Some video…

Today we got to an internet cafe with a half reasonable connection speed (but only half). I took the opportunity to upload a couple of videos taken previously. In the first one below you can see CM tacking Scrubby Creek on Cape York. It’s not to deep, but is quite wide. Our campsite was on the other side so if you wanted to use a toilet or shower you had to get across it. It was good fun but demanded our plastic sheet across the bull bar as an extra anti flood device.

The next clip shows an intrepid driver at Palm Creek tyring to get up the other side.

This last one shows him succeeding on his 4th and final attempt, well done him!

I would post more of these if only we had more access to fast internet. Still, I hope they give a flavour of things in our recent past.

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The direct approach

While buying a few bits for the car they other day in ‘Supa Cheap Auto’ a big national car accessories chain, and I came across this  product on a shelf.

Not beating about the bush

This ‘fair dinkum’ direct approach is uniquly Australian i’d say. It takes the phrase ‘Does exaclty what it says on the tin’ to a new level.

Luckily I didn’t need to buy a tin of spray, our car requires no cursing to get going in the morning.

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Bush tucker can damage your health

A day or two ago we were exploring Kakadu national park and went down a four wheel drive track to a big Billabong called two mile hole. We were hoping to see some basking crocodiles (from a distance) and parked the car under some trees draped with attractive looking orange fruits. There were hundreds of them and I picked a couple of ripe juicy specimens. About ping pong ball size with fleshy pulp and big seeds inside. A bit like a lychee or a kumquat, good eating perhaps. Being a fan of the Bush Tucker Man Les Hiddens, i’m keen to try the native foods that were the basis of the Aboriginal diet for eons.

This proved not such a good idea, both myself and CM had a taste of the fleshy pulp and it was the bitterest thing i’ve ever tasted. We spent the next ten minutes spitting to get the sour bitter after taste out of our mouths. This fruit was clearly something of an aquired taste, not suited to our soft western palette. In short it was repulsive, despite its inticing appearance.

Later that day we visited a wetlands centre, which had a display of various flora and fauna and infomation about it. CM was quick to spot the bitter fruit in a picture. It turns out this was a Strychnine tree! The fruit is deadly and so is the bark. The Aboriginals used the bark to poison and catch fish in waterholes. Not exactly bush tucker. I had visions of us eating whole fruits and expiring forthwith beside the car, not a glorious end to our trip. I found some online info about the tree and it’s grizzly effects here.

I’m just glad it tasted so bad that we spat it out. Had it been sweet and sugary perhaps I wouldn’t be recounting the episode right now.

Lesson learnt on that one, steer clear of strange fruit!

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Daly Waters and points north

Daly Waters has a couple of campsites and a petrol station, it’s a tiny rest stop on the Stuart highway. Its crowning glory is a very old traditional outback pub, the car park doubles as a cheap campsite. It’s very busy and as we discovered the pungent aroma of sewage hangs ever heavier over the campsite as the night wears on. The pub is great though, the inside is decorated with old time memorabilia and all sorts of paraphernalia from women’s bras and men’s pants, to banknotes and passport pages and drivers licences from around the world. It would be the dream destination to anyone with a passion for identity theft. Famous Australians have signed the walls as well, presumably they passed through here and drank one too many.

Not your average bar

They have a novel happy hour called ‘Toss the Boss’ where the barman flips a coin every time you buy a drink. If you guess head/tails right you get the drink for free. CM had three wines before she won a free drink, could have been worse I suppose.

They have some resident entertainment every night, a chap playing old songs on his guitar which was mediocre, and then bush poet and singer called Chilli. He was really good, a bit of a one man show. It was entitled Reflection on the Australian Spirit and he told stories, told jokes and recited some of his poetry. He’d won competitions for it and had some stories to tell of days on the cattle stations and the people he’d met along the way. To give you a flavour it here is a short clip or two, this wasn’t the best bit but it gives you an idea. The best bit was a poem from the viewpoint of a drovers horse and the hardships it faced, that one gripped the audience and had a few wiping their teary eyes I’m sure.

Chilli 1

We wedged ourselves into the full campsite and slept in the car, here’s a picture:

Daly Waters camp

Just to show you the grandiose set-ups some people have here a picture of a big rig, the bedrooms pop out on either side at the back and it’s pulled by a six wheel 4WD. Some of these rigs can cost about $200,000 apparently.

More than a home from home

The next day we headed north up to the town of Katherine and spent two nights at very good camp site on the edge of town. Katherine itself is a busy stop on the highway and has a big Woolworths and sensibly priced petrol, as well as hot springs. It’s also notable for the numbers of indigenous people sitting around on the central reservation and pavements. Not causing any problems, just socialising with each other so it seems. Old and young, very thin and very fat just ‘chillaxing’ in the sun. The epicentre seemed to be the bottle shop (off licence), with groups of men excitedly loitering outside like naughty schoolboys outside the corner shop, hoping to covertly buy 10 cigarettes between them. The staff had their work cut out there. In the Northern Territory they have to scan your driving licence as ID every time you want to buy alcohol, and the licensing hours are quite limited. We drove out to Katherine gorge which was a very hot but nice place with fine views. We then drove on to Kakadu National park which is renown for it’s wildlife as it’s a huge wetlands area, home to about 100,000 crocodiles and as many snakes, so we were told!

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Across the Savannah Way

We now wanted to head across to the northern territory and eventually Darwin. This is another very long trip through some remote country. Having stocked up at Mareeba we then drove for five days, mostly along a route called the Savannah Way, more about which here. Much of the track is dirt and cuts across country just south of the Gulf of Carpentaria. The scenery doesn’t change hugely, but it does change quite a bit. There patches of tarmac which are always blissful, never underestimate the smooth quiet pleasure that a well sealed road brings. This is dry Savannah country; high grass and low scrub mostly. Although there are rocky sections and many small lakes dotted about, mostly man made to keep the cattle alive. Cattle wander about in small groups everywhere; you have to keep an eye on them. If mother cow is on one side of the track, and baby cow is on the other, there’s a high chance baby cow will run out in front of the car as you approach to get to mother. The result could be a liberal application of minced beef across the bonnet, and a wrecked car. We also saw many dead big black feral pigs on the road, and even a dead Brumby, the local name for wild horses.

There were also several rivers to cross, and crocodile warnings at most of them. Having your car stall mid river is one thing, but having to climb out and look at the engine is seriously risky in croc territory. The car was fine and there were no dramas at all. We perfected a technique whereby CM drives, and I perch outside on the running board holding onto the roof rack. That way I can see down into the water and navigate the way around deep sections and big rocks. Luckily none of the crossings were deep, but they add a modicum of excitement to the proceedings.

The approach to the Robinson river crossing.

Several hundred kilometres from anywhere we left Queensland and entered the North Territory. A big sign appeared beside the track telling us so. The ‘territory’ as its known is very sparsely populated, and of course very hot and humid. It has just a wet season and a dry season. Now is the dry season, but there is still a lot of water to be seen. Strangely it occupies a time zone half an hour different to Queensland. So we now only eight and a half hours ahead of GMT instead of nine. Here is a picture of the sign:

Entering the Territory.

You are so far from anywhere out here that broken down cars are often abandoned, and then mysteriously stripped some time later, by who knows who. Getting towed home is not an option, I live in dread of this scenario. Here is one of many such cars we came across:

Abandoned car

We stayed overnight in small one street towns, some being nicer than others. Places such as Georgetown and Burketown, settlements named after early pioneers. One night we were in an Aboriginal town called Borroloola, the campsite had a family of local indigenous people camping at it, just near us. No car or transport, just a couple of small tents and a clutch of young children. They were a friendly bunch and the kids talkative and inquisitive. The oldest, about 8, said he liked drinking Rum, he was quite hard to understand though as English was probably not his first language. I have to say that the indigenous kids seem to have a carefree and very happy time of it, plenty of time to just roam and play all.

Interestingly when I told our 8 year old I came from England he said that was a place ‘above Darwin, where blackfellas and whitefellas sit together’. True of course, but how sad that at his young age his perception is obviously that the two communities live separate lives where he lives. We went to the local shop just before leaving town; it was well stocked and very busy. No shortage of money in these areas as I mentioned before. I noticed the hardware store come petrol station had a bargain bucket of cheap Araldite epoxy resin on the counter. Not because the locals are heavily into gluing things together though. We’ve seen the same tubes, emptied and left with the empty beer cans beside creeks and roads in other towns. The hardware store (run by white folk) must know it’s used for sniffing and not gluing in the main, I suppose a sale is a sale at the end of the day. In some areas they only sell specially produced petrol called Opal Fuel. This is de-aromatised petrol that cannot be sniffed for a quick high, it has no vapours apparently. We’ve not had to use that where we have been though.

Anyway we drove on, and on to the main north south highway and a place called Daly Waters, more on which will follow. The Savannah Way is a long one, and one of the more minor routes across country. A bit more interesting and a bit more challenging the the main tourist route.

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