Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200508 2 Australia-NT

TUESDAY 16 AUGUST – Get up at sunrise to hit the road.  We see a huge kangaroo at the roadside, taller than Steve, but he hops off as we approach.  Stop at the Kiana rest area for breakfast once things warm up.  It’s a very quiet road and we have seen no traffic at all this morning so I make use of the water supply and strip off for a shower.  Needless to say this is the point where a vehicle comes past, think I’m bothered?   Near Cape Crawford the road climbs to the top of the escarpment.  This would have been the coast when the sea came this far inland.  Cape Crawford itself sits on the junction with the road to Borroloola and the only thing there is the Heartbreak Hotel which comes with a number of stories to substantiate it’s name.  There’s a pleasant caravan park (swimming pool empty), small shop and bar.  Petrol is a little cheaper at $1.42 and we find free hot showers in the toilet block but of course I’ve already had mine.  We turn west towards the Stuart Highway and stop 10km further along at the Little River rest area.  It’s a pleasant spot by the remains of the river, a stagnant pool but with pelicans and other bird life.  Unfortunately there is no privacy or shade and lots of flies so we press on.  Just a little further on we spot a track off to our left going up over a ridge.  Steve walks to check it out and finds a good secluded area for camping with some shade and less flies.  Set up camp and relax for the rest of the day.  For the first time this trip we find the evening is very warm and we can stay nude all evening and sleep under just one duvet.



WEDNESDAY 17 AUGUST – We get up a bit later and find that it’s already hot at 8am.  We’ve not been on the road long before it is really hot and we are ready to pull off into the shade.  Another repeater station makes a nice camp once we have negotiated the termite mounds in the centre strip. Steve explores and finds an old sawn off barrel with a toilet seat resting on top so we are obviously not the first to use this area for camping.  Surprisingly there are no flies anywhere in the area.  The gas bottle runs out and Steve changes it over but has some problems connecting the full one.  The hose shoots off and we lose lots of gas but he manages to secure it.  Late afternoon he walks behind the van and smells gas again, we have a leak and nothing to repair it with.  Pack up and drive to the Bullwaddy rest area, a really good large shady area well off the road and with picnic tables, fireplaces and water.  There are a number of people camped up and one of them helps us out by removing a clamp from his compressor so that we can use it on the gas pipe.  It’s great how friendly and helpful everyone is once you are in the outback. 



THURSDAY 18 AUGUST – Rejoin the main Stuart highway and stop at the junction for fuel from the Highway Inn $1.39 litre.  There’s an old aircraft at the front of the service station and a campsite behind.  Just up the road we turn off to Daly Waters to check out the WW11 airstrip for free camping when we come back down.  There are a number of people parked up and it’s a good spot with an old hanger containing information displays.  This was the first international airport in Australia and Lady Mountbatten was aboard the first flight.  Chat to a couple who have just come out from the Daly Waters pub and it sounds like Frank Turton is set up to perform there.  He does wood carvings, sings his own bush songs whilst playing the guitar and tells jokes.  In 1999 we met him at his home “The Black Stump” in Paringa where he had a really quirky garden and within it put on shows.  Part of his act was to set up a bush bath (heated by a campfire underneath) and ask for volunteers.  Until we visited no one had every offered to hop in it but I did and he remembers us for that.  Frank is only here for 2 more weeks and we would like to see his show.  With unpowered campsites at $10 (£4.50) we quickly change our plans and decide to stay and also participate in the famous beef & barramundi suppers ($17.50, £8).  We stayed here with Sandra but the site has been improved, it’s much larger, has individual sheds with toilets sink and shower and a clothes washing area with hot water.  Needless to say we get stuck in and clean the van, our clothes and ourselves.  After our heavy workload we relax at the swimming pool.  Late afternoon the site fills to almost overflowing with vans parked as close as on a car park.  I go out to look around and see an unusual type of camper.  I introduce myself to Lin & Stuart who are from Adelaide.  They show me their flat bed truck with a “trayon” camper box on the back.  The top of the box flips out with a pram hood style roof and creates a bed area whilst the base makes an awning to sit under outside.  There are mid 50’s and we are getting on really well so I invite them over to join us for a drink.  We’ve all booked in for the supper so we sit together and enjoy the show.  Frank is very funny and they also have a country singer called Noel who does a lot of Slim Dusty’s songs. The food is excellent and we have almost too much to eat.  The entertainment winds down but we still have lots to talk about so Lin & Stuart come back and sit outside our van until we get the hint to be quiet when someone shines a light on us at 11.30pm.



FRIDAY 19 AUGUST – Before leaving we make arrangements to meet Stuart and Lin up the track   On the northern edge of Mataranka we turn off to Bitter Springs, a less touristy version of the main Mataranka springs.  Unfortunately we arrive at the same time as a convoy of 11 motorhomes with Italian tourists.  There’s a bush walk that takes you to points where you can get into the hot water stream but with so many people the water has been disturbed and there are lots of things floating in it.  Manage a dip at one of the quieter spots but actually preferred Mataranka, which we visited with Sandra.  It’s really hot by the time we get to Katherine.  Aboriginals can be seen hanging around everywhere and definitely outnumber the whites.  At the library Internet is $3 (£1.35) ½ hour for E-mail or free for research.  I notice the time on the computer clock is different to what we thought it was and we discover that Northern Territory is ½ hour behind Queensland (8 ½ hours ahead of BST) and we have been here for 1 week and not realised.   Do a big shop and fill up with fuel before leaving.  Copperfield Dam allows 8 vans to free camp for up to 3 nights.  It’s late when we arrive; we are both a bit hot and cranky and have trouble finding a level spot for the van and to do so have to sacrifice any chance of shade.  A dip in the water soon makes us feel a lot better.  With flush toilets and a water supply this is a really good free camp.  There’s obviously been a fire through here and the caretaker tells us the nearby burnt out sheds were the gun club and when the fire came through there were lots of explosions from gunpowder.  The sight of the almost full moon rising over the lake is really spectacular and we take loads of photos.  Settle in for an early night.



SATURDAY 20 AUGUST – Both get up early and set up an awning to provide shade before taking a walk.  At the edge of the lake is a go cart track and we take a walk around.  It looks unused and some of the scantly spaced trackside tyres have been burnt away to bare wire.  In the camping area we chat to two Kiwi couples, Basil & Paddy & Barbara & Ev.  Enjoy a really big swim in the lake, there are just a few small fish and the water temperature is perfect.  Meet a local couple that tell us the Americans are making an actual size replica of the nearby Umbrawarra gorge at the cost of US$200 million.  We visited it last trip and although a lovely gorge we cannot understand why it is being copied.  Early afternoon some trailers arrive with go-karts.  They set up a camping area by the track and begin unloading the karts.  Stuart & Lin arrive and set up camp near us.  We all go down to the lake for a swim.  Chat to another local who tells us he moved here because of the cheap housing.  The mine was recently closed down and the miners 3 bedroom detached houses were sold at auction and he got his for $23,000 (£10,000).  We find this amazing as it is a real brick house on it’s own free hold plot of land complete with air-conditioning and other services.  He also tells us that there have been freshwater crocodiles (safe for humans) in the dam in previous years but last year two were found dead on the banks and none have been seen this year.  The go karts begin buzzing round the track and we are all chatting near the water when we hear a crash.  A second go kart skids to a halt and the driver rushes back.  Seconds later we hear horrific screams from the second driver as he runs away from the crash site.  A couple of locals immediately jump in their cars and drive over whilst the people from the go-carting club run to the scene.  Soon after we hear screams for an ambulance.  The caretakers deal with this whilst Stuart & I, having both done first aid courses in the past, feel we should investigate as they are calling out for help.  Stuart collects his first aid kit and by the time we have walked to the track we see someone lying out on the grass and CPR being performed.  Stuart ends up checking for a pulse between compressions and I hold tension on the head whilst Paddy (the kiwi lady) holds his legs case (in case of spinal injury) as we have to keep turning the boy to clear blood from his airways.  He’s a 14 year old called Josh and it looks like he has hit a tree.  The man doing the mouth to mouth is struggling as the special mask he is using won’t seal.  He ends up not using it and works directly but has a terrible time as blood keeps surging out of Josh’s mouth and nose and eventually he has to give up as he is choking himself.  Someone else takes over for a time but she also has to give up.  The man takes another turn then again passes to the other lady but eventually neither can continue.  At this point there is no one else to carry on so I release the head tension and start blowing.  Using my sarong to keep wiping the blood away it’s not too bad.  Keep thinking we get a faint pulse but can’t be sure.  After what seems like ages the ambulance arrives.  They tell us to carry on what we are doing whilst they do some quick checks.  The medic says it doesn’t look good, stops us and does a few very quick compressions before saying that he has gone.  He says that Josh would have died instantly and there was nothing that could have been done for him but that we did the right thing by trying CPR.  The boys grandfather is with us and the other second driver turns out to have been Josh’s Uncle who is obviously very traumatised.  Josh’s parents have stayed home in Darwin as they are celebrating their wedding anniversary today.  The man who did the first mouth to mouth is a local policeman. After saying how sorry we are we return to the camping area.  All the campers congregate together for a stiff whisky whilst talking over the events.  It turns out the Paddy is a nurse but couldn’t bend down to help any further as she recently had hip surgery, the other lady who gave mouth to mouth is also from the camping area and called Rosemary.  The Police arrive and eventually leave with the ambulance.  The go-kart group pack up to go and some come over to thank us.  We are all very shocked and stay up late around the campfire with many getting quite drunk.



SUNDAY 21 AUGUST – Don’t get much sleep so get up for an early morning swim.  I’ve been mulling over the accident and also the possibility of me having caught something from Josh’s blood.  Sitting out by the van a car pulls up and Alan Green introduces himself as the Policeman who helped yesterday.  He has come to thank me and also to ask if I would like to go to the local clinic for blood tests etc as a precaution and I agree.  I take him to meet Rosemary, the other resuscitator, who also feels the same way.  He says he will call back for us in about 1-hour and take us to the clinic.  It’s the same two medics that came out yesterday so they know exactly what happened and reassure us that the chance of us having picked up anything is really low.  However they suggest an hepatitis injection and blood tests as a precaution.  We had hepatitis injections just before we came away but they still recommend a booster shot within 72-hours of a situation like ours. The blood test is for AIDS and we need to have another done in 3 months for them to do a comparison.  When Alan drops us back at camp he asks if we can call into the Police station when we leave tomorrow in case the coroner needs any info.  Spend the rest of the day sunbathing and swimming in the dam.  Early evening we take a walk over to the racetrack and Rosemary joins us.  We can see that safety barriers may have prevented Josh from hitting the tree and that his Uncle must have been very close to him in his cart at the time of the accident.  We manage to find a lone flower to leave at the site. 



MONDAY 22 AUGUST – At Pine Creek police station I meet Alan and the one other policeman for this area.  Between them they cover 1500 square kilometres.  The coroner does require statements and mine takes well over an hour to complete.  Josh’s death is on the front page of the Northern Territory News but they have got a few details wrong.  There’s an old goldfields track between Pine Creek and Hayes Creek and we head off in search of the historic sites.  The track is poor with lots of corrugations and when we find that the first site is just a plaque we give up and double back.  At Hayes Creek roadhouse we stop to see the buffalo wallowing in the pool.  Turn off a little further north heading for Douglas hot springs.  There are lots of cattle grids with “grid” warning signs.  Some have the addition of a few letters to make them amusing such as In Grid.  We pull up so that I can add Ha to one but the sign is far too high.  Reckon people must come at night with a ladder or something.  Douglas Hot Springs is a national park with hot springs.  Lin & Stuart are already here and we find a spot nearby.  There are fireplaces, low camping tables, water taps and good pit toilets.  We quickly head down to the water where we find a fairly wide stream with a swimming hole.  The water is crystal clear, warm in some places and cool in others.  Downstream is a waterfall where it is nice to sit and have your shoulders pummelled.  We walk upstream where the water gets very shallow and much warmer until we reach the point where the hot springs stream merges with the cold river.  It’s sheer bliss to sit in the water here as you can shuffle around and get the temperature just to your liking.  Further up the hot stream are more waterfalls but it’s too hot to be there in the heat of the day.  It’s a beautiful setting with pandanas along the riverbanks, lots or birds calling out to one another, numerous sandy beaches and few visitors.  Early evening the sky is completely filled with thousands upon thousands of fruit bats.  Later in the evening Lin & Stuart join us and we cook our meals on the campfire.  It’s goes much cooler and is very pleasant for sleeping. 


Camping fees $4.50 (£2) per person


TUESDAY 23 AUGUST – We are up at 7am and down at the springs where the steam is coming off the water.  It’s cool enough now to sit by the hot waterfall.  Last night we saw people bathing in the pools above the falls so we make our way there and begin swimming around.  Steve calls out to me that there is something in the bank and we see a long green neck pop out and fangs appear.  It’s some sort of snake and as it quickly, elegantly and quietly glides into the water I stampede unceremoniously and noisily out and onto the opposite bank.  During the day we stroll around the area and find the source of the hot pools where water up to 60C bubbles up from the earth.  We also walk up the Douglas River until it gets too narrow to continue.   The ranger calls round in the evening and tells us we would have seen a harmless green python and that it is quite safe down at the springs even at night.  Spend the evening round Stuart & Lin’s campfire.  Head down to the water at about 11pm but I’m too scared to go in as you can hear lots of things moving along the banks.  Steve has a dip whilst I hold the torch.



WEDNESDAY 24 AUGUST – When Lin & Stuart leave we take their shady corner spot.   Lots of tour groups come through and visit for about 1-hour so there are many different people to chat to down at the hot pool.  Take our last dip on dusk as the bats fly overhead.  Sit out by our own small fire in the evening.



THURSDAY 25 AUGUST – We are woken early by a cacophony of birds, the downside of being camped under trees!  However the up side of this spot is that we can sunbathe nude by the van.  Spend a lot of time looking up at the sulphur crested white cockatoos pecking leaves off the eucalyptus trees above us.  They take a small nibble then throw them down on top of us and unfortunately also surprise us with the occasional dropping.  It’s an even hotter day so we make lots of trips down to the river.  Make the most of the hot water supply to fill a bucket and wash my hair.  For once it feels really soft and much better than when using bore water.  The ranger calls again and seems to clean the toilets, empty the bins and collect any outstanding camping fees on alternate days.  Fees should be paid by envelope on an honesty system but he understands that you don’t always have the correct change or know how long you want to stay.



FRIDAY 26 AUGUST – Wake up to find that the gas ran out during the night and I again have to clean the fridge where blood has started to drip from the de-frosting meat – but nowhere near as bad as last time.  Steve has trouble changing the gas bottle over and it’s over 1 hour before we settle down to breakfast.  It is a very cloudy and humid day so after lunch we hit the road.  Before joining the main road we turn off to the World War 2 Fenton airfield.  The landing strip is almost intact and an information board directs us to an aircraft graveyard.  After taking a few bush tracks we eventually find a graveyard information sign but one small piece of wreckage.  The area would be good for free camping and it’s fun to race Billy down the runway but that’s about it.  Rejoin the scenic road from Hayes Creek to Adelaide River, a very quiet road with nothing special by way of scenery.  Pull off down a short dirt track sign posted to Robin Falls.  A small stream runs along the edge of the track and there are a few parking areas right by the water.  We drive to the turn around point then select our parking spot.  People in the next bay tell us they tried walking up stream to the falls but couldn’t get through.  They are staying overnight so we shall do the same.  The flies are a little friendlier here but it’s nice to be in our own private quiet spot with bathing possible in a pool in front of us where the stream has been dammed.  Unfortunately before dusk the mosquitoes come out in earnest and we have to sweat it out in the van.



SATURDAY 27 AUGUST – Back on the main Stuart highway turn off in Adelaide River to visit the war cemetery.  It’s quite impressive on a small scale and fills in more of the history of when Darwin was bombed.  Fuel a bit cheaper in the town, Shell $1.34.  The clouds are even heavier than yesterday and look like rain is imminent.  Feel as though the rain is chasing us through Australia on this trip!  Turn off to the old mining town of Bachelor where we stop to photo the miniature Karlstein castle.  Through the town and off the Litchfield Park road we turn down Poets Road to Rum Jungle Lake.  The short road in is badly corrugated but leads us to a beautiful lake with grassy banks.  A confusing sign says the area is closed for regeneration but picnic is OK whilst camping is prohibited.  Follow a car down to the waterside and pick ourselves a nice quiet spot where we can sunbathe nude and skinny dip.  The last of the clouds soon clear and by 10am it’s a glorious hot sunny day.  Hardly any cars come through and we really enjoy our spot with chance of frequent cooling dips in the lake.  About half a dozen cars come down late afternoon but leave before dark.  We retreat to the car park and spend a very quiet night.



SUNDAY 28 AUGUST – Leave early before there is any chance of a ranger coming and saying we shouldn’t have been there. Stop for breakfast en-route to TENRR (Top End Naturist Resort).  Owner Gary remembers us from our 1999 visit.  There have been a few improvements including the addition of a mini tennis court.  Bev & Norm arrived back last night after a flying visit back to Melbourne. Spend ages catching up on all their news including the good news that their daughter Louise is engaged and getting married next April. She wanted us to go to the wedding but we will be in Malaysia by then.  Also get the shocking news that John (of John & Joy whom we met at Taylorwood) and Archie (owner of Murrigal resort whom we also know) drowned in a boating accident a few days ago.  Settle on to our site with the awning soon in position to shade us from the very hot sun.  Steve enjoys catching up with all his sport on TV.  Join the crowd for happy hour and again in the evening.


$110 (£50) week for a powered site.


MONDAY 29 AUGUST Nice day so I get up early for a walk before getting stuck into doing the washing.  Manage to fit in 50 lengths of the swimming pool in the afternoon.  Walking over to the recreation room for happy hour I spot a small snake on the step.  Everyone says to be very careful, as small snakes are usually more venomous than large ones.  Diane comes out with a shovel and chops it up whilst someone else complains that she should not have done that as it was a baby non venomous snake – I’m with Diane and would be happy to see all snakes removed for good!  Bev, Norm, Kelvin, Diane, Steve and I play a game of boules before dark.



TUESDAY 30 AUGUST – Get up late and by the time we have had our breakfast it’s 10am and the weekly morning tea session is starting.  Many people bring along homemade cakes etc and sit around rather like happy hour.  Having recently travelled on many dirt roads I spend the rest of the morning cleaning up inside the van.  It’s Daniels 8th birthday today and we manage to phone and chat to him before losing phone signal.  Late afternoon our friends Cath and Lew arrive and we stay up late chatting to them.



WEDNESDAY 31 AUGUST – I manage to get Steve up early enough to go for a walk before it gets too hot.  I manage 80 lengths of the 12-metre swimming pool before lunch.  During the afternoon we look at Cath & Lews photos of their recent cruise along the Kimberley coast.  After happy hour we have a quick game of boules against Bev& Norm



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