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carmel’s Travel Diary

Friday, 19 May 2006

Location: Kununurra, w.a., Australia

Map14/5/06

Once again we went from the sublime to the ridiculous as far as caravan parks are concerned. Last night we stayed at Barkly Homestead in the Northern Territory – another really expensive one with frightful amenities. (But one thing I must say about the NT, their roads are very well maintained.) The Homestead was advertising for counter staff and a housekeeper. As it is in the middle of nowhere, they certainly couldn’t hire locals, I guess they use back-packers.

Our last Qld town was Cammoweal. (I’ve put a photo of the sign that welcomes Territorians when they get there on my photo page.) That was our most expensive fuel up to then (153.9 c/l) however it has been much dearer in the NT (178.9c/l has been the most expensive so far.)

There had been a big bushfire, or maybe burn-off, just outside of Cammoweal, however we have seen very little road kill, although we did see a dead bandicoot. I’d like to see a live one. Maybe the little road kill is accounted for by the amount of grass, its very green with water lying around. We are on the edge of where Cyclone Monica hit.

There are quite big distances between service stations out here, so we have seen a number of signs outside farms saying ‘sorry, no fuel’. I guess they get tired of supplying stranded motorists. We fill up at every opportunity as we are not going to take a chance. Barrie has had his fill of hitch-hiking.

Here in the NT, we have also seen our first driver reviver station that is open in all of our time on the road. Also, most places seem to supply coffee for the driver for free. I think that’s really good. We don’t need driver reviver as we use the thermos flask etc that Ross and Jacque gave us for Christmas – thanks, folk. Another great thing here are the free overnight camping areas. They all look really nice, for example beside a creek. We may get to use one at some stage.

15/5/06

Last night we stayed at Renner Spring Caravan Park which was a step up from Barkly Homestead. Our fridge wouldn’t work on electricity at the Homestead, and there was no TV, so we took an unpowered site. It was a pretty place, but rundown. It was a pub/meals/service station/caravan park in the middle of nowhere. Apparently it was an important staging camp in WW2 and was named after the Doctor who was based there.

It was a bit like Old MacDonald’s farm, with ducks and geese wandering around the park and chooks in the laundry yard. There was also a great pool, but it was well hidden. AND a free laundry, so I really caught up.

There are a lot of bike (push not motor) riders up here. I can’t think of anything worse. There was a woman camping beside us last night, who was travelling by bike. And she was no spring chicken. She left before we even woke up and we passed her about 50kms down the road. She left before we even woke up and we passed her about 50kms down the road. I think that would be a very dangerous thing to do. Usually the riders are in groups of 2.

The wind was the worst we have experienced so far, but fortunately it was a tail wind.

We are now at Daly Waters, a really interesting (!!) place. Considering it is off the Stuart Hwy, it is a very popular place. I’ll put a couple of photos on the web page – they will explain the place much better than I can. We are staying here tonight. They have a meal and entertainment each night, so we’ll go to that.

(And some really good news, our fridge works on power here.)

We are now going to see the Stuart Tree, I don’t know what it is, and tomorrow we are going to check out a WW2 airfield.

16/5/06

The meal and entertainment was excellent last night. We both had ½ and ½ (1/2 Barramundi and ½ steak with 6 salads). The entertainment was a professional country and western singer and then the son from the pub, who sang and played by himself, then with the other singer and also with his mate. The main reason we went to Daly Waters was because the owners had applied for a VISE tutor. I didn’t apply because we didn’t know when we would get there, but asked had they had any luck and (unfortunately) they had, because the student was the singer. He was only 15, but seemed much older. His Mum said he is doing really well – AND LOVES MATHS. What a bummer.

The amenities at Daly Waters are en-suite unisex again – and looked like portables. They were so awful this morning, that both of us gave showers a miss. Fuel prices are high now, but Daly Waters had the cheapest price we have seen for a while (173.9c/l) – and we didn’t fill up. We also missed out at the thermal springs at Mataranka, when we went into the township, it was more expensive there. That seems weird to me.

After we left the park, we called into the WW2 aerodrome. Starting at Daly Waters, there have been quite a few WW2 sites including a hospital, more aerodromes and, of all things, an abattoir (most in ruins). I realise Cyclone Monica has done a lot of damage in this area, but, despite that, I am sure the brochures for a lot of these places exaggerate somewhat. We had intended staying at Mataranka tonight, but when we got there, decided not to. After our experiences the last couple of nights, I now check the facilities before we book in. So we came on to Katherine – which means we have a phone again – great.

Northern Territory doesn’t have speed limits on the open roads, so the cars and truck fly, but they do have good roads. On the way to Katherine, we had to drive through some fire, but we think it was a controlled burn off – although we didn’t see any people around.

17/5/06

We’ve had our faith in Northern Territory caravan parks restored. The one here at Katherine is really nice, and only about a 5 minute walk to a (supposedly) hot thermal spring. The water temperature is just right. I had a dip yesterday, but Barrie read the sign on the way to it saying you don’t have to worry about the fresh water crocs and when they see a salt water one, they move it on. So he wasn’t going to take a chance. However, when we went to check it out, we realised you could see it was quite safe. They had another country and western singer for entertainment last night, but he wasn’t crash hot (maybe we are getting picky) so we only stayed for a couple of songs.

We are having tire trouble at the moment. We have had to replace 2 tyres on the one wheel. Barrie thought it must be the shock absorber but when he took it off, it looked OK. He’ll check it out properly when we get home. It’s not just a normal unit, so there is no way we could get a replacement here.

We have now got well ahead of what we had intended, so have decided to go to Broome now instead of Darwin, then go to Darwin and spend more time here when we get back. We would like to be in Darwin by 13/6 to meet up with the Murphys, we also want to catch up with a couple we have met on the way, but they are going to be in Darwin for 5 weeks, so we’ll have no trouble there.

When Barrie gets back from picking up the tyres, we are going for another dip in the hot springs. Barrie chickened out again, but I had my dip – and lived to tell the story. We had barramundi and chips. (Barrie cooked the chips, we have to get rid of all our fresh fruit and vegetables before crossing the border.) While I was waiting for our fish to be cooked, a man came in and bought a 6-pack - $16.65, even the man who bought them blanched.

18/5/06

It was a very pretty trip from Katherine to Timber Creek where we are staying tonight (a bit rugged again, but not as bad as the other ones). Most of the trip was through the Gregory National Park, which is surrounded by mountains. We passed through Victoria River which is in a gorge. Not only was the scenery pretty, but also the birdlife, we even saw t sets of (we think they are) brolgas.

The cyclone has washed away the edges of the road along the way, and there were quite a few potholes, still with water in them. On the way to Daly Waters, there were deep gullies on either side of the road, filled with water. Barrie had wondered if there were any crocs there but we didn’t see any. But one of the women we had dinner with that night thought she did. There were crocodiles in the streets in Katherine when it was in flood. And tourism is way down because they are showing up in places they have never been before. Apparently the rains have washed them down.

Northern Territory is still very old Australia, with everybody called mate, and no-one seems to be in a hurry.

The caravan park here is on Timber Creek. We have just been for a walk to the creek and there are crocodiles basking in the sun on the other side. I don’t think there were any this side.
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