Cape Crawford to Jabiru via Katherine and Mataranka

Saturday, May 28, 2011 at 00:00


Day 43 - 28/05/2011

Cape Crawford, coldest night and morning so far, clear skies. On the road by 8.45am, single lane bitumen in reasonable condition but we nearly ended up in a ditch when we pulled over for an oncoming road train. Road conditions deteriorating the further we go with numerous rough patches from water damage, still only one lane wide and cattle present. About 100km out from Daly Waters we finally get a proper road with a lane each only to go back to single lane again about 25km later. Pulled in to Hi-way Inn, Daly Waters , just after 11.30am to get some fuel ($1.89.9pl shouldn‘t have bothered as it turned out to be about 30cents pl cheaper in Katherine) and lunch. Adriane had a bit of a drool over some army Unimog vehicles that were stopping for lunch (day 2 of a 2 months trip to the east). Got Telstra 3G coverage so caught up with some messages then hit the Stuart Hwy, speed limit 130kph! Pulled in to Mataranka about 3pm and set up camp at Mataranka Homestead Tourist Resort ($27pn for a powered site). Got a couple of loads of washing out the way (3 x $1 coins). Lots of friendly Agile Wallabies, peacocks and other birds. Went for a swim in the Thermal Pool, not that hot but very pleasant. Quite a bit of flood devastation in the forest on the way to the pool and around it. Went and listened to some of the nightly entertainment outside the bar were they had a wicked fire going. Talked for a while with the well travelled couple camped next to us in a Coromal pop top van, got a few hints on were to go tomorrow.

Day 44 - 29/05/2011

Another beautiful day, clear sky, a bit cool at first. Bid farewell to our fellow campers at Mataranka, hosed the cars off, then on the road just after nine. First stop in Katherine might be a camping shop because the arm on Adriane’s chair has been broken for a while, our shower tent broke the first time we got it out the bag (don’t get the ones with fibre glass rods like Oztent CR2) and the wire in the laundry basket/bag started poking out and catching on things within the first week! Andrea was making a list yesterday of all of their things that had gone wrong so far: tyre - flat, alternator - replaced, car battery - replaced, trailer brakes - where do I start?, windscreen - chipped then cracked, Tyre Guard® tyre pressure monitoring system - has been next to useless, Gordon’s mobile phone - won‘t power up, Andrea’s watch - went for a swim then lost the screws out of it while trying to dry it out, not to mention a number of cans and cartons that leaked everywhere. Pulled in to Cutta Cutta National Park a bit after 10.30am to see the caves but the next hourly tour wasn’t until 11am. So we went on a short bush walk then sat around waiting for the next tour, well past 11am and still no sign of a guide and large queue forming so Adriane and I headed off for Katherine and got there by half eleven. Got Virgin mobile coverage on the way into town so caught up on some messages. Stopped at the Shell Coles Express to see it we could get some more oil for the Troopy oil change that is due, diesel $1.55.9pl less 4c if you have a docket. Parked in town and went hunting for some lunch as the camping shop was shut. Had a nice lunch at the Coffee Club then caught up with Gordon and Andrea in Woolworths for a spot of shopping before heading out to Katherine Gorge. Booked an unpowered site for the night ($34) and booked for three of us on the sunset cruise ($135pp). Set up camp, nice shady grassed area with great facilities including a fabulous pool area. Adriane went up the road to do an oil change on the Troopy and the rest of us walked down to wait for the boat for our cruise. Spectacular! Got on the boat at 4.30pm for a gentle cruise up the gorge with an informative commentary from Jamie our Aboriginal captain, saw one freshwater crocodile on a log (Andrea and I reckon it was fake). This boat can only go so far then we had to walk a section past some rock art to the next gorge and another boat to go further up the river. By the time we got back to the first gorge it was getting dark and we boarded the boat that was beautifully set up for our candlelit three course dinner, greeted with a glass of sparkling wine. When it got dark, they shone spotlights up on the cliffs, truly a magical night, food was great. Glad we had remembered to take our torches because it was very dark when we got back to shore for the ten minute walk back to camp. Adriane was back at camp being attacked by Agile Wallabies and fruit bats in the trees above our camp. There are thousands of them here hanging from the trees above the amenities block and the river, chattering away day and night.

Day 45 - 30/05/2011

Packed up camp then went for a walk up to the look out so that Adriane could see a bit of what he missed out on last night. Grabbed a snack at their restaurant and browsed the gift shop then headed for Katherine. Passed a Buffalo on the road on the way in to town. Got some fuel then hit the camping shops for a new chair for Adriane, a new shower tent with spring steel frame (other one broke day 1) and couple of other bits and pieces. Adriane insisted on doing a trial run of putting the shower tent up and down, but the lady in the shop said he would have to buy it if he got it out the bag anyway, regardless of whether he could get it back in the bag or not. Back on the road by noon, another beautiful warm clear sunny day. Pulled in for a late lunch at Mayse’s Café in Pine Creek before heading off for Kakadu National Park ($25 pp for 14 days). Got our passes at Goymarr from the very helpful lady there.Had a quick look at Rock Hole which was a lovely waterfall with crystal clear water. Pulled in to Gunlom at 4.30pm to set up camp ($10pppn unpowered) in the generator section, ranger came around about 5pm to collect money and let us know the lights in the amenities wasn‘t working. Had a look at the waterhole at the bottom of the falls and Adriane went for a swim. Joined about forty other people at 7.30pm for a slide show and talk on bush tucker by Ranger Joel. Good talk, spoiled a little by some smokers. Showered by torch light and had an early night.

Day 46 - 31/05/2011

After breakfast we all did the steep rocky climb to the top of the Gunlom Falls, absolutely stunning at the top. Numerous pools of water cascading from one to the next, Adriane went for a swim, water warmer than the water hole at the bottom of the falls. Yet another clear sunny day.Gordon had picked up a trailer magnet in Katherine yesterday ($150) so it was back out with the tarps and off with the wheel for a spot of fixing. Can’t find the loaf of bread we bought in Katherine yesterday, so it’s out with the generator and on with the bread machine this afternoon. It’ll be spuds and corn in the fire tonight, got the wood ready and the pineapple and sour cream, should be good. Andy and I decided to go for an early shower and wash our hair, in case the lights weren’t working again. Had a bit of a chat with a nice couple from SA called Jason and Susan, they were camped near us in a Patrol ute with a roof top tent they got off eBay. Had dinner while it was still light for a change, very good.Gordon, Andrea and I took our chairs down for tonight’s talk on caring for the land while Adriane had a shower and an early night because his back was giving him grief.

Day 47 - 01/06/2011

Had breakfast round the camp fire at Gunlom then packed up camp and hit the road at about 8.30am. Stopped for a quick look at Bukbukluk lookout, bypassed Gungurul then found Maguk was closed. Another warm clear sunny day, back on the bitumen although some of it looks like a patchwork quilt, some sections being worked on today. Pulled in to Mardugal to do the Billabong walk but it was closed, too wet. So used their nice facilities then pushed on to Cooinda to see about a Yellow River Cruise($66pp less if you live in NT). Went to the Cultural Centre first, very interesting if you can be bothered to read some of the information. Moved on to the visitor centre and booked our 1.15pm cruise and had some lunch in the restaurant, things seemed a bit pricey as we were only looking for something like a toasted sandwich but it was restaurant quality food in big servings. Shuttle bus took us from there to the boat because the section the boats leave from is still closed because the water level is too high and parts of the car park is still flooded. Saw our first croc before the boat even left the dock! Great way to see the wetlands, nice quite boats with shade and informative commentary. Fantastic scenery and lots of different birds, not to mention about six salt water crocs. After the 1.5 hour cruise we pushed on to Jabiru and booked two nights at the Kakadu Lodge Caravan Park. We had barely set up camp and the boys were off helping a German couple fix/modify their rig.No sooner had they finished that and Adriane went for a swim in the pool while Gordon added to their list of breakages by trying to rip his back passenger door off on a tree! More banging and clanging and he managed to get it to shut again, all be it a bit dented. It’s not hard to tell when we arrive in a caravan park, within minutes there is usually something being bashed with a hammer, grinded or welded.A few bustards wandering around camp and a dingo passed through. After dinner we took our chairs over to the pool area for a ranger talk on Aboriginal Rock Art, spoke to the ranger lady after the talk and found she was the girl friend of Joel, the ranger that had done our last two talks. Got bailed up by an angry bustard on the way back from the shower, it was only trying to protect it’s baby though.

Day 48 - 02/06/2011

Jakob the German chap the boys helped yesterday, kindly came over with a bottle of wine as a thank you. Yet another clear sunny day, so put a load of washing out before breakfast. First stop the Park Visitor Centre, nice displays and interesting information. Next stop Nourlangie where there are great walk ways to a lot of different rock art sites and nice views. Just as we were leaving, Gordon noticed a couple in a Patrol with a caravan on the back and they had the bonnet up. Turned out they had a flat battery so it was out with the jumper leads to get them going. Although they were Victorian, it turns out that their daughter works at Flight Centre at Warnbro Fair Shopping Centre where we do our weekly shop. Had a couple more stops at a billabong and a lookout, a lot of the walks are closed because of too much water. Went in to town at Jabiru to pick up a couple of things from the bakery and shopping centre. We also went to the travel agent at the shopping centre and booked a Kakadu by Night Aboriginal culture and night wildlife boat cruise for tomorrow night. Back to camp for lunch and to get the washing in. Spent the rest of the afternoon computing and caught up with Cheryl and Stewart (the couple we had helped earlier) before dinner. Adriane had spotted another Tvan pulling in so went over to have a chat.

Day 49 - 03/06/2011

Ian Fletcher, the other guy with the Tvan, popped past and we compared notes on our Tvans. He has had his from new and had a couple of things looked at under warrantee. Compared to our last, older Tvan, this one has been a little disappointing in a couple of ways. I expected that any changes would be improvements but the doors for the kitchen and storage hatch are a pain to say the least. Very hard to open and they don’t seal out the dust or water. Hitch (AT35) can be a bit of a bugger sometimes too. I understand they have changed these things on the brand new models but is a bit of a shame they went backwards before going forwards. Anyway, another fine sunny day, Andrea and I went and booked in for another night then we all headed for Ubirr about 9am. Caught a couple of interesting talks by Ranger Kirsten in some beautiful settings around the Rock Art sites of Ubirr. Fairly easy climb to the top of the lookout, 360° views are the best in Kakadu and quite moving I found. This truly is a beautiful place, how they can even consider mining here is unbelievable. If you are thinking of coming to Kakadu then Ubirr is possibly the jewel in the crown, it is well worth the trip, the rest has been a bonus. For anyone that has heard Kakadon’t as we had, come here and make up your own mind, we’re glad we did. Went back and grabbed a toasted sandwich from the Border Store, most of the menu was Chinese, not what we expected. Had a look at the Upstream Boat Ramp then over to Cahills Crossing where the water was almost a metre high across it and flowing quite fast. We could see a few cars across the other side in Arnhem Land waiting for the water to subside. We stayed and watched from the lookout platform in the shade for nearly an hour and saw the water become almost still and a couple of vehicles crossed then the tide turned and the water started to rush the other way. We also saw a crocodile cruise down for a bit of a look, there were Aboriginal children playing in the trees on the opposite bank, guys fishing off the rocks on our side and a fishing boat on one side of the crossing and a tour boat on the other. Got back to Jabiru abut 2pm, Adriane went for a swim and we chilled out for a while. Got a call from Shelley our legendary settlement agent about some paper work for a house we are selling, she didn’t realise we were away. Apparently the sale is now unconditional so we have some things to sign so I arranged to talk to her again when we get to Darwin. Went and had a celebratory drink at happy hour round the pool before heading off to Muirella Park for our Night Tour. Quite a family affair, Andy (white guy) gave us an often comical talk about the history of the area and crocodiles, then his Aboriginal wife Jenny talked and showed us some of the uses of various plants and animials. Next Andy had us spear throwing followed by Uncle Douglas with the Didgeridoos with a bit of help from Katherine (Andy & Jenny‘s daughter). Next it was on to the boat in the pitch black, with Douglas at the helm and his brother spotlighting for wildlife. No sooner than we were underway and a Ginga or Saltwater Croc was spotted from the reflection in it’s eyes. It was the only one spotted that night but we did see a number of interesting birds including a beautiful Azure Kingfisher, a Sea Eagle, some Glossy Heron and a Crimson Finch. All in all, an interesting three hours that went quite quickly, glad I brought some snacks and some warm clothes for on the boat as it got quite cool, mist coming off the water looked good though. Back to camp and it was shower and straight to bed.

Tempus Fugit

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