Posted by: glenswatman | April 11, 2007

200509 1 Australia-NT

THURSDAY 1 SEPTEMBER 2005 – Bev & Norm join us for a drive into Darwin.  We park underneath the Mitchell Centre (free for up to 3 hours) and walk to the Internet Café ($2.65 hour payable by the minute).  Next we head to the immigration office on Cavanagh Street.  We have a 4-year multi entry visa for stays of up to 6 months but want to stay until the end of next March, a total of 10 ½ months.  We find out that they can extend the visa to cover us until 31st March for $200 (£90) each but require proof of income of $1000 per person per month plus other info.  We take the application form and back track to get Internet banking statements and proof of return flight.  Completing the form is easy until I get to one question along the lines of have you or are you expecting to need medical treatment in connection with, and the list includes HIV and hepatitis.  Following my mouth-to-mouth resuscitation I had a hepatitis shot and blood test taking for HIV so leave the answer blank.  When we return the clerk questions me about this, says it shouldn’t be a problem but they will have to check with their medical department and we will have to return on Monday.  Other than that we could have had the visas there and then.  It’s almost 1 o’clock and the time we had arranged to meet Stuart and Lin at the Casino.  They are waiting for us in the entrance but have already checked out where the buffet restaurant is.  For $11.95 (£5.40) you get an all you can eat buffet, soft and hot drinks and we have vouchers for a free glass of wine.  Our table overlooks the pool behind which we can see the ocean, just beautiful.  There are few choices of food but what we have tastes good.  By the time we leave it is after 3pm so we head round to the art gallery and museum (free) to see the latest exhibitions.  It’s a superb museum and we visited last trip but still find plenty to look at.  Phone up and find out that both my and Josh’s (the boy who died) blood test are negative for HIV.   4.30pm sees us in the Mindl beach car park waiting to rendezvous with Bev & Norm.  The night markets are on and we take our chairs down to the grassy strip behind the beach and settle down with drinks.  About half the market is food stalls and the rest a mix of tourist, ethnic and aboriginal crafts.  Bev & I browse around and I even get a hair cut for $15 (£6.50).  The sunset is spectacular and we linger afterwards to watch a juggler perform.  Call in to the Woolworth’s at Coolalonga on the way back.



FRIDAY 2 SEPTEMBER – Whilst we were out yesterday Ned & Judy arrived so we spend time catching up on their news.  On Friday evenings Jean puts on a movie.   Adjoining their house they have an outdoor plunge pool and Jacuzzi surrounded by fly screen.  Over the pool is a large screen where they project the films.  Tonight it is “The Deep Blue”.  We’ve seen it before but by the time Steve remembers it we reckon we might as well sit it out.  It’s a horror film so we are all a bit nervous walking back home.  During the night we hear lots of things scratching around outside and also possibly within the van so it’s a bit spooky.



SATURDAY 3 SEPTEMBER – Investigating the noise I find droppings in the van under the bed and I am talking rat sized dropping not mouse.  I’ve already seen a small bush rat in the toilet area and a much larger, cat sized, one running around the roof of the recreation room.  Steve finds a nibbled packet of biscuits near the drivers seat.  By following the trails of droppings we work out that they have been on the roof and nibbled away at the fly screen to try and get in but eventually got in through my home made net curtain fly screen on the cab doors.  I’m not at all happy about the situation.  Other guests tell us we are in the worst spot for rats and people camped further away from the recreation room haven’t had problems.  Jean, the owner, is difficult when we want to swap sites and despite many being available will only offer us two with little shade.  She also wants us to commit to another week before we move or pay the daily rate of $22 (£10).  For two pins we would leave tomorrow but we want to spend more time here with Bev & Norm and leaving early would put us too far ahead of ourselves.  Make the decision to stay and move to one of the other sites.  A few people have heard what has happened and come over to tell us we are not the only ones to come up against Commandant Jeans.  Just before moving to the other site I’m walking back to the van when a small snake appears in front of me.  I came across one here the first night and was told that often the small ones are more venomous than the big ones.  Gary comes out and chops it in half after declaring it harmless.  I’m certainly glad we are moving sites.  In the evening Pete & Pat provide a fish supper for everyone using the fish they recently caught in Broome.  The meal is terrific with guests bringing potato dishes and salads to share. Usually there is a bit of a party on Saturday nights but Jean doesn’t feel like dancing tonight so it doesn’t happen.  When we get back to the van we notice a really terrible smell.  Steve insists he hasn’t “dropped one” but says it may be his dirty socks.   As I ferret under the bed the smell intensifies and we finally track it down to leaking milk.  We bought some the other day and stored it under the bed.  Unfortunately the rats have bitten through a carton and it has leaked over the carpet.  In this heat you can only imagine the smell so we end up taking the bed out and doing our best to clean it up.



SUNDAY 4 SEPTEMBER – As soon as it gets warm we are driven out of the van by the awful smell and end up removing the whole carpet and washing it outside.  It’s Fathers Day here in Australia so we all meet up in the recreation room to eat together at mid-day.



MONDAY 5 SEPTEMBER – At 7am we set off for Darwin with Bev and Norm.  They are dropping their car off for a service and this means we can walk to the centre and get more jobs done.  With the Internet out of the way and visa’s collected we amble round the mall then down to the waterfront for a drink.  I’ve just got a new bird programme on the computer so we get the camera out and photo the waterfront birds.  When we get back we can match it up with the pictures to find out what species it is, add our own picture and sighting to the page and begin our log.  In the nearby parliament building there is a superb library and we spend a lot of time looking at the English newspapers and doing a bit more on the Internet as it is free.  Bev & Norm pick us up and we head to Stokes wharf for lunch.    There are a number of stalls where you can select your food before sitting at waterfront tables to eat.  Call in at Palmerston shopping centre on the way back to TENRR.  At happy hour we hear of some new expressions used here, if someone is having a “dog” they are having a day off the grog and a “wog” is a week off the grog.  Guess a “mog” is not even up for consideration! 



TUESDAY 6 SEPTEMBER – It’s so hot that when we run the water there’s almost no difference between the hot and cold tap.  To get a cool shower you have to be up early in the morning.  Our days are spent pottering around doing jobs slowly between rests, showers and dips in the pool.  Reading, playing cards and happy hour drinks seems to fill the rest of the time.  Bev & Norm invite us for an evening meal and she cooks up a delicious roast pork dinner.



WEDNESDAY 7 SEPTEMBER – Approaching the November start to the wet season the temperatures gradually creep up and this seems to be happening early this year with a high of 36C in the afternoon.  In the evening we open up “Billy’s Bistro” (formerly Charlie’s Café) and Bev & Norm join us for homemade cream of pumpkin soup, Thai green beef and mushroom curry with nan bread followed by trifle (with cream poured over because it’s too hot to whip cream before it gets warm and curdles!).  Everyone gathers for darts night in the recreation room.  Steve ends up being the men’s captain whilst I captain the ladies.  It’s a game called cricket and the men win the toss and bowl first.  Alternating play the bowlers have to throw a dart into numbers 1-11 consecutively whilst the “batters” score the total of darts thrown ( but not doubles and triples).  In the first innings the ladies score over 600.  At the end of the men’s innings the ladies are still over 100 up.  In the second innings things get really close.  Ladies have only scored up to number 8 and the men are just 9 behind.  It’s my turn to throw and my first dart hits the 9.  Holding steady I manage to get 10 with my next dart.  The tension builds and the game all hinges on me as the next man in is sure to score at least 9.  Nothing could surprise me more than when my next dart lands on the 11.  My moment of fame, I’m a sporting hero and walk back to my seat totally stunned.  Whilst other ladies have scored the triple it has never been at such a crucial point as to win the game.  I would have said that no one could be more stunned than me but looking at Steve’s face I could be wrong.   



THURSDAY 8 SEPTEMBER – With an even hotter day forecast I make an early start and get the washing done.  No need to squeeze anything out, as it is dry almost before it hits the line.  I finally get chance to use the new computer bird programme and find that we have seen a straw necked ibis and a masked lapwing.   Late afternoon we join Bev & Norm for a trip out.  First stop in the town of Humpty Doo to make some phone calls and use the free Internet at the school library.  Continue to Fogg Dam renowned for the bird life.  We visited with Sandra back in 1999 and there was lots of water in the area but few birds.  Tonight there is no water apart from a couple of puddles and just a few birds.  I photograph as many birds as possible.  Rather than stop to do the walks we go to “Window on the Wetlands” a bit of a misnomer, as they are now dry lands.  We are approaching the end of the dry season following one of the driest wet seasons on record so this explains the lack of water.  Park up at the rest area to enjoy our picnic whilst watching the sunset.  We are joined by a couple of tour groups doing the same.  One tour leader comes over to offer us a load of fresh tiger prawns on ice.  The group have eaten their fill and he says it would be a shame to throw them out, we agree. 



FRIDAY 9 SEPTEMBER – Steve has a bit of a lie after burning the midnight oil-watching cricket.  It’s a real talking point here as he is either ridiculed for England losing or growled at when they win!  Evening movie is “First wives club” and quite funny.  Steve again stays up most of the night watching sport on TV. 



SATURDAY 10 SEPTEMBER – Our last day at TENRR.  Potter around and I do my last 100-lap swim in the afternoon then a bit of packing up.  In the evening we gather for a BBQ and Bev brings in an early birthday for Steve.   


Other guests we met at TENRR-

Aiden & Carmel (Irish)

Maurice & Betty (Perth)

Don & Maddy (Snow cones)

Ray & Jan (Melbourne)

Phil & Pat (Cobram)

Kelvin & Diana (Gold Coast)

Russell & Betty (Vic)

Brian & Chris (Sydney)

Ned & Judy (Rainbow Beach)

Ian & Nanette (NZ)

Denis & Sue (Adelaide)

Mick (Vic but full timer)


SUNDAY 11 SEPTEMBER – Bev & Norm are also leaving today but they get away by 7am whereas we make a leisurely 9.30am start.  Just south of Coomalie Creek we see a sign to Crater Lake, no distance shown, and veer off down a dirt track to explore (bad idea as I have just cleaned all the dust out of Billy).  There’s an area just in from the road that would be suitable for an overnight stop but we travel on in search of the lake.  It’s one of those road where you keep seeing a bend or a hill ahead and say that you will just go that far but then keep being enticed further.  We finally turn around when we reach a cement works that was probably used during the recent construction of the railway.  By the time we get back to the main road Billy is covered in dust.  Steve wants to watch cricket on the SBS TV channel tonight and we find we have reception in Adelaide River.  Unfortunately the Show Ground Caravan Park tells us the cheap unpowered sites are for tents only.  At Hayes Creek they let us take a tent site.  The camping area is very informal, has a lovely swimming pool and aerial cables for you to plug in for TV reception.  We are soon settled in and spend a lot of time in the swimming pool.  Walk down the lane to the nearby creek where you could probably free camp and bathe in the clear water.  Steve sets the TV up at the front of the van so that he can watch the match.  There is only one channel and the man in the bar at the roadhouse controls this.  Luckily he is also a sports fanatic so makes sure the cricket channel stays on.  I retire to bed around 10pm.  At about midnight I hear Steve call out.  Nothing to do with the cricket, he’s just had the life frightened out of him by a bull appearing over his shoulder. 


Powered sites $15, Camp sites $5 pp (£2.25) + big weekly discounts.


MONDAY 12 SEPTEMBER – Head further south and call back in to Pine Creek.  Explore the Miners Park and find it is really interesting and in addition to mining exhibits has a couple of nice baob trees and a railway museum opposite.  Drive around to the lookout over the old mine.  Returning to town we see a sign for gold panning and head that way.  Before getting there we spot another sign to the Bird Park caravan park advertising swimming pool and budget rates.  It’s a lovely quiet shady site and with TV reception it doesn’t take Steve long to decide we will stay.  Mid afternoon we take a walk to the gold panning (now closed) then to the library in town that turns out to be the same place as the town museum.  It’s just a small room but they have Internet at $3 (£1.25) for half hour.  Return to the site for more dips in the pool.  Steve again gets set up to watch his cricket in the evening and comes to bed jubilant when England win the Ashes for the first time in 16 years. 


Powered sites $14, camping $5 pp (£2.25)


TUESDAY 13 SEPTEMBER – Our 30th wedding anniversary.  There are no decent restaurants in town so we settle for returning to Copperfield Dam and spending the day by the lake.  It’s cloudy and a very hot day so the water is almost a necessity.  What is rather frustrating is that the 3 other caravans are all running generators and really disturbing the peace. 



WEDNESDAY 14 SEPTEMBER – Lots more vans arrive, guess everyone is looking for a place to camp by the water with temperatures hovering around 100F.  We get a few spots of rain in the afternoon and sit out in it but find the drops dry almost instantly on our skin.  We take a dip in the lake before going to bed but still find it hard to sleep as we are very hot and there are generators buzzing all around us.



THURSDAY 15 SEPTEMBER – Steve is up at 6.15am and I join him by the lake.  A micro light flies over and disturbs all the birds.  It’s another scorcher and we spend most of the day too-in and fro-in from the lake.  Luckily it cools down a bit at night.




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