In the Heart of the Northern Territory

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June 30th 2017
Published: June 30th 2017
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We finally have phone service again, the Optus network is definitely not great up here, though Telstra is also a bit hit and miss also. We are currently in Katherine on quite a cool morning, most of us are wearing jumpers and long pants right now. It has been really warm especially when up near the ocean to the north.

Since my last post we have come a long way. After leaving the Isa on Wednesday we headed north on a very rough dirt road at night to get to Gregory Downs Station and spend a few days with Mitch. We arrived at about 9.30 at night, we mostly sat on 40 to 50 km/h because it was really rough, we worried what damage we were going to find when we arrived but over all the damage wasn't too bad, we found quite a few screws and pins that we don't actually know where they have come out of! Our door has never quite fit properly since that night either!

At Gregory was just beautiful, we are allowed to camp at a beautiful spot along the river on the station that is secluded and untouched with a gorgeous clear running creek beside us. At the nearby free camp there are so many vans squashed in to the large area, I think they would be green with envy if they saw our spot!! Mitch showed them a muddy creek about 30kms away (that is classed as just down the road here lol) and the guys caught lots of Red Claw and then everyone had a big cook up and ate them (except for me!).

Mitch took us to a spot on the Gregory River at Karmarga, an old station site no longer used. Nathan caught the first fish of the trip, a nice sized Black Bream. There were rapids so the guys had to lift up the boats and pull them over the rapids and rocks to get to the river above, to explore and catch more fish. Sonia caught the first fish on a lure. Peter got a bit out of control while coming back down the rapids, all ended well and gave all there a lot of laughs.

We left on Saturday morning and headed to Bourketown for internet and lunch (those with Telstra could get it but not Nathan, Ethan or I who are on the Optus network). We then headed towards Domadgee for fuel but when we got there at at almost 5pm we found it had shut at 4.30pm. We had enough fuel to get to Hell's Gate but knew it probably wouldn't be open at this time of day so we found a free camp close by to wait to fill up in the morning.

After filling up the next morning we headed west across rough dirt road towards the Northern Territory (so rough when we opened our fridge it looked like a bomb had gone off, which smashed sauce bottle and lids off everything!), crossing the border about lunchtime on Sunday. After the rough Queensland roads it was a relief to drive on the NT ones. As soon we crossed over, the road was still dirt but SO much smoother! We crossed a few river crossings which were a bit exciting after nothing much to see all day. We stopped for the night at Foelshe River crossing and Sonia did a bit of fishing and caught a baby Barramundi. WikiCamps indicated there were crocs but some local aboriginal boys were swimming in it so we guessed it mustn't be too dangerous.

The next day we drove on to Borraloola, on the way we came across a car that had just rolled. Some other people had stopped and were calling for help on a Satellite phone, We checked to see all was ok, and were told help was on its way and the lady had bumped her head and wasn't too good. We then passed an ambulance and two police cars on their way to the accident. It definitely pays to take it easy on roads like this.

We arrived late morning at Borraloola which is an Aboriginal community and fueled up and stocked up on a few groceries. It was a little expensive but not as bad as I expected it to be. We then headed to Bing Bong for lunch, we had no idea what it was but loved the name and had to check it out. It ended up being a mining lease on the ocean, so not really picturesque enough to have lunch by, so we drove to a nearby boat ramp at Mule Creek and had lunch. Here being right at the mouth of the ocean there were Croc signs everywhere but luckily we didn't see any while having lunch.

While at the boat ramp a fellow traveler told us about King Ash Bay (we had seen a sign but didn't really want to travel more dirt roads yet), he said it was like a resort on the river and well worth the trip. We decided to go and check it out but ended up paying to stay a night. Some went out in the boats to fish and saw some saltwater crocs lazing in the sun beside the river.

We left after lunch on Tuesday and headed towards the Stuart Highway, staying the night at a little spot beside the road. We checked out some free camp spots but they were full and our 3 extra vans would definitely not have fit.

We arrived at the Highway around lunch time and filled up and had lunch at a place called Highway Inn and Plane Wreck ( a crashed plane sat out front). We all had phone service for the first time since Isa which was very exciting, especially for Ethan! We traveled further north and of course us Optus networkers lost it but Telstra generally kept theirs.

We went on to a quiet camp spot called the Gravel Pit (there seems to be a lot of free camps called this) just near Elsey Cemetery and Homestead site. Knowing we were coming here I started reading 'We of the Never Never', I'm only up to chapter 8 but it was exciting (that sounds strange) to see the graves and know who each of the people were.

The next morning we headed to Mataranka and visited the hot springs, it was so packed with busloads of people. After being in the middle of no where for so long it was quite a shock to the system! Nathan went for a quick dip in the springs but being so crowded it didn't really look that inviting. We then had a look at the replica of the Elsey Homestead used in the 'We of the Never Never' movie, which had been moved here after they finished filming.

Next was Katherine and we really wanted to stay at a cheap camp called Nixon's Crossing which we found on WikiCamps app and is very close to town. We came early in the day to make sure we got a spot and were told the Council didn't want them operating and had officially shut them down yesterday. They could only stay open for 2 more weeks. We are so glad they were still open and hope they win their fight to reopen next year.

We set up, had lunch and then headed out shopping to buy groceries, we had run out of bread and other items long ago! It was so nice to have toast this morning lol.

That brings me to today, we are all just catching up on repairs and odd jobs before we go out exploring tomorrow.

So far on this trip we have done around 600km's of dirt roads, Nathan said it is probably 600 more than this van was intended to do, but all part of the adventure.

Till next time...

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1st July 2017

The Gregory sounds beautiful and the fridge - oh dear :(

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