Category Archives: 2014

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!

Click here for a picture story of the trip.

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.

Beach side camping

Beach side camping – Middle Lagoon

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.

Horizontal Fall in flow

Horizontal Falls flight

Horizontal Falls flight

Talbot Bay

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.

Donkey Hole  Charnley River

Donkey Hole Charnley River

Grevillea Gorge – Charnley

Grevillea Gorge

We were going to avoid Home Valley Station but instead decided to give it another try and thoroughly enjoyed the Pentecost River camp site.

Cockburn Ranges at dusk (this one is worth clicking on to see full picture)

Northern Territory – here we come!   Keep NP is a must-do – a sort of mini Bungle Bungles.

Keep NP

In Nitmiluk NP we did a dawn cruise through Katherine Gorge and also stayed at Edith Falls (could have spent longer there).    Litchfield NP has some wonderful croc free and picturesque waterholes.

Katherine Gorge from the top

Sunset

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.

Bird of Kakadu – Jabaru

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More birds in Kakadu

Birds of Kakadu – gotta love the wildlife – at infinity pool, above Gunlom Falls

Gunlom, sans wildlife

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.

Famous Mataranka pies – mine being eaten by SpareWheel

Rainbow Springs Thermal Pool – Mataranka

Coober Pedy – grass needs watering

Devil’s Marbles – Pigpen carries his load

Just one of Devil’s Marbles

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.

Flinders NP

Outback Travel

Farina Station – a fine find

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Farina Station Feathery Friends

Daly River Pub

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