Who Turned the Outback Green???

Trip Start Sep 28, 2009
Trip End Apr 22, 2011

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Where I stayed
Tennant Creek Caravan Park
Renners Springs Desert Inn
Mataranka Cabins and Camping
Big4 Katherine Low Level Caravan Park

Flag of Australia  , Northern Territory,
Tuesday, December 7, 2010


Tuesday 7th December 2010

It rained all night, lots of lightning, there might have been thunder but the rain was hammering on the roof so loud that I couldn't hear it. We woke up before 6am with yet more rain drumming on the roof, it was lovely and cool so we decided to get up and get on the road while it was a nice temperature to drive.

We were on the road a little after 7am, the rain had stopped but the clouds looked threatening, grey skies all round and black clouds on the horizon.  The roads seemed ok but Gary was a little worried that we might hit some flooding as it had rained so much in the night.  We have 471km to drive today to Tennant Creek so I started the driving.  The rain came down in short showers but nothing too worrying and the roads were fine, but then about two hours into the journey the skies opened and the rain came down in torrents.  It was hard driving I couldn’t see the road for the rain, luckily there was no one else around so I just had to worry about my driving. I joked with Gary that his leak would be back with all this rain, out of habit he turned round to look at it.....only to find water running into the back of the van.   I couldn’t pull off the road as there was no hard shoulder and visibility was terrible, so Gary went into the back and tried to mop up what he could while I continued to drive.  When I finally found somewhere to stop we discovered the front of the pop up roof wasn’t down tight enough and because it had rained so hard and the water had forced itself under and along the roof and poured into the van.  We mopped up and pulled the roof down tighter which seem to sort the problem out.

We had lunch at 10am as we were both hungry and had skipped breakfast, Gary took over the driving while I got the laptop out and caught up on the blog.  We stopped for petrol at a really nice road side bar, the price of petrol out here is astonishing, we’re now paying 60c more a litre.  We were back on the road and had driven no more than 5km when we saw a broken down car and a lady flagged us down.  With no knowledge of cars Gary hoped it was something as simple as a flat tire, lucky for him it was.  So he got out the van flexing his muscles and changed it for the lady.  It is important to always stop if you see someone in trouble in the outback even if you don’t think you can help as the next car may not be along for another hour or two.  We have a two way radio so even if we can’t help we can get in touch with someone who can.  Gary came back pleased with himself....my hero!

Distance                               471km
Accommodation                    $29
Weather                                Sunny 33 degrees

 Pulled into Tennant Creek and drove through town to see if there was anything exciting going on, not much to report, just lots of Aborigines just sitting around. We found our caravan park and set up camp.  With the blog diary up to date I set about uploading it while Gary when off and had a shower and a shave.  Dinner tonight is Thai Red Curry so we need to get the table and stove out to make it, Gary got his wonderful frying pan out and I prepared the meat and veggies.  It’s good fun cooking outside as long as the flies stay away and the weather is dry.  
Wednesday 8th December 2010

I had good internet connection so spent the morning doing some bits and pieces on the computer, including getting a Skype call from Gary’s Mum and Dad.  Our journey today will take us down to the Devil’s Marbles, which is 100km south of Tennant Creek.  Devil’s Marbles are another one of Australian phenomenon, piles of round granite stones stacked up on top of each other.  We have seen these marbles before, but we loved them so much last time that we wanted to go back and see them again.

As we left Tennant Creek the road seemed wrong, the view was wrong.....it was green!  Where is my lovely red Outback, where is the desolated barren landscape I remember.   It seems with all the rain Australia has been having this year the Northern Territory has blossomed, dormant seeds have awakened in the fresh rain water and flourished.  Everywhere we looked was green and healthy, I was so disappointed.  Some of my best memories of Australia are of the outback, its red earth and hostile environment. 

I had hoped the Devil’s Marbles would still be the same as we left them and happily there they were, exactly the same....well maybe a bit greener.....but just what we remembered.  We have a photo on our wall at home of Gary wedged between two of the marbles.  We found the same boulders and Gary tried the same pose, he blamed the fact that he was wearing flip-flops for why he couldn’t get in the same position, I’m thinking fifteen years on Mr Carson is not as young or agile as he once was.  There are lots of flies out here and they seem to love buzzing in your ears and landing on your face, Gary put his bandana on a pulled it down over his ears to block the noise out.   We spent a while walking round all the stones and taking pictures, the stones are shaped by thousands of years of erosion and not by aliens which is one of the theories.  Although 23km down the road is an area where the most UFO sightings have been reported....it’s the UFO capital of Australia....so maybe they are on the right tracks???

We left the Marbles and retraced our journey back up the Stuart Highway to Tennant Creek, stopping for petrol, and then on to Three Ways.  Three Ways is a main T junction, Alice Springs one way, Darwin the other and not a town full of nymphets which was what Gary was hoping for.  We had planned to stop here the night but the campsite was full.  Not a problem it was only 3pm and the next town was only 138km away.  I took over the driving for the rest of the journey. 

Distance                               361km
Accommodation                    $25
Weather                               Sunny 36 degrees

We pulled into the petrol station at Renner Springs which also doubles up as the local pub, hotel and campsite.  We booked in for a night and drove over to the camp area.  We had already set up the van next to a shady tree and where just warming up yesterday’s leftover’s for tea when a caravan came in and wanted our site.  The manager was called over and we were asked to move as we had set up on a long rig site.  Talk about a bad day.  So we set up in the sun and cooked for the rest of the afternoon.  As the sun went down hundreds of birds came out, it was so noisy, we went for a walk over the road and watch the sunset into the scrub.
Thursday 9th December 2010

Renner Springs had a big windmill which I wanted to take a picture of, it also had four geese which I am not so ok with.  Geese are nasty aggressive birds, I’ve seen people have them in their gardens as guard dogs or guard geese.  These ones were no different as I walked up to the windmill the biggest of the four, ducked his head down and started charging at me, I screamed and ran back to the van.  What is it about animals always chasing me?  I took the photo on a drive by from the safety of the van.

We are headed to Daly Water’s today site of a historical pub, we had an early start so pulled over for a breakfast stop outside a town called Newcastle Waters.  This is Drover country and is a crossroads for three of the main cattle drive routes.  Back on the road and Gary needed a bathroom break, too much muesli.  We pulled over at a service station and while Gary used the facilities I watched hundreds of butterfly’s surrounding a bush, I tried desperately to get pictures of them.  Gary came back with pictures of bug crawling out the plug hole in the sink...how different we are.

Daly Waters is off the main road slightly, the pub which is all that is left of the town was once a watering hole for Drovers, the town was also a major stop for the workers on the Telegraph line and had an airfield that the early Qantas  flights would use to refuel for its flights to Singapore.  It also served as a WWII Airforce base.  The town is now just a population of nine people, most of them work in the pub.

There is also a famous tree marked with an S which was presumed to have been carved by John McDouall Stuart the explorer who set out with the same goal as Burke and Wills to find a route from South to North.  Stuart was better organised and more successful, he could also boast he never lost a man on all six of his expeditions. The race was on.  The Stuart highway runs from Adelaide to Darwin at a distance of 2,834km most of the highway follows the same route that John McDouall Stuart  mapped out.  This route was also used for the first overland telegraph line linking the two towns with the rest of the world.

We had planned to camp at Daly Waters but as it was 11am and the next town was only a couple of hours away we thought we would carry on.  Gary filling up with petrol (meant to be the cheapest around) we then had to go into the pub to pay.  We walked in together and were amazed by the inside.  There was memorabilia everywhere, hats, shirts, pants, knickers, bras, name badges, you name it people who had visited had left it.  All around the bar were passport pictures and business cards stapled to the wood.  It was an Aladdin’s cave and we decided to stay for a drink....well Gary did the drinking I had a coke.  We added our contribution to the photo’s by sticking our blog address and two passport photos of us on the bar.

After Gary’s second schooner, we piled back into the van and I continued the driving, but first we needed to stop at the Stuart Tree to see the famous S marked in it.  We drove down a small track surrounded by bush land, it was amazing to think this area had once been the main road, with a telegraph office and other buildings surrounding it.  There is an old photo showing the Stuart Tree with buildings in the back ground there is nothing but scrub land and bushes now.

Distance                               510km
Accommodation                    $23
Weather Sunny 38 degrees

  We continued on to a town called Mataranka, I have taken over the driving cause someone had a few drinks, he also needed a wee stop at the side of the road.....boys!!  We arrived in Mataranka and headed straight for the Bitter Springs to have a swim.  It’s one of the attractions here and was well worth the visit as the water was crystal clear and lovely and warm.  As I never usually swim in these pools I didn’t bring my swimmers, but the water was so clear and inviting that I whipped my shorts off and went in with just my underwear and vest top.  It was ok there was no one around....it was bliss.  We took a few under water shots because the visibility was great.  Finally we got out and drove round the corner to our campsite, which was on the edge of the Elsey National Park and very rural.  We set the mozzie nets up and cooked dinner, enjoying being outside on a cool evening.  Once the sun had set and sky got dark it was a very different place.  We were pretty much on our own and a short walk from the toilet block, but I have to say it was a very scary walk, there was rustling in the bushes, bats swooping over head, insects buzzing and screeching, wallabies hopping past, toads to avoid and no lights on anywhere.   I sometimes wish we had a toilet on the van!!

Friday 10th December 2010

  We left the campsite and headed back to the Bitter Springs, we had seen that you could carry on down the stream to another exit point and we fancied getting our mask and snorkels out and following the current.  Again we had the place to ourselves and this time I bothered to put my swimmers on.  We jumped straight in and marvelled once more at how clear the water was and was even better with our masks on.  We floated down our massive lazy river until we got to one of the exit points I got out to have a look around and take a few photos of Gary in the water.  It was at this point I noticed there was water in his camera.  It was a shame we were only saying yesterday how great the camera had been in the water....I think the Bangkok guarantee has run out now but then it probable ran out the second we left the shop!!  We had a dry bag with us that had the keys in so I took them out and popped the camera in, we then continued our swim.  The plan had been to relax down to the final exit point and then swim back against the current to the first entry point.  The main reason for this was the ground was really rocky and we couldn’t have walked back in our bare feet, but the current got a bit strong further down so I swam back to the first entry point while Gary carried on.  I then met him at the exit with his shoes.  He was very excited when I caught up with him because he had seen two turtles in the water.

We walked back to van, dried off and changed into dry clothes.  Our next stop is a large town called Katherine, but we had one more thing to visit in this town, a large Termite mound.  We filled up with petrol in town and then walked over to the twenty foot high termite mound.  The Mound was in a park and under every tree in the park was Aborigines just sitting around chilling, they seem to do that a lot.  We took our photos and continued our journey to Katherine.  Within minutes of leaving the town border we nearly bagged our first roo, a small wallaby hopped out into the road in front of us but luckily for him he changed his mind at the last minute and hopped back into the bush.

Distance                               112km
Accommodation                    $23.30
Weather Thunder storms 35 degrees

We pulled in to Katherine and stopped at the Information Centre first, there is a lot of national parks and gorges up this way so we wanted to stock up on literature so we could make some plans.  Our choice of Caravan Park is a Big4, it will be so nice to get to a comfortable campground rather than the roadside ones we have been staying in lately.  We set up the van, pulled out the awnings and set up the nets to keep the flies out.  There is also a massive pool here which after an hour of baking outside the van we decided to go and cool off in the water.  Once we were in we couldn’t get out, it was lovely. There was a bit of rumbling of thunder in the distance but we have had a few storms lately that have amounted to nothing so we didn’t worry too much.  Then the rain came down, I am not sure I have ever seen that much rain before, it not only turned the road into a river but the grass behind us was a constant stream.  When you walked on the grass outside the van the water came over your feet and that was under the awning.  The Asian couple in a tent next to us had to pick the tent up and move it on to a concrete slab, as they where sinking into the ground.  We also lent them our tarpaulin to put over the top to keep the water out.  For forty five minutes the rain came down, the thunder rolled and the lighting flashed and when it stopped the park looked like a lake....but the frog and toads loved it.

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websters on

Good blog

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