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.: Darwin - Derby WA July 2014

This will be updated most nights except if we don't have mobile reception and that happens a bit in the Outback also if you have just joined us, please read from the bottom up.
Day 17: Adelaide River to Darwin 124 km - Total 3776 kms

We had packed up some of our gear the night before so that made it a little easier especially as it had rained during the night and luckily we had packed away the groundsheet and awning walls. We got everything else done and hit the markets for one last fix.

Steady run back to Sharon's place at Humpty Doo. Josie still came armed with carrots for the horses, chops for the dogs and owl and some vege scraps for the chooks. From there we went to clean the van at our usual car wash in Palmerston but in front of us was a Kenworth and a 4wd with a couple of dirt bikes so, I decided that we would give it a miss and do the clean up next weekend.

As usual on our return we went down to Nightcliff for sunset where we were joined by Jamie-Lee, Aaron and Kiara. It was great to see them and get our Kiara fix after not seeing her for nearly three weeks. It was a fantastic way to finish a good few weeks on the road.

Back to work tomorrow!


Days 14 - 16: Adelaide River 146 km - Total 3652 kms

Well now the mind-set needed to change to get ready for the Rosella Festival. First job was to get my prints from the Batchelor Holiday Park where they are on permanent display. To get them in the car I had to take out Malibu's bed (and she was not impressed). I went over to the pub where the festival was being held and meet the organisers and found where my site was.

A real early start to get setup and that was a bit of a mission being our first time but we eventually got it done and it looked OK. There were plenty of people stopping and admiring my work but by the time that the festival ended at 4 pm, I had not sold one print. That was a shame as there had been a lot of interest but hopefully there will be some sales come from my website over the next few weeks. We were invited by the market people to join them for Pizza at the pub. Once we got everything packed up, we went over there and had an enjoyable pizza and drinks with them, they are lovely people.

We had a small issue where Josie was filling the sink for some dishes and the sink tap is a little slow so Josie went outside. She picked up her wine and then sat down to enjoy it. A little while later asked "where is that water coming from?" oh shit! the sink was overflowing and water had gone through the cupboards and over the floor. No apparent damage done.

Next morning we were heading over to Batchelor to take the prints back but I wanted to take a photo of the Ghan as it headed south again. I found a good spot to get a good shot and waited for the Ghan to arrive. After a bit of a wait I saw the headlight appear, I readied and as the locomotive was nice in the frame, I fired a shot but nothing happened, I pushed the shutter again and still nothing, by this time the locomotive had passed and finally the shutter released...what the??? I was a dickhead, I still had the camera set to time delay....spewing, it was all gone and no photo....idiot!!!

We then went on to Batchelor the put the prints back and Jim was glad to see them adorning his walls again. The day was a bit slow as it was pretty hot until we went out for some train spotting. I managed to get an Iron Ore train and a container freight train before we started packing up the van. We then went up Telstra Hill for sunset drinks then came back to camp for a nice meal of scallops, they were sensational and what a way to spend our last night on the road.

Day 13: Victoria River to Adelaide River 394 km - Total 3506 kms

A bit of a lazy start, on the road at 9.30 after refueling. First stop was the Matheson Rest Area where the place was packed and total chaos, one goose parked his caravan right in the middle of the roadway so decided to squeeze through. He shit himself as he thought I was going to take out his van, he soon moved.

We continued on to Katherine where again there were caravans everywhere and finding a park was a bit like taking a number. I know I have mentioned it before but it is truly mind blowing how many people are travelling this great land. Whether it is back packers in their Wicked Campers, the young family with their camper trailer or the grey nomads in everything from the old small single axle van to the big brand new rig, they are all travelling the highways of the sunburnt country.

We couldn't find anywhere to stop for lunch so we made for Pine Creek but even there, we had trouble finding somewhere (with shade) to pull over. We ended up going out of town a bit and pulled on some very dry grass under a tree.

Through to Adelaide River where as we pulled up we noticed that our spot was gone...shock horror! A new permanent employee of the pub had taken it but luckily Bill had saved us another spot as the park was nearly full. After setting up, we went up the Telstra hill for sunset drinks.

Day 12: Kununurra to Victoria River 332 km - Total 3112 kms

After spending until midnight processing the photos from the Beef and Barra night, it was a little slow start. We went for a quick walk down to the BBQ area where last night we had seen a couple of Tawny Frogmouths take flight. Initially we could night find them but Josie eventually spotted one and a few minutes later we spotted the other, they camouflage themselves very well.

I finished the processing and took a copy of the photos to Kathryn (park manager) where they were wrapped with the results, which was pleasing to see.

We ventured into town for some bread and while there we had a coffee and Bacon & Egg sanger, eventually leaving Kununurra around 11.30. After negotiating a couple of lots of road works we stopped at the border to give Malibu a comfort stop. Finally we were back on "real" time being back in the NT. The next stop at Saddle Creek saw a bucket load of vans in the free camp, there were 24 rigs including and double decker bus all decked out. This was the most we had seen at this stop.

A late lunch stop at Timber Creek where we reheated the fried rice from last night. There was a hose running in the roadside park and there were quite a few birds coming down to drink, I grabbed my camera and much to my delight, I got some shots of a Gouldian Finch. A good catch.

After setting up a Victoria River, we again went down to the Old Crossing which is one of the most picturesque spots around.

Day 11: Ngumban Cliffs to Kununurra 554 km - Total 2780 kms

We awoke to a beautiful sunrise and once the sun touched the cliffs, their colours really came to life. It is a pretty good spot to camp.

Once we were on the road and we had good mobile coverage, we rang Sharon (Josie's daughter) for her birthday, it was disappointing that we weren't going to be there with her but circumstance did not allow.

We arrived into Halls Creek and holy crap, there were caravans everywhere, mostly waiting to refuel. We were lucky to get into a cue with one caravan in front, within a few minutes we had four vans lined up behind us. We then got the hell out of there. It was unbelievable the amount of chaos there in Halls Creek.

Next stop was Lower Panton Rest Area for brunch. We cooked up some french bread and eggs, that and a cuppa saw us underway again. Next stop Turkey Creek for a quick leg stretch where there were quite a number of vans for a small roadhouse.

A fairly long day saw us into Kununurra around 3.30, staying at the Discovery Park we arrived in time for their Beef and Barra night. I touched base with Kathryn and left he know that I would take photos of the BBQ if they wanted, she was wrapped and promptly refunded our site cost.

We had a few things to do in town, collect the doggy deposit from Lakeside that I had forgotten to pick up before we left and we had to return some fish to the local supermarket that was a bit on the nose.

We got down to the BBQ early so to check out the area and light, soon there were probably a hundred or more people all set up waiting for the Beef and Barra. I shot a lot of photo's and used a setting that I have never used before but should capture the nice ambient light of the surrounds. Hopefully they will work out.


Day 10: Derby to Ngumban Cliffs 356 km - Total 2226 kms

We hooked up the night before so we could get an early start, on the road at 5.30 which was just before first light, coffee (and tea) in hand and we were under way again. Our plan was to get to Ngumban Cliffs early so we could get a spot with a view where we could have a fire as on our way down there were so many vans, we didn't get such a good spot.

On our first stop I managed to collect a few bits of wood but we would need more. Fitzroy Crossing was our fuel stop and we decided to have a cuppa and some breakfast. It was tempting to get a Bacon & Egg sanger from the roadhouse but we refreined and had some bread, Pate and cheese with our coffee in a shady roadside park.

We stopped again when I saw a fallen tree to gather the rest of the firewood we needed for tonight. We pulled into Ngumban Cliffs at 11.30 where there were about half a dozen vans but the spot we wanted was free so we snavilled that and got set up. Whilst it is a little early to stop, it gave some relaxing time and a chance up on the blog. It quite a pretty spot so we enjoyed the downtime there.

Nowhere near as many vans settled for the night here as we expected, probably fifteen or so, not like last week. We had dinner under the stars with a great fire and I had a go at some star photography for the first time. I will let you know how I went. It is quite a bit warmer than last week here. Josie has gone to bed and I am finishing this off and watching the fire go down.

Days 6 - 9: Derby 99 km - Total 1870 kms

Well I didn't want to bore everyone with lots of family goings on but it has been an interesting few days and really good to catch up with family albeit on this sad occasion.

We still managed most nights to keep our sunset drinks tradition in tack. Two nights were taken up with a sunset Novena Rosary, a Catholic tradition. It was quite fascinating to see how Catholicism has a big presence in the Aboriginal community.

On Friday the service for John, it started with a full mass at the Holy Rosary Church in Derby and the service continued at the cemetery as per normal but when we pulled up there was a heap of shovels around the mound of dirt. The service got under way and once the coffin was lowered and the usual flowers, rosemary and dirt was cast in respect, the boys all grabbed a shovel and the grave was filled in. This was followed by some shell grit/sand from One Arm Point, where John and Peggy live, was spread over the mound followed by all the flowers. Then finally there was a white cross put there which had a great photo of three spitfires flying over Darwin in the WWII. John was an aircraft mechanic working on the spitfires that were operating out of Darwin during the war and he loved his aircraft.

It was a very fitting service and tributes to a very great man who we will all miss.

Kylie, John's daughter asked me if I would taking a few photos of the service and wake, which I was happy to do (even though I hate taking photo's of people). Josie and I got to the church and we seated when I bought out my camera to take some test shots when disaster struck, it would not focus. I mucked around with all settings, changed lenses still nothing so I jumped in the car and went back to the caravan to Google the problem. Nothing was forthcoming so returned to service. When we got to the service Cheri gave me her Point & Shoot so I could at least get something.

We returned to the van after the service and I had another go at Google and this time I found the issue, a bent aperture release pin and sure enough that was the problem. I bent it back and we were back on track again.....thank goodness! There is nothing worst than a photographer letting you down on an important occassion.

I got photos of the family at the wake which everyone was happy with.

Day 5 : Ngumban Cliffs to Derby 362 km - Total 1771 kms

A pretty cool start to the day, this camping spot is very exposed being on the top of a hill and no trees, it was a bit windy and chilly. To kick things off we started with Eggs Benedict for breakfast...we do slum it in the outback. A leisurely start saw us on the road about 8 am. First stop Fitzroy Crossing for fuel and a coffee.

We pulled into the Boab Tree stop for lunch where it was a case of "take a number", the place was full of vans and a tour bus. More arrived while we were there.

I was still having issues with the auto electrics in the van so we called into the auto spark in Derby that fitted a replacement solenoid in the van on our way north on the last trip. First diagnosis suggested the alternator was on the blink but further analysis and getting the boss involved, we found that when the young fella wired up the solenoid it was done incorrectly and there was also a loose connection which both contributed to the issues I was experiencing and they fixed these at no charge. Hopefully we have it nailed now.

We quickly got set up then went down the wharf for sunset and got a couple of nice shots.


Day 4: Kununurra to Ngumban Cliff 541 km - Total 1409 kms

We got a little rain over night, just enough to make packing up a pain and once we were on the road both the car and the caravan quickly became a mess.

After a early get away this morning, the temperature dropped as we headed west and bottomed out at 14 deg, quite cool but a pleasant change. First stop was Dunham River where there were a heap of free campers, that was where I realised that I had forgotten to collect Malibu's $20 bond. Never mind I will ring them and pick it up on the way back. This bond caper is a bullshit if you ask me.

We pulled into a stop near the Argyle Diamond mine where there was railway ballast machine on the back of a truck, making its way to a new home probably in the Pilbara.

A stop at Turkey Creek for a cuppa and a pit stop. A new toy we have is a 12 volt kettle. On the last trip we found that when it was windy the gas kettle took forever to boil and most times we wouldn't bother even though we were hanging out for a cuppa. I investigated 12 volt kettles and the main issue was that they take too long to boil. I solved that problem by mounting it in the back of the car and turning it on the stop before we want the brew. The one we bought is an auto stuff off so that works a treat.

Another hour or so down the road we stopped at Lower Panton for lunch where there was Ergrets, Herons and Spoonbills feeding in the receding pools. We had chicken wings for lunch that we cooked last night and we through the bones onto the road where the Whistling Kites were swooping down and picking up the bones.

We got to Halls Creek at about 12.30 which, is where we had planned to spend the night but midday was too early to stop so we decided to carry on. Josie was feeling OK with her legs but still hating the stockings, we continued on to Ngumban Cliffs, a rest area with toilets. We figured that we would get the opportunity to have a camp fire so, on the way we collected some firewood (any wood has usually been cleaned out around rest areas) but when we got there the place was nearly full and no room for a camp fire...bugga.

It is nice to free camp but in the tropics it is only practical in the cooler months when we don't need the air con.


Day 3: Victoria River to Kununurra 346 km - Total 868 kms

We woke this morning to hundreds of birds all making a hell of a racket, mainly Corella's, Lorikeets along with Bowerbirds and Friarbirds to name a few. There was also some calling cards from the local Wallabies left in our spot over night.

Not far out out of Victoria River we came around a corner and was a large dead Kangaroo in the middle of the road with a beautiful Wedge-tail Eagle next to it, eyeing of the bounty. Well large caravans do not like quick changes of direction and I had Josie yelling at me "Don't hit him, don't hit him", the van shaking violently all produced a rather warm sensation in my pants....some how we got around him and stayed on the road, phew!

A little further down the road we came across a couple of cyclists travelling west like us, I was giving them a bit of room as I was about to go around them when a Road Train came around the corner, passing them was not an option, I hit the skids in a big hurry. This is a very nervous time as when you put a caravan under heavy braking and it and the tow vehicle are not matched correctly, you get a jack knife. Well I managed to pull the rig up within metres of these cyclists, nice and straight. Very, very lucky as we would have cleaned up this pair. Now they were now not doing anything wrong but it is such a dangerous position to put themselves in. They were probably totally unaware of the drama and danger going on around them.

I didn't want to handle another issue like either of these again today, luckily there were no more. We pulled into Saddle Creek where we ate all of the fruit and veggie before crossing the border. As we left Saddle Creek the skies really darkened up and it looked like we might get a little rain but it wasn't to be. We got through the border crossing with only one small issue, some of Josie's homegrown Rosemary that she was taken for John's funeral, but they seem to be OK with herbs and we got to keep it.

Our preferred Caravan Park had a sign out the front "no sites available", so we tried another that would take dogs and we were lucky enough to get the last site. It is a spot where we have stayed many times on Lake Kununurra. It has some wonderful birdlife around the park. The heavy cloud put paid to any sunset still, the drinks were great as usual.


Day 2: 12 July - Adelaide River to Victoria River 409 km - Total 522 kms

We kick off this morning with a bit of drama, I had lost my wallet. The last time I had used it was to pay for our site last night. Search everywhere, went to the shop to see I had left it there, nope so I went back up the hill where had been last night, nope. Thinking that I was going to have to cancel cards redo licences etc. I thought I would try the pub see if anyone had handed it in and lucky for me, they had. I was very relieved as was Josie and see suggested that I would loose my balls if they weren't in a bag.

On the way through to Katherine there wasn't too many caravans until we reached Pine Creek and then the came. There were bucket loads of them all heading north certainly a lot more there were a month or so back.

In Katherine the markets were on and Josie just can't go past and market but the challenge was going to be finding some where to park the van. Hats off to Katherine Town Council there was a heap parking bay especially for caravans...easy. That was smart thinking by the council where if the Grey Nomads have somewhere easy to park and close, they are more likely to have a wander around and spend some money. They were quite good markets and very well patronised and on cue Josie bought some things for Kiara.

On the way to Victoria River we were stopping a fair bit as Josie has been told by her Doctor that see must wear TED stockings while travelling as she has a heightened risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) and Josie hates them, they actually make her legs quite sore so we need to stop more often.

There was some good cloud starting to appear so we went down to the Old Crossing for sunset. It is a beautiful spot on the Victoria River with the escarpment towering above. It is a bit of a rough track in over the river bed but setting the picnic table with a nice red beside the water made it all worthwhile.


Day 1: 11 July - Darwin to Adelaide River 112 km

This trip is a bit sad as we are going to the funeral of John Clements in Derby, John is Josie's former Father-in-Law who thought the world of her. Last time we made the trip to Derby was for Johns 90th birthday, this time last year.

I had an early start as I needed to get my Bunnings orders done as we still had some things to do before we were ready to hit the road. Another issue was a very good friends Geoff and Anna were having a 21st birthday for their daughter Jessica and not only were we supposed attend, Geoff's brother Peter is staying with us. We waited until Peter arrived, gave him a tour of the house before hitting the road.

We got our usual spot at Adelaide River, set up and unloaded the gear that we bought down for the photographic display I am putting at the Rosella Festival in two weeks time. We did not want to cart that gear to Derby and back again.

As per usual, we went up the Telecommunications hill for some very pleasant sunset drinks.



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