CJ - Leaving behind Alice Springs, and the stunning McDonnell Mountain Ranges, off we set for a 4 day tour up through the centre of Australia heading for Darwin. I had the option of flying, taking the train or doing a tour up to Darwin, and I opted for the tour, as it I had a bit of time to spare, and there were many places that I had read about that I wanted to stop off and have a look at on the way. One thing this trip has certainly made me realise, and that is just how vast Australia is, the sheer expanse of the outback is incredible and how anything actually survives out in the bush is just amazing! The UK is just a mere drop in the ocean in terms of size when compared to Australia! I have certainly covered off a lot Australia on this trip, but there is just so much more to see!
The actual route we took was over 1500kms, quite a mammoth journey, and longer than from one end of the UK to the other, but pretty spectacular in places. Our first port of call (having just crossed over the Tropic of Capricorn!) and camp site for the night was 'Devil's Marbles' which is where the granite stone has been eroded away over time to leave behind these marble shaped boulders which sit precariously on top of one another! Or if you believe the aboriginal myths, then the boulders are the eggs that have been left behind by a Rainbow Serpant. They make a pretty spectacular sight at both sunset and sunrise though.
The next day, back on the road again, heading north and trying to cover off as much distance as possible we had a couple of stopping points on the way before we reached our next campsite. We stopped off first at Wycliffe Well which is a bit of a legendary stop along the Stuart Highway. The roadhouse there is famous for having the most number of recorded UFO sightings in Australia! Could that be something to do with the fact that the roadhouse also boasts the largest selections of beer in the NT!! Next stop was at the Daly Waters Pub which was built in the 1930's to service the early Quantas passengers on refuelling stops at what was Australia's first international airfield! Throughout the years, people of all nationalities have passed through this pub and it seems have left behind some piece of memorabila as you can see from the photo! Then on up to Tennant Creek, a modern outback town, where we stopped off to stretch our legs at the Tennant Creek Telegraph Station. This station was used during part of the process of installing the first overland telegraph line in Australia which gave it contact with the rest of the world! After a long day of driving we finally got to our destination for that night - Mataranka, which is known for its thermal springs that bubble away at a constant 34'C. It was unfortunate that at this point on the trip I picked up a stomach bug which was to haunt me for the rest of the trip, so I managed to have a quick dip in the thermal pools, but not enough to really appreciate them which was a shame!
On the third day we arrived at the stunning Katherine Gorge for a morning of canyoeing. By now I should really have learnt my lesson and really opted out of this activity, as I have tried canoeing on 3 separate occasions now, and each have not been the easiest or most enjoyable experience (apart from the dolphin one on the East Coast!). But no, always one for a challenge off we went, me and Lorna who I teamed up with in a canoe to paddle up through Katherine Gorge with the intention of getting through to the second gorge which is supposed to be even more spectacular than the first. But both of us were ill and really not in the best of shapes for the strength and energy needed to paddle against the current, so needless to say we didn't quite make it to the second gorge, we were worried about time to made do with the first one then headed back! Must make a mental note to myself not to try canoeing again, it's really not a sport I take to easily to! On leaving Katherine Gorge we had one more stopping point that day, and it was at Adelaide River where we saw 'Charlie', the famous (stuffed) water buffalo that only passed away a few years ago, but was a bit of a star in this area having appeared in a Crocodile Dundee!
Day 4 and Litchfield National Park was our stop for the day, a day of wildlife and waterholes, lots of them! We first stopped off and had a look at some giant termite mounds - Cathedral and Magnetic, and then off to swim the rest of the day in various waterfalls and holes - Buley Rock Holes, Florence Falls, Tolmer Falls, Wangi Falls. A bit 'waterfalled' out after this, but all stunning and very refreshing to swim in! Then on into Darwin.
Darwin is the 'tropical capital' of the Northern Territory. There is a very relaxed and friendly feel to the city, and the weather helps to make it a very popular holiday destination as well! The sun was certainly very welcome to us having come from somewhat slightly colder temperatures in Alice Springs, but up now in the 30's, we were very happy! Having only been here a couple of days I have just been finding my feet and getting my bearings. But yesterday I did take some time out to look at the NT museum where there is an excellent exhibition on about Cyclone Tracey which hit Darwin on Xmas Day in 1974. Then last night after meeting up with some friends from the last tour, we watched the sunset over Mindil Beach before hitting the markets that appear there twice a week.
Tomorrow I am off on another tour, this time around the famous Kakadu National Park!