Part Four July
01/07/2000 McKinlay (8071 /132871) @132527 245L $247.00
Leaving Karumba heading south the time had slipped away on us. We probably didn't actually leave until about mid day after saying good bye to those we had meet and exchanged contact info. This leg of the trip has a few thousand K's in it, and is the longest leg of the trip, tacking us down to nearly the center and back up to Darwin.
Still on these one lane roads we traveled for what seemed like miles. I had looked at the map and calculated our fuel would be sufficient to get us to our destination rather than filling up at these high prices ($1.08/L) Thanks to GST. As the K's ticked over, and the calculation ran through my mind, it was soon apparent that we should have already been at Bourke & Wills Road house, but nothing could be seen for miles. I could see it now, comments about running out of fuel in the middle of OZ, I recalled my comments that if we broke down, we had plenty of water, and when that ran out you would probably find us tipsy as we moved on to alcohol. The Gipsy was getting nervous, as I tried to make jokes out of the situation. Eventually some 30ks further on we found Bourke & Wills Road House with about 1" of diesel left in the tank. The stench was to much for both of us, so we moved on. I'm not quite sure what the smell, was but it was not pleasant.
As we rolled into Cloncurry, and not finding a spot we decided to push on little further. The Gipsy suggesting she would like to see the pub and location where Crocodile Dundee was made. With her excellent navigational skills we managed to take a wrong turn. By now the sailor was well past his shift and as we turned around and found the right road we looked carefully for a rest stop. At this stage anything would do. The road trains had gotten bigger, and instead of being three semi-trailers long they were now up to eight. With the two of us on these roads they were a night mare, and I couldn't wait to stop or get off the road. Eventually we found a stop for the night after traveling some 650k's. The nights were cold once again.
02/07/2000 Split Rock - Camooweal ( 8365/133165) @133307 200l
In the morning we continued into 3 building center of McKinlay. After a 40 minute lecture from the local Policeman who came from his veranda to tell me he couldn't see the rear number plate because of the bike rack, and that I should detach the number plate and place it on the bike rack including a portable number plate light, then put it back on the bus when I take the bike rack off, I eventually go to the Walk About Creek pub. The frustrated Policeman continued to harass anyone he could accusing people of speeding on the CB as he sat on his chair and veranda drinking coffee. The pub is about 100 years old and has some interesting memorabilia on the walls.
After this detour we were on our way again, back through Cloncurry and heading towards Tenant Creek. Stopping at rest stop around Spit Rock we found another couple of campers with a good fire, about to eat their dinner. We joined them for drinks and some hours latter dinner. Kapone is always much admired and we exchanged rest stop information, and places we had visited. We usually met one or two couples with each stop, and non of them so far have been holiday travelers, they have all been longer term travelers, 3 months plus. Exchange tails and places to miss, and not to miss, the night went on till morning. Our new found aquatints admired our decadent chairs which we were slouched in relaxing, and complained about the roads, and the broken springs, and shock absorbers on there Caravans. A great night/morning was had.
03/07/2000 Warumungu ( 8899/133699)
Moving on in late morning, we headed off down these never ending roads, which were now getting straighter, more boring, and less interesting. With over 1600k to go to Darwin this was going to be a long stretch not to mention and expensive one, as paper notes drifted from my wallet to oil, to fumes, the K's ticked by. The road trains rolled by, along with other travelers. The sunsets get better, brighter, more colorful, and so far the best we have seen except for Karumba. The cows continue to jump out in front of us, and heading west in the afternoon, on such flat terrain, you can see the sun virtually sink into the road, and cows, or Kangaroos if you are lucky forma silo wet. This is a common reason for go around the other way, to avoid this.
Mount Isa came and went, and unless your really into mining then there is not much to see. If you take the Newcastle mines, and stick them in the middle of a small city, and add history, green grass, which looks out of place you have Mount Isa. But it does have Optus Mobile net, one of the few out locations out here.
As we crossed the boarder (into NT) the roads changed instantly into two lane tar with white lines and posts, and very much improved. We looked for our drinking friends from the night before who were headed the same way, but they were not to be found, so we finished up in a not so nice rest stop, but it was safe, and accompanied with other campers. Windmills pumped water from the bore into tank, but we didn't need any and I wouldn't be rushing to use it even if we did.
04-05/07/2000 Tenant Creek ( 9218 /134018)
Another boring traveling day lay in front of us. We arrived at Tenant Creek, picked out a spot of the night and continued on through, traveling another 100K to the Devils Marbles, spot the little Devil. A site worth seeing I felt having come this far. I noted the Alice springs sign at 390k away, but we have decided to do it latter as the nights are to cold. We walked around these huge boulders, watching out for the OZ bites but apart from me there were none to be seen. These boulder are for the most part Granite, and the from and aboriginal prospective are the eggs of a rainbow serpent. Kapone was turning red from the dirt, and fact that Tania kicked him in the mouth ( accidentally ) punching his tooth through his tongue added a unique tinge of color and atmosphere.
A couple of old cars ( 1930's) with Caravans turned up which we had seen before. The last time a few days ago it was in many bits on the side of the road. It seems they too are traveling around OZ. There seem to be a number of push bikers also traveling around, and you see them in the middle of no where. I wonder how he carries his Bourbon, and keeps it cold.
Heading back to Tenant Creek we pulled up for the night in a caravan park getting ready to celebrate Tania's birthday tomorrow. On the way back the driver decided to do a bit of work.
The next day we basically relaxed, took in a bit of sun and enjoyed the time doing nothing preparing to party for Tania's birthday dinner, as much as is possible in Tenant Creek. The best place in town didn't have any JB, didnt take any cards, and served veal that bounced of the plate, and there is no doubt that Tristan could have done this meal 10 times better, blind folded. We sent it back and eventually got something worth eating. None the less we had a good time and enjoyed the day & the evening, including all the phone calls which made the Gypsy's day.
.06/07/2000 Mataranka ( 9771/134571) Deisel @ 134020 234lL $234.
In the morning we set off for Mataranaka after picking up some additional supplies, and Diesel. We finished up at a rest area approximately 50K south where on arrival the un attended fore was prod into life by an existing campers who could see it would be useful. After the usual chores, dog feed, firing up hot water etc, I went and introduced myself and latter the Gipsy to our neighbors for the night. More UK tourists escaping the inclement weather of the UK, a couple of Harvey Bayers, and a solo retiree and his dog. We exchanged a few yarns, I sank few JB's and before we new it, the thought of cooking dinner prompted the Gipsy to suggest we eat next time before midnight and drinks.
07/07/2000 Katherine ( 9927/134727)
On the way to Katherine we stopped at a place called Bitter Springs after being told that the Mataranka ones were crowded by and flood with tour buses. If we got there early ( which of course we didn't) we would have them to our self. The water was crystal clear, and warm, (not unbearably hot), a sandy bottom in parts, and deep enough that the Gipsy could not touch the bottom (of the pond) but once again found using me as a mooring was the solution. However during the swim down stream, the thought of Crocs was beginning to show as she brushed past some unsuspecting branch beneath depths of crystal clear water. I consoled both of us but advising her that there were bigger and better tourists just up river to eat.
After dragging the Gipsy from the jaws of the biggest croc, ( me) we were once again on the road and shortly found our home for the night in a caravan park. About 7:00 PM we got a visit from the park people advising they were going to let of fire crackers to curtail the ear piercing noise being made by 100's of bats which were above us, which were hopefully eating the mosquitoes. This ritual was repeated every night and seemed to bring quite to camp. A quick walk down the back of the camp I was soon walking around more hot springs which ran through the river. With crystal clear water and steps to get in it looked great, cost nothing, and was bigger than the Bitter Springs ones.
Later that night shortly before turning in it seems one of the other permanents had a domestic with his other half. The antics went on for hours, and the owners did very little, including not answering the phone at 2:30AM etc. It wasn't only the yelling but it sound as though he was trashing the place.
The next day I faced a decision which I had been working myself up to for awhile. For those that don't know, one of the few things I'm afraid off is heights. I asked the Gipsy for her top three choices of what she wanted to see etc here. The bottom line was a Helicopter ride over the Katherine Gorge. Well whizzing around on piece of perspex, stuck on a push bike frame, connected to an upside down lawn mower is not my idea of safe. We called to book this egg beater suicide trip and fortunately the egg beater was on a rescue mission and tours were off at this time, and probably the back log would mean we would not make it. All after I had psyched myself up.
As we drove out to Katherine Gorge we saw another egg beater suicide place, and I could see the look in the Gipsy eye, so I had to stop. But as it happened they only took groups of three or you paid for three and they took 1 or 2. At $105/Per person for 1/2 flight time this was a bit cheaper on the Per Person rate. So we moved on. With the UHF CB on as we drove further on into the Gorge we herd the rescue helicopter say he had finished with the emergency and was now back on tours. So a quick conversation over the two way and, oh dear looks like I'm now ridding this upside down lawn mower.
So I quickly made up my last will and testimony on video, had a coffee, and waited till he returned. With camera ready we were about to fly over all the thirteen gorges of Katherine. One side of the Helicopter was completely open and the other had a half height door. Needles to say I had the half height door, for what it was worth.
With seat belts on ( to make sure we all hit the ground at the same time) and head phones, all jammed into the back seat of a mini minor, the lawn mower began shudder. For the men reading this, if you have ever had a lawn mower where the whole the blade fits onto is warn, and when you hang onto it everything shakes, this is what it was like. Having just refueled and with a cross wind he applies just enough power to take most but not all of weight off, and the helicopter begins to move (still on the ground) forward and slowly but soon he inches off the ground away from petrol pump. As the nose dips down pointed and the ground the power is applied and we move forward slowly rising finishing up at some at some 1250 feet above ground. Later when I asked him to go lower Steve explained he was not permitted below 1500 feet, for tours, only for emergencies. All went fairly well and it certainly was a great way to gain a prospective of the Gorge although from this height it lacked the detail I had expected we would see, but certainly gave you a prospective you would not otherwise get. We flew up with the Katherine Gorge on one side then banked heavily ( with my side down) and back down the other side. For the Gipsy it was a great ride and view, for me I looked through the view finder of the video, and bashed of a few stills on the Digital.. We saw parts which could not be seen without either this egg beater ride or a weeks trek. So at the end of the day the $135.00 Per person and 1/2 hour flight was probably worth it. Our Pilot Steve also had a bus and was working his way around OZ, and would be departing again when the wet season returns. The Gorge rises 8 meters in the wet but increases is speed substantially. Of the 13 Gorges the forth and deepest part of the Gorge is home to the Rainbow Serpent, and aboriginal dream time story.
Next on the list was a three hour horse ride. As we thundered across to the other side of Katherine I saw my first willy willy. ( miniature tornado) At first I could not work out what it was, but the Gipsy had seen them before. We stopped and I took a video, but the Digital Camera was full of the Gorge and probably my shaking pictures, so I cant show you here. It would have been about 60 feet high at the top, and about the same wide, spiraling down in cone to about 2 feet at the bottom. The winds seemed very slow as it sucked up all the leaves and dust and tossed it into the air. Within minutes it had died, and we were off again to our horse ride.
The Gipsy had wanted to do a three day ride, camp out etc. I explained that you wont get foxtel, hot shower, endless coffee, and comfee bed out there, and neither of us are used to such physical demands, we would not make it. I drew some common references to horse back ridding, which began to make her think further but did not convince her.
It wasn't long before we were ridding along quietly, by the river edge, a quick canter, and gallop over the sandy river bed and a rest spot. I was not aware we would be crossing rivers deeper than the horse so this too was a new experience for me. The digital camera around my neck and a bottle of water on the saddle, horse and rider had to swim across the rivers.
The horses' were de-saddled and those that wanted to could take them for a swim bare back. Most did including the Gipsy on General, I didn't, I took a few pictures. Yes there were Croc's about but it seems the Freshwater ones can just about be ignored, and certainly most do, and tell you so. I figured these people have been doing this for some 20 years and he hasn't lost anyone yet, besides I had just been in an upside lawn mower with a mini attached, this could not be more dangerous. With Saddles back on, I was the only one who took water, and it now seemed that not only the Gipsy but others were keen to have some. Every one was given the option, at the start but the declined. A few more water crossings and I was beginning to get concerned about the camera, especially when "Sargent" my horse stopped in the middle of one of the faster wider flowing ones. Seeing some of the natural wild life birds, Croc's Kangaroos and butterflies etc the three hours soon went, and we were back.
As we dismounted I could hear, see and begin to feel the pain that was to come, and I had eluded to with the 3 day ride. Well I'm writing this 4 days behind, and let me tell you the Gipsy is still in much pain, and would not have faced the next day on a horse after 3 hours let alone all day. I perhaps was more fortunate, but not with out my reminders.
Returning back to the same caravan park, once again our night was disturbed by another domestic, and I became even less inclined to stay in caravan parks than before..
Departing heading for Darwin we had planned to stop at a rest stop that did not materialize, and this was becoming more frequent. On the way we diverted to Edit falls a very pretty spot set in arid country side it looked out of place. A national park in which we were not supposed to take the dog, so we could not stop. Eventually we came to a "Road Side Stop" and as we drove past it looked very nice so a quick u turn and we returned to green grass, freshwater river, green trees tables and a number of fireplaces. The weather was beautiful and the spot very nice so we decided there and then to spend 2 nights here. As we were settling in a "bike" turned up, and drove right up to the table where we had planned to have dinner and much drinks and conversations with the other campers. He had also planned to roll out his swag and camp for the night as he had done in this spot many times before. It transpired during the conversation and coffee that Gordon had sent most of the other campers running, and all of a sudden the other campers had locked themselves in there vans and chose to sit in the dark at about 7:30PM. Gordon recognized this sequence of events, and says it was not unusual and elected to move on, so as not to upset the other wimps. Shortly after the bike had roared over the bridge, it seems the other campers soon found the light switch, and they were not all dead after all. So we had our dinner outside, under the stars and few quiet drinks.
We had decided to stay figuring they would all take off in the morning, which most did. However by about lunch time there were already more here than the night before, and it wasn't long before we ere going to need a parking attendant. Thus the planned Blue Lagoon setting had been shattered. As the day went on we soon found ourselves sitting and chatting with Keith, Kay, Steve, Barrie Renade, talking about all sorts of subjects ranging from how to make pair wine, to world domination and genetic imperfections. Overnight (and drinks) we fixed all the worlds problems, so don't forget to thank us.
A couple of swims in the freshwater brook which had been dammed for us, and an eye on the Croc's just up the river bought a close to a very nice couple of days. Once again all the travelers were non holiday makers, ie 80% Australian long term, and 20 % overseas tourist..
Our freshwater pump diaphragm had been playing up since we left so this would be the second repair I have had to do since we left. After pulling it apart it seemed that a seal was leaking simply because it was not put together properly. A couple of hours later this was rectified.
We arrived at Darwin and headed for a caravan park mainly because we have some serious work we need to complete, and time was running out. We have checked on return flights, from Darwin to Sydney and prices range over 300% depending on booking time. We will be returning sometime soon to complete a project and will probably be in Sydney towards the latter part of July or beginning of August. We will leave the Bus hear and fly back to continue our trip. It is expected that this will take a little longer than my original plan when we started this trip, combined with the late start, we will probably attempt to extend the planned end date by a few weeks. We have also decided to leave Tasmania out as most of it is National Park, and dogs are not welcome. When we have a return date we will added it on the index page.
14/07/2000 Darwin, still here working hard, a few long days, and nights but certainly a most pleasant environment to work in. A swim here and there and sitting outside researching on the net, preparing documents, making phone calls, chasing things up certainly feels much better here. We have been asking for better weather and we certainly have it. The days in low 30's and nights in high teens is just what we like.
The Gipsy got wind of Darwin Markets at night, so we took our home to the markets, and parked in the park. Set right on the beach front on beautiful evening, with food and music it certainly made things more pleasant for those of us not suffering from "Mrs. Fine" disease. We moved just for a change in surroundings to Lee Point which is about 12K East of Darwin, and once again we were treated to some very nice sunsets as it fell into the ocean.
We also spent a night at Casurina which is a bit closer to Darwin. This is probably the best beach area we have seen on the trip. We went specifically to view the Lunar Eclipse, and on arrival found about 12 different groups were perched on the cliff edges with tables, chairs, long steam glasses overlooking the sea. It looked like something out of a magazine. So we all sat, waited and watched this rare occasion, and if nothing else it provided a good excuse to indulge ourselves. We bashed off a few photo's but even if I showed them to you, you could be forgiven for not knowing what you were looking at.
More work, so not much to write, the time continues to fly past, and as we look up, the sun goes down, time for a swim, and happy hour, or hours.
We have just got the latest information on our returning to Sydney and hence the update to the index page. The flights back range in price by over 300 % from bottom to top, but all things are shaping up and coming together. I have got flights being arranged, the good looking one has found a home for the bus for a few weeks, and the dog becomes excess baggage for our return trip. Hard to believe it cheaper to take him back than put him in a kennel, by far. Not that she would let me anyway. So this will be the last update until we return where we will go through Kakadu ( nick named Kakadont by the locals) unless we squeeze in a day or two before departing. Looking forward to seeing most of you soon.