Saturday, August 12, 2017

Camooweal towards Normanton

Camooweal was a quaint little town. We found a nice camp spot by a billabong near the town then walked to to the Post Office Pub for a drink. We ended up having lunch there and chatting to fellow travellers. 




The next morning we walked further on to the next camp spot to check out all the different rigs and set ups. It’s amazing how many different caravans, trailers and motor homes there are!
We  had a relaxing afternoon, so I spent time updating my blog. We packed up the next morning, with the next stop being Mt Isa. The road was good. We were amazed at how the landscape changed as we drove along. At times the ground looked like it was cement - all shiny and grey/pink in colour. It’s a wonder anything can grow through it. We saw lots of road kill which reminded us of Tassie!
Forty kilometres out of Mt Isa the topography changed to quite hilly. We arrived and headed to the info centre to find out what to do. We stopped in a caravan overflow park right next to the dried up Leichardt River.  
We visited the lookout both during the day and at night. There were great views of the city and the mine there.


At night the moon was full and looked really lovely against the lights. I set up a photo with a protesting Randall catching the moon in his hands. All a bit of fun!



At night we heard the mine humming and occasionally felt an explosion. 

I cooked a yummy roast dinner with gravy and veggies  in our Dreampot thermal cooker one night. I cooked it up in the middle of the day and it was ready by tea time. I’m always amazed at how it works!


After two days in Mt Isa we drove 50 kms down the road to Mary Kathleen - a ghost mining town. All the buildings have been removed, but the streets were still there and there were just slabs of concrete (originally driveways) dotted along. We could work out where the cinema was and the tiled floor of the toilets out the back. There was even a fountain that I found matched the original photos of the town. 



There were at least 30 other vans stopped there dotted around the town.


The blue dot above is where we put our van. The buildings in this view have since been removed. (Obviously an old satellite image.)
Before tea Randall went off walking and ended up talking to some one. He didn’t come back until well after dark and I had no idea which way he went, and he didn't take his phone with him. I felt quite frightened, and was very relieved when he arrived back!
The night sky was beautiful being away from a town - so many stars! I always look for the Southern Cross and the two pointers. 
Cows wandered through the old township and we could hear them mooing during the night.
In the morning we drove to the old uranium mine - the reason for the township. The road hadn't been serviced for over 30 years and it was a bit rough but we made it there fairly easily. It took a while to find the mine, but after a bit of walking around we found the road leading to it. There was water at the bottom, but we weren't tempted to walk down to it.



We drove out and decided to head to nearby Corella Dam, but it was obviously a favourite for the locals and was very crowded so we drove on to Cloncurry. After a stop for fuel we decided to start the track to Normanton, and stopped at a camp spot about 70kms up the road.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Heading East

In order to head East, you have to go South, about 600km. We left Darwin and our first stop was one we had stayed at before, at the junction to Edith Falls. The next morning we decided to stop there for another night. We went looking for other campsites that were indicated in Wiki Camps, but we couldn't see them on our way in the day before. We walked across 4 lanes of highway, with the speed limit being 130 kph - it was a bit hairy, especially on the bridge, with no footpath!! We found the campground - it was along an old bit of the Stuart Highway, and near the Edith River. It was a lovely area, and we chatted to some people that we'd met somewhere previously. They said they swam in the river - a bit deadly I reckon! We decided not to move - not enough internet service and I wanted to update my blog while I could. Randall wanted to do stuff too so we stayed another night. 



The sunset was beautiful there. It was another hot night and we were looking forward to being south where the evenings would be cooler.
Our next stop was a return to Daly Waters where we had stayed on the way up. This time we stayed at Stuart's Tree, just about 500 metres away from the pub. The tree has a "S" carved into it allegedly by John McDouall StuartRandall pulled out his bagpipes and had a good blow, much to the appreciation of fellow campers nearby. He even earns $6 for his trouble - his first busking money.


The next morning we turned East along the Carpentaria Highway towards Cape Crawford (which is nowhere near the coast!) This highway is single lane for most of the way and you have to move to one side if you see a car coming. There were a lot of roadworks as well, but it wasn't as bad as we were led to believe.
We pulled into a lovely campsite by a river called Little River. with beautiful reflections in the water and lots of birdlife around. 


We sat outside and watched as other caravans came in and set up. We had drinks with two other couples that evening which was enjoyable.
The next day we headed to Boroloola, not knowing what to expect. It was a funny little town, with not much there but a caravan park, 2 service stations, a few shops and a museum which was quite interesting. We couldn't get to the Gulf of Carpentaria as the road would have been too rough, which was a pity. We walked the street to get a feel of the place before we got in the car to head back to our previous camp, not before we drove to the top of the town and into the aboriginal settlement - it did say not to enter but Randall took no notice of course!!
On our way back we called into Canbirini Conservation Reserve, to have a cuppa, then we did a short walk to the billabong there which was very pretty.


We also walked up to a lookout.

                           

Back at Little River, one lot of our friends from the previous night were there again so we enjoyed another evening chatting to them. It was a lovely spot.
The next morning a we watched a car with a trailer pull in and unload trail bikes, and two cowboys hop on and drive off, and then a helicopter appeared overhead quite low, so putting two and two together they were mustering cattle.
We left to head south towards the Barkly Highway. Again, it was a one lane highway and the first 100 kms were quite rough, even though it was sealed. There were lots of cattle on the road and you had to keep your eye out for them. We often saw carcasses of cattle on the side of the road.



Some of the road users went like a bat out of hell even though we were coming towards them. To slow them down Randall stayed on the road until the last minute, then we'd move aside. The countryside changed all the time as we were driving along. Sometimes there was low shrub, sometimes flat grasslands, sometimes trees. We felt that it was the most isolated road we had ever travelled along as we hardly passed another car for 300 kms! Barkly Homestead was a welcome break - the single lane was slow going with floodways all the 
way along it.
There was lots of smoke around when we pulled into our camp spot for the evening. On talking to a couple later the next day they told us a truck had caught fire and set off fires all around. We did pass a mangled mess on the highway on our way to Camooweal, so that must have been it.


Monday, July 31, 2017

Darwin

We drove into Darwin and realised we came in a different way from last time. The Stuart Highway branched off to Tiger Brennan Drive, so it took us a while to get our bearings. All around Darwin there were beautiful Frangipanni trees out in flower. 
We came in late afternoon, so we headed to a nice place called Monsoons for an early pizza tea, then went off to the back blocks of Darwin to stay overnight. We based ourselves at Mindil Beach during the day, often having a bbq tea there in the evening and enjoyed the beautiful sunsets.


One morning Randall ran the generator there and we hooked up to a tap and did some washing. We carry a little 2kg washing machine under our table, and we just have to slide the top out and put our washing in.


Randall put up the awning and strung a clothesline up for me to dry the clothes. A little while later a council van pulled up and came and photographed our registration number. He told us our awning was a permanent structure and it would be a $154 fine, the washing on the line would incur another $154 fine, and we needed a permit for the generator, as we were on council land. Of course the washing came off, awning came in, generator was turned off, and he nicely just gave us a warning - I guess he realised we were harmless. It is because of all the backpackers that come in to Darwin.
The next morning we decided we would go to Charles Darwin National Park to have our breakfast. That was a big mistake! There was a warning sign about biting insects,  but foolishly we ignored it until we felt them biting us! We suffered for days after that! The view was amazing there - I took a quick picture before we escaped! 

We packed up and headed to a different place on the waterfront called Vestey's Beach. 

                           
The second day we went there, when there was no one within a bull's roar of us, we put the generator on so we could charge up the computers, and who should drive by but the same council man! Randall managed to talk his way out of a fine yet again. It was lucky the computer was set up on the table and paper and pens as he was doing work on the super fund. We asked him where we could go and run the generator without trouble and he suggested we go to the boat ramp at East Arm so we went there for breakfast of the next few days and to charge up the battery.
Randall had a couple of friends from old Wrest Point days that were in Darwin so one evening we caught up with them for a drink and a meal, which was very enjoyable.
We caught up with Randall's other piping colleague, Gary and his wife Dixie.  Gary was also going to be playing at the Darwin show. We enjoyed a few lunches together, and also visited some attractions together - the military museum, and also the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the Bombing of Darwin tourist facility. The highlight was the virtual reality glasses watching the bombing of Darwin. OMG!! That was so amazing - I had to hold onto my seat to keep myself grounded!!
We also met up with Gary and Dixie and their friends Bjorn and Liz at Berry Springs for a picnic. It is a lovely spot with swimming holes nearby. Dixie, Liz and I walked to the main pool and sat with out feet in the water. It was really lovely.


Gary said he wouldn'tgo in for a swim as he is always wary that there might be a crocodile in the water, even though they say it is unlikely. Funnily enough this came up today on my Face book feed,as I'm writing this blog, so I sent it through to Dixie and Gary so he could say 'I told you so!"


Darwin has a lovely waterfront area, and there is a nice swimming spot that Randall and I frequented to cool off at the end of the day. There, we saw that you could visit the old oil tunnels - a remnant from WW2. It was quite amazing to walk through it.



Randall and Gary had a practice on their chanters one day at Lake Alexander. It is a lovely park near Fannie Bay. Dixie and I went for a walk while they played their practice chanters at a table. One of our countrymen staggered over to them and enjoyed dancing to 'Click Go the Shears" and "The Road to Gundagai". The boys decided to leave "Bound for Botany Bay" out of the set.



There was this interesting sculpture at the entrance to Lake Alexander.


The day finally came for Randall to play the bagpipes with Darwin and Districts Pipes and Drums at the Darwin Show, along with Gary. It was very hot, and I sat in the shade and watched the sky divers land on the show ground.

                           
Then the band marched on, and played their bit after which the grand parade commenced, with hotted up cars, emergency vehicles etc, and a small cohort of cattle and horses.



After that they played under cover to an appreciative crowd.



The next day they led the Grand Parade again, then marched through the crowd playing. They went up sideshow alley as well. 



Randall really enjoyed playing with the band and was made to feel very welcome.

On our last day in Darwin we got up early, headed to the laundromat to wash then hung clothes inside on a clothes line that Randall had constructed over the bed. We fuelled up then headed over to hand back the kilt and other equipment and say good bye to Gary and Dixie, Bjorn and Liz.


We had enjoyed out time in Darwin, but we were eager to head off for the start of our next adventure, going east.



Friday, July 21, 2017

Edith Falls to Darwin.

As we were leaving Daly Waters we saw our first live kangaroo of the trip! All the rest were road kill.
We stopped at Katherine and refuelled, shopped, washed the car and made phone calls. We then drove 40 kms up the road to a campsite at the turn off to Edith Falls. Two others were camped there and we had a drink and a rather intense chat about Gonski and other education matters. One woman was rather bossy so we made our escape and enjoyed my lasagne that had been in the freezer from home and salad, finished off with a meringue case with strawberries and cream. We certainly eat well when we are away.
We drove into Edith Falls the next day and walked up to the swimming holes, a 15 minute walk. The holes were a welcoming sight and we had several swims before heading back down to the day use area. We needed another dip in the bottom pool after that !!

We drove back to our campsite at the start of the road and stayed another night. It was very hot. Thank goodness for our fans that Randall installed - one over the table and one over the bed. The one over the bed went all night!!

From there we headed to Pussycat Flats at Pine Creek. Pussycat flats is an old racecourse that is now a caravan park. We have stayed here before and it has real atmosphere. The caretaker remembered Randall from our last visit - we had run into some fellow Tasmanians that we knew and we enjoyed quite a few bevies. Randall had pulled out the bagpipes late in the evening much to the annoyance of some of the campers there. Luckily she enjoyed bagpipe music, so she had a bit of a laugh about it.
We plugged into power this time, as our battery needed a top up. It had not been on charge since we left home. The evening was lovely, so we went for a bit of a walk.

 The next morning I went for a walk around the race track. It is the only time to go for a walk - so nice and cool! I saw a tree full of galahs as I went around.

It is nice to have the air conditioner going while we are on power - a rare treat!


The open air bar opens at 4pm each day, but you can sit and do your computer stuff in the cool of the shade. I took the opportunity to update the blog. It is hard on the road to upload photos without good service.

Randall practised his pipes one morning and the caretaker loved it - she even put a video up on Facebook!
We spent 3 nights here and really enjoyed it. On the last night we had the roast dinner on offer - roast pork and vegies followed by apple crumble. It was the first bought meal of the trip and very enjoyable!

From there we headed to Litchfield National Park. Initially we were headed to Buley Rockhole, one of our favourite places to stay on each of our visits up north. Randall had read that it was now only a day use area, so we went to Florence Falls nearby and found a nice spot there. In his search for phone service we moved when Randall got one bar of 3G. He had bought these special aerials at home that enhanced the signal, so here we are walking around, me with one aerial and Randall with the other and the wireless hotspot connected to them. It was so hot and we were both getting grumpy. We ended up going back to where we were, and funnily enough the next morning we got 1 bar of 4G, enough for us to download The Mercury newspaper and for Randall to make a phone call.



We set up and went for a walk. You have to go down quite steep flights of stairs, 135 steps in all, to get to the bottom and swim in the plunge pool. On talking to the ranger, there are some other shallower pools you can swim in that don't involve the steps. We ended up doing a loop and walking the 1 1/2 ks to Buley rock hole and were very sad to see that the lovely camp ground is now an ugly sealed carpark. We had a swim in the pools there then walked back, had another dip where the ranger suggested and another dip in the plunge pool. It was very hot, and by the time we had walked up the 135 steps, we felt like another dip!!



Our solar panels were really struggling to keep our fridge cool, so Randall gave them a bit of a wash with the car brush. It seemed to help a little bit. We only have one 'house' battery to run the fridge, lights, water pump etc. In our caravan we have two, one just for the fridge, which made it easier. We weren't allowed to run the generator here, but we started up the car one evening and used the car aircon to cool us down a bit. A couple of campers knocked on our door and asked us to turn off the car - I suppose it was too noisy!
A lot of campers here light up their camp fires to cook. I couldn't stand being near the heat up here!!
This was our last stop before Darwin. As we headed up the Stuart Highway we finally saw the Ghan, with lots of carriages. We had been looking out for it all the way up.


Saturday, July 15, 2017

Alice Springs to Daly Waters.

As we left Erldunda Randall messaged an old work friend who worked at Alice Springs, and we arranged to meet up with him on arrival. We enjoyed a cool drink at a cafe and then he visited us at our campsite in the late afternoon. The weather was really warm - about 24 degrees - and we sat outside enjoying the sunshine. It is always nice to see a familiar face from back home. 
The place we stopped at was just near the Alice Springs airport. There was more of a mixture of people stopping here from young backpackers to families and the older grey nomads. In the morning Randall was gobsmacked watching the young backpacker girls having an outdoor shower only a few metres away from us!!!  
On our sojourn to find water we went into The Ghan museum. It was really interesting to walk through the old train carriages and imagine what it would have been like travelling  in it. I would love to do the Ghan trip one day. 



Finding water when you don't stop at a caravan park is not always easy, but Randall and I are really good at spotting a tap from 100 metres now. We found one just near the library, and Randall whipped out his trusty tap handle and expandable hose and we were filled up in a few minutes.

We stayed two nights in Alice Springs catching up with shopping and stuff, and then headed off for warmer climes.

We headed north past the Tropic of Capricorn and the highest point on the Stuart Highway, 727.2 metres above sea level. We had a fairly high fuel consumption and could only put it down to the wind until we saw the sign. Anthills start appearing about now and get bigger as you head north. 
We stopped overnight at the John McDouall Rest Area, the third time we have stopped there. There was no phone service, however you could make a phone call by putting your mobile phone on a stand and use speaker phone. The signal was enhanced by a satellite dish next to the stand.

The next morning Randall put his phone there and put on his hotspot, so were were able to download our local newspaper - we like to keep up with what is happening at home.
It was a very grey morning and as we drove the rain started. It was quite heavy at times. When a big road train came towards me the spray was awful - I could hardly see where the road was! It continued raining for about two hours, but thankfully it eased off and made driving easier.
We pulled into a place called Wycliffe Well and couldn't believe the price of diesel there - $127.9! Way cheaper than home and in the middle of nowhere, so we took the opportunity to top up.
There is lots of roadkill around and usually with big eagles enjoying a feed. We hit one big bird, not an eagle, and it stayed stuck in our nudge bar. We had to pull over and Randall got a stick to push it out. It was not a pleasant experience and one we hope won't happen again.
We passed through Tennant Creek and again we were on the lookout for a water tap. We managed to find one at the local fire station - where else of course!

Our next stop was Daly Waters, a pub and caravan park. We stopped here for two nights and it was the first time we had paid since we left home. It has quite an atmosphere as caravans and motorhomes roll in and leave the next day. We enjoyed sitting outside chatting to people and having a beer or two. 





Thursday, July 13, 2017

Uluru and Kings Canyon

We got to the Northern Territory border at 8.38am in the morning. The speed limit sign went up to 130 kph! Needless to say we didn't travel that fast. As we were driving along we passed a cyclist - quite weird when you are in the middle of nowhere. 
We wanted to visit Uluru again as it is such an amazing feature of our country, so we turned off the Stuart Highway and headed for a camp spot we had stayed at previously, 30 ks outside of Uluru. We passed a caravan in a million pieces by the side of the road, and felt very sorry for its owners.
We stopped at the Mt Connor lookout. Apparently lots of people think they are seeing Uluru when they see this mountain. It is quite spectacular, and we walked up the red sand for a better view.


 


Each time we have been here the weather has been amazing! Beautiful blue sky days and crisp nights. 
After we had pulled in I saw a dingo nearby and after talking to another camper, we heard that they were hanging around looking for food. We had arrived early afternoon, so I took the opportunity of lying on the bed in the sun and reading my book - I felt a bit sleepy so had a lovely afternoon nap!
The next day a friendly neighbour came over and offered us their entry tickets to Uluru. They last for three days and were no longer needed so we gratefully accepted them! We headed for the rock via the laundry at the campground. We cheekily did our washing, hung it out and then went for the base walk around the rock.
 It is 10 kilometres around. By the end my right knee had started to give out, so I was glad we didn’t have to go any further!

Our vehicle is so fantastic we can’t believe it. Before our walk we were able to make lunch, have a drink and go to the toilet- so convenient!
We had heard about a campsite closer to Uluru from our neighbouring campers last night, so checked it out on our way in. It looked really good, so we stayed there after our walk, along with many others, after we had stopped to collect out dry clothes from the line. One poor fellow had booked into the caravan park, and when he got there he was sent away as there was no room - not even in the over flow area! I would not have been happy.
We decided to visit Kings Canyon as well. So we packed up and drove straight there, do the rim walk and head back to a camp spot 100ks back. We saw two dingoes as we turned into the canyon car park, the most dingoes we’d seen on any of our trips. We were lucky enough to get a carpark right at the start of the walk. It was quite warm, so we changed into shorts. It took two hours with spectacular scenery all around.



It was a busy day but enjoyable. We’ve done lot of driving, so being out in the fresh air walking, and in warm sunshine, was really nice.
Our overnight camp was good, and we chatted to a few people stopped there. In the morning I opened the blinds to see another dingo lurking around the water tank there- obviously looking for a drink.




From there we drove towards Alice Springs. I did the first bit of driving so Randall could practice his music. We stopped at Erldunda for a break. There was no need to fuel up at their inflated prices as our 120 litre fuel tank gives us a range of 1,000 kilometres.