The adventure continues...............
17 September 2013
Our last day in Litchfield and the morning was a “housekeeping” morning: breakfast, laundry and website updating. Unfortunately, as you already know, the internet was too slow to download photos. With our chores done, we decided to drive into Bachelor (the small town close by) to get some mozzie (mosquito) coils and gas up for our trip to Tennant Creek. Really not much to Batchelor but it was very neat (not as in “cool” but as in tidy) town.
After lunch, we were off to Florence Falls, reported to be a nice swimming spot. While driving over we noticed two animals crossing the road. OMG!!!!! Kangaroos!!! One crossed and then the other followed leaving us awestruck. We didn’t think there were roos in this part of OZ but these guys were way too big to be wallabies. Now, that was neat!!!
Florence Falls and an unknown swimmer...ok ...it's Jim!
18 September 2013
Road Trip… 1st stop Tennant Creek
The route to Alice Springs and then on to Uluru is pretty much a straight shot south from Darwin, on the Stuart Highway. Not to be confused with a highway anywhere else we’ve been, this is a two lane road: one lane going north and the other going south….for miles and miles and miles, with not much in between gasoline stops. There really were not many other cars to speak of, expect for the occasional “Road Train”. The current version of a “Road Train”, I have come to learn is actually a tamed down version from years ago – before regulations. Imagine attaching three (and sometimes four) trailers behind the tractor portion and off you go…down a two lane road that reminded me of Peck Road (for my Rochester readers) or maybe the road from Saddlebrooke to Florence (for my AZ readers) with the occasional “overtake” lane. Over take lanes are two lanes in one direction (slower vehicles stay to the left and if you want – this is the time to pass). Just north of Katherine, it got to a point where even those ceased to exist. I found the first time I passed a Road Train, a bit scary. You have to make sure you have at least 1 km clear in the other direction and then it’s “pedal to the metal”. After our first day on the road, I felt like a pro. The other interesting fact about the Stuart Highway is that it’s “the” main road from Adelaide to Darwin, yes, with two lanes and virtually no traffic. For miles and miles, we would see no other cars, only the occasional dead cow along the side of the road and also an assortment of vultures lunching of dead critters which scatter for approaching vehicles. All and all, a unique OZ experience!!
19 September 2013
After the long drive from Litchfield, the ride into “the Alice” was a breeze. We stopped at the Britz Campervan Shop to have an interior light repaired and got a line on a good campground from the mechanic (he lives there). Off to G’day Mate Caravan Park - small but very clean and friendly.
Once again we took advantage of the Tourist Information Center and got info on Alice for our return visit. (I can’t stress enough: use the local Tourist Info Center, especially in Australia and New Zealand. They are so friendly and provide great info.)
20 September 2013
Up early and off to Uluru (aka Ayers Rock). I was always under the impression that Ayers Rock was in Alice but that is not the case; it’s a 5-6 hour drive into the National Park- straight south on the Stuart Highway for about 2 ½ hours – take a right and drive another 2 ½ hours – can’t miss it.
The only place to stay is Ayers Rock Resort. There are hotels, a campground, gas station, small grocery store, some restaurants….and that’s about it. At $41 per night – per campsite for two people – it was a little more than we usually pay but it’s the only game in town. Initially, we were assigned to a site with not much (ok, no) shade but we were able to switch to the site next to ours with a small but useful tree.
Ayers Rock Campgrounds - trying to find a little shade
The resort is about 5km outside the actual park. We made our first visit in for sunset but not before paying the $25 per person (for three days) park fee. We drove to Talinguru Nyakunytjakuon the suggestion of a woman at the Cultural Center. It was a nice view with very few people. More people go to this location for sunrise, but since we had a few days we knew we would be able to check out a few different sites.
Kata Tjuta Sunset
When we bought out passes, we were advised that there is an extreme weather advisory for the next three to four days with the heat to exceed 36 degrees – just like home but with no A/C.
21 September 2013
Up early (about 0515), for sunrise, to hike the Valley of the Winds at Kata Tjuta. There are two main areas in the National Park – the most famous being Uluru (Ayers Rock) and the second, which is quite well known in OZ, Kata Tjuta and the Ochres. The Valley of the Winds hike is a 7.5km hike with a fair amount of climbing and rocky paths. We arrived just about 0645 to see the sun peeking through the rocks. For most of the hike, we only saw one other couple. Arriving back at the first view point, we were greeted by people who were arriving by the bus loads. Some, it seemed, would do just a short hike in to that viewing point while others were venturing on. With the searing sun beating down from the cloudless sky, we were glad that we’d made the effort for an early start.
Kata Tjuta - Valley of the Winds
Sunrise hike at Kata Tjuta - fly net is such a fashion statement
Valley of the Winds hike at sunrise
We had a lazy afternoon trying to stay out of the sun and catch the breezes to keep cool.
One other thing about the area which we were not aware: FLYS!!!! During the day – they are ever present. So much so that we bought fly screens to cover our heads. Though not fashion statements, they made hiking much more fun, not having to constantly swat the flies which seemed to head towards our eyes and ears like little dive bombers.
We decided to splurge for dinner that night at the park sponsored Sounds of Silence dinner. We were picked up just outside the campground and taken to a viewing platform for sunset, canapés and champagne (or beer, soda or wine) all accompanied by a fabulous didgeridoo player. After sunset, we were led to our private dining area for buffet dinner (wine and beer included), aboriginal dance demonstration, dessert and a talk about the stars and the night sky. This was all by candlelight and the food was very good. I tried roo (yes, kanga..roo) for the first time and quite liked it.
At the beginning of the night, on our way to meet that bus, there was another couple walking out and we introduced ourselves to Gail and Bob. What a lucky chance meeting. We ended up spending the whole night chatting and laughing along with Helen (a single young lady who we adopted into our group). We had a wonderful night – come to find out there caravan was just across the road from our site.
Jim and Bob
Sounds of Silence dinner - Helen, Bob, Gail and Patty
As we all stumbled back at the end of the night, we talked about meeting up again the next day. Gail and Bob were a go but unfortunately Helen was going to be on her way to new adventures in the am.
22 September 2013
Uluru - Base Hike
No sunset this morning just some good, well needed sleep but we did make it over to Uluru mid-morning to do the base walk. It a 10.6km walk/hike around the base of the rock which took us about 2 ½ hours. Not much shade while doing the walk but just enough breeze to make it bearable. Towards the end of the walk, the wind really kicked up and by the time we got back to the campground our chairs were in a bit of a disarray. (Note: as you might see in the photos- Uluru is not just a round rock - it has many dips, crevices and curves which adds to it's incredible beauty)
Ulura - along the base hike
Jim along the Ulura base hike
While we were enjoying our afternoon siesta, Gail and Bob stopped over and invited us over for wine and cheese. Again we talked and talked getting to know our new found friends.
We invited them to the US but Bob doesn’t fly but who knows maybe we will make it to OZ again. It was hugs and more hugs before having to say goodbye….
Sunrise at Uluru
A little different view
23 September 2013
Up early – again for sunrise, back to Talinguru Nyakunytjakuon and this time there were many people enjoying the views. With the sun up and almost everyone gone, Jim and I enjoyed our breakfast in the parking lot in full view of Uluru. It was a nice way to end this portion of our trip before heading back to Alice.
Back to G’day Mate, where we’ve decided to stay for the next two days, before again, heading north.
First things first, when we got to G’day Mate, everything came out of the van for a dust off. It so needed it!!!
We chilled out for the evening – lovely dinner in of lamb, pasta, and salad. We also talked with the family that was parked next to us: David, Jane, Zilcomo and Rose. They are Aussies who rented out their home for a year and are traveling around OZ. With the children just being 5yoa and 4 yoa – it was their decision to embark on this adventure before school became an issue.
24 September 2013
Though it isn’t too big, we spent some time walking around Alice. Upon a recommendation from the Tourist Office, we visited the National Pioneer Women’s Museum. I can’t imagine what it was like in the late 1800, early 1900’s in this area. The weather is similar to AZ but the environment is very harsh – these were very courageous women.
After dinner, we said our good byes to our neighbors and wished them luck!!!
25 September 2013
Long, long drive today!! Up at 0530 and on the road by 0630 with Daly Waters as our projected destination. We had stopped on our way down and it seemed like a funky little place to be able to spend the night, so we set out to make it there from Alice.
Daly Waters Pub
We arrived earlier that we thought we would and got a nice little site under a large tree.
The Daly Waters Caravan Park also has a small pool to cool off. I was in the pool when Jim came over informing me that a bus had just pulled in and they were parked right beside us. Oh my! It seems that we decided to travel during school holidays. Each state’s school holidays differ just a bit and it’s also not unusual for high school or college (which is a private high school) to offer school trips during these holidays. This group was on a 13 day holiday from Melbourne but we’d also run into other groups from different area, one in Alice Springs (really well behaved) and three groups (different schools) in Ayers Rocks – they were a little on the rowdy side. This group in Daly Waters, thankfully, was a nice group of kids.
The Daly Waters Pub / Caravan Park is a bit gritty but very friendly. Each night at the Pub along with their regular menu they do a Barra (barramundi) and Beef BBQ. For $28, gets you, all Barra or all Beef or ½ and ½ - plus a salad bar with different types of salads and bread. It was excellent and more food than I could eat – Jim got a little extra of my Barra and Beef.
Beef and Barra from Daly Waters Pub
26 September 2013
Off again and it was about 3 hours into Katherine from Daly Waters where we landed at the Sandy Lane Tourist Park. This is a really nice place, just outside of town, on the road to Katherine Gorge with friendly owners and really clean facilities. We decided to have dinner in the camp kitchen and chatted with two older Aussie couples and Germans traveling together. We had a nice evening.
27 and 28 September 2013
Quiet, HOT day!! Off to check out the Katherine History Museum and then into Nitmiluk National Park for a sunset dinner cruise in Katherine Gorge.
The gorge is small (when you compare it to the Grand Canyon) but very beautiful and a sacred place to the local people. For dinner we had a choice of Barramundi topped with a prawn or steak – we both chose the Barra.
The cruise started on one boat where we went upstream, off loaded and walked a short ways to another boat for the next upper gorge. It’s the end of the dry season right now and the rivers (everywhere) are very low. When we finished the second gorge tour, we were brought back and our dinner boat had arrived to pick us up. We were greeted with lovely rose sparkling wine with a deep pink edible flower floating inside and a yummy starter of cheeses, salmon, olives etc. The cruise back was leisurely with the back drop of the rocks reflecting the orange and pink sunset.
Croc trails along Katherine Gorge
Sunset over Katherine Gorge
29 September 2013
Our last National Park stop in OZ will be Kakadu and we headed north. Compared to our previous drives, this one, at three hours, seemed so short. We arrived at the Cooinda Caravan Park (private but in the park and seemed to be associated with the park). This park was recommended to us but at $49 per night it was ok but not great but the location to Yellow Waters (for billabong tours) is excellent.
We had already booked a morning sunrise tour and when checking in we found that for an additional $25 (a good discount) we could do the sunset tour. Ok…let’s do it. And, we were so glad that we did. Our tour guide, Lionel, a local with 16 years in the business, led us up and down the billabong pointing out crocs and birds and more crocs and more birds. His knowledge of the area and wildlife was extensive and he peppered his info with personal experiences that really brought the area home to us.
30 September 2013
Back to the water for a 0645 sunrise boat tour!! Arriving out on the dock, the mist was settled over the water like a smoky blanket. Our tour this morning again brought to us, the wildlife, as they were also starting the day. So many birds: two sea eagles that seemed to be around every turn, a male and female Jabiru and crocs, either on the shore or floating in the water like prehistoric creatures.
This tour ended with a substantial buffet breakfast. Breakfast was included in our tour but if you had added the tour for $25, the breakfast as an additional $11 (well worth it), otherwise the buffet is normally $25. Remember, it’s Australia!!!
As our trip winds down, it seems, so do we. The rest of our day consisted of a trip to the other visitor center and into the small town of Jabiru and then home (campervan) for our final campervan dinner of lamb, potatoes and salad…oh and a nice bottle of red wine.
01 October 2013
We decided that we would head to Darwin for our last night. We really do like this city, it’s comfortable and friendly.
We had lunch at the Victoria Pub – good food – great value ($12 for all lunch meals) and then for dinner, Jim found a sushi place (Go Sushi Train) in the Lonely Planet book that he thought sounded fun and it was. The sushi bar is huge with a conveyer of plated sushi running along with each dish being color coded to a specific price. After dinner, we walked along Mitchell Street and found out where everyone hangs out. This is the area of hostels, bars and cafes – wish we had more time in Darwin to check out a few.
2 October 2013
Our last, last day in OZ!! We cleaned up the van, getting it ready to turn in and headed downtown. We had to be out of the park by 10am and the van didn’t need to be back until 3pm and our flight is scheduled for 740pm – so we had some time to kill. A few people told us that the WWII Oil Tunnels was worth taking a look and we did just that. Interesting and a time killer but not something I would go out of my way to do.
For lunch, we decided to try and find the Darwin Sailing Club. We tried, unsuccessfully, once before but this time, maybe being more familiar with the area, were able to locate it. A simple lunch but an awesome view for our farewells to OZ!!!!
From there, it was, drop off campervan, wait for airplane, fly to Bali and a farewell to a country where we saw so much and made a couple of good friends. Can’t ask for more than that!!!!