Published: August 23rd 2012August 23rd 2012
Ubirr Rock Art
There are a number of different 'era's' in this set of paintings
Back to the task at hand…
Yes folks we are back on the road and Marg is now well again and enjoying the travels.
Enough of the schmaltz, the (caravan) suspension arm arrived in Darwin in the nick of time for it to be fitted on the Thursday before we were due to fly back to Melbourne on Friday. I did find out that the suspension guy had the money in the bank from the chassis supplier before he called us to pick up the van, and that sent shivers right through me – even in the 32 deg heat!
We have been back to Melbourne, and while it was fantastic to catch up with friends and our girls, we were not sorry to leave a wet and freezing Melbourne for the warmer temps in the Northern Territory. The down side was the flight back to Darwin. OK it was cheap, but who flys at 1.45 am??? We did not plan the day correctly and despite realising that some sleep during the late afternoon prior to departure would be a good idea, we could not get a restful sleep in anticipation of
Awesome view over the wetlands
all the things we needed to do to make sure we caught the flight. Then the squeezy Virgin seats did not facilitate sleep at all, and we arrived in Darwin at 5.30 am (local) knowing just how a grizzly bear feels on being woke at the end of the winter (well we had just left Melb. remember). A little sleep in the caravan in the paddock and then it was off to arrange a couple more nights on power at the caravan park. And then we were heading briskly towards Queensland.
But first we had to do Kakadu (National Park); it is definitely not Kaka-don’t as we were told on the first lap in 2008. Kakadu is not a huge distance from Darwin; in fact they run day tours for the unsuspecting tourists who think it is just around the corner. The roads form a bit of an elongated triangle pointing East with the short base being the Stuart Highway at the western end. We made our first night near the apex as the attractions fall pretty much into either the northern leg or the southern leg of the triangle. Prior to finding the caravan park, we
This is what dawn looks like on the South Alligator River
took a quick look at the “Window on the Wetlands” which is on a little jump-up about half way into the park. A purpose built lookout provides a lot of aboriginal cultural information and enables a great 360 deg view of the surrounding plains, including the failed Humpty Doo rice farming project. It wasn’t the lack of water that caused the failure, but the millions of Magpie Geese who thought it fantastic that someone should provide them with so much fresh food.
The ‘must see’ on this day was a place called Ubirr (pron. oo-beer) where there is an amazing range of aboriginal rock painting covering 10’s of 1,000’s of years of their civilisation in this area. The art work was in incredibly good condition and relatively easy for anyone to see and interpret. The part Marg liked best was that it wasn’t up a large hill as many of the attractions are! The area also has a great look-out at the top of a massive sandstone hill (read: Geoff climbed and Marg did not). The view of the wetlands below and the contrasting rocky outcrops was truly awesome. We also visited the local information centre where
I was stupified...it was early
we had lunch with a bus load of tourists who took all the tables and chairs and we had to remind ourselves that that was us last year in England and we shouldn’t resent the fact that they had taken all the seats in the restaurant. We saw an excellent video there called The Big Wet (by the ABC) and it showed the awesome power of the rain and water in the tropics (even shagging kangaroos got surprised by the torrential downpour and had to postpone their pleasure).
After getting lost in the town of Jabiru when refuelling we headed across to the southern arm of the triangle to a resort style caravan park called Cooinda. We booked in for 2 nights as we wanted to do the ‘Yellow Waters’ tour. Little did I know that Margaret wanted to do the dawn tour; I do not do dawn very well, but there we were getting on the boats before even the sun had had the decency to lighten the night sky.
The wild-life (mainly birds) and were amazing, and the boat operator knew exactly where to go to find all the different species that inhabit the
Early in the morning while they were organising their whistle
South Alligator River in this area. And yes there were more than a decent number of crocodiles lying around in the murky waters. As it was so early, the crocs found that the water was warmer than the air and preferred to stay in the water until the land warmed up – I knew just how they felt. Oh, alright it was a good tour, but couldn’t they move ‘dawn’ until a more respectable time of the day?
We did have a moment of excitement on the road out of Kakadu when we rounded a curve to see a large truck in the distance on the wrong side of the road. It turned out that as a result of the endless burns that take place everywhere here, a mature eucalypt had burnt through at the base and toppled over onto the road, stopping progress in both directions. It wasn’t long before there were a number of travellers on the scene and in very short order most of the debris was off the road- except for the main trunk/branch that was too heavy for the assembled group to move. Hey, hey, Geoff to the rescue with his (newly
Truly majestic bird
acquired) bow saw. He did not think it was going to be up to the job, but the reason the tree burned through was that it was largely hollow up the main trunk and that made sawing through the log a whole lot easier. Everyone was happy and in moments, tree and cars had disappeared and there was nothing left but a large patch of green leaves on the road.
To digress for a moment into the dark world of things electronic. It is quite amazing when you think about all the things we take for granted these days, and we haven’t had a great run with things that make life better on this trip. First the multi media centre in the car started to play up (and Darwin Mitsubishi was not going to open that can of worms!). Then the Telstra ‘blue tick’ phone that we bought (and had to replace in the week prior to initial departure because the first one was stolen from our car) for our remote area coverage decided that it did not want to be recharged. It is old and all the repairers that I took it to just said –
“no hope”. The heavy duty cable to the Anderson plug that we use to charge the caravan batteries from the car when we are driving failed when Geoff plugged his new 150 lt/min compressor into it. It turns out that while the morons at Ace Auto Electrics put in 50 amp cable, they ran it through a 25 amp circuit breaker (and not even a resetting one!). That mob make idiots look like Mensa students!! The satellite TV has not wanted to give us a picture since Exmouth, and we can’t remember what we did in the days before TV. (Yes, Marg can, we do crosswords) and now the microwave is making electrical failure sounds like I have never heard before. It will not be long before we are back to rubbing two sticks together, and huddling under the skin of one of the dead things that line the roads up here.
We stopped at Three Ways which is at the corner of the Barkly Highway and the Stuart Highway for the night (if you look at a reasonable size map of Australia, it is the big T intersection in the middle). It was here that the
Friend of Margaret's
One of the bigger examples of many in the river
microwave started making said awful sounds. By the time we got to Townsville with the thought in our minds that it needed replacing, it decided to work perfectly. Marg has decided that Three Ways probably had a large generator for power and that it wasn’t up to running our microwave. Well that it her theory anyway.
We had an uneventful trip across the Barkly with fierce headwinds and reached Camooweal at dusk. We set up on the banks of a billabong on the outskirts of town with a few dozen other campers scattered along the banks. It was truly lovely and peaceful with eagles and ducks and other water fowl in abundance. We sat outside with our birds of Australia book and Geoff identified the multitude of birds from it. After dinner we sat outside with our coffees under a multitude of stars. It was so hard to take. Free camping is so much better than caravan parks. The only problem was our very full toilet with the RED light; meaning use at your peril. Fortunately the next morning very early we found a dump point in Camooweal and breathed a sigh of relief and other things.
Plunge pool at the base of the falls
Life wasn’t meant to be too easy! It turned freezing cold that night, I kid you not. It was about 4 degrees. We know this because Geoff bought a weather station for the van (boys and their toys) and they don’t lie. However, by the time we left at 8.30 it was sunny and warming up again. We only did a short hop the next day and stayed at Julia Creek in a van park for the grand sum of $21. This is very cheap compared to the $45 or $50 we were paying around Darwin.
After Julia Creek we headed directly to Townsville where we are currently stationed. We are once again in a van park, (a) because we had washing to do (7 loads) and (b) it is hot and humid and Marg needs the air-conditioning and a pool in these circumstances. Geoff has spent a day washing the car and van free of red dust and mud from road works and Marg scoured the inside of the van and washed and ironed. Now we are ready to set off again tomorrow morning for the next part of the journey. It really is a dream come true. Wish more of our friends could join us.