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Published: August 3rd 2011
As I publish this blog, we are just leaving Katherine and heading west towards Western Australia, to visit some ex-Keri teachers in a small aboriginal settlement then do a desert track. You can check out Murray and Chris's blog at
But here is an update from Borroloola to Darwin with 20 photos.....
Crossing into the Northern Territory was celebrated with photos under the sign. To the unobservant the landscape seems repetitive and may be boring. But there are subtle changes all the time, and there is plenty of beauty in the bush.
Our first stop to buy groceries and beer was Borroloola, an aboriginal town 1000km south east of Darwin, The groceries were no problem, although pretty short on fresh fruit. Enquiring about beer, the beer is sold from 2.30pm onwards. Consequently, quite a few locals were sitting in the trees’ shade waiting for 2.30pm. As it was only 1pm we moved on – (I know it's hard to believe but we are not that desperate). Borroloola is situated within the Narwinbi Aboriginal Land Trust, and the NT has very tough alcohol regulations. Alcohol-related deaths in NT are three times higher than the national average.
We have to show photo ID which is swiped to see if we are on the banned list. (we are not, at this stage). Also, there are heavy fines for taking alcohol into Aboriginal Land Trust areas with the intention of selling it. You may carry it if you are passing through these areas only. If it is your destination, you are not allowed to carry any at all.
Another snake in the grass as I walked to the loo at the airfield. We have seen over 10 snakes over a two week period – probably more than the average Aussie sees in a year. The others think I attract them.
The Southern Lost City in Limmen National Park was our next overnighter. At 1.4 billion years in the making, these rocks are some of the oldest in the world. The area was once an inland sea, the water seeped into the rock and eroded it, breaking it into columns up to 25m tall, looking like natural sky scrapers. They consist of 95 per cent silica and are held together by an outer crust made mainly of iron, giving them their unique red colour, especially at sunset. During
our walk amongst these columns in the heat, we found a shaded area which was cooler and with a little water seeping from the columns. We shared a breather here with lots of coloured butterflies enjoying the lower temp. This area was accessible to 4WD vehicles only and so we had to fight off the crowds of tourists – two other vehicles!
Another area named Butterfly Springs in Limmen NP is a beautiful spot, with a small camping ground. We stayed here and enjoyed a lovely swim at the bottom of a waterfall with hundreds of butterflies. Yes, this sounds idyllic, and it was, however it was our first shower/bath in four days! (And soap is banned for ecological reasons). Oh, well, at least we all smell the same.
We kept heading west towards the Stuart Highway via Nathan River Road. Upon coming across and inspecting a freshly shot buffalo on the side of the road, the ranger pulled up to check it was dead as he had just shot it. All hard hoofed animals are culled in the Limmen NP as they are all feral, but there are still thousands of feral animals in the NT, ie
horses, donkeys, pigs, buffalo, etc. After a chat with the ranger we now know how to identify buffalo turds as opposed to cattle.
We camped off the road near St Vidgeon where there was a billabong covered in flowering water lilies. Here was our second close snake encounter - in the dark Chris stepped right over one, and froze with one foot on each side of it. “Keep walking, Chris” , I said – she did, and it slithered away. Using the snake identifying book we hoped it was non-venomous – but who knows!
A big highlight was swimming in the “Bitter Springs”, near Mataranka, a gently flowing creek with beautiful clear springfed water at a temp of about 34 degrees, surrounded by bush and palm trees. There were small fish in it, and enough flow to gently drift down from the entry steps to the exit – about 500m.
A bit of exercise was required so we walked the Leliyn Track in Nitmiluk National Park up to the Upper pool where we had a swim under the falls.
Douglas Daly Tourist Park - here we walked along the river and had a quick plunge in
the “spa” pool, only to see on our return a “Crocs” sign – “no swimming”. Oh, well, lots of other people were. Another nice park where we could light a fire and cook on it. It also had a bar and small bistro. You do get to chat with locals as it is often their watering hole too.
Fenton WWII Airfield and camp was a sobering reminder of WWII. Built by the Americans in 1942, it had 6000 ft of runway, and 7600 ft of taxiways. Most of this is still intact, although the roading is overgrown, but you can still drive on the runway and some of the roads. 27 Japanese "Betty" bombers escorted by Zeros, carried out the first bombing raid on Fenton Airfield on 30 June 1943. They bombed the runway, destroying three Liberator bombers and damaging several others. No one was killed during this raid. There is still a “graveyard” with some small parts of planes.
Daly River Crossing to Mango Farm - This crossing had only been open a couple orfweeks Two vehicles lost traction the previous week – driving too fast and not keeping to the upstream side ("It'll cost ya a
$1000 to be pulled out", we were told as we approached the crossing).. The camp ground on a mango farm has only just opened after April flooding. This area gets cut off by road by the rising of the Daly River during the wet season. There are up to 6000 people in the outlying area, mainly in Aboriginal outstations, who were cut off from November to June, the only way to get supplies was flying out. Crocs snooze on the crossing later in the season when the water drops and the concrete crossing is dry. Yet the locals swim in the pools and fish off the banks. The locals know what the crocs do and where they are, but unfortunately some tourists chose to do this too and wonder why they are in danger.
Litchfield Park was busy with lots of tourists and the southern area that we were particularly keen to explore, being 4WD only, was still closed due to wet season road damage. However, a swim at both the Florence and Tjaynera Falls was lovely. Here we were noticing the heat in the camping ground so pulled out Murray’s thermometer and put it in the shade. It
was 35 degrees in the shade, so we put it in the sun and it shot up to 53 degrees! No wonder we were feeling it. Murray got out his 12 volt fan which made absolutely no difference whatsoever. Here we met a lovely, young, Swiss couple, Jan Carlos and Bettina who also had a Troopy Camper. They already owned one that they had purchased in 2010 and at the end of their Aussie tour had driven it back to Switzerland, sending it via ship from Sydney to Singapore, then Singapore to India. Hmmm – that is food for thought. We ended up in the same camping ground in Darwin. Also we met another couple whilst swimming. They were from Vienna, travelling in a Troopy camper. We also met them again in Darwin. They were leaving the next day so gave us all the food they had left. A nice treat of salami, cheese, spaghetti, etc.
Ahhhhh – Darwin
What a lovely city and easy to get around. The first thing to do was go to the very popular Thursday night Mindel Beach market. As well as the usual stalls selling crafts, clothing, jewellery, art, etc, there were street
performers, musicians, and an amazing variety of ethnic and Aussie food. As a lot of people do, we took along our chairs, a few beers and a bottle of white wine to enjoy whilst eating dinner and people watching. Then as the sun set, 100s of people moved onto the beach to watch. Such a lovely evening, no one disorderly, and everyone having a lovely time – locals and tourists alike.
On Friday we met Greg and Maureen from home who were there visiting their brand new grandson, then met them again on Saturday night at the Trailer Boat Club for dinner. What a great night it was, catching up with them.
We wandered down to one of the marinas to check out the locks that are required to enter and exit due to the up-to 8m tides.
More on Darwin in the next blog, as I'm going to rave on about WWII... also crocs at East Alligator River, the beautiful Cobourg Peninsula, and Kakadu.
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