Northern Territory wonders

We’ve been having a wonderful time since we arrived in Darwin last week, and with the help of our tour guide, Kelvin, are now finding our way around quite easily.

Darwin is small city with a population of around 130,000, but that’s without the tourists. At this time of year that number must rise dramatically.

We’ve been to, and swam in some wonderful swimming holes, some in Litchfield National park, and at Berry Springs. They’re pleasantly warm and so beautiful. One of the swimming holes in Litchfield had several water falls, and we managed to find a spot under one of them with a good seat and foothold. The pounding water from the water fall gave us the best massage ever.

Darwin has lots of local markets, and we’ve been to the Mindil markets twice, and Parap markets. They’re both really good markets, but the Thursday night Mindil markets are particularly special. They have an amazing array of food stalls featuring food from all over the world, and it’s good food too. We bought our dinner and wandered down to the beach with it to watch the sunset – along with about half the population of Darwin. I’m not kidding. We’re going to take a photo of all the people next Thursday and will post it. I’ve never seen so many people on a beach at one time. Apparently sunsets are a rare sight for the Eastern state visitors….

We’ve been to two museums, which gave us a good insight into this small cities tragic past. Firstly it was bombed to bits by the Japanese in 1942, and we hadn’t known to what extent until going to the museum. Then, less than 35 years later it was almost annialated by cyclone Tracy. Now it’s a lovely, new and small cosmopolitan city that’s so easy to find your way around. The locals hate peak hour. To us peak hour in Darwin city centre on a week night is like any suburb in Perth in the middle of a week day. We could even do a U-turn at 5.30pm on a week night on a main centre city street. Amazing..

So, we’re loving the top end. The weather is amazing, around 14 over night, and around 30 in the day. Low humidity and soft breezes, and consistent day after day. Also, of course we’re loving having Kelvin with us to show us around. He loves this place and his pride in it shows. Must say, so far I can understand his love.

It’s not all good though, it’s super, super expensive. Caravan parks are around $350 a week, which is very pricey for Grey Nomads. National parks and museums though are free.

We’re starting to peruse both the job market here now, and the house sitting opportunities. We’ve noticed the house sitting opportunities in North Queensland are abundant, but here they’re a bit scarce. In another week we should have an idea if we’ll be staying here for a while, or travelling on. For now though we still have a lot to see here, so we anticipate a minimum two weeks more if job or house sitting doesn’t turn up anything appealing.

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Now in Darwin

Stunning Katherine Gorge

Stunning Katherine Gorge

We stopped at Katherine for three nights. Katherine is virtually a junction town that, wherever you’re coming from in Australia to the NT, you have to come through Katherine. With Katherine Gorge being one of the counties most famous and beautiful gorges, it’s a place that justifies a stopover of a few days.

We stayed three days for a look around, and to see the gorge. Breathtaking!!! We can’t wait to see it at the end of the wet. Katherine itself has a pleasant enough feel to it, but I believe in the wet it’s harder going than Darwin. At this time of year it’s a busy, busy little place with hundreds of tourists (or terrorists as the locals call us) either arriving or passing through each day. At least a dozen cars with caravans are parked at the tourist information centre at any time of day.

We’re in Darwin now and are staying at Lee point caravan park. Kelv is between jobs so is no longer on the farm in Humpty Doo. He has a friend that stays in this park, so here he is and here we came, despite some of the worst WIKI camp reviews. We’re finding the park okay though, but at more than $300 a week, it’s expensive, but no more so than other parks around Darwin. We have our own ensuite and laundry here which will be great if we end up here long term, and we suspect we will.

We’ve been here three nights so far. Kelv is showing the place off to us and doing a wonderful job. He should get a job as a tour guide! His enthusiasm for the territory is catching and so far we’re loving it. Time to get today started though at the moment, but when I get time I’ll write about what we’ve seen so far in this small, new and very clean city.

Have we done the right thing? You betcha!

We’ve now been living our caravan for more than 6 months and I don’t think either of us have had a moments regret.

We’re learning to slow down, but it doesn’t come easy, we have to work at it. We’ve been used to driving for 10 – 12 hours a day to get to a holiday destination. We still sometimes drive for more than 6 hours on a day but try to remind ourselves there’s no need to do that. There’s plenty of roadside free camp areas to stay in, and we’re finding these useful. With good ones only a couple of hours apart, it makes driving distances easy, and they’re great places to stay in. We’re even starting staying at particularly nice ones for a couple of nights.

We’re mixing our trip up with free camps, national parks, cheap caravan parks and really nice parks. Each has it’s own beauty, or convenience. The caravan parks are best for convenience, the free camps and national parks are best for beauty, and making friends. In caravan parks people keep to themselves more.

Part of our plan has evolved take a ‘life of Riley day, a couple of times a week. A ‘life of Riley day,  is one when we won’t use the car, and we won’t go exploring or sight seeing, or shopping. We took one of these days in a road side place on route to Katherine, and just pottered around the caravan for a day. Paul washed the van and car, and I did some cleaning inside. We read, and did puzzles and played cards, and watched the birds. None of it was rushed, and we only did what we felt like doing. It was great!

We’re currently in Katherine, only a few hours south of Darwin, and will stay here a few days. The days are around 30, and it was cold and good for sleeping over night. We’ll go and see the hot springs in town today, and probably do a boat trip up the Katherine gorges tomorrow before heading for Humpty Doo, probably the next day. We may do a dinner at the local museum tomorrow night where they have a story teller who is apparently very funny.

Amazing Eastern Kimberleys

Sunset over lake Kununurra as we wait for our camp oven dinner

Sunset over lake Kununurra as we wait for our camp oven dinner

Beautiful Lake Argyle taken out the plane window

Beautiful Lake Argyle taken out the plane window

We went on our flight to the Bungle Bungles today, flight there, helicopter over the Bungles, and flight back. Totally amazing.

To date the best scenery we’ve ever seen was a few years ago when we flew out over the Bucchaneer Archepelago to the Horizontal Falls. The scenery we’ve seen lately in the East Kimberleys comes a pretty close second. Interestingly, the Horizontal Falls is also in the Kimberleys, but not sure if it’s in the Western or Eastern Kimberleys, probably somewhere near the middle.

We’ve enjoyed our caravan park here with it’s many organised happy hours. Last night we had one of their weekly camp oven dinners. Morroccan Lamb, Beef casserole, Apricot Chicken, and curried Chick Pea and Pumpkin, all served with couscous and a bread roll, and followed with home made damper with maple syrup. Delicious, especially having it all cooked for us, and no cleaning up afterwards.

Tomorrow we’re moving on, into the Northern Territory. We’re planning on one or two nights in a free site near Victoria River on route to Katherine. There’s plenty to see around Katherine so I imagine we’ll be there a few nights before we head to Humpty Doo to catch up with Kelvin.

East Kimberleys

We tried to extend our time in Broome, but it would have meant moving to a different site. So we figured if we had to move it may as well be to new territory, and we headed for Kununurra.

First stop was Fitzroy Crossing where we spent two nights. We went out to Geikie Gorge, did the boat trip up the Fitzroy river, and found a nice place to swim. All very pleasant.

From Fitzroy we headed towards Kununurra with a plan to stop at a roadside stop over night. However, we missed the one we wanted and ended up doing an unplanned long day all the way to the Discovery Park in Kununurra. When we arrived there was a sign up advising there weren’t any powered sites left. As we were pretty tired after the full days drive we hoped they at least had an unpowered site. How lucky were we though, when they realised they had booked someone in twice, which meant they had a vacant powered site. So here we are.

Upon booking in we were invited to happy hour at Croc Rock. Croc Rock is a barbecue area on the banks of Lake Kununurra and only about 50 metres from our site. There’s a massive big rock table there, and also George, a freshie, frequently pops up on the bank there in the evenings to visit. Hence the name, Croc Rock. So, off we went for happy hour down at Croc Rock. The next night, we went there again for a sausage sizzle put on by the park. They had a huge camp fire burning, and everyone brought their chair and drinks down to enjoy either a sausage or rissole buttie and a natter.

This park is famous for it’s social events. Every Saturday they do a sausage sizzle, and on Tuesday mornings they do pancakes. Both of these events are for a gold coin donation for the Flying Drs. On Monday nights they have a barbecue (choice of wild caught Barramundi, or steak) with salads and rolls, and on Wednesday nights they have a camp oven cook out. Both of the latter are for either $10 or $15 a head, cheap for a meal out….. Apparently the camp fire cook out is a huge hit with over a hundred usually turning up.

We went out to the world famous El Questro today. Breathtaking scenery, in fact the Eastern Kimberleys all round has amazing scenery, and like nothing I’ve seen before. Unfortunately photos just don’t do any of it justice. El Questro itself though is like most places that have made a huge name – in my opinion just too big, and with very little owner input, the‘care factor’ diminishes.

We planned on getting to Zebedee Springs around 8.30am hoping to beat the crowds, but first we had to get out to the village area to get our park pass. When there we got sent on a wild goose chase to three apparently unmissable lookouts. After nearly an hour we finally gave up after finding they were all up quite isolated and ‘serious four wheel drive tracks’. Wish she’d mentioned that before we tried to find the unmissable. In fact, she hadn’t even asked if we were in a 4 X 4. We just aren’t experienced enough to tackle that grade of 4 x 4 driving. After we gave up on that and made our way to Zebedee Springs it was past 10am and the crowds had gathered. The springs were stunning but for the masses. Enough said.

After Zebedee we headed for Emma Gorge, a medium graded walk. Paul made it there and back to the gorge, but for me it was too tough and I turned back before even making it half way. I don’t think I could have completed the walk when I was a teenager, let alone a decrepid old woman nearing 60. I’m convinced the person who graded it must have climbed Mt Everest and graded this as ‘medium’ in comparison. It wasn’t steep, but rocky as!!! Mind you, a lot of people older than me were managing it, so it left me feeling a bit deflated to say the least.

So, after years of looking forward to El Questro, I found it all disappointing. Guess that’s the danger of having high expectations.

Broome – don’t want to leave

We’re in Broome. This has to be the nicest of civilised places during the months June – September. Originally, we planned to by-pass Broome this time round, but when we heard Cable Beach Caravan Park had some short term vacancies, we decided to call in after all. This is to be our third night here and we’ve booked another two. After that they need the site, so we’ll be reluctantly leaving then for Kunnunnurra. We’ve promised ourselves that next time we’re here, we’ll make sure to stay at least six weeks to give ourselves a chance of feeling like we want to move on, rather than have to move on!

Cable Beach, ah!!! what can i say to describe it. Glorious, beautiful, inspiring, spectacular – photos, while showing it off beautifully don’t allow you to hear the gentle ripple of the waves as they meander into the shore, and photos don’t let you feel the gentle breeze as it wafts over the sand and sea. So, I’m not going to add any photos of gorgeous Cable Beach. Besides any website will be displaying accurate photography. It really is as beautiful as the best of photos, if you haven’t been here yet, what are you waiting for!

Cable Beach van park is huge with 450 van sites. There’s lots of trees for shade and the ablutions are clean with generous sized shower cubicles. Theres a beautiful large shaded lagoon pool, but it’s a bit on the cool side. The ocean is warmer.

We’ve been for a few lovely long leisurely walks on the beach, and went for a bit of dip in the ocean yesterday. We’ve even been doing a few yoga stretches on the beach – told you it was inspiring… Today, if the waves are like they were yesterday, (nice gentle granny surf, with just enough power for a bit of a push) we plan on taking our boogie boards down. We also may try our luck at fishing from the jetty later.

The fish cleaning area in the van park is probably the best I’ve seen anywhere. A hose to wash the scales into large drain area, newspaper provided for wrapping your fish scraps and a huge freezer to place the scraps into for collection. Very civilised – just hope we catch something to get the experience of using it.

Later today, we plan on packing some nibbles and taking a drink in our esky down to the beach to watch the sunset over the ocean. Broome is famous for it’s sunsets and the fame is not unwarranted.

Now though it’s time for our Sunday Brunch, bacon, egg, tomato, mushrooms, asparagus and spinach, with indian breads (we’re out of normal bread and don’t want to make a special trip to the shops just yet to get any).