Lewis' Exploring Oz

On and off the beaten track…………………….

Archive for August, 2010

Bye Katherine hello Daly River

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on August 21, 2010

Hi Everyone,

Well we didn’t make the museum at Katherine but we did go to see the Katherine School of the Air.  It was very interesting and you get to sit in and watch and listen to an actual lesson being taught online.  It has a lot of the history about school of the air and it’s an absolutely HUGE area of NT that they cover.

Well the clouds that had been threatening to rain for the last few days finally broke open; it just happened to be the same day we were packing up to leave:( We donned our rain coats and set about packing up when Joel started chatting to our neighbours,, who were also packing up.  Joel thought they looked familiar, then realised it was the parents of one of his school friends.  It is unbelievable the people who you meet on the road.  We had been right next door to each other for the last 4 days and now we’re both leaving.  They were heading up to Darwin and we were stopping in at Daly River and Litchfield National Park. We said we’d catch up for a chat in Darwin as they were staying at the same caravan park we were going to.

Umbrawarra Gorge

We drove through the rain and had decided to do a bush camp at Copperfield Dam, near Pine Creek, for a night or two but unfortunately overnight camping is now not allowed so we pushed on to Hayes Creek Caravan Park.  Nice park and the showers were huge! We used it as a base camp to go back and explore Pine Creek and the Umbrawarra Gorge.  We hiked into the gorge but it wasn’t a long hike and had a swim in a pool further in the gorge.  The rock formations were so spectacular, especially the pink and purple colours in the rocks themselves.

Pink rocks in Umbrawarra gorge

Pine Creek Lake

We stopped in to see the very large lake at Pine Creek, which was a town built mostly on/around a gold mine. It was an open cut mine and the mining pit was filled by diverting the Pine Creek to it. It took 14 months to fill it and contains 6800 Megalitres of water!  Headed back to camp for a late dinner and gear up for tomorrow.

Fenton Aircraft Graveyard

Headed out of Hayes Creek towards the Douglas Daly Area.  First stop was the old abandoned Fenton Airstrip.  Took a drag down the old airstrip, checked out the Airforce Fenton Camp and Headquarters, complete with ruins of empty buildings and drove through the Fenton Airfield Aircraft Graveyard.  A few old planes and bits ‘n’ pieces.  Lots to read on the signs about the Fenton Base and WW2, very interesting. Good History lesson for the boys.

Termite mounds

We also saw some of the biggest termite mounds I have ever seen – even bigger than the ones on the way to Coral Bay.  When we were all historied our, we headed off to the Douglas Hot Springs.  These would have to be the hottest springs I have ever been to.  There is a sign near the car park, where there is quicksand around the spot where the hottest water actually starts. You an actually see the bubbles and heat haze rising up out of the waterhole.  We ventured down where the spring was running and found the best spot was just where the cold creek meets the spring water.  One lady there told us there were people heating up tins of spaghetti in the water up closer to the springs as the water temperature is about 60 degrees.  We crossed in water that was only to our ankles but by god I thought it was going to burn off our skin!  We made our way to the spot where the cold water flows into the springs and laid in the shallows and vegged.  We met some fellow travellers who had been to some of the places we were yet to go, in NT and took in the advice of things to see and do.

Hot Springs quicksand

Once we were as wrinkled as we could get, we got out to have lunch that Daniel had gone back a little earlier to get ready.  Then we headed off to the Butterfly Gorge.  It is a beautiful gorge walk, mostly in the shade as nearly everything up here is in some sort of tropical forest!

Butterfly Gorge

We did some more rock climbing to get over to the sand bar but the water was a little to stagnant for us to want to have a swim.  We retreated to the air con in the car and headed on to see the Arches and pool where we thought we could have a swim before going back to camp.  It took a little while to figure out that the Arches were actually accessible through the Douglas Daly Tourist Park which has just been taken over by new owners.  They are lovely people and showed us the way to get there, adding “I hope you don’t want to swim as there has been a croc spotted and swimming is not recommended”.  No way! So we thought as we were here anyway we should go and have a look.  The arches looked very nice but it was deep and dark and thought if there is a croc then he wouldn’t be too far from here!  We headed downstream a bit further to find a nice little swimming hole and other people swimming in the water.

Swimming watching for crocs

We were so hot we jumped in and cooled off.  After a short while we noticed a crocodile trap just off to the right of us. Mmmm… we decided not to tempt fate and get out of the water as we had cooled off by now and it was getting on to 5pm, which is when the crocs come out to find a feed.  We headed back to camp for a shower, feed and bed.

What Crocs

Next morning we packed up and headed down to the Daly River area.  There are quite a few places to stay down there and all of them push the Barra fishing.  We stopped at the Daly Waters Pub,  which is near the Daly River Crossing and parked up.  Aside from fishing there are a few places to check out or 4WD to, so we went for an explore.  We headed to Brown’s Creek which is as far as the Daly River Rd goes and found a great place to free camp.

Brown's Creek

There were a lot of ruts on the road so we probably would have been pushed to get a 25′ caravan down here but there was a Winnebago there so it’s do-able for a smaller unit.  We parked up and got out the rug for a rest and take some photos of a few crocs.  After about an hour we could count about 15 Salties and were very glad we were up on a sort of cliff area as they looked pretty hungry!  There was a small boat on the river making its way back to the boat ramp further up-river and it was trying to negotiate the sand bars amongst the crocs.

Crocs at Brown's Creek

One old guy got out, into the water, to push themselves off the sand, and we just thought “Well it was nice knowing ya mate”!  It took them about 40 mins to negotiate this one turn in the river with all the crocs watching (and us too!) and then they were on their way.  Some of those Salties looked about as long as their dingy!  Glad it wasn’t us! Headed on back to the caravan and relaxed – well as much as one can, parked out the front of the only pub for miles – and it was Friday night!:)  Next morning as we were breakfasting, a young guy knocked on the caravan and asked if it would be possible for us to come and help him get out of a bog.  Apparently they had tried to cross a creek and gotten the back-end of their 4WD stuck on a sand bank.  Wade and I stayed at the caravan and packed up and did spelling tests while Daniel went with Joel and this guy and 2 of his female companions.  When Joel got to the creek, some 60kms away, there was another bloke there trying to winch out the car as their was another 2 backpackers who had stayed near the car overnight.  Joel finally got to use his Maxitrax as the car couldn’t get any traction, even on the winch. Daniel was in charge of photos and video footage but alas he forgot and we don’t have anything at all.  Joel and Daniel got back just before lunch so we hit the road to try to make Litchfield national Park before dark, stopping in at Adelaide River for lunch.

Adelaide River Tourist Bureau

Adelaide River has lots of WW2 sites around the town. We visited the Historic Railway which doubles as the local visitors centre.  There was no-one there and entry is through a gold coin donation. We looked through the old station and memorabilia housed there.  There was a lot of information about the early railway and the Overland Telegraph Line.  It was a telegraph line that ran from Palmerston (Darwin) to Port Augusta in SA, which was finished in August 1872.  The first official message from London was received in Adelaide, in October, after a 7 hour journey. (Makes me appreciate my internet and i won’t be calling it slow anymore!) Construction consisted of  36,000 wooden (cedar = termite proof) poles and  2900kms of wire and 11 repeater stations were required to relay the messages. There was a LOT of information in the railway cars and sheds but after a little while you tend to go into information overload – so when ALL the boys were complaining of being bored, we hit the road on towards Litchfield National Park.

Sunset at Litchfield CP

We reached the Litchfield Tourist and Caravan Park around 4pm, set up and headed for a swim in the pool away from all the crocs! Nice colours in the sunsets too.

Will leave this post here as we will spend 4 nights in Litchfield so we can see as much of it as we can and it will be way too  much to try to fit into this posting.

Till the next thrilling installment

Ciao`

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Lookout NT the Lewis’ are comin’.

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on August 2, 2010

Hi Everyone,

Crossing the WA-NT border

We have left Kununurra and are heading towards the NT border.  It’s only 40kms and I am so excited it is the only state/territory that I have not visited yet!  We pulled over at the WA/NT border sign and left a bit of room in front of us…silly us.  A tour bus screeches in off the road in front of us and proceeds to unload his passengers for the touristy shots right in front of the car and the sign!  We were so pissed off at just how rude some people are!  Joel said to the driver, “Thanks mate, you’ve pulled up right in our shot” he goes “Oh sorry, (he smirks) and that just pisses us off even more as he doesn’t give a rats!  So we waited for 15 minutes while this idiot finally rounded up the troops so we could finally take a photo crossing the border! Sheesh, the things you do for a simple photo! We soldiered on, had a lunch bread and made it to Timber Creek by 1:30pm. The most amazing thing we saw was a speed sign that allows you to do 130km/h on the Victoria Highway!  The kids wanted Joel to try it out, but he declined, especially with the caravan on the back!  Maybe later on when we’ve parked up in Katherine we might give it a red-hot go!  Paid at the Roadhouse and edged into the caravan park to find it was quite full already and there were no real sites as such, that is, no numbers, just pull up and park.  We stopped to ask someone about the set-up when we heard this god-almighty bang and hiss and what looked like smoke coming out from under our bonnet.  OMG! What now!  Popped the bonnet and checked underneath. Not the radiator – thank god!  Suddenly there were 10 grey-haired men all standing around the front of the car, all leaning in, talking about what the problem might be.  It was hilarious!  It turned out to be an air-conditioner hose that blew off and all the gas had escaped!  After all the fuss, all the greys told us to just “pull in here, there’s plenty of room”, so we did.  We knew there was no hope of getting the air con fixed at Timber Creek so it would just have to wait a few days till we made Katherine.

Sunset at Timber Creek lookout

Full moon at lookout

Timber Creek is a small town but quite nice.  After we had set up we headed out to see a few of the sites.  Gregory’s Tree is a huge boab tree that signals where the old camp site was for Augustus Gregory, an early pioneer.  The history of the place is also very interesting too.  It’s hard to imagine a settlement camp when you look around and see how harsh the environment is and how close it was to the crocodile-infested water as well!  There are apparently 2 caravan parks at Timber Creek, which is amazing for the size of the town!  We stayed at the first one, coming from the WA side.  It’s nothing flash but toilets and showers were clean, it had nice big shady sites and a laundry and camp kitchen too.  We stayed for 2 nights and by 9am the next day we were the ONLY van left in the place But by 2pm the park was pretty full again so it must be a  good spot to stop. Along the Victoria Highway, we stopped at the Bradshaw Bridge.  It is a relatively new bridge and road and when we walked onto it, we realised was built by and for the Dept of Defence.  It is a Military Training Area.  We walked over the bridge towards the gates so we could read some of the signage – as you do.  One of the signs cracked me up: “Danger Military target Area.  Do not enter unless authorised. Do not touch anything. It may explode and kill you!” and various other warning signs.  Last stop was up at the escarpment lookout for some views of the enormous Victoria River and surrounds of Timber Creek.  We decided to stay for the sunset and have a read of the war memorials too.  There was some very interesting stories but some were very hard to read as the plaques has become quite discoloured and weathered.    We met a young French couple who were going to do the Gibb River Rd then looking for work in Karratha/Port Hedland area.  The sunset wasn’t too bad and as an added bonus, just as the sun went down on the west, a huge, yellow, full moon was rising in the east.  Back to camp for spag bol dinner.

Croc feeding at the bridge

Joel’s Mum and Dad have been in Darwin for the past few months and were heading home to Perth, so we had hoped to catch up with them along the way.  They arrived the next morning, having stayed just on the other side of Victoria River the previous evening. It was so great to see them as we haven’t seen them for a while as they weren’t in Perth when we went down in May, before the start of the trip. Daniel decided to make scones with jam and cream for morning tea with the grandparents.  Yummo!!  I had bought a 2kg roast of beef, in Kununurra and thought it would be ideal for dinner for the 6 of us.  We spent the day catching up, doing some washing and preparing for the roast tonight.  Joel, Barry (Joel’s dad) and Daniel decided to go and get some firewood for the fire, as I had decided to do a camp oven roast as it’s just too damn hot to cook a roast inside the van!  There was a “home-built” BBQ in the caravan park, down towards the river, so we got a fire cranking, (definitely not for warmth this one!) so we could make some coals.

Croc feeding again

At the rear of the caravan park, there is a bridge where they feed the fresh water crocodiles every night at 5pm.  We headed down to watch, even though we have seen a lot of crocs so far! It was interesting to watch as 5pm drew closer and closer, more crocs were turning up.  In the end there were about 8-9 freshies in the small river.  The gentleman was using a stick with some rope and a big hook on it and some meat on the hook and feeding it to the crocs.  Both the boys had a go and said that the crocs were very strong and luckily they didn’t get pulled off the bridge.  Beryl (Joel’s mum) was very nervous and kept asking Daniel and Wade to move away from the edge:) On ya Beryl!

After the feeding frenzy, we headed back to sitting around the fire, waiting for the roast to cook itself.  Many drinks later, the roast beef, potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, onions, peas and gravy were done!

Lewis family Roast

The kids wanted to bring down the table to where we were near the river to eat – so we looked like Kings dining down near the river on roast beef and vegies. Mmmmmm.  I love the camp oven!   We also had the rest of the scones with jam and cream for dessert.  OMG I thought I was going to burst! We sat around and chatted some more and caught up on everything that has been happening. Beryl and Barry were off the next morning, heading to Kununurra and we were heading off to Katherine, with no air conditioner.  That’ll test us!

Next morning Off we went to Katherine where we plan to stay for a week so as to get the air con in the car fixed and pick up some mail. The trip was pretty warm yet breezy with the windows down all the way.  We pulled into Katherine and we are staying at the Low Level Caravan Park on the edge of town.  Managed to get the car looked at the next day and $200 later we have air conditioning in the car once more. The caravan park has a great swimming pool and we have managed to make full use of it several times a day since we have been here.

Katherine Hot Springs Mmmm.....

We visited the Katherine Hot Springs, which are right in the middle of town.  We rode our bikes in and decided to go to the springs in the morning as the days heat up to a pleasant 35 ish everyday.   The water was soooo clear and warmish.  There was a bit of a waterfall, man-made, which creates a spa-like experience at the bottom of the falls.  It was soooo relaxing. There was one young fella, with dreddies, who jumped in and everyone in the water looked around, trying to see where the dead animal was, as he smelt like he hadn’t seen a bar of soap for quite a number of days. Peeewwwww!

Katherine Hot Springs again

The spring itself is just a little way upstream and the water is just so clear, it’s so amazing. We found out later, when we went to Cutta Cutta caves, that the water that feeds these springs actually starts from inside the Cutta Cutta Caves in the thermal pool there.

Cutta Cutta Caves

Brown tree snake

Next day we went out to the Cutta Cutta Caves, just south of Katherine.  They were originally called Smith’s Caves but as we are finding with most things, they are being re-named with their Aboriginal name.  We found this a lot at some of the places on the Gibb River Rd trip, especially up at the Mitchell Falls.  The Cutta Cutta Caves go for about 700m but the tour only goes in as far as 450m as each year it gets flooded and has to be cleaned out again.  There are some brilliant formations in the cave, some of the drip rocks are so crystalline, they sparkle.  These sparkles look like stars in the dark and that is how the caves were named – Cutta being Aboriginal for stars, Cutta Cutta meaning “many stars”.  Russell was our guide and he showed us some of the the damage done to some of the stalactites by some servicemen from WWII, who decided, for kicks, to get drunk and have a shoot ’em up in there with some 303’s. Very sad to see:( There was also some areas that were damaged from an earthquake as well.

Sparkling crystalline drip rock

We also saw a brown tree snake curled up in a small hole in the rocks, which Wade correctly identified before the guide told us what it was. The beauty of the caves was further enhanced when Russell told us how old the stalagmites and stalactites actually were and how long they take to grow, approximately 1mm every 12 months!  There is some seriously old stuff in there!

Huge drip rock with brown mud and white crystals

There was a particular drip rock that shows the layering of the water that drips through.  When the floods go through, they leave quite a brown stain from all the sand and dirt that flows in as well, then the water drips from the ceiling, with the calcium carbonate and coats it in the sparkling white crystals.  This last year they did not have a very big wet season, so the water has only covered a half of the rock and you can still see the brown coat underneath.  The caves house a thermal spring which makes the cave very humid, but not too bad. This water leaves the cave area, goes underground and re-surfaces up at the Katherine Hot Springs.

We left the caves and drove north of Katherine towards the Katherine Gorge, (now called Nitmiluk Gorge!) so we could organise a boat cruise up the gorge.  Unfortunately for us, a salt water crocodile had been spotted and all the Gorges had been closed to canoeing and swimming!  Never mind, we might try on the way back down from Darwin in a month or so. We booked in for a cruise the next day and went back home for a swim in the pool.  I have to say that the first day we went to the pool at the caravan park, it was about 3pm and when we got in the gate we looked down the pool and it was full of “oldies”.  It looked like a scene out of a very old movie called “Cocoon” where the oldies all sit around in the pool, which has youth-regenerating properties.  LMAO! Now we just called it the ‘cocoon hour’ and have a little chuckle to ourselves.  We hadn’t really taken the kids on a tour of the town yet, so they had no idea there was a Maccas here!  We went to a movie and surprised the kids with Maccas for dinner – we were the bestest parents ever, apparently:)

Katherine Gorge boat changeover area

Katherine Gorge..beautiful

Next day we hopped on a boat to cruise up the Katherine River.  There are 13 gorges all up but this cruise only went through the first 3.  Each of the first 3 gorges sort of end at rapids, so each time we went from one gorge to the next, we had to dis-embark one boat and board another.  At the end of the 3rd gorge we stopped for about 50mins and had a swim in the large rock pool up there where there aren’t any crocs, apparently! The gorge itself is absolutely beautiful.  It is very wide and there is so much water in it.

Katherine Gorge no 2

It was fabulous and we swam up-stream away from the group to check out some rapids and spa pools that were brilliant.  The weather was very cloudy and the breeze was right up but the gorges were still beautiful.  Wade kept jumping onto the boats first so we always ended up the front, which was great for photos, but totally in the sun when it was out.  Along the way we stopped near a rock overhang/cave that was home to some nesting swallows.  Their homes are made from mud up on the roof of the cavern and we stopped right in the cavern underneath them.  Just lovely! We looked at doing some of the walks but didn’t really feel like doing any this time.  They were all very long walks and after seeing the 3 gorges by boat we decided not to do the walks here.  There were only 2 short ones, the rest were at least overnight or several days as well.

Swallows nests along the gorge

Katherine Gorge

Boys on the boat:)

Upper Falls from the lookout

Dan and Wade swimming at Upper Pool

Next day we went to the Edith Falls.  Absolutely beautiful.  The walk to the Upper Pool is about 2.6km return and quite an easy walk, even if it was a bit steep in some places.  We decided to do the loop backwards, as it was 1.6km one way to the Upper Pool and 1km the other.  We thought it would be better to do the longer one first, then swim, then do the shorter one last!  The Upper Pool was just beautiful. We swam here for about an hour and a half, with Daniel finding some more rocks near the waterfall to jump off!  We saw another water monitor but this one was much smaller and didn’t have the bright yellow dots like the ones we saw at Bells Gorge.  Finally dragged ourselves away from the pool and walked back to the bottom. The Edith Falls are lovely as well and end in a huge plunge pool a the bottom.  We stopped in to have a look and Wade and I just had to have another swim.  It was fantastic.  The pool is more like a huge lake at the bottom of the falls. There is a camping area at the Falls as well and we saw heaps of campers and caravans here and thought it would be a lovely spot to stay a few days!  We headed back to camp for drinks and dinner.  It was a public holiday today in NT, called Picnic Day! We will see if our mail gets here tomorrow, last chance by Wed as we want to head off to Daly River in a few days time.  The weather has been a little overcast the last few days, but still nice and warm.  We plan to head to the museum tomorrow and then spend the day cleaning the car and van ready for departure on Wed.

Till next time,

Ciao`.

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Kunna here we come!

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on August 1, 2010

Hi Everyone,

Well we spent a few days in Fitzroy Crossing, staying at the Fitzroy River Lodge doing boring cleaning and maintenance to the car and van. When we got back on Mon night, we put the van onto an unpowered site (that’s all that was left) and thought we’d fill the van water tanks the next day.  So, there we were, about to open a beer when i opened the fridge inside to be met with the most amount of mould i have ever seen in one little fridge!!! Very disheartening after so many nights camping and the smell -geezzuzz! So we filled up the water tanks and spent an hour and a half de-moulding the fridge.  Earned several vodkas and lemon by then!

Daniel's chicken satay wraps

Daniel cooked us chicken satay wraps – Masterchef influence – and it was delicious.  On our last night we met up with Jenny and Greg and Rean and Steff and the boys, who were on their way back from Kununurra towards Karratha.  Joel had made some queso so we popped over to the neighbors for some queso and corn chips and several beers:) After goodbyes to Jenny and Greg (yeah thanks Steff, just run off without even saying goodbye:( – ha ha ha) we headed off for a bush camp overnight then on to Kununurra for a week or so.  After we left the bush camp there was an ungodly squealing noise from under the bonnet.  Normally it goes after a few minutes and is due to dust on the fan belts, etc BUT it didn’t stop.  We finished 300kms and got into Kununurra and i reckon even the dead heard us arriving!  Set up at the Hidden Valley Tourist Park then into town to find out what was going on!  Turns out we had lost the adjusting bolt on the alternator belt so lucky we didn’t try to go any further.  Joel had already rung up Tyrepower in Kununurra earlier to order another Cooper tyre for the car and the car needed a service….so we were definitely in Kunna for at least a week.  Luckily we managed to get in to see Kununurra Exhaust and Suspension and the mechanic there was great.  Showed Joel what was going on and booked us in for the service and fix the squealing noise!  We were also waiting for our mail – we use a mail forwarding service but it takes us about 8-10 days to get our mail, once I have asked them to send it.  I’m hoping that the closer we get to Sydney (or just the eastern states really) that the mail will be delivered much quicker.  We didn’t want to risk doing anymore damage to the car until it was fixed so no 4WD for a few days.  We jumped on our bikes and explored Kunna, spent lots of time in the pool at the park and caught up on some reading and schoolwork for the boys.  We have been to Kununurra about 2 years ago when we were travelling with Joel’s Mum and Dad for the school holidays in July/August, so we had done a lot of the touristy things.

On the BBQ boat

We went on the BBQ Boat, which is a sunset cruise up the Kununurra River past the dam, a huge BBQ feast onboard, magnificent sunset pics and some croc spotting on the way back.

Sunset on BBQ boat

Sleeping Buddha on the water

We loved it last time and it was just as great the second time around.  We passed by the old pumphouse and learned it had been turned into a restaurant so we thought we’d check it out during the week. We went to Kelly’s Knob Lookout, just on the edge of town for some lovely views of the area.  Kununurra is just sooooo green! There is water galore and the agriculture in the area is amazing.  We did a flight over the Bungle Bungles and Kununurra last time (and I would recommend it to anyone!) so we didn’t go this time.  Also we had already been to Lake Argyle as well so we didn’t head up that way either this time.  We did finally get the car back and in tip-top working order, so we thought we’d do the Ivanhoe Crossing and have a look up around that end of town!  The crossing is amazing and very beautiful!  The water that flows through this area is huge!  We had some pelican spectators and even a fresh water croc to watch us do the crossing.  We went back the next day and tried our hand at fishing with lures, but no luck.  I took some more photos of Joel doing the crossing, only this time I was on the far side of the river.  I jumped out of the car and Joel drove across the crossing and then back again so I could get some more good shots!  When he stopped to pick me up, I opened the car door and saw my purse on the side step.  I  said “Gees, lucky this didn’t fall out earlier!” only to realise that it was saturated and had just made the 2 crossings sitting on the side step of the car!  Can’t believe how lucky I was, ‘cos I gotta say I would not have been getting in that water to go find it!  I don’t care that they’re only freshies, I am not going swimming with ’em!

Ivanhoe Crossing

Ivanhoe Crossing-view from the car

Pelicans at Ivanhoe Crossing

The Pumphouse Restaurant

Went to dinner one evening at the Pumphouse Restaurant, food was very yummy but I think we got it on a very busy night as our meals didn’t all come out together.  We tried the lunch menu later in the week and the food was fabulous again and service much better, so maybe just a bad night – God knows we all have them:)  Finally got our mail, packed up and headed out of Kununurra towards the NT border.

Till next time

Ciao`

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