Sunday, 31 August 2008

And again from Bramston Beach(but sadly the last!)

Well we were due to leave on Sunday and Sunday came and went and we didn’t! The weather wasn’t great and we had heard it was windy down the coast so we decided better the devil ……. So we’re still here.
However the weather has improved markedly now and the sun is shining so we made the right decision and haven’t had trouble filling in our time at all.
We’ve been going for long walks along the beach at low tide when the sand is firm and easy to walk. We’ve been for dinner at Babinda to a lovely Thai restaurant, reading and listening to the radio where we heard of a basketball carnival in Cairns which began on Thursday night and runs over the weekend as part of the Cairns festival. So we rang and booked tickets and for the princely sum of $24 we watched two NBL matches from the front row directly behind the Cairns Taipans bench. What incredible luck! We had a great night, although getting back to the van at 11.30pm was a bit of a rude shock! Never mind we didn’t have any pressing engagements for the morning anyway.
We did however make the most of the lovely morning and go for a walk through Eubenangee Swamp National Park which we had driven past many times. The walk begins at a lovely rail line which is one of the many cane train lines and winds its way through a tropical forest for about 1km. The tropical forest then gives way to a clearing with a steep walk up a hill from where you overlook a magnificent natural swamp which is teeming with life including birds and as we looked along the bank we noticed what looked like a log but in fact was a crocodile which validates all the warnings we saw posted along the way. The water lilies and other plants covered much of the surface of the Swamp and looked truly beautiful.
On our last day (we have really decided to go this time!) we went for a walk through Palmerston National Park to the North Johnstone River Lookout which is 1.5km from the road. It certainly was a challenge and we returned to our mountain goat ways again with the added interest of high humidity this time. The path was a very natural one over tree roots through the forest with some rudimentary steps provided along the way. The view was worth all the ‘are we there yets’ and something else to remember from our stay here.
Now we’re really going after two weeks which started at four nights!

Monday, 25 August 2008

Bramston Beach 2

Sometimes holidays are for revisiting comfortable places, a bit like comfy shorts, tee shirts and croc shoes (sorry Paula, and yes we do wear them all day at the beach!).
Then there are days that take you right out of your comfort zone and just explode with something really special. Today started out fairly as we planned with a visit to a market we had been told would be good and it certainly was very colourful and varied. We really enjoyed our visit to Youngaburra and after the market travelled back towards Milla Milla which is the dairy we visited twice last year to quality test the produce. We decided it was imperative to repeat the exercise this year and Ian has now ascertained that the chocolate orange cheesecake is indeed ‘to die for’.
As we sat on the deck enjoying our lunch we noticed that for today only there were helicopter flights available directly across the road from the dairy. Now I have never had a helicopter experience and so before I could do my usual risk assessment we found ourselves on board.
What a magic experience. I can only describe it as reminiscent to our balloon flight in Pennsylvania with a lot more noise and faster and being enclosed in a plastic bubble. We sped over the North Johnstone River and marvelled at all we saw. We have driven beside this beautiful country many many times and never known of the beautiful waterfalls cascading down as the river winds its way towards a junction and on to Innisfail. Our pilot Wayne told us that when the wet season is in progress this area is a favourite of white water rafters and I have made a mental note to myself if Ian ever suggests we try that I will be busy or wave from overhead in the helicopter I have now asked Kate to give me for Christmas!
Our flight was only for 10 minutes but it was an unforgettable experience probably even more so because of the spontaneity of our decision. I’m not expecting anything like this for the rest of the trip but it was so worth it.
If you are ever up here and would like to try out an adventure like this we highly recommend NQ Heli-Worx. Thanks Kate and Wayne, have a look at the website at

Bramston Beach 1

We have returned to Bramston Beach which was a favourite last year and one we had decided to return to again. We are not disappointed as it is just as we remembered and will stay for a record number of nights, yet to be decided as we keep extending! The photos may be a clue as to why --- the outlook from our caravan is none too shabby and going to sleep each night with the waves only 30-40 metres from your door is not hard to take. All this for $16 a night.
We don’t have any power here but do have water so it has been an opportunity to test out our generator to boost our battery in the van and we have managed very well. We put up the awning and even the wall across the back and have been sitting outside with our mosquito coil to protect us from the mossies (thanks Jenny for the coils – they are great!).
The chairs mum gave Ian are fantastic footstools so we’re set! The biggest decision is which book to read and which sewing to complete.
Innisfail is our closest main centre and is only 15 minutes away so shopping has not been a problem either.
We haven’t been totally lazy however and have started playing petanque along the foreshore in front of the van, sharpening our skills before we visit some friends further down the coast in a little while.
We’ve also been for a couple of walks through the National Parks nearby and the waterfalls are spectacular. We are discovering more things to see here the longer we stay and I’m sure there are more to come.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Archer Creek

On the way to Archer Creek we stopped off at Innot Hot Springs which we had heard a lot about and only driven past last year. We enjoyed an hour trying out the various pools which ranged in heat up to 45 degrees. We didn’t try the 45 degree pool thinking logically that the lobster look was not a good one. Nonetheless the other pools were very refreshing.
Archer Creek is a roadside stop and really one not to miss. At $0 its fantastic value, in fact better than some of the parks we pay for. We set ourselves up with a cosy fire which was the first time we had used Ian’s home made brazier which worked very well.
Later we built the fire up and invited a young German couple to join us. Lars and Nicole are travelling for four months and are heading towards Darwin and then back down south before moving on to Switzerland to work for a couple of years before resuming travelling. Lars is a chef and Nicole also works in hospitality. Our conversation led to discussing their lives in East Germany before the wall came down and how their lives, and the lives of their families have changed. It was a fascinating evening and we have both learnt so much from them and are even more grateful for our good fortune. Sitting under huge eucalyptus trees on a beautiful clear night looking up at the stars with this lovely couple was pretty close to perfect and they gave us a bottle of wine to thank us for our hospitality! The pleasure was all ours and we hope to meet up with them again.

Georgetown to Undara

We had a lovely time at our caravan park at Georgetown and enjoyed the company of a number of other campers. We solved the problems of the world over our dinners, discussing issues as diverse as tourist development along the coast, the state of farming around Lake Bolac, cost of fuel and retirement!
We drove on to Undara and enjoyed the newly surfaced road, remembering the sometimes bone jarring experience we had last year.
We had stopped and collected wood outside the park so we could have a campfire as we had last year. Ian made a magnificent stew in the camp oven which was the envy of the other campers as the aromas drifted around during the afternoon. After dinner we joined many others at the campfire for a night hosted by one of the Savannah guides during which in addition to a fantastic fire we enjoyed some Aussie poetry.
In the morning a walk was on our list and we were very pleased that we decided to go early as it is very warm and early morning or late afternoon starts seem to be the most practical.
Early on Friday morning we went on a walk to Atkinsons Lookout and late in the afternoon another walk to Yarramulla and walked around the rim of the crater. We must have chosen ‘beer o’clock’ we think as we met wallabies getting together for drinks and nibbles as we walked back to the car after a fairly steep walk up and back from the crater.
On our last morning we went to the camp breakfast which we had enjoyed so much last year. It certainly took care of lunch! Then we moved on towards the coast to a camp near Ravenshoe called Archer Creek.

Wednesday, 13 August 2008


After we left Cloncurry we travelled on to Normanton for the night along the Burke Developmental Road. In Normanton we snapped a couple more ‘bigs’ which seemed amazing in this part of the world. After a quick look around town which seems to be a very popular fishing spot probably because it’s the closest fishing area to Karumba on the coast and is very popular, we headed out along the Gulf Developmental Road towards Croydon to a spot recommended in the Camps 4 book called Norman River. This camp is a seasonal one and is located at Leichardt Lagoon and was just beautiful. We had a site for $14 and met up with many other campers around a campfire and BBQ for tea. We were able to use the generator so we had everything we needed included very clean facilities and a twin tub machine which fortunately I didn’t need to use as its quite a while since I’ve used one of these! The campfire was a very interesting set up comprising a star picket post with a hollow log over the top and a small collection of twigs and paper at the bottom. When it was lit it fired up beautifully and as Ian (CFA hat on!) informed me very knowledgeably “it performed like a candle tree does in a bushfire’. Whatever it was, it was spectacular and certainly provided our entertainment for the evening still going strong when we went to bed.
In the morning we journeyed on listening to the Olympics for the first time as radio has been very poor – Warwick where is the ABC in the bush? We cheered as the men’s hockey team excelled against South Africa and as the swimming events progressed with the Aussies doing well talking back to the radio as the debate raged about ‘suits’ or ‘no suits’ and the advantage they have played in all the world records.
Our stop for tonight is a shady and grassy park in Georgetown which is only a morning’s journey to Undara where we will stay for two nights.

Monday, 11 August 2008


We’ve stopped tonight in Cloncurry for a night to stay in a van park. I’ve done a load of washing, tidied up the van and cleaned up generally. When I told Pete I was cleaning up the van and doing the housework he said how could that take long, you’re living in a shoe box, just turn it upside down and shake it! Wish it was that easy – the dust gets in every nook and cranny and the benches are covered in dust each time we stop so I like to have a chance to give it all a really good clean.
The driving over the last four days has been quite lengthy and we have covered 2,100kms which is more than we would like to but we needed to move along to return closer to the coast where we will spend a few weeks. Over our holiday so far we have traversed across five states/territories, Victoria, New South Wales, South Australia, The Northern Territory and now Queensland so its been quite a journey and nearly all new places to visit.
We’re on our way to The Lava Tubes at Undara in the next few days which we did visit last year and enjoyed so much we are going back to stay for a couple of days.
After that we’re not too sure of how we’ll make our way back to the coast, but we’ll wait and see.
Today’s photos are of sunset at our last stop which was spectacular and me hard at work on the blog!

Katherine to Camooweal

We are travelling through areas with no phone, radio or TV coverage and staying in Camps 4 sites which are great. We haven’t got a clue what is happening in the world, missed the opening of the Olympics, the Northern Territory election and anything else, ah well, guess it will all go on without us.
All we have for company is my I Pod which has been terrific and I’ve played with all the settings and now understand it properly, and yes we do sing on occasion to the music! Along this part of the route I have also cleaned and rearranged both the glove box (sounds familiar Pete!) and the arm rest and read the user guide for the car, learning more about the Prado than either of us really need to know as I read out interesting bits when I think Ian would like to know that too!
When we left Kakadu we travelled into Katherine for some shopping and then out to a camp we passed on the way in which looked suitable called King River Rest Area. This was a really comfortable place to stop and a good time to have a camp fire with no wind and plenty of shelter. Ian even cooked dinner, the new jaffle iron came out! We enjoyed our campfire until late in the evening and the pyromaniac was well pleased with his efforts! We were joined by some others who thought it looked pretty good too.
We also tried out the new toy - the generator - for the first time and it worked well so that’s a handy bit of luxury for these stops.
In the morning we set off heading towards Daly Waters where we decided to take a different route from the way we had come up and travelled along the Carpentaria Highway, having been advised that it is now sealed all the way through. It was interesting, the road having shape and diversity of surface which certainly didn’t allow either of us to become complacent! It was fine, and probably not much different to the road to Undara which we will travel again this year.
After lunch we stopped at Cape Crawford where we needed fuel. Unfortunately we have been travelling into a headwind and our fuel has been pretty thirsty. Fuel is expensive out here as we had been told and Ian is practicing his very eloquent Aussie vernacular when he looks at the bowser. At Cape Crawford the fuel was $2.10 per litre. It got better, or worse, depending on your point of view. At Barkly Homestead, where unfortunately we also needed a little more it was $2.17 per litre. The gentleman at the next bowser remarked to Ian how amazing it was that they could produce it for that price. I think he was being a little facetious.
Saturday night we camped at Kiana Turnoff Rest Area which is 271km north of Barkly Homestead where we stopped under a very impressive windmill which is no longer in operation but a handy signpost for a rest area and there have been a number along this route.
On we went with enough fuel to get us to Mount Isa. Our Sunday night stop was at Avon Downs Rest Area which is 69km west of Camooweal. The wind was blowing a gale all night but we were grateful to be in a van and not a tent. See you can always find a positive!


On the way to Kakadu we stopped at a roadhouse for a break and came across the army on the move for an exercise nearby. A line up of five APC’s and a number of support vehicles greeted us on our arrival. Well, they didn’t exactly greet us, they too were having a break from army rations and stocking up on fried chips and the usual fare of roadhouses. They looked very impressive and when their intrepid leader gave the order to move out we thought this was going to be really an experience to remember. That was until the lead driver said to his intrepid leader, “It won’t go, Sir”. Not exactly what our taxes at work were hoping for and even worse, they couldn’t get it going so the other four APC’s left it behind “Nigel no mates style”. A bit embarrassing really especially with a large number of grey nomads recording the incident on cameras and posing for photos beside said sad vehicle! Photo provided for Kate and Waz (another big thing)!
Kakadu has been another great place to visit for us even though we have only stayed two nights. We arrived on Wednesday afternoon at Cooinda which is one of the major resorts within Kakadu and immediately noticed that it was not as humid as Darwin which was nice. We loved being warm don’t misunderstand or think us ungrateful, but it’s nice to sleep without humidity. There is a great pool here which we have taken full advantage of and really enjoy heading off for a swim a couple of times each day now.
We went to the Cultural Centre on Thursday morning and walked out along the boardwalks at Yellow Water Wetlands and decided we had made a very good choice to go on a sunset boat ride as it’s pretty warm to be walking around too much during the day. We did learn from our walk today how important the wetlands are and how far birds migrate from to visit Kakadu – Siberia no less!
We retreated to the pool for the afternoon and then embarked on our boat ride from Muirella Park. This boat ride is run by a family who are Indigenous to the area. Our guides were both born in this area and their father used to run crocodile hunting expeditions from the billabong we travelled along. The camp beside the billabong is completely packed up during the wet as it is inundated during that period. It is incredible to see from the debris caught up in the trees just how high the water comes.
Our guides, Fred and Douglas were fantastic as they took us on a tour of what can best be described as ‘their neighbourhood’ and their supermarket. It seems like we were travelling down a suburban street and being introduced to their friends and neighbours and visiting the local shops too.
Before we set out on the boat down the billabong Fred showed us how he cooks for the visitors they have to the camp (including Peter Garrett last week, geez I hope he’s not a vegetarian!). In a hole in the ground lined with hot, really hot coals and rocks he placed a shoulder of buffalo, and a leg of pork which he covered with pre heated rocks, then leaves and paperbark and covered with more hot rocks. This cooked for hours and was delicious. It was shame we all decided, that we hadn’t come for dinner, he made it sound so appealing.
It is incredible to see all the birds, plants and fish not to mention the ‘salty’ waiting for one of the poor unsuspecting fruit bats feeding on the new blossoms above to dangle within his reach. Fred introduced us to each of the birds and told us how long they had lived in that particular tree and how some had been forced to relocate by others taking over that particular branch. We even managed to identify the mystery bird from Bramston Beach last year. It is a Burdekin duck. Now I know you had all been waiting since last year to find that out!
We also learnt a lot about how the local people would cook many of the fish and animals and how you would never go hungry if you only knew what to look for, how to catch it. The story of how the women catch the water snakes was interesting and I’m really happy buying meat, fish and chicken at Coles thanks! Especially with the description of putting the snakes head into your mouth to break the neck! Ta but no thanks!
It was a wonderful night – and we are so glad we came. Now it’s back to Katherine and on down the road.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Last Days in Darwin

Monday is our sunset cruise outing but during the day we went to Palmerston which is a regional shopping centre and did some shopping and I had some retail therapy which was most enjoyable.
A swim of course is the order of the day especially when we look at the weather map and see that when we leave here the picture is not so bright. We had been swimming at Casuarina beach and seemed to have the water pretty much to ourselves which was great. Today we were talking to a couple who have lived here for two years and consider themselves to be Territorians. They were most amused that we were swimming as “they” being “Territorians” think it’s far too cold and did we know that the ‘salties’ frequent this beach. They in fact saw a salty marching down the beach last year and the rangers had to come and take the offending croc to ‘brighter pastures’. Now, we know from our chats with Russell (our intrepid tour guide from Katherine Gorge), that the salties are the ones who have a taste for people.
So I think that the swimming pool at the park looks really nice now and I thoroughly enjoyed my swim there yesterday and have resolved to swim there until we leave.
Now to the cruise. It was an absolute highlight of our stay here. We left Stokes Hill Wharf at 5.45pm and sailed out around the coast toward Mindil beach where we had enjoyed two visits to the markets. Along the way we enjoyed a veritable feast of local produce as we sat at our table for two (there were other people on board, but it was very romantic, none the less). We started with a variety of breads with two dips and also a lovely duckah blend of pistachio. Then fresh oysters and prawns and seconds of oysters, because some people don’t like them! Imagine that! Then for our main course as we drifted watching the sunset on our beautiful 3 masted timber boat we enjoyed local barramundi, chicken satay and marinated beef sticks accompanied by a lettuce and potato salad and a lovely bottle of white wine. When we thought we could eat no more out came dessert of fresh fruit and a chocolate dip! Would you believe there were even fireworks on the shore as we finished dinner and sailed back to the Wharf. It was a wonderful end to a lovely evening. Thoroughly recommended when you visit the Territory.
Today (Tuesday) was our last day and the day we managed to book the car in for service so we had arranged to be dropped into town to have a look at the centre of Darwin which we hadn’t been to before. We returned to the Deckchair Cinema and took a photo to remember that great night. We then walked to the WW2 Underground Oil Storage Tunnels which are a network of five steel lined tunnels built for storage of the Navy’s oil reserves after the Japanese bombed Darwin’s above ground facilities. One tunnel is open to the public and includes a fascinating display of photographs depicting life in wartime Darwin. The construction was even more impressive when you realise that all the excavation was done with shovels and pneumatic drills. Today, it was oppressive within the tunnel even with the fans moving the air around. Without any of that it would have been a very difficult task to excavate the tunnels.
We also visited The Tree of Knowledge which is revered world wide by Buddhists and is located behind the current civic centre. In times past The Tree of Knowledge has been used as a postal address and also the meeting place for the locals where decisions affecting the townspeople were made.
After we collected our car we went back to the beach, although as the tide was so far out we decided not to swim, and for me I didn’t need to see a salty!
We returned to the Wharf for dinner – not quite as fancy as the cruise but local fish and lovely none then less. Tomorrow we leave for Kakadu and more adventures!

Sunday, 3 August 2008


Before we set off for Darwin we backtracked a little to Adelaide River to visit the War Cemetery which we read about whilst staying at Litchfield. It is a place not to be missed if you are travelling this way. Ian and I had no idea of the importance of the cemetery in our WWII history (being the only Australian War Cemetery on Aussie soil) and look forward to learning more in Darwin.
When we arrived in Darwin on Tuesday we set ourselves up for a week at the park – our longest stop so far. Even put up the awning for the first time since Alice Springs where it was nearly blown off in the once a year storm.
Bright and early on Wednesday morning we set off for the East Point Military Museum where we learnt amongst other things, just how close the war was. We started off with a video presentation then looked through the static exhibitions and the war machines outside. It was a very interesting morning and we now feel we have somewhat filled in a large gap in our knowledge of WW2. Did you know there were 64 air raids on Darwin and surrounds?
After lunch we decided to treat ourselves to a movie. We always talk about going at home and never do so we went to see Get Smart. It is so ridiculous we laughed all the way and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.
Did I mention how warm it is here? It’s around 26-30+ so we’re quite comfortable thanks for asking. So comfortable in fact that on Thursday morning we went to the beach and had a lovely swim and lounged around on the beach. Then in the evening we went to the famous Mindil Beach market which is fantastic and sadly will put me off markets at home for a while. It is so colourful and big and features so many different food stalls there’s almost too much to choose from. Ian and I strategized that it was better to share and have a few tastes of different things and call it dinner. We finished our dinner with Ian enjoying passionfruit ice-cream as we watched the sunset on the beach. It was so good we’re going back again on Sunday.
Friday was a beautiful day again so we went back to the beach for more swimming and in the evening we went to the Deckchair Cinema which is located almost in the centre of Darwin. We walked down heaps of steps to the Cinema which was just fantastic. All these deckchairs set out in the garden, a bit like a drive-in without the cars. It was a great experience, especially with the message on the screen advising us to hang onto our food if we didn’t want to share it with the possums who ran through the ‘cinema’ throughout the night as if they owned it. We were also advised to turn off our phones as the bats don’t like them! We saw “Before the devil knows you’re dead” which features amongst others Albert Finney, Marisa Tomei, Ethan Hawke and Philip Seymour Hoffman. It was a good movie but almost surpassed by the whole experience of sitting in a deckchair in a garden in August in shorts and a T-Shirt!
On Saturday we went to the beach for a swim, the market at Parap, the fish market at the wharf and another swim in the pool at the park, as well as some housekeeping which keeps getting in the way of fun!
Sunday was markets again – this time the morning market had so many different fresh Asian vegies and fruits it was overwhelming – I only wish I knew what to do with half of them! Then it was off for a swim. After lunch we went to the Museum and saw a great exhibition on Cyclone Tracey which included a room which was completely blacked out and had a recording of the cyclone as captured by the local priest. We’re certainly glad we spent Christmas at home that year. Then it was back to the Mindil Sunset Market again. I’ve attached a couple of photos of the market for you to enjoy.
The rest of our stay in Darwin will have to be another blog as we’ve booked in for a sunset dinner cruise which should be fantastic.

Thanks everyone for your comments --- by the way for those who are curious about Kate's comment ---- Kate and Waz have bought a house in Shepparton and we were out of range when it all came together --- Congratulations Kate and Waz!