Week 17 | Adelaide River to Darwin

Day 113: Adelaide River to Darwin

After a slow start to the morning we head off to Darwin, only 112km away and check into the Robbie Robins Reserve.  As we turn into the street I notice the Don Dale Detention Centre on the left hand side of the road.  It’s a Detention Centre for male and female juvenile deliquents.  There are 4 gates into the reserve & we are met by Sonja at gate 3.  There is a small office and Sonja explains that the reserve is an Equestrian Centre and the speed limit is 5km and you must give way to horses.

It’s a lovely big lush green grassy area and caravans are all along the back fence.  There are both powered and unpowered sites and at $37 a night for power and water it’s about as cheap as you will find in Darwin.  The washing machines are free of charge which is an added bonus.  There are no frills here, no swimming pool, camp kitchen or playgrounds for children.  It’s perfect for us under the big shady trees.

Wildlife:  Hawks, cattle, eagles

Day 114-119: Darwin

There are a lot of things to do this week while in Darwin.  Cinta is due her annual vaccinations so we’ll need to find a vet.  The car is due for it’s 30,000km service and is booked into Ford, unfortunately they couldn’t give us a loan car for the day so that means we’ll be stuck at home when that happens.  We need to find somewhere to buy some new wheel chocks for the caravan as the two we have, have cracked and split when we’ve used them on gravel surfaces.  The wire support to the outdoor table on the side of the caravan has broken, so Andrew will have to come up with a solution to that.

The wind is blowing an absolute gale today and overhead there is an impressive array of aircraft flying around.   I’ve checked with my favourite internet source Google and Exercise Diamond Storm 2019 is currently taking place between Darwin and Tindal up to 29th May.  It’s an Air Warfare Instructor Course and involves military personnel from the United States and Australia.

Some of the aircraft involved from the States are: F-15C Eagle and B-52 Stratofortress Bomber; and the US Marine Corp MV-22 Osprey and AH-1Z Viper.  RAAF aircraft participating in the exercise include the F/A-18A/B Hornet, F/A-18F Super Hornet, EA-18G Growler, Hawk 127, AP-3C Orion, P-8A Poseidon, C-17A Globemaster, KC-30A Multi-Role Tanker Transport, E-7A Wedgetail and C-130J Hercules. It’s going to be a very noisy week!

We are fortunate to have good friends Daryl and Jenny Caesar who have been living in Darwin for quite a few years now and they are picking us up to take us down to the Stokes Hill Wharf for a sunset dinner.  It’s so beautiful sitting on the wharf in the cool breeze watching all the boats sailing in the harbour and the seagulls flying about.  There are so many choices for dinner at the wharf and of course seafood and Thai is on my hit list.

A ‘must do’ in Darwin is the Mindil Beach Market and Daryl and Jenny are keen to take us down to experience it.  Everyone knows how much we love our food and we are in foodie heaven.  There is every nationality you can think of at the market.  I love that you can take a deck chair and your drinks and just find a patch of grass and enjoy the evening.  I decide to try something totally different that I have never had before. Okonomiyaki is a Japanese pancake based on cabbage and vegetables and it is delicious!  Apparently the sunsets are amazing at Mindil Beach, but unfortunately it wasn’t to be the night we were there…

Jenny recommends that we visit the Royal Flying Doctor Tourist Facility at Stokes Hill Wharf.  It is another ‘must do’ in our books.  They also offer discounts on admission for Seniors, it’s $22 each.  The facility has two iconic Territory stories in the one location.  The story of the Royal Flying Doctor Service and the Bombing of Darwin Harbour.
There are two 20 minute movies to watch; the life size hologram of John Flynn the Founder of the Flying Doctor Service tells his story of the birth and growth of the RFDS and the life size hologram of Rear Admiral Etheridge Grant who was the Commanding Officer of the USS William B Preston narrates his own version of the Bombing of Darwin Harbour.  The movies are well narrated and very informative.
Modern technology through Virtual Reality transports you back to Darwin Harbour of 1942.  You are at the original Stokes Hill Wharf, standing on the deck of the Neptuna as it is bombed to the point of it exploding and sinking as well as sitting on the wing of an American Kitty Hawk, engaging in a dogfight with the Japanese Zero’s.  The staff tell you to swivel on your chair and move your head up and down and around to experience the full reality of the movie. It’s an incredible experience and at times I felt a little motion sickness and had to close my eyes before refocusing.

Botanical Gardens are a favourite of ours to wander around and enjoy the sheer beauty of nature’s flora.  The George Brown Darwin Botanic Gardens are situated on 42 hectares and are over 130 years old, surviving World War II and Cyclone Tracy.  There is a lovely plant house with tropical orchids and bromeliads, a waterfall in the rainforest, fountains, children’s playground and several themed walks.  Dogs are allowed, so Cinta enjoys a morning out with us too.  I just love how the mosaic is created on the footpath, it reminds me of a necklace.

We take a walk around State Square and view Darwin’s Parliament House which opened in 1994.  Across the road is Government House which is set on 13,000 square metres of hillside gardens.  It is pretty as a picture with it’s white picket fence.  There is a short video on the government website which takes you on a tour through the house, it’s worth having a look at.

I managed to wake up in time for a sunrise this week and it did not disappoint.  We’ve had a great week in Darwin, however we will be looking forward to moving on again next week as we make our way back to Katherine and then head for Western Australia.

Wildlife:  Kookaburras, plovers, ibis, horses, peacocks, black cockatoos.

Week 17 total expenses:  $2177.16 – well over double our budget!  Some extraordinary expenses this week with a car service at $810.20 & Cinta’s annual vaccinations at $125.  Luckily we’ve had quite a few weeks under budget!

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That’s a wrap for Week 17 of the Lap of the Map.

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Week 16 | Mataranka to Adelaide River

Day 106 – 107: Mataranka

Staying at the Bitter Springs Caravan Park has been so relaxing. Our site was nestled close to the rainforest in a quiet spot.  A short walk to the back of the park is the Little Roper River where blacky & whitey the salt water crocs live. The park staff tell us that if you don’t bother them they won’t bother you. They “know the rules”. We didn’t see them during our walks along the creek. I’m not sure if that was a good or bad thing…

The thermal springs are 500m along the road then a further 250m along a meandering pathway. The water is crystal clear in a natural setting, lush and tropical. There are 2 sets of man made steps to enter and then you can float all the way to the end of the springs. Half way along the springs is another set of steps if you want to walk the pathway back. We enjoyed floating down several times.

Bitter Springs Thermal Springs

A couple of people we met told us about the thermal pool on the south east side of Mataranka so we headed out there to check it out. These springs are more like a pool and entry is through the caravan park. It’s a short walk to the springs, there are several sets of steps to enter the pool area. The spring water does flow through from one end to the other. We preferred the springs at Bitter Springs because of the natural environment.

There is not much else to do at Mataranka so these few days have been late starts, a bit of work for me, reading for Andrew and plenty of time to sit back and relax.

Wildlife: Cockatoos, kangaroos, frogs, grasshoppers, warblers, willy wagtails, frogs.

Day 108-110: Mataranka to Katherine

It’s a slow start today leaving Mataranka for Katherine as it’s only a journey of 104km.  We arrive at Katherine by lunch time and check into the Boab Caravan Park which is a short drive from town.  It’s a lovely small park with level concrete pads and lush green grass.  Cinta is in heaven!  It’s hot today, 35 degrees so we’ve chosen a powered site.  The season has now begun so prices have all increased today and the park is expensive at $45 a night.  That was also with a seniors discount.  The staff are really friendly and after chatting with the Manager he tells us his sister lives at Mission Beach!  Its’a small world.

We head off to Woolies to re stock the caravan as we’ve got pretty low on all of our supplies.  We’ve blown a bulb in one of the break lights so a quick stop to Repco to get a replacement.  Back at the park and we spend the afternoon in the air-conditioning as it is very humid outside.

The power is going out at the park today for a few hours so I get straight into my work. Later in the day we are heading into town for our flu vaccinations and a bit of retail therapy. It’s hot and humid, how quickly we have forgotten about the humidity after travelling through areas which have a dryer heat.

The Managers are putting on free drinks and hot chips due to the power being out for most of the day.  Happy hour turns into 3 happy hours socialising with everyone in the park. It’s a great night hearing about other travellers adventures and telling them of our journey so far.

The alarm goes off this morning at 5.00am. That’s a very early wake up call for us these days. By 6.00am we are on the road out to the Katherine Gorge for the Two Gorge Dawn tour.  There are 13 gorges in all and they can be explored by either foot, canoe, boat or helicopter.  The sun is beginning to rise as we take the short walk from the entrance down to the jetty. Tea, coffee, watermelon & cake are provided prior to departure. Tom is our tour guide and he is only a young bloke but has a great sense of humour.

The colours in the rock face are absolutely amazing. Tom explains the black markings are from where the rain has fallen and created waterfalls. He also explains the red floats in the water. Before the season opens the gorge is checked by the rangers for crocs. There are many freshwater crocs in the gorge but it’s the salties that have to be removed. Crocs are curious about things floating on the surface so the floats are placed in the gorge and checked regularly for bite marks. The rangers can tell whether it’s a fresh or salt water bite. Traps are then set to catch and remove the salties.

The boat docks at the end of the first gorge.  There is a short walk where we view some aboriginal paintings high up on the rock face.  The walkway is concreted amongst the rocks and meanders alongside the rapids.  We then board another boat for the second gorge tour.  It is equally as stunning as the first gorge.  Two hours seems to pass so quickly and in no time we are walking the pathway again, boarding our first boat and heading back to the jetty.  It’s a “must do” tour in our opinion.

Wildlife: Galahs, black snake, comorant, blue faced honey eater, goats, dead kangaroos, willy wagtail, warblers, corellas.

Day 111- 112: Adelaide River

We are packed up and ready to leave Katherine by 9.30am and it’s already a hot and humid 28 degrees.  We’re heading for the Adelaide River for a couple of nights.  The drive is twice as long today at 232km.  We are meeting up with new friends that we made at the Temple Bar Caravan Park in Alice Springs.  It’s great to catch up with Tim and Lyn again and we have promised a roast dinner night again!

We spend the afternoon chatting about what we have done since we last met and Tim has told us all about the beautiful waterfalls in the Litchfield National Park and the photos are amazing.  There is a great park at Batchelor where we can safely leave Cinta in the van while we do some exploring.  We’ll do that after our trip to Darwin on the return leg to Katherine before we head into Western Australia.

The Adelaide River Showgrounds camp ground is really lovely with beautiful lush green grass and Cinta is just loving rolling around in it.  We’ve got a powered site with water at $27 for each night.  We don’t need the water as we’re trying to get our tanks low enough to give them a flush out when we get to Darwin.  There is a community pool at the camp ground and the locals have come in to use it and the washing facilities.  The amenities are old but clean and that’s all we need.  The race track is also within the grounds and there is a lot of water around as they had a tropical storm two nights before we arrived and had 100ml.  There is also several large shade cloth areas for vans to park under, but we’re under the trees and the breeze is steady and cool all day.

We have bid farewell to Tim and Lyn this morning as they head back to Katherine and out towards Western Australia.  They’ll be in touch with any “must do’s” along the way and to let us know about free camps and parks too.  We probably won’t catch up with them again as they plan to be back in NSW by christmas so we will probably see them on our return journey sometime in the New Year.

Here’s a short video of the caravan park that I took today while having some drone practice!

A visit to the Adelaide River War Cemetery was a very moving experience.  There are 435 burials from the Second World War.  The War Cemetery was created for the burial of the servicemen who died in Darwin and surrounding areas during the World War in 1942-1943.  The Cemetery contains the burials of 18 sailors, 182 soldiers, 215 airmen and 19 merchant seamen of which 407 are Australian, 26 British and 1 Canadian.

Long exposure of The Adelaide River

Wildlife: Brahma bulls, hawks, jabiru, crows, eagles, galahs, hawks

Week 16 total expenses:  $978.42, still under budget.  Some extra expenses this week including the Katherine Gorge Dawn Tour at $99.00 each and a flu vaccination at $25 each.

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That’s a wrap for Week 16 of the Lap of the Map.  Check in again next week to see what we get up to in Darwin.

PS: Don’t forget to leave me a comment!