Monday, 18 July 2011

Darwin and beyond

We stayed at a lovely park about 20 minutes out of Darwin. When you travel with your dog, there are only a few parks that allow pets however all the ones we've stayed with have been really good. We had visited Darwin a few years ago, so all the 'tourist must-see' attractions had been seen before. Darwin was mainly for catching up with family and enjoying their company - but we did visit Mindil Market one evening and munched our take-away meal on the beach before strolling around all the wide variety of stalls. On Sunday we drove through quiet streets around the old centre of Darwin and walked along the beautiful park on the esplanade.

After a lovely stay and many hours enjoying visits with relatives, we left Darwin and travelled back down the Stuart Highway to Katherine. We booked ourselves a lunch cruise on the lovely water filled gorges (Nitmulik) formerly called the Katherine Gorge about 20 minutes out of town. (The local vet had a dog minding service and so we were able leave Jessie there for a few hours). The gorges themselves are absolutely spectacular and we enjoyed a buffet lunch whilst cruising slowly through the first gorge, then after a 15 minute walk through the rocks - some of which had ancient aboriginal rock paintings, we arrived at a another boat waiting in the second gorge which was even more beautiful than the first.  The clear cool water was especially inviting on a hot day, however crocodiles occasionally appeared sunning themselves or snoozing under rocky ledges and suddenly all desire for a swim vanished!

After Katherine we turned off the Stuart Highway and drove towards the west along the Victoria Highway with a brief stop at the beautiful Victoria River. The scenery in this area is just spectacular - great red rocky escarpments dotted sometimes with trees and those wonderfully bizarre boab trees which to me look like upside down trees - it is easy to imagine the leaves and branches underground with the bare roots at the top. There are other smaller trees quite bare of leaves but bearing beautiful clear yellow flowers almost like a dog-rose, and others we like are large bushes with masses of tiny pinky-mauve flowers.

With the weather quite hot - about 30 deg.C, we were happy to stop overnight at Timber Creek and crank up the airconditioning in the van to cool us down. It's amusing to see that our dog has quickly learnt just where to position her hindquarters right against the cool aircon outlet (our aircon is situated under one of the seats).  We get the left-over cool air! This hot weather is just lovely after the cold weather of southern Victoria, and it is lovely to sit outside in the morning eating our breakfast in the sunshine.

Next stop was Kununurra where we stayed for a few days. One day we drove about 100kms to Wyndham - a very old port town which still has a hard-living outback feel to it. They have just begun using the port to export iron-ore which will hopefully help to rejuvenate the town. The first load this weekend was 52,000 tonnes.

On another day we took a fantastic flight over Lake Argyle, the Ord River and the incredible Bungle Bungles. How to describe them? A massive collection of brown and orange striped rocky cones or towers. Very ancient and practically unknown until the 1980s, they are now a national park and a major tourist attraction. Our Alligator Airlines plane was a single-engine 8 seater and the plane itself was built at Traralgon in Gippsland (where we grew up). We flew over the Argyle Mines which in the 1980s discovered diamonds in the area - the famous pink diamonds come from the Argyle Mines. Sadly, we were not given any free samples.

Moving on towards Broome, we are tonight at Halls Creek once an old gold town. (No gold for us, either!)

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