On the return tip from Cairns we actually had sun shining at the Cardwell Lookout.
Hinchenbrook Island from Cardwell Lookout
From Charters Towers we headed due west stopping at the Prairie Hotel for lunch. As it was quite a cool day we opted for home-made pies - delicious. We stopped in at Hughenden at the Flinders Discovery Centre before continuing onto the Marathon Rest Area for the night. We were kept company by a few other vans but still not a lot.
We continued on to Richmond and the Kronosauraus Korner. A really good museum and information centre on everything to do with dinosaurs’, especially the marine variety. They also have a great little coffee shop. It was then on to Julia Creek where we had a very informative tour at the “Under the Creek” centre on the Dunnart. The Julia Creek dunnarts are too scarce for them to have one on display so instead they have a ‘fat tailed’ dunnart. Very cute. We then made our way out to the Oorindi Rest Area for the night. Again, we were kept company by a few other vans but not a lot. I was beginning to wonder where all the grey nomad were.
Next morning saw us arrive bright and early at the Discovery Caravan Park in Cloncurry. Now I discovered where all the grey nomad tourists were. It was the Cloncurry Show Holiday but for some strange reason, known only to the show committee, the show closed up at 5p.m. A pity as we would have liked to have gone for the afternoon and night and it was also a public holiday in Cloncurry. However, it did give us the chance to catch up on some washing and etc – you know all those mundane chores that don’t go away even when you are travelling.
Next stop was the Billabong at Camooweal. When we arrived early afternoon, it was wall to wall caravans along the billabong. Only spot we could find for the night was amongst the trees close to the bridge. As it was only over-night, it was not too bad but a bit noisy from the trucks on the highway.
Next morning we set off for out drive across the Barkley Highway – a long drive. We stopped at Soudan Bore for coffee and I was surprised at how cold the wind was when I stepped out of the car. We camped overnight at 41 Mile Bore. Only about 4 other campers there when we arrived and could not believe it when about a half an hour later another caravan pulled in and parked right behind us. Such a big area and the only place they could pull up was almost on top of us. Oh well, we seen to attract that type of people. Needless to say, they did not get a very warm welcome.
Our plan was to then stop at the Newcastle Waters Rest Area on the Stuart Highway but when we arrived at about 12..30p.m. the area was packed. As we passed, about 2kms south, we saw a couple of vans pulled into a gravel pit so we turned around and went back there. We had a great night camped with some other people from South Australia (and about 16 other vans). It was a huge area and everyone could find their own little spot. I now couldn’t believe the number of vans heading north towards Darwin.
We set off quite early next morning as we wanted to stay overnight at the Daly Waters Hotel and wanted to make sure we got a spot in the caravan park. We arrived mid-morning and got a good spot so spent a relaxing day there. The caravan park and overflow area were completely full by late afternoon. The steak and barra meal was just as good as previously and the entertainment was good also. The first artist was Tom Maxwell whom we had quite often seen busking at Tamworth.
Next day saw us head further north where we stopped for the night at the King River Rest Area. Quite a few overnighters but the area was not packed. On our way north we called in for a swim at Bitter Springs. Still really nice but a few too many people for our liking.
Our first stop next morning was the Cutta Cutta Caves. We had bypassed these caves on our previous trip but decided to call in this time. We were not sorry we did so. It was a great tour and interesting caves – well worth the stop. We stopped in Katherine to fill up with fuel and to buy a few groceries before continuing north to Pine Creek. A nice caravan park but the town is spoilt by the number of flying foxes! Thankfully none are actually in the caravan park but everywhere else.
We saw a sign saying “Mine Lookout” so went to take a look expecting to look down over an open cut mine. We weren’t expecting this…
The Mine closed in 1995 and they have diverted the Pine Creek into the disused mine.
We had an exploration trip out to Umbrawarra Gorge. So glad we didn’t take the caravan out there as the road was very, very bad!. We had a walk along the creek and up to the gorge - very pretty but still a bit too cold for a swim (for us any way). I preferred to wait until we got to the Douglas Hot Springs.
A short drive up the Stuart Highway brought us to the turn off for the Douglas Daly Tourist Park. A lovely park in what seems like the middle of nowhere. We had a nice walk/drive along the Douglas River to see the rapids and Arches. The Arches were quite spectacular.
We drove the short distance out to the Douglas Hot Springs and were pleased that we had decided not to camp there. Lots and lots of campers (the start of the month-long school holidays here in the Northern Territory may have had something to do with it). We had a quick look at where the springs come out of the ground (at that point the water is almost boiling) and then found a spot to sit for awhile where the water was not quite so hot. The water was very shallow so swimming was not an option.
Our next stop was Litchfield National Park where we chose to stay at the Litchfield Tourist Park. Quite a nice caravan park just outside the National Park Boundary. We arrived at the park around lunch time on Sunday and later that afternoon there was an horrific car accident on the road through Litchfield NP and the road was closed all the next day while the police did their investigations and cleared away the debris. We went back into Batchelor to refuel and whilst there we stopped to have a look at this castle we spotted on our way through on the previous day……
Quite a nice story to it. A chap by the name of Bernie Havlik who had spent his childhood in Yugoslavia before coming to Australia and finally working at the Rum Jungle Uranium Mine before it closed retired to Batchelor. He spent his time in retirement caring for the local park and became frustrated with a patch of rock in the park. He considered it to always look unkept and was too big to dig out so he decided to build a replica of the Karlstejn Castle he remembered from childhood. He died in 1990 and now the local community maintain the replica.
We have seen some magnificent waterfalls:
It has been so, so busy at the most popular spots -Florence Falls, Wangi Falls and Buley Rock Holes. I am becoming an expert at taking photos with strategically placed trees, bushes etc so that you don't see too many people in my photos.
We visited the abandoned Bamboo Creek Tin Mine and also the ruins of Blyth Homestead. We found a couple of 4WD tracks – one leading to the Lost City. Quite an amazing place – the eroded sandstone columns looked just like the ruins of an ancient city and some looked very much like giant stone warriors.
On the way to the Blyth Homestead ruins and Sandy Creek Falls we also found a couple of interesting creek crossings. The water came up to our running boards so I was pleased we had a high clearance vehicle.
We have done some nice bush walks, (well, I have – someone else waited in the car a few times) mostly easy ones but one was quite difficult and led to the least spectacular waterfall.
The caravan park had a very photogenic windmill. It was a great silhouette for the setting sun and also for morning smog (a mixture of smoke from the bushfires and fog). They have been doing so much burn off since we have been in the NT that every day you can see clouds of smoke and every afternoon and evening you can see the soot settle. Reminds me of the cane fires when I lived in Mackay.
It is now time to explore Darwin.
Hopefully I will be able to upload my this post sooner. Most of the places we have stayed at over the last couple of weeks have only had very limited mobile service if any and no internet service. When we checked into the Litchfield Tourist Park and enquired about mobile service I was told that ‘you are in the bush you know’. It is only 110kms from Darwin and I was very tempted to reply that I have been in many places more remote and still had good mobile and internet service.