Saturday, April 25, 2009
There is a pool. The bathrooms are a bit old but they obviously put work into keeping them nice with shower caddies and curtains etc.
There is a couple of washing machines and a laundry tub. And a book exchange in the laundry area.
And from Thursday to Sunday they even have meals out there! There is an open sided pub sort of set up that is really nice (which is where they had the ANZAC day breakfast). Beers are a good price.
Darcy was awake all night. I am sure it was nothing to do with food intolerances, just him wanting to feed all night. Little bugger. And it was a lovely cool night so it was not the heat keeping him awake.??? I think it was around 4:30 when i fed him (again) and he fell asleep but with the beginnings of movement and chatter outside i could not get back to sleep. Tim was up at 5 to get ready for dawn service. I debated about waking Jordy and was really torn about trying to go but there was no way he would be quiet for the service so we let him sleep. Still, i got dressed properly just in case he did wake and i had that extra bit of a reason to go, but no, he slept! Both kids even slept through the noisy departure of a dozen bikies!
Tim, Mum, and Dad said it was a nice service with a really big turnout but there were too many politicians speaking. I had thought there might be a flyover with the airforce base being just 5min jetflight away but there wasn't. But there were a heap of airforce personnel there.
At the end of the service there was a free breakfast back at the showground! We had a stroke of luck there! $10 for a site AND breakfast! And it was a really big deal too. More people than we have seen in a long time and it was a huge full cooked breakfast. And for those that did not have a big drive ahead of them the alcohol was also flowing for free. One bloke was wandering around with this huge bottle of bundy rum and filling up glasses around the place. I was talking to another family at breaky and it;s not just local station families and the outlying communities but apparently a lot of people come from Darwin (all the scouts were from Darwin) but i would have to guess that there were over 1,000 people there which is pretty good for a town with a population of well under half that!
Two-up was on later in at the pub but we wanted to call out to Litchfield and that would make our drive over 300km today so back to the van to pack up. We were still out of there around 9am even after such a busy morning.
The nearest town to Litchfield is Batchelor and we wanted to drive through and see what it was like and what was there. It's only small (pop of about 350) but we all thought it was a really nice, tidy looking little community. There is a pool and school, and lots of tree'd park areas and a little grocery store and petrol station and a new looking pub etc. We parked the vans near the pool and left them there while we drove the 70km into the national park to the cafe.
The park is the same odd mix of tropical and dry plants that we had around Mataranka. It's interesting to see and not what i expected. I'm used to national parks being full of tall trees and dense undergrowth but all the bush out here is low trees and dry grasslands. Lots of little creeks though. We saw all the massive magnetic termite mounds but we drove straight past this time.
Got out to Litchfield Cafe and i had my fingers crossed that it would be ok but was prepared for it if it was really rough. But yay!!!! one of the first things i noticed when we parked was the grassy areas and big shade trees around the cafe so that was a plus. We went in and met our future boss and his family and they were great to chat with. But hot! bleaugh. Apparently it was a good 5' cooler today than it has been so i am glad we were not here yesterday. And i really hope it cools down even more over the next week.
The area where our van will go is a bit sandier and the shower/toilets are really rough! LOL! But we knew that. We are not sure what kind of internet reception we'll get out there and the guys are talking about getting a little satellite dish so we can pick up some tv. Looks like they get super busy for lunches, especially with the bus tours. But we are all looking forward to getting in and working for a bit. It's mostly all family working out there and there are three other kids, 5weeks, nearly 2 and nearly 4. So add in our 1yr old and our nearly 3yr old and we'll have a great little mob.
We spent a good hour or more out there talking and having a look around the place. I did not get any photos (sorry!) but as soon as we head out there next week i'll get lots. Drove back and and picked up the vans again and then continued in to Darwin.
Most of the van parks are all 10-15min out of the centre of Darwin so we did not get a chance to see the city. It was after 4pm when we got to the park so just set up and then a sit around. Jordy rode his trike around the park. Just had risotto for dinner in the rice cooker. Bloody hot and muggy! We thought it might have been cooling down cos we've had some nicer nights recently but i guess those extra hundred km north to the coast has not helped. Went to bed with the air con on all night.
Friday, April 24, 2009
While we were in Katherine we had a look at the map to see where we might want to stop next. It's not far from Katherine to Darwin but there was no reason to make it in one day when we could stop and have a look around. Plus we thought it would be good to call into Litchfield on the way past. There were a couple of options halfway between Katherine and Darwin, like the Douglas Hot Springs (although we were probably all hot-springed out), or Edith Falls (seen a few waterfalls) or the Douglas Daly region, or Adelaide River. So we had a look at what was in the area and where might have some kind of village so it might be possible to attend a dawn service and you would not believe it but we discovered that not only was Adelaide River the largest town in the area (population 350) it also has one of Australia's largest war cemetaries. Decision made.
On the way out of Katherine Tim had to fuel up and there was a geocache just down the road that we could not find when we both tried a few days earlier so Tim dropped me off and the time it took him to fuel up was the time i had to find it! LOL! I looked and looked and looked and sweated and looked some more but still could not find the darn thing. It's a micro so only the size of a 5c piece and buggered if i could figure out where it was hiding. Gave up and climbed in the truck for the shortish drive to Adelaide River.
The highway was road-kill central! You'd just get past the stink of one rotting carcase and there would be another. Lovely.
But Adelaide River looked nice. We had decided to stay at the showground and opted for an unpowered site cos it was just $10 a night and there was a breeze blowing and a bit of shade so the air con was not a big deal. There were quite a few other vans and tents there and we were told it would get busy cos the scouts were coming through later in the day. Set up camp nice and quick, had a snack and a drink and then jumped on our bikes to go for a ride around town (Mum and Dad drove!)
We headed over to the historic railway precinct (train museum) for a look around. Lots of old carriages and photos and stuff... and co-incidently another cache for us to find. They really area everywhere! We searched like crazy for this one and when we gave up and went back to the bikes we realised we had read the clues wrong so all four of us went back full of enthusiasm thinking it would be easy now with the clue and spent another half hour and still could not find it. But the kids got to see a huge train go past RIGHT in front of us and it blew its whistle so Jordy thought that was special.
On the bikes and down the highway with a brief stop to look for another cache. Once again we could not find a damn thing! Mugs game, this thing! Gave up and headed to the War Cemetary. Bit of a ride but worth it. Lovely park areas along the river and a really beautiful cemetary area. I was really glad that we went cos it would be impossible for me to attend the service in the morning cos of the kids and i wanted to pay my respects.
So much of the area up here has a lot of wartime history that i was just not aware of. There are several sites that were bombed by the Japanese in WWII (i had no idea just how much bombing they did in Australia!) and there are just heaps and heaps of monuments and buildings and airfields and bunkers and hospitals and EVERYTHING up here that have a huge wartime history. Actually, a lot of the small towns owe their existance solely to the war. But the post office at Adelaide River was bombed and nine civilians were killed and there are well over 400 military graves. We had a good wander through the cemetary and read the plaques for most of the graves. Then we went across to the park for the kids to have a wander. There were a heap of peacocks that were very accustomed to people and Darcy chased them all over. There was a tour bus that arrived while we were there full of backpackers doing a stop at the cemetary and one of the girls filmed Darcy chasing them (he did look funny pointing and 'dook'ing as he tried to run). We finally found a cache for the day- one for four is not great odds! Called into the pub on the way back. Busy little town. I think everyone is here for ANZAC day. Either that or the stuffed buffalo from Crocodile Dundee that's hanging in the bar. Quick beer cos the kids were getting hungry and we were all hot. Actually, the pub is a pretty decent van park too and really cheap.
Back to the showground and into the pool for a cool off. Jordy is swimming really well but i wish we were still doing lessons. He has started to swim nice and flat with his eyes down so we'll get him some goggles soon.
The day cooled off nicely and we cooked a simple dinner of sliced potato, sweet potato, and sausages and mushrooms on the weber. And they were right! It did get busy with the scouts. It was a nice atmosphere with lots of laughing kids and tents going up as the sun went down.
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Overall- 4 stars.
Location- 7/10. On the outskirts of town but right on the edge of Low Level Nature Park with the river and park etc.
Sites- 7/10. Good prickle-free grass and good shady areas. Sites average sized.
Bathrooms- 7/10. We used the toilets/showers at the pool cos they were closer. They were pretty good, but the main ones were even better. Had a little baby bath tub as well.
Laundry- 7/10. Big laundry area with plenty of machines, good tubs and an iron etc. $3 a load.
Shop- 5/10. Had a bit of touristy stuff.... i can't remember if they had basic convenience items or not!
Pool- 7/10. Good big pool, had a spa too.
BBQ area- 7/10. Full camp kitchen with fridge, microwave, toaster etc. And a couple of separate little BBQ areas around the place.
Playground- Surprisingly enough they did not have one.
Other- During tourist season (i guess June to Novemeber ish) they have a full kiosk with meals at the pool.
Mum and Dad headed into the Katherine Museum for a look around (and said it was worth a visit and great to see the movie and photos relating to the massive floods they have had here).
Tim headed into town to get some light bulbs and bits and pieces for the van. I stuck the kids in front of the DVD player, made myself a coffee and wrote yesterdays blog entry and went through the photos i took of the gorge.
When Tim got back he and Jordy put our stickers on the truck. Finally! We have been trying to by a sticker from each town we visit (sometimes we forget!) but so far we have not gotten around to putting them anywhere. Handy! Well they are not on the truck. I'll get a photo in the morning cos i actually forgot that they even did it so have not even seen it myself.
After that he updated our map of Australia and coloured in the roads we have travelled since Mount Isa. I'll get a photo of that tomorrow too.
After lunch Mum, Dad, me and the kids went out to Springvale Homestead. Actually not much to see out there really. It's a nice looking old homestead and there are good information boards around the place but the building has been turned into a dodgy cafe, and the cafe was not even open?? Not sure what the go is with it but it really ruins the feel of the place.
Called out to the hot springs on the way back. The ones here are really lovely. There is a paved area alongside a section of the spring with a few different entry points and for a section about 100m long they have paved the sides up to a small waterfall. You can get in the top end and float down to the waterfall and then climb out and go again.
Dad went for a walk around when we got there and mum and i got the boys into their swimmers. Then Jordy was straight in the river and wanting to go floating off downstream. Mum had Darcy and i was still getting ready to get in and Jordy is off! Little bugger. I was a bit worried about him going over the edge of the waterfall but i met him down the end and he kicked over to me. Not that it was a big waterfall! He would not have been hurt if he went over but he might have scared himself.
We floated downstream together a couple of times. I preferred these ones to either of the ones at Mataranka (even though they were nice too). The water even smelt refreshing and citrusy for some reason!?!?! And it was just a couple of degrees cooler so more refreshing. We all played around in the bottom pool near the waterfall for a while. Took some photos of the german geocoin we found (cos the owner wants photos of his geocoin travelling the world) and then the fight to get the kids out of the water began :) A quick stop to get fruit and vege on the way home. Actually, that was kinda funny cos Tim was out near there this morning at the hardware store and one of the staff came in with a coffee for the bloke serving Tim. And he said something like "Oh, thank god, coffee!" The woman handed him one of those big decorative thick paper take-away coffee mugs. Tim asked if he was a coffee fiend and the bloke said yeah, he liked his coffee and that this was the best coffee in town. Tim knows that i have been seriously missing a good coffee so asked where it was from and the bloke said the fruit and vege shop across the road had great coffee. So when we called in this afternoon i kept it in mind to check out.... But, no. Once again it is one of those milk bar machines where you stick your cup in and push a button and the milk and coffee just flow out the spout [shudder].
I am not surprised that no one out here has a decent coffee machine. It's too bloody hot anyway. I have to either have one first, first thing in the morning or sit inside and bump the air con up for half an hour to get cold enough to make it bearable to have something hot.
While we were out and about Tim drove into the Country Club in town. A bloke he met up here some 15years ago used to work at the club and Tim was hoping to track him down. No luck though. Apparently he left town a few years ago and someone heard he might since have moved to Darwin.
Home in time for a web chat with family at home. Darcy thought it was pretty good and kept trying to eat the microphone. Bath and dinner time (roast chook and vegies) and then an early night for the kids.
When we got to the helipad area Tim stayed back a little so that Jordy would not see the helicopter. Tim had already flown over the gorge before so he decided he would wait with the kids in at the park while Mum, Dad, and i did the tour, and we did not want Jordy to see what we were doing because he just loves planes and helicopters and would be upset if he saw us. BIG MISTAKE. I have to say that i am so, so, so disappointed that we did that cos we found out afterwards that he could have come and sat on my lap for free. I am still so disappointed now when i think about it because he would have loved it.
Anyway, no point having regrets and i think one of us will do another flight at Kakadu or somewhere just so he can have a turn as well.
The pilot was great and they were really generous with the flight. We were there early and were their first tour of the day so it was supposed to start at 9:00 but we were in the helicopter at about quarter to nine while he did his pre-flights and then in the air well before 9. We had paid for an eight gorge (12min) flight and added an 8minute extension to do a landing. But we did not get back until about 9:30.
The divisions between each of the gorges are not what i expected. I thought they might be divided by narrower openings in the rock or maybe by a waterfall or something but it is often just a shallow section of rapids or not much at all. From the air we could see little pools off to the sides and get a good appreciation for how high the water gets in flood time.
We landed on a little rocky outcrop at the tenth gorge and from there we could see the last three gorges. We had heaps of time to wander around and take lots of photos. I was absolutely busting to go to the toilet! LOL! And, unbelievably, the National Parks have not seen fit to build an amenities block up there amongst the rocks so i had to hold on for forever!
I tried to spot the truck parked down at the tour centre on the way back but could not see it. After we landed we headed into the visitors centre and had a look around (and went to the toilet!!). They have a nice display about the land around the gorge and it's history.
We had thought about doing a boat cruise as well but there is a 7am breakfast cruise where you can see the sun rise over the gorge and i think the colour in the rock and the stillness of the water would be amazing in the morning so we decided to leave it and see if we can get back this way and camp overnight at the gorge on one of our weekends off further in the season. The gorge is still closed to swimmers and canoes cos they have not finished their croc surveys and have found two salties in the gorge this year and i would love to go canoeing as well so even more of a reason to come back.
We had our picnic lunch down in the park and had a look at the gorge from ground level. Then we went for a bit of a wander to see if we could hunt down a geocache in the area. No luck! Too well hidden for us. But we managed to track one down closer to town on our way home.
We grabbed a couple of water li-lo things on the way through town and were home just after lunchtime. Sat around for a bit and then packed the kids in the bike caboose and rode over to the Low Level Nature park at the river. There is quite a flow to the river and it goes over a few small rapids. We have driven over it a few times and have been keen to get in there for a swim. The water was super nice and warmed just enough from the hotsprings upriver that it was beautiful to swim in. Lots of kids fishing up near the bridge too catching black bream and even the odd barra using cast nets.
Tim blew up the massive li-lo! and we took the kids floating down the river. Splashed around for quite a while riding down the current and walking back up to the bridge again.
Then we rode back to the park for a drink and some chips. Would have been lovely to have a beer but Katherine is a dry town and you can't have open bottles of alcohol away from home.
We saw a few FA-18s flying overhead and Jordy wanted to see more so we rode home and got changed and headed out to the airport. We managed to totally luck out and two fighter jets landed just as we arrived. Then one sat on the runway and blasted his engines for about a minute. It was crazy loud!! Incredible! Then it took off and was out of sight before you knew it.
Took the opportunity to hunt down another cache! LOL! Jordy found a gnome inside that he quite liked. Then we drove over to the other side of town to see the Ghan which was due to depart this afternoon. I was hoping to have a look inside the train but when we got there i think people were boarding so it must have been not far off leaving. Plus i will admit from the outside it did not look all that impressive. Not sure what i was expecting. Tim said "it's a train!? What did you think it would look like!?" I thought maybe flashier! ?? It did look nice though- as opposed to your regular Sydney commuter train. Nabbed ourselves another cache out near the station and then home for a quick dinner.
Tim made some great fritters. We had left over corned beef and he chopped up heaps of vegies and we told Jordy they were Dinner Pancakes. We made some dairy-free ones for Darcy and he just hoed in! And Jordy usually eats two mouthfuls for dinner and that's it (seriously) but he kept saying "How good are these!" and ate half nearly a full pancake. Miracle. We will be having Dinner Pancakes again in the near future.
I totally crashed at 8pm putting Darcy to bed. Tim fell asleep too putting Jordy to bed but he woke up later and then web-cam chatted to some friends from home and ended up staying up past midnight.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Did the washing nice and early, and the kids played outside for a bit. They took turns on the trike and collecting sticks. When Jordy is too lazy to peddle (which is most of the time) Tim pushes him on the trike with a 'poker' and so Jordy grabbed himself a poker and pushed Darcy all around the place. Darcy just sits and steers and somehow manages to balance with the wild pushing from behind.
Then went back into town this morning for a look around. We finally posted some postcards that we bought in Charters Towers! LOL! Bit slow (can we blame Australia Post?). Jordy worked his charm again and the lady mailed them for free?!?!
There are so many geocaches hidden in Katherine we had to try out luck at a few. Didn't do too badly and found 2 of the 3 we went hunting for. Jordy likes it and gets excited looking at the 'treasure'! hehehe
Spent the afternoon lazing around camp and swimming in the pool back at the van park. Met a lovely family that are travelling up to Darwin from QLD and we chatted to them for ages. I ended up having to get Darcy out of the pool cos he'd had enough. Jordy was too busy playing with the kids so he stayed with Mum and Dad and turned into a prune. An hour later they all wandered back to our van. Turns out the bloke is a marine mechanic! LOL! He had a look at the hole in the motor and apparently if you are going to have a hole in your motor then we picked the best spot for it and it should not be too much of an issue to fix. Corned silverside with white sauce again for dinner cos we loved it so much last time. I decided it was too hot to want to have the potatos boiling away in the van so i microwaved them, which i have done before when having sliced potatoes, but this time we mashed them afterwards. Big mistake. You can't mash microwave potatoes. Next time i'll just bump up the air con and boil the darn things.
Kids crashed at 7:30 tonight! Yay! Made sandwiches for tomorrow and we'll get an early night too. We have helicopter flights booked out at Katherine Gorge early tomorrow so i'm really looking forward to that.
Monday, April 20, 2009
Stayed three nights, $25 a night. There are a few places to stay in Mataranka even though it is not that big a town. We were pretty happy with the park we chose and would certainly stay there again.
Overall- 3+half stars.
Location- 7/10. Right near the Bitter Springs and on the Little Roper river (good creek).
Sites- 7/10. No set sites, just drive around and find a nice spot. I like that, but Tim likes to have a designated area?? No idea why. But nice garden areas and a decent amount of shade. Heaps of room.
Bathrooms- 4/10. More of those tin sheds with the shower, toilet and basin. But these ones were quite nice and certainly felt cleaner than the ones at Daly Waters. They are set up in a nice undercover area.
Laundry- 4/10. Couple of machines in the undercover area near the toilets. Did the job though! $3 a load.
Shop- 5/10. You can buy bread and milk from reception, and they also sell frozen mango and handy stuff like lures (in case you are like Dad and choose to throw a few at the fish) and you can hire goggles for the springs. They had a drinks machine too.
Pool- None. A pool would have been nice but you've got the springs and the river so you don't really need one.
BBQ area- 6/10. They had a camp kitchen area but i did not pay enough attention to what it had. But it was a good sized area so probably had all the usual bits.
Playground- I did not realise until doing this that there was no playground. Normally it's one of the first things Jordy scopes out. But we had all those great sprinklers to play in and taps he was allowed to turn on and off so who needs a playground!??!
Other- you can borrow pool noodles for the springs.
I trod on one that was trying to get into the caravan. Out, little man! Out! And then in the toilets one landed on my head and i had to flick at it to get it off. Tim asked if it freaked me out and yes, it actually really did! LOL!
Packed up and on the road well before 10. It's only a short drive to Katherine, a bit over 100km, and we wanted to stop at the Cutta Cutta caves on the way past. It's an area of limestone caves and rock and they are the NTs only cave system that is open to the public. There are actually two caves in the area (Tindal cave as well) and for the $15 entry fee i will admit i thought we might get to see both caves, or even get to explore further into the Cutta Cutta cave but you do get a good look through and it's quite interesting. Maybe we have been spoilt by the Jenolan Caves etc from closer to home. ?? But if you are watching the pennies then you are not missing out if you skip this one.
Jordy was pretty keen to see a bat in the caves but they were all hiding. He liked the bit where we had to duck and squeeze through the rocks to get through. Actually, Darcy liked that bit too and he lay right back and pointed and chattered away with his "dooh" noises and pointed up at the stalictites on the roof.
I remember the caves i have explored before all being nice and cool... well this one was hot! And we were all dripping with sweat. And i had forgotten to feed Darcy before we left the park this morning (shocking mother, i am!) and he got all grouchy so it was lucky it was a bit dark in there cos i had to do half the tour while feeding him (just in case he faded away to a shadow, poor starving thing.) Managed to score ourselves our second geocache (Dad found this one). And we got talking to another family on the tour that we have never met before that have read our blog! How cool is that :)
A short drive into Katherine and we did a bit of a scenic tour through the main street (and out over the bridge towards Darwin when i got a bit lost and then out over the other bridge towards the train station when i got a bit more lost!) Did not do much in the afternoon, I had a massive headache and was feeling a bit sick actually (forgot to drink enough water today) and as soon as the van was set up i had a lay down for a bit and drank a bucket load of water. Tim took Jordy for a swim in the pool and Mum and Dad looked after Darcy.
Jordy has had $4 in his Thomas the Tank Engine wallet since we left home and he has been wanting to buy a donut with it for ages! But not a whole lot of Donut Kings around the place. We mentioned a while back that maybe Katherine would have one and he remembered and had been waiting and waiting!! We had to head into town and get some groceries and Jordy was the first one out the door on his way to the donut shop. Unfortunately Donut King has not made it to Katherine yet so we had to settle for a packet of iced donuts from Woolworths. Jordy sat in the trolley and scoffed his (and then had another half of mine). We paid the price that afternoon cos while he seems to be fine on the Donut King ones these ones sent him stupid (like paddlepops and McDonalds thickshakes which are on the banned list!) So we had psycho sugar boy to deal with.
Cooked some butter chicken in the microwave and rice in the rice-cooker that was actually really tasty. The kids were both a struggle to get to bed and Tim and i pretty much flaked.
Sorry for the lack of photos from today but if you head to your local Woolworths and take a photo of any toddler being forcibly dragged off the car ride out the front then that was our afternoon!!
Sunday, April 19, 2009
For Tim the day was not quite as boring... he and Dad got up early to head down to the boat ramp and do some fishing in the main Roper River. Easy enough. They probably could have taken it as a warning to head back home and go back to sleep when they hit a wallaby. But i guess truck v's wallaby you can guess who is going to win so they kept going.
Now i don't have too many details cos people had the shits and it was not worth prying for information but i think the winch to get the boat off the truck had broken at some stage so they had to get it off by hand which is a bit of an effort. Dad ended up pulling a muscle or bruising his ribs or something (and this afternoon it is still very sore and he had a nap so it must have hurt). But they got the thing into the water. I have no idea how far they went but i think they got some fishing in and as expected caught nothing and had no bites and it's entirely possible that Tim (though i love him dearly) is the world's worse fisherman.
Anyway, in the river that is all nice and open and pretty much 6M deep right off the bank they managed to find the one submerged rock in the whole bloody river and put a hole in the gear box and stuffed the motor. From what Tim says the whole boat is stuffed and he's going to get rid of it.... Dad said we can get it fixed easy enough and these things happen. I'm guessing the truth is in between and we probably can fix it but it won't be cheap and i have no idea if the boat will appear on ebay sometime next week!
Oh, and they had taken the paddles out of the boat for some reason and i did not ask how they managed to get back to shore. I have created a whole new blog tag - the anti-highlights - in memory of today. Things did not get any worse but they did not get a whole lot better. A box that we have kept our shoes in on the truck must have gotten water in it at some stage and all the shoes have gone mouldy. That will require a bit of work to salvage the important pairs.
The kids had a good day though! How much fun is a sprinkler...
After lunch we gave the geocaching another go. I looked all over but Tim managed to find our very first cache. Signed the log, took a photo (that has to remain a secret) and put it back. Happy with the find we decided to try for another cache that is bigger and has swaps and trackables in it. So all in the truck and off we go. We searched in long grass in the heat getting scratched and sunburnt and covered in prickles for about 45min before we decided this geocaching is a fool's game and came back home.
Blog updates and dinner prepped. We are sooooo low on food! LOL! Sausages, mashed potato, and steamed carrots tonight. First thing we'll have to do in Katherine is grab some fresh fruit and vege and restock the basics.
After dinner Jordy wandered over to Grandpa to tell him that his eyes don't work in the dark and he needed a torch so he could go kill cane toads.