yay! a lazy day with no travel. :) The kids were up early floating leaf-boats in the big plastic bath container.
Got the inevitable washing out of the road early and then went for a drive to have a look at the area. Went to the Elsey Station homestead replica that was made for when they filmed the movie, We of the Never Never. I assumed that the original Elsey Station was actually in Mataranka but it was over 20km away. Was good to walk through but nothing that i have not seen before.
Then walked along the trail through the odd mix of dry tropical forest to the Thermal Pool. It looked quite nice and less boring-concrete than i imagined. If we get a chance we might bring the kids back tomorrow for a swim while the men are fishing.
Not far from the thermal pool the two smaller rivers join up and there is a road with several day picnic areas and swimming spots and fishing areas so we went to see what the main river was like. And we wanted to try out Stevie's Hole which is a swimming spot in the river that is NOT warmed by mineral springs so we were hoping for a more refreshing swim (never happy!). But while we knew there was a 1.5km return botanic walk from the road i think the walk sounded more appealing when we were sitting inside the air conditioned caravan than it did once we were out in the heat. So we got to the entrance of the walk and read the tourist info sign and nodded and got back in the truck. :) Drove through some of the other day areas which were all quite nice and then had our picnic lunch down at 12Mile Yards. 12Mile Yards is an overnight camp area as well and is the other spot we had considered staying at while we were here. It would have been quite a nice cheap camp but the sandy soil is hot and it's all quite dry (no idea why cos there have sprinkers set up everywhere and with the bore mineral water they could run all day but...??) so i am glad we stayed at the park. After lunch we went for a walk down to the river. There are some swimming pontoons in the river and we found a little hot spring stream that run into it. You can really see how the calcium builds up on things and it has made a series of little waterfalls along the stream. We splashed between the cooler river, the warmer stream, and the in-between delta for an hour or more while Tim sat on the pontoons and had a fish (caught nothing). Jordy and i collected a heap of shells in the stream and that kept him amused for ages! He'd find more and more and get excited and almost shout "Look! Look at this one!" As if the new one he had found was any different to the dozen identical ones we had already collected. hehehe.
Back to the van for the afternoon and i had a change to go online to check out Geocaching which is a sport that Tim and i had known about for a while but never had the time to look into. Not that we have a heck of a lot of free time at the moment! But we are doing things that make finding and placing caches more fun. And would you believe it but there are several caches in the area here!!!
I tried to use our car GPS to locate one and i rode my bike all over the area and looked all in and under things and walked myself stupid until the GPS gave me the shits! It's just not sensitive enough and it seems to think that if if has bought you to the end of the road for the location you entered then that is close enough but that won't work for Geocaching.
So back to the van and Dad dug his old handheld unit out for me. After a few false starts and reading a few more hints online i headed off on my bike again. It finally took me to the right location but it was getting too dark to search so i came back and made dinner instead. LOL! I'll try tomorrow.
Tim had been fishing over sunset and while the arsy kid in the boat was still pulling in barra, Tim caught nothing from the bank.
Pork and potato hotpot thingy in the microwave tonight and then a lazy evening. The town here is quite nice and the people really friendly. The local kids are all out splashing in the streams or fishing or riding their bikes or whatever and they all yell out a hello and wave with a big smile as you go past. It's nice!
The van park cleared early this morning. There were a couple of blokes that had travelled from Darwin to Daly yesterday and were doing Daly to Alice Springs today and then Alice to Adelaide the next day in a rush to get home before one guy's wife had their baby. Big days!
We were only planning a short trip of about 180km to Mataranka so we wer enot in a rush to head off. We had a walk through the skeleton of the town at the old Post Office and Gaol, and then drove out to the old WWII hanger. They have a heap of photos on display and info boards that are quite interesting but the place is really run down. They did a big clean up out there back in 1992 with plans to refurbish it cos it has been listed as a heritage site but i think they ran out of money. I hope they can preserve it soon. There is an old crashed (or smashed) plane half overgrown with grass out in the field and i think Mum and Dad must have taken Jordy out to have a look while i was in the hanger. He thought it was pretty good and wanted to show me. So we wandered back out and he yammered the whole time explaining to me about how there were "bits of aeroplane all broken... and the wing bits... and the men would land the plane and it all broke." Back on the road and heading north... we had heard about Frans at Larrimah. Apparently Fran home makes all sorts of cakes and scones and bread and totally home made softdrinks and icecreams etc and we thought we might call in and see what looked good.... and she was closed!!! How rude! Very sad. So no cakes for us and on to Mataranka.
Mataranka and Elsey Station is where the book We Of The Never Never was written just in case it was sounding familiar to you. I actually have never read the book but i am really keen to now so i am going to see if i can get a copy. I'm pretty sure they will sell them around here somewhere cos one place actually screens the movie every single day of the week!
There are a few camping options around the area with a few hot mineral springs and a thermal pool and quite a decent river, but we chose Bitter Springs. It's a more natural setting (instead of the concrete lined Thermal Pool) and the van park here is within walking distance.
We drove around looking for the perfect place to camp for about 10minutes! Just pick a spot already. Set up in 20minutes and then i gave the van a good clean out. A quick lunch and then into our swimmers and off to the Springs. We stuck the kids in the bike caboose and rode down.
The springs are really nice and the water is a constant 32'C. I went to a hot springs place over in Thailand but apart from that i think the hot springs down at Jenolan Caves about 20years ago is the last time i've been to mineral springs and Tim can't even remember the last time he was in some so it was fun for something different.
There are a couple of deep swimming hole areas and then a section of creek where the water flows somewhat fast and you can drift with the current down to two different areas that you can climb out and walk along a track back to the start again. As soon as they were in the water Jordy was off and floating down the river (we put his PFD vest on so he was safe in there in case he got away) and Tim had to chase after him. I went in with lard-arse (Darcy) and becuase of the minerals the water is not as bouyant as normal water and it's quite hard to kick and stay afloat. You can borrow pool noodles from the van park and it's lucky we grabbed some cos i needed two just to keep us both afloat! The pools are surrounded by tropical pandanus palms and tall trees and it's really quite beautiful. And the water is just crystal clear, amazingly so, i have no idea why it is so clear but you can see straight to the bottom even when the water is three metres deep. We thought it was rather amusing when a couple of separate family groups turned up and were all worried about the 'floaty bits' in the water! It's a creek, people! You are in nature. There are plants in the water and you might get a bit of moss or weed floating past. They stuck their toes in and look all dismayed and then we explained that there was a concrete lined thermal pool with no floaty bits a few kilometres away they were much happier and they headed back to the car for the drive over to the pool. And the springs stayed nice and peaceful for a while longer. :) I'll admit that there are two sections of the stream where the mineral and plant smell gets quite strong and a tad stinky but the water itself is lovely. I thought it might taste bitter (hence the name) but it actually tasted ok.
After we had soaked long enough and the water became uncomfortably warm we rode on back to camp. Tim went down to have a little at the river cos a few of the local kids and the groundskeeper guy here had caught a few barra in the river over the last week. The van park backs on to the Little Roper (instead of the main Roper that starts about a kilometre away). You could maybe put the tinnie in here but there is no real point and the guys are going to have a full days fishing later on cos we are staying here for a few nights. So they just threw a line in from the bank. Dad lost two lures in quick succession and got the shits and went for a drive to scout out the other local fishing holes. Tim hung around but did not catch anything. A local boy sitting in the middle of the 10m wide river just up from Tim caught a few! How rude! While the men were off fishing i put a Wiggles DVD on for the boys and Mum and i finally got to updating the blog and i helped Mum to put some photos on hers. She got an email from a friend back home that had a beautiful homebirth and is babymooning with her new little boy. Mum had a hard time reading the email to me through the tears and i know she wishes she were closer so she could see them both.
I made some fresh bread and we had that with the risotto i prepared yesterday. It's muggy and hot here (and was at Daly Waters too) so we have unfortunately left the dry heat behind and are heading back up to the tropics. Tim has always said he prefers the dry heat and because my experience with a dry heat in the past has often been to head from the seabreeze cooled coast to inland where it is just so much hotter i always thought that i must prefer coastal humid heat. But i think it must just have been generally a few degrees cooler on the coast. Cos out here the temp has not changed from a pretty much constant mid thirties but we have gone from dry to humid i have to say that the humid heat sucks! Bring back the desert! LOL!
Daly Waters Pub caravan park, Daly Waters. Stayed one night, $10 per adult. It's kinda a cross between a van park and a cheap camp but we'll call it a van park. It's certainly not aiming for ritzy! But it's a great friendly laid back stop over with great entertainment that caters for travellers. I think if you were one of the hoarde of backpackers that just call in for a beer and a photo on your bus tour through then it might seem cliched and overdone but i think you would really miss out on the real sense of the place by doing that. Staying overnight gives it a different feeling of comraderie. Overall- 3 stars but it's hard to rate. The facilities are basic but you're probably not staying there for the facilities so...?
Location- 7/10. The town is not a whole lot of anything! LOL! But as far as location goes it's a convenient point on the highway for a stop over.
Sites- 7/10. Just a great big paddock and everyone parks parallel to the road wherever you want. There is some shade and lots of grass with a few shady thatched roof gazebo things around.
Bathrooms- 3/10. There are three tin sheds with a concrete floor that each have a toilet, basin, and shower. If you are lucky you'll get a few frogs thrown in for laughs.
Laundry- 3/10. There was one machine outside. But whose doing washing when you can go to the pub?
Shop- 5/10. There is a whole restaurant and cafe so that counts for a bit. Did not look to see if they sold stuff like bread etc.
Pool- 4/10. Decent size pool all under shade with plastic tables etc. The pool seriously needed a clean! Maybe we are suffering from Territoryitis but who cares if the pool water is looking a little cloudy? An ear infection is a small price to pay to cool off.
BBQ area- 8/10. Beer garden with someone else doing the cooking.
Playground- 3/10. A few toys in the corner of the beer garden.
Other- the pub! you could spend a couple of hours just looking at all the things previous visitors have left behind. Don't order coffee! Seriously. Not good. (maybe have a beer instead?)
Half the people camped overnight at Banka Banka were all heading to Daly Waters! LOL! And we had been told by a few people along the way to make sure we called into the Daly Waters Pub. So even if John and Naomi, and Arthur and Barb were not working there we would have had to call in for a look anyway.
We pulled into the Renner Springs Roadhouse on the way through for a fuel top up (Tim calls it a 'splash and dash' when the fuel is a rip off but you need a bit to stay safe). It looked like a decent enough place to stop the night if it suited your timetable.
It felt like a hot trip today for some reason so it was great to arrive in Daly Waters. And even beter to get a wave and a cooee from people already in the park when we drove through- Jessee and Judy from Tennant Creek and a few others. It really is great to see a familiar rig and a familiar face when you pull into a new town. John came over for a chat and over the next couple of hours we saw several couples arrive that we recognised.
After setting up we just sat around outside and did not a hell of a lot. We watched John and his mates (lack of) technique as they tried to drop a tree. With his safety thongs on he was balancing up in the bucket of the tractor with the chainsaw above his head sawing away. When it looked like the tree was about to fall he just jumped the 6foot out of the bucket to the ground with the chainsaw still going and swinging around his legs . Back to the good ol' days where a bloke just got in and did whatever job needed to be done regardless of whether he was going to walk away with all his limbs attached. :)
Headed over to the pub for a swim in the pool. If you did not look too closely at the water quality it was lovely! After that we sat and had a drink in the beer garden while the kids had a play and explored all the junk they have collected and on display around the pub.
Later in the afternoon while i slaved away getting a head start for tomorrow's dinner and folding laundry and washing up and bathing the kids (insert violin music) Tim headed back over to the bar and found himself a stool for the afternoon. He had a great time talking to some of the guys working there and met Lindsay (the owner). Jordy stayed with him for a while and sat up at the bar with his pot of water and bowl of chips and gave the other patrons a giggle :) They had a Toss the Boss Happy Hour and Tim won himself a couple of free rounds. By the time we came over for dinner he had his glazed happy face on :) Despite the fact that it was more than we would normally spend on dinner we decided to try the Beef and Barra that the Pub is famous for. And while the salad range was no more special than you'd get at the local bowls club all-you-can-eat if was still a good meal, more so for the relaxed atmosphere than anything else. Lindsay's son played guitar and sang for most of the night and John's young son Bailey (who is about 8ish) joined in and sang a couple of tunes which was rather cute. Jordy did not want to sit with us and instead sat with John's kids right up the front and after Bailey finished singing Jordy wanted to have a go too. I told him he could learn a couple of songs so next time we come though he could sing :) Both boys played for ages before Darcy crashed in his stroller and we walked Jordy back home totally exhausted.
Banka Banka Station. Stayed one night, $8 per adult. Very relaxing and pleasant camp site. Could easily stay longer if you just wanted to sit back and relax for a breather on the trip.
Considering that it is not even really tourist season up here it is amazing that all of a sudden there are caravans everywhere! There were at least 15 other vans ranging from just a couple to a family but apparently in tourist season they have about 120people each night and shut the gates mid afternoon cos they are full! I'm not surprised.
Lush green grass with not a prickle to be found! They are on a fresh water spring just 14foot under ground. The water tastes great and they make sure they keep the place nice and green. There was a bit of shade from a tree for most of the vans (well, the ones that arrived early!) and good amenities. If you are keen for a walk there is apparently a nice waterhole for swimming but it's about 2km from the camp area (closer by car down the highway i found out later).
The laundry facilites are basic but i did not even expect a washing machine and there were two and at $2 a load i can't even complain about the frogs that went along for the ride in with the clothes :)
The managers are friendly and they run a slide show each evening that is really interesting. There is a kiosk for beer and a packet of chips or a loaf of bread etc. There is no power but you can run your generator during the day.
From my bed I could see stars still in the sky through one window but the marbles turning a deep crimson in the other window so I knew sunrise was not far away. I snuck out, grabbed the camera, put my shoes on and stepped outside… to a mouthful of flies that buzzed and swarmed and got in my eyes and up my nose and in my hair. Aaaaarrrrggghhhh.
Snapped a few photos before going to get dressed and spray myself with Bushman. Dad had already disappeared into the Marbles for sunrise so I wandered off to find a vantage point of my own. I did a full lap right around the two main areas and had a lovely wander in the peace and quiet of early morning (although as soon as the sky coloured it started to heat up).
When I headed back to the main big pile near our camp area Jordy and Mum were up the top watching the sun rise. Jordy was having a ball exploring the rocks and “seeing EVERYthing up high.” He has no fear at all and thinks he can climb like spiderman. These guys cracked me up- they had a great spot right under one of the best areas and had obviously made the effort to be here for sunrise.... but i think they had a few too many last night cos the sun was rising and the marbles were glowing and they were still snoring. I was tempted to wake them just in case they were going to be totally bummed they missed it all..... but instead i just let them sleep. As soon as the sun had risen we headed straight back to the vans for a quick pack up and we were on our way back north before 9am. We called into the Threeways Roadhouse for a late breakfast and we fueled up. We should have filled up in Tennant Creek cos it was 135ish in town and nearly 160 at the Threeways! Ouch. A big Stuey’s Breaskfast Burger each and the kids played in the café before we did the last 80km to Banka Banka, out stop for the night. And we are not that far from home after all! Wauchope is just down the road :) We had heard from John (another camper at Mount Isa that has been through here a bit) that Banka Banka Station was nice and had great facilities and yummy spring water (the rest of the bore water around here has a high lime or calcium content which is not all that great to store in your tanks even though it tastes alright). He was right and the camp area here is lovely and only $8 an adult. Lots and lots of prickle-free grass (which also means we can avoid the ants), decent shade, water sprinklers for the kids (and us) to run though, and a kiosk with beer and a place to chat etc. I did not expect there to be washing machines but there are, and they are only $2 a load. There was also a sign for a swimming waterhole and a lookout but we decided to wait out the heat before going for a look. I am glad we did cos while the view over the station from the lookout was nice there was a sign up the hill (once you’d already climbed up) to say that the waterhole was another 1.6km. LOL! Not today. So back down the hill, Jordy gave the donkey a pat, and then got dinner prepped. Around 5:30 the station managers wandered over and opened up the kiosk so Tim wandered over for a beer. We chatted to a few other campers. One couple, Barb and Arthur, are heading to Daly Waters to work at the pub and they also know John and his family (from Mount Isa) so it was really nice to be meeting up with people that know other people we have met and spoken to. Bathed the kids in a bucket before a quick dinner of roast chicken legs and vegies on the weber. We had to rush cos they have a slide presentation on at 7 over near the kiosk with photos and stories about how the station works. I found it really interesting and would have liked to stay for all it but the kids had enough and wanted to go home for bed. Tim could actually lay in bed while he was putting Jordy to sleep and see them cracking the whip and divining for water.
We all sat outside again and watched for shooting stars and listened to the rumble of road trains passing by.
Another leisurely packup. We are getting the hang of it all now and can be up and on the way by 10 with no stress or rush at all. Headed straight out to the Devil’s Marbles which is only 100km south of Tennant Creek. We had debated about whether we would see it this time around (seeing as we really should be heading north) or see it when we leave the Territory. But we are just as likely to do a loop out to Kununarra and the Tanami Desert and link up back at the Alice when we leave as go straight back down and if we do that then the only thing between Tennant Creek and Alice Springs that we really wanted to see was the Devil’s Marbles so we decided to go the quick drive down now.
We were not sure what the camping area would be like and we knew it would be hot so we were really hoping there might be some shade. We lucked out and there were a few shady trees. And even better we were the first campers there so we got to pick two nice sites with a gazebo shelter in the middle. And there was a good breeze blowing that went right through the van so it was quite pleasant. Or it would have been quite pleasant if it were not for the flies that swarmed all around you and got in your mouth and nose and eyes and stuck on your skin and you could swat and blow and wave your arms at them and cover yourself in Bushman and swear and blink and spit and they still keep on coming!!! Aaaaaarrrrrggggghhhhhhh!!!!!!! Anyway, we did a quick set up and then sat around in the shade for a bit. Jordy, when we managed to convince him to get out of the sun, did some drawing. Darcy climbed around on the picnic table under the gazebo or sat and ate in his portacot. We were going to wait until later when it was cooler before we went for a walk but the boulders surrounding us were too hard to ignore so we decided to just go for a quick wander. Jordy was straight up the rocks and peering into the caves. When he climbed to the top of the first big rock he said “Phew, I‘m puffed! We‘ve climbed hundreds of metres! We‘re high up here!“ hehehe. Tim helped him to climb right to the top of the next pile so he could see out over everything and he thought that was pretty exciting. From up high you could actually see a rim of boulders almost circling the Marbles but way way out on the horizon near the surrounding ridges. The variety of boulders was amazing from the round ones to some really angular pointy bits and some that are almost rounded slabs piled on top of each other. You can see where some boulders have split and slid into a new position and then weathered away. We ended up wandering from nearly an hour before heading back to camp. We chatted to a few other campers (pretty much everyone out here is traveling long term) did some wildlife spotting (including an inquisitive dingo) and Darcy napped while we waited for the sun to drop. Around 4:30 we drove the few hundred metres from the camping side over to the day parking side of the marbles where there are information signs and stuff around a little walkway. Still too hot for Darcy so Tim stayed near the truck with him while the rest of us wandered and climbed. Apart from the main walking trail around the boulders there are also a million little trails worn by previous visitors that meander in and around the rocks and you could spend days just seeing it all. As it was Tim took the kids back to camp and Mum, Dad, and I meandered our way up, down, and around all the way back to camp. The rocks turned a wonderful deep red as the sun set. I was up amongst a big pile of rocks taking photos of the changing colours and could only see in one direction. When I finally climbed down and looked over at the sun it was just peeking over the horizon!!! And I wanted a sunset photo!! I was not near anything half decent for a photo so I ran ran ran back to the mass of boulders near the camping area and climbed super fast just in time to catch the sun disappearing over the horizon. Bugger! LOL! Tim had the kids bathed when I got back and we were having last nights leftovers for dinner so we had a quick dinner and then sat around outside in the cooling air. The flies thankfully disappeared with the sun and the breeze picked up. We lit a fire and lazed about under a million stars in the crystal clear sky. A lone dingo made an appearance and Dad left out a bucket of water for it. It was not shy at all and came really close to us (actually, it was hanging around too close while I was having a shower outside and Tim had to stand guard for me).
I went in to the van when the kids went to bed but the others sat up for a while and enjoyed the sky show. The dingo started howling at 10:30 and woke Darcy (bastard) so that was the end of it for me. An early night so I can be up for sunrise tomorrow.
Even though the massive boulders are visible right from the highway and, if you did not want to stay overnight, you could drive past and do a quick walk around them and still get an idea of what they are like, I think staying overnight and having the chance to stroll all around the different sections and climb up on top of the massive piles of rocks makes it just magical. I am both amazed and grateful that the traditional owners still let us have unlimited access to such a sacred site. The Marbles are certainly one of the more amazing natural wonders I have ever seen.
Tennant Creek Caravan Park, Tennant Creek. Stayed two nights. $27.50 a night. Two van parks in town and both charge a heck of a lot more than they are worth. Overall- 2 stars.
Location- 5/10. At one end of town. There is really nothing exciting about the location.
Sites- 5/10. All dust and gravel for the vans. The tent camping sites had some grass. The sites were an average sort of size at the moment but from the look of it when tourist season kicks in i think they double up with two vans to each of the sites that we had and then it would be bumper to bumper.
Bathrooms- 4/10. Basic regular sort of facilities. A bit old and nothing special. Averagely clean.
Laundry- 4/10. Regular laundry facilities, $3 a load. Only two machines and we had a queue so in the busy season it would be crazy.
Shop- 6/10. Sold milk and drinks etc and had a tourist info section.
Pool- 4/10. Decent size pool all under cover with a plastic table and a semi-grassed area. The pool really needed a good clean.
BBQ area- 5/10. Camp kitchen near the amenties that was ok. And a single old BBQ near the pool.
Other- there was a tv room but you'd have to be braver than me to sit in the lounge chair in there!
They gave us a discount card for the local BP servo for 3c off a litre that i thought was pretty good.
Well the actual town of Tennant Creek does not have a whole lot to offer.... it's not the safest town i've ever been in either. But we are staying today to do a day trip around the area to a few local spots.
But first, the unavoidable pile of washing! Then a catch up of old blog entries. Then a picnic lunch packed and off we go.
I was keen to see the Devils Pebbles. It is an indigenous dreaming site related to the Devils Marbles but the Marbles were sacred to the men, while the Pebbles were sacred to the women. Men were not allowed to walk through the land around the Pebbles unless they were escorted or asked permission otherwise they had to walk the long way around the region. Beautiful stark country out here, but again, it's hot! LOL! You can actually smell the heat and the dust in the air in a way that i have never felt before (same as now i can smell water like i have never noticed before.) The Devils Pebbles is also a free camping area and we briefly considered it as we drove past yesterday but i am glad we did not stay there cos the heat and the dust and the flies are oppressive after a few hours. Beautiful! But beautiful in a harsh awe-inspiring way, and not a laze back by the palm fronds kind of way.
Jordy and i went for a walk around the Pebbles for a bit. Tim and Darcy just did the drive-past tour and then waited in the shade (and played in the dirt). Jordy got puffed out after half the lap so he wandered back and i followed the short track around the back of the Pebbles. From there we went and had a look at the old Telegraph station a few kilometres on the other side of the highway. It was the original homestead when they ran the telegraph lines through. Must have been a hard living out here in those days (tell the truth i would not be so keen on living out here even now!). The station buildings have been really well maintained and preserved and as well as the largeish house and telegraph building there is also a smoke house, cellar, blacksmiths, butcher, and workers quarters. Was interesting to have a walk through it (you can just get the key from in town and wander through there yourself which i think is cool.) And then as a break from the heat we called past Mary Someone's Dam on the way back to town. Not all that inspiring after some of the great dams we have seen recently. But there was a breeze and a park and we had our picnic while Jordy made friends (once again!) and played in the playground with the other kids.
Did not do much all afternoon. Swept the floor, washed the floor mats, folded laundry, did some more blog updates. Jordy spent the afternoon over at Mum and Dad's van and playing around the park with the cat that is here. He was feeding it bits of stick (and the stupid cat was eating the bits of stick??!!?). Jordy dragged a stick all over the van park, and i seriously mean all over... you can walk anywhere outside and you can see the criss-crossing road lines he has drawn all over the place.
At one point we had a knock on the door and a lady asked if we had a little boy called Jordan. "uuuummmm, yes?" Apparently he had been over at their van for some time playing with her son! It was all good and they were having fun cos he was about the same age but just in case we were looking for him etc etc.... Actually, we did not even know he was missing, how embarrasing! I went over for a chat after a while and they have been travelling for 7 years working all over the country.
Tim cooked dinner tonight which was lovely. Beef and vegie stew on the weber. Looks like i am in for a bad night with Darcy.... as of tomorrow he and i are back to simple simple foods in order to track down whatever else he is reacting to.