Townsville, Qld to Darwin, NT
We started our epic journey from Tully National Park in Qld to Darwin in the NT, full of excitement to be heading inland after 5 months of cruising up and down the east coast. Charters Towers was our first dusty hot and dry camp for the trip. We’ve always been grateful for our huge awning but we were particularly grateful for it then, as we adjusted to the hotter climate. A cold beer and a fish in the nearby river helped with that too! Hey, we deserved it after a long days drive (4 hours). Okay we knew we would have to have to ramp it up a bit if we wanted to get to Darwin this year…
Our next stopover was Richmond where we most notably enjoyed camping under shade and on a patch of green grass, which is hard to come by out here! A fish in the nearby lake and a visit to their impressive museum with some of Australia’s best dinosaur bones and fossils came as close seconds.
The driving was uneventful, as you might expect. We were on the lonely Flinders Hwy and there wasn’t much to see in between small towns. The land was flat all around with dead grass and dirt mostly. Our sun burnt country. Hour after hour the road was dead straight – to the point that it felt strange to finally drive around a bend or go over a small rise.
Having said that, after a time of being a bit bored you begin to really like it. There is something so beautiful about the simplicity of the land out here. It just is what it is. And to live out here – well there’s nothing complicated about what goes on out here, it just seems like animals and people are surviving and that’s it. And it’s not just about what there is to see, it’s about how it feels. It’s peaceful and special for reasons that are hard to explain. I started to understand how Australian poets and songwriters have been so inspired by the outback.
One night we stayed at a place called the Mary Kathleen Ghost Town. This ghost town in the middle of nowhere was once a small community that had popped up to support a uranium mine that stopped in 1984. All that is left is a few old-school looking power lines, narrow bitumen roads winding down what were streets, leading to small concrete blocks where houses were before the township was auctioned off. Picture all of that hidden amongst a dry, dusty and sparse bush with a nearby dry riverbed and roaming cows munching on what small amount of dried grass they can find – well we camped in the middle of it.
While passing through Mount Isa we found it odd to stop at a traffic light and realised it had been a lonnnggg while since we had to stop at one. We’re talking about 900kms and 3 days on the road since leaving Townsville!
We finally crossed the border to the NT and drove onwards with big smiles on our faces. Not only were we entering a new state on our Aussie trip but we were entering my backyard (well sort of!). You’ll see a pic of me with my Pauls Iced Coffee – it’s my secret addiction.
Our first NT stop over, the Barkly Homestead is basically a servo in the middle of nowhere. They had a dust bowl out the back that they called a campground but they also had a pool – hurray! We looked at that pool like two dying people who had crossed a dessert and finally arrived at an oasis. Needless to say we enjoyed that dip.
The next day we did our longest drive for the Oz trip to date – 7 hours on the road. This did include stops but overall it was a full day in the car. Prior to this, while making our way up the east coast our record was 3 hours so this was notable for us.
We arrived at the Daly Water pub and really enjoyed the atmosphere. It’s an outback pub full of random and useless paraphernalia hanging from every available space on the ceiling and walls. It’s a unique place that’s for sure. We ate the best barra we’ve ever had at this pub and we listened to a hilarious and crude entertainer who wrote his own songs like “You’re better off with an ugly wife” and “You better use a condom”. He loved being “Stralian”. And lucky me (= sarcastic) he also liked to sing John Williamson songs (or was Dave putting in requests while I wasn’t watching?)
Another stop over we enjoyed was at a natural hot spring. Picture crystal clear water creeks surrounded by palms and pandanus – an oasis after driving through dry scrubby bushland. Funnily enough, even on a hot day we enjoyed our swim because the water isn’t very hot and they’re well shaded.
Of course Dave has been fishing most arvo’s but unfortunately it would seem the bad wet season last year means there are less fish around now. Fishermen are saying when there’s a drought on land there’s a drought in the water. That’s what they tell Dave anyway.
It’s funny how fast things can change. We went from using clothes dryers and having damp towels all of the time to having everything dry in ½ hour in the sun. The water stored within our 50 litre steel container under the van was always cold and pleasant to drink – until recently. The water now comes out at a temperature that is hotter than you would ever expect to drink from the tap, let alone on a hot day. We started putting a bottle in the fridge but it acted like a hot water bottle and the fridge struggled to keep cold. So, we’ve learnt to fill all water bottles first thing in the morning and keep them shaded throughout the day, for a half enjoyable temperature. Today, Dave set off for a jog at 5:30pm to a water hole about 4kms away. When he got there he dipped his t-shirt into the water and put it back on without wringing it out, for the run home. It was dry when he arrived home 25 mins later.
We’ve been hanging out around Katherine for nearly a week now. We’ve camped on the land of a historic homestead, hiked to amazing waterholes, sat around in natural hot springs, been on two river cruises, one at sunset to croc spot and another up the Katherine Gorge. Both of which were incredible.
We’ve also met some really cool people who have made our stay all the more enjoyable. Dave’s been hailed a hero for carrying the backpack of a hiker struggling with mega blisters and I for giving them a cold beer at the end of it. Yesterday we chatted to a couple for 10 minutes when they invited us to dinner at their caravan, and we thought why not eh? Such nice people! We ate great food, enjoyed good company and they proceeded to try and teach us young-ins’ how to drink. All while sitting under the stars – it’s a tough life…
So we’ve made it to Darwin, now to start the next leg of our adventure.