Mataranka to Darwin

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August 25th 2011
Published: September 5th 2011
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The Star from the the old "Star Theatre"The Star from the the old "Star Theatre"The Star from the the old "Star Theatre"

This theatre was built in Darwin in 1929 and withstood the bombing of Darwin in 1942 but the star was finally toppled on Xmas eve 1974!
Tuesday 23rd August 2011

We had a great night's sleep at the airfield which was several kilometres from the road with no-one near us. However, at about 3am Rags woke and the thought of being so far from help and the fact the Jeep hadn't been too reliable kept him awake for some time. Not to worry, after breakfast the car started first kick and we were on our way to Mataranka by 7.30am.

We arrived at the resort quite early and after checking the sites decided to stay the night. After setting up we walked to the thermal pool about 200m from where we set up. This pool was first enlarged during WW2, and has since become a great attraction to the region. Water comes from a bore at the rate of 30.5 million litres/day at a temperature of 34 degrees C. Absolute bliss, and we shared it with some other couples, who all stayed in the water talking about our travels until our skin looked like prunes.

From here we continued walking along the trail for 1.2kms to Stevie's Hole, here meeting a young couple from South Africa who were traveling around in a Falcon wagon,
Lots of beautiful old trees in Darwin cityLots of beautiful old trees in Darwin cityLots of beautiful old trees in Darwin city

Easch one has a plaque saying what sort it is and something of its history.
a little rougher than we were doing. We talked for some time about travel in their country, they more or less convincing us it was safe to do so if you were careful. Maybe sometime in the future.

The afternoon was spent as we usually do, chores for both of us and a walk around the park where we saw the house which was used in the film, We of the Never-Never which was made nearby. After a drink at the resort bar for 'Happy Hour', where we met a couple who ran an animal rescue near Albany, in WA, we retired to the van for dinner. Tomorrow we intend going to Darwin.

Wednesday 24th August 2011

Today was another day of driving. We got up early and left Mataranka just after 7.30am, refueling in town and then set off for Katherine.

Katherine was a flying visit, we refilled the fuel tank and the jerry cans we carry at the Shell garage. We will be back here on our way home.

We noticed a smoke haze on the horizon as we ventured further north and saw much burnt out land as we got closer. Some-one mentioned to us last night that indigenous youths were ignoring their elders and lighting fires near Kunnunara and Derby. Perhaps they are doing the same here, or perhaps it is part of the controlled burnings done every year.

On reaching the outskirts of Darwin we saw turn-offs to caravan parks, but as they were over 20kms from the centre we continued on. As we got closer, the signs stopped, so we consulted the TomTom and followed it to Hidden Valley Caravan Park. We were given one of the few remaining sites, a nice flat one surrounded by a few trees and green grass. On questioning the cost/night we were told that you got a discount of one night if you booked a week up front. As this was the most expensive caravan park we have ever been to, we made the decision to stay for the week! Hope it's worth it.

After setting up camp we drove into town and checked out a few car yards. We took a Nissan Pathfinder for a test drive and looked at the new Jeep. What to do?

Back at camp, a neighbour, also driving a Jeep, struck up a conversation, and next thing we knew we were having drinks and conversation with Terry and Di. They were great lovers of Jeeps, owning a couple and having them for many years before. They have a 43 ft yacht, but no house as they are traveling around camping while their yacht is repaired after it was damaged in the cyclone in Queensland. Good conversation which suited the moods we were in.

The evening was spent working, researching, and generally tossing ideas around about what we were going to do. One thing is for certain, we have both lost confidence in the car we are driving at present.

Thursday 25th August 2011

The morning was spent with Judy doing her uni work, Rags cleaning the car. Even if nothing eventuates at least we'll have the Jeep the cleanest it has been since we left Perth in May. When it was done, Rags took it to the dealer to have it valued for a trade-in.

After lunch we drove into Darwin city, re-introducing us to it after 7 years. It has changed a lot as far as the many multi-storey housing developments that have sprung up (we almost invested in one years ago, but that's another story) but basically it was the same laid back place we knew then. Tourists are everywhere, in fact, besides the shopkeepers, it would be hard to find a local. Still a nice place to be.

At 3.30pm we had an appointment with the salesperson at Kerry's Automotives, to take a new Cherokee Limited CRD for a test drive. This is only the second CRD they have had up here so we are a little honoured. Rags thought the car was brilliant, quiet, powerful and very nice to drive. Judy decided she could get to used to having another white car. Negotiations went on for a while, but we left without committing. We'll sleep on it and see what happens.

Mindil Beach Sunset Markets are an institution here with many food and gift stalls set up along the beachfront. Here, we added to Darwin's prosperity by firstly buying some nicknacks, some delicious Japanese squid and fish dishes, as well as buying a sunset dinner cruise for Monday night.

We stopped on our way back to the caravan to take some photos of the picturesque sunset. The sun was a deep red colour as it sunk below the horizon, silhouetting the boats anchored in the bay. We both mourned that we didn't have our good cameras with us, just the compact. We'll take them with us on Monday night for the cruise and see what we can do.

The evening was spent discussing whether or not to buy a new car, we changing our minds several times, writing up this blog, doing uni work, and having an online chat with Judy's mother, Thelma. She gave us news of some of the family, about her upcoming trip to Karridale, about the operation she is having next month and several other topics. Both sides were in fits of laughter at the end of the 'chat'.

Friday 26th August 2011

This morning was a little hectic, both of us unsure of what we were going to do in regard to the Jeep, that is, keep it or replace it with a new one. We have done our research and from forums and discussions with people in the repair trade, there are no really good vehicles out there since the 4.2 litre Nissans. Jeep has now been taken over by Fiat, the world's largest producers of diesel engines.

We rang Kerry's Automotive in Darwin, and Katrina, the Jeep salesperson, was anxious we made a decision one way or the other as she was getting flack because we had jumped the queue for preparation and future servicing. This may have been a ploy, we didn't care either way, but a little more negotiating had us with a better deal, so we went ahead.

The rest of the day was spent removing the 2 way radio and the electric brake unit from the Jeep, these were to be fitted by us or some-one else. Judy had her work to keep her busy. The last part of the afternoon was the hardest, waiting until 4pm to pick up the new car. Rags was a little like a small child waiting for his birthday!

We finally took possession of the new Jeep, splendid in its whiteness,(Rags has to keep saying this as Judy did not want a white car!) driving it back to camp very gingerly amongst the Darwin peak hour traffic. Believe it or not, this traffic was quite heavy, especially compared to what we have been driving amongst.

Saturday 27th August 2011

Another market was our first destination this morning, this time the Parap Village Market, which have operated on Saturdays since 1982. This gathering of stalls, set up under trees, awnings and umbrellas has many food outlets with the Asian influence being the most common. Vietnamese, Thai, Malaysian, Indonesian vie with Chinese and stalls selling fresh fruit juice, all with great smells wafting the air. As it was only 10am we weren't too interested in eating as yet, but we did buy some fresh vegies and some No Sting spray at one of the other stalls. Judy has some itches from being bitten by the bugs.

Cullen Bay Marina was our next stop, this marina was only completed in 1994. It was an enormous undertaking because of Darwin's giant tidal range which required a high sea walls and a lock entrance , allowing the boats to be unaffected by the high tides here. The sea wall needed 140,00 tons of rock to be brought from 140 kilometres away and a million cubic metres of sand was dredged from Darwin Harbour and pumped in to form residential islands and roadways.. The area is surrounded by expensive houses and high-rise apartments; these were built and sold to finance the cost of the marina. When we got there we watched a large burnt-out launch being lifted onto a semi-trailer; we read later in the daily paper that this was one of two boats which had burnt in suspicious circumstances early this morning.

After enjoying a cappuccino whilst sitting overlooking the harbour, we went to the entrance of the marina where the lock is. Here we talked to a Dutch sailor who was filling the water tanks of his 25 ft yacht. He had sailed this single-handed from Netherlands, through the Panama Canal to Australia, and was about to sail to the Cocos Islands, then Madagascar before sailing to South Africa. His motto was that if you want to do something you have to do it, no matter what others say.

As we were trying to put some kilometres on the Jeep so that we could have the first 1000km service in Darwin before we leave, we drove around Darwin visiting East Point, before driving up the coast to the northern beaches there before returning to the caravan park mid-afternoon.

Here after our swim in the pool at the caravan park, we met our neighbours, Steve and Rita, from Adelaide, and enjoyed a few pre-dinner drinks with them. As they had arranged beforehand to go out we agreed to have a bbq together tomorrow evening.

Sunday 28th August 2011

Today we revisited Litchfield National Park, our memories of it from 6 years ago being a little vague. We didn't recognise the town of Batchelor but then again there isn't much there anyway!

Rags remembered seeing the display of the Magnetic Termite Mounds, and from then on different places we saw were familiar. We had a swim in the cool waters of the Florence Falls after finding the Buley Rockholes packed with people. When we returned to the main road we took pity on a German backpacker who was struggling with a huge pack. He had been travelling with some others when their car broke down, he now seeing as much as he can before flying out of Darwin in 10 days time.

We took him to the lookout overlooking the Tolmer Falls, these were not open to the public to protect the colony of the endangered Orange Horseshoe bats that live there. On returning to the car we met Stephen and Rita, our neighbours at the park, and after dropping off our hitchhiker at the Wangi Falls camping area, met them again at the cafe nearby where we were having lunch.

A visit of the Falls themselves followed, where we saw and tried to photograph a large colony of fruit bats flying amongst the lush tree growth there.

A pleasant evening was had in Stephen and Rita's company, we having a bbq and dispatching a few too many bottles of wine. They come from Adelaide and have now sold their businesses and enjoying travel. We were a little envious of their annual escapade to France, where they cruise the canals in their own barge.

Monday 29th August 2011

Rags delivered the Jeep to the company fitting the caravan brake unit and power cable, riding the 5 kms back to camp. The temperature was already uncomfortable, 35 degrees being the expected maximum. We had a swim in the pool before having our breakfast and after saying our farewells to Stephen and Rita, returned to the van to work/play in air-conditioned comfort.

As the Jeep is to have its first service tomorrow, after a few discussions, Rags rode his bike into the city (about 10kms) in the heat and was given a courtesy vehicle. This was an almost new, petrol Grand Cherokee, nice but not as nice as ours.

The evening was spent cruising the Darwin harbour on a dinner cruise on the Cape Adieu, a large ketch. This was certainly a most enjoyable way to see Darwin from another angle whilst sipping champagne and enjoying a meal of oysters, prawns, steak and threadfin salmon. We couldn't fault the meal or the cruise and this special treat which will remind us of this visit to Darwin.

Speaking of reminders of Darwin, Judy won't forget it for some time. One of the reasons that will remind her is the way she is suffering from sandfly bites. She has red welts all over her legs and other parts of the body. She has tried many suggestions to ease the itch but so far the best has been to dab the bites in Listerine and to take antihistamines. She is looking forward to leaving Darwin and going somewhere where there aren't any sandflies. Rags is very sympathetic, he doesn't seem to be affected at all!

Tuesday & Wednesday 30th - 31st August 2011

Over these 2 days we spent most of the day at the caravan park, Judy working on marking assignments, Rags reading and doing things around the van. The temperature has been in the mid 30s, not pleasant at all.

When fitting the required electrical cables for the power and electric brake system,it appears the contractor somehow managed to damage some of the electronics, these having to be flown in.
When they arrived it was found that this part wasn't what was required so the service department having to remove a part from a new Commander and fit it to ours. All is now well, we have now decided to stay another night (Thursday) so that we can have the power plug correctly fitted, and so that we can drive another 200kms to run the car in. When we leave, we will be limited to 80kph with the van for the first 800kms.

Judy can't wait to get out of here, the sandflies are giving her a hard time. She has tried all the repellants, used Listerine, tee tree oil, and several other treatments, plus anti-histamines, and still the bites continue. Working in the air-conditioned caravan seems to be the most comfortable way for her to spend the day.

Thursday 1st September 2011

First day of Spring and we woke up to another bright, sunny day, with an expected 35 Celsius temperature expected. After a quick breakfast we hit the road and headed towards Kakadu, not intending to get there, but wanting to see some different scenery whilst running in the car.

Fogg Dam was the first stop, this area being where they tried to grow rice in the early 1960s. This failed for numerous reasons and the dam that was then built, holds water and has attracted birds and wildlife. There was a sign prohibiting walking across the wall due to saltwater crocodiles being seen there. We drove across not seeing any, but we did look at the many birds, both water and other, that lived there.

We continued onto the Window of the Wetlands Visitor Centre some distance down the highway, Judy only remembering it from our last visit when she saw it. This is set on the highest point on the lower Adelaide River flood plain and normally there are great views across them. Bushfires however, have caused a thick haze cutting visibility.

At the Corroboree Park Tavern we stopped to look at the freshwater and saltwater crocodile they have at the camp area before turning and heading back via the shops for some last minute supplies. On the way we had a call from our friend, Rod, which enabled us to try out the new bluetooth, handsfree system in the car. It was very loud and clear.

The rest of the evening was spent tidying and readying the van for our takeoff tomorrow.

Additional photos below
Photos: 30, Displayed: 30


Brave Dutch man filling his boar with waterBrave Dutch man filling his boar with water
Brave Dutch man filling his boar with water

Fancy sailing that small boat all the way from the Netherlands on your own!
Lunch at the waterfrontLunch at the waterfront
Lunch at the waterfront

Too much to eat - we should have shared one!

5th September 2011

Thoroughly enjoyed reading this blog.And the piccies are great too. The car looks very elegant, will be a shame to get it dirty !! Sorry to hear you have been eaten alive by Sand Flies Judy. What are other people doing ? I\'m sure you can\'t be the only one who\'s life was made a misery by them. Sounds like you have made many friends along the way. You should have some interesting stories to tell when you arrive home.And that won\'t be long now !!! I\'ll be so glad to see you home again. I\'m off to bed now, night night.

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