A Travellerspoint blog

Overnight at Barkly Homestead

Our last stay in NT

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Barkly Homestead is situatied on the Barkly Highway which is the only bitumen road from the Northern Territory into Queensland. It is a third of the way along from the Stuart Highway to the Queensland border and is a worthwhile overnight stop. It was only a short journey from Tennant Creek (212 K’s) which gave us the luxury of leaving late from Tennant Creek and a relaxing afternoon when we got there.

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The weather whilst it was warm, was also very windy and is the most wind we have encountered since the storm we rode out in Dongara some 12 weeks ago. By morning, we had to take down the annexe as the wind was causing havoc with it. It’s just as well we spent overnight here.

This is our last stop in the Northern Territory as we cross the border into Queensland tomorrow.

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Onwards to Tennant Creek

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Today was one of our longer journeys being 353 Kilometres from Dunmarra Roadhouse to Tennant Creek. This was a fairly lengthy journey (by our standards) as it was longer than usual, and we lost some time overtaking the solar cars and their entourage. Because of a couple of stops we made along the way, we had to pass the same solar car and it’s support convoy 3 times. The car was travelling just above 80 Km/h, but travelling at 90 Km/h and pulling a caravan wasn’t easy going!

After arriving at Tennant Creek and settling into our overnight accommodation, we went into town to re-stock our supplies and spend a relaxing night before heading out again tomorrow. For those of you that know the area, we decided to go past the Barkly Highway junction onto Tennant Creek as we have heard from numerous sources that the fuel is up to 30 cents per litre cheaper than the roadhouse (called Three Ways). At 56 litres of fuel, that represents a saving of over $15.00 so is well worth the extra 48 Kilometres of travel.

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Stopover at Dunmarra roadhouse

Our first southbound stop in the never never

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After 311 Kilometres from Katherine, we arrived at Dunmarra Roadhouse for an overnight stop. Despite the weather being hot, we were blessed with a refreshingly cool evening where we didn’t need the air conditioner on to sleep to for the first time in over 3 weeks! Dunmarra is basically a truck stop on the Stuart Highway which runs between Adelaide and Darwin.

One feature of our stay here in Dunmarra is the biennial Solar challenge where solar powered cars compete on an endurance race from Darwin to Adelaide. We managed to see a couple of teams stop here for a compulsory stop on the journey and have a peek at the cars. One of the teams spent the night here and set off in the morning before us.

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Tomorrow will be interesting as we will be sharing the road with the Solar Car Challenge.

Posted by PhilAndDen 07:26 Archived in Australia Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Time to head south

Back to Katherine before going further south

sunny 38 °C
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It was great to hit the road again and retrace our steps back to Katherine. After a fairly uneventful journey we arrived back at the same caravan park we were at 3 weeks ago. It was 38 degrees when we jumped out of the car, but the lack of humidity was refreshing!

We are here for a couple of days before heading south so we can visit Edith Falls in the Nitmulik National Park. The lake at the falls was a refreshing swim and a real relief from the heat here. This part of the world is quite hot day in and day out, and the numerous hot springs and cool spring fed pools are a welcome relief.

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We also had the pleasure of being bitten by sandflies which leave large welts and are very itchy and can stay on your body for up to 4 weeks. Luckily, we managed to find useful relief here at Katherine and have been able to sleep better at night.

Posted by PhilAndDen 07:05 Archived in Australia Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Made it to the top end

Finally arrived at Darwin

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We have finally made it to Darwin. We expect to be here for 2 to 3 weeks so will update with our Darwin activities when we leave.

On our first night the heavens opened up and our annexe was flooded out. Luckily everything was not unpacked so no damage done. We had 24 mm in less than an hour. Let's hope we manage to stay dry!

What may also affect our stay time here is how long it takes us to have some repairs done to the van. On the way from Kalbarri to Denham, the front window cover was nearly pulled out of it's hinge as a result of the wind blast from an approaching road train. I managed to do some temporary sheet metal work and get in (sort of) back in position. However, when travelling on the Great Northern Hwy prior to Port Hedland, another wind blast from an oncoming road train completely ripped it out of the frame rendering it totally wrecked - it is still there somewhere on the side of the road (see pic below).

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On the way from 80 Mile Beach to Broome we had another window mishap. This time the window on the left side next to the door broke away from it's hinge at the top which was the result of us not winding the window in tight enough (see pic below)

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Once these have been fixed (waiting on parts to arrive from down south) we will be on our way hopefully before the wet season sets in up here.

One other package we have been waiting on is Danii (Denise's daughter), who arrived here on 11th October. We have been gradually getting used to the hot weather having not been in a place under 20 degrees since we left Coral Bay. Danii hit Darwin at it’s muggy best and is taking her a while to get used to it as she came here straight from wintery Perth weather. The constant heat and humidity was slowly wearing Denise and myself down as well, and with the wet season approaching, was ready to move on and head south.

We ended up staying here for 3 weeks and in that time explored most things in and outside of Darwin. Highlights for us were Litchfield National Park (100 K’s south of Darwin), Mindl Beach sunset markets, Crocodylus Park and the Territory Wildlife park which recently featured on Channel Nine’s Getaway program.
On a picnic we had at a local park Denise was bitten by the infamous Darwin Sandflies. The result was a nasty collection of welts mainly on her legs which are extremely itchy. Apparently it can take up to 4 weeks to heal, so let’s
hope it’s less time for Denise.

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Posted by PhilAndDen 00:32 Archived in Australia Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Stopover at Katherine

Catch a breath before onto Darwin

sunny 38 °C
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What was meant to be a stopover turned into 2 days as we are in no rush at this stage to get to Darwin. We are staying at a caravan park which is next door to the Katherine Hot Springs and we went there for a refreshing swim. Despite being approximately 34 degrees, it feels mildly warm and it’s nice to swim somewhere there is no chlorine. We don’t want to do too much here are we’ll be coming back though here after we’ve finished at Darwin.

One place of interest we did visit was the Jurassic Gardens which is entirely filled with all varieties of Cycads. These plants are almost unchanged since the time of the dinosaurs hence the name of the gardens. You can read more about them at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cycad

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It was also nice not to have to pay huge prices for fuel. In fact this was the cheapest fuel we have bought since leaving Perth over 8 weeks ago. It's still quite hot here but we are starting to get a taste of the humidity of the tropics which we know we'll get when we hit Darwin.

Posted by PhilAndDen 19:59 Archived in Australia Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Our first stay in the Northern Territory

Timber Creek is the first sign of civilisation

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This will be our first day in the Northern Territory and after leaving Kununurra, it’s only 40 K’s to the border and first thing we have to do is move our clocks/watches forward an hour and a half as we move into Australian Central Standard Time.

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Our objective today is Timber Creek which is only 230 K’s from Kununurra, but because of the border crossing, we have lost 90 minutes so it means we are very late having lunch!

We spotted a couple of places that look worthwhile exploring on the way into Timber Creek, so will have a look around once we get settled. The caravan park behind the roadhouse is very shady and it a bit cooler than it was in Kununurra, but the air conditioner is still put to work none the less. There is a small creek that runs behind the caravan park and staff feed the freshwater crocodiles off a small suspension bridge. Freshwater crocs may not be as aggressive as the salties but they fly out of the water when there’s food around.

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We try our hand at fishing for Barramundi, but unfortunately are in the wrong place at the wrong time. When we went to the local pub one evening we had the privilege of meeting our first cane toad. Timber Creek is only 190 K’s east of the WA border so hopefully the cane toad scourge can be kept out of Western Australia - only time will tell.

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Kununurra Kapers

Our WA leg is coming to an end

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We arrived here and decided this was a good place to put our feet up for a breather before heading into the Northern Territory, as we had been travelling every day since we left Derby. Despite the arid landscape this is the land of plenty courtesy of the Ord River Irrigation Scheme and the Hydro Electric power station. They grow all manner of produce here and I even saw Sugar Cane for the first time which appears to be the dominant crop.

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Apart from using the time to chill out we explored the region which included a day trip to Wyndham. Wyndham is 100 K’s from Kununurra by road, and is a town which is unfortunately slowly dying. It is not the hub it used to be since the port was downgraded and it shows in the look and feel of the place (or lack of). However there were number of wonderful spots we looked at including The Grotto (gorge and water hole) and Parry’s Lagoon which was on a billabong and flood plain which looked and felt like the tourist brochures you see of Kakadu National Park. The view from the 5 river’s lookout overlooking the town provided a stunning panorama, but once again the prevalent smoke haze obstructed a lot of the long distance view.

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Another place of interest was Celebrity Tree Park where visiting celebrities planted trees in the park overlooking Lake Kununurra and Lily Creek Lagoon. Some of these celebrities were as varied as John Farnham, Peter Brock and Harry Butler to name a few. We also looked over Lake Argyle which is a huge area and you don’t appreciate the enormity of it until you’ve been there.

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Kununurra is very tourist oriented and there are lots of tours you can do to places such as Lake Argyle and the Bungle Bungles, but we limited ourselves to a sunset BBQ cruise on lake Kununurra which was beautiful and well worth it. With our batteries well and truly recharged we are ready to finally leave WA after 7 weeks.

Posted by PhilAndDen 01:15 Archived in Australia Tagged family_travel Comments (2)

Halls Creek stopover

Don't believe everything you read in the paper

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After 288 K’s of mainly uphill driving, we arrive at Halls Creek. We checked into the caravan park after filling up the car. It was slightly hotter here today, which was 40 degrees under the awning of the van. We hid inside the van with the air conditioner going flat out until later in the day when we cooled off by having a dip in the pool.

Despite the notoriety of this town, it wasn’t evident to us and we had a pleasant stay.

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Fitzroy Crossing calling

An oasis in the desert

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We were not sure where to stay (there are 2 places for caravans in Fitzroy Crossing) so we ended up at the Fitzroy River Lodge just over the Fitzroy River. This is like an oasis in the desert and after we unpacked enough of the van we went up to the front bar of the resort and shouted ourselves a couple of beers as it was hot work getting things set up. We’ve noticed it getting gradually warmer the further north we are going and this region of the Kimberley is about the same during the day (approx 38 degrees).

Later on we take a drive through the town and end up at Geike Gorge National Park which is 18 K’s out of town. We did a couple of short walks there and decided to head back as didn’t have a good water supply. You could tell the locals were wondering what we were up to.

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Fitzroy Crossing was a pleasant stay thanks to the facilities of the resort and it makes a perfect overnight stay for anyone travelling through the northern parts of the Kimberley.

Posted by PhilAndDen 03:44 Archived in Australia Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

On to Derby

Boab country

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After spending the last 9 days in relative luxury we head for Derby which is 220 K’s by road from Broome. After leaving the Gt Northern Hwy and passing the Curtin RAAF airbase, we arrive at Derby. Derby is what I would call a typical Kimberley town – very little movement in the heat of the day and appears quite deserted to the untrained eye.

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We stayed at the Kimberley Entrance Caravan Park for 3 days as we want to be able to see our beloved West Coast Eagles battle for the Semi Final on Friday night. Unfortunately they lose to Collingwood by 19 points and it’s the end of the footy season for us.

There’s not a great deal to do in Derby, and we found it to be a drab, uninspiring town. However, it presented us an opportunity to do some fishing which we haven’t had much of a chance to do on this trip. There is a circular shaped jetty used for loading shipping and one of Derby’s claim to fame is that it has the second largest tidal range in the Southern Hemisphere. While we were there, there was almost an 8 metre difference between high and low tide. It is also quite hot here. On the days we were here, the temperatures were in the mid to high 30’s and if not for the air conditioner in the van, would have found it hard to take. For those of you who live in Perth, imagine a typical summer heat wave - that happens here all year round! We were able to stock up on our supplies as the shopping is quite good here despite only having only having Woolworth’s and IGA supermarkets.

One thing we have discovered since entering the Kimberleys, is that the liquor sales restrictions have altered how we buy liquor. Because of the alcoholism problems with some sections of the Aboriginal population, you cannot buy any more than 2 litres of cask wine and those sales are restricted to 1 cask per person per day. Our favourite cask drop comes in a 4 litre cask and realise that we will probably not be able to buy it until we get to Darwin, and maybe not even there. We became aware of this when entering Broome and realise this will probably be the case until we leave WA. Having mentioned this, we will be stopping at 2 notorious places in the Kimberleys on the way through – Fitzroy Crossing and Hall’s Creek. It will be interesting to see if things are as bad as the media in Perth have depicted it.

Posted by PhilAndDen 23:43 Archived in Australia Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

Broome beckons

What a pearler

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After 375 K’s we arrived in Broome. On the way we had to pass through massive bushfires which were burning out of control and being fanned by very strong winds approx 100 K’s south of Broome. We drove through a fire front which was about to jump the road and was amazed by the intensity of the heat radiation in the car. It was a scary experience and will think twice about attempting it again – we could have lost everything including ourselves.

Broome was going to be a week of veging out. We have booked ourselves into an ensuite site which is where you have your own private toilet and shower block. After 5 weeks of showering in ablution blocks and having to walk long distances (at some places) just to go to the toilet, this is luxury. Also the annexe we ordered in Perth just before we left was waiting for us and we put it up as you can see. Now we are starting to get things together.

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Broome was not quite what we expected but we were not disappointed. It is a very busy place and the tourists make up a good proportion of the population here. Everyone we met here was friendly and the town has a really good vibe to it. Because of the bushfires, the smoke from them was being blown out over the ocean and made for some stunning sunsets especially over cable beach. Broome is good for shopping and we bought ourselves some nifty little knick knacks for our travels plus there is a good selection of shops in general. We noticed there are a lot of pearl shops and we were wondering how they stay in business as they were mostly empty every time we walked past one. A couple of times we called into the Roebuck Hotel for a couple of quiet ones which is a pleasant place to kick back.

Our aim when we get somewhere is to explore the place and not necessarily go to the touristy places which is what we did here too. Apart from a few visits to Cable Beach we did visit Malcolm Douglas’ wildlife park and crocodile farm. This is not to be confused with the crocodile park in Cable Beach and was definitely the highlight of our trip here. We learnt a lot about crocodiles which is handy seeing we are going further into croc country!

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We finally found a good fishing spot on the main jetty at the port. Needless to say we didn’t catch anything, but we saw a sea snake and a turtle swim past which was quite a surprise – pity I didn’t have my camera with me at the time. We just enjoyed the experience and was never ceased to be amazed by the tidal movements up here. We were having such a good time here we extended our stay by another couple of days before we have to hit the road again, so our stay was 9 days instead of 7.

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Eighty Mile Beach

Beautiful tropical stopover

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Eighty Mile beach is located on the coastline between Port Hedland and Broome. There is a caravan park approx 250 K’s North East of Port Hedland and 10 K’s off the highway called (wait for it) Eighty Mile Beach Caravan Park. This is a place to relax and enjoy doing nothing. There is no town here and the only supplies are available from the park shop so you’re really out in the sticks here.

However, when the tide is out (and the shore can recede up to 1 kilometre here) it reveals a treasure trove of shells which is teeming with creatures that inhabit them. It also provides stunning sunsets especially when the tide is out.

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The other main activity here is beach fishing. When the tide was in, the beach was lined with fishermen as far as the eye could see pulling them in. I’ve seen a few of them on the beaches down in Perth, but not like this!

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Eighty Mile beach is the perfect stopover from Port Hedland to Broome so do check it out if you’re up this way.

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The Iron Ore stops here

Treated to a wonderful lunar display

sunny 36 °C
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Due to a miscalculation in my itinerary plans, we have a bit of extra time before we get to our last booked destination – Broome. We decide to head to South Hedland to get a spot in a caravan park there. On the way we were crossed a road train which whipped up so much wind it blew off the cover to the front window to the van. The cover is so badly damaged there is no way it can be repaired, so will have to get it fixed at the next major destination – probably Broome or Darwin.

Port Hedland is not the most glamorous town in the North West but we managed to do a bit of exploring none the less. Iron ore exporting is what drives this town and it comes down from the iron ore mines in Newman some 400 Km to the south courtesy of some of the world’s longest trains. Even if you’re not interested in trains, it is an awesome sight to see 160 plus ore carriages being pulled along by 4 powerful diesel electric locomotives.

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We were in town at the right time to see the Stairway To The Moon. This is a phenomenon whereby the rising moon is reflected off many pools of water on the tidal flats of the ocean creating a stairway effect. It is only possible to see when the tide is out (and it goes out a long way up here), and it’s a couple of days after a full moon. It is a stunning sight and we extend our stay from 2 to 3 nights just so we can see it again. We only thought this was possible to view in Broome, but knew we would be up there too late so this is an unexpected bonus. If you have time, google Stairway To The Moon to see what I’m talking about. Port Hedland is very windy whilst we are here and having temperatures in the mid to high 30’s means we are giving the air conditioner in the van a good workout!

Posted by PhilAndDen 17:04 Archived in Australia Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

More Karijini capers

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After a shortish drive (155 K’s) we arrive at Auskii Roadhouse which is officially known as Munjina – this the where the turn off to Wittenoom is on the Gt Northern Hwy. Despite it’s spartan layout, it’s quite a good facility and much to our surprise, has no worries about water. We use the opportunity give the van and the car a well earned wash. It was good to finally out get all salt from the storm at Dongara all those weeks ago.

We returned to Dales Gorge and explored the parts we didn’t get to a couple of days ago. What a truly magic place this is. After walking down the very steep climb to the bottom we head for Circular Pool which is fed by a spring oozing from the rocks. Despite it being 34 degrees at the top of the gorge, it’s about 10 degrees cooler and stop to have lunch by the falls fed by Circular Pool.

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We then head back along to gorge to Fortescue Falls where we went the other day and had a swim the pool. The water is quite cold (approx 12 degrees) and takes a bit of getting used to seeing it’s so hot here – glad we didn’t come here in the Summer!

To finish the day off we had our tea in the open air camp kitchen back at the roadhouse and was treated to a total eclipse of the moon which lasted about 90 minutes. We were lucky to be away from the light pollution of the city as we had a very clear view of it and was another one of those special moments. It’s day’s like this that justifies doing this trip.

Posted by PhilAndDen 17:00 Archived in Australia Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

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