Lewis' Exploring Oz

On and off the beaten track…………………….

Archive for September, 2010

KAKADU – Definitely DO, DO, DO!!!!

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on September 24, 2010

Hi Everyone,

Well after catching up on appointments, haircuts and re-stocking the caravan we left Darwin and headed off towards Kakadu.  We decided to stay for 3 nights in Jabiru so we could explore the top end of Kakadu and then moved on to Mary River Roadhouse for an extra night to see the southern part of Kakadu.

We stayed at the Kakadu Lodge and Caravan Park, which had grassed sites!, something we were not used to seeing and have almost forgotten what the green stuff looks like:). We arrived about 3pm so stopped in at the Bowali Visitors Centre where a very nice lady told us about places to go and things to see.

Cahill's Crossing

Golden Tree Snake

We decided to head out to Cahill’s Crossing, which is right on the border between NT and Arnhem Land, as there is a viewing platform to watch the crocs come into feed on barramundi, on the high tide at the crossing.  However it was a neap tide for today and the next few days so only saw 2 crocs.  We did see a couple of idiots fishing on the crossing, and yes they were catching barramundi but they’d have been dead meat if one of the crocs had decided to come right onto the crossing.  Wade asked if he could fish here a couple of times, always to be told “No-bloody-way”.  There was a family next to us with a son about the same age as Wade who just kept asking to fish here for about 30mins straight, had to give the kid points for trying but he too was unsuccessful!

Ubirr Rock Art

We headed out to Ubirr to see the Rock Art and listen to some of the Ranger talks.

Ubirr Rock and wetlands

The Rock Art was beautiful and real Art!  It was interesting to read the explanations about the art and the artists. As we got there fairly late in the afternoon we had missed most of the Ranger talks for the day but we did get to listen to one on top of the rock, which was interesting as well.  We walked around to see as much of the Art as we could before we climbed up the rock.  We almost stood on a Golden Tree Snake on the track on the way to the rock walk.  They are such a brilliant yellow and their heads are a blueish/grey colour – very striking (no pun intended!). We had seen a few at the Territory Wildlife Park so we knew they weren’t too deadly and they love Pandanas Palms, which are very plentiful in this area.  Still we gave him/her a wide berth and continued on the path. We climbed up to the top and watched a beautiful sunset as well, bonus. There were a few burn-off fires around on the horizon which just added to the colourful hues in the sunset.  What a beautiful and spiritual place this was! It was still quite green and there was some water on the wetlands which the Aboriginal Guide told us was due to some unseasonal late rains.  This guy was amazing, he was missing his right leg from a croc attack and he hiked up to the top of the rock with his crutches and made it look easy.  We stayed until the colour had almost gone from the sky and thought we’d best high-tail it down this great bit rock while there is a skerig of light left to see, so we didn’t end up with any broken limbs.  Safely down we headed back to camp for a swim and a late dinner.

Such Awesome colours!!

Ubirr Wetlands sunset

Next day we travelled down to Twin Falls and Jim Jim Falls.  It’s a lot of 4WDriving and there was a nice deep water crossing heading out to Twin Falls.  You need to get a “boat pass” from either the Visitors Centre or the “Garnamarr Campground”.  We spoke to the Ranger there (after getting our boat tickets – adults only $12.50 ea, kids U16 free) who told us to probably not bother with the top walk as it is best done very early in the morning or late in the arvo – and we were there right on lunchtime! And “The temperature will be 10 degrees hotter up on top too” he said.  Ok…, we decided to just do the gorge walk then.

Twin Falls Gorge

There is a day use area, with no camping, at Twin Falls and you can do a 6km return walk across the top to view the falls form the top or do the 2km through the gorge to the falls.  It’s an easy walk to the boat ramp where you board a boat to take you up the gorge towards Twin Falls.  Mick was the Ranger on “boat duty” and he chatted about the area and the history and the crocs as well.

Rocky walk to Twin Falls

You cannot swim at Twin Falls, which such a shame as it was sooo hot there and the falls are so beautiful but they cannot guarantee no crocs, so therefore no swimming:(.  The Falls were very lovely and the walk there was mostly rocky, except for where they had built a floating jetty to access the actual falls.  There are showers (almost like a safety shower) along the walks so you can douse yourselves with water to cool off.  The falls are huge – in the photo you can just see Daniel walking over to the Falls in his red T-shirt (the red speck on the left).

Floating Jetty to Twin Falls

It was interesting to note that the Bowali Visitor Centre said there was not much water at Jim Jim Falls, the Ranger at Garnamarr told us not to bother with Jim Jim as the falls weren’t flowing but we asked Mick the Ranger on the boat and he told us we could swim at Jim Jim.  So off we went to do some more 4WDriving and headed to Jim Jim Falls for a swim.

Twin Falls - magnificent

It was a rough 4WD track into both the Jim Jim and Twin Falls area from the Garnamarr Campground.  The 1km walk from the car park into the Jim Jim Falls was rocky as well but the plunge pool at the bottom of the falls was deep and cool!  There were lots of fish in the pool as well.  It was lovely to cool off with a few swims here, have a bite to eat, and then head back to the car to head back to Jabiru.

Jim Jim Falls, well rocks anyway!

Jim Jim Plunge Pool

Daniel and Wade at Jim Jim

Next day we booked into to do a boat tour on the East Alligator River; it was called the “Guluyambi boat cruise”.  Our guide, Robert, was a lovely Aboriginal fellow who explained aspects of the local Aboriginal culture to us as we travelled up and down the river.  He took us up to Cahill’s Crossing on the morning high tide and we saw heaps of crocs, some right where those idiots had been fishing on the crossing.

Big fella just down from Cahill's Crossing

Robert re-iterated that you’d be an idiot to be fishing on the crossing but people still do and some get taken.  Maybe it’s the Darwinian Theory at work, thinning out the population! We also met Nigel and his wife Rosie on the boat, who are retired and have been travelling around our great country as well.  Nigel works for AAT tours and he told us that one day they watched a croc move onto the crossing and we was as long as the crossing is wide.  A car came down to the crossing, waited awhile but the croc didn’t want to move so the car moved forward a bit and the croc moved slowly off the crossing and as soon as the car was gone, the croc just floated and swam back to the same spot on the crossing, sitting with his mouth open waiting for the barra to come jumping past.  Wade finally stopped asking if he could fish here!  Can’t imagine why? Hee hee. Robert, our guide, is also an accomplished Artist and Nigel told us he was off to Sydney soon for a Gallery Exhibition.

Arnhem Land stopover

Robert with his spears

We stopped at a place along the river where we could get out and climb up onto a rock for a spectacular view of the river.  This spot was on the Arnhem Land side of the river too. Robert had explained how the local people use the local Hibiscus tree for all sorts of things, especially the wood for spears, spear tips and woomeras.

Robert demonstrating how to use a woomera

They have different names in his language but that is probably what most people would know them as.  He also demonstrated how to use the woomera and just how far he could throw the spears – like right across the river to the other side.  One just made it but the other ended up in the river, but this spear was made from bamboo so it floated and we picked it up on the way back.  It was a thoroughly enjoyable trip and we’d recommend it to anyone who wanted to do it.

Marmukala Wetlands

Colourful Dragonfly

We returned to the caravan for a late lunch then off to the Marmukala (Mar-moo-car-lar) Wetlands.  It’s supposed to be at its most “dramatic” now as thousands of magpie geese congregate to feed here, so all the brochures tell us anyway:).  There is an observation platform (more like an army sniper lookout rather than a platform) where you can watch all the different birds on the wetlands.  There is a colourful mural inside the viewing area that illustrates the seasonal changes that occur here as well.  We did the 3km walk adjacent to the wetlands hoping to see lots of birds but it was pretty dry.  We did get to see a lot of the magpie geese, white herons and ibis so Wade could cross a few more sightings off his bird list! We’ve found these amazing-looking dragon flies here too, they have double wings and either strips or very bright colours.

Magpie Geese flock

We headed back to the caravan for a swim, a few coldies around the pool and some dinner.  We’ve seen a lot of the top part of Kakadu and we are definitely the KakaDO people. There’s still a fair bit we didn’t do including Yellow River, but we wanted to leave a few things to see next time around the block! It’s beautiful and we can only imagine how glorious this would be in the wet season, or even early in the dry season.  We will definitely come back here next year and make sure we are in the wet or early dry season.

Camp at Mary River Roadhouse

We stopped to get some fresh bread from the Bakery before heading down south towards the Mary River Roadhouse, which like most places we’ve visited lately are being very PC and changing the names to Aboriginal names.  The Mary River Roadhouse is still the name on the sign out the front so that’s what we’ll call it. The campground is out the back of the roadhouse and the sites are large, some with a bit of grass but mostly dirt.

Rainbow Lorikeets

The toilet and showers were very clean and spacious and the staff very friendly and informative.  We set up then headed off to explore Gunlom Falls and if we had time a couple of swimming holes. The lady who booked us in told Wade and I about a swimming hole that was only about 6-8kms down the road so we thought we’d check it out on the way back.  We saw more birds at the back of this Roadhouse than we saw in the Marmukala Wetlands-go figure!

Rock pools at the Top of the Gunlom Falls

View out from the top

The turn off to Gunlom Falls is about 11kms north of Mary River RH and the next 37kms or so are some of the worst gravel we have travelled on.  The corrugations were horrendous!  It did remind us a bit of travelling on the Kalumbaru Rd when we were on the Gibb, but a bit worse in some sections.  I had wanted to camp out at Gunlom but the road was too bad to be able to bring the caravan in.

The campground is lovely with lots of sites and a great big amenities block that doesn’t look too old or shabby!  There is a kiosk in the day use area and the grass was also nice and green too!   We went for the 2km steep climb (and yep it was very steep!) up to the top of the falls and then further up to some rock pools which looked very inviting.  We took some photos but decided to hike back down and swim in the plunge pool at the bottom.  We reached the bottom without anyone falling over the edge (read without Wade falling) as there are no handrails or anything and the path is very rocky and runs right along the edge of the cliff.  We stopped and swam in the plunge pool which was just lovely. We grabbed an ice cream from the Kiosk at Gunlom Falls then headed back out on the “gravel road from hell!”  We stopped in at the “local” swimming hole and found a small tour group there already but they were just about to leave which left us there all on our lonesome.  It was very cold in the water, so we had a quick swim but didn’t hang around too long.  It was a great spot and I made a mental note to thank the lady at Mary River RH for telling us about it.

Daniel's Titanic impersonation

Gunlom Falls Pool - This is in the movie

We had been told that a lot of the movie “Crocodile Dundee” had been filmed in Kakadu and a scene shot at Gunlom plunge pool.  We asked the kids and they have never watched it! OMG couldn’t believe it, so as we have most of our movies with us on our HDD we put it on that night to watch.  We could pick out several places, with the kids going “ohh we’ve been there”, or “that’s such and such a place” and so on.  Gunlom Falls is definetly in the movie, but i think he calls it Echo Pool or Falls. It was interesting to watch it after so many years and yeah some of was a bit corny:) but we did recognise a lot of places we had seen in the last few days.

Secret local swimming hole

On the way out I stopped in to say a thank you to the lady who had told us about the swimming hole but she wasn’t on yet but the bloke behind the counter/kitchen was in for a chat so i stopped for a bit.  He was very friendly and offered some more info about the places we were heading into.  What a great and friendly place! Well we’re off now, heading down towards Mataranka, NT.

Till Next time

Ciao`.

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Phuket in the Monsoon Season

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on September 24, 2010

Hi Everyone,

I know that Phuket is not part of Australia but it’s still part of our holiday trip so here is what we got up to.  Glenn, any questions let me know and I’ll try to answer them.  Found there was enough to do to keep the kids amused but 2 weeks probably a bit long.  Their peak season starts in October and i think the weather would be kinder to you then too.  They have had very un-seasonal late rains in their wet season, lucky us, but we still had a great time and the weather, even if wet, was not cold and miserable:)  Cheers:)

Wade on plane

After some trouble getting a taxi in Darwin to take us to the airport, we decided to drive the car and leave it there for 2 weeks.  Not our favourite option but all we were left with and thought it would be better anyway as our return flight to Darwin had us landing at 2:30am!!!

Our lounge room

Singapore is a huge city built by the sea and all you can see is buildings and skyscrapers but a lot of the streets in the city are lined with huge trees.  It was very clean and quite lovely and we hope to come back another time and spend some more time here! After an early morning wake-up call we were off to the Changi airport to go to Phuket.  I should say that the time difference between Darwin and Singapore is the same as between Darwin and WA (about 1.5 hrs behind). The time difference in Phuket is another hour behind Singapore (Perth) so we were gaining lots of hours.

View from our room

We cleared customs and immigration and it was a nicer and easier experience than Bali.  45 mins later we were at Patong Beach and pulling up to Andaman Beach Suites.

Raining in Phuket

Our room was huge and it was actually a family suite, with separate bedrooms and ensuites for us and the kids and a big lounge/living area. It was very nice and we could see the ocean from our balcony, except when it was raining!

We did find out that they were doing renovations to a lot of the rooms so sitting out by the pool wasn’t always the relaxing and peaceful quiet we had imagined with the sound of grinders and jack hammers going off.  Luckily most of the rooms being done were on the other side of the hotel to where our room so we didn’t hear it from our room. However i had read on a website that this may be going on and when the travel agent checked there was nothing noted under the Hotel….Mmmmmmm…….

Monkey Cave

We spent the first few days taking it easy and getting over the jet-setting and getting into the Thai way of life – that is, the place comes alive at about 4-5pm and the stalls and shops open till about midnight everyday.

Monkeys evverywhere

We did go on a combined tour to do some rafting, elephant trekking and riding ATVs.

First stop was “Monkey Cove” where there were heaps of monkeys, all over the ground and in the “Monkey Cave”.  For a fee you could enter the cave and buy some bananas and then feed the monkeys.  That should read buy some bananas and be grabbed, jumped on and swarmed by the monkeys all wanting the bananas.  One English tourist was covered in them, not biting or anything but all scrambling to get the bananas.  I tend to forget what a non-smoking country Australia is as everywhere we went people were lighting up, even while we were eating. Yukky!

The kids were really disappointed with the ATV as we were promised that the boys would be able to drive one on their own but that wasn’t the case. They had to pair up with Joel and I so not as much fun as they’d imagined but Joel and I enjoyed it.  Some of terrain they took us on was a bit rough but it was great, but I think Wade might have struggled with it.

Joel steering the elephant

The elephant trekking in the jungle was really good.  Joel and Daniel had one elephant and Wade and I were on another.  We were in a group with some guys from Melbourne who were good value!

Not quite sure who's in charge

There is a bit of a track that they follow but our elephant decided he didn’t want to go the same way as the others so we took the ‘path less travelled’.  We had guides sit on the elephants, just behind their heads and they use their feet and a stick to move and steer them.

Boys and elephant

Part way through the trek, the guides got Joel and the other ‘males’ to swap places so they have a go at ‘steering’ the elephant.  It was funny listening to them yelling to the elephants to try to direct them.  They did a good job as some of the areas of the jungle were quite dense and some of the hills were steep, well from the top of an elephant it was!

Half time swim

We stopped for lunch by the river where we would be rafting.  We walked down, boarded the rafts and off we went.  We headed straight for a weir and I thought to myself, surely we are NOT going down that! We got closer and closer and I just thought SHIT we are!

Whoohoo!

We got right up to it, then the guides pulled us over to the edge of the weir and we got out and climbed down the rocks to then re-board the raft. Whew! The weir wall is concrete with 3 concrete gates in it.  They lift the 3 gates at the same time and flood the river to get us off at a cracking pace, and get us off the rocks.  We went with a group of about 6-7 rafts, each with at least 4-5 people on it and the guides were very funny and friendly. There was lots of pulling up onto big rocks, then splashing the next raft that came along and generally a lot of fun.  We had an ongoing banter with the “Boys from Melbourne” and I think there was a bit of competition to see who could wet who the most! There was much more water than when we rafted in Bali as we paddled all the time in Bali but not so much in Phuket, we just let the current take us.

On the way to the waterfall

Actually we drove in the bus for ages so Joel and I thought we must’ve been further up into Thailand for this trip.  After we had all ‘survived’ the rafting our guides put us in the back of a ute and took us up to a magnificent waterfall and pool area for a swim.

Waterfall after rafting

The boys were trying to climb up the rocks so one of the guides came over and took them over the rocks and up to the top and showed them where it was safe to jump.  They all had a blast.  I was in the water taking photos when I got hammered by the fish.  There are “fish bars” here in Phuket where you put your legs into tanks of these fish and they eat the dry bits of skin off your legs.  Well these fish were the mutant cousins of the ones in the tanks, they were huge and they actually hurt when they were chewing on my legs.  I’d be lining up a photo and then wham – ended up with a lot of blurred photos but luckily managed to get one or two in focus.  Then back to the rafting area to get our things, get into a dry change of clothes for the long bus trip back. Big day but great fun.

Wade and I eating out

We tried to eat at a different place each day to try as many different places and dishes as we could.  They boys were very good and only a few times did they eat burgers and chips, mostly they would give the satays a go or some stir fry.  The food was so yummy………we weren’t disappointed with any of our meals even when we ate some spring rolls, Thai fish cakes and chicken won tons that we got from the Phuket Town Markets.  They were amazing.

Joel and Daniel eating out

There are stalls all along Patong Beach and the next street back Rat-U-Thit but Phuket Town Markets are like a huge area under 1000’s of tarps and there are stalls that sell food, clothes, DVD etc, jewellery, wooden crafts and all sorts of stuff.  They are only open on a Saturday and Sunday nights, usually from 5pm till midnight but so worth a 20min trip to go and see it, and the food…….so yummy and tasty, eve the boys ate it and no Bali belly!:)  Wade and Dan have bought new Sunnies and they are both growing their hair long (much to their Mother’s dislike) -so Wade with his new sunnies now looks like that brat of a kid “Corey ?” who had a party at his house while his parents were away and Daniel looks like Justin Beaver! Hee hee – (he will kill me for this!:)

Junceylon Shopping Centre

We visited the huge shopping centre in Patong Beach called Junceylon Shopping Centre.  It’s got a lot of American and European shops with some smaller stalls in the centre.  It also has a cinema complex with movies in either English or Thai and it also had a ten pin bowling alley as well.  Outside near the eating mall there is a large ship surrounded by fountains, and each night there are 2 light and music shows where the fountains are choreographed with lights to different music.  It was very pretty and gets the crowds to stop and have a look.

Speedboat to Kai Island

We had a complimentary trip to one of the islands, Kai Island.  We’d had a few days of rain and today proved to be the worst of it.  We still went as they rarely cancel the tours and still enjoyed ourselves but I could see how beautiful the place could be in the sunshine!  We travelled by bus to the harbour where we were then taken to the island by speedboat. It was a fast trip and we landed on a beautiful island.

Pina Colada on island

We snorkeled for about an hour and a half and then the boat took us out to a reef to snorkel for about 40 mins.  We were the only European people on the boat, and even on the island there was only one other Aussie family there, the rest of the were all of asian decent.

A bit wet

The Aussies were the ones with no life jackets on! Hee hee. It was amazing!  They have shark nets set up, not that you can see them, so you can snorkel around the fish and not become someone else’s meal! They make everyone wear life jackets on the boat but all the Asians wore them just snorkelling off the beach.  When we went out to the reef, most of them came out there as well, only as they called us back in, some of them had drifted off too far and couldn’t swim back to the boat ‘cos they couldn’t swim (WTF!)

Lots of fish

So one of the crew and Joel brought them back into the boat by hanging on to their life jackets and swimming them back in.  Joel certainly had his workout for the day! Back to the island we sped to a yummy buffet lunch and I had another cocktail (as you do).  I’m pretty sure the next 2 hours are supposed to be spent in the deck chairs down on the beach but it was pouring by now so we stayed under cover until it was time to return, except for Wade, who played out in the sand and rain – God love him!.  Even though it wasn’t that cold I think we all ended up with a bit of a cold just from being so wet for so long.  Wade wanted to sit out in the front of the boat on the way back in the rain so Joel joined him to make sure he didn’t fall out.  All-in-all it was a great day but would have been fantastic with some sun.

Pick the Aussies

Raindrops keep falling on my head......

We also visited Phuket’s first and only Water park, sort of like a smaller waterbom park that is in Bali.  It is part of a resort that is being built in the northern part of Phuket but one of the guys there told us that as of January 2011, if you don’t stay at the Resort then you won’t be able to get in anymore.  Such a shame as it was good fun and it should be available to all the public. We had a blast anyway and hope they change their minds and keep it open to the public.  They have the Boomerang ride and one called the Superbowl and both were great fun.  With the Superbowl you come out of the tunnel into a big bowl, do a few laps then go down the “rabbit hole” and out to the pool below.  Going down backwards was interesting!! They had a lazy river so you can grab a tube and float around and relax too.  We had the sun for most of the day and it only rained on our way home in the car.

Joel going down the rabbit hole

Wade on Superbowl

Boys doing it tough

Splash Park

Daniel and Joel on lazy river

We left Phuket early on Monday morning and had an 8 hr stopover in Singapore before we could fly home.  By the time we cleared customs and immigration we found we could book our luggage in early but only between 1:45 and 3pm so we did that and then decided to explore the airport as there wasn’t enough time to really do any sight-seeing away from the airport.

Ready, set, go

We had been told to pack our bathers as not many people know that there is a swimming pool on the roof of Changi airport!  However, we managed to fill in the next few hours quite easily.  There are 3 terminals at the airport so we explored each of them in turn.  We had lunch at Pizza Hut but there are heaps of places to choose from. The kids found a Time-zone (Asian equivalent) and Joel and I veged out by a fountain while they gamed on.  There was a kids playground just outside the Timezone as well, but for little kids.  They also have a huge stainless steel slide in there as well and the kids had a few goes on it as well (all for free I might add).  We headed over to Terminal 3 and they have a whole area set up with some remote-controlled cars and 4 Need for Speed consoles, with seats, pedals and steering wheels.  All for free as well!

Go man go!

We all had a go on the cars and then headed off to book through customs and immigration again and found a nice quiet spot near an internet cafe where the kids surfed/gamed, Joel had a nap and I charged up all our iPods, phones and DSis and played with my iPhone:).  They actually have these amazing small lockers (like a postal box), with keys, that you can plug your phone into, close and lock the door and go off to shop, eat, etc while your phone charges up – all for nix! There are a few ideas here that Australian airports could really adopt!

Wade on slide at airport

Free Phone Charging

After a bit of turbulence we landed in Darwin about 2:45AM and got all the bags, went to the car only to find we had a flat battery! OMG – after talking to a few security guards (who had no idea!) I found a lovely gentleman who found some jumper leads for us so we could start the car from the second battery.  There wasn’t even enough charge in the battery to open the rear of the car, which is where our jumper leads were.  We headed back to the caravan to catch a few zzzzzs before moving the caravan onto a powered site.

Till next time

Ciao`

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Darwin oh Darwin how we love thee……..

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on September 21, 2010

Stokes Wharf for lunch

We arrived in sunny Darwin on 13th August and have spent two and a half glorious weeks here, although by the time we left we were more than ready to go as the “build up” has started and it’s very hot and humid with almost no relief! We stayed at the Lee Point Village Resort for our time here and also stored our van here while we took a “holiday within our holiday” to Phuket for 2 weeks. Yep, I know the life of some, hey!;) It was a big caravan park, very dry, not much grass, a pool but it could be so much better if only the managers took a bit more care and fixed things up around the place.  Must say, won’t miss checking the toilet everytime i go, to see if the frogs have decided to make it their home again for the night!:)

Submarine at Stoke's Wharf

We headed out for lunch to Stokes Wharf to have lunch with our friend Glenn and his girlfriend Fabianna (Fabi). Hi Guys:))))))).

Glenn and Fabi

Sunset at beach

We’ve known Glenn since our early days of working together on a gold mine, all three of us and that was a looong time ago!  There was a tug docked at the wharf that immediately got Wade’s attention, then after a yummy seafood lunch, we walked down to the other end and saw a submarine that was docked there.  It was great to catch up with Glenn as we figured out it had been quite a while since we had seen him last and you look great too! (I know he will read this:))  He invited us down to the water ski club on Sunday to go paddling, we thought kayaks, but he had a different idea!

Outriggers and the boys

We went to the local flicks to watch Inception (which was great!) and then headed out to the water ski club in the arvo to catch up with Glenn.  Well the paddling was actually outriggers, not kayaks but it was great fun.  I was a bit unsure of how the kids would handle it (hell I wasn’t sure how I would handle it) and if the kids would be strong enough as each boat takes 6 people to paddle but they were brilliant.

Sunset from Water Ski Club

Wade stayed on for each session, not wanting a break.  What a champion!  It’s just paddle, paddle, paddle for 15-20 mins then back to shore to swap people in and out then back out again. The people at the club were very friendly and welcomed us warmly.   Then we watched a magical sunset as the Water Ski Club is right on the beach. Ah……this is the life!  Seriously we could live here, it’s a beautiful, laidback place!  We came back a few times to sample the beverages and food and have a swim in the pool.  Great place! We headed down to the Mindil Beach Markets to have a squiz and get some dinner.  What a wonderfully, colourful place it was. There are so many different types of food available it was amazing.  There are all sorts of stalls from air-brush paintings, sunnies, wooden crafts and jewellery.  We would definitely have to come back as it was getting a bit late and you need a few hours to see all there is to see.

Fire Show at Mindl Markets

Our second time back at the markets we grabbed an early dinner and sat down on a grassy area, which happened to be in front of the fire show.  It was AMAZING!  This guy has choreographed his routine to music and does juggling with flaming swords, chains, ropes and a whip!  Very entertaining and loads of fun and all for free, except for the donation we gave him because he was so good!

Red-clawed crab stealing thong

There is a boardwalk walkway between the Water Ski Club and the Mindil Beach Markets and it goes over some very marshy, muddy grounds.  We stopped to watch the red clawed crabs and wouldn’t you know it, Wade drops his thong over the side of the rail.  Then we watched in amusement as one of the red-clawed crabs grabbed his thong and was trying to drag it into his hole/home. Very ambitious crab!  Daniel managed to rescue the thong and the crab did not look happy! We made a third visit back to the Markets, this time with some Karratha friends of ours that had come to town.  We had drinks with Janice, Goldy and Isabelle then headed into the markets.  We grabbed a bite to eat, watched a different fire show and the kids went on the aero bungy (which was a rip-off) then they also went on the portable rock-climbing wall.  They had a blast there and the young lady there offered us 2 for 1 tickets to come and try rock-climbing in town at “The Rock“.

Dessert at Hogs Breath Cafe

We bid a fond farewell to our friends from Karratha – it was great to see them again.

Boys on the waterslide

We ended up going to the rock-climbing place the next day and tried out the walls.  Luck the girl remembered us as we had left the tickets in the caravan – doh!  We spent a couple of hours trying different walls, with varying degrees of difficulty and had a blast. All of us had a go on the different walls.  Unfortunately we didn’t take any photos because one of us was either climbing or belaying (being the anchor and holding the ropes and shackles at the bottom) and when we did remember we had all taken off the harnesses.  What a great way to spend the afternoon and great for our fitness as well! They are a very friendly and helpful bunch at the rock-climbing place.  We dined out that night at the Hogs Breath cafe and took a picture of our dessert.  We got one between all of us and we still couldn’t quite finish it. We went to a place called Leanyer Water Park and couldn’t believe our eyes.

Water slides for free

It was a great park with a huge swimming pool, a water playground for younger children and three, huge water slides for the bigger kids and IT WAS ALL FOR FREE! Yep, you heard it right, FREE!  We spent a few days here while we were in Darwin as it was such good fun.  The boys expended a lot of energy (read = slept really well!) and there are large shade sails set up for shade and free BBQs as well.  It was a great setup.  There is also a skate park built right next to the pool area so the kids thought they had found heaven!:) Just couldn’t believe that the City of Darwin has a place like this for free – A place like this would go off in Karratha – hint, hint if anyone from the Shire is reading this!!!!

Wave Pool

We also paid a visit to the Wave Pool (part of the Waterfront) in the city next to the wharf. It was good fun and it only cost $16 for a family for the whole day (10am till 6pm) or $12 for a half day (10-2) or (2-6).  Great family value and there is a kiosk there for drinks and ice creams but we struggled to find anything except a really up-market restaurant and a fish and chip shop for lunch.  If we were to go again I’d be bringing the esky with all our food and drinks.  They have heaps of shade over the baby pool areas and lots of umbrellas and a bit of grass, all-in-all a great day!

Breeding pens at Crocodylus Park

We visited Crocodylus Park and Zoo to see yet more crocs and other animals they have in the zoo.  There were ostriches, lions, tigers, monkeys, baboons, geckos, wallabies, kangaroos, etc. They feed the crocs a few times a day and take you through the pens and let the public feed the big crocs too – very interesting to watch the faces of people who have never seen them before, hilarious in fact!

Boys hamming it up at Crocodylus Park

There are a few breeding pens and we couldn’t count the number of crocs in them, there was just too many! As interesting as it all was, I think we were a bit croc’d-out by this stage so went to see the other animals. The park is set in lush tropical gardens and we spent some time just wandering around.

While we have been here we have managed to get Daniel into Balance Podiatry as he needs an upgrade on his orthotics as he has grown so much in these last 6 months that he has outgrown the ones he got last October! They make such a difference as his feet ache so much that he struggles to do some of the walks with us, but the new orthotics seem to be doing the job okay!  Sheesh, he’s costing  us a fortune and he’s just turned 12!

On a lighter note, we have our passports with us and thought that if there are cheap flights overseas, we might just zip off for a little while. We found some and now we are off to Phuket for 2 weeks, with a stop over in Singapore.  Will let you all know how it goes when we get back. Yee ha.

Till next time

Ciao`

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Berry Springs and Territory Park

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on September 16, 2010

Hi Everyone,

Tumbling Waters Holiday Park

We were trying to decide which park to stay in at Berry Springs and stopped in at the Lakes Resort Caravan Park as it had advertised on its website, a 30m water slide in the park but when we pulled up, the slide looked in need of some major TLC and when I asked if it was going, they said they are fixing it up…..so….we went on to Tumbling Waters Holiday Park and so glad we did.

Colourful Peacocks

It is a beautiful park, literally nestled in a tropical garden on a huge property and the owners are the loveliest of people too.  There is a billabong in the middle of the park which houses about 8 or 9 fresh water crocs and some bird life as well.  You can walk along the boardwalk which goes over the billabong but it is well fenced so no dramas about getting too close.  They have an aviary which houses guinea pigs, chooks and an assortment of birds, an outdoor movie screens twice weekly and a great pool.  We only stayed for 2 nights but we’ll be sure to stay longer next year when we return this way.  There were some peacocks and peahens roaming around the park and they came right up to us, then off to see some other campers.  We heard the rustling noises of the “Orange-Footed Scrub Fowl” and found them under some bushes near the caravan as well.  What an amazingly beautiful place!

So close to us

We got into Berry Springs before lunch and after setting up we headed into the Berry Springs Nature Reserve to swim in the natural springs.

Berry Springs

It is a beautiful spot and the springs feed into a couple of pools which were great for having a swim in.

Boys in the river at Berry Springs

The water runs like a bit of a river between the three pools so the kids and I got our snorkels and masks out and investigated the fish and other water life along the “river”.  On our way back home we stopped to get some local produce and some home-made ice-cream from a farm.  Some of the local farmers have gotten together and they all bring produce to the one place to sell to the public – we got eggs, vegies and fruit and all were very yummy and tasty.  We decided on an early night as we wanted to go to the Territory Wildlife Park the next day and had heard it would take all day to see most of the park-they weren’t wrong!

Territory Wildlife Park

We got to the park at 9am and read the maps and timetables for different events that were on for the day.  There is a shuttle bus/train service that runs around the park and we made good use of it.  We did walk a fair bit of it but if we hadn’t used the shuttle we wouldn’t have seen all that we did.  It is HUGE!  Wade was in heaven, I mean a wildlife park, come on!

Dan kissing croc

First stop was the walk-through aquarium.  The building is set up so you walk through a series of tanks with first fresh water then salt water marine life, then you actually walk through and under the aquarium.  It’s soooo cool!  There is a salt water croc here who is HUGE! The boys took photos pretending to get very close to him, but luckily always with some glass in between them.

Swordfish in aquarium

The aquarium is fresh water and has heaps of barramundi, whip rays and all sorts of fish in it.  We moved onto the area called “The Sandbar” where I got to feed the fresh water whip rays.  They felt so weird, like a sponge on the outside and underneath was so soft.  There was a colourful Jabiru that kept trying to steal the show, which we found out was raised in the park, left 18 months ago and has now returned.

Michelle feeding whiprays

The archer fish are a silver coloured fish with black stripes on their bodies and when you hold a piece of bread or a stick or anything just above the water, they will survey the area, then spit out water to see how far you are away from them, then they jump up and out of the water and take the food or insects.  There were 4 whip rays, one was about 5m from head to toe and the others were a bit smaller.  To feed them you need to bury your feet in the sand so that when they take the fish from your hand, they don’t accidentally take a toe with them! Okay…..all was going well till I put some fish in the water and the big one came over, had a sniff and then lunged onto my feet – I just jumped back and said “Shit!” much to the amusement of my loving family and other onlookers! I got back into the water with the others and fed them some more.  It was an amazing experience.  Kids had to be over 15 to do it so the boys couldn’t do it. We had just enough time to dry off and catch the shuttle bus/train to the next part which was the “Birds of Prey” at the “flight deck”.

Black Buzzard

The lady keeper brought out a Black Buzzard and we watched it throw rocks at an emu egg to open it, then watched it soar! They are amazingly, powerful creatures and most beautiful too.

Dan with Wedge-Tailed Eagle Mascot

We sat and watched the rest of the show and afterwards we could have a chat and some photos with an owl and a big, wedge-tailed eagle.

Wade with owl

The keeper had an owl out and for a gold coin donation, you could put on the protective leather glove and have a hold and photo with it.  Wade was in absolute heaven!  There was also an army private who was at the show and we later learned that the very large, wedge-tailed eagle was the platoon mascot.  It was his job (and he shares it with 3 others) to train the bird to go out on parade with them, and to attend any functions that the army puts in an appearance at, ie-V8 supercars, etc.  What a job!  But in saying that the bird is HUGE and I wouldn’t like to have to hold him on my arm for the length of any parade! Kids enjoyed getting close to him, but he apparently doesn’t like children, women and especially blonde women…go figure.

Wade feeding a joey

Next stop was the cafe for lunch as we were getting pretty hungry by now.  There were kangaroos with joeys outside the cafe and they love fruit, so the keepers had some bowls of fruit pieces to feed them.  They were so cute.

Northern Quoll

We stopped in to see the Nocturnal House and saw an albino python.  The Nocturnal House has had the lighting switched to reverse so that they are in night-time during our day so we can see them at their busiest.  A lot of the animal were still very quiet and some asleep so I don’t know how well that’s working out:) We listened to an interesting talk about the fruit bats then headed back to the aquarium to see it again before heading off to go to a “Behind the Scenes” excursion.  We bused down to an area in the research houses, where we were shown the Northern Quoll.  The keeper/ranger discussed how the it was nearly extinct and how the breeding and behavioural program of one lady had brought them back from extinction.  I won’t bore you with the details….I say that only because I wasn’t bored but Joel and the boys were constantly yawning and asking “Can we go yet?”

We bused back to the main part of the park and continued on to see the billabong, which has crocs, fish and big pelicans in it.  There is a very big boardwalk around and through the billabong so you get to see all sorts of different wildlife.

Colourful Jabiru

We headed off to the Monsoon forest Walk and the walk through aviaries.

Monsoon thunder and lightning storm

When you first walk up the path, it triggers a lightning, thunder and rain storm show as you walk into the first hut.  It was so loud but absolutely fabulous.  We went back a couple of times to re-trigger the rain and thunder and lightning storm ‘cos it was so much fun:).  Then we walked through the aviaries, (all 12 of them) and found all of the birds that had placards in the viewing areas.  Wade was on fire by this stage and Daniel was joining in too.  We saw so many beautiful birds and the last aviary is “one of the largest domed walk-through aviaries in the Southern Hemisphere”.  It was awesome, to coin a phrase that Daniel thinks he invented!!  The dome is in several levels and has turtles and magpie geese on the ground level to crimson finches, kingfishers, doves and too many to remember.  I should have got Wade to write this part of the blog!  You could spend hours in here just walking through and still not see all the birds, it was amazing.

Fruit bat

Beautiful blue kookaburra (Kingfisher)

Turtles in the aviary

Shuttle bus back home

By this time it was 5:45 and we were waiting for the last bus shuttle to take us back to the entrance of the park.  It was a long day but we all agreed it was one of the best places we’ve been to and I would recommend to anyone visiting NT to make it a MUST SEE place.

We headed back to the caravan but decided to stop at the Litchfield Tavern for dinner and a drink ‘cos we were absolutely buggered.  It was a beautiful pub/tavern and the meals were delicious and good-sized servings too.  We headed back to camp and packed a few things up as we head off to Darwin tomorrow.

Till next time,

Ciao`.

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Litchfield National Park

Posted by lewisfamilyexploringoz on September 15, 2010

Hi Everyone,

Sorry for the delay but we’ve been busy enjoying ourselves:)) and just returned from a 2 weeks hiatus in Phuket so now it’s back into it!

When I last wrote we had just arrived at Litchfield Tourist and Van Park.  The caravan park was very nice, the people were very informative about different parts of the park and meals there were great.  The first day we decided to do see the southern end of the park, which is mostly 4WD area.

Blyth Homestead

We headed for the Blyth Homestead Ruins and crossed a fairly deep water crossing, then we read about the Sargent Family who raised 14 children in this small homestead.  The outpost station, next to the tin mine, has been set up with old photos and mementos from 1928 onwards and makes for very interesting reading.  We would have stayed longer here but we also found the biggest, meanest march flies I have ever seen.  They were biting us non-stop, even Joel, who normally isn’t bothered by march flies or even mozzies and the like, so we headed off towards Sandy Creek/Tjaynera Falls.

Sandy Creek Falls

Good 4WDriving tacks with numerous water crossings, some a bit deeper and darker than others=Joel was enjoying himself!  The walk is about 3.4km return, walking alongside the creek.  The pool below the falls was the quite cold but very refreshing after the good walk.  Wade had bought himself a dragon necklace in Broome and had it on when swimming but found he had lost it in the water.  Joel and I searched around where we had been swimming, and even though it was over our heads, the water was crystal clear (and still cold), with lots of   big rocks so we managed to find the steel dragon but not the black leather string. I was amazed we found the dragon but he must have been meant to keep it. We finished the walk and headed off to Surprise Creek Falls and passed a zillion, grey-coloured termite mounds.

Magnetic Termite Mounds

The termite mounds here are called magnetic termite mounds and they look decidedly different from the ones around Coral Bay and Exmouth.  The stand up to 2m tall and are in a north-south orientation which acts like a temperature control mechanism, allowing the least possible surface area to be heated up.  Amazing – who would’ve thought termites could be so smart! Sometime later we arrived at Surprise Creek Falls.  It was a fairly short walk compared to what we have done before and we spent the whole afternoon here.  There is a series of falls that cascade down into very deep plunge pools.  The boys took great delight in finding some more places to jump off from great heights and into pools.  Access to the higher pools is basically by climbing around the rocks lining the pools and up to the next level-I felt like I was in a computer game, jumping rocks to get to the next level! Access to these falls is only by 4WD so it is not as busy as some of the other falls we would visit, but we didn’t mind as it gave us more time to play and bask in the sun.  It was a beautiful spot and our favourite of all the falls we visited here in this park. One of the tracks along here is called Reynolds Road and it has a few interesting water crossings along it, where you can’t see the other side before you cross and one which was a lot deeper than it looked. Luckily we didn’t get stuck in any of them. At the bottom pool the boys decided it would be great fun to jump all over Joel in the water, eventually stacking up on top of him.  It’s great to see his back has improved so much that he can still be doing this with the boys!  Oh and Daniel’s gonna kill me but we’ve been teasing him about his voice – it’s changing already, with pitches up and down – hee hee. We stopped in at Tolmer Falls on the way home as you are not allowed to walk to these falls because of the rare bats that live there but they were quite spectacular none-the-less.  Back to camp for dinner at the caravan park and back out to see more of the park tomorrow.

Surprise Creek Falls

Wade's jump

Dan's jump

Human totem pole

Tolmer Falls

Next day we headed to Greenant Creek and walked to Tjaetaba Falls.  It’s about a 3 km walk and most of it is uphill on the way to the falls, which luckily meant it would be downhill on the way back – which is how we sell it to the kids:) The falls are very nice and there is a plunge pool at the top which wasn’t very big, but….you guessed it, it was deep enough to jump off the edge into.  We met another family and another couple and we were there for hours.  We had been told that not a lot of people go there as the walk is so uphill and rocky, but it was beautiful.

Greenant Pool-Falls

The pool was soooo close to the edge of the falls though and just had to make sure Wade didn’t “just want to check it out”.  We had lunch in the car park then off to see Wangi Falls.  It had been closed the for the previous few days as there was a salt water croc they had to get rid of, but it was open the day we decided to visit it as the croc had been caught.

Wangi Falls

It is apparently a VERY popular place and from the amount of people we saw there, is a well known tourist attraction.  We didn’t realise how “commercial” it was until we got out of the car in our hiking boots to walk through the car park, then a ‘huge’ walk to the falls of about 200m on a fully paved road.  We thought it would be like the other walks, through the bush but you can just wear thongs and bathers and leave the rest of your gear in the car. There were hundreds of people there, such a stark contrast to where we had been yesterday and this morning.  The falls are just beautiful though and we still swam out across the pool/lake to the falls, where, yep you guessed it, the boys (and I mean Joel as well) all climbed up and jumped in off the falls.  There was a big sand bar in the middle of the pool/lake and it was amazing to see how many people were struggling to swim out to the bar, as the water was not very deep – makes you realise how much swimming (and swimming lessons) are such a big part of being Australian.  We headed off to Florence Falls pretty much straight away and so glad we did.  The Falls are magnificent.  The water is cooler than where we had been but it is sooooo clear and was full of fish and I mean fish about a foot long, heaps of them.   When we got there, people were dipping in the water but the boys swam over to the falls and did their thing.  Before you know it some german girls and some english guys headed over as well and joined in, climbing up onto the falls and jumping off.  We stayed here for the rest of the day as it was so beautiful and the kids were having so much fun.

Florence Falls

We stopped in to look at Buley Rock Holes which was exactly like it sounded – heaps of rock pools formed along the river, but we decided to save it for another time.  We had passed a hitchhiker when we left Greenant and seemed to see him after we had stopped to see some falls and get back on the road again twice more.  We thought we must be meant to give him a lift, so we pulled over and picked him up. Nice bloke, been living up near one of the old tin mines in the park and on his way to see a mate. We took him as far as the caravan park and said our farewells.  After a very long day we all had showers, dinner and start pack up as we head off to Berry Springs tomorrow.  We have seen heaps of cane toads on our travels and unfortunately got up-close-and-personal with one.  I went to put on my hiking boots this morning, which we leave outside, and was having trouble getting my foot all the way in and it did feel a little squishy.  Ooohhh nooooo, i pulled my foot out and shook the shit out of the boot and sure enough there was a disgusting cane toad who’d been using my boot to sleep in.  Yuk!  After all that shaking he was damn near dead, but finished him off and put him in the bin. EEEwwwwww.

Till next time,

Ciao`.

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