Travelling around Australia in a motorhome. A story of our travels starting from NSW then through Queensland, across to Northern Territory and Western Australia, then to South Australia, Victoria and finally across the seas to Tasmania. We have enjoyed everywhere we have visited and look forward to setting off again in our motorhome.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Adelaide River 27 August 2006

Sunday was pretty humid before we left, so we managed a last swim before we finally said goodbye to Darwin and drove off towards Kakadu. The best impromptu swim yet! Laura thought it was Peter’s best idea of the day.
First stop was to see the jumping crocodiles by boat on the Adelaide River. It was a lot of fun and really fascinating to get our first real taste of their size and habits. It’s a commercial venture and we had to reflect on whether this was the right thing to do to feed them. They came up to the boat very quickly and we were surprised how many there were about. We saw about 15 crocodiles who jumped up for chunks of meat (only pork) heaving over half of their body out of the water. Some of them were enormous and weighed ¾ tonne. The biggest we saw was Aggro at 5 ½m. He only had one fore arm left. Missing three limbs! They are mean to themselves! Very territorial and stick to the same area. This helps humans know who is around in general. The skipper was able to get very close to them and we were amazed at size of those enormous jaws. We all felt we understood crocs a bit better. They are meaner and sneaker than their pretty little eyes try to tell you - remember “Never smile at a crocodile”. We stayed the night at the carpark by the river; however we were warned not to go outside at night, because of the crocs wandering around. We looked out with the torch a few times and saw a python snake by the car. When we looked again it was half its size as we saw it disappear down a CRACK next to the car. Never saw a crocodile!

Darwin 18 – 26 August 2006

The Darwin Festival has so many good performances on in the Botanic Gardens it was difficult to choose a few to go to. We chose Broad as our first big event. They are a five piece band fronted by Debra Conway. It was a fantastic mixture of rock, blues and country that enthused the audience including us. Most of the big performances are held in the Botanical gardens which are alight with gorgeous fantasy lighting of fires and lanterns. You can sit outside in the garden and continue to listen to other music and soak up the ambience of this special place. We also went to hear Jeff Lang. He is a very talented guitarist who also wowed everybody.
Next in the excitement levels was the joy of having Laura come to stay while on her way to Asia. She arrived in Darwin at 1230am! We went to bed and set the alarm to pick her up but she rang to say her flight was half an hour early! We didn’t know planes could be early! Lots of planes come and go about that time and it is part of living in Darwin - it’s the only Capital city airport without restrictions. Be glad you have them Sydneysiders! It was great to see her after 5 months on the road. We do miss everyone and when we catch up it is as if nothing has changed, so this is very reassuring.
We all went to yet another lovely concert with Fourplay, a string quartet that are amazing in their versatility. They do their own versions of modern songs, as well as their own compositions. They are masters of their craft and you would not believe their interpretations of other instruments could come from a violin.
We wandered around Darwin to take in the main areas for Laura and visited the courts again. Getting to be a habit! More interesting than Law and Order. We saw part of a case of an illegal Chinese fisherman who would not stop for the Australian Navy because he thought they were pirates and they did not speak Chinese! We moved on to the drug dealer who claimed he was a loner with terrible pain and had to take 5 Panadol an hour with no effect. His only friend was his wife who sat in the dock as a co-accused. He only had 11 kg and about $34,000 when caught. Oh well! He was in trouble when he said he had hoped to retire to Indonesia with the proceeds.
We did a bit of shopping for Laura and spent other times swimming in the salt pool which was an ideal temp.On Thursday we caught a ferry across to Mandorah and had a drink at the old pub. This is the only way to appreciate the size of Darwin Harbour and we enjoyed the trip across and relaxed on the beach. The pup is right on the sand and we managed to lie on the beach and enjoy a drink whilst we watched our boat come across the harbour. It felt so from Parliament which we had just seen an hour ago. After watching the final moments of the sunset from the wharf we went to Mindel Beach markets and wandered around the huge array of food stalls to choose a favourite dish. There were a cacophony of dishes but it has a very Asian flavour. The warm evening, the breeze and the variety of performers enhances the experience. There are also lots of European tourists there as it is the thing to do in Darwin on every Thursday and Sunday during the dry. Of course there is NO possibility of rain and we believe that, as it hasn’t rained since Alice Springs.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Darwin Botanical Gardens

Darwin Fringe Festival

Friday, August 18, 2006

Darwin 7 – 17 July 2006

On Monday we visited the NT Art Gallery and Museum. It contained many fine examples of traditional and modern art and the Aboriginal art section was really impressive in range and size. There is a great display of the venomous animals that you may encounter in the NT. The ‘hit’ was a very large 6m crocodile, called Sweetie that had been accidentally drowned whilst being relocated. It was finally preserved and is an amazing sight.
On Thursday, we went to the opening of the Darwin Festival in the park over looking the harbour. The sunset increased the beauty of the already beautiful setting. Three Aboriginal bands played. They came from outer regions playing in their different languages. Interestingly, this was the first time we had seen a large number of Aborigines at a cultural event - all very enthusiastic and supportive of their favourite bands.
The Annual Aboriginal Art Awards were held in the gardens of the Museum once again over looking the water - another beautiful setting on a perfect evening. We managed to sit in a lovely spot and watched a spectacular sunset. The award also featured some very dramatic Aboriginal dancing and music.
Peter was up early for the local garage sales on Saturday. Although he was gone for an age there wasn’t much around.
The annual Garden Show in the Botanic Gardens drew our interest and included a lovely garden concert of guitar players from Charles Darwin Uni. Then onto the closing party of the Fringe Festival at Brown Mart Theatre next to the park. It was an outdoor concert featuring Polynesian dancers, belly dancers, a touring Irish poetry group, drummers etc.
Visited Old Darwin Goal, which was quite depressing. The most disheartening aspect was that it was still in use until quite recently - it was medieval at best.
On Monday we had a wander around Darwin and popped into the Supreme Court and sat in on a case, which was interesting as it showed us how the legal system handles controversial cases. The judge was trying make a sentence but the dilemmas about which way to treat a ‘ young’ 19 year old meant that the judge had to go off to think it through a bit. We also sat in on the Magistrates’ Court the week before and saw about 7 cases come and go. Unfortunately they involved about 5 Aboriginals relating to violence, alcohol abuse and driving without licence whilst drunk etc.
Small world # 11 - we were visiting an art gallery when we caught up with some guys from Kiama. They were here on a tour of Aboriginal art communities to get ideas for their cooperative in Gerringong. They were very friendly and articulate and full of energy and enthusiasm for their project. They really are very different to the Top End Mob who are very close to their old culture which then influences their response to European ways. The Darwin communities do seem more settled than the Alice Springs communities and alcohol abuse not so evident. One thing that is special is that we never see children crying at all. They are all so cheerful and full of beans.
On Wednesday afternoon we relaxed at the Darwin Trailer Club adjacent to the lovely Yacht Club. We sat on a table right next to the sand and watched the sun go down over the water. It is still hard to get used to the sun setting on the water and the lovely balmy evenings – about 24deg with a warm breeze. We had a lovely meal outside and felt like we had a secret that most of Australia ignores -the wonderful dry season in Darwin! We keep checking the weather to see if the south has picked up yet but marvel at our new summer in winter. Every day has been much the same here and we heard someone say it was another Groundhog Day. That is so true. We only feel the heat a bit about 12-3pm. The afternoon breeze is perfect.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Darwin Fringe Festival

Sunset at Mindil Beach

MV Neptuna and SS Barossa burning after Japanese raid on Darwin Harbour

Monday, August 07, 2006

Darwin 30 July – 6 August 2006

Made an early start and settled into the Polo-Cross field at Darwin for our first night. Drove into town and checked out the other camp sites and found one that seems pleasant and good for our stay. All of Darwin is noisy for the next three weeks because of a major air force exercises taking place, although we are not too disturbed by it. Our site was vacated by a permanent resident the day before we arrived and backs on to the golf course which gives us a lovely outlook and shade from 3pm. The pool is great and we swim most days. During the week we have been looking around the city and its surrounds. Darwin has many fine public buildings for a city of only 80,000. It is a modern mixture of small town facilities mixed with capital city infrastructure – between the Japanese bombing, Cyclone Tracy and the white shoe brigade, there is not much left of the old town and most historical buildings date from the 1930’s or WWII. The city is very attractive along the Esplanade looking through a green belt of parks onto the wider harbour. The main suburbs all have lovely green space on the waters edge and everyone looks out across it. We’ve had a picnic lunch in the park on the harbour, fish and chips on the wharf, watched a colourful sunset on Mindil Beach with all the tourists and then ate at the famous food market there. The weather is great and very enjoyable with day max about 30 and nights about 20, plus lots of nice sea breezes. The shops in the city are a bit run down with quite a few vacant arcades, even in the centre. Seems the big shopping centre is at Casuarina a few suburbs away. Have not been there yet as shopping is not our hobby, though there are enough ordinary things to buy any day. Peter (once again), checked out mechanics for some ongoing work on the vehicles.
They are doing a lot of work around the old wharves to ‘Noosa-fy’ the waterfront. There are glossy brochures all around about a new development called Wharf One. It will have marinas, a wave lagoon, manmade beaches, parks, amphitheatres, etc. The brochure discusses the flying times from Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Shanghai and Singapore. For anyone interested we learnt of a “budget” Singaporean airline called Tiger that has really cheap flights to and from Darwin. ($385 return and “two for one offers” - have a look). Went to the casino and had a flutter, but it was much like other casinos we have visited – just a giant leagues club.
We are interested in the Japanese bombing of Darwin, as Peter’s dad was working on the MV Neptuna in the harbour during the first raid at 19 February 1942. He spoke of it quite a bit and when you are here you really wish he was standing beside you to tell it as it was. It was obviously a very different Darwin to the one that is going on now.
On Saturday morning, we went to visit the local airforce base to view the planes taking part in the defence exercise. There were jet fighters from Australia, Thailand, Singapore and Britain here to participate in Operation Pitch Black. We have seen and heard quite a bit of it all. They had a sausage sizzle on and when we decided to buy one we found out that they had RUN OUT OF GAS! Seemed rather funny next to all the security etc.
The Sunday markets were at a few locations – they were a lot of fun and we bought a lovely local pendant made from very ancient sea bed stone.
The National Trust does fundraising every Sunday afternoon serving a High Tea at Burnett House, overlooking the harbour. We sat out in the tropical gardens in perfect splendour and enjoyed it.

Buley Rockhole

Manton River 29 July 2006

Left Wangi Falls after two lovely nights of listening to the falls roaring down the cliffs. These are very substantial falls so it’ sounds like loud machinery. We had another very warm day (around 30deg) to enjoy the rest of the park. Luckily they involve more falls! The highlights were Buley Rockhole and Florence Falls. Buley Rockhole was a series of water cascades tumbling down a medium slope - all close together looking like the most remarkable fountain you could dream up. The edges were laced with beautiful monsoon vegetation. A few kilometres away was Florence Falls. We climbed down a very steep gorge on wooden steps to the base of the falls. We swam under the waterfall and it felt like being in a hailstorm! These falls were rather crowded and not as nice as Wangi, although the vision was still very spectacular. Another joy was the alternate route out that followed the creek with wonderful monsoon plants edging the creek that again sang its way over rocks. In the wet this would be flooded and present a very different view. (Another trip!)
Free camped on a big picnic area near the road with two other vehicles and had a surprisingly quiet night. Traffic was very quiet at night considering we were only 70 km from Darwin.

Florence Falls

Sunday, August 06, 2006

Wangi Falls (Litchfield NP) 27 - 28 July 2006

Left Robin Falls and arrived in Adelaide River (name of the river and the town) for morning tea. This is the location of a comprehensive railway museum set in the old railway station. Adelaide River developed rapidly during WWII as a forward base for Australian and American forces. There were such large numbers of people here it is hard to imagine when you see what a small town it is now. There was one large area on the river where they grew all fruits and vegetables you can imagine.
Arrived in Litchfield National Park and settled into the camp grounds next to Wangi Falls. Started feeling the heat but had a drive around in our AIR CONDITIONED car to look at the rest of the park and cool off! Met some Aboriginal painters who were very happy to chat about their work. Interestingly the lady listed a most varied heritage including a substantial Chinese background, and a smattering of Irish and English, however she obviously identifies closely with the Aboriginal part of her heritage. They both had a fascinating background but were now committed to exploring different painting techniques.
We continued driving and went on a slow 10km 4WD track to the Lost City. This is a series of sandstone formations that have been eroded away to look like a town of ancient Asian buildings – we wondered what the Aboriginals would have made of these formations. Many of the shapes looked like monuments. The vegetation within the area had recently been burnt and we imagine that the presence of the small trees would have made it feel like a beautiful garden. Arrived back at Wangi Falls later than we expected and close to sunset and we were lucky enough to see the sun reflecting off the cliffs. What a spectacle of colours – with the reds, browns and yellows of the rock formations, the white of the waterfall and the bright array of green trees reflecting on the water. Peter photographed it a hundred times from every angle while Heather swam across to both falls. Swimming in the glow of light was like getting to the end of the rainbow! On Friday we had two more long swims in the very large pool and swam under the falls. It was a wonderful experience swimming under the waterfall and experiencing the bubbles and the push away from the wall. We used our goggles and snorkel and spotted a few fish, lots of small rocks, sandy banks and deep holes where the water hits the ground. The fallen logs look like crocs but we are fully assured by the National Parks that all is ok in these spots and anyway the crocs will take all the fat little kids first!

Wangi Falls

Lost City

Robin Falls 26 July 2006

Had a peaceful morning and then set off on the bumpy track to Adelaide River. On the way we popped in to see Robin Falls. We got chatting to a couple we met on the road and as it was now late afternoon, we decided to camp for the night. We followed the creek up to the falls and were enthralled at the magic of the perfect creek that you only dream about. It actually had the feel of Tasmania, though the water was warm enough to go straight in. Robin Falls spilt over a medium sized precipice and the water criss-crossed the face of the cliff and created a lovely pool that we climbed up to and had a refreshing dip in the waters. Swimming is now becoming a daily event and the weather is perfect for it! Had a lovely walk back along the creek, followed by drinks with some fellow travellers. Of course they had coincidental connections having lived in Nowra and they now travel all the time. We are meeting quite a few very nice couples that have been travelling for years. They seem to take up work for a few months here and there. Most are professionals and take great joy in doing work of a completely different nature to their profession. (You can get work tomorrow if you want it up here.)
Fell asleep right next to the creek listening to the music of water and rocks that sounded like steady rain. We awoke a few times to the sound of “rain” - extremely relaxing! Of course we didn’t want to leave in the morning!

Robin Falls