Monthly Archives: May 2014
All has been quiet on the blog for the last few days because we have been holed up at Gunlom Falls and are now at Katherine on the return trip to Brisbane. Now Gunlom was a great place but there were no telephones, internet or power for that matter. So it is quite peaceful. But more on Gunlom later.
We have stayed at the Kakadu Lodge campground in Jabiru and have used it as a base for exploring the Park. Quite a comfortable campground with a large chlorinated crocodile free billabong to swim in at the end of the day’s activities. It is still rather warm up here, temperatures are around 33-35 degrees and humid, so it is good to get walks in the morning and then return to the Billabong to cool off after lunch. We had a large shaded camp site, plenty of room. It seems we are well ahead of all the old people in their vans travelling north as the place was only about 15% full.
Have spent two mornings visiting firstly Ubirr and then Nourlangie Rock. On both occasions we did the free Ranger guided walks. These were a really good way to gain a better appreciation of the environment and the attachment that aboriginal people have to the land and what lives in it; and have had for thousands of years. The views over the Kakadu landscapes and the rock art were amazing. We later went back to Ubirr to see the sunset over Arnhem Land. Something we will remember for years to come.
On our last day at Jabiru, the State of Origin game was on that night, we crossed over into Arnhem land on a day tour over the East Alligator River flood plain and some more less visited art sites, as well as a visit to the Guluyambi Aboriginal community arts centre.
Kakadu NP has been a bit of an eye opener to us and we have learned a lot more about the aboriginal people’s connection to Country. I picked up a copy of a little book ‘Gagudju Man Bill Neidjie’. It seems there was a TV show Kakadu Man in the late 80s maybe, Big Bill was Kakadu Man. He was one of the leading traditional owners who played a key role in the formation of Kakadu NP and the co management of it. He died in 2002, 89 years old or thereabouts. His bones are at a place called Hawk Dreaming in Arnhem Land. The book is a collection of poems. They are a ‘history’ of the aboriginal people. There are some inspiring pieces. Big Bill was worried the ‘story’ would be lost and he needed to have it written down. He was pessimistic about the future and whether younger aboriginals would hang onto their culture. Only time will tell I suppose.
Gunlom Falls to come.
Why Kakadu Man 1? I’ll explain in the next blog.
Meanwhile we have had a great few days here in the NP. Amazing place. A highlight has been the sunset boat trip on the Yellow Waters Billabong, and also part of the Alligator River system. No alligators here just crocs, one of those early English explorers got it wrong. Plenty of crocs and bird life.
Up here we are just at the end of the wet season, plenty of water around and everything is still so green and lush. With the onset of the dry parts of the Park are deliberately burnt in accordance with indigenous culture requirements. The reasons behind this are actually pretty good………makes it easier to move around in the country, much of the plant life responds to fire, creates new growth and then attracts animals and food etc. It also mitigates the effect of much more intense fires late in the dry season. The ground is so damp the fires are quite benign in their impact, new growth appears within days.
What all the smoke did for us was create a great sunset!
We have now arrived in Kakadu and are based in Jabiru. After leaving Mataranka we stopped for 2 nights at Edith Falls. This is about 50 k north of Katherine, and is in the northern section of Nitlimik NP, Katherine Gorge is in the southern section. We stopped briefly in Katherine to do a shop at Woolies, not seen since goodness knows where ( I think Charters Towers). Edith Falls was a great stopover. Super plunge pool. It had not been long opened before we arrived. “Opened’ is a code word up here meaning checked/cleared of crocs. So you can have a swim.
Which allthego did. In fact he swam across the plunge pool to the waterfall on the other side. The posters said this was 150 m, but it seemed a bit further. A couple of other old blokes went around the edge of the pool (sort of dragging themselves along the rocks) probably 5 times as far. They were pretty well-worn out by the time they got to the falls. Being pretty fit allthego was there without trouble, but waited half an hour to return with the current from the Falls. Athomealone had lost interest in allthego and had returned to camp to have a chardonnay. Allthego staggered back. The water in the pool was just great, nice and warm with little fish that nibbled at your feet and legs. Athomealone was reluctant to enter the pool because of this.
Next day we were off on a two-hour walk to the upper Falls. What a super spot this is. Water just cascades down into a deep pool and then further down to a quiet and deep pond.
All sorts of characters were here enjoying the dip. Some climbed up the rock walls and jumped in, whilst others trod water and watched on taking pictures.
The camp site was also excellent. Alas we had to move on to Kakadu for the next adventure!
“No, it’s not Never Land”, Tinker Bell said to Peter Pan it’s the Never Never land of the famous Aussie classic ‘We of the Never Never”! We are at Mataranka (the town near where the novel was set in the early 1900s) enjoying the Bitter Springs thermal pools. Nice warm 34 d flowing waters. Coming up from the 3 Ways we stopped overnight at the Daly Waters Hotel. A good stop with a bit of lively entertainment and a nice meal of steak and Barra.
On the way to Mataranka it was recommended that we should call in at Fran’s place at Laramah for a meat pie. David and Jenny Guyatt our friends from CUC were here a year ago and they got stung for $10 a pie. Well the pies are mow $11 and it was too early in the morning for us to partake. Instead we got stung for coffee, tea and scones at $18. Not bad coffee I must say. Fran didn’t have a black eye, just a rather red nose after
Athomealone pretending to be having fun in the pool at Bitter Springs
45 years in the Territory.
We have spent 4 wonderful days here in the Boodjamulla National Park, formerly Lawn Hill Gorge NP. Telephone and internet access just doesn’t happen here unless you park yourself next to the Ranger Station in the Park, about 10 k from where we stayed at Adels Grove.
This is just one of those magic places, outstanding natural beauty. An oasis in a some what dry environment. We have wandered off on a couple of bush walks along the creek banks, nothing too strenuous, and also a two-hour paddle up the gorge. Allthego doing all the paddling with Leanne keeping an eye peeled for crocs and turtles! Only the freshwater crocs are here which are harmless it seems, unless we human types annoy and provoke them.
Also slipped down to the Riversleigh World Heritage fossil site for a look-see. An evening plunge in the Creek as the sun was setting was a great way to cool off before heading down to the bar for an evening drink before dinner.
It was hard to leave here but we packed up and continued the journey down a fairly rugged gravel road, with a few shallow creek crossings, for about 240 k to Camooweal. Tomorrow we cross the border into the NT.
Pictures are the best way to tell the story.
We have now made it to Adels Grove at Lawn Hill National Park. After leaving Normanton we travelled through to Burketown. 30 k of sealed road, 120 k of dirt followed by about 70 k of sealed road. Crossed a few rivers, including the Flinders which is Queensland’s longest River.
On the way we called in at the memorial marking where Burke & Wills made their last campsite in 1861 before starting their return trip south. It is a pretty isolated spot near the Little Bynoe River, which isn’t so little.
There is not a lot at Burketown and it seems to be set up mostly to service the cattle industry, Barramundi fishing and tourists travelling along the Savannah Way. One of the big events here is the Morning Glory. A strange cloud formation that rolls in from the Gulf from September through to December. We were lucky to see it happen the morning we were there. An unusual event the locals said for this time of year. We didn’t complain it was quite spectacular. There were 3 bands of these ‘rolled-up’ clouds crossing over Burketown, all over in about 20 minutes or so.
rom Burketown we turn south to Gregory Downs and then west to Adels Grove for a few nights in Lawn Hill National Park. Bit more dirt road to come.
Well we have had six days here at Karumba on the Gulf. What a neat place this camp ground on Karumba Point is. Right on the water, temperature is great at give or take 30 degrees. No wind to speak of . Blue skies. No rain, it stopped a couple of weeks ago. People are happy, they go fishing, talk about fishing, clean their catch, eat their catch, go fishing, talk about fishing, clean their catch,eat their catch etc. Endless! The pool here though is a bit chilly. Allthego went in a few times and it was nippy. There is a character here who ties a rope around himself, gets in the pool and does laps against the rope, really bores into it. Must be 70. Exhausting.
We have used Karumba as a base and tripped into Normanton a couple of times for the ride on the Gulflander and to look around the town. Much prefer Kuramba for ambience!
Allthego was chasing Barra so he took a charter out for half day in search of the Barra, no Barra. The port side of the boat caught 80% of the fish, about 25 salmon. Allthego was on the starboard side and caught 2 under size salmon and an under size cod. Stingrays offered some minor excitement. The catch was shared, so we ended up with a couple of nice fish. Filled in 5 hours on the placid Gulf seas and it was very peaceful out there drifting around. Fishing and eating fish seems to be the go here.
The fish and chips (had a few prawns as well) are great at the Sea Breeze Cafe. Really nicely cooked piece of Barra. Hotel on the Point was also great as the sun sank into the ocean.
Our last evening was spent on a sunset cruise ( a loose description for an over-size dinghy) along the Norman River and then out about 5 k into the Gulf to a sand island where we wandered around taking photos, drinking a glass of white and eating some prawns and fruit. While this was happening the sun was dropping into the ocean. Really top trip.
We left Karumba this morning for Burketown (where we now are). Tomorrow we are onward bound for Adel’s Grove near Lawn Hill National Park. On the way through the savannah we stopped off at Burke & Wills last campsite before they set off for the coast (which they never reached). There are two trees here still living bearing Burke and Wills marks. The live trees must be 200 plus years old (?).
Adel’s Grove is a bit isolated and I may not be able to get a blog up for a few days. Maybe something is possible.
On Wednesday we were off to Croydon on the Gulflander. This is a 5 hour journey on a rail motor with one carriage and covers the 140k or so to Croydon from Normanton. We left at 8.30 am. The train was full, probably 40 or so people, most going the full distance and some getting off after about 40k at a place called Critter’s camp to rejoin their bus trip. During the dry season the trip is very popular and the Gulflander runs on a number of days for tours etc. The trip we were on was the regular weekly run to Croydon and then back the next day to Normanton. It started operations to Croydon in 1891 using steam locomotives, the boilers were fired with wood not coal, with wood in short supply in the Gulf country rail motors replaced the steam locomotives in 1929.
The rail motor we were on RM 93 commenced its life on the line in 1982, built-in 1950 and has been reworked and refurbished a few times since then. Its 6 cylinder diesel engine though is 69 years old, the whole thing works like a truck except on tracks. The train runs on hollow steel sleepers that are set in the ground, there is no ballast or embankments on the track where the line is flood affected. Floods apparently just flow across the line and do little if any damage. 90% of the sleepers and track are original and have been in place for 120 years. A couple of sections have recently been replaced due to rust finally taking hold in an area where acid from old mining operations has leached through the soil and damaged the sleepers.
As the train rattles along, the driver who is also the station master and ticket seller, gives a running commentary on the history of the line, the environment through which it passes and the communities that used to line its track (these are long gone).
On the previous Monday we had done a short trip on another rail motor RM 60 which had been built-in 1931. This travelled about 4 miles to the 4 mile, curious that! There is only one track all the way to Croydon with some triangular turnarounds at various places to allow the train to change direction and head back to Normanton. This little rail motor has been fully restored and rattles along at about 30k an hour.
RM 60 needs to be cranked to get her going
The Gulflander arrives in Croydon at 1.30 pm in time for lunch at the Club Hotel and a short wander around town. We chose to return by a bus service to Normanton at 3.30 and arrived back at 5.30, to pick up the car which we had left at the station. It was still there. Other passengers were staying overnight in Croydon, returning on the Gulflander the next day to Normanton. It was great day out for nostalgia lovers!
Georgetown and Croydon are famous for their origins as 1880’s gold mining centres. Most of the gold had been stripped by the early 1900s. In both towns the history of gold mining and the people involved are features of the town’s publicity machines. All sorts of relics from the past are on display; battery stamps, old mine sites and chimneys, flywheels, steam engines, winches, buckets etc.
Many of these were made in England but some were made in foundries on the gold fields and nearby towns. Today it is pretty much a cattle region finding its way, via the live cattle trade, to Indonesia through the Gulf port of Karumba.
We spent a couple of interesting days wandering around the sights of Georgetown and Croydon.
A pretty good fish and chips was had at the Club Hotel in Croydon, the last one of 30 still standing from the 1890s. This town has a number of well preserved wooden buildings from the same period. One of them is the courthouse where we listened to the case brought against Elizabeth Brown for drunk and disorderly conduct, she was locked up in Normanton for 2 months. Nearby the gaol has an incumbent who has been there for 90 years lying on a bed, an audio comes to life when you walk past with him moaning and groaning about the conditions.
The Chinese had a big presence on the gold fields up here and there is archaeological dig site outside Croydon on one of their former settlements, an 1890s Chinatown. An interesting place to wander around, as well as the Chinese section of the old cemetery.
An excellent camp ground here couldn’t keep us another night in town as we had to move on.
This was a special! We passed the Gulflander travelling from Croydon to Normanton. Doesn’t generally happen on Saturdays. Once a week on Thursdays is the rule. This was a special charter full of grey nomads! We are doing this trip next week.
Leaving Croydon we are now heading for Normanton and Kurumba, hoping to catch an elusive Barramundi on the shores of the Gulf.
Well, we made it to the Undara Lava Tubes, or the ‘Undara Experience’ as the marketing people call it. No blog while we were there as the internet was a bit variable. Just can’t wait till we get the NBN! Along the way we called in at Greenvale for lunch at the 3 Rivers Hotel. One of its claims to fame is having a sausage tree in its backyard. Now the sign says there are only 4 of these trees in Australia, 2 are in Townsville, 1 is in Adelaide the other one is right here in Greenvale. Believe it or not! This tree comes from South Africa/Mozambique and apparently has no use for its sausages, apart from the fire. Greenvale is the remnants of the town established for the now closed Greenvale nickel mine which supplied the refinery at Townsville, now owned by Clive Palmer. It is now famous for a sausage tree.
Undara is a great camping spot out in the wilds, so when we arrived and finally backed the van into our spot it was with great shock that the Physi cult struck. Some these days would say ‘awesome’. Guess what? Claire Ridley and Gary (now live in Sydney) jumped out from behind a tree and said ‘ hi there, I know you, I’m Claire’ and Leanne said ‘Yes, I’m Leanne’. The Brisbane connection was made and Gary suggested Physi. Anyway it seems Claire’s kids did Physi with the Brown kids and Imlays, Whites, Tucker-Evans etc. This was all 20 years ago! What a funny place to meet up again. We were there for 3 nights.
These lava tubes are really quite spectacular to experience. They originate from lava flows from the Undara Volcano which spewed basalt flows for some 10-30 years about 190,000 years ago. There were massive volumes of lava, estimated at 23 m cubic km of the stuff. This spread out over the landscape but a lot of it found its way down gently sloping water courses. The top and sides of the flow hardened but inside it kept going, finally when the lava eruptions stopped the tubes drained out leaving a tube (bit like worm casings). Well some of these tubes are big enough to drive road trains through. We went into 4 of them but there are lots, one is estimated at running for 160 km. Truly something to be seen!
On our last day we climbed to the top of the Kalkarni volcano and walked around its rim, not much action in the crater as it is quite dormant. There are over 170 volcanos of various types in this geological region. The last volcano erupted here about 10,000 years ago and would have been witnessed at the time by the indigenous people.
We have now moved onto Georgetown and are on the Savannah Way heading west for Croydon tomorrow.