Queensland/NT (Northern Territory) border to Darwin

Our first stop in NT was Seven Emu Station, the first (and only) known Aboriginal owned cattle station, which promotes itself as a great destination for the self-sufficient 4 WD traveller interested in nature, culture, heritage or fishing.  No one was there when we arrived so we tried various station tracks to no avail and just parked in the yard and had lunch; eventually someone arrived.  We then drove 5 km’s on tracks to a private campsite on a steep cliff overlooking the Robinson River.  Had our own Stockmen’s shelter, loo with a view, flush toilet & shower, plus firewood.  Dick built a fire under the donkey boiler to heat the shower water and that night we had a lovely campfire (our first token campfire for this trip) and even ate dinner outside by the fire. Fireworks by the locals on the river bed finished off our evening.  Unfortunately Frank, who owns the station and does the tours, was away so we couldn’t meet him or do his tour, which was the main reason for going there.  The tour would have included a visit to Australian Wilderness Conservancy’s wildlife sanctuary, and access to the coast on the Gulf of Carpentaria. However, it was a magical camp anyway. 

Another long, hot driving day on corrugated roads took us through Booroloola (tourist info, fuel and dump stop) and to two “Lost Cities”.  The first at Caranbirini Conservation Reserve, where a hot walk took us around the 25 metre high sandstone pillars known as ‘lost city’ formations.  The second was the Southern Lost City in Limmen’ NP, where we saw more of the large sandstone spires and rounded dome formations resulting from erosion of the sandstone escarpment.  We camped there and did the 2.5 km circuit thru this lost city in the last hour of daylight. For me that was enough lost cities to last a long time!  The heat since arriving in the NT has been getting to me and we have been very greatful to Lea for insisting that we buy a Transcool, 12 V airconditioner.  At first we wondered if we’d ever use it but boy are we glad we have it for all our national park and bush camps with no power.

Another long driving day (via Roper Bar), more heat, and more corrugations got us to Bitter Springs and a lovely change.  Within an hour of arriving in the CP we were in the thermal hot springs, floating for 10 minutes down a stream on our noodles (floating aids) surrounded by lush tropical bush.  We spent a pleasant hour there with numerous downstream floats. Amazing to have free access to such a lovely place, and within walking distance from the CP where we managed to score a bushy private campsite.

Drove to Katherine and felt like we were in “caravan city”; the place was overflowing with caravans!  Found out later it is referred to as the ‘Crossroads of the North’, as two main roads, The Explorers Way and the Savannah Way, lead north, south, east and west from there.  It was 37 degrees C and stifling.  We visited the Tourist Info, a cafe for lunch and Woolworths for groceries and everyone seemed to be walking around like zombies because of the heat. Decided to keep going north as couldn’t get into places and we could stop on the way back.  Stopped at Hayes Creek CP on the way to Litchfield NP (and took power for the AC).  

Litchfield NP is close to Darwin and features 6 or 7 stunning waterfalls which cascade from sandstone outcrops, walking trails, 4 WD tracks and camping spots. We picked the campsite at Tjaynera Falls, only accessible by 4WD, and not so crowded.  Did the 1.7 km walk to the falls later in the afternoon when it was cooler, and enjoyed a cool and refreshing swim.   The next day we decided to do a blitz on waterfalls before leaving the park and driving to Darwin, so visited Wangi Falls, Tolmer Falls, Florence Falls and had a swim/sit in Buley Rockhole. 

Got to Darwin in time to collect a package at the post office and go for fish and chips while enjoying the sunset with friends, Lyn and Graham, at Cullen Beach.  Enjoyed three nights in Darwin so had time to stock up/clean up/do repairs and general catch up, plus a bit of shopping and market visits.  Darwin is the capital city of the Northern Territory (NT) and has a population of 140,000, out of a total NT population of 244,000.  I was surprised at those low the population numbers.  Darwin was named after Charles Darwin, scientist and evolutionist, who visited the area on ‘The Beagle’ from 1831-36.  The city was destroyed by Japanese bombs in 1942 during WW2 and then it was devastated again by ‘Cyclone Tracy’ in 1974.  There are a lot of WW2 historic sites throughout the NT. We enjoyed more time and another dinner out with Lyn and Graham. Also managed to take in the famous Beer Can Regatta on Mindl Beach – people race in boats made out of beer cans.  Its a fun atmosphere and something different, very Darwin! It was fortunate to be in a place when one of the big events was on. Next stop – Kakadu NP!

 

Welcome to the Northern Territory (NT) – we had no trouble staying within the speed limit!

 

Driving into Seven Emus station

 

Working on the blog in our 7 Emus campsite

Dick lit a nice fire under the donkey boiler to heat the shower water

Our campfire on the cliff overlooking the river at 7 Emus

Eating dinner by the campfire at 7 Emus

 

Caranbirini Conservation Reserve – lost city formations

More pillars in Caranbirini

Exploring around the formations

Southern Lost City (and maybe we’ve had enough photos!)

Another view of the Southern Lost City at dusk

The Southen Lost City looked more magical at sunrise from our campsite.

Bitter Springs thermal pools where we floated downstream on our noodles

 

Dick with our noodles in front of Bitter Springs

 

Dick enjoying Tjaynera Falls, Litchfield NP

Tjaynera Falls, Litchfield NP – we had it on our own for about 5 minutes at the end of the day

 

A water crossing on the track from our camp

Wangi Falls – Litchfield NP

Tolmer Falls – Litchfield NP

Enjoying Buley Rockholes (with lots of others!)

The riches of falls at Litchfield continues – Florence Falls

 

Darwin sunset at Cullen Beach

Dinner with Lyn and Graham at Cullen Beach

Beer Can Regatta Mindl Beach, Darwin

Dick with one of the boats

The winning boat called the Terds (Territory Eastern Region Disability Services) – sums up the spirit of the day!

 

They did actually race in the water, but it was mayhem and a lot of fun!

 

Lawn Hill NP and moving along the Savannah Way

Our next stop was Adel’s Grove, named after a French botanist, Albert De Lestang, who was commissioned by the government to experiment growing tropical trees & fruits in the 1930’s.  By 1939 he had over 1000 different species and it was a most beautiful botanic garden.  In the early 1950’s it was burnt out and subsequent owners have not continued the botanical aspect of the Grove.  We were camping in ‘The Grove’ area, next to Lawn Hill Creek and it is still an impressive grove with lots of tall trees and exotic foliage.  The reason to stop here is to visit Lawn Hill National Park (NP), now known as Boodjamulla NP, after the rainbow serpent who created the gorge and all the animals in the Dreamtime.  It is a 10 km drive to the NP and we spent the afternoon canoeing through the Lawn Hill Gorge, even did the portage and canoed through the Upper Gorge.  It was quite magical since the lush tropical vegetation (ie Livstonia Palms, figs, pandamus etc) are remnants of the ancient rainforest that covered the Gulf Savannah millions of years ago.  The gorges have sheer 60 m (200 foot) sandstone walls and beautiful clear green water.  Finished the day with a drink at our neighbors campfire.  Returned the next day to do the 8km Upper Gorge Walk which was stunning – great variety of terrain, 3 fabulous lookouts, a swim at the falls and a beautiful sunny day.  We walked all along the tops of the gorges we canoed through the day before and got a much better perspective of the gorge system and the surrounding area.  Walking along the gorge beside the high red cliffs and amongst the ferns and palms was very special, and we were disappointed that we didn’t have time to do more walks there. Met another couple, Ken and Roz,with an Explorer Motorhome like ours, so had some great conversations with them before and after our walk.

Travelling in the outback its good to stay flexible, as we found out again, when we turned up at Hells Gate Roadhouse at 1pm to get fuel and were greeted with a sign advising they were out of diesel. So we had lunch in the roadhouse, one of the nicest we’ve come across and one where we actually were happy to eat the food.  Hells Gate takes its name from the days when the police escorted the drovers and pastoralists to the Hells Gate pass on the NT border and then they were on their own.  We waited until 4pm when the fuel truck arrived and we were able to continue  on.  Could have stayed there as it seemed good but we wanted to visit a free camp 30 km down the road and we were glad we did.  Stayed at Hann Creek Billabong on our own and sat outside with a beer watching about 40 different bird species flitting around the billabong – very pleasant! And the sunrise was also special.  Funny for us to see a sunrise but the 6 am alarm is becoming a habit (maybe we are turning into grey nomads after all).  That stop marked the last overnight in Queensland and 10,000 kms so far on this trip.

  

The view of Lawn Hill Creek beside our campsite at Adel’s Grove

 

Canoeing in Lawn Hill / Bodjamulla NP

Beautiful red cliffs along the lower gorge

 

Innarroo Falls, site of the portage and swimming place

Dick portaging the canoe to the Upper Gorge

Canoeing in the Upper Gorge

Beautiful water lillies in the gorge

More water lillies

 

A beautiful peaceful place at the top of the gorge

The beginning of the gorge and where we turned around

 

It was such a beautiful canoe trip

And we even got very close to a cormorant

 

Dick made me hold my shirt up for a sail on the paddle back (not very effective)

The early part of the walk around the gorge

 

Looking down on the upper gorge, and a special spot for lunch

 

Walking between the red cliffs and the clear green water

Swimming back at the waterfalls

A refreshing dip on a hot walking day!

 

Another lookout and another view of the upper and lower gorges

 

The last lookout for the 8km walk, one of our highlights

The final climb down

 

End of day catchup with another Explorer MH!

Dick heading into the roadhouse

 

 

Not the sign you want to see!!

Our camp spot at Hann Creek Billabong

Sunrise over the billabong