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carmel’s Travel Diary

Sunday, 11 Jun 2006

Location: Mt Isa, Qld, Australia


We went for a helicopter ride over Katherine Gorge this morning. It was only 10 minutes but we got to see 5 gorges. We also saw some sewerage ponds. The pilot said a crocodile lived in them, and, apparently, crocodiles from sewerage ponds have the best skins for tanning. (As long as they don’t sell the flesh for meat!) It was my first helicopter ride (Barrie was in one in PNG) and I really enjoyed it even though I was in the front seat – with no door. It was quite hairy when he had to do a left bank. He assured me I was well belted in, but it was still scary. We then went walking in the gorge. The river, which looked like a small stream from the air, was probably 200m wide. The aboriginal information centre by the gorge, Nitmiluk Visitor Centre, was really impressive – and free.

On the way out there we saw a camel (there were 2 on the way back – AND I’ve got photographic proof this time, Jarryd), a plane which had either been dumped or crashed (but it certainly wasn’t going anywhere again) and a flood marker for the 1998 floods (it would have been 2 metres above the road.

This afternoon we went to Springvale Homestead, the oldest original homestead in the Territory. It wasn’t very interesting.


We left Katherine early this morning as I wanted to have a dip in the thermal pool at Mataranka – and it was excellent. It was a really cool morning, and the water in the pool is a permanent 33oC, so it was great. The last time we were there, the pool had standing space only, (yuk!) so I gave it a miss. But this time, initially I was the only one there, although 4 more people came later. I could handle that number. Obviously the secret is ‘get there early’. It turned out to be much deeper than I had expected, I couldn’t touch the bottom.

I’ve worked out the ‘grilled lizard’ sign. I saw another one today ‘Don’t burn your bird’. The Territorians might be right into controlled burns, but definitely not accidental fires – fair enough.

Almost all day today, there has been a steady stream of caravans going west – and they seem to be coming from everywhere. We initially thought they might have been from South Australia. There don’t seem to be anywhere near as many going east.

The scenery east of Katherine is not nearly as interesting – there are many more trees, and it is much flatter, although there are a lot more wattles.

We are staying at the Dunmarra roadhouse, and it is definitely a big step up from the other roadhouse parks we’ve stayed at. The area also has an interesting history, being first explored in 1861. They have a great selection of snakes here, plus some tongue in cheek signs. I’ll try putting one on my web page.

Just across the road from the roadhouse, was a billabong. Apparently it was really only a dam, but Cyclone Monica had made it very large, with lots of birds. I wondered if there would also be crocodiles, but I was assured there weren’t. (As you can see, I’m really hung up on crocodiles.)


We have now hit the cross and head winds. There were even warning signs along the road. One said ‘Head winds increase consumption’, which we found out for ourselves. We had to use our spare can of fuel. Generally we use 11 litres per 100kms, but our fuel consumption went up to 15 litres per 100kms. Fuel is considerably more expensive than in Queensland, but in both WA and the NT, drivers can get a free coffee when they fill up.

We spent the night at a free 24 hour park at Wonarah Bore; there were no toilets or showers there so the vans have to be well set up – we are only barely marginal. The sunset, once again, was spectacular. I think this is one of the benefits of travelling along the Savannagh Way. Being on the Savannagh plain, means you can see for miles.


It was hard to get up this morning. At 7.18am (when we left), it was 8.5oC, although the temperature doubled in the first 2 hours.

We passed a farmhouse with a sign ‘Sorry, no fuel’ outside and a petrol tanker broken down out front. Also, for the first time in the whole trip, we passed a road train instead of them flying past us.

As I have mentioned earlier, there are a lot of vans going west, not so many going east. Well, this morning, a caravan coming towards us was unlucky. Just as we were about to pass each other, there was a large dead kangaroo on his side and there was no way he could miss it (without hitting us) so he straddled it and it got caught up in his undercarriage for a time. We also saw some more brolgas, wedge-tailed eagles and, of course, many, many crows. However I expected to see a lot more (live) kangaroos.

I’m very proud of myself - I’ve driven the caravan in both NT and QLD (all 10metres over the border), although I did keep driving another 10kms into Cannoweal, but that was enough. I don’t know if I’m happy or sad to be back in Qld as it means our trip is nearly over. It seems to have been much better farmland ever since Wonarah Bore.

We got a real welcome into Qld – 70 kms of roadworks (and Barrie works on the principle if you drive over it fast, you get off it fast). The old road was beside the finished road, it was only just wide enough for one car – a real disgrace.


We are now back at Copper City Caravan Park and are staying for a week. It will be nice to have a breather, although Barrie hasn’t yet. He’s done a big clean-up, plus service the car (an unexpected job, but he tried booking it in both at Katherine and here at the Isa, but there was a week’s waiting list at both places).

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