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Published: June 29th 2007
Mike at Ivanhoe Crossing
Could see the barra but couldn't catch them.
We stayed a few days in and around Kununurra, which overall is a great destination - with Ord River water freely available to all, the town is very green with water used liberally every day it makes a pleasant change from other FNWA towns. We could not help reflect on what the Murray and Darling Rivers might be like if they had similar resource utilisation to the Ord!
A couple of short drives saw us at Ivanhoe Crossing, where we fished for a few hours (no luck) and generally lazed around in the sun (27degrees) and watched the crocs swim by once again. The local Rum brewery was the next stop for later that afternoon - trick little place with some of the brews helping to bring beer o’clock forward by a couple of hours. Over the next couple of days we explored the local area and walked through Mirima NP (aka the mini Bungle Bungles - saved all that driving!) and found a great camp spot for our next trip up this way.
With Steph’s parents spending several years in various places in the Northern Territory it was time to push on and pick up their trail.
Just 100kms or so south of Katherine is Mataranka which is a little tourist haven. We stayed here at the Homestead campground for 4 nights. It’s a busy place with nightly entertainment, happy hour, daily screenings of the movie “We of the Never Never” based on the local story of this area and which was filmed here. Angus spent most of the time waterlogged in the hot springs making friends and feeding the wildlife which turned up in shifts for attention. In the afternoon we went barra fishing in nearby Elsey NP. Tragedy struck on the 3rd day when kangaroos stole Mike’s glasses (only possible explanation, theory backed up by the fact that they also steal marshmallows).
We only had a short drive to Daly Waters, but it took us several hours to get there. We stopped at Larrimah for one of Fran’s famous pies but ended up having camel and buffalo sausages with onion and gravy in fresh baked bread rolls instead - fabulous! Then, as we travelled on, a rig immediately ahead of us lost a wheel off his camper trailer and the driver continued at speed, oblivious to his problem, dragging the trailer at a
The Hoochery, Kununurra
Ey me hearties, got a taste for the rum now!
serious angle, sparks flying. We caught up with him 5kms down the road where he had been flagged down by some people we had met at Mataranka. Three out of six wheel bolts had sheered off. Lucky for him, the other folk were farmers and truckies, so they had a good tool kit and the know-how. While we drove back and found the missing wheel which had spun out into the scrub, the others managed to repair the trailer and attach the spare to get the guy back on the road and onto the next mechanic. Taking half a day to fix a strangers trailer is no hardship out here.
Our next stop was Daly Waters where Steph’s family lived and Dad worked at the airport during the late 1950’s, early 1960’s. They always described it as a town with “6 houses and a pub”. Three of the original DCA houses are still standing and there are a couple of extra buildings. The airstrip is still in use though it is pretty rough. The pub is a major tourist attraction with about 50 caravans pulling up each night. As the rain came down, we retired to the pub at
around 2pm. Angus wupped Mike at pool, possibly because of the missing glasses, but more likely because Mike was on a mission. The free live entertainment started at 5.30 and by then we had a new circle of friends. We had a terrific dinner of beef and barra, more entertainment, more beer, dancing and singing; successfully embarrassed Angus with an impromptu Lambada. Mike performed a pole dance to the delight of the crowd and frightening the children, before we all staggered off to bed around midnight. Mike had his first and only AFD the following day. This stop is highly recommended for all travellers and all ages - oldies, youngies and families with kids were all looked after very well. You can even get a job here, apparently the money is good but you have to stay 10 weeks and it helps if you look good in a tight tee shirt!
Tennant Creek was another overnighter - by now the nights were getting colder and we were digging out the extra blankets and beanies. Passed Barrow Creek on the way down and regret not stopping as it looked like a really pretty spot, beautiful old Telegraph station all in
stone and a lovely mountain backdrop - next time.
Our next major stop was Gemtree, 140km north of Alice Springs. There is nothing here but the caravan park, which is friendly and excellent, with its wood fired water heater, campfires and gem shop. You can also get food and fuel. We love fossicking for interesting rocks so we booked in here for a couple of days to explore the area which is famous for its semiprecious stones. We went out on the garnet tour on the coldest and most overcast day anyone could remember. We soon warmed up digging and sifting the earth in search of our fortune, although the washing water was close to freezing all day. We did pretty well given the conditions and found some nice pieces. The next day we toured the local area and took in the fabulous scenery. There are 4WD tracks and walking trails everywhere around here, some of them you need permission to travel on from the local Aboriginal Community or station managers, others are public roads.
Fired with enthusiasm, once we had recovered from digging garnets we took on the Mud Tank zircon field with pick and shovel. Our
Frog in the Toilet, Katherine
Angus felt guilty about flushing the little guy but apparently they live down there in the sewer just fine!
guide recommended digging in the hardest earth, so Mike swung the pick while Steph sifted and washed and Angus swooped in from time to time to extract gemstones using his keen young eyes. Only the hardy try this activity as it is seriously hard work. A couple of American “rockhounds” were our only company. When we got back to the gem shop later that day we caused quite a lot of excitement from the quantity and quality of our finds. The gem sorter was amazed at the amount of earth Mike had moved! Teach them to hand the bigfella a pick. Think we set a record. We loved Gemtree and we’ll be back!
Briefly stopped at Alice Springs and visited the Reptile Centre which Angus really enjoyed. We handled lots of lizards and snakes and had a great talk. Passed through Stuart Well (free camping if you wanted it) and were lucky to coincide with a tour bus arriving at the Roadhouse so we got to see Dinky the Singing Dingo do his thing. Great story. Overnighted at Erldunda which would have been good except a tourbus of teenagers went crazy in the shower block and flooded the septic
- phewww! Pub was good but 😊
After this, there was nothing left to do but cross the border into SA and head further south into the freezing weather. We figure anything up to Alice is reachable from Adelaide so we made a point of not looking too closely at Coober Pedy etc on this trip. We have the Oodnadatta Track on our agenda to do another day. Timing your travel up here is the most important thing - not too hot and certainly not too cold as it is now.
This is our last post. Hope you have enjoyed the ride as we have. For more info on the Gibb River Road, have a look at Hore House Hold blog on this site and see what happened to some friends of ours a couple of days after we passed through. Everyone can have a different experience out here, but everyone has an adventure. See you soon!
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