A Travellerspoint blog

Northern Territory to WA

A fleeting visit to the Kimberley

all seasons in one day

We had to come back down the Northern Territory the same way we went up in order to make it over the border and into WA. We decided to break the journey up by stopping at Katherine. Katherine is famous for its mighty river that has cut thirteen huge gorges into the earth and it now has the Nitmuluk National Park (Katherine Gorge National Park). 30km out of town is an information centre and the national park and everything happens from here. The river was too high and so closed for swimming or canoeing so we decided to do the bush walk from the information centre up to the first gorge, the Barrawei Lookout which was a few kilometres. It snaked next to the river up and down until you reached the cliff and then it was an extremely steep climb up steps and rocks to the top. Obviously we were in flip flops with no water as we thought it would be a short walk so by the time we got to the top in midday sun we were absolutely beside ourselves, sweaty and bright red and it felt like we were climbing up to the actual sun.
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But it was worth it at the top. The views over the river and gorge were beautiful, you could see for miles over the countryside and you forgot you were only 30km from town and felt you were at the top of the world in the middle of nowhere. We lingered at the top in the breeze admiring the views before making the decent back down.
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It took a few more hours to make it to the WA border but on the way we saw a wild dingo stood in the dry grasses which is our first wild dingo we have seen alive. At the border we celebrated and stopped for a photo of the sign. We have now made it through Tasmania, Victoria, New South Wales, the Australian Capital Territory, Queensland, the Northern Territory and now Western Australia!
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At the border you have to stop at quarantine to have your vehicle and belongings inspected. You can't take plants, soil, fruit, veg, flowers or honey across the border and they do a thorough check in and around your car, in your boxes of food and eskies. Then you are free to go, and politely reminded that the speed limit is only 110km in WA.
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The scenery in this area is all huge, red, Rocky Mountains, balls of spinifex grass and cows. We stopped in Kununurra to restock up on fresh food, get information from the info centre and make some calls while we had phone reception. We know we want to see the whale sharks a bit further down the west coast at Exmouth and assumed it would be busy so would have to book in advance so gave them a call. They have been fully booked every day since the season began so we decided to book for ten days time which gave us a while to get down there. There is a 90minute time difference once you cross the border so it was now only 11am again so we decided to drive a bit more since there was nothing here we really wanted to see. We drove a few hundred kilometres and stopped at Leycester rest area, a free camp spot next to the highway. We set up out little tent on some spiky dry grass next to a fire pit and settled in for the night, glad to be back in our tent in the middle of nowhere.
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It rained all night and when we woke up storm clouds were looming ominously so we quickly packed up, we are the time trial tent packing champions at the minute and set off, having breakfast on the way and stopping for a service station coffee. Some of the things we were thinking of doing in the area were closed due to wet season. Both the bungle bungle ranges road and the tanami track road, leading to Wolfe Creek meteor crater were closed so we powered on driving all day on a gloomy day. We also found out lots of the four wheel drive tracks were closed and several national parks due to lingering wet conditions. We decided to just drive to Broome, we had another night in a rest area by the road, near Fiztzroy Crossing and powered on through stormy skies all the way to Broome. On the last leg just before Derby is the Boab rest area, a pull in with a ginormous Boab tree in the centre so we pulled in for a look. The area is famous for its distinct Boab trees and in colonial times these were often used as prison lock ups by the police as they have huge hollowed out trunks. We stood in amazement looking up at the gigantic, bulbous tree walking round, looking inside it and having loads of fun climbing it.
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Since everything was closed this turned out to be the highlight of our trip through the Kimberley but that was ok, pretending we're spider man kept us entertained for ages.

Posted by Chelsandliam 20:17 Archived in Australia Tagged australia katherine_gorge kimberley Comments (0)

Exploring Darwin tropical city

sunny 34 °C

Driving to Darwin from Lichfield took no time at all and before we knew it we were approaching the city with no plans where to stay. We called in at the information centre and were told there is only one campsite in the city surround that takes tents, the rest are 20km or more out. We gave them a call and the camping area was flooded. This meant we either could stay miles out of the city or say farewell to our tent for a few nights in a bed. Obviously we went for the second option and after phoning a few places decided on a double room in a hostel.

After having long hot showers, a lay down on the bed and few jugs of beer in the hostel bar we went out to explore.
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Every Thursday and Sunday evening in the dry season there is a sunset market at Mindall Beach so we walked down to the waterfront from the city centre. It was quite a long hot walk, we don't remember ever feeling the sun so strong after 5pm. The market is superb, there is a huge amount of different food stalls to chose from, from all different cuisines, we nibbled on a veggie spring roll while we decided. We wanted everything so decided to share, we ordered a wood fired pizza which we sat and shared and then later we shared two curry, rice and a roti.
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The main reason people come to the beach is the sunset however. It is one of the first places as you travel west that the sun sets of their water and hundreds of people gather on the soft sand to watch the sky turn red and the sun disappear beyond the waves. After dinner we found a spot on the sand and waited patiently and we were not disappointed with a beautiful show the sun greeted us with, clear skies and bright red and orange views. It was beautiful and a perfect way to end a huge trip across the country.
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We had one full day in Darwin which we went out exploring. We wandered through the city and browsed the shops. The city is very pleasant, full of palm trees with a relaxed feeling and we walked down to the waterfront area and quays. This area all looks brand new and pristine. There are lines of Palm trees, a swimming area, a wave pool as well as a lovely line of cafes on the waterfront with beautiful views. We sat at a cafe and had a needed cold beer and some nuts admiring the view. The heat in Darwin is oppressive, just walking around the city made us hot and sweaty but nevertheless we have really liked Darwin. It is one of the most laid back cities in Australia we have visited and its tropical feeling and friendly people are a refreshing difference from the dry outback we have been traveling through.
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We spent the evening having beers around the pool bar at our hostel and relishing in the air conditioning of our room before we set off again tomorrow. Nothing beats being in the wilderness with our tent though!

Posted by Chelsandliam 20:16 Archived in Australia Tagged australia darwin Comments (0)

Waterfall heaven at Lichfield National Park

sunny 34 °C

As we neared towards Lichfield National Park we called in at the ranger station at Bachelor on the way in to check which bits of the park were open. The four wheel drive tracks were closed due to the amount of rain they had been having and only two campgrounds were open, Wangi Falls and the 4 wheel drive campground at Florence Falls. Since there were only two open we decided to go to Florence as we thought Wangi would be too busy or full and there is no campfires permitted there. It is only a short drive into the park, and you have to collect your firewood from the sides on the main road in the way in, so we stopped a few times and filled our car with bits of wood. At the turnoff for Florence there is a 1km dirt track to the 4WD campground which is quite bumpy and steep at times but Brian the Pajero did his job beautifully.
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We were the only people there which made us a little nervous but we didn't like the look of the other campground as it was on gravel and seemed more suited to caravans and trailer tents so we stayed. It is only a small campground with individual spots and fire pits and a composting toilet and is surrounded by lush forest and the sound of running water. There is an honesty box to pay your $6.60 each a night at the entrance to the campground.
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It was quite a late arrival for us so we settled in, cooked some veggie hot dogs and sat around the fire for the night, a couple more people turned up so we weren't totally alone in the wilderness.

Lichfield National Park is a vast sea of forest, that as you drive through and see over the hills seems to go on forever. The main attraction at Lichfield is its waterfalls as it has several fresh water swimming holes that are croc free. We spent the morning visiting Wangi Falls, the most popular spot at the park and we can see why. Although swimming was closed due to heavy rain and crocodiles we could walk around them and see them from the lookouts. They are so beautiful, two cascades fall over rocks into a large plunge pool. They were really full and impressive but we were hot just looking at them so went in search of a swim.
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Florence falls was open to swimming and close to our campground so we headed here. You can walk to the falls from the 4WD campground but there was a scary sign about crocodiles and the footpath hugged the river. Since there was no one around and we were nervous about it we decided to drive. It was a tiny drive to the car park and a short walk down hundreds of steps to the bottom of the falls. We stopped at the top to look at the falls and take some photos.
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They were even more impressive than Wangi, really full of water and seemed to flow straight out of the green of the forest.
At the bottom you can swim in the plunge pool and swim around in the gorgeously refreshing fresh water. We spent the afternoon here swimming and we loved swimming under the falls being pounded by the water. It was full of fish that try to nibble your feet and although it was busy with people it was so relaxing.
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Another popular thing to do at Lichfield is to view the termite mounds. There are two types of mounds, both absolutely massive and at the lookout area there are literally hundreds of mounds across the fields, reminiscent of gravestones only larger. There is also a huge cathedral termite mound next to the road which we stopped at for a closer look that towered above us.
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Lots of things were closed at the national park so we decided to only stay two nights but it is such a beautiful area that we have thoroughly enjoyed. It is a lush green scape, full of streams and waterfalls and nothing beats sitting round a camp fire on a warm evening in the middle of the forest. Being back, surrounded by green nature has been lovely and although the heat and humidity are testing, especially in the tent it is a real treat to experience some of the Northern Territory. We are off to Darwin in the morning, a big achievement for us as we have now made it all the way from Melbourne, around and up to the top of Australia, into the tropical city where we will finally be able to see the sunset over the water after spending more that 18 months on the east coast.

Posted by Chelsandliam 17:32 Archived in Australia Tagged australia nt northern_territory lichfield lichfield_national_park Comments (0)

The middle of nowhere

Queensland to the northern territories

sunny 35 °C

Since there was nothing we wanted to see for the next few thousand kilometres we had some very long driving days. We left Winton early and made it as far as 65km before Mount Isa before we decided to set up camp. The drive was very different to the flat red desert around Winton. Here was rugged red mountain ranges and dry vegetation on a road with lots of bends, passing Eagles, emus and the usual array of dead animals on the road. large_062A971607F02D52E40CD39581667C99.jpgOn the way we stopped off at both McKinley and Cloncurry. At McKinley is the actual pub from the film Crocodile Dundee and Liam really wanted to see it. It was an old style outback pub, with a wood verandah and memorabilia covering every interior wall. We ordered two scooners of Dundee Draught and sat in the shade on the porch out of the midday sun, which was heaven looking out over the outback and the car from the film, never never safari tours. There is the actual set around back which we had a look at and then we were on our way again.
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We had another short stop off at Cloncurry to do some shopping as our food and wine stocks were low. We camped at another free spot on a huge dam called Corella Dam. It was the weekend and so was quite busy with Ausie families, and there obligatory noisy generators but it was a pleasant spot, on the water.large_062E7D0F0EDDCD1C7A39DED88FFEA279.jpg The highlight of the day, our new daily talking point, was an actual tumbleweed, rolling across the road in a dusty middle of nowhere while we were dirty and sweaty in the car.

From Mount Isa it was a huge drive to the edge of Queensland and into the Northern Territories, 800km in 9 hours.large_062FFEB8D2E90DB365A16D6C7D5F1E1C.jpg Here the landscape totally changed to vast flat grassland, in all directions was a flat expanse of nothing, just dry grass and a very very straight road. We drove all day, refuelling several times and were planning to stay at a free camp spot north of Tennant Creek called The Pebbles but when we arrived we didn't get a good feeling about it. There were burnt out fires, surrounded by rubbish and the toilets had been cordoned off. No one was around and we wouldn't have felt comfortable there alone in the middle of the night so at 4pm we decided to carry on. Half an hour on was a free rest stop with the charming name of 'attack creek rest area' next to the road that permitted overnight campers so we pitched up for the night at the rest stop on a patch of dry dirt. It was very dry, the ground just cracked when we put the pegs in, and it was so hard we couldn't get most of them in at all so just slept in a saggy unpegged tent as we knew there was absolutely no chance of rain.
Although we were extremely tired and cranky, and a little nervous breakdown, that night we were greeted yet again to a spectacular night sky and a shooting star. There were no trees as it was flat for miles so the stars went from horizon to horizon and after eating and a glass of wine we were content with our little patch of dirt. Sleeping was a struggle as it was so incredibly hot, it seemed like the heat was coming from the ground, like a massive red radiator.
Highlight of the day however.... A bull in the middle of the road that refused to move so we had to stop. We beeped but it just looked at us and ignored us. We drove around it and it nonchalantly looked at us so we just flashed oncoming cars to let them know.

From here was a very hot and sweaty tent packup in the morning, even at 7am it was unbearable, so unbearable we drove with the aircon on and the windows up for the next few hundred kilometres. The landscape was red dirt and trees for most of the way with another very straight and long road. At the side of the road at one point we saw an absolutely massive wedge tailed eagle, sat on a carcass of a dead roo watching the cars. It was beautiful. We decided to have a shorter day and camped at Elsey National Park. Unlike Queensland you couldn't book so we had no idea how much or what it was like. On arrival we saw a booth with a leaflet to fill in and you post your $9 each in an envelope. The campground is a little run down but it had showers..... These became the highlight of the day as we had not had a shower since Port Douglas and were in desperate need of a clean. Around the campground are hot springs but as it was boiling we didn't fancy a dip in 34 degree water and there is the Roper river with swimming pontoons along it. However since we are not fully out of wet season yet up here it was closed due to salt water crocodiles in the area so we didn't fancy a swim here either. We ended up relaxing around camp, cooking a nice veggie chilli and sat around a campfire looking up again, a lovely way to end a day.

In the morning we got up and decided to explore the Bitter Springs, a thermal pool only a few kilometres near our campground. It was a beautiful clear pool in the middle of the jungle which you walked to from the car park. Getting in was like sliding into a warm bath but the water felt clean and refreshing. Around the pool however were clumps of slime and the rocks were slippery with algae which Chelsea didn't like so we didn't spend very long in the water.large_068B0760AD4AC2AC7E4DEB98A431C5FC.jpglarge_069A75E3EA768A95E8729DC1EA66B576.jpg From here we had planned to go to Kakadu National Park, the biggest in Australia but when we arrived at the information centre in Katherine we were told the price to enter had been raised to $40 each before camping and lots of the roads were closed due to it being wet so we changed plan. We had heard good things about Lichfield National Park, a park only an hour and a half from Darwin so we carried on up a couple of hours towards here. Highlight of the day..... Eating a baguette.

This marked the end of our outback driving as we now entered the top end of the Northern Territory. No longer the harsh dry climate of central Australia everything was green, humid and although we didn't think we could get any hotter, it was sweltering. We are glad we drove through central Australia. Although we found the conditions and the flies quite difficult the views for miles over the land, the stars and the wildlife were beautiful. It seemed like endless days of driving on the flat, where anything your skin touched immediately got sweaty and where as soon as you stepped out of the car you were filthy with red dust, but we loved it, just us and our little tent with nothing else for miles.

Posted by Chelsandliam 04:19 Archived in Australia Tagged australia outback mckinley mount_isa cloncurry Comments (1)

Outback dinosaur adventure

Camping in the dinosaur capital of australia

sunny 35 °C

We finally left the East coast and headed west after almost six weeks of sightseeing from Brisbane to Cape Tribulation. Fist we had to drive south slightly and inland from Townsville as we had a destination in mind and so couldn't just head west from Cairns.... Winton, the dinosaur capital of Australia.

We set off early as we had an appointment in Cairns to get some new tyres, and after a small wait and a walk around the shops (Liam needed a new chair...... It is his third!) we were on a totally new adventure, away from the coast and towards Australia's centre.

The road from Townsville is a highway, through farmland and stations. It starts off quite green, with grass and trees and gets more and more barren. We knew we would have to camp somewhere near Charters Towers and stayed at a free camping spot just north of the city called Fletchers Creek. It was a council run place with toilets and showers, on dry scrub land but we found a spot for the night and were pleasantly surprised with the quiet free camp spot. In the morning we were greeted with a beautiful outback sunrise of reds and oranges and after packing up a wet tent from the dew we were on our way for our first full day in the outback. Charters Towers in a big town but has nice colonial buildings, reminiscent of the Wild West.
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As soon as you get past Charters Towers you are officially in the outback. The landscape is a flat scene of low trees or just dry grass, it seems to get redder the further you go inland and it is very hot.

We had a long days drive ahead as we were hoping to reach Winton. Our first stop was Hughenden, over 200km west of Charters Towers. Here there is an information centre with a huge dinosaur skeleton inside named Hughie. We made it here before midday and had a wander around town, refuelling. The outback towns are basically just one street, often just with one or two shops and a pub. We wandered around the informal museum, admired Hughie and glanced at the glass cases with fossils and precious stones. It is extremely small and not that exciting but it only costs $5 to get in so its worth a look just for the big dinosaur.
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From here we had more than 200km to do again to get to Winton so promptly set off. When we arrived in Winton we headed for another free spot called Long Waterhole but when we arrived we were not hundred percent happy as it was on dry mud and there were no toilets so we decided to stay 20km south of town at Bladensburg National Park. It was a beautiful drive to our camp spot, through gum trees, over dry creeks and what looked like dry salt lakes. It is a lovely spot with shady sites and fire pits and a really good base for exploring the area. There is just one downside.... The flies drive you insane. They swarm you face, particularly loving to go around your eyes, ears and mouth and it's hard to escape them. We lit a fire and sat around the smoke to try and deter them which worked. After dinner we sat around the fire and was treated to our first outback stargazing. The stars are out of this world stunning. From horizon to horizon is stars and milkyway, absolutely spectacular.
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The reason we came down south to this area however was to see some dinosaurs so our only full day in Winton was spent sightseeing. Our main attraction was the Australian National Monument, The Dinosaur Stampede. It can only be viewed on a guided tour, the first one at 9.30am so we set off early at 7.30am to make it in time. The drive is 110km, and over 50km of it is unsealed dirt road. The road is not too bad, the main issue is the corrugations which shake you and the car so you feel like any minute all four wheels might just fall off but they were intermittent so we not too bad.

We arrived half an hour early so bought a ticket and patiently waited until a lady took us inside, showed us a video and then we went onto the viewing platform. This fossil is the only evidence on earth of a dinosaur stampede. It has over 3300 footprints from at least four types of different species of dinosaur and it shows a bigger carnivorous dinosaur chasing smaller herbivores.

It is an amazing sight and is vast. Our guide pointed out the different footprints and explained to us the differences in the speeds of each animals, and how you could tell this due to the fossilised mud. She explained how it was unearthed and how the layers of rock and mud had preserved. It was so interesting to be stood in the same spot that dinosaurs walked 95 million years ago.
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After the tour we had a walk around the area with an ice cream, the landscape is bright red, with ridges and pancake flat ground. On the trip back we saw emus walking in the bush.
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Our next stop was the Age of Dinosaurs museum, back in Winton, East of town 23km. We arrived here just after midday and this can also only be viewed by guided tour. We had a short wait of thirty minutes until the next tour so did the short bush walk of the area. The museum sits of a ridge and has beautiful views of the valley and ridges around.
The first tour was the fossils laboratory. This is the biggest laboratory in the Southern Hemisphere but you wouldn't think it upon entering as it looks like a small warehouse. Our guide explained that dinosaurs are a relatively new find in Australia and the problem is that they are finding them faster than they can prepare them. There were still bones on the shelf from 2002 that have not been prepared yet as it is an extremely slow and laborious task. But the museum is growing and more and more people are helping and donating.

We learned the process in finding and excavating bones. Once found they dig around them as best they can. They they wrap the whole thing in a layer of tin foil, then a layer of newspaper, then a plaster cast to keep it safe and in place to transport it. They then move the bone and transfer it to the lab to be processed. There were shelves full of huge plaster parcels, labeled with things like thigh, rib or just very interesting!
There were a few fossils displayed and a huge vertebrae bone of a sauropod that you could touch. Around the other side were people preparing actual dinosaur bones and you could watch them with there tools delicately scraping away a millimetre at a time. Also displayed was a métier. A few years ago a big métier fell in Queensland, just outside Winton. It was found within 2 years of it falling and had split into three pieces. It is one of the only new specimens of métier there is as normally they go unfound for years and so decay in the weather but this one is in prime condition and is being studied and they have found new compounds not found anywhere on earth.
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After the tour of the lab we went straight into a tour of the actual collection. Once prepared the bones are put into a collection where they are housed at specific temperatures. Here we could see the size of the bones, huge leg bones meant this type of dinosaur was the biggest on the planet. This room is the only room of its type to let visitors in to see the actual bones and they were all laid out while the guide talked about them.
They are currently building a third building on the sight which will be more of a conventional museum with dinosaur skeletons and information. The whole day was really good, and to see it was once in a lifetime. After another lovely night in camp around the fire, some kangaroo spotting and some more epic stargazing we were ready for some more outback adventures. large_0612C764D0301074E4D323261316447E.jpglarge_0601957B0708F1BCB7DFCD43350EC760.jpg

Posted by Chelsandliam 03:58 Archived in Australia Tagged australia outback winton red_centre dinosaur_stampede Comments (0)

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