Murphy does the half-lap – “If it ain’t broke, it soon will be”
We recently completed a ½ lap of Australia – with Mr Murphy well and truly proving his law. Anyway, Sparewheel says it was Murphy, I say it was our resident ghost, Mr James Smith!
With it being time again to miss winter, Sparewheel and I headed north late July. Messrs Murphy and Smith made their presence felt immediately with a totally ruined tyre on Pigpen not 200kms out of Perth. Bugger, I should have turned on the tyre pressure monitoring system.
First real stop was beach-side accommodation at Barn Hill Station, about 2000 km north of home and 128kms east of Broome. A delightful spot where we had some delightful company with a couple of couples who also owned Ultimates. I could have sworn that one was Baldrick of Blackadder fame (sorry Bob, but the looks are so similar).
Next the Dampier Peninsula north of Broome, with a very disappointing stay at Chilli Beach (a typical nearly abandoned settlement with run down facilities – the web page overstates reality), where the next failure happened – one of Pigpen’s water tank holding straps broke. Next Middle Lagoon, with a campsite overlooking the beach. Wow, wonderful.
To Derby for repairs and a trip to the Horizontal Falls. A great day trip, out on a sea plane to explore what David Attenborough calls “one of the greatest natural wonders of the world” – a natural phenomenon of intense tidal currents hurtling through two narrow coastal gorges. Massive tidal movements (up to 11 m) create a waterfall effect as water banks up against one side of the narrow cliff passage, to be repeated again on the turning tide.
Then through the Kimberleys, down the Gibb River Road – two years ago we travelled this region and decided this is God’s own country – so now we were here to explore as many new places as we could, whilst visiting old favourites like Windjana Gorge, Bell and Manning falls, and El Questro. Charnley River Station, now owned and operated by the Australian Wildlife Conservatory (who also on Mornington WInderness Camp), is a new gem discovered, as was Mount Elizabeth Station’s Wunnumurra Gorge. Free camps at Barnett Gorge and at the Gibb River crossing proved great value for money.
We were going to avoid Home Valley Station but instead decided to give it another try and thoroughly enjoyed the Pentecost River camp site.
Northern Territory – here we come! Keep NP is a must-do – a sort of mini Bungle Bungles.
Darwin next – what can I say? With the construction of a large LNG plant underway, it has become a town ruined by the resource industry, where the locals dish out service with a massive grudge, scalping as much as they can. An atmosphere made worse by an air force exercise that went on the whole time we were there, with 30-50 fighter jets taking off and landing twice a day! Still, the world’s best seafood buffet at Seafood on Cullen and the evening Mindil Beach Sunset Markets made up for other angst.
Darwin was the turnaround point, by which time Messrs Murphy and Smith had engineered about a dozen “fails”, the most annoying of which was when James Smith lost the camper key in a ½ km area, which we searched for hours in vain. 24 hours later the key re-appeared at the Katherine visitors centre, but not before we had needed to visit a locksmith! The good news was that nothing else went wrong on the return trip.
By taking the roads less travelled in Kakadu NP we had us a couple of camping sites to ourselves – at Red Lily Billabong and Sandy Billabong. The last time we visited Kakadu it was still very wet, so this time we could get into places like Jim Jim and Gunlom Falls.
We tracked south down the Stuart Highway, enjoying springs and pies at Mataranka, the iconic Daly Water’s Pub, the East MacDonald Ranges, “lush” Coober Pedy, then east to experience a little of the Oodnadatta Track to Marree, then the Flinders Range NP . The remote camping in the park was great, with lovely walks but the famous Wilpena Pound was somewhat overated.
The plan was to spend some time on the Eyre Peninsula but after just one day in Lincoln NP the wind and rain started, so we packed up and headed, west into 100 km/h winds.
A great trip – score 12,265 kms, broken – tyre, shocks, chairs, lights, shoes and so much more! And one good riddance – at last we have ridded ourselves of Mr James Smith – may he find comfort in Darwin.