Category Archives: Our Rig

Crossing East Alligator River at Cahills

Day 469 – Day 477: Jungle Camp – Smith Point, Garig Gunak Barlu N.P

Sunday, 14 to Monday 22 September 2014                                                     667.1kms

On Sunday morning, it was moving day. The 85km drive back to the highway took us 2 ½ hours. The scenery varies a lot and all of it is beautiful. There are pockets of rainforest and swamp lands, through to dry floodplains with nothing but cracked earth. The day was hot, and already in the early morning, we could see heat haze over the land.

We stayed at Merl campground in Kakadu for 2 nights. After setting up camp on the Sunday, we enjoyed a lovely cool shower which brought a welcome relief. In the afternoon we went to Cahills Crossing on the East Alligator River where Nath tried his hand at fishing, but caught nothing. We saw plenty of saltwater crocodiles though, just like the last time we were here. I met a lady, who turned out to be the doctor at Maningrida in Arnhem Land. While we were chatting, she told me her family had just returned from a wedding at Cobourg Peninsula and it was her favourite place in all of Australia and there were huge shells. When Nath finished his fishing, I told him what this lady had said, and it was decided, we had to go and have a look.

The next morning we headed into Jabiru for a few supplies, fuel and to wait for our permit to Garig Gunak Barlu National Park to be approved. We enjoyed a bakery lunch and they are the cheapest meat pies and sausage rolls we have had in a long time. $3.70 for a pie! We were supposed to be basket weaving in the afternoon, but it was cancelled for Ceremony. That was the only reason we had come back to Kakadu was so I could finally learn to basket weave. But, that wasn’t to be, again.

On Tuesday morning, we packed up really early to catch the low tide, plus we knew we had a long drive ahead of us. We crossed Cahills Crossing at 8.57am and headed onto Oenpelli Road and there was almost no water over it thankfully. And no crocodiles!

Along the road we stopped to check on the van and something compelled me to look under the car. I noticed there was a piece hanging underneath and after Nath had a look, he discovered it was an exhaust bracket. Nath wired it back on, but we now have a big hole in the exhaust pipe and a very loud car!

Nath with the broken exhaust piece
Nath with the broken exhaust piece

Further up the road we stopped again to re-strap the boat as it had come loose on the corrugations. And then stopped again to strap the black waste pipe back onto the van. As you can gather, the road is pretty shot. There were sections of very rough corrugations, and then some smooth sections where it had been freshly graded, or had the tractor pulling 3 tyres to smooth out the bumps. We stopped briefly on a causeway at a billabong and Nath saw a barramundi from his car window.

The drive took us most of the day and we finally arrived at the visitor centre around 2.30pm. The visitor centre has a fabulous display of shells and historical artefacts from the first British settlers. After finding a ranger to check in with, we made our way to the camp grounds. We chose campground one, as generators aren’t permitted and it looked the nicest and shadiest.

In the afternoon we went for a walk on Airport beach which is the beach across the road from our camp. We found big shells, a turtle track and crocodile tracks! There is even a crocodile crossing sign on the road, and yes, it gets used. Every morning there are fresh tracks!

For the next few days we spent a lot of time in the boat in the Port. We didn’t venture outside the safety of the land as the wind blew up every day at some point and we usually pushed our luck too far and had to come back to shore in pretty terrible wind chops. One day in particular we were on the other side and had to make our way very slowly because they were quite big. To be honest, I was scared, and that doesn’t happen too often in our tinny.

The fishing was awesome. We never had to venture far from shore to find good size Trevally that fought hard.

We also found some bombies and caught reef species and estuary cod. Trolling we had a few big hits, and all but one Spanish mackerel busted us off, and it was my first.  And for the record, we returned all but the estuary cod to the water, as we just enjoy catching them.

On our first day on the water, we were over at a reefy outcrop fishing away, when Hendrix all of a sudden wound his popper in quickly claiming there was a massive shark after it. We told him not to be silly and that there was no shark and to put the popper back in the water. Well, within moments of him reluctantly doing so (he hates losing fishing tackle, poppers and lures especially!) I saw a massive shark come out of nowhere and go for his popper. He tried to wind it in, but too late, the shark was hooked. I instantly grabbed his rod as it buckled over and was about to go flying out of the boat with Hendrix attached to it. This shark was no match for our little man, so I had to fun task of trying to retrieve his popper. It fought hard and we had to chase it in the boat and also drag it away from the ledge so it didn’t bust me off. Finally, with a sore back and tired arms, the toothy shark surfaced next to the boat. We don’t know what kind of shark it was, and as soon as Nath said sarcastically to Hendrix to reach over and grab the popper, the shark decided it didn’t want to co-operate any longer, rolled over and snapped the line on its abrasive skin and was gone, with the popper. Hendrix wasn’t impressed!

That day we also had a salty come out to the boat, saw a pod of snub-fin dolphins, a couple of ginormous sharks, schools of fish, two turtles mating and a big manta ray!

This place is truly amazing and I feel very privileged to have seen it. The coastal landscape is stunning, the fishing and wildlife superb, the only downside is that we can’t get in the water because of box jellyfish and saltwater crocodiles.

A few days later when we were over the west side of the port again, the kids and I went on the beach for a look around. The sand was burning hot and we forgot to grab our thongs, so we bolted from shady patch to shady patch until it became too much for our feet to handle and stayed put under a small shady tree. Nath had gone off for a bit of a fish in the tinny, when I noticed, probably the same one from the other day, a saltwater crocodile in between us and the boat. I yelled to Nath to come and get us as we were stuck where we were and had nowhere to run to safety. It was interested in the tinny, so it followed him, cruising along the bank in the water, still between us and Nathan. I screamed at him to hurry up as he had to go out and around a big shallow reef. I told Elokin and Hendrix to freeze as the croc had not yet seen us as it was fixated on the boat. Nath came speeding into shore and we made a mad dash for the boat scrambling in and I pushed us off, while the crocodile was still happily making his way towards us. It was very scary and I felt extremely vulnerable. Once safely in the boat, I took a couple of photos of the croc before pulling out the gopro and videoing him. He didn’t like us chasing after him with it, but as Nath said to it “just remember, you came to us and hassled us, so now it’s our turn”. Maybe next time, he will leave the next boat alone.

Saltwater crocodile that came in to hassle us
Saltwater crocodile that came in to hassle us

On our last day we went for a drive along the coastal track. Nath found a small dead dried out reef shark on the beach and decided he would attempt to take its jaw for Hendrix. What a stinky hard job that turned out to be. He did manage to get it completely intact so we shall see how it fairs.

 Nath and the dried up reef shark
Nath and the dried up reef shark

We also saw a beautiful dingo which seemed to be rather playful and didn’t run away immediately like I thought it would. Nath tried to call it over like a pet dog, but instead it lay down on the ground. What an awesome dingo.

Dingo of Garig Gunak Barlu
Dingo of Garig Gunak Barlu

That evening, Hendrix and I went back to the beach for one final walk at sunset. We had planned on going about ½ before hand, but now I am glad we didn’t. Hendrix and I walked down to discover a huge crocodile track where a big fella had not long left his sunbaking spot to return to the water. There was a skin print in the sand which was extremely cool. We could see the texture of the crocs skin. Its foot prints we ginormous. Glad we hadn’t come across it lying there. We also came across a turtle track that had come up to nest.

Until next time…. Happy and Safe Travels.

Ally, Bruce, Hendrix and Elokin waiting for the bucket to empty

Day 456 – Day 463: The Lodge at Dundee – Coolalinga Caravan Park, Darwin

Monday, 1 to Monday 8 September 2014                                                            395kms

Our week at Darwin was a busy one. On our first day while we were shopping our starter battery in the car died. Luckily there was a Repco across the road and Nath was able to buy us a new battery. Elokin and I went to the music shop and found her an Irish Tin Whistle to learn to play.

Camp in Coolalinga Caravan Park
Camp in Coolalinga Caravan Park

We had a list of “jobs” to do. New tyres for the car. These we got from Goodyear in Darwin city. Wrangler Duratrac were recommended to us as we usually get the MT/R with Kevlar, but they don’t last us very long, they wear unevenly and are noisy on the road. Plus we aren’t really 4x4ing, so the Duratrac seemed like a good option. Same load rating, we will get more kms out of them, they will wear evenly and will be quieter on the road. The only negatives are they aren’t as aggressive in tyre tread (they aren’t muddies after all) so Nath is concerned that when we need them in mud they will let us down, and they don’t have Kevlar in the sidewalls. We told the guy that we do a lot of corrugated dirt road driving and were assured they wouldn’t let us down. Plus, they are cheaper!

Goodyear Duratrac tyres
Goodyear Duratrac tyres

The van got new shockys welded on at Northern Van Repairs. If you need anything done on your van, see Chris and he will sort you out. He was really good to us. He didn’t charge us for any more than the time he worked on the van (he had lots of interruptions) and did a great job. We saw Dave at Voyager Trailer and Parts for advice on how the new mounts should be done and he gave us the metal for free with a drawing for Chris. The shockys came from Burson Parts and we got them for cost! All in all, it cost us $265 to get new shocks and mounts.

Now the fun stuff. Both Elokin and Hendrix celebrated a birthday while we were there. There was lots of cake and presents and fun to be had. We went to the Wave Lagoon with Bruce and Ally as well as all of the FREE water parks around Darwin. It is so cool, they have waterslides for FREE!!! We had races on them and had a blast. We had dinner out on both nights and Hendrix’s was at Mindil Beach Night Markets with Bruce and Ally. The fire show was even better than last time and it was still the same guy as 4 years ago.

We also celebrated Father’s Day! (By going to the doctors and bunnings). Actually if you ask Nath it was a crappy father’s day and we will have to make it up to him.

Hendrix and Elokin got their faces painted at Bunnings on Father's Day
Hendrix and Elokin got their faces painted at Bunnings on Father’s Day

Until next time…. Happy and Safe Travels.

Romandar crossing the creek

Day 438 – Day 443: Keep River National Park – Flora River Nature Park

Thursday, 14 to Tuesday, 19 August 2014                                                         603.9kms

Thursday morning while we were packing up, Ranger Lance came by and gave us some steak and corned silverside that he had made from a Hereford feral cow that he had obtained recently. We left camp just before 12pm headed east. Along the highway I saw a sign for a Zebra Rock Mine and Campground along the Duncan Hwy and decided we had to make the 10km detour and check it out. We met Ruth and her daughter Opal and with hubby Kim, they own Zebra Rock Mine. For starting from scratch 3 years ago, they have an amazing gallery that has a lot of awesome rock pieces, crystals, driftwood and historical photographs from the area, as well as hand crafted jewellery, plus photos of sculptures and tables previously sold. They have achieved so much in such a short amount of time. Their love of the Zebra Rock and creating unique pieces is inspirational. I can’t wait to see where time will take them. If you are ever over this way, be sure to stop in and check it out. They offer camping at $20 per couple unpowered, kids free; and also do Lake Argyle Wetlands tours which are choreographed to music and definitely something original. We fossicked in the fossicking tub in the gallery and bought 3 raw pieces for $10! I couldn’t resist the urge to stay the night, so we picked our spot and set up camp near the dry creek bed that we were free to rummage in. Elokin and Hendrix loved playing with Opal for the afternoon, and got to hold the pet Bearded Dragon “Matilda” Ruth is pet-sitting for friends.

Camp at Zebra Rock Mine
Camp at Zebra Rock Mine

Friday we had a late start to the day. We left Zebra Rock Mine after saying goodbye to Ruth and Opal just before 12pm. We found the Gregory Tree, where Augustus Charles Gregory and his party of explorers had set up their base camp on 13th October 1855 to explore the Victoria River.

 

The Gregory Tree
The Gregory Tree

From here we stopped in Timber Creek for diesel and had a cup of tea. Then it was a race against the sun to make it to Bullita Homestead Campground in Gregory National Park. Along the road we saw 3 donkeys and I almost had them convinced to come over to the car. The sun set but we made it safely, narrowly avoiding hitting a wallaby as it sat in the middle of the road. We must have stopped centimetres from his face.

Donkeys on the side of the road
Donkeys on the side of the road

Saturday morning, like Friday night was freezing! We didn’t drag ourselves out of bed until almost 9am. We had some school work to catch up on as we did none yesterday and then played around with some of the rocks we found at Zebra. In the afternoon we met a family from Katherine; Brett, Christine and their 3 children; and another Brett, and his family from Brisbane. Elokin and Hendrix were stoked they had kids to play with.

Camp at Gregory National Park
Camp at Gregory National Park

Our drive back out of the National Park on Sunday morning had us see a dingo, a herd of donkeys and a bustard on the side of the road.

 Donkeys
Donkeys

From Gregory National Park we made our way east along the highway stopping at Joe Creek Picnic Area for lunch followed by a look at the Old Victoria River Crossing. It had the remnants of the old ford in a shallow part of the river. We found some nice treasures amongst the river rock.

 Hendrix and Elokin at the old Victoria River crossing
Hendrix and Elokin at the old Victoria River crossing

After a splash of fuel at the Victoria River Roadhouse, which is now open under new WIFE, we made our way along the dirt road to Flora River Nature Park.

Upon arrival we were greeted with lots of kangaroos around the campground and a pig. Yep, a big black hairy PIG! Not another person around though which was a real treat. This place is beautiful.

Camp at Flora River Nature Park
Camp at Flora River Nature Park

On Monday morning we walked to Djarrung Falls, a pandanus and paperbark lined pool in the Flora River. At 2pm while we were schooling, someone let off two bombs nearby that deafened and scared us pretty good. They sounded like they were right on top of us, even though the nearest defence training base is around 75kms away, as the crow flies.

Tuesday morning we walked the 980m return to Kathleen Falls. This waterfall is actually a series of waterfalls that encompass the river and the water is an emerald green from the rich quantities calcium carbonate in the water.

Until next time…. Happy and Safe Travels.

Treehouse classroom

Day 427 – Day 428: Cockburn Rest Area – Keep River

Sunday, 3 to Monday, 4 August 2014                                                                 214.6kms

On Sunday we headed into town for ice-creams and a play at Celebrity Tree park for Elokin and Hendrix given that it is Sunday and all. We then headed back to Ivanhoe Crossing where we set up, had lunch and stayed for the night as we had phone reception, internet and its free.

Rang on Monday morning and managed to get booked in for a new windscreen at 10am. Arrived right on time at Kununurra Smash Repairs and O’Brien Windscreens. Paula and Brendan gave us heaps of useful local information about the Keep River, so it is decided that we will head there this afternoon. Elokin and Hendrix got to do their school work in Paula and Brendan’s treehouse while we waited for the windscreen to be fitted.

We found Brumby’s bakery and enjoyed pies for lunch. Gas refills are cheaper at Home Hardware, only $36 for 9kg. The local bakery is the best place for bread as it is $4 per loaf.

On the Weber Plain Road, which is the way to Keep River, we found diesel cheaper than the Gull that we thought was the cheapest. We will definitely be filling up there on the way back. The countryside along this road is very agricultural, but has a spectacular rugged mountain range running alongside it that lights up vibrant red in the afternoon sun. Both Nath and I discovered that this place is very captivating and somewhere that we could easily lose a lot of time.

At some point we crossed the WA/NT border as the Keep River is in NT. We arrived at the causeway on the Keep and drove over it to have a look. We then turned around as our turnoff is before the river on the sweeping bend.

 

Keep River
Keep River

On the way to find a camp spot along the river towards the mouth, I could hear a funny noise coming from the rear tyre. As the sun was getting low, I decided it wasn’t worth stopping to check. When I finally got out of the car to check out a creek bed to see if it was dry to cross, I discovered that the tyre was leaking air as we had slashed the side wall. Every time the weight of the vehicle went onto the slash, it opened and air came out. When it went up again, it stopped, so effectively it was a slow leak. We found a spot that was grassy and a good distance away from the river and stopped to check it out. By now the tyre was almost completely flat and the sun had set, so either way, this spot would do for tonight.

 

Until next time…. Happy and Safe Travels.

Hendrix and Elokin at Homestead Valley

Day 422: Spring Creek Rest Area – Kurrajong, Purnululu National Park (Bungle Bungles)

Tuesday, 29 July 2014                                                                                                  76.3kms

The 53km drive through Mable Downs Station and Purnululu National Park to the visitor centre is a scenic one. The road itself must have been recently graded as we had been told by other people that it was the worst road in Australia due to corrugations, but what we experienced was quite smooth, especially in comparison to what we have previously driven. It dipped, twisted and turned, was windy, hilly and dropped into creek crossings, all of which would be certain to make anyone that was reading car sick. The 3 creeks we crossed ranged in depth from 200mm to 400mm, as stated at the Visitor Centre. At the first puddle of water we crossed, the right brake on the camper locked on and had to be disconnected. We passed Stu and Kate on their way out of the park and had a quick chat before continuing on.

For the next 2 nights we are camped at Kurrajong and we chose #79 as it is quite nice and close to the sunset walk.

Camp at Kurrajong
Camp at Kurrajong

This afternoon just before 2pm we decided to get organised to go for a walk. We were ready and left camp at 2.30pm. After a short drive we arrived at the car park of the Bloodwoods. The Homestead Valley trail is a 2.2km (4.4km return) walk that leaves the Bloodwood car park and cuts deep into the range into what is known as Homestead Valley. Aboriginals claim that there was once a homestead in that valley, although there has never been any visible evidence of this found. There are fan palms (Livistona) growing in cliff edges and the cliffs themselves are made up of conglomerate, a rock made up of pebbles and boulders embedded in a sandy matrix. The trail, even though a class 4, was an easy walk for us. Following the trail, we headed up through the range on a pebbly track. We crossed a couple of rocky creek beds and there was a steep section that has been sloped off with a handrail. Elokin not looking, and bending over to pick up a stick, managed to hit her head on one of the railings. It took us the stated two hours, because we stopped to look and take photos on the way in but we managed to walk out the 2.2kms in 30 minutes.

As we had left this walk rather late, we watched the sunset on the way out and then caught the end at Bloodwood lookout. We then raced home and walked up to the sunset spot near camp for the last rays of light, champagne and to watch the stars come out.

Until next time…. Happy and Safe Travels.

Spillway on the Ord River

Day 421: Ivanhoe Crossing – Spring Creek Rest Area

Monday, 28 July 2014                                                                                                289.2kms

We left camp at 10.10am and headed into Kununurra to collect our mail which was Elokin and Hendrix’s school work for the next 4 weeks. Nath also gave the car and van a much needed wash and they both came out sparkling. We purchased our fuel at the Gull on the east side of town as it is cheaper than the 3 in town.

We had forgotten that we needed to book our camping at Purnululu National Park as we left town, so we made a stop at the Lions Club park at the base of the spillway for me to book our camp and also our helicopter flight. There was a bobcat at the base of the spillway, which really gave a perception of just how big the spillway is.

Spillway on the Ord River
Spillway on the Ord River

Until next time…. Happy and Safe Travels.

View from our chairs over the river

Day 411: Mambi Island Boat Ramp

Friday, 18 July 2014                                                                                                    129.9kms

We were up early this morning and once we saw Heather and Allan were packing down, we did the same. Although, because we were not moving very far, we were leaving most things out of the van, putting whatever is up onto the floor and lowering the roof but not latching it. When they were ready to leave we said our goodbyes and Heather gave Elokin and Hendrix 2 nutty bars each. Lucky them! After they were gone, we moved into their spot, set up the camper again and ate breakfast enjoying our waterfront view. It was then time for school.

At lunch time we headed for town. It is actually further than we thought especially now that we have to go around the Ivanhoe Crossing as they closed it 2 years ago, for reasons we don’t know. As we turned onto the highway a Nissan Patrol turned on behind us and started flashing his lights at us. Nath questioned whether they would be flashing us and we decided most probably and pulled over. They came along side us to kindly let us know that our rock-stopper flaps were dragging along the road behind us once again, held on by one self-tapping screw.

Until next time…. Happy and Safe Travels.