Friday, 17 August 2012

Off into the Kimberley

So we’re about to shoot off onto the Gibb River Road, Kimberley Central!!!  We’ve got a few other blog entries to post up at some stage, but with all that’s been happening, we haven’t yet found the time.  The Gibb also has pretty much no phone reception, so we won’t be posting anything for the next 3 – 4 weeks at a guess.
We hear the cries of ‘but we want more, don’t starve us!!’  The people are going to have to wait unfortunately J 

The Travelling Parents Curse

Having young kids, we (mainly Glenn) were suffering the pain of the travelling parent, ‘Kids Music!!!”.  The kid’s music is a little bit of double edged sword.  It is fantastic entertainment value, and keeps the girls quiet for hours.  It mainly comes out in the car, either on the car stereo, or more so, on the little IPOD we gave them before we left.  They can listen to their music for many km’s.
The problem comes, again mainly for Glenn, is that it is repeated again, and again.... and.. again.. and ... again... and..........     again... and, (you get the picture).  So not only do you hear the same songs played, but even better, the girls have been singing it over and over.  To top it all off, and worst of all, Amy is in a habit, (quite liking some of the music apparently) of singing little one liners continually.
All this results in these songs rattling around and around in Glenn’s head, unabated and unrequested.  You can be working away on something innocently, and then all of a sudden catch yourself singing some line in your head.  There are perennial favourites like “Toot Toot, Chugga Chugga big red car”, or “Wake up Jeff, everybody’s wiggling...” from the Wiggles.  Justine Clark gets a great run, with beauties like “I’ve got a friend that’s just pretend, and you can’t see..”, or “Everybody ROAR like a dinosaur”.  A particular favourite of Glenn’s is Hi-5’s “L, O, V, E, I love you and you love me.  L, O, V, E, that’s the way it’s meant to be.  Give me a L, give me an O, give me a V, and finish with an E”.  (Rest assured, all this was typed from memory).
Having said all that, we’d rather them be listening to music rather than watching TV etc, and they really enjoy dancing around the campsite to the music.  Small sacrifices really when we can be out here doing this stuff, and having the girls well entertained!  All hail “Hot potato, hot potato!!!”

Thursday, 9 August 2012


Katherine was a short trip up the highway, and generally represented another ‘jobs’ location.  We did manage however to fit in enough entertainment to make it not feel like too much of a chore.  We balanced things like getting the back window finally replaced, shopping top ups, maintenance on the camper, and some cleanups, with more swimming in the Katherine Thermal Springs and walking in Katherine Gorge.
We ended up doing quite a big grocery shop here, obviously not buying enough back in Cairns!  The trolley was pretty much packed when we rolled up to the checkout.  The ‘cold’ checkout chick looked at us and asked if we had any bags.  Not bringing a supply of our ‘green’ shopping bags from home replied with a “No we don’t, thanks”.  Checking if we wanted to buy any, which we didn’t, the normal process seemed underway.  We were madly trying to load up the conveyor belt with our loot, when Amy finally looked up and saw what was happening. 

The chick was simply scanning the items, and then piling them up on the other side of the counter.  “Err.. WHAT??.....  Are you... umm.. what the????”  It finally all clicked.  Amy, in her most put out, high falooting voice asked “don’t you have plastic bags?”  Apparently, without any signage or notice to the ignorant traveller, NT does not have plastic bags, and you have to bring your own.  “NT is the first, and the rest of Australia will be going that way” came the statement.  Even better was Amy’s response of “That’s nice, but you DIDN’T EXPLAIN THAT”.  It was then that we finally got a joke we heard Chilli tell at Daly Waters.  He’d been in Qld, and the lovely checkout chick smiled and packed all his groceries.  “Up in Katherine, you have to rush through to catch your gear before it all spills out over the end of the counter!!”  Right!!  Determined not to buy a bunch of bags, we simply piled it back into the trolley, went out to the car, and shoved it in as best we could.  Interesting experience!

Katherine Gorge is a bit of a favourite of ours.  We first visited in back in 2005 when we were on an organised trip through the top end.  At that time, we hired a canoe and paddled up through the spectacular gorge, amazed at the high cliffs, the colours, and the river.  This is where Glenn realised he had been staring at a big picture of Katherine Gorge in his office for years, (didn’t know where it was before then).  In a subsequent trip in 2007, we jumped on the boat, and had the guided trip up the river. 

This time, with girls in tow, we decided that the boat trip wasn’t going to work for us, and was pretty expensive as well.  Alternatively, this time we did the walk up to the lookout.  This saw us scrambling over rocks and up some steep climbs to get to the top, but the view was well worth it.  Savannah has become a very impressive bushwalker, with some natural dexterity and agility over rough ground, (kind of like her Dad!).  Jess did well in first enduring the ride in the backpack, and then after insisting on getting down, walked well holding Amy’s hand. 

Being sure we would pass through this ‘hub’ again, we finally scooted out of Katherine, heading West again, towards our dream area, the Kimberley.

Beautiful Katherine Gorge from the Lookout

Love the NT!

We rolled into Daly Waters, which has a pub and a campground directly adjacent.  It was predicably busy given it is well know, and only 4kms off the Stuart Hwy.  Historically, Daly Waters was a significant watering hole for stock, and in the 1930’s a store was setup to service the drovers, which is now the pub.  Strangely, Daly Waters was also Australia’s first international airport, as it was used as a stop-off and refuelling point for planes travelling to England.

We got allocated a camp spot right beside the pub, and the walkway to the campsites.  After all the driving, and given its renowned status, we HAD to have dinner at the pub that night.  The place was jumping, and the girls loved playing in the little kids area provided whilst we sat at the table and drank beers.  We both remarked how we could not have done that even 6 months ago, letting the girls go and play without micro-managing them.  We ‘Cheers’ed, and gave a “Welcome Back to Living!”

After a lovely meal and adequate beer, we left, walked the 10 meters to our camper, and organised the kids for bed.  Whilst putting the kids in bed and getting them to settle, it wasn’t hard to find the whole situation ridiculously funny.  We had just come out of the Gulf, having spent a week in some spectacular country, camping by stunning rivers, typically by ourselves, and surrounded by major peace and quiet.  We now sat in a full on busy campsite, next to a busy pub, trucks and cars were still rolling in, and best of all, the local entertainer had jumped on the microphone and was starting his nightly show of jokes, poems and singing.  Glenn couldn’t stop laughing at it all.  Amazingly, the girls still slept, (they are great travellers).  The entertainer (Chilli) was pretty impressive, us listening from the back-stables.

Leaving Daly Waters, we headed for Mataranka.  Amy had specifically recalled that on a previous trip, we had remarked that the National Park (Elsey) there would be a good place to stay for a few nights.  She was not wrong at all!!!  In Elsey, the Thermal Hot Springs provide a great spot to soak, swim, and just laze around in.  There is also a fantastic camping area with good facilities, and even free firewood.  To add to the options, the Roper river flows through the park, and allows for croc free swimming and fishing.

Our fishing spot at Elsey NP

Swimmingin the Roper River

Mataranka Hot Springs

We spent 3 days trying to fit all the activities in.  The girls were in heaven with so much swimming (especially in warm water this time!!!!).  We even got to bring out Savannah’s birthday fishing rod, and throw in a line.  No fish, but the girls enjoyed it.  We definitely could have spent much longer there, but time was marching on, so must we continue on.

Monday, 6 August 2012

More Savannah Way

From Normanton, the Savannah Way goes west through Burketown and Borroloola.  We followed the procession of caravans leaving Karumba, and arrived in Normanton to refuel and check out ‘Krys’.

Normanton has a long history of big crocs but none more famous than the Savannah King, a reputed 8.63m giant killed with a single shot by petite Polish migrant Krys Pawlowski on the banks of the Norman River in the 1950s.  There is a model of Krys in the main street, and the kids loved giving him a pat.  It did take Jess a little while to warm up to it though!
Krys the Savannah King in Normanton
After queuing up for fuel (everyone had the same idea after leaving Karumba that morning), we headed out, and turned onto the dirt.

It was a big day of driving, through some fantastic arid countryside.  We definitely love this type of country.  We ended up pulling up just near Burketown, on the banks of the Albert River.  Great views, and yet again, a very impressive sunset.  We keep trying to point out to the girls how amazing the sight is, and how lucky they are.  “Meh!!!”  So what!  They’ll learn, eventually.
Our view at Albert River
We were very impressed with the free camping at this spot, only a couple of km’s out of Burketown.  The areas along the river were private, and there was even a clean dunny near the bridge, as well as some bins.  If we were going a bit slower, would have been easy to spend some time here trying some fishing and relaxing.  We headed off the next morning, driving through Burketown, Hells Gate Roadhouse, Doomagee, pulling up that night on the Robinson River, now in the Northern Territory.  This was another lovely spot, and so easy to bush camp.  We were loving not having to spend a fortune for our nightly stays, as compared to the thieving Caravan Parks nowadays!

A lunch stop along the Savannah Way
After having a rock hit our rear window just out of Chilligoe, we had it all taped up with every bit of tape we had spare, gaffa tape, cloth tape, and even some packing tape.  It all looked very secure, and most of the roads had been quite smooth.  It had all turned to custard however halfway through the day when the roads deteriorated into quite heavy corrugations.  We had to grit our teeth, and wonder how the window stayed together.  It did thank goodness, and remained intact all the way to Katherine.
From here was a 100km trip into Borroloola, and the last of the dirt for quite a while.  We inflated our tyres, and made the run down to Cape Crawford, where we took an uncommon extended lunch break to eat at the roadhouse.  Delicious burgers!  By the time we hit the Stuart Hwy, it was past our stopping time, so made the easy decision to stop off and camp at the Daly Waters Pub.


We had heard that Karumba was teaming with people, well, mainly a certain type of people, fisho’s!!  It is the place that all the oldies go when they’ve died and gone to fishing heaven.  It’s chocka’s for months apparently.  We had also heard of a fantastic caravan park out of town, on Karumba Point, called the Sunset Caravan Park.  This park complimented the Sunset Tavern, where you can sit outside, have a beer, and watch a pretty impressive sunset.

We had rung the caravan park whilst in Cairns, and it was totally booked out for about 2 weeks solid.  Not to be deterred, Glenn rang again while driving into town.  The waters parted, sun shone, and a cancellation meant that we were in!!

A coffee, some pies, milk, and a play at the playground saw us ‘do’ Karumba downtown.  We then headed out to Karumba point, and slotted into our golden spot at the caravan park.  Nice place, tidy, near the beach, and definitely full of a lot of people, but not too overcrowded thankfully.  There was a distinct odour of fish around, especially near the toilets and the fish cleaning area.  Seemed that everyone had a boat, and the topic of convo was all about the fishing. 

The girls tried their ritual swim in the pool, and again, for some strange reason, the pool was about -10 degree’s.  Amazing that this far north they run their pool water through an icebox.  Figure it must be for safety to keep the crocs out (who I guess don’t like cold water).  10 minutes saw them blue, shivering, and done.

Glenn had tried to organise for the back window to be fixed either in Karumba or Normanton.  As it turns out, the nearest place was 550kms away, and they don’t travel.  A few discussions later resulted in us having to wait until we got to Katherine in NT, rather than wait around at Fisho’s retreat for a week.  Shouldn’t be too problematic, after all, we’ve only got 900ish kms of dirt road to do to get there!!

A shower and cleanup then saw us walking to the Tavern up the road.  This pub is right on the beach, lovely indoor area, but more spectacularly, a large outdoor sitting area with table and chairs.  The food was pretty standard pub food, but it wasn’t about the food, it was about the beer and the sunset.  Right on time, the sky lit up, and the colours formed, and we ohhhh’ed and arrrr’ed with everyone else as the sun dipped below the sea.  Very impressive, and we could definitely have settled in for a session if the kids weren’t hanging off us.  Lovely little cherubs!!!

Lynd and Gilbert Rivers

The next morning, Glenn had a minor freak out, thinking about how far we had to travel, and how we wanted to spend some time in the Kimberley before it got too hot.  We discussed timings, and decided that we had to move on today.  An hour later, we decided that that was ridiculous, and how could we possibly move from this spot.  The on-again-off-again meant we’d started the packup, but it wasn’t too much of a struggle to stop all that and just sit down for a coffee.

Part of our consideration was that we had discovered, for the first time ever, that we had a smashed back windscreen.  We resolved that it must have been that noise we heard during the day before, which we passed off as “don’t know what that was”.  It had obviously been a rock bouncing back off the camper, something that had not happened at all so far, not even onto the tailgate etc.

Given the need to fix the window, we resolved that leaving early was also no help, because we’d get into Normanton / Karumba on Sunday, which was no good.  Much better to wait it out here.

 We spent the day playing in the area, looking down at the river and croc spotting.  It all looked delightful for swimming, but there was the potential of having your arm or leg ripped off by a salty. 

We decided to have a roast that night, especially given we’d collected a heap of wood the night before.

We cook a lot of camp roasts, pretty much every weekend camp we are at home.  This one though had to rate as one of the top 10 we’ve ever had.  Everything just seemed perfect, the beef, the vegies, and most especially the gravy!!!!   To top THAT off, Savannah had been asking if we could cook damper.  We’d done it once before months ago, and she remembered that when you have a fire, you can cook damper.  Who could refuse her!!!!  Admittedly it wasn’t the BEST damper we’d ever done (one we cooked in Cairns for everyone was close to our best), but it was great sitting up, in front of a perfect fire, with the girls, eating damper and jam.  Life’s pretty good.

Regretfully leaving the next day, we did nearly 5 hours on the road, which the girls soaked up easily, (again), and made it to Gilbert River.  This was another pretty speccy place, and we found a little hole in the scrub to setup our camper and call home.  The prickles stopped us exploring too much, but the view of the river did us perfectly.  We were rewarded with a beautiful ‘desert’ sunset, and equally spectacular sunrise.  This is why we love this type of country.

The next morning was an easy run to the bitumen, and a right hand turn to Karumba.
Our view of the Gilbert River

“Go West” (like the Village People)

After finally leaving Cairns, we headed up the range and into Mareeba.  This is where Australian coffee is grown, and we decided we had to drop back into Coffee Works.  This was to have a quick coffee of course, as well as top up on our ground coffee which we had picked up on our way through last time.  It was too good an opportunity to miss, and the restock of the lovely coffee was important for the next few months.

From there, we drove on to Chilligoe.  This was a significant area in the early 1900’s for mining, and various mines were dotted all throughout the area.  Chilligoe also had an historic, living museum with various old smelters still standing.  They use to process the ore from surrounding mines, and produced gold, copper, etc.  At the time it was quite advanced in its technology.  We did a quick skim of these smelters, then went out to the local rodeo grounds, which doubled as a campground.  It was basically a large open paddock with some basic facilities.  Suited us fine!

Our general path to the west was to be by following the Savannah Way, a road network from Cairns to Broome.  Our Savannah wasn’t particularly named after this route, but was a nice irony to be on it.  From Mareeba, you can follow the bitumen to Normanton, however we picked the slightly more out of the way path, that being via Chilligoe, and the Bourke Development Road.  This is a 540km dirt road which passes through some spectacular country, along the South West part of Cape York.  It crosses quite a number of creeks and rivers, but after multiple checks, we found it to be open and fully passable.

The other thing that Chilligoe is well known for is the impressive limestone caves in the area.  There are various guided tours through the most impressive ones, but with the kids and a timeframe, the next morning we decided to only do one of the self guided walks through one of the caves.  This ended up suiting us perfectly, as the girls had a great time looking through the cave – and it was not too long and drawn out. 

After an early lunch, we started the drive towards Normanton.  The countryside was more of the semi-arid bush we absolutely love, and strangely, a feeling of being more ‘at home’ hit both of us.  We loved the beach type areas, but it’s pretty clear this is where we love.

We made for the Lynd River, and found a spectacular camping spot, 800 metres off the road, perched high on the bank overlooking the river.  Wow, this was perfect for us!!!

We really were in our paradise.  In the bush, camped by ourselves, sensational view, and lovely warm weather.  The girls had a ball running around and riding their bikes, and we kicked back with some cheese, crackers, and a beer / wine or two.  Does it get any better?


From Cooktown, we made the run down to Cairns, this time via the bitumen rather than the Bloomfield Track.  It was an easy run, and passed by a favourite bit of coastline, that between Port Douglas and Cairns. 

We knew it was going to be a very busy time in Cairns.  We were catching up with a very good friend of ours, Jayne, who was flying up from Melbourne for 4 days.  Her Dad and partner were staying in one of the caravan parks, which is where we were all going to congregate.  Apart from our social obligations, we had a list as long as your arm to do.  This was a major spot of us to re-set ourselves, re-stock, and get ready for the run west.

As an idea, these were some of the jobs we had on our list;

·        Clean Slim & camper

·        Get Jess checked at doctors to ensure infection had gone

·        Service Slim – Engine, diffs, gearbox, and transfer oils

·        Service Camper – repack wheel bearings

·        Clean air filters

·        Pickup items that had been sent to us at Post office, including 2 dozen wine

·        Amy’s beautification (didn’t take long) J

·        Buy beer

·        Buy 3 – 4 weeks of groceries

·        Get 3 – 4 weeks of meat vacuum sealed

·        By fresh fruit and vegies

·        Get Savannah’s eye’s re-checked to ensure glasses are ok

·        Rotate tyres

·        Pay numerous bills

·        Fix UHF that had been playing up

Needless to say, it was no holiday!!! (feeling sad for us yet????)

We scored a campsite right next to the camp kitchen, which was just across the road from Jayne’s Dad’s caravan.  It was perfect for us, we could not only use the camp kitchen, but all our socializing (and there was a lot of it) at night could be done there, whilst still being able to hear the girls sleeping.

We had some great chats, not only to Jayne when she arrived, but also her Dad (Alan) and Carol, and their mates who were at the park as well.  One particular guy, Stoney, was a fellow Vietnam Vet, as was Alan.  This meant for some fascinating war stories.  The funniest we can remember was of recent history, when Stoney went over to New Zealand for a veterans reunion.  At a dinner they were all attending, Stoney stood up in front of the large gathering, and announced he’d received a letter informing him that he was to receive a belated Victorian Cross.  Everyone murmured and asked for what?  “For saving the battalion” he replied.  “What, how did you save the battalion” was asked.  “I shot the cook” he beamed in response.  All but the ‘top brass’ laughed apparently.

Alan and Carol are a bit of an institution around the caravan park, and so by association, we got to know quite a few people.  We also bumped into others we had seen up the Cape, as well as one of Amy’s other good friends parents.  It was a social mecca!!!

On one of the nights, Alan had arranged for Amy, Glenn and Jayne all to go out for dinner.  Jayne was having a significant birthday come up soon, and so he thought it would be nice if we all went out.  Alan and Carol took up the babysitting duties for the night, and we had a fantastic Balinese meal in town.  A huge luxury for us, and extremely nice for the 3 of us to do dinner again.  It has been a LOOONNNGGGG time since we’d done that.

 We managed to work through most of our jobs, with a lot of running around and fitting things in.  We also stayed an extra day after Glenn noticed some grease on the front left inner hub, and then a slightly loose wheel bearing.  This was important to get fixed, so we shot it back to the mechanic to suss it out, and tweak it.  All good, and a very worthwhile preventative maintenance step.

On leaving day, we packed up, and ended up collecting a very impressive leaving party.  We had friends parents, their friends, friends the girls had made, friends we’d made at the camp kitchen, and even one of the main workers at the park, Terry, who had grown quite fond of us.  The goodbyes were quite long, and very humbling. 
Jayne, Amy & Glenn in Cairns

Our view from our camp spot in Cairns

Action Pics of Us from the OTL Trip

The very start of our OTL adventure

Slim on the Bloomfield Track
Bloomfield Tk
Slim on the Bloomfield Tk

The MySwag String

Entry to Palm Ck - the 1st OTL crossing - Mark's decent

Slim entering Palm Ck

Palm Ck

Palm Ck - Amy hanging on!

Assessing the Exit from Palm Ck
Slim starting to exit Palm Ck

Slim punching out of Palm Ck

Still punching...

Come on Slim - you're nearly there....

Oh so close - Slim at Palm Ck

Slim waiting to be pulled out at the top of Palm Ck

Entry to Dulcie Ck

Still entering Dulcie Ck

Dulcie Ck

Putting air in Slim's tyres after 'beading' them at Dulcie

A great swim at Dulhunty Ck - end of day 1 of the OTL

Dulhunty Ck
Slim starting the decent down Gunshot

Gunshot Ck

MySwagers doing some track work at Cockatoo Ck

Entry to Cockatoo Ck

The exit from Cockatoo Ck
Our squishy camp at Canal Creek

Enjoying a swim with some of the MySwagers at Canal Ck

The exit from Canal Ck to complete the final day of the OTL
JK helping to negotiate the entry to Cannibal Ck
Entry to Cannibal Ck - Geoff's descent

The exit to Cannibal Ck

Slim exiting Cannibal Ck

Obligatory bush scene from the OTL
How many people does it take to work out the best way through the Lagoon?
Car bra on - Slim is ready for Nolan's Brook
Here we go across Nolan's Brook!
OMG - it's deep!
Water was coming in the passenger footwell about now

Water at the windscreen in Nolan's Bk
Professional photographer there to take our pic as we came through Nolans Bk
We made it through Nolan's Brook!
Slim en route to 'The Tip'

On foot to the Tip

What an adventure