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.

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Week 15 | Alice Springs to Mataranka

Day 99-101: Alice Springs

Time to catch up on some baking before we head off on the next leg of our journey. I’m baking a batch of chocolate chip muffins and decide to try putting them on the bottom shelf of the turbo oven today. Winner, they have turned out much better!

I’ve picked up some Lebanese cucumbers and I’m making a batch of pickled cucumber.  My niece Belinda gave us a bottle when we left Ararat and they were amazing. I’ve never tried to make it before so here’s hoping they turn out ok. Mmm they are pretty good!

We’ve got two new neighbours at the park tonight and both are fellow Queenslanders. One couple from Gatton and the other from Rockhampton. We immediately strike up conversation with them and enjoy hearing about their travels.

Wildlife: Galahs, warblers, kangaroos, rock wallabies, No 28 parrots, finches, black cockatoos, magpies, flies.

Day 102: Alice Springs to Devils Marbles

It’s time to leave Alice Springs today after a 9 day break, the road is straight and the speed limit increases to 130km. It’s hard to imagine travelling at that speed. We were hoping to stop at the Tropic of Capricorn however the roadworks made it impossible for a caravan to negotiate the entry point.

We have to pay extra attention to dead wildlife on the road as the eagles won’t leave the carcass until the last minute. On the verge is a dead kangaroo, we count 7 eagles around the body, the most we have ever seen on our whole journey.

I haven’t driven much on this trip, today is a big day for us (407km) so I take on 90km of the journey and bring us into Barrow Creek for lunch. It’s not terribly inviting so we have a quick snack inside the van away from the flies and then we are back on the road again.

The landscape is dry, red dirt and in the distance are the Davenport Ranges. We are staying at the Devils Marble Hotel Caravan Park tonight on an unpowered site for $10.  It’s Anzac Day and as I enter the pub to pay for the site, it’s packed with people watching the footy.  Entry is around the side of the pub and we pull up close to the gate.   A hot shower is always welcomed after a long drive.

It’s been sometime since we have enjoyed a dinner out. The reviews on Wikicamp are very favourable for the hotel so we decide to have a date night. Dinner did not disappoint. Andrew had his usual Parmi and I had the grilled barramundi with chips and a delicious Greek salad. It was amazing! Three pieces of Barra! Who would have thought in the middle of nowhere a little pub could put on a great meal. It was worth every cent.

Wildlife: dead kangaroos, eagles, crows, 2 dead cows, corellas, plains turkey, flies.

Day 103:  Devils Marbles to Renner Springs

Departing the Devils Marbles Hotel and the flies are sticking to us in the hundreds. My new job is to try to kill them with the fly squat. We have a method of leaving all the windows down, picking up speed, wind them up & then I kill the hanger-ons with the fly squat!

Only 8km further along the Stuart Highway is Karlu Karlu more commonly known as Devils Marbles. Karlu Karlu is a provider of bushfood including meat and plants. The elders passed down to their children what to eat and when, where to find it and how to hunt or harvest it.

Devils Marbles

I am in photographic heaven and climb to the lookout which is only 300m along a meandering pathway. To the south of Karlu Karlu is a significant cultural area and no photographs are allowed in this area. There are plenty of other amazing photographic opportunities and I am stunned at the natural balancing act of each and every formation. Absolutely breathtaking scenery. I couldn’t pass up the selfie opportunity!

The Stuart Highway is a long straight highway and surprisingly in very good condition. The scenery is the same every day, red dirt verges, tufts of spindly grass, native trees and red ant hills are becoming far more prominent. Travellers are stopping and putting clothing on them, it becomes an amusement.

Worthy of a mention is Morphett Creek, the first creek we have seen in quite sometime with water in it. Not actually flowing but water that doesn’t look stagnant.

We are camped at the Renner Springs Desert In and it’s pricey at $28 for an unpowered site. The amenities are old however clean and the staff are friendly and we have a patch of grass to park on. There really is a lot they could do with this place in regards to general upkeep. There’s a pool, but one look at it and it’s forget about it!

We spend most of the afternoon inside as the flies are a real nuisence. The geese, rooster and chickens are hanging around the van so Andrew can’t help himself and feeds them our stale bread. We had to come out for sunset as it was pretty special. Andrew is teaching me to play Jin Rumi as there is no mobile or tv reception we play well into the night.

Today’s travel was 260km.

Wildlife: Dead cows, eagles, horses, Willy wagtails, chickens, roosters, corellas, cattle, peacock, geese, minor birds, flies.

Day 104: Renner Springs to Daly Waters

Neither of us has had much sleep. The wind has blown up overnight and the trucks coming and going has kept us awake. There are some places you want to stay forever and there are some that you just can’t wait to leave. This is one of them. We are on the road by 8.30am.

Yesterday we passed a guy on a push bike on the highway. He was camped at Renner Springs overnight. He must have been up early this morning as we have passed him again 40k to the north. Imagine the impact of the road trains passing him.

The scenery is slightly different today with a chocolate coloured dirt along the verge and the trees are more dense and much taller. Some are full of yellow flowers. There are clumps of pinky purple flowers growing along the edge of the roadside.

We arrive at Daly Waters around lunch time and there are vans lined up along the roadside. There’a an old helicopter perched on top of an old tin shed, there are tin bushranger sculptures and an old army truck parked up beside the pub. Then there is the iconic Daly Waters Pub.  Stepping inside to pay for a site, the bar is covered in business cards and coasters pinned in every nook and cranny. There are bras, nickers, shirts & hats hanging everywhere.

The staff are all backpackers and really friendly. The guy serving me immediately new Mission Beach as he’d done a couple of days banana picking in Innisfail. The campground is spacious, mostly gravel with a green spot for tents. Powered sites in the middle and unpowered around the perimeter. The amenities look like little dongas each with a toilet and shower. We take an unpowered site for $20.

All set up so we head over to the pub for lunch and a cold beverage. Andrew has a steak sandwich and I can’t go past the Barra burger. They were both huge and the chips were yummy.

I’m watching the cowboy across the street get his horse out of the float. He’s a short guy, jeans, checkered shirt, Akubra and bare feet. He rides bareback over to the pub, dismounts and tells us Elvis is keen for a beer. The barmaid leads Elvis to the bar and there is no chance I am missing this photo op! Elvis was under age so there was no chance he was getting served a drink, he had to settle for tickling the ivories on the piano. Where else would you see a horse in a bar playing a piano! The great Aussie outback that’s where! Another highlight of our adventures, one never to be forgotten.

There a lot of Queensland number plates in the park and our neighbours are from Ingham, what a small world. They are doing the real outback along the Savannah Way and then off to the Gibb River. They are travelling with their boxer Sally, she’s three and a real cutie. There is a lot of dog sniffing going on between her and Cinta.

Dinner is out under the stars after dark, after the flies have said goodnight. We listen to the music from the pub, it’s live music every night and it’s our type of music from the 60-80’s. What a great night and not a bad sunset either.

Wildlife: Eagles, dead cows, dead kangaroos, crows, minor birds, flies.

Day 105:  Daly Waters to Mataranka

Leaving Daly Waters it’s 27 degrees at 9.00am and there is plenty of fresh road kill on the highway. Three dead cows, it must have been a bad road strike.  Todays drive is 184km.

We’re staying at the Bitter Springs Cabins & Camping ground on the banks of the Little Roper River.  It’s a large campground with many sites nestled in the rainforest.  The staff here are really friendly and the amenities are really rustic.  We feel right at home and choose a lovely site.  We’re offered a 10% discount to stay for 3 nights.  The first thing we notice when setting up is that there are not many flies!  The fly nets can stay in the car.

We can’t wait to explore the thermal springs, make sure you tune in next week to see what we get up to.

Wildlife: Dead cattle, dead kangaroos, crows, eagles, hawks, cattle, frogs, kangaroos, warblers, grasshoppers.

Week 15 total expenses:  $ 830.78, under budget!

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That’s a wrap for Week 15 of the Lap of the Map.

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