A Travellerspoint blog

KATHERINE, Northern Territory

sunny 35 °C

KATHERINE, NORTHERN TERRITORY
23 – 27 August 2014

A big little town, one of only four towns of any size up here in the Territory. With an indigenous population of around 25%, the rest is made up of Grey Nomads (yea!!), backpackers, and Darwinians heading down the track by road. That's where we've been for a few days, taking it all in and there is much to see and do here.

The Ghan railway – originally named The Afghan Express back in the early days – now runs regularly between Adelaide, Alice Springs to Darwin. The word is that it’s a great service, carrying cargo, some mail and travellers. The 2979km journey takes around 54 hours with a stopover in Alice and costs around the $1500 one way per person – not bad considering the distance.

The newer line going north is built much further west to accommodate the unloading and loading of cargo and passengers. Katherine in a road junction too where the Stuart Highway (north-south) meets the Victoria Highway coming from Western Australia and this takes the traveller to within reach of El Questro, the well known resort in the Outback – and Victoria River Downs, once the biggest cattle station in the world at nearly 2 million acres. That’s a lot of cows …

Tourist Information Centres are worth their weight in gold we think and we have stopped at every one at the town we stop at. Helpful, friendly, up to date with information and services of the town, useful links to caravan spare parts etc and where to stay.

There is a Woollies here and we went in on Sunday morning for a stock up. This actually needs a mention here – it’s a big store with plenty on the shelves. However, it was the 10 checkouts that had us gaping in wonder. Each checkout was open, each checkout had at least 7 or 8 people in the queue, and each trolley was piled high. We have never seen so much shopping taken out of any supermarket so we suspect all kinds of travellers were stocking up. To our surprise, the efficiency rate was excellent and although we suspected we’d be there for ages and ages, in fact we got through remarkably quickly. Must write and mention it to Buderim Woollies … !!

We did go into Target to get a swimsuit for me and it is policed very carefully – knock first and then unlock just the one fitting room door; all toilets in the town (not the shopping centre) were locked, and yet the indigenous folk went quietly about their shopping, barefoot and very dusty, then joined their folk under the trees and enjoyed some time to relax. But there's a lot of crime, abuse and drunkenness here - from all sorts of people!

No alcohol is allowed in the streets anywhere here – but both the Police Station and Court House are very impressive buildings! Even Katherine Hospital isn’t too bad but quite likely deals mainly with some accidents, every kind of abuse known to humankind, social issues, mental health, dialysis and some operating theatres. Serious cases would go to Darwin, 300 km north, or flown out by the RFDS

Charles Darwin University is an interesting campus spread over a wide area – why not, there’s plenty of room out here!

We spent time yesterday at Edith Falls and managed a swim – no that’s not right – more of a dip. It was FREEZING cold despite the 34 degree temperature, flowing quite well but after recent news stories, we were not keen to stay there too long. Many many tourists marvelling at the gorge, the scenery and the birdlife. The Falls are in Nitmiluk National Park and so, too, is Katherine Gorge and tonight we are going on a sunset dinner cruise into the gorge – not sure about the jumping crocodiles though .. ?

There are many aerodromes up here and we have quite possibly passed at least seven of them. Most but not all, are disused today, but played a key role in WWII as bases out of Darwin.

…. On that note, crikey – ANOTHER jet fighter just flew overhead – that makes 6 in the last hour. We suspect it is something to do with the joint military operation started last weekend with US and Australian military (all three services) doing combined exercises – off Darwin so they tell us – it’s called Operation Kokoda!

Had a phone call from Hil today – my they’ve done so well. Mark and his team of 10 are presently on the Kokoda Track itself and will be out of any kind of contact for 9 days.

We leave here tomorrow (Wed – I think it is, although we did lose 2 days last week) and heading to Adelaide River – so bye for now xxxx

Posted by twodubfers 20:46 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Barkly Homestead, NT to Daly Waters, NT

Long way between drinks

26 °C

DALY WATERS - A LONG WAY BETWEEN DRINKS … and fuel

600km north to Darwin, just over 912 km south to Alice Springs,
and 2440 km south to Adelaide
and 3,151km to skippydog on the
Sunshine Coast - - via Mt Isa & Rocky

We left Barkly Homestead, NT, a few days ago – can’t exactly recall which day it was as today at breakfast we realised it was Friday and we had thought it was only Thursday! Barkly Homestead was a great campsite with mostly drive-through sites, self-contained wash cubicles + toilet, restaurant, homestead with a family! – internet connection and could even get a tv channel. There was 17 caravans there just for a group tour of e-Rotarians.

The long drive to Newcastle Waters eventually took us north along the eastern edge of the Tanami Desert – a huge area stretching almost to the coast of north western WA – a gravel road and there’s a cattle station up there called Napperby Station and this has some connection to Penny & Stu from Kooringal Stud in Wagga. We think it is run by her cousin Roy Chisholm. In any event, that really is a very long way from anywhere.

It’s mostly caravans and long road trains, and at one stage the old Darwin-Adelaide road is clearly seen – a single lane tarred road, hardly wide enough for any modern truck, so can’t have been that many caravans on the road then and the new road we think was resurfaced about 35 years ago. Plenty of room though for droving the cattle ….

We decided to miss Tennant Creek, and it’s handful of houses and turned north instead and experienced our third freebie for the night at Newcastle Waters. It makes you wonder how it got it’s name – about as different from both Newcastle, NSW and northern England as you can imagine. Waters was a bit ambitious too we thought as it too was dry and dusty but lots of vegetation; but we did squash in with at least another 20-odd vans and parked virtually on the roadside. This meant we could enjoy half-hourly visits through the entire night from Road Trains hurtling past at at least 130mph (speed limit up here in NT), heavens what a noise. Our nearest neighbour at this stopover was a guitar playing traveller who pulled up no less that 2 meters from the back of the van, got out his dog, his guitar and swag, played a few tunes and then retired for the night sleeping on the ground and next to the rubbish bin! By 7am the following morning, having had very little sleep thanks to the road trains, most campers had disappeared. It seems we’re the tardy ones and don’t get up til after 7.30am.. .. a bit of a long lay-in for us.

Daly Waters came up reasonably soon and we decided to miss the DW Hi Way c/park and head instead just 6 kms off the highway for the Daly Waters Pub and site,

What a place and iconic is one word to describe it and we were met by John the cowboy, complete with tattered akubra hat and equally tattered bike, who kindly showed us our drive-through site. Being first there, we thought we had the place to ourselves, then another 40 vans arrived – this site alone takes 120 vans and trailers, with an overflow site across the road! What a great income …

The showers were a big surprise – clean, spacious, with loo, very hot water but the laundry was an even bigger surprise – just a washing machine next to a loo and $4 a wash thank you. We kept ours till the next laundry we come across! The population of Daly Waters, NT, is just 15!!!

Full restaurant service, booze and a band later that night made it all great fun – it’s true, they make their own fun out here and folk just love it and sing along.

A favourite song of mine years ago that they sang, was

“Tra la la, twiddly dee dee, it gives me a thrill
To Wake up every morning to the mockingbird’s trilll >>.”

…now I can’t get the damned song out of my head … so apologies if it happens to you too!

Today, we left that site and decided to look at nearby Daly Waters World War II Aerodrome, now disused, but very busy and important back in 1943.

We were wandering around the empty hangar complete with faded photos when we heard the sound of a helicopter. Thinking it might be a local (!?) station owner mustering his cattle, we stepped outside the hangar only to find this very smart red chopper actually landing just metres away from us and out jumped a couple of people.

Imagine our surprise when they come over for a chat! We don’t actually know any helicopter owners ! – but heavens above, they introduced themselves as Stephanie and Peter Day from Scone in NSW!! We nearly fell over – and yes, they had heard of www.cooktowntokokoda.com.au
(our friends Hilary and Peter and team doing this trip) .. but didn’t know the Heanlys personally.

It seems they usually see Australia this way – a 5 hour journey by road for us is just a couple of hours for them and they book into a c/park which usually has motel accommodation and avgas so they can refuel.

A very expensive way to travel – but is it … when you see the enormous 5th-wheelers, and very very big motorhomes around, cost of fuel, repairs etc, we’re not too sure. In any event, I’ll put some pics on to this blog – quite an experience for us.

We both have managed to get a sneezing and streaming head cold and fortunately it’s beginning to dissipate, but we’ve never sneezed so much.

The two separate caravans next to us right now have each put up their Satellite dish, to watch the footie of course tonight. One managed to get a connection but the other one didn’t ! Oh dear – we only have phone and I ‘net connection here. I write my blog, then turn on the i.net to send it and emails – chepaer that way.

In any event, we could be in Katherine tomorrow night and hope to watch the rugby on Saturday night which is coming from New Zealand .. from another pub!!

… more next time xxxx

Posted by twodubfers 22:23 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

OUCH!

Prices

Forgot to mention that this morning in Mt Isa petrol was $1.67 PL, and here at Barkly Homestead in NT it's now $2.02 PL.

For those contemplating a trip to 1770, a beautiful caravan park on the beach just south of Gladstone, tomatoes were $1.00 EACH!

Suspect we'll see a bit more of this until we get nearer to Darwin - or so they say.

On tonight's ABC Darwin news was a story about a fisherman who last night was fishing on the banks of the Adelaide River, with his wife. He was very suddenly attacked and eaten by a crocodile. The story mentioned that this crocodile had been shot and the remains of this poor bloke have been recovered.

We are heading to Adelaide River, but could possibly be sleeping in the main street- and Dave isn't even sure he'll be fishing!!

Cheers ...

Posted by twodubfers 03:22 Comments (0)

Mt Isa, Qld to Barkly Homestead, NT

sunny 24 °C

MT ISA QUEENSLAND TO
BARKLY HOMESTEAD, NORTHERN TERRITORY 445 km

It’s hard to believe, looking back to our early morning cuppa around 6.30am when we had no idea which direction we would be heading today, that we have safely arrived at one of the best drive-in caravan sites we’ve been to. The trip was mostly uneventful, apart from an egg and bacon sandwich at Cammoweal (we’ve have NEVER been able to walk past the smell of bacon cooking!) and noting the time difference. Just about 15 km past we finally made it to the Territory where the maximum road speed is now 130kph and the clock is half an hour behind Queensland.

We ambled along as a sedentary 85kpm – I’m told by our driver that that’s the best speed to travel at, and we didn’t have a tailwind either and there were many hills to travel – most of which didn’t seem apparent until D had to change down a gear.

Same old, same old huge machinery and road trains are almost (yes, almost!) as plentiful as the caravans and motorhomes. I might add – if I haven’t already mentioned this before??) – that should James or anyone need to find us, please don’t suggest to anyone that we are driving a Prado and have a Jayco caravan – there’s about 786,391 of those on the road they rule!!

Birds were less plentiful, possibly due to less road kill; still more traffic heading east and possibly 3 caravans going west. Gee, there must be a lot of them still up the Top End. Dave thought he saw an eagle – not sure – but most birds above us seem to be kites of all descriptions.

Arriving at Barkly Homestead around 3.30pm saw me racing into the ‘shop’ desperate for a loo! Great, there’s the sign but, oh no, they don’t work and have a ‘closed’ sign on the door! Streuth – so I was quickly directed to the Ladies – wonderful news – 7 individual loos each with their own shower cubicle and curtain. What a relief – and nice showers too!

All sites are drive through so we picked a lovely shady spot and within 10 minutes or so, about 15 caravans and motorhomes arrived to spoil our sunset! We need not have worried, however, as they are a group of 17 vans and homes, all e-Rotary doing a trip from Sydney-Melbourne-Adelaide-Alice Springs, then east and south and home again – even have a couple from NZ; which isn’t really astonishing as most travellers seem to be from everywhere – and many have no house either.

We met one very interesting lady at Mt Isa, about our age and travelling alone, with her huge 5th-wheeler and dog. Wow, she had given up on houses 5 years ago and decided a life on the road was more attractive. She said she decided each morning where to go next – which seems like a good idea to us.

A few times now we have found it hard to deal with no home, Skippy-dog in kennels near Noosa (and according to her kennel keeper, loving it all and playing with the other dogs), our stuff stored south of Sydney, and Spending Our Kids inheritance – should we keep going or turn around …

… to be honest it’s not an easy question for us to answer.

So – here we are at Barkly Homestead, just 200km from Tennant Creek and The Track and never thought we would get here!

I hope you’re enjoying all this waffle which I try to make interesting and funny – well I try anyway!!

Love and hugs to all you ratepayers and people stuck in traffic – ha! ~ ~ more next time xxxx

Posted by twodubfers 00:52 Archived in Australia Tagged to northern queensland territory Comments (0)

Mt Isa - Kalkadoon country

Three days in the Isa ..

MT ISA – KALKADOON COUNTRY
16 – 19 August 2014

Well here we are – a place we once doubted we would ever get to and we find that Mt Isa is quite a little town with a very mixed population of local farmers, indigenous people, migrants here to earn some money, lots of Kiwis, and the FIFO (fly-in fly-out miners too. Discovered back in 1923 by John Campbell Miles, it has grown over the years and now produces zinc, silver, lead and copper in huge quantities which is shipped out by rail. All the shops are banks are here – even a Telstra shop!

Leaving Cloncurry – where the Flying Doctor was born – we drove through what now consider to be the real outback. Gone are the flat and arid plains with sheep, cattle, emus, road trains and much road-kill and instead we see vast distances of trees and hills, deep red soil and red rocks, tall anthills on the road side, and good roads which wind their way through what are probably cattle stations as we see many Brahmin cattle (white), deep red and brown cattle (please excuse our ignorance, but we don’t know much about them at all), lots of kangaroos – and the beautiful eternal blue skies. We never tire of that! The bird life is fascinating and lovely to hear and we’ve even had to buy another bird book – the other one we have is in storage!!!

Once again, we seem to be one of only a few vehicles heading our way west. In contrast, everything travelling east is either a caravan or a big cattle train or truck! Quite extraordinary but it seems as though this migration of caravans is due to the very well attended and famous Mt Isa Rodeo was held over the long weekend just last week; however, our caravan park seems pretty full to us, and there are three of them in Mt Isa– astonishingly there are also 10 schools. A thriving community in the middle of nowhere.

Our good friend Stretch (aka Robert who lives in Bristol UK), worked here at MIM back in 1970-71 as a Matte Tapper so we are hell-bent on finding one of them – however, the public doesn’t get to go down any of the mines, only the ones that are closed, so it might be a bit difficult. Back then, Stretch tells us that he lent quite a bit of money to another worker called Sam Lancaster so we’re after him too but suspect he’s done a runner and is long gone!

We did visit the Hard Times museum inside yet another great Information Centre – these places are invaluable to the traveller – and spent a good couple of hours reading up on the history of this town. Talk about hardship – they even built an underground hospital here (now next to the real hospital). This was just before WW2, and the powers that be considered that what Mr Isa produced might just be useful to the Japanese, so they would have to ensure the safety of both Mt Isa’s wealth and those who worked for it.

I recall many (many!) years ago when I was working for Bell’s Asbestos in Concord West (yes, asbestos and I was pregnant with James!!) – there was an engineering/mining chap there called Joe Mullaly and he came from Mt Isa. He always loved to tell us the stories and we loved them even back then as it was such a far-away place, no one knew much about it. But Joe used to say that Mt Isa had a secret – and it was that no one back in his day ever knew how they got the payroll in – remember back in the 50s and 60s we were all usually paid by cash – and most especially so if you were a miner!!

I have to tell you that as yet no one has appeared on my horizon to shed any light on this mystery and so it will remain one!

Interestingly, we discover that many people most of us would recognise were actually born here: Greg Norman, Pat Rafter and that great Aboriginal actress Deborah Mailman.

Last night, after 2 months of wearing mostly the same clothes, we got dolled up (now where did that saying come from I wonder??), Dave in a clean pair of jeans, and me in slacks and a top – and to finish off with a pair of sandals I discovered in Vinnies in Cloncurry for $3.00 so had to have them ! – and took ourselves off to Buffs Club. This turned out to be a rather nice pub and restaurant – really only to watch the Wallabies play the All Blacks. However, we found ourselves with a nice meal, a bottle of red, with the telly on so we sat down to watch the game. You can imagine our surprise – well first to find that rugby was followed at all out here, as usually its league or Aussie Rules – but mainly because surrounding us in the large and comfortable lounge room area, were either New Zealanders or Aborigines and together they tried hard to drown us out and we gave it our best. It was on for young and old when the final whistle blew and the score was 12-12 – wow what a game and everyone enjoyed it immensely. At least the Wallabies didn’t lose the game!!

My most vivid memory of the whole evening, however, is the new vocabulary I have learned – the funniest we thought was from a mine worker who yelled at one stage – “Ya Fat Eunuch “ – oh dear, but it was funny!!

There’s still much to see and do tomorrow – so will do another blog once we leave the Isa next week.

Posted by twodubfers 23:19 Comments (0)

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