Pam's Journal For July 2005

     
  Friday 1st July 2005  
  Lay day today. Someone was a little the worse for wear this morning and it wasn’t me. We went to Brian and Margaret’s for Happy Hour. Very pleasant.  
  Saturday 2nd July 2005  
  Shopping and winery today. Everyone came to us for Happy Hour.  
  Sunday 3rd July 2005  
  A very nice relaxing day. Six of us walked up to the local tavern for Sunday lunch. It was a very pleasant couple of hours. Later when Peter and I were sitting outside, Ross and Jan called by on their way past and had a quick drink.  
  Monday 4th July 2005  
  We went into Palmerston to update the web site and send emails. Happy Hour was at Jan and Ross’s and we managed to make it last until 9:30 p.m. again! These two are a bad influence on us, always leading us astray. (Yes, they do read our web site.) Brian and Margaret were also there. Brian showed us a little gadget you can purchase from Telstra so you can send emails from anywhere there is CDMA coverage. We are going to the Telstra shop in the next couple of days.  
  Tuesday 5th July 2005  
  We visited Fogg Dam Reserve today. On arrival we ventured forth to walk across the dam wall expecting a huge drop on one side at least. The wall was like a single lane road along a raised bed of earth. It was built to grow rice which failed miserably due to the changing weather conditions, poor seed and the birds eating everything. Now it is a nature reserve, mainly for birds.

We were lucky enough to walk back across the dam with a very nice couple. I say lucky because they were very observant and knew far more about birds than we did. They kept pointing out different birds and we enjoyed our walk immensely. We intended to do another of the walks but decided to have our lunch first. The picnic area was already occupied by a family from Rockingham, W.A., and another couple from Queensland. The Perth family finished their lunch and moved on. We sat talking to the other couple for so long we didn’t have time to do a second walk.

When we left the park we made our way to a place named Humpty Doo. No one really knows where the name came from but the most likely explanation is that it is derived from an Aboriginal name. We had a drink at the Humpty Doo pub, bought a T-shirt to prove we had been there, took some photos and then returned home for happy hour.
 
  Wednesday 6th July 2005  
  It was a ‘get ready to travel day’ today as we are off to Litchfield National Park tomorrow. Happy hour was at our place. Only Jan and Ross came as Margaret and Brian were busy. Another really nice time. It is going to be very hard to say goodbye to J & R. Luckily it won’t be for a few days yet as they are following us to Litchfield.  
  Thursday 7th July 2005  
  I cannot believe it but we were actually all packed up and ready to go by 8:15 a.m. Especially as Peter had a minor accident when he was altering the position of the weight distribution bars. One slipped and hit him on the leg, causing a deep cut and bruising. He was lucky he did not break his leg.

We said our goodbyes then headed down the highway, stopping after half an hour for breakfast. We then travelled another half hour to Berry Springs National Park. We had a walk around and I even sat and dangled my feet in the water! The water comes from a natural spring and is quite warm, there were a lot of people swimming in it. It was very picturesque - I can't do it justice in words, you'd just have to see for yourself.

From there we made our way to Litchfield National Park, arriving at the caravan park in time for lunch. Wangi Tourist Park is way out from anywhere and is very pleasant but only has basic amenities. When you arrive, if no one is about you go and set up and then Ray, the caretaker, comes round in the evening and collects your money. We quite like it here, it is very peaceful and not commercialised - just a campground in the middle of nowhere. The electricity generator runs all night so in theory you have power twenty four hours a day . . . provided the ‘gennie’ doesn’t overload and stop. It happened just as everyone was making dinner but it was soon working again.

We met a nice couple who were camped next to us, they were from Broome and have a little girl, Elizabeth.
 
  Friday 8th July 2005  
  We both slept very well and were ready for a big tourist day in the park.

Our first destination was Florence Falls. We walked along a well-laid path at the side of a creek through a monsoon rain forest. It was glorious! We enjoyed the walk very much and then, to put the icing on the cake, we arrived at the falls. Magnificent! The whole area was so beautiful, the water was so clear and inviting I took off my sandals and waded in. Yes, I know those that know me are now in a state of shock, no doubt there will be a picture on the web site to prove it. It was absolutely fabulous. We then continued our walk which eventually took us back to the car park but along the way we stopped at a look-out, where we had good views of the falls and were amazed to see young people climbing the rocks alongside the falls then jumping from the very top of the falls. Mad.

When we arrived back at the car park we collected our lunch from the car and ate it sitting by the edge of the creek with our feet dangling in the water. A perfect day, and it wasn’t over.

Next stop was Buley Rockhole. We wondered if we would be were going to be disappointed after having such a lovely time at Florence. We weren’t. Buley was as beautiful as Florence but different. This time there were a series of little water falls and pools. So many people were enjoying the crystal clear water.

From there we went to Tabletop Swamp. No picturesque scenery to look at, it was just a swamp, but we sat quietly on a log and waited and then we saw some of the bird life that frequents the swamp. It was so peaceful.

Tolmer Falls was the next on the agenda. No swimming here as the falls were very high. The look-out we walked to had a steep drop to one side. I was not at all happy but managed to see everything I wanted from a spot on the lookout where I felt safe.

From Tolmer Falls we went to Wangi Falls. Beautiful, lots of people swimming. We did a fairly short walk but it was through the monsoon forest and, in parts, arduous. It was again wonderful and we felt we had had the most perfect day, one of the highlights of our trip.
 
  Saturday 9th July 2005  
  We decided that we would take it easy today as Peter’s leg was hurting a little and we had walked a fair amount yesterday. Our friends Jan and Ross arrived mid morning and after they set up camp they joined us for coffee. Peter and I had decided to go on a Reynolds River cruise but waited to see if Jan and Ross wanted to go but they declined.

I went to book for tomorrow only to find they were booked up and only had seats available today. I booked it thinking we had a couple of hours to be there, only to find we only had half an hour.

'Pete Mate’ was not impressed when I got back to the van and said we have to be ready in half an hour and had to eat lunch on the run. Anyway we were at the gate at 1:45 p.m., ready and willing. The tour was fantastic. We set off in this coach down bitumen road, on to dirt road, then on to a four wheel drive track. We eventually arrived at the river where we boarded a boat. From the moment we boarded the coach, the tour operator was telling us about the environment we were travelling through and the wildlife. This man knew so much. Once on the boat and cruising about the wetlands, we saw abundant wildlife and bird life and learnt so much. So many crocodiles . . . I have now decided that I don’t like crocodiles.

We had a marvellous time on board and then it was back to camp on this bus that moved at high speed to get us home for 6:00 p.m. Then it was happy hour with Jan and Ross.
 
  Sunday 10th July 2005  
  Peter worked on the website and I wrote some letters. During the day we saw an interesting lizard digging for grubs. Jan and Ross came over for happy hour.  
  Monday 11th July 2005  
 

We left Litchfield with a certain amount of sadness as we had had such a marvellous time. We called in at the town of Batchelor on the way out of Litchfield, stocked up with a few supplies and then headed down the Stuart Highway to Adelaide River where we met Jan and Ross at the pub for lunch. The Adelaide River Pub is famous for Charlie, the Buffalo.

Charlie the Buffalo, star of Crocodile
Dundee
and the Adelaide River pub.

Charlie used to be their pet and when he died they had him stuffed and gave him pride of place on the bar. Charlie is famous for his starring role in the film Crocodile Dundee. Paul Hogan co-starred.

After lunch we all headed down to Douglas Daly, again another remote area in the sense that there is no TV, radio, newspapers or phones. On the other hand the area has fairly good roads and God knows how many caravanners traipsing back and forth. It is an area where man has not overpowered nature and we can enjoy the beauty of the place. After setting up camp we had a rest and then a couple of drinks with Jan and Ross.

 
  Tuesday 12th July 2005  
  What a day! The four of us were up and ready to go by 9:30 a.m. (Actually the other two were ready long before us).

Our first stop of the day was the hot springs. I took a spare set of clothes in case I decided to go in the water. I waded in a little way and it was beautiful - lovely and warm. Some of the water was even hot! I got used to the water and decided to go all the way and sat down in it. It was lovely.

We left there and made our way to Butterfly Gorge. We did a short walk to a water hole but it wasn’t very inviting so we then walked up a rocky path to the lip of the gorge and along the top. The views were magnificent. We then started to make our way down to another water hole but the descent was too steep and rocky so after a quick conference a decision was made that we should go back the way we came. We found a beautiful spot to have lunch with million-dollar views.

After lunch we made our way back to the car and decided to go back to the hot springs. This time we stayed in so long we all got wrinkly. Then it was back to the caravan for happy hour. Our two 'vans were so arranged that our sitting areas faced each other which made it easy for our get togethers.
 
  Wednesday 13th July 2005  
  The four of us set off with bathers to do a 2 km walk from the caravan park to a swimming hole. I decided not to take my shorts as I didn’t want to bathe today. On the way there we stopped and looked at various beauty spots. We hadn’t gone far when I had trouble with my walking shoes so Peter, being the gentleman, raced back to the caravan park to get my sandals. In his haste he fell over a tree root and scraped his knees and arms. He hadn’t even had a drink either! Anyway, once I had my sandals on we pressed on to the swimming hole. It was lovely. We had taken our morning tea and sat on the banks of this lovely oasis having our coffee and biscuits, wishing we were back at work . . . I don’t think!

In the evening we went to the café at the caravan park for a buffalo roast. It always amazes me that here we are in the middle of a national park, no phones, TV, radio or newspapers, yet a café can serve up a superb meal at a very reasonable price. We had a very enjoyable evening.

We had decided to stay another night as we really liked the place. When Peter paid for the meal and the extra night, the man behind the bar didn’t know what day it was! Peter didn’t know either so they called to me to come and help, but I didn’t know so I asked a woman at the bar who luckily knew. That is how this life gets you. Great isn’t it?
 
  Thursday 14th July 2005  
  Lay day today as we are travelling tomorrow. We all went to the café for a free morning tea, scones, jam and cream. Very nice too. ( I gave the cream a miss, just to be good!!) I was really tired so took it easy in the afternoon. Whilst Jan, Ross and Peter went back to the swimming hole for a swim I had a nice sleep. I was then fresh for happy hour.  
  Friday 15th July 2005  
  We set off for Katherine around 9:30 a.m. Ross and Jan got away a bit earlier than us as it takes us forever to get ready. We were going along nicely when we stopped at Pine Creek for a coffee break. Peter had noticed as we were travelling something amiss with the caravan, it seemed to be out of line. When we stopped he had a look and found the axle had moved out of place. He had to take the wheel off and make temporary repairs until we got to Katherine. We took it very slowly the rest of the way and sighed a big sigh of relief when we finally arrived.

When Peter was doing the repairs on the side of the road a chap came and offered help. Peter said he was okay and mentioned we were on our way to Katherine. The chap then told us it was Katherine Show and the town and caravan parks were chockablock. We phoned Ross and Jan, they had just arrived and luckily managed to book us all in. Thank goodness they did as when we finally arrived the ‘Full’ sign was displayed.

We were greeted by Ross and Jan who promptly made us a cup of tea and a sandwich for lunch. Boy did it taste good. Peter then took the wheel off again and this time found the problem; a bolt had broken. Tomorrow we will have to try and find the parts in Katherine. Easier said than done in some of these country towns. Nothing can be done today other than to have happy hour. We had a change of venue and went to the café bar here at the caravan park and had drinks and a meal.
 
  Saturday 16th July 2005  
  Katherine gets full marks, we got all the parts we need and some spares. We also bought the new Harry Potter book. After doing some much needed shopping we went back to the caravan and Peter worked on the repairs which were successful. Then before we knew it, it was happy hour!  
  Sunday 17th July 2005  
  We all decided to have a lay day today as we over indulged at last night’s happy hour.  
  Monday 18th July 2005  
  We had to do a few errands in town and I had to have my blood test. In the afternoon we went to a local historic homestead. They give you a free tour and you can buy a Devonshire Tea. The only day they are not open is Monday, but we didn’t know that. The home is adjoined to a caravan park so we toddled off to their bar and had a couple of drinks.  
  Tuesday 19th July 2005  
  We went to Edith Falls today. We had been told how lovely it is here and they were not wrong, it is beautiful. It was an hour’s drive from where we are staying so on arrival we had morning tea. We then set off up a track to the top of the gorge and walked around the top, taking in the striking scenery as we went. It was a little tough for me in parts but a relatively easy walk. We passed lovely clear, cool water holes where people were swimming but as we had left our bathers in the car we had to keep on walking.

Back at the car we retrieved our lunch from the car and found a shady spot under a tree to eat it. After a short rest we all went down to the swimming hole to try it out. I decided I wasn’t going in as it was a steep drop into the water and I like to find my way gradually. The other reason was the water apparently was freezing. Peter and Jan went in for a swim but Ross and I declined.

The swimmers changed into dry gear and then it was ice creams all round before we made our way home. On the way home we took it in turns to yawn and I commented that people do not realise what hard work retirement is, all this enjoying oneself is quite tiring.
 
  Wednesday 20th July 2005  
  Lay day today. Catching up on emails and website. Happy hour with Jan and Ross in the evening.  
  Thursday 21st July 2005  
  The four of us went to the bistro for breakfast this morning; very pleasant it was too. We then went our separate ways as we all had a lot to do getting ready for our departure in the morning.

Peter and I went into town to update the website and send emails. The computer guy in the internet café was very nice and helpful but ended up messing up the computer so much we had to take it across the road to a computer shop for them to fix it. Whilst they were working on our computer we did our shopping and other errands. It was around 5:00 pm when Peter managed to get the computer back. We took it to another internet café and managed to update the website and send and receive emails.

Meanwhile, back at the camp, we were due to meet Jan and Ross for dinner so I went along on my own and Peter joined us later - he wasn’t too late. We had a couple of drinks and then ate dinner. After dinner we all went back to our 'van for coffee and chocolates. A very pleasant evening.
 
  Friday 22nd July 2005  
  It was very sad saying goodbye to Jan and Ross but hopefully we will meet up again one day.

We set off around 9:45 a.m. We were not in a hurry as we had only 110 kms to travel today. We arrived at Mataranka around lunchtime, set up camp, had lunch and a rest then tried out the thermal pool. It was very nice but deep, so whilst Peter had a swim I sat on a step where the water just came up to my shoulders. In the evening we went over to the bar for happy hour, chatted to a couple from Melbourne, came home, ate dinner and went to bed. I was plum worn out. It seemed very strange without Jan and Ross.
 
  Saturday 23rd July 2005  
  This morning we had a look around the town of Mataranka. Mataranka’s claim to fame is the Gunn family, especially Jeannie Gunn who wrote ‘We of the Never Never’ We had a look in the park which has various statues of the Gunn family and people associated with them. We took a drive out to Bitter Springs which is another thermal pool; the water was crystal clear.

We took a drive along a road which runs parallel to the Roper River, stopping off at a few of the beauty spots. It was very pretty but also interesting; it gave you an idea of what it was like when this area was a cattle station.

We then headed back to camp as happy hour was looming. We met a few new people, very nice to chat to. There was Gail and Graham, Andy and Robyn and . . . Darren. Darren’s wife was cleaning the 'van so couldn’t come to happy hour. As they say, it takes all sorts!!
 
  Sunday 24th July 2005  
  Today we went on a conducted tour of the park and a replica of Elsy, the original Gunn homestead. This Elsy was built for the film, ‘We of the Never Never’. The original homestead was further along the road but is now just ruins. After the tour we watched the movie in the bar area. The TV would have to be as old as ours at home,  (23 years at least). The picture had the reflection of the bar in it the whole time and the sound wasn’t the best. We got the general idea anyway.

After that it was back to the 'van for lunch and a rest before happy hour. We spent happy hour with Leonie and John who also happen to be from W. A. and are in the caravan next to ours. Very pleasant it was too.
 
  Monday 25th July 2005  
  We were supposed to be making our way towards Queensland today but decided to stay another night as we particularly wanted to do a walk to a spot known as Stevie's Hole. Well, actually it was a walk I particularly wanted to do, Peter just agreed to come along. It was a very short walk, about 1.8 kms each way, along a well made track. When we got to the end there was a beautiful creek flowing through a leafy valley.

Stevie’s Hole was so named because a tour guide called Steve used to take tourists there. We had morning tea whilst sitting on a log watching the water flow. Superb. We then both got to work, Peter making dams and channels with mud and leaves and me playing Pooh sticks. When we finally left Stevie’s Hole we realised we had spent over an hour ‘messing about on the river’. All good fun but we were glad no one else was around to see us. On the walk back we did a small circuit around the thermal pool and called in at the bar for a cool drink.

I had taken Edith out for some exercise even though the walk was easy. I must explain who, or maybe what, Edith is. When walking to the Edith Falls with Jan and Ross I found some of the going tough as I have been blessed with short legs. Ross found me a sturdy stick and when we were back at the camp, sawed the end off so it was the right size for me. He gave it a rub down with some sand paper and . . . Edith was born. I have found that having Edith is a great boon and I thank Ross greatly. I guess Peter does too as he no longer has to help me as much.

After a late lunch we went into town to see if we could find out where the name 'Mataranka' came from. As Peter has covered this on the webpage I will not repeat it. When walking over to the bar for Happy Hour we decided we would stay yet another night and have a lay day tomorrow. We are so glad we do not book ahead as we can decide what we want to do, day by day.
 
  Tuesday 26th July 2005  
  Lay day.  
  Wednesday 27th July 2005  
  We finally said our goodbyes to Mataranka. We enjoyed our stay here apart from the dust; a lot of the time it was like living in a dust bowl.

We were on the road by 8:45 a.m. and made good time to our first stop. We were going to have breakfast at a café in Larrimar that had been recommended. We drove past it, turned around and came back only to find it was closed as they had gone shopping! We knew of another place so we called there and enjoyed a bacon and egg sandwich before pressing on to Newcastle Waters, a rest area, for another break. This is where I discovered I had miscalculated the kilometres and we had further to go than anticipated. We carried on to Renner Springs where we had to fill up at $1.60 per litre.

After a cool drink we hit the road again, arriving at our overnight destination by 5:00 p.m. The place was called Attack Creek as the explorer Stuart and two of his colleagues stopped here and returned south due to ‘hostile natives and illness’. The rest area had toilets, water and barbecues and a dozen or so other campers. We spent a pleasant evening and were again enthralled by the night sky. Considering we were close to the highway with road trains going past, we had a reasonable night’s sleep. It did not go unnoticed that when Peter parked the caravan he positioned it so when we were in bed I was nearest the highway!
 
  Thursday 28th July 2005  
  Today we didn’t hurry for two reasons. One being that we just don’t unless we really have to. The other is we didn’t have too far to go today (237kms).

We stopped for morning tea at a rest area called '41 Mile Bore' and saw dozens of zebra finches clamouring for a drink of water at the water tank. Someone had cut a plastic bottle in half and filled it with water for them.

We continued on towards our overnight destination, Barkly Homestead, but realised we were going to be a little early to set up camp for the night. After having our lunch at Barkly Homestead we decided to skip an overnight stay there and carry on to tomorrow night’s destination. This meant we would be a day ahead of schedule, a first for us and I hope the last. We don’t want to develop bad habits like that!!

Leaving the Homestead when we saw flashing lights ahead of us and as we got closer we saw a line of police across the road, blocking our way. One of the nice gentlemen indicated where we should stop and informed us that they were doing a licence, breath test and vehicle check. The transport police checked over the car and caravan whilst the policeman asked for Peter’s driving licence. Peter tried to give him his credit card and the policeman said “Sorry Sir, we don't take bribes by EFTPOS yet, we are not that hi tech.” After Peter gave him his licence and blew in the breathalyser we were allowed to continue on our way. Peter commented to me “Why so many police people?”  I said “ It was in case you decided to plant your foot and do a Thelma and Louise”. You can decide which one of us would have been Thelma or Louise.

We had an afternoon break a couple of hours later and had a chat to a German cyclist. Apparently he comes over to Australia for six months at a time and cycles around this great land. Rather him than me. He seemed to appreciate the cup of tea and biscuits we gave him.

We arrived at Avon Downs, our free overnight stay, at around 4:30 p.m. Again there were about a dozen campers there already and we met and had a drink with a couple from Victoria and a couple from Queensland. It amused us that the place was called Avon Downs and further up the road was Shakespeare’s Creek. There isn’t a town at Avon Downs though you can see the odd building here and there. Opposite the rest area was a police station. Obviously the locals had had problems with grey nomads in the past!
 
  Friday 29th July 2005  
  After a good night’s sleep, (for me anyway, Peter couldn’t sleep), we left the rest area for Mount Isa. We arrived in Camoowheal in time for breakfast. We also needed some fuel but only filled up enough to get us to Mt Isa as we had heard on the travellers grapevine that fuel was a lot cheaper there.

We had been warned many times about the road from Camoowheal to 'The Isa' (as it is called). In a lot of places it is single lane and frequented by giant road trains. To pass oncoming traffic someone has to get into the dust. Usually it is the caravanners as one does not argue with a road train. Peter has covered it on the web page so I’ll not duplicate it here but I will say it was a little hairy in places and Mr Bucket insisted I took photos. “Take photos? I'm only just managing to keep my breakfast down!!!” Anyway I think I did rather well. I might take up photography.

We arrived at The Isa around lunch time, set up camp, had lunch and then went into town to explore. First impression is we will be glad to move on as it is very much an industrial town. We have found before that we don’t like a place on arrival. Usually it grows on us after a couple of days.
 
  Saturday 30th July 2005  
  We started cleaning out the dust of Mataranka from the car and caravan.  
  Sunday 31st July 2005  
  More washing and cleaning, it seems it will take forever to get rid of the dust.

Peter went to help out neighbours, Kevin and Carol, as they had a faulty light. Luckily we had a spare switch and as Peter had previously repaired our light he knew what to do. In the afternoon we walked over to another caravan where a travelling hairdresser was giving cheap hair cuts. I say ‘we’ as they had two big dogs so Peter had to come to ‘protect' me. Once the dogs were under control he left and I received a very reasonable haircut at a very cheap price. The best hair cut I have had since travelling - and the most expensive - was in Darwin.

In the evening we were invited to Kevin and Carol’s caravan for happy hour. Very pleasant.