Lawn Hill National Park QLD

Lawn Hill National Park (QLD)

Lawn Hill is on the Gregory River and it flows constantly year round. It is fed by underground water released through springs. It is the most amazing sanctuary of greenness, birds and fish. We ventured out for a walk to Undarri falls and then onto the lookout at Gundarri. A beautiful walk. The view when you first see the Undarri falls is amazing. You can only imagine what the first explorers thought as they ventured into these lands and came across this place. And the aboriginals have been enjoying it for thousands of years before us.

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We then hired a canoe and ventured up the river to the falls to see them from the water. A great one hour row complete with freshwater croc.

Unfortunately the weather is unseasonably cool at the moment (around 25C) so no swimming for the adults. Maya still has her fish phobia so there is no chance she will get in when you can see them swimming below.

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After a 70 km dirt road out of Lawn Hill we have found the bitumen and so begins the long trip home on tarred roads. We are heading for Longreach. Looking forward to seeing this town. None of us have been here before.

Well Longreach was not that flash i have to say. Did the tourist thing and went to the Stockman’s Hall of Fame which was interesting. North QLD is in terrible drought so it was not the best time to see the town. Many of the towns down through the middle of QLD are similiar. Dry and dusty. I guess you need to stay awhile to see them at their best.

This is the last post. We are zooming down the bitumen now to get home by end of August. We are passing through most townss relatively quickly to make miles. We plan on staying at an outback station on the way home but that will probably be the highlight of the journey home.

It’s been a great and eye opening experience. We have travelled 10,000 km approximately, blown three tyres, witnessed some amazing sunsets (not many sunrises) and fished some great waters. Maya has learnt most of what there is to know about camping, can drive the car, set and light the campfire and of course, toast marshmellows really, really well.

And a closing word from Maya ….

I have had a good time. I can dive a car with me sitting on dads lap. I can use the gears, clutch, brake and excelerator (that I just learnt). I am missing all of you. I will be home soon and I am looking forward to coming home. love maya xxx

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The savannah way

The savannah way

And so we hit the savannah way – what a road! We thought the road to Cobourg Peninsula was bad but this was very ordinary. Corrugations, washouts, river crossings, ruts, enormous holes, cattle, brumbies and road trains. We actually didn’t come across many road trains at all thank goodness. The dust storm after they pass is impenetrable. There are many mines along the way which means many trucks. However, it does mean the road was better in some areas which gave us some welcome relief from the annoying corrugations.

The savannah area is comprised of many river systems and when the wet season rains fall, the area is awash with creeks and rivers. We spent two nights – first night at Two Towns camp ground and the second camped on the Thompson River bank. Both great camp spots after arduous days driving. We went through Boorooloola where we filled with diesel (last fuel stop before Doomadee which is just after Hell’s Gate – interesting name for a roadhouse). It was an eye opener exploring all the towns along the way, many in aboriginal lands where the businesses are run and owned by the aboriginals. You do not want to be in a hurry in any of these towns. Everything happens when it happens. In VERY slow time.

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It was an adventurous journey but after two days of being completely covered in dust we were keen for a shower. So we made tracks (two of our biggest days in the car) and got to Lawn Hill National Park in QLD. Yes we finally made it to Queensland. And it was bliss. Hard to imagine such a gorgeous place in the middle of open plain savannah country infested with cows. Now I know why all the stations up here are very keen on the live export trade to Indonesia.

The corrugations are taking their toll on man, woman and machine. We now have a broken driving light mount and ruined trailer lead to add to a growing list. Fortunately the driving light managed to remain behind the bullbar so a battered light remains to shine another night.

I’ll adjourn for now as I am off for a massage. I would like to say I hurt my neck shooting some rapids but alas I hurt it getting out of bed!!

Kakadu National Park

Kakadu National Park

We left the comfort of the Jabiru camp ground with some spanking new tyres and a little less anxiousness about the roads that may lie ahead. I had not been to Kakadu since 1988 so was interested to see how much I remembered and how much had changed over the years. Besides some infrastructure and a fantastic new cultural centre nothing much had really changed.

We pulled into Cooinda camp ground (complete with swimming pool). Maya was not going to let us explore any others once she knew the pool was an option. After visiting a few look outs and completing a walk at Koongarra to view some rock art we spent a lazy afternoon in the pool. We even succumbed to dinner poolside at the bistro (how lazy are we), which was very good. The next morning we went on the yellow water boat cruise up the South Alligator River spotting saltwater crocs and amazing birdlife.

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Then we set camp for Gunlom falls. Rather than drive the last 10 kms on a lumpy road we decided to pitch the camper trailer and drive into the falls. The walk to Gunlom falls was only around 20 mins but it was straight up. None of us had decided to put our walking shoes on so it was slow and slippery. Thongs are not the best choice in such rugged terrain. Lesson learned!!

But it was worth it. Another amazing series of rock pools, complete with infinity pool to boot. The views were magnificent down across the wide open savannah plains. We spent the whole afternoon swimming and snoozing and watching scantily clad tourists do crazy things. Very entertaining.

 

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We could have explored more in Kakadu but time is upon us now as we only have 15 days before arriving back home.

 

Cobourg Peninsula

To the top we go

After a lovely relaxing week in Darwin we packed up yet again and headed out through Kakadu to Jabiru where we spent the first night before embarking on the long journey up to Cobourg Peninsula. Jabiru is a mining town about three hours east of Darwin in Kakadu national park. A geat camp ground complete with pool ( avery cold pool) and lots of shady trees.

Our first stop the next day (Maya’s birthday) was Cahill crossing on the Sout h Alligator river just inside Arnhem land. So named because of all the alligators i assume. At this time of year there are neap tides so very little water at the crossing. I was hoping for water half way up the door and crocodiles floating by but it was not too be. Maybe on the way back!

We then hit the dirt and very corrugated road which we were to endure for the next five or six hours. We had not got very far and we got a flat tyre. Luckily we were not far from Onpelli (an aboriginal community) where they patched/plugged out tyre. Phew!

Off we went again hoping we wouldn’t get another flat tyre. However, that was not to be. About 150 kms in of the 330 km journey we destroyed TWO  tyres. One on the car and one on the camper trailer. This meant we had no more spares!!!! As you can imagine the last 100 odd kilometres were slow and i was feeling rather anxious. Another flat meant we would be camping on the side of the road until someone with same tyres would ‘lend’ us one of theirs or we wait for someone to bring some in. Neither options is a good option.

About halfway along the road we came across another aboriginal community and it was this point on that the lovely grader men had smoothed out the road for us. It was heaven, and such a relief. The road was graded for about 70 kms which got us into the national park. The road did deteriorate again but not as bad as we had experienced earlier in the day.  Dave and Alison lost two boat trailer mud guards as well. We continued on until we reached … finally … Smiths point, our campsite for the next 4 days. I have never been so relieved to reach a destination as i was this one. We still had to get all the way back out but at least we had four days to enjoy first. And enjoy we did.

The peninsula is a series of headlands surrounded by blue, green ocean, sandy beaches and glorious sunsets. Such a shame we can’t swim in the water. And full of fish. Dave was very keen to get out in the boat and start fishing for our dinner. Jeff took the first shift and they ventured the seas in search of Spanish makeral, Queen fish, Trevally or anything else we couuld make a meal. They returned with Queen fish and trevally which was delicious with our green mango salad.

I took the boat shift the next day and spent six hours hunting down fish. We watched the sunrise as we ventured out and it was beautiful and calm, perfect for fishing. Not long and i caught my first fish – a baracouda – which are not very nice eating so we let him swim another day. We saw lots of fish and hard as Dave tried the makerals alluded him. We got another Queen fish though. And i saw my first crocodile in the wild. A 3 metre salty sitting in amongst the mangroves. While Dave fished i kept my eye on him. He did swim after us a we circled back past him and i was very keen to ‘move’ on  from the mangrove river tributary and find the open water again.

The beaches were great and the kids enjoyed many hours making sand castles, fossicking around for sea shells, looking in the rock holes and finding turtle shells while we chipped oysters off the rocks and watched some flat back turtles swim around. Always with one eye out for crocodiles!!!

The weater unfortunately got a bit windy which meant we couldn’t go out fishing on the third day. Instead we went exploring along the coastal road and to do some bait fishing at caimen creek. Ten minutes into it and Jade caught her first fish – a rock cod. A motley skinned, wide mouth fish that looked just like a rock. But he tasted good! No more fish to be had so we headed back to camp via another beach where we left Dave and Jeff to fish further.

Dave landed a 25 kg baracouda – it was enormous. It took him around 15 minutes to reel in and he could barely hold it up for Jeff to take the picture. What a shame we can’t eat it. Jeff, well he caught a fish too –  a tiny tiny garfish that he didn’t really catch, it caught him. He was trawling in with a massive lure that was bigger than the fish he caught and he hooked it through the head. Poor garfish …. ! Look closely, thats the garfish hanging under the big blue lure. So proud he was.

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A few more piccies to give you an idea. It was gorgeous.

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And so to finish the story …

We drove out the 330 km and didn’t get another flat tyre. Very happy to see the bitumen road 30 km out of jabiru. Stayed in camp ground for two nights and are heading into kakadu to see some more billabongs. The car is presently getting some new shoes fitted ready for more bumpy roads across the gulf.

Stayed tuned for next installment. Not sure when that will be. Internet is scratchy from here on i imagine.

 

Darwin

Darwin

Much to Maya’s absolute delight we head for Darwin – the big smoke where we will spend a week staying with friends (Dave, Alison, Jade and Ryan). Maya and Jade are the same age so there are two super excited girls. We land in Nathara in the late afternoon and settle in for the week. It’s quite a change being in a house again – very comfortable with everything at your finger tips. Daily showers, coffee and afternoon naps under the ceiling fan is the order of the day.

So, now we begin being a tourist in Darwin – prawns from the trawlers, Mindil markets for some laksa, deck chair cinema to catch a flick, museums and parliament house for some history and lazy sunset walks along the beach. Doesn’t get much better!!

No swimming though so we have to head to the water parks to avoid the crocodiles, box jelly fish and sharks (easy choice). Jeff made me go down one of those slides with him on an inflatable tube thingo. Scared the living daylights out of me – it was dark and freaky. Never again!!!

We are now busy planning our next adventure – the Cobourg peninsula (through Kakadu, to Jabiru and Arnhem Land to the upmost tip). Dave, Alison and kids are joining us for this adventure – they have organised the permits etc to make the journey through Aboriginal lands. Dave has the boat ready to go and we are expecting some whopper fish!! No pressure Dave. We’ll spend 4 nights up the peninsula before heading back into Kakadu.

[photos to post]

Litchfield National Park

Litchfield national park

Back on the Stuart Highway (we are becoming very familiar with ‘Stuart’. He hangs around for a long time.) through Adelaide river and Batchelor to Litchfield national park. And we can feel that it’s definitely getting warmer. The camper trailer is great when it’s warm as you can lie in bed and watch the stars – the stars have been magnificent.

We headed for the remote 4WD camp spot which meant we ended up at Sandy creek camp ground – 9 km down a dusty, dirt road complete with 0.4 metre river crossing and a ‘no swimming – crocodiles’ sign to add to the excitement.

We grabbed the second last spot in the small camp ground and set up for two nights. Jeff and Maya embarked on the 1.7 km walk into the gorge for a swim. I chose to kick back with a cool drink and a cool shower and enjoy the sunset.

The following day we visited Florence falls, Buley rock holes and Wangi falls and swam at all of them – a perfect day for rock pool hopping. Then we headed back to our camp ground and walked into the gorge and swam to the waterfall. It’s always a bit of a heart pounding moment when you jump into these rock pools – they are cold, the water is clear but often the ground is dark and you just never quite know what’s in there. There are lots of fish which causes Maya some serious contemplation before she embarks into any water. In some rock holes there are those tiny fish that come up and nibble on your toes – it totally freaks Maya out!

We enjoyed Litchfield – not too many people and a lot of the falls are 4WD access only which keeps a number of people away, plus the school holidays are over so less tourists around. We are amazed at just how much controlled burning goes on in NT. Everywhere you look there are burnt areas – more so given that its dry season. There appears to be some serious discussions going on up here about how much is too much burning. A lot of wildlife gets burnt in these burn-offs as do many of the nests, burrows and homes for all the little critters.

Buley pools Wangi falls Florence falls

Douglas hot springs

Tjuwaliyn (Douglas hot springs nature park)

Another 150 km up the highway North and a small diversion south and we found our way to the hot springs (not that we need hot water but it’s very enjoyable first thing in the morning). A great natural spring where the water bubbling out of the surface in certain spots is so hot you can’t put your feet in it. As the spring water meets the Douglas river it cools to a very balmy enjoyable bath!

Maya me a new friend called Maya today, both the same age. They spent many hours lolling about in the warm water emerging like wrinkled prunes.

On the second day here we drove 17 km up the road (terrible corrugated road) to Butterfly gorge. A short 600 m walk and we found a gorgeous swimming hole. To get to the upper pool you could either go over the cliffs (which we tried and failed) or go around. After a long hard walking trip around the rocky outcrop we found ourselves in another most glorious gorge complete with sandy beach. We were a bit put off by being told that someone saw a crocodile there the day before but as others were swimming, we decided to take the plunge. We worked out that if we swam back across the 20 metres river we could be back where we started and so we could avoid the long hike back around the gorge. The water was lovely. .. and no there was no crocodiles! Well we didn’t see them even if there were.

Another great day finished on with a lazy afternoon by the river. I just wish the cockies weren’t quite so noisy as they are interfering with my afternoon nanna nap.

Off to Litchfield national park tomorrow.

steam bath OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA morning bath for the lounging lizard

Nitmiluk National Park

Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) National park

We headed North from Mataranka on the Stuart highway for a short days travel up to Katherine and onto Nitmiluk gorge. We stopped for supplies in Katherine, a thriving little metropolis complete with weekend market where we indulged in coffee, spring rolls and cold rolls.

We waited till 2.00 pm when the bottle shops opened so we could replenish our wine stocks. Obviously Jeff had not bought cask wine in NT before because he rolled up to the counter with three only to be told ‘you had better pick your best one as you can only buy one!’ No restriction on bottles though so back he went to replenish with bottles rather than casks (Liz much happier). To curb the Aboriginals drinking all day take-away alcohol can only be bought from 2 pm and you are only allowed one cask or one slab of beer.

Once settled in the very busy caravan park we then headed to the boat jetty for a cruise through Katherine gorge. Sun was setting and the cruise weaved through two gorges. Most spectacular, and the guide was very informative about the area and aboriginal dreamtime stories of the area. The pictures tell the story. The next morning we did a half day walk into the gorge to view the magnificent waterways from the top of the ridges. Big walk and Maya rose to the challenge as she has done so on all our walks.

We only stayed one night here (the park was very crowded, full of tourists like us) before heading to the far end of the gorge to Edith falls, a short 60 km drive further North.

Onboard katherine gorge cruise suun setting Katherine Gorge Only a littl freshwater croc but he is about 30 years old Gorge cruise OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

 Edith falls

The camp ground at Edith falls was small, shady and quiet. We managed to grab the last spot in the park and headed straight to the plunge pool for a swim. What a pool.

The next morning we headed for a walk up to the ‘upper pools’. A two hour walk that ended up being about 4.5 hrs with all our diversions. We found some isolated cascade falls and pools where we ate lunch, swam and lay about like lizards. A most enjoyable day. Certainly a highlight so far.

 its cold!!!! its a long way to the top! plunge pool Edith falls camp ground idylic spot for a swim scampering rocky outcrops tp find  the perfect water hole our own  lttle water hole to swim

 

Mataranka springs

Mataranka Springs

Mataranka is a desert oasis where underground water is forced to the surface through limestone fissures. The faster flowing springs have formed deep pools to swim (some manmade assistance for greater tourist appeal). Water quality is clear with just a slight hint of mineral flavor. The constant flowing Roper River runs through this region

Water volume is no issue here so one of the first tasks is cleaning mud from the car….Lizzy didn’t want to drive the muddy tracks in case of bogging and it seems that the driver is responsible for cleaning. A job made slightly pleasant due to warm weather.

Wildlife abounds in this region and we have many visitors trough the days and nights – large wallabies (or small kangaroo), bower birds, lyre birds, apostle birds, honey eaters (bird book is getting a work out) variety of spiders and cockatoos. Both nights were shared with small wild bores in the near shadows……noisy creatures that they are. If there were not so many tourists around pork dishes would have been in order for the next few meals.

.. a word from Maya …

 I have seen 1 dingo, many kangaroos, lots of cows, lots of sheep, lots of lambs, lots of horses, lots of wild goats, 1 dead kangaroo , lots of cockatoos and kookaburras, 1 gecko, 6 emus, 3 grasshoppers, lots of bull ants, 13 zebra finches (which are birds)and 15 eagles. I am missing you.

I wish you were here because it is amazing. We are camping in mataranka springs and the pool is surprisingly very warm even though it is a pool. It is because it is a spring and springs are very warm but I don’t know anything else. I saw a lyrebird and lots of small kangaroos and 2 wild pigs. I fed 4 small kangaroos and one of them bit my finger.  We are heading to Katherine gorge.

maya in the springs feeding the wallabies mataranka springs feeding the lyrebirds

Binns track

Muddy and sippery Mud removal pub with no beer camp

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Small diversion as we head north

Another coffee is required prior to departure……..and disaster strikes……..the coffee shop is closed Monday. Fortunately Alice has a second trendy café and Lizzy sniffs it out.

Rather than shoot up the Highway we decide to take a look at part of the Binns track which leads us NE from Alice. Country side is similar to the McDonnell Ranges west of the city with a number of gorges. The road leads through some beautiful ranges and creeks as it leads to the historical town of Artlunga. The old pub remains from the mining days in the late 1800s but it is difficult to get a beer. Difficult to imagine that supplies for this town were brought in from the end of the rail at Ooodnadatta ……that no excuse for not having a beer ready!!

The recent rain has closed a road heading north so we are forced back west towards the main highway. The track passes through flatter pastoral country and road conditions become slippery. We need to stop early to get the trailer open and let everything dry out. Fortunately the dry weather is returning. Great camp on the Hale Creek with a disused windmill for a backdrop.

Track out to the bitumen remains muddy so the car and trailer are both looking ordinary.

 

Hit the bitumen to seek hot weather

A couple of days focused on travelling north up the bitumen road. Nothing exciting to report until Mataranka Springs with the weather increasing to warm up and nights are now balmy.

White ant mounds increase in size and frequency as we move north. Tourists have taken to dressing them with clothing to resemble human form. Some examples are quite funny and it provides entertainment.