A Travellerspoint blog

Australia - part 11

Alice Springs to Darwin

sunny 35 °C
View Around the world in a few months! on Labgirluk's travel map.


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Another early start – a 6.30am pick up this time. We were also joined by 3 others from the previous tour (the northen territory leg of this tour is 3 small tours joined together) so we were a group of 6 that already knew each other. Some of the others also knew each other so we were a lively bunch – when awake! We were also another full tour of 20 people but thankfully the air con was efficient in the bus...
We had 3 days to cover around 1500kms with 2 nights camping, one of which was swag and other a mixture of swag and tent. We were also only going to travel along one road – the Stuart Highway which connects Adelaide to Darwin – with detours off to the side to visit places along the way. First stop – tropic of capricorn latitude. We’re pretty much at the time of year when the sun comes up and goes down along the tropic of capricorn line. Standing there with our shadows in front of us you can see it pretty much lining up..
Next stop a roadhouse in aileron. The owner has created a few sculptures that depict the indigenous people. Bizarre but amazing... Following this we stopped at the telegraph station in Barrow creek, most famous for the murder of Peter Falconio while travelling with his partner Joanne Lees. She managed to escape and they caught the person they are sure who did it, but the body has never been found...
After a little bit longer on the bus we stopped again, but this time for lunch.. This place, Wycliffe Well, has a rather strong ufo/alien vibe about it, not to mention masses of flies. It was interesting trying to eat and drink while wearing a fly net, and not let any in! Back on the road after lunch and off to the first cultural visit of the tour – the devil’s marbles. Lots of rocks (large ones) that are almost round in some cases and look precariously stacked on top of each other etc (stacked by nature not by humans). Only one pile was sensitive, so could look at it but not take pics, but pics of others could be taken. Had a discussion with the tour guide about where the red rock comes from. His understanding was that it was rusted iron ore. Once back in mobile reception I showed him about how iron ore is not pure iron so doesn’t ‘rust’ but the red colour comes from the type of iron ore as it could also be black, grey or yellow! Might have confused him slightly but he was happy to learn new things...
From the devil’s marbles we got back on the highway, viewing many termite mounds on the way (cathedral termites), and continued north to our campsite at Banka Banka, about 600kms north of our start point. We were back in swags for the night but the temperature was considerably warmer than the previous swag camping nights so didn’t bother with the sleeping bag (these ones would have been free). We were also given bottom sheets and pillowcases, unlike the previous tour (think we should have had them though).... Luckily I also had my towel and shawl as I used them in the night to give me a bit of warmth and protection against the swag canvas as I opted not to have a sleeping bag – just too warm for one now...
We had a 5am start so that we were up and on our way before the flies came out to play, plus needing to cover another 600kms to reach the next campsite – get the the flies reduce massively and the fly nets are retired for the rest of the trip.. We were going via Mataranka thermal pools for a dip in the constant 32c water with a few roadhouse type stops on the way. We had a quick stop at Dunmarra and then a longer one at Daly Water’s pub (paid 5 bucks for a group photo to be stuck on the wall) as well as lunch at the pink panther pub in Elliott – the new owners took over the pub 5 weeks previously without being told about the crocodiles that were resident there (in their own enclosures with ponds etc not running lose!). We were treated to a visit to see them and watch Sam the saltwater Croc be fed!
Eventually we arrived at Mataranka, changed into our swim stuff and headed to the thermal pools. These have to be checked every day for crocs, and in the area too.... You become paranoid but better that than anything else...
After an enjoyable hour in the pool we had to get out and changed so we could head to our camp site for the night by Katherine Gorge. This was prob another 2 hour drive...and still on the same highway!
We stayed at the tour operator’s (wayoutback) private camp ground, with no one else near us apart from a few frogs and lots of bugs... This site had some tents but not enough for all 20 of us (guide had his king single swag so no tent for him needed). The tents are permanent structures with doors, beds and mattresses. They also sleep 2. Unusually most wanted to sleep swag so 7 kindly volunteered to tent it so the rest could go swag. I swagged it. It was much warmer here too so sleeping bags weren’t necessary but still used my shawl as a layer between me and the canvas. If I’d realised I would have got my sleeping bag liner out and used that... Ah well, I know for next time....
This time we chilled out around the campfire for a bit before heading to bed. Another early start in the morning and I also wanted to do some stargazing. The milky way has been so clear whilst outback as well as the stars. Loved watching the southern cross twist on its axis showing the way south at different times through the night – well worth waking up for at different times. Orion, still drunk, disappeared early in the eve behind the kitchen tent....
Another 5am start for us with a 6am minute’s silence while Jack, the tour guide, played the last post as it was Anzac day. After that we watched the sun come up, packed away our stuff and headed back on the road. Only a short drive away we parked up and headed into Nitmiluk national park (Katherine Gorge) and up to a look out. 3 of the group managed to wangle a helicopter ride – pilot is a friend of Jack’s and had been over the evening before so the guys had talked him into it then – we watched them overhead while up at the lookout.
After picking the guys up we were back on the road and continuing north to Edith Falls via what should have been a quick snack and refuel stop in Katherine! What hadn’t been factored in was an Anzac parade going along Stuart Highway, which runs straight through Katherine, and our only route out of town. We were stuck until the parade had gone through and the road was opened again... We accepted it and went and joined the locals to watch the parade. It was a small but lovely parade with some WWII veterans at the front in old style army jeeps. Following them were the police and then a few other service men and women and then the schools.
Finally got back in the road and headed to Edith falls. Had a good 20 min walk up to the Upper pool but that had a good deep pool and waterfall. There’s a small gap behind the fall that if you can swim through (not everyone is a strong enough swimmer to swim against the current at the base of the fall) you can hide behind it for a bit. The rock behind is very smooth so no hand hold to really help you stay there. Then you just let the current push you back or into the pool. A couple of the guys found a nice jumping platform into deep water that was devoid off rocks.. I found a slightly lower one that I was more comfy jumping from. Didn’t require a run and jump method just a jump one!
Time was up all too soon and then it was head back to the bus and carry on up the Stuart highway into Darwin. Arrived in Darwin late afternoon so we had time to check in and have a shower before meeting up with one of the others from the tour to head over to Mindil Beach Night Market. It was heaving. Having met up with her friends (live in same apartment block in Melbourne but originally from Darwin) we found out that not out was it first market of season but also the night before the Arafura games as well as the day after Anzac day (lots take the Friday off if Anzac falls on a Thurs) so the kids had descended on the market. They also do fireworks for market opening night so after a walk around we also saw those.
We had walked there and it had taken about half an hour. According to the Darwinians that was 20 mins too much. Too hot, too humid and too tiring. Walking is not a big past time here. Buses, cars, taxis are the best way to get around.
We (Mette, Denisa and I) had a free day before the next tour started. Gratefully needed. We spent it looking around the shops and then resting on the grass area by the public lagoon (can’t swim in the sea here coz of crocs so lagoon is only safe salt water area to swim). We had a quick dip but think it needs a proper clean out as not as clear as had expected it to be. Maybe need to check out the wave lagoon on my next free days in Darwin – after next tour!
Next tour – Kakadu and Litchfield national parks..

Posted by Labgirluk 16:51 Archived in Australia Tagged darwin flies daly_waters mataranka edith_falls swag_camping devil's_marbles

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