Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Cairns and Surrounds

Cairns - 24th – 30th June 09

Cairns Hinterland
Cairns Hinterland North Queensland
From Cairns & Surrounds

After we left Mt Garnet we set off for Atherton, on the way we stopped and marvelled at the green rolling countryside (something we had not seen for months!). It is truly amazing how we can find something we used to see every day in the UK so captivating. We were snapping away with the camera like we had never seen anything like it!! Another reminder of just how dry Australia is. We also enjoyed 4 waterfalls on our way to Atherton, these were all very nice with Milaa Milaa falls being the pick of them. It is straight out of a story book, the way it falls straight out of the forest into a neat pool below.

Millaa Millaa Falls
Millaa Millaa Falls Cairns North Queensland
From Cairns & Surrounds

Ellinjaa Falls
Ellinjaa Falls Cairns North Queensland
From Cairns & Surrounds

Atherton is a nice little town in the mountains and we stopped of in the ‘Crystal Caves’ store in the centre. This store is home to the largest piece of Amethyst crystal in the world. In the store you can ‘Crack your own geode’. Geodes are mined in South America and start out looking like a big stone. Inside however is beautiful crystal. Cracking your own means that you pick a random stone (guaranteed to be hollow) and then get to split it yourself, this means you are the first person to ever see inside the ancient geode.
We chose our ‘rock’ and the lady in the store explained that the geodes were very easy to crack; they even have small children do it!
Heidi was at the handle end of the giant cracking device and I was at the dangerous end holding the stone and wearing goggles!! With the stone in place Heidi gave a little pull and nothing happened. So she pulled a little harder, still nothing.

Cracking a Geode
Cracking a Geode Atherton Table Lands
From Cairns & Surrounds

The lady came over and tightened the chain and we tried again… nothing. The lady came over to help Heidi and still the stone would not break. With Heidi basically swinging from the handle and 2 of the shops staff helping the geode finally cracked – It was solid all the way through!! The shop manager said that he had never seen this before and looked totally bewildered. He let us pick another geode and this one cracked like an egg first time with very little effort. We ended up with a very nice smoky quartz crystal that will look nice on the mantle piece.
We bought a pizza in town and then stayed in another heavily populated rest area (this one even had a caretaker!).
The next day we drove through the mountains and down into Cairns. Cairns is a beautiful city surrounded by mountains and ocean (ocean containing the Great Barrier Reef no less!). It is the commercial centre for the North of Queensland and bigger than we expected. There are a million and one tourists here and a million and one things to do, from snorkelling to bungee jumping, but with our now exceedingly tight budget we will save this for a dedicated trip some other time.

Palm tree at campsite
Palm tree at campsite Cairns North Queensland
From Cairns & Surrounds

We spent our few days in Cairns at a very nice Caravan Park (where you could feed turtles in the river) and stocked up, bought a new tyre (the old now unroadworthy), refuelled, shopped, did washing and carried out all those essential tasks that comes with being in a major city for the first time in a while. We visited a few of the northern beaches and really liked Palm Cove (sunrise looked beautiful here). There were expensive resort style hotels all the way down to a council run caravan park all over looking the beach (The latter being our place of residence for the night!). One problem up here though is that swimming in the ocean can be a little dangerous, there are marine stingers (Jellyfish) and Crocodiles. Needless to say there was no swimming for us!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Gemtree, Plenty Hwy & Mt Isa

Gemtree Caravan Park 20th – 22nd June 09

The Plenty Highway
The Plenty Highway
From Gemtree

Our next ultimate destination was Cairns on the north east coast of Queensland (Our final state). This is a bloody long way from Alice and we knew we had some tough driving with not a lot to see ahead. We had 2 choices – Bitumen (tarmac roads) via Three Ways, Camooweal and Mt Isa = 1150ks approx or a dirt/gravel road called the Plenty Highway straight over to Mt Isa with not a lot in between! = 750ks
We opted for the short cut (of course!) and stopped just 140ks out of Alice at a place called Gemtree Caravan Park. As the name suggests there are actual gems here and you can fossick for them yourself. You can normally choose from Garnets or Zircon (Both semi precious), but the Garnet tour was all booked out so we were taught how to fossick for the harder to find Zircon. Garnet is easier to find and therefore slightly less valuable because it is found in soft sandy soil, Zircon is in hard clay.

Fossicking for Zircon
Fossicking for Zircon Gemtree
From Gemtree

The tour began nice and early in the morning, we collected our gear and set off to the gem field in search of riches!! Basically once you have located the right layer of soil, you dig out all the stones and dirt that lie there, sieve it, wash it and then search through it for the elusive stones. Sounds easy and it was really apart from the whole swinging pick axe thing and all the shovelling and all the washing of dirt (which turned to mud in the bottom of the wash barrel) and then searching through 100’s of stones for maybe one or two muddy zircons that look nothing like they do once they are cut and set into jewellery!
Truth be, we had a ball, we quickly realised that no one is going to get rich doing this. We were only out there to see if we could find a nice stone that Heidi could set into jewellery. The tour guide said that if you find more than 3 cutable stones (That’s right, not all the Zircons you find are even any good!), then you have done well.
We were very chuffed when we got them back to the Caravan Park and were told that out of our 100 or so ‘possibles’ we had 8 cutable stones - a good day indeed.

The Fossicking Tools
The Fossicking Tools Gemtree
From Gemtree

We arrived back at our tent and were invited over to our neighbour’s tent for dinner. We gratefully accepted and the Damper and stew (which was awesome) went a long way to sooth our weary limbs. We stayed with our hosts until late chatting around the fire and listening to the singing of a man and his guitar a few sites down.

Plenty Highway and Mt Isa 22nd – 24th June 09

The Plenty Highway
The Plenty Highway
From Gemtree

The next day we set out with many 100’s of kms of dirt road between us and the Queensland mining giant Mt Isa. The road was long and apart from a giant termite mound and having to stop at someone’s house to refuel (!), fairly uneventful. Though we did finally get to see some real ‘Bull Dust’, it is basically a massive hole in the road full of dirt the consistency of talcum powder. It is very nasty stuff and you can do serious damage if you go ploughing into a deep hole of it! It can also be hard to spot, but we managed to negotiate it without any dramas.
Dusty and tired we pulled into Mt Isa after dark and got to see the awesome copper mine all lit up – amazing sight. Dinner and then bed followed, the next day we headed to the town look out for views over the city and mining operation. We grabbed a new number plate (now that we were finally back in Qld) and fuelled up before hitting the road once more. We did not set off until afternoon and spent the night in a heavily populated rest area. A night in a nice little Caravan Park in Mt Garnet followed then we hit Atherton in the Tablelands just west of Cairns. (Nearly there!!)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Alice Springs

Alice Springs - 18th – 20th June 09

Bojangles, Alice Springs
Bojangles, Alice Springs Norhtern Territory Australia
From Alice Springs

Our road turned north and back to Alice and the drive took the whole day from Uluru. The next day we headed into Alice to explore the town and get a few supplies for the onward trip. We stopped in at the famous Bojangles for lunch. This is a very quirky place and they like to have some fun with their customers. There are coins glued to the floor, on the doors to the toilets the handles are on the wrong side, when you turn the tap on in the bathroom the tap at the next sink along is the one that turns on, even the hand dryers are cross connected. All the while there are video cameras beaming live images to the Bojangles website. (There is even an ‘ON AIR’ sign above the door as you walk in!)

A Thorny Devil
Thorny Devil
From Alice Springs

Late afternoon we managed to find an hour to pop into the Reptile Centre and even got to hold some of the attractions there. We held a Bearded Dragon, a Blue Tongue Skink and another type of skink – the name slips my mind – it was very good fun and educational too!
After another bloody cold night (these were part and parcel of central Australia for us by now!) we headed out of Alice via Anzac Hill, which is a small mound in the middle of town that provides a nice view over the city. Next we stopped at the Old Telegraph Station.

Alice Springs, Old Telegreaph Station
Alice Springs, Old Telegreaph Station
From Alice Springs

The Old Telegraph Station is how Alice came into being and the history and the way that people lived in outback Oz was fascinating. Being so isolated before communications and motor vehicles must have been quite a challenge.
The telegraph station is still worked by volunteers to this day and we sent a message to Mariana via Adelaide (she still hasn’t got it yet though!! Nearly a month has passed….. oh and yes we know we are mega behind with the blog – travelling is so much fun and tiring it is hard to find the time!!)

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Kings Canyon, Kata Tjuta (The Olgas) and Uluru (Ayers Rock)

16th – 18th June

Uluru - Ayers Rock
Uluru - Ayers Rock
From Kings Canyon, Kata Tjuta, Uluru

We left Alice a bit late in the day for the 300 odd kms to Kings Canyon and arrived there in the mid – late afternoon. We took the dirt road short cut and got our first glimpse of camels in the wild – a strange sight.
We did not have time to do the 3hr rim walk around Kings Canyon but did walk in through the bottom to have a look. It was not as spectacular as we thought it would be and thought we may have been a little spoiled by all the gorges and ranges we had seen so far.
Caroline and Graham had left a lot earlier for the canyon than us and were doing the rim walk. We parked next to their car and waited for them to finish. Caroline was very surprised to see us and we set off to look for a place to camp. Campsites are expensive around here and we settled for the less pretentious Kings Creek Station over Kings Canyon Resort. It was a good night and we caught up with a few beers. It was very cold overnight once more and the hot shower in the morning was very welcome.

Kata Tjuta - The Olgas
Kata Tjuta - The Olgas
From Kings Canyon, Kata Tjuta, Uluru

All clean we set off for Uluru and Kata Tjuta, we said to our co-travellers we would meet them later in the day… somewhere... and camp with them once more. The drive to Uluru was again a very long one and we couldn’t wait for it to be over. On the way we stopped to have a look at Mt Conner (A lot of people think this is Uluru at first!) and then continued on the further 150kms to Uluru National Park and the purpose built resort town of Yulara. As we all know Uluru (or Ayers Rock) is the natural icon of Australia and when it came into view it was very difficult to take your eyes off of it.
We headed into the National Park and over to Kata Tjuta (Or The Olgas) first. They are not as well known as Uluru but still very spectacular. We took the obligatory pics and then headed off to the ‘main event’.

The road to Uluru
Uluru Outback Australia
From Kings Canyon, Kata Tjuta, Uluru

After driving around the full 16km base of Uluru we stopped at ‘the climb’ and ummed and ahhhed as to whether we should have a go. The climb is long and very steep; there is a chain around 100m from the base that you can use to aid the ascent. Don’t be fooled though this does not make it that much easier and the climb was incredibly tough. Heidi is not too fond of heights and did very well to make it to the chain and even continued another 100m before saying to me that was enough for her. I was however determined to get to the top of this chain to see what the view was like from the top. Heidi passed me the camera (I already had the ruck sack with the water in it) and I continued on up to the top. The climb was intense, my heart was pounding out of my chest after 200m and the top was nowhere in sight. I ended up taking a few chains at a time and then stopping for a break. I have to say I have never pushed myself that hard before, my legs were shaking and I was sweating like mad.

The rock climb (Uluru)
The rock climb Uluru
From Kings Canyon, Kata Tjuta, Uluru

After what seemed like forever I could see the top of the chain, a guy coming down the other way told me that the chain was not the top of the rock and that more climbing followed. I looked at the time and knew I would never have time for that too! I just wanted to beat the damn chain!! After a few more arduous meters I was there, I sat down, took some pics and drank a little, then set straight off for the precarious climb back down – I needed to make it back down in time for sunset!
With shaky legs and being very out of breath already the climb back down was not as easy as I would have liked. It took a very slow approach and a lot of time to make it safe to the bottom. Heidi was waiting with Caroline and Graham who had completed the climb a bit earlier than us (as ever we were trying to squeeze too much into 1 day!).
After I recovered we set off to watch sunset on the rock. This is one of the ‘must do’ things whilst you are here and there was a large crowd in the sunset ‘viewing area’. We took the obligatory pictures and watched the red rock go to brown then grey.

Uluru Sunrise
Uluru Sunrise Outback Australia
From Kings Canyon, Kata Tjuta, Uluru

It was then off to camp in Ayers Rock Resort for the night.
After another cold night we awoke early and headed back out for sunrise. We decided to watch the sun come up behind the rock, which was a pretty special sight. We then headed back to camp and cooked our travelling companion’s porridge and made them a coffee, they acted like all their Christmas’ had come at once!! (They had no stove!) We bid Caroline a definite final farewell and we’ll hook up on Facebook soon.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Mataranka to Alice Springs

Mataranka 13th – 14th June 09

Mataranka Hot Springs
Mataranka Hot Springs Northern Territory
From Mataranka to Alice Springs

From Mary River Roadhouse we drove to Katherine via Pine Creek - 250kms or so. Here we stopped (now in mobile signal) to wish Mum (Carl’s) a happy birthday and welcome Mariana back into the country after 3 weeks in England. We refilled OJ (AGAIN!) and were about to set off for Mataranka when I spotted a very familiar Red Ute with an Irish sticker in the window – small world. A couple of jokes and a more sober goodbye later we were on our way to Mataranka.

Mataranka is a small inland town famous for being near some hot springs. We arrived in the afternoon grabbed our swimmers and went for what we hoped would be a refreshing dip – it was a hot day again. Unfortunately the water was body temp and not that refreshing. The pool was gorgeous; the water was crystal clear, tree lined and deep. There was a current which gently swept us along and we took in the view. Swimming back was optional but we made it stopping only once for a breather.
Another wonderful place to add to the list of places we have visited.

Mataranka to Alice Springs 14th – 16th June 09

The road south to our next destination – Alice Springs, was a very long one. We stopped a few places on the way, Daly Waters, Tennent Creek (overnight) and Devils Marbles. Daly Waters is one of the most famous outback pubs in Australia, we stopped in for a drink and a pee, took some pics and got back on the road. It was a quirky place like the outback pubs we have already seen.
After here we stopped at a rest area for a quick snack (read: sausage roll!)
As Carl walked back to the 4x4 he noticed that there was a small puddle forming under OJ…. Oh no! After a quick investigation under the bonnet we discovered that a small hose right under the manifold was leaking. As fate would have it at that moment a mechanic pulled up with caravan and family in tow and asked if we were ok. I (Carl) pointed out the leak and he said that it was a heater hose and not a serious issue, but it needs to be fixed pretty soon! I said I was on my way to Alice (800-900kms away) he said “Need to do it before then! They may do a hose here if you ask”
I toddled off to get a hose in the roadhouse – no luck. We carried on to Ellis in search of the hose but it was Sunday and nothing was open.
Tennent Creek was out next port of call - 500 or so kms from where we first notices our leak. We had stopped every 100kms to check the water and top up if necessary and were very relieved to see a town. It was evening and we went off to the caravan park and had a beer to settle our nerves and watched a show called Jimmy the Bush Tucker Man. He did a campfire show and we got to try Kangaroo tail – interesting… (we’ll leave it at that!)

Devils Marbles
Devils Marbles Outback Northern Territory Australia
From Mataranka to Alice Springs

In the morning we set off to the spares place for the hose and then as the hose was in a very awkward position, off to a mechanic to see if he can fix it up. The spares place said that the mechanic would need to have a look at the 4x4 to determine the hose and then he would buy it before he did the work. Fair enough we thought… 2 trips to 2 different mechanics later we not having much luck. Neither could do the work until 2:30pm and we really wanted to be in Alice by the afternoon ($88 an hour for labour was not that appealing either!)
The 4x4 was not leaking when cold and was not leaking when running – only when cooling down. We wrapped some electrical tape over the hole and set off for Alice (fingers crossed). On the way we stopped off at Devils Marbles and marvelled at the huge boulders perched precariously in the desert. Check out the pics.
After what felt like forever (stopping every hour again) we arrived in Alice as the bright desert sun was setting. We pulled up at the service station and the tape and hose finally gave up and coolant was now running all down the forecourt. We popped over to Repco and picked the hose OJ so desperately needed, Carl got talking to the guy that served us about how it was hard to find a mechanic at short notice and he offered to do it for us that night on his driveway! So within hours of arriving in Alice OJ was fixed and ready to go.
We rolled into what felt like that last available campsite in the whole of Alice well after dark (after a Macca’s) and it was freezing! After a night in 1C temperatures we were off again with no time to explore Alice right now (we would be back) to meet up with Caroline and her new travelling partner Graham at Kings Canyon.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Kakadu National Park

Kakadu National Park - 11th – 13th June 09

Ubirr, Kakadu National Park
Ubirr, Kakadu National Park Northern Territory Australia

It is around 140kms from Darwin to Kakadu (the largest national park in Australia), we stopped on the way to fulfil the ambition to see a Salty in the wild and took a ‘Jumping Croc’ boat tour on the Adelaide River.
There were around 10 guests on the tour and the boat was a good size. The captain advised that we should not let any part of our bodies hang over the sides of the boat as it could be seen as food! We all sat nervously in the middle of the boat, no sooner had we pulled away from the docking area we say our first croc, apparently it wasn’t very big (!) and we carried on down the river.

Croc Jumping Tour
Saltwater Crocodile Jumping
From Kakadu NP

It was then that a larger male floated over and the action began. The deckhand basically had a piece of chopped Buffalo tied to the end of a stick and she hung it just up out of the crocs reach. Then when the croc could be bothered (it sometimes took a while) he would let his tail fall down below himself and propel himself up a metre out of the water to grab the meat. Often the croc was unsuccessful as the meat was hoisted even higher in the air (They called this encouragement, not teasing!!) I felt a little sorry for the croc but the captain explained that if there was no jump in the wild there would be no food either. Their policy was if the croc jumped and made an effort he would get the chunk of meat in the end. The croc was estimated to be around 4.5m long, we were told any croc over 3m could pull down a human and could kill.

Saltwater Crocodile
Saltwater Estuarine Crocodile
From Kakadu NP

We carried on up the river to a spot where a mother had been seen at a nest site. As we pulled over many baby crocs jumped of the bank and into the safety of the water. We were told it was very rare to see baby crocs just out of the nest in the wild – we were very privileged! Mother croc tolerated us and got a piece of meat for jumping out of the water. It was when she jumped that we saw that she had no front legs, this was due to bigger males being a bit rough during/after mating! Tough life!
Ambition fulfilled we headed to South Alligator (so called because the first explorers thought the creatures they were seeing were Alligators not Crocs) and set up camp for the night.

Ubirr, Kakadu
Ubirr, Kakadu National Park Northern Territory Australia
From Kakadu NP

Refreshed and clean we headed in the direction of Ubirr and the main source of the World Heritage listing – the Aboriginal Rock Art. Some of the art is estimated to be up to 4000 yrs old and they have gone to great lengths to preserve it. There are railings guarding the rocks for which there is a $5,500 fine if you cross. There is also a bead of silicone around the art to stop rain water dripping on to it and degrading it.
Ubirr is also the site of a 360 degree lookout over the surrounding wetlands and of the Arnhem Escarpment. Arnhem Land is a massive area of land under Aboriginal ownership and you need a permit to enter the area – it is a mysterious place!

Ubirr again
Ubirr, Kakadu National Park Northern Territory Australia
From Kakadu NP

Also visible from the lookout and probably the most exciting thing of all (Carl) you could see one of the places where Crocodile Dundee was shot. Kakadu was used heavily for this film and Carl was excited to have seen a piece of it.
From Ubirr we headed for the Uranium mining town of Jabiru for a few supplies, stopped in at the visitor centre for some interesting facts and then headed out of the park to the Mary River Roadhouse. We realise we did not see all the park had to offer and had we more time Jim Jim Falls (via 160kms return of rough dirt road) would have been on the list, but time is very much of the essence and we bid farewell to Kakadu.

Thursday, June 11, 2009


Darwin - 7th June – 11th June 09

Darwin Northern Territory Australia
From Darwin

We arrived to a very hot and humid (for us!) Darwin in the middle of the afternoon and picked up a couple of things for the car – A new Headlight and some De-mineralised water to top up the battery (See Dad we are being good auto maintainers!!).
We then set off in the direction of Lee Point Caravan Park after a recommendation from Frank and Allison. We found the C Park to be an interesting place… They wanted $100 deposit for no real reason other than “it is their policy” and then told us that we could just go pick a site anywhere we liked… The place was quite full and it was a little difficult to find a spot in the shade. After touring around a couple of times we found a spot and set up, all the while sweating our arses off! I would not be joking if I said that this may have been one of the hottest most humid nights I have had in Oz so far! It may have been because we had gotten used to cooler dry whether on our trip, but I know one thing I WAS MELTING.
After an uncomfortable nights sleep, we set off into Darwin to meet up with Kieran and Caroline (the Irish backpackers from Broome and beyond). They had sent us a text 3 days before asking when we would be in Darwin and saying they would love to catch up. After a quick wander around the Darwin Esplanade we met them in a bar called “The Deck” on Mitchell Street at 12pm. After lunch, a few drinks and a lot of catching up, we did not leave the place until 8pm – something we had not planned!
Caroline was very excited as she was meeting up with her boyfriend the next day. She asked if we could stay another night to meet him. We said that we would as the only thing we have seen of Darwin so far is the inside (& outside) of “The Deck”!

Kieran and Caroline
Our Irish backpacker friends
From Darwin

The next morning after once more hearing Dingoes howling during the night (Heidi has decided this as a very eerie noise straight out of a horror movie!), we fitted the headlight and headed off into Darwin. It was the afternoon and we headed for The Wharf Precinct. There is a lagoon (Croc free of course – think it must be the chlorine and tiles they don’t like) that they have built there and it has the best wave machine we have ever seen.
Makes the Oasis in Swindon look like child’s play, these waves were so big you could grab a free boogie board and ride them back to shallow water! COOL!

Darwin Lagoon
Darwin Lagoon Northern Territory Australia
From Darwin

After a fun afternoon and no success with catching a wave, it was time to head home and get ready for our night in town meeting the guys. We ended up being a little late getting out and did not arrive until after 9pm. We stayed out until very late, not getting into bed until 4:30am. We had a good night and said a final farewell to Kieran and maybe Caroline though she is heading in our direction. All this of course forced us into another night in Darwin!
We booked another day and spent it by the pool, reading and getting ready to leave tomorrow. Our next destination was the World Heritage listed Kakadu National Park.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Litchfield National Park

Litchfield National Park - 6th – 7th June 2009

Litchfield National Park, Florence Falls
Litchfield National Park, Florence Falls Northern Territory Australia
From Litchfield NP

We set off for Litchfield reasonably early leaving all the hardcore campers to cook their breakfast over an open fire back at the springs. Litchfield is well known for its waterfalls and waterholes to swim in… Our thoughts turned back to the ‘Salties’ “Surely people don’t swim if there are Crocs around?” We had heard that Litchfield is croc free.
We arrived at Florence falls and were hungry so did lunch first, then onto the falls lookout before descending to the pool under the falls for a swim. The falls looked great and we could see people at the bottom having a great time swimming “Great we thought we can get out of this heat!” We walked 135 steps down to the bottom and dropped off our stuff, by now there were at least 20 people in the water and having a great time. Heidi said that it was always a dream to go for a swim under a real waterfall. She carefully climbed barefoot over the rocks to the pool edge and negotiated the underwater minefield of boulders to jump forward and swim. I followed and the water was great, it was such a hot day. We swam over to a few rocks in the centre of the pool and sat looking at the falls cascading down from at least 10mtrs right in front of us. I said “well what are you waiting for, shall we go” “if you’re sure?” came the reply. Off we went the 20 or so meters across the pool to what now seemed a very powerful waterfall! When you are under a fall like this water is spraying everywhere and it is very difficult to see. We tried to look up at the falling water, catching mere glimpses of it falling before we had to wipe our eyes once more. We then looked across to the other smaller waterfall into the pool and swam over. Here you could haul yourself up onto a ledge and sit with the water falling on to your head and back. When Heidi jumped up I swam back a few metres… What I would have given for a waterproof camera! The backdrop she had sat there was amazing and I hope I never forget it. Water tumbling from high up off red craggy rock as she sat there laughing, it was awesome!

Litchfield National Park, Wangi Falls
Litchfield National Park, Wangi Falls Northern Territory Australia
From Litchfield NP

Later in the afternoon we went back up the steps and headed expectantly for Wangi Falls and another swimming hole. We stopped at the lookout over Florence once more and saw a guy climbing the side of the falls and looking over the top of them… remember at least 10 mtrs up! “Surely not we thought” Then after what seemed like an age he leapt from the top and took an eternity to hit the water. It was so high and how did he know what was under him?? He rose safely back to the surface and 2 more of his friends gave it a go – madness if you ask me.
The walk to Wangi Falls was considerably easier – just a gentle slope to the waters edge where a series of steps and a handrail were waiting. On the way down we had seen a sign advising that Estuarine Crocodiles (Salties) can enter the area and to please not swim in the water if the sign advised it was ‘Closed’. This was a little unnerving but the sign said “Open” and there were at least 50 people in the water. We thought that if there was a croc and he were hungry he would sure have eaten by now!! All jokes aside we were sure we’d be ok before entering the water – please don’t any of you worry!
This place was much larger than Florence Fall’s pool, but no less spectacular. There were again 2 sets of falls and we swam to them both. A little further this time (around 35 metres approx). First to the heavy and sprayful one and then over to one where you could haul yourself out – seemed familiar (Which only added to the enjoyment). This time though you could climb up a few easy steps to what appeared to be a little pool next to the falls. We dutifully waited our turn to sample the pool and were rewarded with a little hole no bigger than a dining room table yet over 2.5 metres deep! The water was much warmer than the main swimming hole and had a little waterfall of it’s own. We spent a little while here before letting the next in the queue have there turn and we swam back over to the main sand bank where there were many people enjoying the cool water.
It was at this point that we noticed an Asian girl and her male friend. We recognised her as the person in the little pool before us, she was beckoning her friend to go and have a look at the pool. The swim as I have mentioned was a calm 35 mtrs across to the other rocky side. She swam slowly and unconfidently over and motioned for him to join her. He was shaking a little and then sprang forward into the perfect ‘2 stroke then breathe’ front crawl. Heidi and I looked and thought oh well he must just be scared of the deep dark water… It was not until he neared the rocks and stopped that his problem became apparent- he couldn’t tread water! He was flapping like a dying bird just 2 metres from the rocks where he would be safe. His friend jumped in and ungainly tried to push him to safety. Phew we thought, hope he is ok.

Heidi's Knee Injury
Litchfield National Park, Wangi Falls Northern Territory Australia
From Litchfield NP

We were about to leave the cooling waters for camp when we noticed the guy sitting on the opposite bank. He was not interested in the pool but looking back longingly for the shallow waters of the sand bar! Heidi said we better wait to see if he was ok and I agreed.
We waited for what seemed like half an hour before Heidi jumped in and swam across to ask the last 2 people on the opposite bank if they were ok. The Young Asian man immediately said to Heidi in broken English that he was not ok and that he needed help. He said that he was very tired from the swim across and scared that he could not make it back! After a 10 min conversation Heidi had made it known that she was not strong enough to get him back on her own. She had signalled breast stroke and he had agreed to do his best and just keep going.
They set off, Heidi on one side and his friend on the other, it was not long before he was going under and Heidi was grabbing him by the arm to keep him afloat. I (Carl) am not the greatest swimmer and waited anxiously as deep as I could manage holding out my hand ready to pull the guy across to shallower waters. Heidi looked like she was struggling now to hold the weight but they were making slow progress. The guy seemed blissfully unaware how close he was to sinking. Just as Heidi could give no more I was in arms reach and grabbed the guys hand pulling him passed and over to safety.
What a day we had had! Heidi was shaking, telling me that if the pool had been 5 metres longer she would have really struggled - swimming one handed was not easy!! Wow he was a lucky boy!
On our way out of the pool, I sat on the rather high step, up to my chest in water waiting for Heidi to confirm the guy was ok and to come swimming over. For some unknown reason she walked and in trying to get up the step whacked her knee on the very rough almost pebble dashed step. She held her knee and looked in real pain, at first I thought she would be ok, but then on 2nd inspection the cut looked very deep and the visible white flesh was quite disturbing. We had only said the other day that we had hoped to never have to use the first aid kit! My first thought was that it would need stitches 
We hobbled over to the car and decided that antiseptic followed by some of those little strips to hold the wound together and a plaster (Band-aid) should do it – the bleeding was already virtually stopped. We got it done and she managed a smile and thanked me – I will forever be known as doctor Carl (K), just like the legend from Neighbours!!

Enjoying Wangi Falls
Litchfield National Park, Wangi Falls Northern Territory Australia
From Litchfield NP

We headed off to camp at the Wangi Campground and found the very last available site in the whole place – lucky for a change! In the morning we went to set off for Darwin and OJ wouldn’t start – Dead battery! In the evening we had the fridge running from both batteries in a bid to keep it cool and we also had the stereo on, OOPS! Luckily our neighbouring camper had seen me try and start the car and was already on his way over asking if I would like a jump start? He said that he had no jump leads though.
It was ok, we are very prepared and I foraged through the back of the car looking for something I thought I would never need! 10 mins later and with half of our possessions on the floor I emerged triumphant with the jump leads and we pushed a very heavy OJ over to his waiting Pajero. She stated first time and we thanked our neighbour for his help and set off in the direction of Darwin via a dirt road shortcut.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Katherine Gorge and Douglas Hot Springs

Katherine Gorge and Douglas Hot Springs - 4th June – 6th June

Northern Territory - Woo Hoo!
Northern Territory Australia
From Katherine & Douglas Hot Springs

The drive from Kununurra to Katherine was looong and not really much fun. Frank had told us to stop at Victoria River and look for Saltwater Crocs from the bridge. We did so but had no luck. We both really want to see a ‘Salty’ but from a safe distance!
In Katherine we stocked up on fuel and headed off to the campground at Katherine Gorge. We arrived whilst the sun was setting and virtually did everything after dark (not much fun – the pool there looked nice and a dip would have been great. We are relaxing now… right?)

Katherine Gorge
Katherine Gorge Northern Territory Australia
From Katherine & Douglas Hot Springs

In the morning we went for a walk to a lookout over the river. We suddenly felt ‘Gorged out’. No disrespect to Katherine but I think we have just seen too many lately. We shopped for a few supplies and headed out of town for a place Heidi really wanted to visit – Douglas Hot Springs. She had read about this place a while ago and now was the chance to get there. We arrived with plenty of daylight left and found a shady spot for the car and grabbed our swimmers. Off to the springs we went.
We stepped into the water not knowing what to expect and were greeted with a luke-warm flow of water. The further we went from this flow the cooler it got… Cool we thought. There were a large number of people sat upstream in a deeper area and we felt we would be intruding to sit there so we found a log a way down in the cooler section – it was a very hot day after all!

Douglas Hot Springs
Douglas Hot Springs Northern Territory Australia
From Katherine & Douglas Hot Springs

As the pile of people upstream thinned we ventured further up – primarily to take some pictures of this very nice place. Heidi went one way and I walked straight up stream towards the group of people (with the intention of walking by)
As I got closer the water became a little warmer (as I had expected.. I mean this is why they are sat here right?) It was not until one of the guys there said to me “the further you go the hotter it gets” that I really appreciated the “Hot” in Douglas Hot Springs. As I walked through the group I was like ‘Ouch’ - wow this was real hot, like a bath you can’t quite get into. Heidi had stopped taking her pics and I beckoned her up the stream telling her I had just found ‘the hot’. As she walked up the stream she said “woo it’s nice and warm here” until she got to me… then she danced a little saying “ooo ooo ouch” and then jumped up on the sand next to me. “Told you it was hot” I said. What an amazing thing we thought – Hot water straight from the ground.
We had a nice evening chatting and then went off to bed. Litchfield NP was our destination tomorrow and all the expectation that comes with such a well known park.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

The Bungle Bungles (Purnululu NP) and Kununurra

The Bungle Bungles (Purnululu NP) 30th – 31st May

The Bungle Bungles (Purnululu NP)
The Bungle Bungles Purnululu National Park Western Australia
From Bungle Bungles & Kununurra

After a long drive from Fitzroy Crossing through Hall’s Creek we arrived in the afternoon at the signpost for “The Bungle Bungles”. The Bungle Bungles are now officially known as their Aboriginal name Purnululu (NP) and have only recently become known to ‘the White man’. In fact it was not until a video or photo (can’t remember which) was published that the world took an interest; this was in the 1970’s! I believe this area is now World Heritage listed!

Cathedral Gorge
 Cathedral Gorge Bungle Bungles Purnululu National Park Western Australia
From Bungle Bungles & Kununurra

The Bungle Bungles themselves are famous for looking like beehive shaped domes and being striped in black and reddish orange. Apparently they look like nothing else in the world and are very well preserved.
After taking the turn off to The Bungle Bungles we only had 53kms of our long journey left and were looking forward to seeing some of the park before setting up camp and our rissole salad for dinner. Unfortunately things didn’t quite go to plan and it was soon obvious seeing some of the park would not be happening tonight.

Road into Bungle Bungles
The Bungle Bungles Purnululu National Park Western Australia
From Bungle Bungles & Kununurra

The 53kms were very rough (4x4 only for sure!) there were numerous water crossings and a large patch of bulldust, this was along with the bazillion corrugations. We both said to ourselves that if OJ doesn’t break something it will be a miracle – we still have to get back out of here by the same road!! (To kill the curiosity for some and to stop you skipping through… The miracle happened, kinda - we did lose the front number plate!)
We awoke the next morning determined to see what The Bungle Bungles had to offer and get back up the access road afterwards and on our way. On the itinerary for today were Cathedral Gorge and Echidna Chasm. Both were meant to be spectacular and we were keen to see them both. We started with the walk to Cathedral Gorge via “The Dome Walk” and were not disappointed. The beehive domes were amazing to see and so fragile. Any loss of the waterproof film from their surface would result in them eroding very quickly – we were not to walk on them and to stick to the river bed – which was dry of course! After dome walk it was onto the gorge, it was truly worth the walk. We thought we may become “Gorged out” (as it were) but we were not (yet anyway). The ‘hole in the floor that had been created by a waterfall running in the wet season was amazing. The place was huge, red and staggering; there was a little pool in the middle, dwarfed by huge overhanging walls that you could not see the end of - we felt very small. After the piccies (see below) we headed off to a lookout over the domes and then off to Echidna Chasm.

The Bungle Bungles (Purnululu National Park)
The Bungle Bungles Purnululu National Park Western Australia
From Bungle Bungles & Kununurra

The lookout was great and gave you a scale of the park. Echidna Chasm was awesome. After a rocky walk up a very pebbly river..creek..(whatever!) bed, we were rewarded with a very narrow, tall opening in a very large red cliff face. As we walked further into the Chasm (our first ever chasm by the way) it got narrower, taller and redder. Amazing how water can cut into rock this way, takes millions of years I guess, but still an awesome sight – more pics below! They don’t do it justice though – you really need to be there!

Echidna Chasm
Echidna Chasm Bungle Bungles Purnululu National Park Western Australia
From Bungle Bungles & Kununurra

Lunch was still falling into our bellies as we headed out of the park and the nightmare 4x4 only road. 2hrs later and with the sun low in the sky (and unbeknown to us, minus a number plate) we pulled off the dirt road to the very welcome bitumen. Our destination was Kununurra…. Hopefully, if we had the time??
The drive from The Bungle Bungles through the Kimberley Range at that time of day, particularly with the sun low in the sky is awesome. Carl marks this as one his best ever drives and certainly up there with ‘The Great Ocean Road’. The scenery was amazing, only enhanced by the position of the sun. The rock faces and mountains were burning red on one side and in deep shade the next. The sky was a brilliant blue and gave a stark contrast to the greenery hugging the red rocks. (“Something I’ll never forget” :- Carl).
We did not make it to Kununurra that night; we had just taken too long on the damned road. We stopped in a rest area as dark approached just 60kms short of our destination. As Carl opened the back of the car he said “Umm we have a problem” He waved a 20litre drum of water in the air (this was full at the start of the day) and said “the taps come off and the back of OJ is very wet”. Not again! Our second leak of the trip and this was much bigger than the last!

The Kimberleys Mountain Range
Kimberleys Mountain Range Western Australia
From Bungle Bungles & Kununurra

Kununurra 1st June – 4th June

After the short drive into Kununurra (somewhere we had not initially wanted to stay after we pulled into the rest area) we picked the “5*” campsite in town (at 8:30 am – 2hrs before people even checked out!) and unloaded the entire car, carpet and all.
It was a hot day and we begged the car to dry knowing that the pool was waiting for us – the relief from the heat was gonna be good!
We plopped into the pool in the late afternoon and agreed that this was a very nice campsite. We decided to stay another night as we had not stopped 2 nights in the same campsite since Exmouth way back on 20th May. All this travelling was beginning to take its toll and we felt and looked tired. Another day by the pool couldn’t hurt… right? We awoke feeling suitably lazy and did not a lot all day. We popped into town and picked up a few nice bits to eat. After lazing by the pool we came back to the car and were greeted with an invitation to join the neighbours for a drink and nibbles. After a fun night chatting to Frank and Alison and a few too many beers it became apparent that we would not be leaving the next day either! – Neither of us could face a hot day sat in the car!
So…..After another lazy day, now fully relaxed, we packed up and hit the road in the direction of Katherine and our final unvisited state The Northern Territory.

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