Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Great Southern

We have spent the last fortnight or so cruising around the Great Southern region.  This has taken us through the spectacular southern forests of giant Karri and Tingle trees, via Albany, the Stirling Ranges and Wave Rock, to Esperance where we are currently sitting out some rainy weather before embarking on the trek across the Nullarbor. 

Throughout the southern forests we managed to camp in a variety of the national parks in the area, which was a refreshing change from the caravan parks of Perth and Margaret River.  The forests themselves are quite spectacular, with really really tall trees.  I think they seemed especially tall for us, since we really hadn’t seen anything much over head height since we left the tropical savannah woodlands in the Kimberly.  The Valley of the Giants was a great way to really appreciate how tall these trees are – they have built a 600 m long boardwalk that climbs to heights of about 40 m, where you walk amongst the canopy of the trees.  I freaked out a bit the first go around, since the boardwalk is completely see-through and designed to sway in the wind (and we were there on a pretty windy day).  We also ventured into one of the windswept coastal parks in the area, but didn’t linger due to another large bushfire that was raging away.

From the forests we had a four-day stop in Albany.  We based ourselves at the local caravan park and ventured out for day trips to check out the local scenery and do some twitching.  Albany itself is quite an okay town, with a couple of good pubs and bookstores.  Troopy really didn’t want to leave and developed a radiator hose leak on the day we were due to depart!  From Albany we went to Cheynes Beach to experience some of the coastal areas.  Unfortunately, the days that we were there blew 20 knots and rained, which was not at all conducive to hunting out the three species of rare bird (nicknamed “the skulkers”) that we were hoping to see.  We managed to get the Noisy Scrub-bird (well sort of).  It’s supposedly Australia’s rarest bird and we reckon also the noisiest.  We found it as we were driving out of town with the windows up and radio on!  Despite being no more than a couple of meters from it for a good 15 minutes, we didn’t even get a glimpse of the noisy little f**cker.

From Albany we headed to Esperance with a northern detour to visit the Stirling Ranges and Wave Rock.  The Stirling Ranges were really great, although due to more rainy weather we didn’t stay there as long as we otherwise might have.  We did do the excellent walk up to Bluff Knoll (rated as one of Oz’s 25 top walks, and we would agree).  The walk is ~6 km return with an altitudinal climb of about 800 m, do it’s tough on the legs but with really beautiful bush and montane heath, you are distracted from the worst of the huffing and puffing.  Unfortunately for us, the view from the top was totally whited out by the low cloud, but being up in the mist was an experience in itself.  We went to Wave Rock via the Mallee Fowl centre in Ongerup, which gave us some really good birding karma because we then saw a Mallee Fowl sauntering across the highway the next day!  Wave Rock was just like the photos – a really big bit of granite that looks exactly like a wave that is about to break.  It’s 15 m high, which we calculated was less than half the height of the biggest wave ever surfed – check out the photo of me next to the rock to put that into some insane perspective!!

We are now in Esperance, the last town of any size before the SA.  Troopy is raring to go across the Nullarbor, but we’re going to try for a few days in the coastal national parks before hitting the highway (weather dependent).  We’re booked into the Streaky Bay caravan park for Christmas, so need to cover some kms to get there in time.  Unfortunately, we won’t have any cricket on the radio to keep us entertained, which actually might be a good thing, since Luke has completely renounced the Aussies and wants pappadums for Christmas lunch!!

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Turning the corner

We have just done a big left hand turn around the south-west corner of Oz and are now feeling like we are in the homeward stretch (not that we know where home will be just yet, but we’re pretty sure it’s not in WA).  Prior to turning the corner, however, we have gotten up to all sorts of adventures.  So many little bits and pieces in fact, that to write about all of them would take pages and pages, so I am going back to my report writing days and embracing the bullet point format … The following list is what we’ve been up to since leaving Shark Bay. It’s in approximate geographic (north to south) and chronological order.

Kalbarri – explored the national park and saw Nature’s Window and lots of pretty wildflowers.  Explored windswept coastal cliffs where there is meant to be good snorkelling, but the surf was heaving so we didn’t venture out.

Point Gregory – visited the aptly named Pink Lake.  Check the photos – it’s even pinker in real life.  Colouration caused by crustaceans with high concentrations of beta carotene (they “mine” them for the vitamin industry – is there no end to the mining obsession in this state??).

Geraldton – biggest town since Darwin, so bought cheap beer and fuel (!).  Visited HMAS Sydney memorial and museum, which had excellent exhibits about the HMAS Sydney and other shipwrecks off this stretch of coast (e.g. Batavia).

Jurien Bay – celebrated my 33rd birthday with tasty little cupcakes and fry up breakfast.

En route to Lancelin – celebrated Troopy’s 300,000 km mark (this was a somewhat reluctant celebration on Troopy’s behalf – she didn’t want to start that morning and we had to call the RAC for a jumpstart).  Walked and drove through the Pinnacle Desert.  We decided that contrary to all scientific thought that the stones rising straight up out of the sand are fossilised termite mounds, since they look exactly like the live ones we were seeing across the top end.

Lancelin – found not much but windsurfers and derelict camping grounds (we didn’t stay there but rather at a quaint little town down the coast).

Perth – we decided that we needed some time out of the Troops and so stayed in cabins in the northern beaches area and then Freemantle for two days each (funded by birthday money – thanks Mum, Dad, Mary and Pa!).   Went to the movies (Moneyball is ok, but probably best to wait for the DVD), art gallery, museum, beach and caught up with friends (ironically from Adelaide and Townsville).

Busselton – walked out to the end of the 2 km long jetty, twice actually, since we forgot to take our masks for snorkelling the first time!!  It’s the longest wooden jetty in the world, but they’ve recently renovated and it’s mostly concrete now, so not sure if they can continue to claim the longest title.  We snorkelled around the old pilons at the end, which was lot’s of fun, especially peering in the window of the “aquarium” at the very end where people had paid $30 to admire the fish (we paid $2.50 to walk/swim out).

Yallingup – made a base here for surfing and winery exploration.  We hired boards from the local surf shop, but unfortunately picked the windiest three days to have them and so just got some little beachies (which didn’t really matter because we were totally out of surfing practise).  We were only able to explore the wineries in the northern Margaret River region, due to the massive bushfire, but still made the most of that opportunity.  The top three (and ones that we purchased from) were Happs (thanks Tom and Lee for the suggestion), Juniper Crossing (across the road from better known Vasse Felix) and Howling Wolf (we stopped because we liked the name and it delivered for us – gotta love that!).  We also did some (read a lot) of tasting at a couple of breweries, chocolate and nut shops!  Let’s just say, we’re definitely heading back to Margaret River region for future holidays!!

Hamlin Bay – we had to high tail it out of the northern MR region because the place was getting inundated with schoolies arriving for their end of school partying.  Hamlin Bay is located in the coastal Cape Naturaliste NP and was a good retreat for a night.

Southern forests (western edge) – turned the corner into this region yesterday.  We stopped right on the edge to overnight at a lovely forested spot that was free of smoke from (another) bushfire.  Today the smoke had lifted and so we did some walking, birding (got a good look at some Baudin’s Cockatoos) and further gustation – The Cidery at Bridgetown (yum) and the Wine and Truffle Co at Manjimup (ok wine, yum truffle mustard).

In addition to all the above, we have also really enjoyed being in the west for listening to the cricket in South Africa – the time difference worked well – start of play around beer o’clock, lunch at our dinner time and close of play due to poor light at bedtime.  Luke has given up on the Aussies in complete despair and is now supporting NZ, which will make for an interesting time when the first test at the ‘Gabba begins.

And the best news last … we are now an uncle and aunty!  Karina (Luke’s sister) had a bouncing bay boy yesterday (25th Nov – yep, another Nov b’day) and so we are very much looking forward to meeting Noah Lucus when we get to SA.

Click here for photos

Friday, November 11, 2011

Shark Bay

Well, for this episode of nomading, we have a guest blogger, yep you guessed it none other than Ailsie’s partner in crime/nomading…..

We left Coral Bay and headed south for Carnarvon.  It was an extremely uneventful drive, covering what seemed to be familiar ground, sand dunes and mulga trees.  It can get a little dull in the outback when there are endless stretches of the same scenery.  Just north of Carnarvon, we headed out to the blowholes looking for a camp spot somewhere along the coast.  It was blowing at about 50 knots from somewhere out in the Indian Ocean and the coast line offered very little protection, so we bailed on that part of desolate coast and headed for the deserted town of Carnarvon.  Entering Carnarvon it seemed to have the same feel of towns in the Riverland of SA, lots of red sand, no water and plenty of fruit trees.  We pulled up stumps somewhere in town and quickly decided that we would restock our supplies and get the hell out of there, before we got stuck.

About 150 clicks down the road, we headed to the west into Shark Bay, a place I had been wanting to go to for a long time for various reasons.  Our first stop was the stromatolites, which are the oldest known life forms on the planet.  They are filamentous cynobacteria which are able to survive in a hyper saline environment.  While they are relatively unspectacular to look at, it is spectacular to wonder at how this simple life form changed the planet forever when they came into existence 1.5 billion years ago.  What was interesting is that these stomatolites are ~4000 yrs old, which was a bit of a disappointment as I had assumed they were in continual existence at this site since, well almost the dawn of time.  And apparently they only grow in one other place in the world, Cuba, but my mate Ben discovered some decidedly similar filamentous algae in the South East of SA several years ago with a dirty great big geological survey scar running through them, apparently they are Thrombolites and are not nearly as impressive, but they looked the same to me.  But I digresss…

After a night at Hamlin Pools (don’t stay there, stay down the road a km or two at Hamlin Station), we went into Denham, the most westerly town in all of Oz.  On our way we stopped at Shell Beach, a beach entirely composed of mollusc shells, which are about eight metres deep.  A pretty amazing site, especially for our palaeontologist friend Matt who would probably have been able to tell us more about the site than we would really care to know.  We pulled up next to the harbour in Denham and spotted a dugong eating a tasty lunch of see grass, while we listened to the donkeys run around in Melbourne.  After some lunch, we headed out to Francois Peron Peninsula.  We had a couple of lovely nights out there camped on the beach, where we saw old man emu running about with eight chicks teaching them everything he knew.  It is a spectacular part of the coast where the red desert dunes meet the aqua sea.  We wanted to explore further but on our day of departure a storm was brewing so we decided to leave, rather than get stuck like a cork in a bottle in one of the clay pans out there.  We retreated to Monkey Mia, where we got to see several rangers and hoards of tourists harassing wild dolphins that come in daily for a feed from the rangers, which is funny because I thought you weren’t meant to feed the wildlife in national parks.  We also got to see the thick-billed grasswren in and around the car park, but I reckon most of the tourists missed this little beastie.  This is apparently one of the rarest birds in Australia, but we saw at least six different groups in the car park and the surrounding sand dune area on our morning walk.  The whole Monkey Mia experience was a little disappointing as it was purely focussed on harassing dolphins and failed to mention anything about the surrounding marine park and Project Eden, which is a large scale reintroduction program for a number of extremely threatened species of mammals which are virtually found no where else but in the offshore islands of Shark Bay.  These include the bilby, mala, western barred bandicoot, numbat, and various other species that most people have never heard of (e.g. Shark Bay mouse), but I won’t bore you with them.  After a night at Monkey Mia next to some loud obnoxious pratt who new everything about anything, we departed for Steep Point which Troopy was very excited about.

We tracked back towards the south and then turned west on Useless Loop, an exciting sounding road.  After what seemed an eternity of driving to nowhere, we hit some bad corrugations and the road deteriorated significantly.  We drove over the first dune and then into a big sand pit, along a beach and past some large fishing groups until we got to our campsite, a lovely spot in Shark Bay, overlooking Dirk Hartog Island (the first recorded landing place of Europeans in Australia in 1609).  We decided on two days here, which was a good idea, as it was a lovely spot to chill out and unwind after a bumpy trip in.  On our day there we ventured out to Steep Point, which is the most westerly point of the Australian mainland.  Troopy made it virtually all of the way as well, but fell short by bout 50-metres as the track ended prematurely for motor vehicles.  Now she has made it to the most easterly, northerly and westerly points – let’s hope we can make it to Wilson’s Prom and the southerly point over summer.  After our second night at Steep Point we ventured back to the bitumen and camped at Hamlin Station for a night (a much better camp site than at the Pools on the way in) before heading south to Kalbarri, which will be part of the exciting story of our next blog!

We must also make mention of some very important milestones which are coming up and all revolve around the number three.  Troopy gets three new tyres tomorrow, she clicks over 300,000 km very soon and Ailsa turns 33 on Monday!  Stay tuned for photos of the “3” celebrations next time…

Click here for Shark Bay photos

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Broome to Ningaloo

As promised last blog post I am writing this from the shores adjacent to the crystal clear waters of Ningaloo Reef, where we have finally slowed down to a more relaxed tourist pace.  There really isn’t very much along the 635 km from Broome to Port Headland, so after leaving Broome, we sampled the delights of the North Western Highway, stopping off for a night a the southern end of 80 mile beach.  We veered into Port Headland for some cheap fuel and to check out the enormous iron ore boats in the port – I port that I helped to build I might add … well in a very tangential way, by reviewing some of the approvals documentation BHP.  Unless you earn a squillion dollars working for a mining giant or are locked up as an asylum seeker, there isn’t much to keep you in Port Headland, so we motored south-west into Millstream Chichester National Park.

This park is less well known than its nearby cousin Karajini, but we really enjoyed our 2-night stay.  The park is well within the tropical arid zone, and so we were treated to some spectacular Spinifex dominated scenery.  We did a couple of walks, saw some good birds and camped by the Fortescue River.  DEC has recently been upgrading the park and as part of the interpretation, they have developed MCNP FM – a radio station that broadcasts information about the park – we tuned in and it was really quite interesting and well done.  From MCNP we trucked south for another 600+ km and finally hit Exmouth, the gateway to Ningaloo Reef.

We had one night in Exmouth to get organised before heading into Cape Range National Park.  I had been to this one for “work” early in 2010, and was really excited.  Basically, we spent three days snorkelling off the beach, chasing birds and chilling out in some cooler weather (finally).  The snorkelling really was great – and just so easy to flop in off the beach.  We had a bit of a science geek moment when we both saw the species that we did our honours projects on – Black-footed Rock Wallabies for Luke and Stylophora pistillata (a coral) for me.  Cape Range NP is adjacent to the northern part of Ningaloo, and since we wanted to experience as much as possible, we took the scenic 4WD track 150 km south to Coral Bay at the southern end of the reef.

Coral Bay is just a sleepy little beachside tourist town with two caravan parks and not much else.  We booked on a diving and snorkelling with manta rays tour and had an amazing day.  The first dive site was ok and we saw a handful of potato cod and a group of three large lion fish hanging around in a cave.  We had a humpback whale and her calf swimming around at the site, and Luke got a very fleeting glance of something very large and white while we were under the water!  Once back on the surface, we got a really great look at the whales who were cruising along very close.  We then went off in search of manta rays.  We found a couple that we managed to follow for a while and one was doing summersaults whilst feeding.  The others were cruising lazily, but were too fast for us mere humans on snorkel and they got away after a few minutes.  The second dive was at a great site with really high coral cover and diversity.  It was also the location of a reef shark cleaning station and at one point I counted seven of them.  We also saw dolphins, turtles, lots of fish and seabirds. 

Now we are both pooped and are off for dinner at the local seafood restaurant and then I’m sure it’ll be an early night.  Heading south from here to Shark Bay, so next blog will be from there with more tales of maritime adventures.

Click here for photos

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Darwin to Broome

We’ve had a whirlwind two-week trek from Darwin across the Kimberly to Broome.  Heading out from Darwin we spent two days exploring the wonderful swimming holes throughout Litchfield National Park.  While we really enjoyed the swimming, especially given the ever-increasing temperatures, we couldn’t bring ourselves to agree with those that think Litchfield is better than Kakadu.  We then headed south to Pine Creek, a funny little ex-goldmining town, hunting Hooded Parrots (with success).  This is also where we saw our first really storm of the wet season – it really chucked it down for a couple of hours in the evening.  Luckily Troopy’s canvass is holding up well. It was then down to Katherine to restock and have one last dip in the springs before swinging west.  On the way to the WA border we stopped off for a night each in Gregory and Keep River National Parks, which both have amazing sandstone escarpments.  We would have loved to spend longer, but when it is still 32oC at 9 pm, you know that it is time to seek cooler climes!

Our crossing into WA marked entry into the final mainland state/territory of our trip and Luke’s visit to all eight (I still have Tassie to go).  We headed up to Wyndham searching for Gouldian Finches, but didn’t see any.  From there it was a long day in the car down to Purnululu National Park, home to the world heritage listed Bungle Bungle Range.  What an amazing landscape – hundred meter high red and black stripped domes – my attempt at a description wouldn’t do the site any justice but our photos should just about give you the idea.  We then trucked on – our strategy was to drive for 300-400 km per day at about 80-90 km/hour to maximise our time in the air-conditioned comfort of the Troops (thank goodness we got that fixed before leaving Sydney!!).  On the way to Broome we stopped off at Windjana Gorge, Tunnel Creek (natural air-conditioning in a cave where we spent 4 hours reading our books on the picnic blanket) and Derby.  In Derby we ran into a group of the oh-so-controversial asylum seekers, being held in Curtain Detention Centre.  We didn’t really chat to them due to the language barrier, but had an interesting discussion with one of their escorts about the pros and cons of the governments various migration policy (his main take on the issues was bring on the boats, because it meant more very well paid work for him!!).

We’ve spent the last 5-days in Broome and have really enjoyed it.  Firstly, it really cools down here overnight, which is just lovely.  We mooched around town for a few days and enjoyed being at the beach, having coffee and going out for dinner.  We also watched the ill-fated rugby world cup semi-final in a bar that was full of kiwis, so had to cheer for the Aussies very quietly!  We have spent the last two days out at Broome Bird Observatory mixing it up with the 20,000+ migratory shorebirds that have arrived recently from Siberia.  We’ve done some great twitching and have actually managed to id some waders, thanks to the lone of a spotting scope from the observatory.  Tomorrow we are doing some mist netting with the guys that run the place and will have a final twitch at the golf course and sewerage ponds in town before hitting the road south.  We’re planning to travel the ~1400 km south to Exmouth over the next few days, so next blog will be from the crystal clear waters of Ningaloo Reef.

Oh, nearly forgot the Big Croc in Wyndham (check the big things page).  Other photos are on flikr.

Click here for photos

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Kakadu and Nitlimuk National Parks

After our relatively fast paced trek from the east coast to central Australia, we have slowed right down to enjoy the national parks of The Top End.  Our first stop was Nitlimuk NP just outside of Katherine.  The most famous and accessible part of the park is Katherine Gorge, where we stayed for three days.  Luckily the only accommodation option at the gorge is the caravan park with a “resort-style pool”.  Normally, we would avoid such places, but given the temperatures were reaching a very hot and sticky 38-39oC, we were very pleased that we didn’t have any other options.  Despite the heat we managed to explore Katherine Gorge, both on foot and in a canoe, doing early morning bush walks on two days and then canoeing up the first three gorges (there are 13).  Our last night at the gorge was somewhat traumatic, as a group of about 200 Victorian school kids descended on the caravan park.  Troopy was quite concerned for her safety, since their tents looked suspiciously like Darleks (from Dr Who), and I had to fight my way through mascara, lip stick, hair driers and hair straightening tongs to get to a sink in the ladies.  We were pleased to move on to the lovely swimming spot at Edith Falls, which is in the northern section of Nitlimuk NP.  The scenery in both the gorge and at Edith Falls was quite spectacular – see photos on flikr. 

Next stop was the world famous Kakadu NP, where we spent five days.  We could have easily stayed longer, except that the heat was really becoming oppressive and we felt that we needed to retreat to Darwin and some air conditioning.  Each part of Kakadu was different and amazing, so I’ve detailed each spot below.  Overall, we really enjoyed Kakadu and both felt a deep appreciation and awe for the amazing natural wonders and the ongoing connection between the country and its traditional owners.

Gumlom – our first stop in Kakadu was at the base of a large waterfall with a clear plunge pool at the bottom.  We spent the first afternoon frolicking in the swimming hole and chatting to German tourists who were traumatised after the 37 km stretch of (not too bad) dirt road into the campground (while we were suitably sympathetic to their faces, we rolled our eyes behind their backs and decided the autobahns were making the Germans very soft).  First thing the next morning, we trekked up the side of the waterfall to check out the amazing view of southern Kakadu from the top. 

Yellow Water – the cruise on the wetland here had been recommended to us by several sources, and so we decided to take up the bargain offer of doing two cruises for only $20 extra.  We did both a sunset and sunrise cruise and were rewarded with amazing views out over the wetland, great birding and some up-close croc sightings.  We also went to the Aboriginal Cultural Centre, which was simply excellent – really interesting stories and very well done interpretation.

Jim Jim Falls – Troopy was excited about some 4WD action again as we travelled down to Jim Jim Falls.  The road wasn’t actually too bad, and we decided that Luke’s old Subaru would have made it apart from one muddy spot (where Troopy nearly got stuck on the way out!!).  The falls themselves and surrounding gorge were spectacular, with a clear green plunge pool at the base of 150 m high surrounding cliffs.  The walk in was a bit of a challenge, with 500 m of scrambling over large rocks and boulders in the ~40oC heat.

Nourlangie Region – we made the mistake of having a lazy start this morning and didn’t make it to Anbangbang wetland until around 11 am.  We decided to do the 2.5 km loop walk despite the heat – big mistake!  We (more me than Luke, but I’m telling the story) got very hot and bothered and cranky.  We did see some good birds and a croc being stared down by a group of ducks.  Later in the afternoon we checked out some of the Aboriginal rock art in the region and listened to talks by one of the rangers.  It was really great to be able to see the art and to hear the associated Dreaming stories – one about Lightning Man who continues to keep an eye out from the Arnhem Land escarpment and another about forbidden love.

Ubirr – we had some more croc action at Cahill’s Crossing, which is a crossing into Arnhem Land over the East Alligator River.  This section of the river is tidal and we watched the river level at the crossing rise around 30 cm in about 45 mins and a cop car nearly get swept away trying to cross at a river height of ~0.6 m.  The crocs (some quite large) gather on the incoming tide and swim around with their mouths open with the hope of catching a barra or mullet.  The most we saw them catch were sticks, but they were menacing nevertheless.  Ubirr is just up the road from Cahill’s Crossing and is a renowned rock art site.  We had a great experience there – appreciating the art, spotting some rock wallabies, seeing a thunderstorm threaten to start the wet and hiking up to a high point and having an amazing 360 degree view over the East Alligator River floodplain and Arnhem Land escarpment (see Luke’s panorama shot on flikr).  The following morning we did two bushwalks through the stone country and monsoon forest.

We are now in Darwin, where we have treated ourselves to a hotel room for four days.  The air conditioning has been a blessing!!  We are off again tomorrow heading south to Litchfield NP and then slowly west towards WA.  Photos of the above adventures are on flikr and the one below is of the painting that we splurged on – My Country by Janet Long, one of her Water Dreaming series.

Click here for photos on flikr

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Into the Never Never

We have now entered our entered the sixth state/territory of our journey and are just a couple of hundred kms off the 20,000 km mark (we are deliberately not looking at the total fuel cost to get this far).  Things started to get hot almost as soon as we crossed the NT border and we haven’t had a day less than 35oC since leaving Qld!  But before I get ahead of myself, I must write something about Boodjamulla (Lawn Hill) National Park, which is currently taking out the top spot on our favourite places list. 

The park is on the Qld-NT border, about 150 km south of the Gulf.  It is described as an oasis in the surrounding Gulf country desert, and while I am usually very sceptical about such self-aggrandising claims, I really do have to agree in this instance.  The 500 km drive from Karumba to Lawn Hill travels through some very flat, very dry, very grazed and very monotonous country.  Then, all of a sudden, a large gorge appears.  Once inside the gorge the country is greener and cooler with a river running in between 30+ meter high sandstone cliffs.  We camped right next to the river at the national park campsite.  We managed to overlap by one night with our fellow 30-something nomading friends and had a great time comparing travels tales and blowing our beer rations!  We then did every bushwalk on offer, canoed up the gorge (and made friends with a freshwater croc “Fred the Freshie”) and swam and inner tubed down the river.  We also added some great new birds to the list, including the Arafura Fantail and the Purple-crowned Fairy Wren.  It truly was a delightful few days.

After leaving our oasis, we had one more night in Qld.  Troopy decided to voice her objection about leaving Qld by cracking her engine pipe (exhaust) about 150 km shy of the border.  A quick trip to the mechanic in Doomagee reassured us that we would be ok to keep going to a larger place for repairs but we might soon need ear plugs!!  With that in mind, we pushed on along the dirt for the 450 km across the Territory border into Borroloola.  By this stage, Troopy was sounding like the most fully sick, hotted up boy racer car you could ever possibly wish for.  Borroloola wasn’t really somewhere we wanted to get stuck waiting for parts and so we roared (literally) on towards Katherine – 600 km away.  Along the way we had a few great stops at a Lost City (amazing weathered sandstone formations) and the springs near Mataranka.  One spot called Bitter Springs was particularly fun.  There was a swimming trail about 200 m long where we jumped in with mask and snorkel and floated down to the exit point.  The water bubbles up through underground limestone caverns and so is crystal clear and around 30oC.  Needless to say, we spent a lot of time floating around there.  We also had a quick stop at the Mataranka Homestead and spent a couple of hours whiling away the heat of the day watching “We of the Never Never” – the movie based on the Jeanie Gunn novel about life up here in the 1900s.  Ordinary movie, interesting story – we are going to try and find the book.

Now we are in Katherine and Troopy has a flash new engine pipe.  Tomorrow we head off (in stealth mode, we are now so quiet) to Katherine Gorge, where we are planning more bushwalking and canoeing.  Photos of the adventures described above are on flikr.  The photo below is of Luke acting like a Qld local – oh how the mighty can fall!!

Click here for Lawn Hill to Katherine photos