And like I said, where do we begin. I think we shall start at the beginning of June in Cairns, and work our way across Queensland and then the Northern Territory. I will let Angie start off.
We left Cairns to go to Undara where we knew there were going to be some cool caves and an interesting outback landscape. We didn't want to drive all the way there so we stayed in a nice free 'rest area' on the side of the road just past Ravenshoe (which, I was disappointed to learn, is pronounced 'Ravens-hoe' and not 'Raven-shoe'). These 24 hour rest stops are something that Australia does extremely well. Along most routes you will find a rest stop that people are allowed to camp in and they do. Mostly they are full of Grey Nomads and Backpackers.
Grey Nomads- 55+ group of people that basically have sold their house, bought a caravan and circle Australia. Not a bad life if you ask me. They form a wonderful community and are extremely helpful with their advice.
Backpacker- That ones self explanatory... youth that just wanna see Oz and have some fun :)
And now some pictures:
|On the way up the range on the way to Ranveshoe|
|Windy Hills Wind Farm- Well named and very cool establishment! These are huge :)|
|A great 24hr rest stop on the Queens Birthday long weekend. Great spot.|
The company at these rest stops is actually a good thing because they are all are so pleasant and have such good advice ;) The Grey Nomads have done it all before. The backpackers know where the fun and cheap things are and have advice about how to save money and where to go to be more comfortable. They also have good advice about where to get water and have showers.
Upon arrival to Undarra we were surprised to learn that there were no self guided caves and all the tours were quite expensive... we had some free coffee and hummed and hawed but deemed that it would just be too much money for us. We walked around the 'lodge' a little bit and it is quite the place. If you have a bunch of money to burn, I would recommend it. The 'rooms' are actually train cars :) Quite lovely.
We decided to do some of the hikes around Undara and went up Kalkani Crater. It was a great
little hike around the caldera and there was a LOT of wind. It was pretty refreshing,
otherwise we would have felt pretty cooked up in the sunshine.
|Beginning of the hike|
|Panorama of the surrounding countryside and a very cute boy on the right|
|I've seen people do this on instagram and it seemed like the cool thing to do... I've probably got it all wrong but I felt pretty zen biatches #sheeple|
Back to Graham again (Angie is gonna do all the captions though). We left Undarra feeling a bit annoyed but in good spirits. The drive down the inland route to Charters Towers is where we were heading, and it is a long, lonely lonely road. There were places where we went 70km without seeing another car! It is a good road for the most part, although there are a few long sections that have just one paved lane in the middle and then wide unpaved shoulders. That works fine until a road train comes barreling towards you, all 140+ tons and 53 meters long with four trailers. They don't move out of the centre, so it is all up to you.
|Long and straight roads|
|This is what Angie calls "Rainbow Road'. The rpcks are all a beautiful pastel colour and there is some pretty nice folds goin on. You can tell how much I like it because I'm n my tippy toes in the pictures! How embarrassing.|
Anyways it was getting a bit late so we started looking for a camp. There were none of the rest areas for another couple hundred kms so we just pulled up off the road behind a massive mound of gravel. We did the blackout routine every time we heard a truck coming, but it was not a problem. It was however very windy in a tent collapsing kind of way for a little bit that night.
|Great little camp spot for the weary|
|Who says you can't have a little style when you camp?|
In the morning we continued on to Charters Towers. It was the monday of a holiday weekend so every thing was closed...It looks like it a pretty cool little town but it was all just shut for the holiday. We spent ages farting around unlocking Angies blackberry and getting a sim card so that we could use the telstra network which has muuuuuuch better coverage in the outback than mine on Vodafone.
Eventually we were on our way out onto the Flinders Highway heading west. We made it to Hughenden the first night. We ended up staying in a tiny little caravan park that night. It was alright though the pool was draining itself into our campsite so we had to go find the owners and knock on their doors and get them to fix it. They where a bit grumpy but not nearly as grumpy as Angie was.
|Another long, straight stretch!|
|hehe theres another one!|
In the morning we went and met Mutt, the Muttabrasaurus statue in Hughenden and went to the little museum in the town. We had very yummy pies from the local bakery then headed off west again. Going out of town there was a sign that said rough road next 34 kilometers and someone had put a 2 in front of it. They were correct. It was very whompy if that makes sense. Lots of dips and humps some of which you really had to slow for. That lasted... well,,, about 250 kms. There were signs every 30 or so saying it was rough for the next bit...
|Angie in front of ammonite artwork|
|Holding Mutts hand (paw?)|
|Dino foot trash cans|
|Kronosaurus trash cans! This was in Richmond|
|Kronosaurus eating Angie in Richmond|
|Graham beating the Kronosaurus for eating Angie|
Anyways we stopped in a few more little towns on the way that day, notably Richmond and Julia Creek. That was a very flat and straight drive with no real trees or anything. There were many 15 km straights connected by slight bends.
That night we stayed in Cloncurry. None of the rest areas along the way were really nice at all, and eventually we just had to stop. We spent the night in a really nice caravan park that had free laundry and wifi and a kitchen and all sorts of stuff. There was a great set of rocks and minerals outside the info centre. The next stop was just a short hop over to Mt Isa. So named not because there is any sort of mountain, but because the guy who found minerals there thought it sounded like the famous gold mines in Mt Ida and wanted to up the hype a bit...
|I spy with my little eye... something blue? The sky!|
|View at lookout in Mt. Isa|
|Fantastic sign in Mt. Isa. It had Vancouver and KAMLOOPS and no other Canadian cities. Kamloops is a bigger deal than anyone ever thought it was. No Toronto... Kamloops.|
|The very tall smoke stack in Mt. Isa|
Mt Isa is not a charming place. The mine and smelter and such is literally right beside the town. There is a 270m tall stack for the lead smelter and the hills around the town are mainly tailing piles from the open pit mines right there. We spent a while in Mt Isa getting groceries and stocking up on stuff and we actually headed back that night to the rest stop between Cloncurry and Isa. We saw that it had been nice on the way there.
The next morning we headed out again, now on the Barkley Highway. We stopped in Camooweel for gas and saw that the price had gone from a consistent 144.9 a liter to 188.9.....we went to the other gas station in the tiny town and it was a bit cheaper but wow, we were truly in "we can charge whatever we want because we are all you've got" land. The next section of road is the loneliest we have driven so far. The near 400 km stretch has one roadhouse in the middle. And that is it.
|Lonely in the Red Dirt Country|
|Tank on a road train. Wide load. We scooted off the road a bit.|
|EMUS!!!! EMUS EMUS EMUS|
|Into Northern Territories :)|
Just past Camooweel is the border into the Northern Territory, and the speed limit jumps up to 130 and the skies open up even further to pure flat grasslands. It was beautiful but there really is not much to see!
The Barkley Homestead is the one little bit of civilization in the middle of that stretch, located about half way down a 75km long straight bit. We stopped there for a peek and it was a bustling hive of activity. Lots of people gassing up, roadtrains stopped, caravan park filling up, restaurant full, live music. We were getting pretty close to sunset then and stopped at the next rest area.
It was a good one. There was a nice area off the side of the road, but then it went waaay back into a field. We picked an empty spot and set up camp. The sunset was amazing! The stars were amazing! The only thing was the eerie creaking of an old metal windmill driven pump in the distance.
|I'm gonna let these amazing pics speak for themselves.|
That night we took a look at some rocks we found earlier that day. We had been going along and from highway speeds the rocks looked kinda interesting to me. Nice round ones that looked like there was something in them. Anyways we stopped and sure enough the rocks were pretty neat. Being absolutely swarmed by flies was not. But the rocks made it worth it. We are pretty sure that some of the ones we found are dendritic opalite. It is a very pretty rock that is used in jewelry. We also found all sorts of agatey rocks that we think are pretty neat. We did not find the opalite again despite stopping a few more times that day.
The next day was our longest drive yet I think. We went all the way from just past the Barkley Homestead to the rest area just south of Mataranka. We popped down to Tennant Creek for gas as it was cheaper at 160 than the roadhouses along the route.
It was hot driving north, and we were getting pretty hot when we pulled off the road to the pub and caravan park at Daly Waters. We had been told that it was a neat pub and it sure was! Every single surface is covered in things people have signed. Bills, coins, nametags, shirts, hats, ect. Everywhere. If you've been to Big Bad Johns in Victoria, BC,it was a lot like that only more stuff (not just bras) and a lot larger area). I think we were too zonked to take any pictures, plus the park was full so we headed back on towards Mataranka. We stayed in a rest stop and it was great. We met some fellow travelers who were and in fact still are headed the same way we are. We hung out around the fire and cooked bread on a stick and had a merry time of it.
|This guy took out some bagpipes and serenaded the camping site. It was amazing. He was awesome.|
The next morning we went to the Mataranka Thermal Waters. The first spring was nice, but very small, done up like a pool and small. The water was amazing though. It is about 34 degrees and it felt delightful.
We had been told that the other springs were the place to be and indeed they were. We met up with our new friends there at about 10 that morning and we all stayed swimming until about 3 that afternoon. It was glorious. The spring there is very much like the ones in Florida for those who have seen them.
There are several hundred meters of glorious deep clear warm water that all flows along pretty steadily. The palms and lilypads all overhang the edges and it is just amaaaazing. The four Germans we had met all had masks and snorkels and they were kind enough to let us borrow them for hours at a time while we all swam around and looked for turtles, and dove under the matted layers of vegetation growing in some parts.
Unfortunately all the images we took are GoPro videos and the laptop I'm using is not strong enough for that.
Coming soon: The GoPro post!
The springs were wonderful and well worth the entire day we spent there. We all headed out separately but ended up staying at the same rest area that night, just a few tens of kms down the road toward Katherine.
Katherine is not a particularly nice place, but it was a good place to stock up on food and ice and gas and wifi. We went out to the Katherine Gorge, and ended up doing a little hike with two of our new friends, and after leaving there went to Edith Falls for a swim. Once again, super nice place to be. Also free showers.
|Katherine Gorge. Water for sure has crocs.|
|Graham and friends at Katherine Gorge|
|Edith Falls swimming area|
We spent that night not in a rest area but in a little bush camp off the highway. It is where the old road crossed the river bed and is a nice little place to stay. No toilets but that is ok. We spent that night again with Oliver and Nina, half of the German contingent, and in the morning headed north towards Litchfield National Park, one of the highlights for us so far.
|Camping by the riverbed|
We ended up passing Nina and Oli on the road a couple of times as we stopped at different places on the way and ended up eating lunch with them at the magnetic termite mounds of Litchfield. It is a weird place that looks like an alien cemetary. The termite mounds, instead of being kinda round but largely random, are aligned north south and are flat. It is really weird. The termites don't have any way of sensing light either, it is just with the magnetic field.
That night we spent in the National Park campground at Florence Falls. It was one of the nicest places we have had the pleasure of swimming. It is a deep plunge pool for two waterfalls and the water is refreshing but still quite warmish. We spent a long time down there twice that afternoon.
|Unfortunately not many pics, all of them are GoPro vids that we couldn't add yet! Apologies! Coming soon!|
We did a loop through the rest of the park and out the back along an unsealed road that was good for the first 15 km and baaad for the next 15 but it avoided about 100km of backtracking so we went for it. By about noon we were on the outskirts of Darwin and it was Hot. I mean really hot.
We got into the city and took a dip in the swimming lagoon and had a bit of a look around the city centre. We drove out to east point and saw some really cool cliff things going into the croc inhabited sea. By the time we were thinking about finding a place to stay it was already getting a bit late. All the campgrounds nearby were quite expensive and most were for caravans only. So it would have been a long drive and an expensive site...We decided to cut loose and have a night in a hostel. We got a private room in the Youth Shack and had a nice little rest before hitting the town a bit.
|The Youth Shack|
We started with a beer in the hostel and free pizza and salad. That was $8 each for a pint, but at least there was "free" pizza. We wandered around for a bit to see the city at night then found a bar and had a cider. They were $9 each...Very tasty tho, and then it was time for bed. Angie was a little bit tipsy and when we got back to the room I was holding the door open for her. She shlinked inside and somehow managed to smash into a little table about a meter from the door...Nasty nasty bruise. A week on it has gotten all sorts of wonderful colors!
Anyhow, in the morning we went out again into the sunshine to explore. It was hawt. We had been thinking about staying in Darwin and looking for work but it was just too hot. We spent a little bit of time looking at the WWII oil storage tunnels which were kinda odd, then spent a good couple hours in the wave lagoon down near the water. That was goood. Lots of fun to be in nice clear warm water with no fear of crocs, plus free boogie boards to borrow!
|Nice rocks by Alexander Lake if I recall correctly?|
On our way out of town we decided to get masks and snorkels of our own. It ended up being pretty late by the time we were leaving the city, and our intention of making it to Kakadu that night was kinda out the window. We ended up stopping in a caravan park near to the park entrance. They had a pool and we tried out our snorkels there. Good stuff.
The next day we got to Kakadu. There was no real officious entry, and no spot to pay the 25 dollar entry fee. About 70km later there was a gas station/caravan park type thing and we got the passes there. We stopped at a wetland walk and saw some pretty neat new birds for Angies book.
|Wetlands :) With Jacana birds!|
A bit of a drive later we ended up in Jabiru, so named for one of the birds we saw. From there we went to the art site at Ubirr. I think I already talked about this a bit. It was really hot but the art was quite cool. Lots of fishes and turtles and things. It was all over the site we went to.
|'Controlled' burning and Fire Kites swooping around for fleeing food|
|Ubirr Aboriginal Artsite. Absolutely amazing. Something I found really cool was that a lot of the humans were this kind of stick figure drawing but the animals were so much more detailed. Fish had backbones and finds and internal organs. Amazing.|
|I loved the fish the most.|
|View from the top of an escarpment|
|Not a great picture... but its all we've got haha|
Back in the car, back past the town of Jabiru, and on a bit to the campsite. It was a national park site. It was not full at all which was nice and it was an ok place but as soon as it got dark the mozzies came out in force.
|So. Many. Mozzies.|
Angie had just finished lighting the 4th mosquito coil when she got a bite. Then another. Then two more. She dove for the tent and declared she was not coming out again. I sprayed up with bug spray and made dinner. She ate in the tent.
When we went to bed you could hear a sound almost as loud as a generator, but it was the mosquitos. Thousands of them all around. And they were huuuuge. They landed on the walls of the tent in the hundreds all looking to get a nice tasty piece of us. We fell asleep to the drone of 'neeeeee eeee eeee' that anyone whos tried to sleep with a mosquito in the room will understand.. except there weren't any in the tent and there was no way to make them stop.
Anyways, in the morning we packed up as quick as we could and set off, squashing mozzies as we drove. We went to the Nourlangie art site, but it was not nearly as impressive as the first. It had nice views though from the little walk we did. We made some pancakes in the parking lot there and were back on our way, this time to Yellow Waters. It was another wetland, this time with a boardwalk that went a ways out into the wetland. There were lots of fish and birds and it was pretty pleasant.
|Nice walk in the wetland|
We had planned on going to Gunlom Falls that night. You can swim in the pool right at the top of the falls and it looks spectacular. The road however was terrible. All the other roads to the other waterfalls are listed as 4WD only but on all the maps this one is not. The corrugation on the road though was almost a foot high and bone shaking. We could probably have made the 40km in about 2 hours but that seemed like a frustrating waste of time.
We left in a bit of huff, annoyed that no-one had even asked to see our park passes at any point, even when getting the campsite.... $25 per person and we didn't see where the money was going. This, in fairness, could be due to our ignorance of the park and the limited places we've seen.
We drove back to the camp at Edith River that we had stayed at before. All in all, Kakadu was about 700km of driving all for a couple wetlands and a bit of art, and a night full of mozzies. Not worth it in a 2WD.
Since then we have gone back to Katherine for internet and gas and food, then headed west again along the Victoria Highway in the direction of Broome. The first night along there we stayed in a national park campsite in Gregory Tree National Park. It was pretty neat actually. It is all surrounded with Baobab trees. They are all over the place here, very odd looking.
Anyhow, the next day we only drove a hundred kms or so as Angie was not feeling super good. We set up camp at about noon in a rest area near the WA border. It was a nice quiet afternoon of reading for me, but a not great one for Angie.
|Good view atop a hill before our campsite|
|Baob tree with inscription from July 2nd, 1855. Amazing.|
|Flip! We felt the car devalue slightly though. Can no longer say 'Less than 200k'|
|Road towards cool cliffs!|
That evening the other two germans Thomas and Steph pulled in so we had a nice little chat with them. We also met a really nice grey nomad couple who have invited us to stay at their place in NSW whenever we get there.
This morning we crossed the WA border. It is kinda interesting as there are very strict quarantine laws regarding fruits, veggies, ect crossing the state line. We had to chuck our tired old limes, but had cooked up all our other stuff in preparation for the crossing. Others did not know about it and were faced with the decision of chucking it or cooking it all up or eating it there, or even going back and spending a few days eating it.
Anyhow it was a relatively short drive from there to Kununarra and here we are. I am writing this and Angie is sleeping beside me, feeling ill. We are parked up in a B&B and I think it was a good choice. It is a bit of money but being sick in a tent really sucks. Especially when the nights have dipped down to 9 degrees C.
Now I have written all this I need to go through and add pictures, a very time consuming task!
I hope it is good to have an update like this one!!!