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!