Not all a bed of roses!

The past week or so hasn’t been so good, starting with the failed leg on our Travelhome when we first arrived at Kakadu.

After that we had to leave Edith Falls earlier than we would have liked after hearing back from a job agency in regards to a station job in SA. The agency had checked our references and recommended us to the station for the job. So, we took ourselves back to Katherine to await the phone call. After four days we had still not heard anything.

Whilst in Katherine we found another station job for us both, and this one sounded like it would be a beauty. We phoned the managers, and followed up with our resumes. They wanted someone to start on the 7th August. So, we arranged to arrive at the nearest town no later than today, and to go out to their station for an interview. We then made a mad dash of over a thousand kilometres (for a job interview – crazy, I know), to the NT/QLD border. We were under the impression from the station manager’s that we had a damned good chance, and we liked the sound of the jobs for us both. We figured we could do the job, and it seemed like as long as they thought so too, the job was going to be ours.

We arrived in Camoorweal (the closest town) yesterday,  one day earlier than arranged,  and contacted the station via email to set up a time for our interview today. Then we set about unhitching the Travelhome. The second leg failed! Result is we can’t risk unhitching from the car until the legs are operational again. It’s almost a 3 Tonne vehicle and to have it supported fully by car jacks, well the mind plays havoc with the disaster that could eventuate. So, we were faced with having to turn up down the dirt station road for our interview with the full rig. Not ideal, but we figured it wouldn’t be too much of a drama.

We went out for a nice dinner at the Camoorweal pub, the one highlight of the past week. On our return we opened our email, and the station managers had saved us the bother of taking the rig out, they had hired someone else that morning, almost two days before we were due to arrive. Needless to say, we weren’t  impressed.

So, what to do? We’ve been making enquiries, and getting replacement parts for the Travelhome is proving difficult, although I think Paul has now tracked them down. Dilemma is, Travelhome has stopped using these legs as they were less than ideal. Replacing them with the same seems foolhardy, given the amount of use they’ve had and failed, (less than 12 months use in total).

There’s a lot to be said for having a Jayco (or Junko as Kelv calls them) Being common on the roads, I doubt repairs cause the grief our current needed repairs are causing. But then again, we’ve just met a couple who lost their caravan in unexpected cross winds that flipped their rig over. That’s a lot less likely to happen with a fifth wheeler. Fifth wheelers feel a lot safer to have behind you, so we get back to same with whatever you have – every rig involves some sort of compromise. For us, the fifth wheeler is still the best compromise of all, simply because of that added element of safety.

We’ve decided the best course of action is to go to Newcastle and speak to the manufacturers. We’re hoping they’ll either replace the legs with the type they’re currently using, or else they’ll recommend someone else who can. We have a few other niggles with the Travelhome that we also want looked at, and being in the back of beyond makes that difficult. With normal caravans there’s an easier chance of repairs in out of the way places I should imagine. We’ve tried to phone Travelhome, but that’s also difficult in the back of beyond. We can never get to speak to someone directly, which means they always have to phone us back, by which time we’re either out of range again, or would prefer to be out of range.

We headed into Mount Isa today, and as soon as our phones came in range messages started to come through. We still haven’t heard from the SA job, but the agency contacted us for another couples station job, this time in Kununurra. We were initially interested, but after a couple of hours thought, we decided we don’t really need this twoing and froing across the country, at least not yet. So we phoned him back and said to count us out for this one as we want to continue on with our travels to Newcastle.

It means we can’t unhitch anywhere so it’s going to be a travel only trip without any real chance of getting out and seeing anything. It also means we’ll have to go via the inland country route so as to get big drive through sites which will allow the rig to remain hitched up.

We don’t need to be in a rush to find work, at least not for a long while yet. It’s me rather than Paul who has been researching and following up on jobs, and as Paul said today, why??? and I asked myself the same question. So, we’re going to step back for a while, get the rig sorted out, and then go back to taking time to smell the roses, and seeing this lovely country again.

Thank goodness for Paul’s calm sense of reason. I was becoming a fliberty jibert, and was rocking the apple cart for no good reason. So, much as we’re both peed off to say the least at the managers of Rocklands station, and also the SA station for not even contacting us, perhaps it’s a good thing.

Fingers crossed now that we get some satisfaction from Travelhome. It seems a bit drastic to have to travel almost 4000 kms to get our caravan repaired. Perhaps we’re being more knee jerky than we need to be, but we are probably in one of the most remotest parts of the country and to get to anywhere involves travelling thousands of kms. So, we figure we may as well just go to the people most likely to get our rig sorted properly, the manufacturers.

Edith Falls, and possible work

We’re currently staying in Katherine again after spending two lovely nights at Edith Falls in Nitmiluk National Park. Edith Falls is a place worth visiting. It’s beautiful, and we would have liked to stay much longer.

After we arrived and set up camp we did the 2.6 km circular walk up to the water hole and falls in the top pool. The walk was a lot harder than we were prepared for. One half of the walk was relatively easy in our sandals, but the other half would have been easier in our hiking boots, and Paul’s ankle reminded him of that the next day. Once at the top though, and after much grumbling on my part in getting up there, the difficulty of the walk was soon forgotten. The pool and falls were glorious.

We spent about an hour up there swimming and playing under the falls. The water was a perfect temperature, cool enough to be refreshing but not too cold to get into. Then we came down to the bottom swimming hole and falls, and again went for a lovely refreshing swim to cool off after having walked down in the heat of the day.

The camp ground there is better than a lot of caravan parks. Grassed areas, lots of room, solar heated showers, flush toilets, and drinking water. There’s no power of course, and we can’t connect our caravan to the water by hose. None of that mattered to us though, as our water tanks were full, and we have sufficient power in the van to meet our needs providing the sun’s shining. In the dry season in the Northern Territory it never rains, so the sun is always shining at this time of year.

We didn’t have internet or phone coverage there though, which meant we needed to go into Katherine for a short trip to get our phone messages. Normally it’s not a problem being out of range, but as I’d applied for a position as a station cook at a place in South Australia, I thought we’d better check to see if anything was happening.

It turned out I was in with a small chance, so we moved camp back to Katherine so as to be easy to contact. Three days have now gone by and we’ve heard nothing, so that ones looking slim. Not all is lost though, as I’ve since put in another application at a station that’s wanting to employ a partnership, a cook and a bore runner. I’ve contacted them by phone and followed up with our resumes.

Either is really a slim chance as whilst I’ve had loads of experience that more than qualifies me for cooking for 20+ hungry station hands, none of it is recent, so current references are’t in abundance. We’re arranged to meet the managers of the NT/Qld station at the end of the month, so fingers crossed.

Kakadu/Kakadon’t

Territorians don’t seem to think much of their tourist icon, Kakadu and have given it the nick name of Kakadon’t. We thought perhaps they were exaggerating, so we spent five nights there so as to give it a fair go. However, after the five nights we tended to share their sentiments.

I’m not saying we didn’t find a couple of things there interesting, because we did. We stayed at the caravan park attached to Kakadu Lodge. It was just on the outskirts of the township of Jabiru, and was an above average sort of caravan park with a lovely lagoon pool, and pleasant enough facilities. From reading reviews of all the caravan parks in the area, I think they all have a reasonable standard, and are all reasonably priced (less than $50 a night for a powered site). The pool was too cold for me to get into, but we’ve found that with all the swimming pools in the Territory. They’re all concrete and covered with shades, and absolutely freezing!

The township of Jabiru was a surprise. We’d expected mainly just a general store, but it is a proper, tidy little township with quite a few streets, a Foodlands, a news agency, and several other small shops. It has a population of around 1700. Beware though of the bakery, it sells some dangerously, delicious goodies!!!!

There’s a lot of tourist sites to see in the park, and each of them is approximately an 80 km round trip from Jabiru to visit. The first day we went to Uburr. Uburr is a sacred site with a lots of rock art and a relatively easy climb to the top where you see 360 degree views of the escarpment. It was a place used for a scene of breathtaking beauty in the movie Crocodile Dundee. It is stunning, and was worth the 80 km round trip from Jabiru.

We did several other trips to various spots of around the same distance though, and to us, none of them were particularly memorable. We chose to do the cultural boat trip on the East Alligator River in preference to the yellow water cruise on a billabong. If we’d not seen Crocs before it may have been an interesting cruise. But we have seen lots of crocs before, and that seemed to be the main focus of the boat trip. We had clarified that this wouldn’t be the case before booking it, so were quite disappointed. We were taken across to disembark in Arnemland, and while there our guide showed us how to throw a spear. It was one of those ‘whipdee do’, type of trips, that’s easily forgotten. Perhaps the yellow water trip may have been better.

We also visited a bird hide, and a billabong that’s supposedly the most picturesque in the park. They were both ok but nothing memorable, and nothing that justified the car mileage to visit them. So, Kakadu, or Kakadon’t whatever you want to call it. I’m pleased we’ve seen it, but I wouldn’t go there again.

Problems with Travelhome

We arrived at Kakadu and couldn’t get one of the front legs on our Travelhome to raise the caravan up off our ute. After several attempts Paul realised there was a major problem, so came up with a make shift solution using our car jack to support it. Not ideal, but it will do until we hear back from Travelhome.

Paul has taken the leg apart and there is a stripped thread inside it. Hopefully, we’ll be able to get Travelhome to send us the spare part to Katherine Post Office. Paul’s pretty certain he’ll be able to repair it himself easily enough. Being in the back of beyond though, getting the part is going to be the biggest problem.

We’ve heard how good Travelhome is in there after sales service. I just hope they live up to their reputation. Moving from place to place using a car jack isn’t going to be ideal, plus getting attention for having a peg leg on our van doesn’t impress us much.

Northern Territory in Detail

LITCHFIELD NATIONAL PARK (about 2 weeks ago)
Another wonder around 130 kms from Darwin is Litchfield National Park. Firstly we went to Florence Falls, and had a swim.

Beautiful Florence Falls, powerful enough to knock sunglasses off your head.

Beautiful Florence Falls, powerful enough to knock sunglasses off your head.

Kelv and me overlooking Florence Falls in Litchfield.

Kelv and me overlooking Florence Falls in Litchfield.

Here Kelv went under the water fall on the right with his sunglasses on. The power of the water knocked them clean off his head. We seconded the assistance of a couple who had water goggles on, and once located it was simply a matter of finding someone else with enough strength to dive down far enough to retrieve them. It was a joint effort by several strangers, but I get the feeling they all felt as elated as we did when the sun glasses were successfully retrieved.

Next we went onto Buley Rockhole, a series of small waterfalls that provide the perfect swimming spot, or as we found out the perfect place for the best water spa massage ever.

Perusing a possible spa.

Perusing a possible spa.

Decision made, Paul decides it's worth trying out.

Decision made, Paul decides it’s worth trying out.

Yep, pretty damned good.

Yep, pretty damned good.

Paul getting pounded, but not for long. I edged my way over and pushed him and out.

Paul getting pounded, but not for long. I edged my way over and pushed him and out.

On our exit from the park we called into the area full of magnetic termite mounds. Apparently, the termites detect the magnetic pull of the earth and build their mounds in a north south direction, with the slimmest sections catching the hot north sun. It’s an eerie looking place, resembling a graveyard full of head stones. Nature provides so many more fascinating spectacles than man ever could. This is just one more of them.

Not a graveyard - magnetic termite mounds.

Not a graveyard – magnetic termite mounds.

Northern Territory in Detail

BERRY SPRINGS

Berry Springs - lovely place to swim

Berry Springs – lovely place to swim

I feel like I’ve skimmed over so much that deserves more detail in this amazing Northern Territory. So, I’m going to try and recap some of the places we’ve visited and give each place the justifiable rap it deserves.

Darwin, I think I’ve covered. Apologies for not get the promised photo of the masses on Mindil Beach at sunset on market night. We forgot to take our camera the second time we went.

Now I’ll try and re-cap our visits to Berry Springs. What a place. It’s around 50 kms south of Darwin. It’s not a place to venture into during the wet season, in fact none of the natural swimming holes are, but more on that later. During the dry season Berry Springs is one of the more trusted of the water holes that even the locals use. Apparently, there are fresh water crocs there, but as freshies are rather timid creatures and not man eaters, they generally make themselves scarce.

We visited this place twice, and enjoyed a marvellous swim there. It’s a place you could easily spend a day at, either taking your own picnic lunch or there are food vans and a kiosk there. The water is pleasantly warm at around 30 degrees and crystal clear, and there are steps and hand rails for entering the water. The banks are surrounded by monsoonal forest palms and trees, so rather a stunning ambience . Floating around the different pools there was very relaxing. A must see and do place for anyone visiting the NT, and preferably plan on spending the better part of a day there. It’s not hard to do.

In the wet season though, most swimming holes are a ‘no go’ as the waters rise. Crocodiles are increasing in numbers now. They nearly became extinct in the 1960s and so became protected. Add to that the fact that the Cane Toad has severely diminished one of the crocodiles only predators – the goanna. Yes, you read that correctly, the little goanna. It loves crocodile eggs. So now crocodile numbers are well and truly on the rise. As they’re territorial, increasing numbers means they need to move further and further upstream to establish their own territory. So they’re now being found in places seldom seen before.

In the wet season as smaller pools get joined up with each other to form larger pools, the crocodiles move into swimming holes, and the swimming holes get closed to the public until the dry season returns. At the beginning of the dry, salties in swimming holes are trapped and transported to other places, before once again the swimming hole is declared reasonably safe for humans to venture into. There’s never any guarantees though, and some locals won’t chance swimming anywhere except a back yard pool even in the dry.

Leaving Darwin for Kakadu

We’ve had a quick look at the job opportunities in Darwin and nothing has tweaked our interest. There’s a few jobs similar to those we left behind, but we’d both rather be doing something new, and preferably only of a seasonal length.

We’ve been in Darwin for long enough now to have had a good look around, and we’ve enjoyed what we’ve seen. It’s an expensive place though, and even though it’s a small city, it’s still a city, and cities aren’t really where we want to be. So, tomorrow we’re moving on to have a look at Kadadu, then on to Mataranka. From there, who knows where the wind or whims will take us. Probably on to Northern Qld, if nothing else takes our fancy. What a good feeling that is – nothing written in concrete, just where ever we choose on the day…..

We’ve had such a good time catching up with Kelv. He’s been showing us around, and in turn, we’ve also been dragging him off to places he hadn’t seen. He’s been patiently (but I suspect reluctantly sometimes) tolerating our tourism choices, but at the same time he’s also enjoying seeing some things he wouldn’t normally be choosing to look at.

On our way back from Litchfield National Park one day we called at the Mango Farm where he’d been working for a bit of photo shoot for his resume. He looks very much at home driving a tractor. Suspect he’s found his niche in life in farm work. It was interesting while there to look around the farm too, and get an idea of how seasonal pickers live and work on a Mango farm.

Vistiting Kelv's mango farm

Vistiting Kelv’s mango farm

On one of days in Darwin we visited Burnett House, an old Queenslander type, national trust house on the water front at Myilly Point. It’s an amazing piece of architectural design so suited to the tropics, and it survived both the bombing in world war two, and Cyclone Tracy in 1974. Both didn’t leave it completely unscathed, but nothing that couldn’t be repaired whilst keeping it’s original design in tact. It’s one of those houses that makes you realise how far removed we’re now living from sensible and sustainable environmental living. If ever you come to Darwin, please put this house on your list of ‘must do things’. It’s inspiring.