So long Northern Territory (NT). We cross the border into Queensland tomorrow appreciating that to have fully explored NT we should have done a 1,000 kms round trip down to Alice Springs before turning East. We’re saving that for another trip! This week’s adventures go under the various vowel sounds ………

A = aaaaaahhh

We gave a very big Hurraaaaaahhh when we learnt our bikes were finally fixed and we could move on from Darwin. Seems the cure was a good ol’ Aussie trick – applying sandpaper to the contact points! Nice as Darwin was, we felt we were stagnating having spent two weeks at the same campsite. Mind you it gave us the opportunity to visit the fabulous Museum and Art Gallery of the NT and meet up again with a lovely Norwegian couple we’d become friends with in Broome.

The sound aaaaaahhh could be heard as I floated around the thermal springs in Mantaranka. Just as well I brought more than one bikini! Bitter Springs was first. These pools were more natural (i.e. less concrete and more algae) and the water temperature was a ‘cool’ 34 degrees. We then drove on to Mantaranka Thermal Pools where the pool was surrounded by palm trees and the colour and clarity of the water was incredible. Loved it!

The next watering hole we visited that day was one of Australia’s great authentic pubs known as the Daly Waters Pub. It has a lot of character including knickers and bras hanging from the beams, signs warning about unattended children being taught to swear and an interesting happy hour. Being British we ordered pints (or schooners as they’re called here) and made no saving at all! Turns out if we’d ordered a “pot” which is a half pint we could have saved $1! This would explain why so many big burly men were standing at the bar drinking halves!

E = eeeek

You’d think I’d have got over my fear of insects and creepy crawlies by now but no! I still jump and squeal at the sound of rustling in the bush despite it usually being a lizard. This week I also had to contend with grasshoppers landing on my chest, frogs leaping out of the toilet, bats swinging from trees above and being careful not to disturb Olive Snakes and Salt Water Crocodiles! At least the spiders at the Spider Exhibition we paid to go in and see were all safely behind glass and ‘Sweetheart’, the crocodile was stuffed. Interesting fact – spiders have blue blood.

I = ay yay yay

The highlight for me this week was seeing the indigenous rock art in Kakadu National Park. Some paintings have been dated back 20,000 years. The quality of the art and the natural setting we were able to see it in made it a really moving experience. Photos depict animals, rituals and tales connected to the Creation Ancestors (aka Dreaming). For example, the last chap, Nabulwinjbulwinj (pronounced Nar-bull-win-bull-win), is a dangerous spirit who eats females after striking them with a yam!

O = ooooooohh

We did a number of walks with views this week including a climb to the Mirrai Lookout and up to Katherine Gorge, hence the oooohh’s.

Humpty Doo wasn’t that inspiring – so no eggs cracked there but we did take a couple of photos to prove it exists! Goodness knows why it needs a Park and Ride though for a journey of 450 metres!

U = uuuh oh

Just over two months left on the road so we’re starting to think about all the things we need to plan for including selling the van, organising storage for those things we’re hanging on to and making sure we give ourselves enough time to see and do all the things left on our pootling around Australia lap. Did I really say I was going to attempt a Sky Dive?

The Lap So Far

The Journey So Far!

Cyclone Trevor what an endeavour!

We’ve only travelled twelve metres away,
Cyclone Trevor ensured we extended our stay.
Thunder, lightening, rain and a breeze,
We took the precaution to move from the trees!

Cyclone Trevor’s put a spanner in the works,
However Darwin has offered some lovely perks.
Whilst walking around aimlessly, ready to drop,
We made a discovery – The Cheesecake Shop!

Strawberry, lemon, blueberry as well,
Choices, choices, my kind of hell.
Hang on a minute, two dollars a slice!
Why have one, when three would be nice?

The Deckchair Cinema is closed right now,
But the Wave Lagoon was a definite wow.
I mounted a boogie board to surf the waves,
As activities go, this was one of my favs!

Wave Lagoon

Darwin’s Wave Lagoon

The Aviation Centre, entrance fee paid,
Some bits unfortunately we would describe as “staid”.
The B52 Bomber was the highlight for us,
It’s wingspan alone created a fuss.

Mike has kept busy by visiting the gym,
Weights and cycling to keep himself trim.
Sewing and knitting that’s been my thing,
Making teddy costumes with sparkle and zing!!!

Materials are sourced from each charity shop
Some beautiful dresses are next for the chop!
My daughter has said she needs a dozen,
For Sophie’s friends and even her cousin.

Next for the chop!

Next $2 bargains for up cycling

Apart from that, our bikes are still broken,
It’s chucking it down and my washing’s now soakin’.
There’s a notice gone up, ‘Beware of the snake’
Jings and crivvens, just give us a break!

Staying In!

Staying in after dark!

We’re still on target to complete the lap,
So no need to panic or get in a flap.
Humpty Do plus Kakadu are next on the list,
That’s unless Trevor does a three sixty twist!

Soggy Bottom and Itchy Bites at the Top End

The ‘Top End’ is the name given to this area of Australia and it is the most northerly part we will visit. We are currently in Darwin and may need to extend our stay as Storm Trevor is making its way over from the east coast. The Northern Territory has only had half its average rainfall this wet season which has allowed us access to all the National Parks. We just hope Trevor doesn’t plan to dump the second half whilst we’re here! On the way up to Darwin we stopped at Edith Falls where I enjoyed a beautiful solitary swim whilst being mindful of any crocodile escapees!

The reference to my ‘soggy bottom’ has nothing to do with The Great British Bake Off and everything to do with being in an out of water. Swimming pools at the various caravan parks are getting lots of use and at Litchfield National Park I was diving in to the various water holes at every opportunity. I actually had some people company for a change so didn’t feel quite so nervous about lurking crocs! Mind you the sandflies, mosquitoes and ants are having a field day and I’m covered in itchy bites at the moment.

We came across some interesting ant structures whilst in Litchfield National Park. The first was the Cathedral termite mound which dwarfs Mike. An impressive achievement for a mere 5 mm long termite. The other mounds, slightly hidden from view behind the long grass, are made by the Magnetic termite. These clever little insects align their tower from north to south to ensure one side is always in the shade and they therefore have optimum temperature control inside their mound. Wish we could do that with Jura!

We loved lorikeet feeding time at Batchelor Caravan Park. We considered going on a jumping crocodile cruise but manipulating these wild animals to perform by dangling a carrot/meat on a stick just doesn’t do it for us.

We have enjoyed Darwin’s street art, the harbour area and Charles Darwin National Park. Darwin played an important role during the Second World War and we’ve yet to visit the Aviation Museum which is just along the road from us. Getting around Darwin has been a bit more tricky with our bikes still in for repair. We have hopped on and off local buses (avoiding the rear as they can be a bit smelly) and done a fair bit of walking.

Aussie humour is something else. I have kept back the offensive logo about seeing you in the Northern Territory. The two included here wouldn’t be tolerated in Blighty, would they?

Two New Favourites!

By the time you read this blog we will have left Western Australia and entered the Northern Territory. We have spent four months driving from South to North and notched up over 10,000 kilometres if we include the 1,200 kms done on our bikes. It has been amazing. We had not expected Western Australia to keep the best till last – but it did! Lake Argyle has just shot to the top of the list which surprised us as we drove through some pretty dodgy places en route from Broome to get here. It was a case of vroom vroom from Broome.

Lake Argyle is in the middle of nowhere. It is 70 kilometres away from the nearest town and all that’s located at Lake Argyle is a Caravan Park, a Boat Cruise Operator and a Museum (that was closed). At $44 (or £25 a night) the caravan park was not the cheapest we’d stayed in but it did have the best pool and the grounds were beautifully kept. I loved the fact that this whole area is so under developed and with only a handful of other guests staying here I had the whole infinity pool to myself for over half an hour first thing in the morning. It was sheer heaven in my opinion and photographer Mike captured it perfectly!

All to Myself!

Can it get any better than this?

Heaven Again

Here Comes Heaven

We also took a sunset cruise operated by Lake Argyle Cruises with Greg at the helm. The boat set off at half two and we got introduced to some of the lake’s inhabitants including rock wallabies, Jesus birds (so called because they appear to walk on water), fish that spit water at you from a metre away (we checked it was water and not urine!) and fresh water crocodiles. We had the opportunity for several swims off the boat in water that accommodated said crocodiles!!! The water temperature was 33 degrees which is a bit hot for the crocs and so they tend to swim quite deep down, thankfully. The one captured in my photos just came by for a snapper or two!

The sunset over the lake was beautiful and we got to enjoy it whilst floating in the water drinking champagne and eating cheese and biscuits! There was beer for those who preferred and by the time the boat returned to dry land four hours later we had all become best friends and no one was dry!

Argyle Lake is the largest man made lake in Australia and is 70 kms long by 40 kms at its widest point. We heard the story about the construction of the Ord Dam in the late 1960’s and how over the years the water level has been increased to meet demand. The volume is now equivalent to 21 times the size of Sydney Harbour – in case you were interested!

My other new favourite (pushing the Giant Tingle into second place) is the Boab tree. They are unique to this area and are recognised by the swollen base of their trunk. This makes them appear short and stumpy – a bit like me some might say! I couldn’t resist purchasing myself a little wall hanging as a reminder. It was either that or a rare Lake Argyle pink diamond but the jewellery shops were all closed. Mike meanwhile is quite taken by the unusual zebra rock which is mined here and is making enquiries about getting a piece cut for a future retirement project!

The road down to the Bungle Bungles is currently closed but I did take a picture of one of the rocks you might find down there – aka Brexit Rock!!

Mini Bungle Bungle

Brexit Rock

The Kids Will Be Pleased!

Well the kids will be pleased that we haven’t blown their inheritance whilst staying in Broome. Just for a change, this blog details six of the things we didn’t do in this upmarket tourist resort!

1. We didn’t see the Staircase to the Moon. This is a phenomenon which occurs for three nights each month between March and October when the full moon rises and produces an optical illusion across the exposed mudflats at low tide. We will miss it because the dates this month are 21st, 22nd and 23rd March.

2. We didn’t get to do the Horizontal Falls trip which was top of our bucket list. Described by David Attenborough as “one of the greatest natural wonders of the world”, the water gushes horizontally rather than vertically and is literally unlike anything else in the world. Unfortunately the only operator offering to take you through the falls by speedboat does not start up again until the beginning of April. We could have flown over them by seaplane but this would only have been half the adventure and we want the full bells and whistles version. Another time, perhaps – mega bucks saved!

3. We didn’t ride a camel along Cable Beach because we honestly didn’t fancy it. However, we did take lots of photos of other people enjoying their jerky ride. With so many different caravan tours happening along the beach it is a good thing the camels wear their very own poo bags. Maybe it’s something Queenie might like to consider for Horse Guards Parade? Mind you, I wouldn’t like the job of emptying them out every night!

4. We didn’t see the dinosaur footprints which are pressed into the reef at Gantheaume Point because they can only be viewed when the tide is below 2.16 metres. That is not due to happen again until 05:40 on the 7th March or 06:07 on the 8th. Amazing that they can be that precise but unfortunately we’ll be long gone by then.

5. We didn’t get to ride our bikes whilst here as they are both in for repair. However, we did catch the Explorer Bus and went down to see the Courthouse Markets on Saturday morning. Unfortunately the torrential rain we had earlier in the morning had flooded many of the streets and stallholders either didn’t attend or packed up early. No money spent there either!

6. We didn’t buy any Broome Pearls, considered to be the queen of all pearls. Broome has a really interesting pearling history and the founder who dared to try culturing them was actually imprisoned when he entered the industry in 1946. Apparently you don’t choose the pearl, the pearl chooses you. Despite a pearl necklace costing $40,000 taking a real shine to me, I decided that the string of pearls and three pairs of earrings I have back home will do me just fine for now!

The kids will be pleased because we moved from an expensive Caravan Park to a cheaper one. We only spent a night at the dearer one – the discount for staying 7 nights amounted to £8 in total! It had a nice enough swimming pool but the site was huge (enough for 500 caravans and already fully booked for July!) and even though there were only about another 10 families staying, we just didn’t get a positive vibe. The savings from moving to a smaller and much nicer Caravan Park just a few hundred metres down the road has allowed us to drink beers at the Divers Tavern and have a game of mini-golf for free!

We have been at Cable Beach (which is right next door to Broome, and much nicer) over a bank holiday weekend. What a contrast to back home as we have enjoyed almost deserted beaches and a lovely climate (30-35 degrees). The sunsets have been stunning and we have developed a liking for the local brew – Mango Beer – healthy and alcoholic!


Mango for March!

Recognising it was a bank holiday was good for us as we really don’t tend to take much notice of what day of the week it is let alone the month. We realised on the 4th March that we hadn’t turned the calendar over from February to March (such a thoughtful Christmas present from sister Moira!). We will need to keep closer track of time from here on in though as we have now entered month 8 of our trip and Mike has booked our return flights for 26th June (16 weeks away)!

Tom Colin and Arnold

Tom Colin and Arnold is not the title of a new cocktail but are the names of three top blokes we encountered this week. ‘Encountered’ is a rather loose term since Tom died in 1962 and Colin in 1996 but Arnold, aged 94, is still going strong despite a quadruple bypass when he was 80. I’ll return to the story of these three gentleman later in this blog.

Sculpture in Port Hedland

Iron Ore Country

We took a detour away from the coastline this week and entered iron ore mining country – the domain of Rio Tinto. Evidence was all around that this area was being actively worked from the huge number of road trains and utes using the highways, the ships coming and going into Port Hedland and the accommodation on offer at some of the Caravan Parks we stayed in.

Paraburdoo Caravan Park

One Day This

Not all our accommodation choices have worked out the way we’d originally intended. Thankfully decisions to move on have been unanimous. This week we had been looking forward to spending two nights in Karijini National Park and had filled up our fridge with food, topped up our water tanks for showering and drinking, emptied the toilet and charged up our phones! Solar energy supports all our lights and the motor to drop our bed down at night and gas bottles take care of the cooker and fridge. Jura, the name we have affectionately given to our motor home, is therefore self sufficient for a few days at a time provided we can live without air conditioning, laundry facilities and perhaps a swimming pool and playground! The campground we were going to use in Karijini was another one that was bereft of anyone else and as we entered the very dusty road in there were warning signs about wild dingoes and the need to keep doors shut. The flies were horrendous so we’d have kept the doors shut anyway but with the temperature in the 40s and no air conditioning we were soon sweating away like little piggies! The other very serious issue though was the storm warning we’d received and with the thunder getting louder and the occasional drop of rain falling on the van, we decided not to risk getting stranded in a site that nobody was manning and where nobody knew where we were. Instead we enjoyed what we could of the gorges, pools and stunning scenery, I had a really refreshing swim at Fortescue Falls and we moved on to Auski Roadhouse where we let the storm pass overhead!

Chucking it Down!

Chucking it Down!

So on to our three top blokes. First Tom Price. Thomas Moore Price was an American gentleman who arrived in the Karijini Ranges in the early 1960s to appraise deposits of ore. He was instrumental in convincing the mining companies to mine in the area. In September 1962 Thomas returned to America. He passed away from a heart attack at his desk, only two hours after being advised of the very rich ore deposit discovered. Tom Price, the local town, was named after him and includes the Tom Price Visitor’s Centre, Tom Price Skateboard Park, Tom Price Golf Course, Tom Price Fire Station, Tom Price Caravan Park, etc etc. At 747 metres above sea level, it is the highest town in Western Australia and is beautifully landscaped with lots of green grass and a great coffee shop.

Tom Price Caravan Park

Next Day That!

Next up is Colin Matheson. For those who don’t know, my maiden name is Matheson and I have three brothers – one of whom is called Colin. We noticed on the map of Port Hedland an Oval going by the name Colin Matheson (spelt correctly) and decided to make enquiries into who this gentleman was at the local Visitor’s Centre. The lady behind the counter did her best to dig up some information but suggested our best bet was to go across the road and seek out Arnold Carter who would be in his office behind the Museum. We duly found Arnold, a former Mayor, still working as an Accountant, local historian and caretaker of the Koombana Exhibition. He gave us a wonderful detailed account of Colin Matheson who had been a postal officer, an inaugural member of the voluntary fire service and had two loves – football and railways. He set up the local football team in the early 60s and became something of a mouthpiece for the local community. Really interesting stuff but sadly there are no remaining Mathesons living locally.

I think my brother got the last laugh though – his nickname is Freefall Matheson after a number of climbing accidents (I believe). By the entrance to the Oval stands a statute – very appropriate don’t you think!

Ningaloo we so loved you

Turquoise Bay

Turquoise Bay, Ningaloo Reef

What’s not to love about clear blue water that is teaming with fish of every conceivable colour, shape and size? I have had a blast snorkelling in the beautiful bays here on the Ningaloo Coastline and even saw a turtle on one dive. My confidence definitely improved as the week went on and I would have done the Drift Loop at Turquoise Bay if I’d had a snorkelling accomplice. No once else was around and since there’s a dangerous current that can take you out to sea I didn’t want to risk it.

It didn’t worry us though being the only people camping at Kurrajong. We had roos for company and we are getting quite used to being lone campers at many of the campsites. The heat is definitely a factor as the mercury is not falling much below 40 degrees and many places are still shut until the end of March. This unfortunately will snooker our plans to do the Horizontal Falls in Broome as they are not taking bookings until the first week of April. By that stage we expect to be up in the Northern Territory and working our route out for coming back down the east coast (weather permitting). Oh well, it does give an excuse to come back another time with four wheel drive to do even more!

Cape Range National Park follows much of the Ningaloo Coastline and we went for early morning hikes at Mandu Mandu Gorge and Yardie Creek. We saw ospreys and eagles soaring above and, too quick for the camera, a little black footed rock wallaby. We’ve also spotted a wild cat as we’ve been driving along.

There is no chance to have a snooze in the passenger seat as the scenery is ever changing and very interesting. I am always looking out for photo opportunities and was a bit peeved that Mike sailed on past a huge termites nest before I got a chance to photograph it. I needn’t have worried, the next day we drove past literally thousands of these large brown mounds dotted all over the landscape!

With the roads being really empty and us doing many more miles between campsites, I have started sharing the driving with Mike. I love being so high up off the ground. We are now heading towards Karijini National Park. It has four mountains: Mount Sheila, Mount Bruce, Mount Nameless and Mount Meharry – fancy Sheila and Bruce being in the same mountain range lol! Four wheel drive vehicles are needed to access them unfortunately. However I am looking forward to cooling off in some of the rock pools. Rain is forecast so we’ll have to see how it goes as flash flooding can occur! We’re still capturing some amazing sunsets – this one was over Ashburton River last night.
Ashburton River Sunset

Sunset at Ashburton River