin, roasted garlic and fresh beans - finishing off with very cold blood oranges and rum and raisin chocolate. All this and it's a balmy 37 deg outside and an even cooler 28 deg inside here.

We feel fortunate to have travelled so far and seen a few things and tomorrow we'll be heading south, then south again, before east to Mt Isa then east, before south again.

Still lots to see -- if we can.

Thanks for all your messages and support.
the two dubfers xxxx

Posted by twodubfers 22:28 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Kakadu and Arnhem Land

sunny 36 °C

1-5 September 2014

Kakadu Lodge and Caravan Park has to be one of the loveliest caravan parks we’ve stayed in. As in some Aboriginal art, these sites are designed in circles, each site occupies a ‘dot’ and the circles represent corroborees. It makes it unique and spacious and very attractive to the traveller.

The sites are spacious and most are shady – we’ve got one of those and just across from us is the lovely swimming pool which is COLD, deep and with a pool-side restaurant. It might even be something from a James Bond movie!

Jabiru is about 3 hours drive east of Darwin and about 200 km into the Park itself. It almost on the border of Kakadu NP and Arnhem Land. We paid $25 each for a pass to get us into the park and have seen already that Kakadu is really spectacular with gorges, cliffs, ravines, and the East, South and West Alligator River systems; it is only about 40km as the crow flies from the Arafura Sea.

Our first day was full on as it usually turns out to be. We stocked up at the supermarket - there’s also a medical centre, an airstrip, a bank, shops and fuel - $1.77pL. It’s a thriving community here, mostly Aboriginal people living and working as the rest of them do. But there are strict alcohol free zones – for us as well! Our caravan is an alcohol enforced zone!!

Day one proper saw us join a boat on the East Alligator River – streuth, we never thought we’d do that one! It’s deep, looks muddy and there are many many (many!) crocodiles along its bank. One side is Kakadu NP and the other side is Arnhem Land. A magical trip for 2 hours with commentary from an Aboriginal guy who certainly knew his stuff – demonstrating spear making, fishing, making fire with sticks and the dreamtime stories which continue to fascinate us. We even went ashore at one point to look at spectacular views and a water hole. No crocs here thanks!

The naming of the river as East Alligator River – there’s a South and a West Alligator was (quite obviously) a mistake as there are no alligators anywhere in Australia. As someone said to us once (on the bayous in Louisiana near New Orleans), “we have the alligators, and you guys (Aussies) have the real ones!.” It’s not overstating it to say we are very well aware of the threat and ever-present danger of crocodiles up here. It was an early adventurer who named these rivers as such, being completely ignorant about crocodiles or alligators.

Since we’ve been up here at the Top End, one local (although he was Indonesian) chap was taken and chomped on the banks of the Adelaide River (south of here), while fishing and in the presence of his wife. His line was snagged near the water’s edge, he went in to the water to unsnag it, and guess what had ‘snagged’ it!!! That even made the ABC news. The second attack took place just 10 minutes after we left Wong-y Falls in Litchfield National Park, where a Russian tourist was bitten on the leg by a freshwater crocodile. These tend to be a bit smaller and not to be quite as dangerous as the “salties”, but hey – they are crocodiles! James made us promise early on that we would not cross any creeks – and we haven’t – well, more of that later …

The birdlife is both plentiful and stunning and we have seen spoonbills, geese, kites, eagles, and the one we came to see, the beautiful and rarely seen JABIRU – a beautiful bird who lives in the wetlands. I will attach a photo.

Our morning at The Wonder of the Wetlands was very interesting. High up on a hill, it overlooks stretches and stretches of both dry and wet Wetlands, with plenty of birdlife, lilies on the water – but no crocs here until the Wet which isn’t far behind us.

Aboriginal people consider there are six seasons of the year:
- Monsoon from Dec to March 24-34 deg
- “Knock ‘em down” in April 23-34 deg
- Yegge – cool/humid May-June 21-33 deg
- Wurrgeng cold June-mid Aug 17-32 deg
- Gurrong hot dry – Aug-Oct 23-37 deg
- Gunumeleng pre-mons Oct-Dec 24-37 deg

We’ve seen a lot of birdlife, even as close to us as the side of the caravan and been fascinated by the teeming groups of corellas, black cockatoos, brolgas and finches.

Yesterday we took a tour to Arnhem Land – a very large area stretching from the East Alligator River right up to the Arafura Sea and Borrooloola – almost the size of Switzerland.

Once more we reached the East Alligator, and drove across the shallow crossing – this rises about 15 metres in The Wet – but it was slow moving but still plenty of crocodiles on its banks.

Oenpelli was the little Aboriginal township we visited, only about an hour into Arnhem Land – a Hawke initiative back in the 80s enabled most of the dwellings here today to be built. Because of the enormous-ness of that project, the materials used, and the distances they had to be brought in – each house cost around $750,000 to BUILD! They are for the Aboriginal community, with power, water and a ‘garden’ – usually full of rubbish, toys, old cars and lots of dogs! Here in Oenpelli, you can buy fuel but it’s either very expensive or “Opal Petrol”. This petrol has no value to anyone who wants to sniff it … which is why it was developed. It works OK for cars!

We drove out past some spectacular rugged and ragged outcrops - one was high and was out of bounds to women as that’s where Men’s Business is conducted – this means initiation ceremonies – which is male circumcision in boys up to the age of 14. The other rugged and ragged hill, also quite high, was for women’s business.

This was where we stoped for a massive climb both in, over, through and under giant rock formations, saw lots and lots of fascinating Aboriginal rock art and heard more Dreamtime Stories from Manual, our guide. It was a tough climb but the view was worth it – looking out across Arnhem Land and the vastness of the Wetlands before reaching into more bushland. This spectacular escarpment has you gasping for breath at the scale of it.

These areas are pristine and have remained so in this condition (we are told) for over 200,000 years, and most importantly for about 60,000 years when the first Aboriginal people arrived from (probably) Indonesia.

The silence of this place is calming and quite silent – not many birds – the usual kite or two, tiny finches and the occasional eagle.

Planes do not fly over Arnhem Land, the road is red dirt and ridged, and the way out at the other end is by boat. That’s a very long way away … A sanctuary indeed …

Today it’s the day before we say our sad farewells to this land – a place we have learned much about and loved.
In this caravan park there are many tourists such as ourselves in caravans, campers, motor homes and the like. The Aboriginal people do not travel this way. They are social groups of people, who prefer to live in communities on their own. Once upon a time they lived in humpies, a semicircular shape of shelter which they left as they moved on. There are still such groups up here in Arnhem Land – but we are unlikely to see them.

This afternoon we expect to visit the Ranger Mine – still in operation, which is why so many Fly-In/Fly-out people are here – and why there’s an airstrip.

Because it is now September, we know the rain clouds and the build up for the Wet Season are not far away, so tomorrow we shall leave spectacular Kakadu National Park, and wend our way back to Katherine and then south to Tennant Creek, before turning east to Mt Isa and the coast.

We shall have to think about where we choose to live – and quite honestly at this time, here in one of the most beautiful World Heritage Sites – we find it hard to work out just where that might be …

But our old life will return – and we do look forward to seeing the Pacific Ocean once again and James and all of our very dear friends – we’ve missed you all.

PS Up here they prefer their lizards frilled not grilled
and the fire hazards are vast, and burning off is still being done …

PPS Apologies for the length of this blog. I’ve hardly scratched the surface with what we have seen and done.

Posted by twodubfers 18:05 Archived in Australia Comments (1)

Darwin, Northern Territory

Made it to The Top End

sunny 32 °C


Another milestone on our journey and we have finally reached Darwin which is the big city at the Top End; we are now nearer to Singapore and Jakarta than we are to Sydney and Melbourne – a very long way from ‘home’.

From Barkly Homestead where we met the Stuart Highway on 19 August, we stopped at Daly Waters iconic pub, then across the highway to Daly Water Hi-Way Inn (their washing machine was much better and not just a machine in the middle of the park), a few nights in Katherine, and a couple of nights at Batchelor where we explored the beautiful Litchfield National Park – more of that later – and finally into Darwin. That’s almost 600kms.

Darwin has been a fantastic stopover and we have enjoyed every minute. However, there’s always something to irk you isn’t there – we love the city and certainly can’t fault with the lovely shady caravan park at Berrimah, but we are just across the Stuart Highway from Darwin’s International Airport and the very large and VERY noisy RAAF base. Jets have screamed overhead since we’ve been here and we suspect they’re part of Operation Kokoda, military exercises of RAAF, navy and army are undertaking with the US forces – crikey what a racket! They did take Sunday afternoon off for a couple of hours, but they’re back again this morning. (PS there’s another one …. !) Added to that we had the Darwin Speedway at the other side of us on Friday and Saturday nights – lovely!

However, we have not been idle while here in Darwin. We have walked along the beautiful pathway from Parliament House to the harbour, enjoying the rich colours of this tropical ocean view, and the rich green grass and tall green trees, such a change from the drought-ridden roads we have travelled for nearly 5 weeks. We’ll know drought for sure next time we see arid areas, there’s drought and there’s serious drought.

Cullen Bay is the Pyrmont of Darwin, very smart, trendy, white apartment blocks, beautiful gardens, nice shops and a big marina – there’s a lot of money up this way! The reason we went to Cullen Bay is that is the departure point for both ferries and tours to get to the Tiwi Islands – a 2-hour trip across the Arafura Sea and where the Aboriginal culture of those people is quite different to their mainland relatives. But, the cost is pretty steep and for a 2-hour journey it seemed a bit more than we wanted to spend. So the Tiwi Islands (Bathurst and Melville) have missed out on our company- this time!

Parliament House in this city is like no other we have ever seen. A tall white, multistorey building, imposingly situated at the end of the CBD, on the very front of the green gardens and down to the beach (where no one every goes because of “salties”), it is a striking piece of architecture and it seemed it might be closed. It was, after all, a Sunday – but hey, the door opened and we found ourselves in side a beautiful marble building, tagged along at the end of a free tour to the Assembly room which was certainly worth doing.

We were surprised to say the least. The whole building is probably more attractive and at least double the size of Canberra’s Old Parliament House and is quite stunning and interesting too. There are more Aboriginal members in this parliament than in any of the others put together, so they told us.

A stroll across the parklands afterwards, found us facing a couple of policemen on horseback, moving on a very very voluble and drunk Aboriginal man who was quite obviously the worse for wear. The rest of his mates were allowed to remain seated on the grass – along with many other white families, also enjoying the sunny and shady areas. We have also seen people from other cultures behaving very similarly!

Our caravan has turned out to be very comfortable and perhaps just the right size too. Quite a lot of time is spent keeping the dust down (!!), floors washed, the washing done in our little washing machine that fits beautifully in to the shower, shopping and eating. We tend to fall into Woollies each time we find one as food is expensive up here, petrol not quite as bad as it was in Mt Isa – it’s nearer to the depots here – but we’ve fit in quite a lot of tourist things to do too.

Yesterday, we went looking for Humpty Doo Golf Club as cousin Peter has requested a golf shirt – so that was in the back of beyond, but a course with green fairways, a typical outback pub atmosphere, and a Pro Shop in the foyer with the booze and the blokes! Quite a laugh, but serious golfers nevertheless – and very much the way the locals like it. And so do we – typical tourist spots are not usually on our agenda as this is where the locals live and what we like to join in with.

After leaving there, we found ourselves at the Darwin Passenger Rail Terminal which was completely deserted. However, the railway area/terminal/depots is really enormous – for obvious reasons. Imports, containers, fuel – and passengers all need a home and the infrastructure is extensive to say the least. Magnetic cranes lifted up huge containers (haven’t seen any that big before and they go on the trains).

For those of you who know Sydney, Darwin Passenger Rail Station is perhaps not quite as big as Beecroft Station – I kid you not – and there’s no platform, but just the concrete to walk on to get on to the train. But the word is that The Ghan runs often to and from Darwin to Adelaide with a stopover at Alice Springs and is always full.

From there we looked for Berrimah Old Jail, the place where Lindy Chamberlain was (unjustly) imprisoned for many many years until she was released and acquitted. It’s gone .. disappeared, closed down – wonder why! Darwin Prison is now close to the salubrious suburb of Fanny Bay - !

And Fanny Bay is where we went last night. It’s a fascinating area really and our destination was really in the middle of that big bay at Mindil Beach Night Markets – food to feed the whole of Vietnam really and stuff to buy whether you wanted anything or not! The real reason people flock to these markets – well they are markets where you go anyway – is to see the fabulous sunsets as the beach faces due west. Say no more, but see my photos.

We dined on Thai food, took some amazing photos and returned to the van, quite late but we do like some programs on our tv and watched that for a while before going to bed. And I have to say we have slept such long hours which for us is both unusual and remarkable – to sleep ten hours is what we do these days – can’t imagine why.

The overnight temperatures here in Darwin do get down to a pretty cool 17 (Iknow that is a bit warm for some of you) and 33-35 in the day suits us very well. More next time …

Posted by twodubfers 19:43 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Katherine Gorge - sunset dinner cruise

sunny 35 °C


A 4-hour sunset dinner cruise was never going to be on our agenda but when we came across it in yet another of our 5496 leaflets which seem to fill our caravan – we felt we just had to do it.

Starting off near the canoe-park where at least 3 dozen canoes are out on the Gorge each day, some camp overnight, we embarked on a boat with just rows of seats which left us wondering where would we be eating dinner.

A gentle motor up the Katherine River for an hour took us to the first gorge – a mighty display of rock cliffs, crocodile nests, even one crocodile trap (empty!) and horizontal trees at the water’s edge. We learned that the two Gorges we would visit were the only ones of 13 that were usable right now due to low water levels. This increases to another 17meters in height at the peak of The Wet, when the water gushes and hurtles and eddies at a great rate. It’s a deep Gorge, over 100 feet deep and relatively narrow and rises so much in The Wet as it has to keep flowing.

The Jaywon people camped and cared for this land over 30,000 years ago, and we learned which trees and bushes they ate, along with insects, lizards, crocodiles and fishes. It’s no wonder the Aboriginal people have a feel for the land. To them they don’t live ‘in the country’ .. they are country, they are part of this land and did look after it.

Our excellent Aboriginal guide was Sam and he wasn’t from this area but from the East nearer to Arnham Land. He took a lighthearted approach to his narrative, but he certainly knew his legends and his history – we were impressed.

We travelled up the river to the end of the first Gorge, then got off the boat to walk to the next one and the second Gorge. The cliff sides of this second one were higher and more magnificent than the first one! Such a land, quiet and silently flowing – so different from the Colorado River and the Grand Canyon we had experienced.

The beautiful colours of the rock, covered so clearly in black which is the residue of where the massive amounts of water cascade in The Wet. And trees growing off the sides, like reeds reaching for the sky – and not many birds here either. But then this was sunset so daytime may be different.

It was an awe-inspiring trip on that second boat. Very little noise from anywhere – just our boatman telling his stories and the deep black river flowing beneath us, and overhead a brilliant blue sky turning darker as the sun set.

We turned around and headed back to the first Gorge after an interesting walk and passing our first sight of Aboriginal rock art – the only history the Aboriginals left apart from their Dreamtime Stories.

Imagine our surprise when we met the boat again – it was a different one and had 10 tables all laid out with white cloths and silver cutlery, champagne and nibbles on each table. What a fabulous surprise .. and who could have imagined we’d be eating our dinner as we motored back towards the setting sun.

A delicious dinner of barramundi or steak, after an entrée plate of crocodile, kangaroo, tanami dip and other yummies – was completed with wine or beer, and then chocolate and raspberry dessert.

A super evening – one we will never forget.

Posted by twodubfers 14:45 Archived in Australia Tagged river northern territory katherine Comments (0)

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