Travelling Australia
Wayne & Pam BENTLEY

Tuesday 1st June 2004 to Thursday 3rd June 2004

Tuesday 1st June 2004

This morning started pretty early with us rising out of that warm bed at about 5.20am and then being ready to leave before daylight had shown it's full face in the morning. We had to wait about fifteen minutes before firing up the Patrol and pulling out of the caravan park at 6.50am.

After winding our way ut of Mount Isa we headed north on the Barkly Highway then turned west as it started it's journey toward Camooweal and the Northern Territory. The first part of the drive was through some more very scenic hills, particularly with the rising sun shining on the tops of the hills whilst the shadows covered the lower reaches. Whilst on this road we had to dodge a rather large snake that was sitting in the middle of the road. It was at least eight foot long and about as thick as my forearm in the middle. Once upon a time I would have run over it, but a bloke must be getting soft in his old age and it wasn't going to bother anyone where it was out in the middle of nowhere.

The drive from Mount Isa the Camooweal started out on a reasonable two way road with a dividing line down the middle. However it didn't take very long for it to turn into a single lane with sealed road with very eroded edges which meant that when any vehicle came from the opposite direction, each vehicle had to slow almost to a stop and move over the edge of the sealed section of the road into the dirt, then slowly move back onto the sealed road after the vehicles had passed. This was very interesting but fortunately it only lasted 177 kilometres which was as far as the first town we came to, Camooweal. This was the last town on the Barkly Highway before the NT border but it was not very large and we chose not to stop at this time. About eight kilometres further down the road we came to the border between Queensland and the Northern Territory where we stopped for a couple of photographs and a cup of tea.

From here on the roads were very good and there was very little to slow us down along the way. We past Avon Downs Police Station (nothing else there) and then the long drive to Barkly Downs Homestead Service Station where the price of two ice creams was $9 and diesel was $1.45 per litre. Needless to say, after buying an ice cream we didn't buy any fuel.

We then continued on to the intersection between the Barkly Highway and the Stuart Highway and fueled up with diesel at $1.27 cents per litre. As it was still only 3,00pm we decided we would continue up the Stuart Highway for a bit longer and eventually stopped at the Renner Springs Desert Hotel and caravan park (if it could be called that). We set up and settled in for the night after having traveled 783 kilometres for the day, the longest drive we have made since we started out back ion 27th December 2003. (sounds a long time ago now).

Tomorrow we have a shorter day of just over 500 kilometres up as far as Katherine, but right now a long nights sleeps sounds good.

Early morning sunlight in the hills near Mt Isa

Crossing the border into the Northern Territory

Wednesday 2nd June 2004

Another early start this morning but after getting ready to go we had to wait a short time for the sun to give us enough light to see the kangaroos on the side of the road when we drove out.

We eventually pulled out of the caravan park at about 6.50am and started heading north on the highway again. We passed through Elliot and Dunmarra before we came to Daly Waters where we pulled in to the town site and the Daly Waters Hotel so 'one of us' could breast the bar once more. No drinks this time though, just a stubby holder or two for our bar back home. We also visited an old dead tree that had an 'S' carved in it many years ago and it is believed it was done by Stuart when he was crossing the country in the days of discovery.

Back on the highway once more until we came to Larrimah where we pulled in to the Pink Panther Hotel. 'One of us' thought the pub was quaint, maybe that was because it was painted pink..... and the Pink Panther was sitting outside. We also paid a visit to some camels that were having a feed just over the fence near the hotel. After that we pulled over the road to a service station and 'one of us' went in and bought a couple of sausage rolls that were the biggest we have ever seen. The must have been the best tasting things that would have been just about the worst thing for us! We ate them on the way and spread pastry crumbs throughout the Patrol.

We continued up through Larrimah and Mataranka (capitol of the Never Never) before arriving in Katherine just before We then found our way to the 'Katherine Low Level Caravan Park' (Big4) where we booked in for the next two nights and also booked a boat tour of two of the Thirteen gorges in Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge). Then it was time to visit Woolworths for 'one of us' to get another shopping fix (and a $30 docket to use for our fuel purchase) then filled the Patrol up with diesel at 101.9 cents per litre.

We think the sun can come up in the morning without our assistance and our plans are to catch up on a little more sleep in the morning before heading out to Katherine Gorge at about

Renner Springs in the early morning

She's at the bar again - in Daly Waters Pub

Thursday 3rd June 2004

A sleep in this morning - not a move in the caravan until about when it was time to get the morning cup of tea on the way. Then it was a leisurely breakfast and preparation for our visit to Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge).

We left the caravan park at about 9.45am and traveled the 30 kilometres out to the start point of the tour, which was the jetty in the first of the gorges.

We boarded the boat at about 11.05am and were given instructions of the use of the life jackets, part of which was that the instructions are of the back of them so we could read the instructions on the back of the guide/skipper's (Tyrone) as he was swimming away from the sinking ship. He was a Thursday Islander (we think, or at least part thereof) and he had a pretty wicked sense of humour that would have kept us entertained even if we weren't in the gorge.

It was a short ride up the river in the gorge before we came to the steep sides that we were expecting and we have to say, it was everything and more than we had anticipated. After traveling through the first gorge, we had to get out and walk up the stream (or at least on the rocks at the side of the river) to get passed a set of rocks and rapids then board another boat to continue through the second gorge.

The second gorge was even more magnificent than the first and we were told that it is the best of all the thirteen gorges in Nitmiluk National Park. All this time we had been getting a very comprehensive (and most of the time, very humorous) commentary from Tyrone about the gorge and this part of the Northern Territory. The sides of the gorge in most places were shear drops into the water and had a huge range of colours and shapes.

One of these cliffs was given the name of 'Jedda's Leap' (think that is what he said) after the scene in the movie 'Jedda' that was made back in the 1950's and features an aboriginal couple named Marbuk and Jedda. The end of the movie (or at least for Marbuk and Jedda anyway) was when they jumped off the top of this cliff face to their death below because they were being pursued.

The guide also drove the boat into a shallow cave in one of the walls and thumped the side of the boat, then a couple of 'snapping turtles' came to the surface to say hello. They were not fed anything for their effort but supposedly are just very tame and curious animals.

We then returned via the same route as we had come up the river and it was just as spectacular on the way back. I can remember seeing slides of Katherine Gorge when I was very young, I think Harry Chapman (or one of his relations) had taken them and at one stage I found myself looking at the same cliff face and images of the gorge that I remember seeing in those slides way back then. On return to the visitors centre at the gorge, 'one of us' visited the souvenir shop whilst the 'other one' had a good look through the information displays.

Unfortunately the photographs do not do the size and colour of the gorge justice, but this has been one of the highlights of our journey so far and is well up with so many other great things we have seen over the past five months and 25,000 kilometres.

The rest of the day was spent doing very important things like visiting the bottle shop because 'one of us' was getting low on wine and the 'other one' bought a block of beer just to keep her company.

Katherine Gorge - Nitmiluk National Park

Katherine Gorge - From the cave

Katherine Gorge - Jedda's Leap