Where are we now?

Where are we now?
Where are we now? Tahmoor, NSW. Updated 7th December 2011

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Day 182. Mataranka to Daly Waters

Beef and Barra

After an early morning Skype to mum, we all got moving so we could catch the Barramundi feeding and markets at the neighbouring caravan park this morning. We were there by 9am, so we had a quick look at the markets (which consisted of a whole 6 stalls), patted the resident donkeys, and found a spot over at the small man made billabong to see the fish feeding.
Scarlett's turn

It's quite famous in these parts the barramundi are huge and get hand caught by their mouths as they take the bait and lifted up out of the water for everyone to see. Well that is how it is supposed to happen anyway. It is a little cold in these parts at the moment; only 22 deg in the water where barramundi like it more around the 32 deg mark. They took the bait off the rods, but wouldn't play the game with being fed by hand. Scarlett didn't care as she got a turn of holding the fishing rod to feed them. They hit the bait like a rocket, and there is a huge splash but with their speed unfortunately no chance of getting a decent photo.

Before leaving town we decided to check out the 'We of the Never Never' homestead replica and the 'Thermal Pool'.  Matranka was home to Jeannie Gunn who penned the Australian classic book 'We of the Never Never'. Jeannie married Aeneas Gunn and lived and worked 'Elsey Station' in 1902. After Aeneas died and Jeannie moved away and in 1908 'We of the Never Never' was written about the characters and experiences of her life out here in the Australian outback.

The homestead replica that was used for the movie 'We of the Never Never'

The Thermal Pools; which are located within walking distance from the homestead, were beautiful. I think this will be the last of these swims, as heading south they are more of a rarity. The pools had a boardwalk that meandered it's way down through the monsoonal rainforest to a palm fringed crystal clear thermal pool. It's warm inviting waters had us all floating around in total relaxation. They were so clear, and with snorkeling mask's on the visibility was like looking through a normal domestic pool.

We all had a great time here, this wasn't one of the biggest pools we have swam in so far, but was one of the prettiest. We have really enjoyed all the thermal pools and springs; they are a great way for Scarlett to snorkel and see what fish and plants live in these parts, as they are all so clear. After getting back to the van and changing into some dry clothes, we had a spot of lunch and settled in for today's drive.

We have stooped for the night out back of  'Daly Waters Pub', another Australia icon. The memorabilia that lines the walls inside and outside was fascinating. Inside the bar area was a large number of overseas/Australian travellers id's, foreign currency, hats, bras, thongs, g-strings, jersey's, photos, business cards, and literally anything else you can think of that people have left their mark on visiting this place with. Outside the pub is an eclectic mass of road signs, car parts, a working set of traffic lights, a parking meter, old bottles, horse shoes, farm equipment, and old number plates. It was very interesting to say the least.

Daly Waters Pub

We forked out a whole $14 for an unpowered site out the back, and pre-ordered their famous 'Barra and Beef'' for dinner. When we arrived for dinner they gave Scarlett an activity book, where she had to find answers throughout the beer garden hidden in the myriad of items adorning the walls and roof. She had a lot of ball doing it, and after answering all the questions and colouring in the pictures the bar staff told her to help herself to any of the ice-cream's in the chest out the front she liked. I would have picked a magnum (the most expensive indulgence); but she went with a humble paddle pop cup.

Scarlett with her free ice cream in the main bar area

Dinner was so yummy, the Beef and Barra came straight off a BBQ out in the beer garden; and there was a huge fresh salad bar with crusty warm bread to accompany it. There was free entertainment in the beer garden also, with a man singing and doing a little stand up comedy. With a wonderful dinner, a few drinks and Scarlett's free ice cream we had all had a very enjoyable and memorable evening.

A load of ASLAV tanks being delivered back up north, the drivers stopped in here at the pub for the evening.
This pic is for 'Grumpy'

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Day 181. Edith Falls to Mataranka

Swimming in a fish bowl

This morning we woke up, packed up, and headed south towards Katherine. Although we visited this thriving country metropolis on our way north to Kakadu and Darwin a couple of weeks ago, we still needed to pass through this town to pick up some supplies before striking south into new territory!

On the way into town we noticed that the Katherine Markets were on; so we found somewhere to park the van and headed over to check it out. Bec ended up commenting that it was smaller than she would of imagined for what is probably the biggest town within 300kms, and that might be the case; but Bec still found things to buy! She found a stall that sold all types of rocks and minerals; and ended up buying 3 or 4 rocks for Scarlett's ever increasing rock collection. (Admittedly they were very cheap compared to rocks we have seen in shops along our travels). We also bought some fresh Asian cuisine that was super delicious!

We also stopped in at Woolworths to pick up some last minute supplies; and ended up running into our newest friends we met back in Darwin. You might remember us mentioning them earlier as they are over from Spain visiting their parents who are presently on the road also. It's such a a small world!

We got talking for quite some time, while Scarlett and their kids had a blast playing and catching up on what each other had been up to since our last encounter. Unfortunately we had to eventually say goodbye as they were off to Daly Waters today; and we were continuing our journey down to Mataranka. I must say that it was great to see them again, and we ended up exchanging contact details so we can catch up via email etc, some time down the track. (I have a special interest as the kids dad - sorry but I never did actually catch his name - he is a racing car driver back in Spain; and I hope to follow how he goes once he returns. We ended up talking about F1 quite a bit - namely Alonso and Webber, so we had a common interest).

We ended up getting our supplies, including diesel, and used the remaining time in town to download our last two days worth of blogs before hitting the road again.

Bec and Scarlett 'floating' in Bitter Springs

An hour or so later and we pulled into Mataranka. We headed straight out to 'Bitter Springs'; to get our bearings, and to have a quick look around before finding somewhere to camp for the night. Only 500mtrs from 'Bitter Springs' is 'Mataranka Cabins and Camping'; where we decided to stay the night. It was an easy set up, as I left the van connected to the pajero. I literally only had to connect up power and water. It was then straight down to the springs for a relaxing dip.

Bitter Springs are truly amazing! When we first slid into the water, it was crystal clear and we found it mind blowing how far we could see under water. It was almost like looking through thin air; except for the thousands of tropical fish swimming everywhere and the green weed that covered almost everything. Here, the water is a constant 32 deg celsius which we think is a little too warm to be a perfect relaxing temperature; but it was a nice change from the cold waters we recently experienced back in the deep plunge pools of Litchfield National Park.

We really weren't the adventuresome trio that you have all come to know! Bitter Springs for us mainly consisted of wading into the warm waters of the Spring and drifting with the flow down along the stream that connects the two swimming areas. This Aquatrail drifts a couple of hundred metres down through the Springs. The water is incredibly clear, and wearing a mask and snorkel, numerous tropical fish could be seen swimming amongst the reed beds. At the end of the gentle drift, a ladder leads out of the water where we would climb out and return to the main pool for another go round. It was a really beautiful experience!

In 1902, Jeannie Gunn described Bitter Springs in her book; We of the Never Never - 'A chain of clear crystal pools with emerald-green mossy banks and everywhere sunflecked, warm, dry shade'.

How true!

This evening we have been sitting back and relaxing. Scarlett went straight to sleep after such a big day, and Bec watched a movie in bed, before drifting off to sleep herself.

I plan on watching the F1 qualifications live on the computer straight after finishing this blog and uploading it!

Good night....

Friday, July 29, 2011

Day 180. Litchfield Park to Edith Falls

A change in plans

Today we leave Litchfield National Park, and I can see why so many people seem to like it here more than Kakadu National Park. It’s an oasis of natural springs, waterfalls and beautiful crystal clear swimming holes. It provides limitless places to escape the heat thus making it a hard one to resist. But there is no culture here; no aboriginal art, billabongs, big ‘salties’, or the scenery Kakadu is so famous for. So what I am trying to say is they simply can’t be compared, because they are so completely different. We have loved both, and both for completely different reasons.

The plan for today was to move onto Daly River to try my hand at catching a barra, but with my tooth still hurting and the birth of the new baby calling me home, we’ve decided the detour could wait for another trip.

We stopped in at the ‘Batchelor Butterfly Farm’ because of Scarlett’s love for butterflies. Shane stayed in the caravan uploading the last couple of days blogs; (with the internet now back in service here) while Scarlett and I went in. The gardens were lovely; it felt like we were in wonderful little fairy glen. There were day beds, swinging chairs and cool water features making it a little tropical haven for butterflies. The really cool big butterflies were housed in a walk in shade house, which had so many plants and a little water course running around the perimeter.

There was an array of species to be found, including: Ulysses, Wanderer, Egg Fly, Lurcher and Cruiser butterflies. We spent ages just walking around the shade house trying to get them to land on our fingers, and to get a photo of the spectacular Ulysses butterfly. While I was relaxing outside on one of the swing chairs, Scarlett was walking around with the gardener who explained all the different plants in the garden and why each one was special for attracting butterflies. She even cut some fresh flowers for Scarlett to take back with her; and we ended up pressing a couple and put the rest in a cup of water - a really nice gesture.

The famous Charlie
It is a big drive today, as we have now decided to stop at ‘Edith Falls’; which is over 250km’s away. We missed this spot on the way north into Kakadu as they had no vacancies, but calling ahead this time we were luckier. Along the way we stopped at the famous ‘Adelaide River Roadhouse’ which is home to ‘Charlie’ the buffalo out of the movie ‘Crocodile Dundee’. Unfortunately Charlie is no longer living out the back of the pub alive and well in his pen as once was the case, but is now stuffed and resides over the bar. It was a really cool to see him, even if Scarlett had a hard time understanding how he looked so real but was in fact long dead.

After some lunch in a park overlooking the river, we were soon back out on the road. I always look out my window when we pass over any water course in hope of seeing a croc, and until today I never actually have. As we passed over the bridge at ‘Fergusson River’ I looked down over the guard rail and sunning itself out of the water on a rock was a 1.5mtr croc. I was so excited but there was nowhere to turn around or pull over so I will now never know if it was a ‘saltie’ or ‘freshie’, oh well.

When we got to Edith Falls we were straight out of the car and into our swimmers; heading down to check out the falls. The pool here is huge, and the falls were way across over on the other side; so we put on our snorkel and goggles and hit the water for the long swim across. The water was very fresh, and with the swim across so big we brought along Scarlett’s swimming noodle in case she got tired.

Edith Falls

When we finally made it over to the waterfall the current was so strong we couldn’t get very close to it. We climbed out nearby and soaked up the warm sun rays and caught our breath. Shane swam down to the base of the waterfall, and said he could see so many fish; big ones too! It’s a pity you can’t fish here.

Shane and Scarlett on the swim back

Lucky we did bring the noodle across, as Scarlett got really tired on the swim back and we had to give her a little push to help get her across. It was a big swim but well worth it. We all felt great when we finally made it back. Fully refreshed from today’s big drive, we sat around and had a drink outside of the van. The weather is fantastic here with the sun slowly setting and the temperature really mild.

We cooked a BBQ for dinner on the free gas BBQ’s at our site, and enjoyed every mouthful. I think today we really earned it.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Day 179. Litchfield Park

The refreshing waters of Litchfield…

We woke to another glorious Northern Territory sunrise. The Blue Winged Kookaburra’s were in full chorus; competing against the raucous screeching of the Sulphur Crested Cockatoos.

We begrudgingly climbed out of bed ready to tackle a new day. I prep’d the Pajero, as Bec cooked up a storm in the kitchen; tuna pasta salad for lunch. Scarlett wanted to help, so she cleaned up her toys, made her bed, and brushed her teeth.

Bec, Scarlett, and a Cathedral Termite Mound

No Bull!
We were on the road by 9am; and the first destination today was Sandy Creek Falls – or better known as Tjaynera Falls. It was about 12km’s of rough dirt track down to the car park; along the way we came across a number of feral cattle that ran right across the track in front of us. We also crossed a number of fast flowing creeks; with one or two clearly marked signs indicating that crocodiles inhabit these waters. Mmm…

We finally reached the car park, and found out that it was still another 1.7km walk up to Tjaynera Falls and its plunge pool. Bec and I loaded up our backpacks with towels, swimmers, masks and snorkels; and with Scarlett in tow we all started along the well marked trail. About half an hour later the sound of crashing water indicated that we had reached our destination.

Bec, and Scarlett swimming at Sandy Creek Falls

What can I say? It felt like we had walked straight into a travel brochure as the waters were crystal clear and the atmosphere was magical. The warmth of the sun coming over the escarpment and the dark shadows from the towering cliffs created a mini ecosystem that made it felt like we were in the middle of nowhere. The only sound was the falling waters from the creek above; so we soon changed into swimmers and ‘plunged’ into the ‘freezing’ cold waters of the deep plunge pool. I’m not kidding; the water was freezing!

This plunge pool was the deepest we have encountered yet. Snorkelling along the edge we could see the bottom disappear into the dark depths below. We did encounter a number of fish and a lone Long Necked Turtle during our ‘refreshing’ swim, but the cold ended up being a bit too much for Scarlett so we soon retreated back to the welcoming sandy shores and our warm towels.

Blythe Homestead

The walk out went without a hitch, and we were soon back in the car and on our way to our next destination; ‘Blythe Homestead’. This place is a reminder of the hardships of earlier times. The homestead was used as an outstation for the children from the main cattle station here at Litchfield before it was a National Park. They ran cattle and a small tin mine just behind the homestead. Times were tough and they had to be self reliant, by growing their own vegetables and waiting for the fortnightly supply visits from their father; this was the only communication they had with the outside world. We walked down and had a look at the remnants of the small tin mine; and Scarlett brought back her usual handfuls of rocks containing tin and shards of silica.

We took the opportunity to have some time out to enjoy our gourmet lunch here in the car park that Bec had prepared earlier this morning. It was a great change from sandwiches; and we all thoroughly enjoyed it. Thanks honey!

Watch out! Crocodile crossing ahead.

Next we stopped in and had a look at the Tolmer Falls lookout. Unfortunately access to the bottom of these falls has been restricted, as it is now a sacred site for the local aboriginal women. There are also colonies of endangered Ghost Bats, and Orange Horse Shoe Bats, that live in the caves at the bottom of the waterfall. The view from the top was spectacular; and I’m sure both Bec and Scarlett were glad that we didn’t have to walk down to the bottom, only to walk back up again.

Tolmer Falls

It was still early afternoon, so we thought another swim would be a fantastic way of finishing off the day. We stopped in at Green Ant Creek, but it was a 3.5km round walk and closed to swimming anyway. So we continued on looking for a more easily accessible place to go for a well earned swim. With the walk we did this morning, as well as the heat build up; the last thing any one of us wanted was another hike into a gorge to find a swimming hole.

We saw a sign for ‘the Cascades’; which we had only heard about last night at the Ranger slide show. We decided to investigate and see if it would be worth a visit. It turned out to be another 1.3km in to the Lower Cascades; but we were all ready to tackle another walk, if the swim at the other end was deemed ‘worthy’.
Oh no! A log crossing!
So again we ‘geared up’ and went in search of a new swimming waterhole. (This is part of the fun with what we are presently doing up here in the ‘Territory’; or more precisely within Litchfield National Park. We love the exploring and discovery of new hidden oasis’s, especially the swimming waterholes. With the heat and humidity it’s a great way to cool off and relax). After about twenty minutes of walking along the creek banks and having to criss cross over the cool running water a number of times as we made our way up the creek, we finally came to a plunge pool and waterfall known as the ‘Curtain Waterfall’. This is at the lower part of ‘the Cascades’; which continue for another 700mtrs up the creek to another small waterfall. Along the way are a number of waterholes and plunge pools that visitors are allowed to swim in. The place has only been opened for a year now to help relieve the impact of the huge numbers of visitors on ‘Buley’s Waterhole’.

Scarlett and I eagerly jumped in with goggles and snorkels ready to explore another underwater wonderland. We weren’t disappointed; straight away we found a number of freshwater yabbies and prawns that we tried to catch with our hands. I only succeeded once, but it had Scarlett intrigued enough to continue exploring, while Bec relaxed and ‘floated’ around the plunge pool. It was a great way to end our day exploring.

We returned to the van and all had refreshing cool showers before relaxing in front of the TV and watching a movie. Bec and I enjoyed a cold ‘Strongbow’ Apple Cider’; which I don’t think even touched the sides. I would just like to add how proud I am of Scarlett. Bec and I worked out we did more than 7kms of walking today; up and down some very tricky spots along creeks and through bushland ranging from dry Open Woodlands to lush Monsoon Rainforests. That is a lot of walking for a five year old – especially in the hot humid conditions of the ‘Top End’. She did great!

And as the sun set, the Blue Winged Kookaburras again called out with their chorus of gaggles that aren’t quite a ‘laugh’, as we are all more familiar with their distant southern cousins – the Laughing Kookaburra’s. It made for another great end to a great way of life up here in the ‘Territory’.

Posted by Shane

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Day 178. Litchfield Park

Volley Ball in Buleys Rockhole

I didn’t have the best night’s sleep with my tooth (or missing tooth I should now say) playing up, so we were all up rather early today. Since having my tooth out I have had the worst headaches; and nothing I take seems to knock it on the head. We decided to take it easy today, because I didn’t want it to flare up into a migraine.

Escarpment View from top of Wangi Falls
Shane and Scarlett walked down to ’Wangi Falls’ yesterday evening, and they were keen to take me down for a look this morning. The falls were spectacular; I could hear them from the caravan so I knew they must be high, but they are huge. We walked the board walk around to the viewing platform; while dodging all the flying fox poo. The flying foxes were everywhere in the trees above us as we then walked up to the top of the falls. The walk was worth it, as the lookout was amazing; we could literally see for miles.

On the way back down we stopped at this gorgeous little waterfall coming straight out of the cliff face. The water was warm, and Scarlett said it looked like a little fairy glen. Unfortunately the pictures didn’t really work out, as the lighting was too dark.

Tabletop Swamp
When we got back to the van we packed some lunch, had morning tea, and hit the road to do some sightseeing. First stop was the Tabletop Swamp. It looked more like a billabong to me, but was pretty all the same. We didn’t walk far as Scarlett didn’t want to get out of the car; lucky it could be seen easily from the car park.

Lost City

Next stop was the ‘Lost City’ which is a huge landscape of rocks all piled up one on top of the other, and they look sort of like old abandoned buildings. Shane and Scarlett had a great time hiding and posing for photos on, and in amongst them. It was almost eerie walking around them; they seemed empty and really old.

Buley's Rockhole
Last stop for the day (we planned this one on purpose) was ‘Buleys Rockhole’ so we could all cool off with a swim. There were heaps of people there, but the area was so big with so many pools it didn’t matter. We put on our snorkel and masks and had a great time watching all the fish on the bottom; while swimming in and out of the waterfalls. We took turns jumping off a huge rock face, into the plunge pool below which was crystal clear and really deep.

Before long a bus load of American Air Force personnel turned up, and started playing volley ball in the huge pool we were swimming in. They included Scarlett in their game; intentionally making the ball go over to her, so she would have to throw it back in. She got right into it and started throwing the ball back then diving in after her hit; they all thought she was so funny. It turns out they are here for Exercise ‘Talisman Sabre’, a joint military exercise between US and Aust forces in the Top End. It involves Army, Navy and Air Force from both our countries; see you can’t go anywhere….

Scarlett playing volley ball with the USA Airforce

We spent hours at Buleys but had to call it a day sooner or later, so reluctantly Scarlett got out of the water and we walked the track back out. This was the most fun I think she has had in ages. We were all buggered when we got back, although Scarlett still found enough energy to ride her bike around the park and find some kids to play with. After dinner we went for a walk down to the falls to watch the sunset and see the colours changing; we weren’t disappointed. They put on a magic show and we got some great pictures.

This evening we went and watched a slide show put on by the rangers in the picnic area. It was all about the parks fauna and flora; most of which Shane had already educated us on anyway. It was a nice way to end the day though, and we saw some huge shooting stars on the way back to the van which was nice too.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Day 177. Darwin to Litchfield Park

Time to turn south and head towards home…

This morning we packed up camp and said goodbye to beautiful sunny Darwin. Our time here has been very relaxing, and it is a shame that it’s time to leave; but if we never never go, we’ll never never know what it’s like to hold Isabella while she is still a new born.

Humpty Doo Hotel
We stopped off to have a look at the Humpty Doo Hotel on our way out of town, as it really is a bit of an Australian icon. Looking at the memorabilia alone on the walls tells a story of Australian Ocka-ism. It was great to see, but unfortunately we had to keep going, so an ice cold beer was definitely out of the question.

Berry Springs

Next we called into Berry Springs, located just to the south of Darwin. Bec wanted to see the thermal springs here – and she wasn’t disappointed. The trees and Pandanus palms really gives a feeling of the tropical north; and the crystal clear waters of the spring were just to inviting to ignore. We all put on our swimmers, and with masks and snorkels we quickly jumped into the refreshing waters Berry Springs is well renowned for. It was fantastic, the animal life and fish life was amazing. The water was so clear that we could easily identify a number of fish; including Common Archerfish, Mangrove Jacks, Eel-tailed Catfish, Freshwater Longtom, Spotted Scat, and Barred Grunter.

Fresh or Salt water croc
We even spotted a lone Freshwater Crocodile – which we sort of got a photo or two of. We tried to get closer, but it disappeared underwater, so we looked under with our masks and found the little bugger swimming only inches below our feet as it tried to find deeper water. I say little, but in actual fact it was probably closer to two metres long, so it wasn’t so little after all. Even Scarlett was a bit ‘freaked out’ when it swam under us; and wanted to get out of the water.

Mertens Water Monitor
On the banks of the spring, we saw a Mertens’ Water Monitor going about its business; including foraging under water for small fish and yabbies. The wildlife here was amazing to watch; and if it wasn’t for the rumbling in my belly letting me know that I had already missed lunchtime by an hour or two; I’m sure Bec and Scarlett could have floated in these waters forever. At one stage I’m sure I heard Bec mention that she could easily live in a place like this!

Cathedral Termite Mount
After lunch, we headed south towards Litchfield National Park; our destination for the next few nights. We’ve explored Kakadu already, and we’ve been told not to miss Litchfield, as the waterfalls and scenery are spectacular.

We ended up finding a camping spot at Wangi Falls campground; which I must admit is a beautiful spot to spend the next few days. We are only a short walk from the waterfalls themselves; which I can hear at this moment from our van as I write this blog. Scarlett and I went for a short walk exploring before dinner tonight, and we already spotted a number of wallabies and flying foxes. Unfortunately the plunge pool at the bottom of Wangi Falls is closed to swimming at the moment due to high water levels and the possibility of estuarine crocodiles being in the pool. ‘Freshies’ are known to inhabit this swimming hole, but apparently ‘Salties’ like to visit when the water levels are up. Bugger!

Wangi Falls

If we are lucky enough we might even get to spot one here before we leave….

Magnetic Termite Mounds
PS: As we packed up the van ready to hit the road this morning, a lone C-17 flew directly over the top of us. It reminded Bec of her workmates back in Brisbane; and she just wanted to let them all know that she misses you all and can’t wait to catch up next time we ‘visit’ Brisbane. Cheers!

FOOTNOTE: Media Release: 27.07.11
Crocodile Removed from Berry Springs Nature Park
Parks and Wildlife Service rangers last night removed a 1.57m female estuarine (saltwater)
crocodile from Berry Springs Nature Park, believed to have been the crocodile that reportedly
bit a woman on the neck late yesterday afternoon. Parks and Wildlife Service Senior Wildlife Ranger Tom Nichols said the estuarine crocodile was captured and removed from the main swimming pool at Berry Springs, and that the crocodile was destroyed during capture.
“It is believed this is the same crocodile that was reported to have bitten a woman while she
was swimming yesterday afternoon,” Mr Nichols said.
“It is unclear at this stage how the crocodile entered the swimming area; however it has
probably travelled upstream or downstream through Berry Creek given its small size.
“This is another reminder to people to be crocwise and be extremely cautious about any
waterways in the Top End, because estuarine crocodiles can move around throughout the
Just goes to show that you can never be to careful. By the report, the attack happened on the same day we were swimming in Berry Springs - in exactly the same spot! Maybe it was a 'Saltie' we saw and swam with?

posted by Shane