Western Lost City

27/7/14 – What a wonderful peaceful night, we had the whole place to ourselves, was wonderful.

Bee-eaterThe road from Roper Bar to Cape Crawford is a wide dirt road with some really great bits, in other areas it was rough, rutted, corrugated, bull dust, dips, rocky and has a few creek crossings. We also had some emus traveling along the road.

ViewGiants, fossils, ancient seabed, tall pillars, all part of the Western Lost City of Limmen National Park. We stopped at the Nathan River Ranger Station to pick up the key to unlock the gate to gain access onto the 28km 4wd track to the ancient seabed. We had to leave the trailer at the ranger station.

Western-Lost-City-16The track is rough, narrow, sandy, rocky, ruts, creek crossings and dried out mud flats with cracks that make corrugations seem smooth, it took us just over 1hr to do the 28kms. As we were driving we were hoping it was worth it and it was.
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Wow its places like this that make us thankful we live in such an awesome country and how privileged we are that we can visit amazing places like this. The road/track goes right alongside the sandstone pillars of varying colours from golden yellow, orange through to red. The pillars are linear formations, you drive among them not so much walking around. We have seen a couple of lost cities and so for this is the best.
Lost-CityWestern-Lost-City-8 Western-Lost-City-9 Western-Lost-City-10 Western-Lost-City-11 Western-Lost-City-12 Western-Lost-City-13 Western-Lost-City-14 Western-Lost-City-15We ran out of time to stop at the Southern Lost City, next time maybe. We stopped for the night at a rest area not far from the Billengarrah turnoff, which is only a few kms where we will turn off to Borroloola.

NT – St Vidgeon Ruins

St Vidgeon Ruins/Lomareium Lagoon – F, OR, BR, D. 65 km SE of Roper Bar or 307 km NW of Borroloola. Large bushy area, can camp close to the lagoon but there are crocs, so don’t camp too close. Ruins close by to explore. Rating – 3

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Back onto the dirt

26/7/14 – What a rough night, literally a bunch of people who had way too much too drink were yelling and making a ruckus late into the night. I’m sure it would be different every visit, sometimes very peaceful but it certainly wasn’t last night. From what we saw the establishment takes your money sends people off to find a spot, there are no rules, guidelines it’s like do the hell what you want. Our advice visit as a day use, or night use as the pools never close and camp somewhere else, that is what we will be doing next time.

Friendly-Peacock

The Mataranka area is the setting for the film “We of the Never Never” a replica of the house is just outside the Mataranka Homestead.

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No hurry today, we have several days to get to Lawn Hill across the top off the Gulf area along the Roper Hwy. We will be stopping at a few lost cities along the way.
Roper-River Roper-River-1We stopped at the Roper River at Roper Bar for lunch. Lovely spot (apart from the rubbish) overlooking the river watching the Kites, Rainbow Bee-eaters and other birds. We drove the 2km down to the Roper Bar store, not much there.

Roper-BarThere are several camping area in the Limmen National Park, which was only made into a national park in July 2012. There are 3 brand new camping areas on the river which are not listed on the national park website yet. Fees were $5 pp/pp.

Lomareium-Lagoon-sign Lomareium-LagoonWe ended up stopping for the night near the St Vidgeon ruins which is right next to Lomareium Lagoon, camping here is free. The lagoon is covered in Water Lillies and as lovely and inviting as it looks we have camped well away from the waters edge as there are salt water crocs in there. Heaps of bird life too.

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Mataranka Hot Pools

25/7/14 – It was a humid pack up, it was nice to have a shower after we were packed and hooked up ready to leave Darwin nice and fresh. Heading south now, start of the slow trip back home with still some great places to see and stop at along the way, 2 weeks left of the trip. Today is going to be hot springs day. With a stop back at the Katherine springs and then onto Mataranka, Bitter Springs, and the hot pools at the Mataranka Homestead.
Bitter-SpringsIt’s always nice at Bitter Springs to get your noodle and float down the river with the current. Very slow moving, get to enjoy the surrounds as you float by.We had always thought you needed to camp at the Mataranka Homestead to go to the hot pools there. The hot pools are actually in the national park, so can be used as day visitor. Parking is provided outside the homestead then it would be approx 200m walk to the pools.
Mataranka-Thermal-OasisWe decided we would stay the night at the homestead as we won’t be passing this way again for sometime. $24 for unpowered site, a case of pick your spot. They do have a designated dog camping section too as well as powered sites. Amenities were old and run down. There is a bar, meals can also be bought and there is live entertainment most nights. Which can be heard from pretty well anywhere.
Path-to-poolsFrom our campsite it was a very short stroll down to the hot pools, mostly on a metal board walk. The springs have been there a long time and were used by the early settlers. In WW2 soldiers decided to widen the narrow channel. The pool they build was used by officers only. After the war one of the soldiers leased Mataranka Homestead and opened it to the public. In 1975 the springs and surrounding land became part of a nature reserve and recently part of Elsey National Park. Bitter Springs is a more natural setting whereas the hot pools are like a commercial pool, with rock edges, rock steps etc. it would be more maintained so there were less slimy bits. Both are nice, it’s hard to pick between them.
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We went down to the pool after dark and had the pools to ourselves. It’s very dark with only a few lights. It is not lit up like the Mataranka Homestead website photo shows. The track down is very dark and has lots of hoppers like toads and kangaroos. The music went until 9pm, whip cracking went a bit longer and the general noise of people went on even longer.

Darwin

23/7/14 – 24//7/14 – We liked Darwin and can see ourselves coming back here. Pretty laid back, friendly people and not overly crowded. We had several walks on the Darwin Waterfront. Had fish and chips one night at Stokes Hill Wharf just at one of the arcade shops, was only so so. The next night we ate at Crustaceans and they were much nicer, friendly efficient and great food. 
Darwin-Waterfront Darwin-Waterfront-1 Wave-PoolWe walked through the WW2 Oil Storage Tunnels. Was very interesting, amazing feet of engineering at the time. One tunnel was 171m long 4.5m wide and 5m high and could hold 384 Ml. They were built during WW2 to store oil from safety from the Japanese bombing of Darwin, but were never actually used.
Darwin-Tunnels Darwin-Tunnels-1 Darwin-Tunnels-2 Darwin-Tunnels-3 Darwin-Tunnels-4 Darwin-Tunnels-5There are several information boards in the tunnel and scattered around Darwin about WW2. There is also a fairly new museum which we didn’t see this time.
Darwin-Tunnels-6 Darwin-Tunnels-7 Darwin-Tunnels-8 Darwin-Tunnels-9On Thursday night we went to the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets. We were there early so got a great close parking spot. The stall holders were still setting up. We had arvo tea, then did a walk around. People were really starting to pour in. The atmosphere of the place kept building all night, it was great. There were several different entertainers, one was a guy who did tricks with different things on fire, he was really great. There was a 2 man band where one played these drums things another on didgeridoos, playing I guess Aboriginal music. A group of young local girls got up and started entertaining the crowd. Only I think they have been watching Miley Cyrus too much, as there was a lot of twerking going on, least they were having fun.
Mindil-Beach-MarketsThere are 200 stalls, 60 of them food stalls and there was some yummy looking food from all sorts of nationalities at reasonable prices. Even some healthy choices. We did take our own tea but it was tempting to buy something. We did buy some fruit salad for desert and some raw cheesecake for the next day. The market stalls sold some great things as well. We managed to part with a few dollars. 
Mindil-Beach-Markets 1 Mindil-Beach-Markets 2 Mindil-Beach-Markets 3We kept seeing people carrying tables and chairs down to the beach area to have tea and watch the sunset. We didn’t bother but just before sunset we did pop down to the beach and was astounded at how many people were there, it was packed. We watched the sunset, some people clapped it and then we realized this massive number of people were going to be getting off the beach at once so we got out of there real quick.

All in all we had a great time and would highly recommend it.

The Oasis Caravan park we were told was the only place that allowed dogs in Darwin, so yep lots of people with dogs. Sites were too close, which is not good when you have chain smokers next too you. Trees above the sites dropped lots of yuck onto vans etc. our tropical roof has never had so much yuck on it, that will required coming off and getting a good wash when we get home. Very friendly managers but we wouldn’t stay there again.

Darwin Bound

22/7/14 – Was a bit of a restless night with a young child crying throughout the night.

We got up early to do the Tjaetaba Falls where we had camped. It is a 3.4km return walk over a narrow uneven rocky and sandy path. Just before the falls there is a small bit of rock hopping. You are greeted with a large plunge pool (not as big as Wangi) with a waterfall flowing into it. We had the whole place to ourselves. Our dip was brief as it was a little cool. We would suggest doing this fall first, because after you see Wangi and Buley Rockhole it won’t seem as spectacular.

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We walked back to camp, packed up, had a cold shower, morning tea and headed off to Darwin. We enjoyed our time in Litchfield National Park, it will be a place we look forward to coming back too. Even though it was pretty busy it absorbs the crowds well.

We called in at the Magnetic Termite Mounds, fascinating things. Then it was onto Darwin.

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We are staying at the Oasis Caravan Park 24km south of Darwin. It’s a small family operated business, very friendly people. The amenities were very clean, washing machines the cleanest we have seen. The sites are cosy, we have a drive through site but have to park the ute at the back as there isn’t enough room at the front. Don’t think the place would cope with too many big vans. Lots of trees and even some green grass.

We went into Darwin in the arvo to get a feel of the place and the lay of the land. Went for a walk and did some souvenir shopping in the CBD and had fish and chips for tea at the wharf. Then back home to camp.

Litchfield Delights

21/7/14 – Everyone at camp was in bed by 8.30pm. It was a quiet night and a peaceful and relaxing morning apart from a French tourist breaking out in song every now and then.

Today we went exploring to see what Litchfield has to offer and to say we were impressed was an understatement. It’s as good here as anywhere we have been this trip so far. Gorgeous clear swimming holes, with cascading waterfalls. Rock pools with natural spas to soak away the days troubles, stunning. The only thing that has been a blight is a fire that has spread smoke across the park at different times of the day. There are signs up warning about smoke hazard, it does however seem to be worst back at camp with large pieces of soot and ash fall on us as we sit.

First up was the Lost City, a 10.5km 4×4 track into sand stone pillars that look like a city of ruins. It was a popular spot with people coming and going.

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Next was Buley Rockhole, which is a series of cascading rock pools that has that wow factor. It’s a short 80m walk, we went for a look first camera in hand but when we saw the rock holes we had to go back and get the swimmers on. Mind you so did everyone else it was pretty busy, people coming and going. Some of the pools are very deep with waterfalls flowing into them. People would jump into the deep holes. We had a picnic lunch there and spent quite a bit of time going down the cascades exploring each rock hole.

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We reluctantly left Buley and went to Florence Falls, a double waterfall. It was also pretty awesome and has a plunge pool at the base. The short way is down 135 steps or a couple of Kms the long way. Since we just had a dip we just enjoyed looking at the falls from the viewing platform which is only a short walk.

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It is a 400m walk to the viewing platform above Tolmer Falls. All down hill, not to steep to come back up. This waterfall would be incredible in the wet season.

Tolmer Falls

Then it was back to Wangi Falls. We did the 800m return walk to the platform in the trees. Yes it’s in the trees but no view of anything. On the way we saw 2 boars with piglets, one crossed the path in front of us and ran off when it saw us. There are also flying foxes in the trees that make a bit of a racket and smell.

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By now we were hot and in need of a swim. So another dip in the Wangi swimming hole.

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Back at camp every site was full with people camping just outside the camping area and in the day use area.

Litchfield National Park

20/7/14 – As stated earlier we were going to go in the southern 4wd only track into Litchfield. Only when we got there, there were signs up saying the road was closed. Well at least into the campsites. Without more information whether it was just the campsites, the road into the campsites or the main road up that was closed we had no choice but to turn around and head back up to Adelaide River and come in the top entrance of Litchfield. We will find out once we get there what and if roads were indeed closed.

It took us longer than planned due to the detour but we were able to get to to Reynolds 4wd track campsite at Tiaynera Falls (Sandy Creek) which is only 9km from the main Litchfield road. The Reynolds 4wd track was closed after the campsite though due to bad erosion from the wet season, so we couldn’t have come up the southern entrance. Anyway we are here, this is a small camping area with 7 campsites, each with a fire place. They are pretty dusty but in a lovely bush setting. There is a toilet block with one flushing toilet and one cold shower. The day use area is very close to the camping area and when it gets full people park in the empty campsites. At present there are only 4 sites being used, so pretty relaxed and peaceful. Oh and to get here we did have to drive through a creek that has possible saltwater crocs in it, no walking that creek.

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After lunch we went to Wangi Falls which we knew was going to be very busy and it was. You can see why it is popular though, lovely double falls flowing into a huge plunge pool which was really lovely. Water was a little chilly but not too bad. We had fun with everyone else paddling over to the falls with our noodles and then later having a swim with the snorkel and goggles and looking at the fish. Have to say that these falls are just as good as what we saw on the Gibb bar Bell Gorge and it was only 140m walk on a paved track.

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On the way back to camp we called in to see Blyth Homestead Ruins. It was build in 1929 by the Seargent family as an outstation for the main Stapleton Homestead, they mined tin. It was abandoned in 1960. Makes you appreciate our comfy campers and homes.

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We had a delightful dinner with delightful company. Crispy Spanish Mackerel, served with a slice of lemon, chunky chips and garden salad on the side, best thing it was all free 🙂 . We were given the Spanish Mackerel at Middle Lagoon, we could of had more but didn’t know it was so nice, have enough for two more meals. The spuds and salad ingredients were given to us near the WA border, by some friendly tourists. And the delightful company was ourselves.

Katherine Hot Springs

19/7/14 – We have been looking forward to having a swim in the hot springs at Katherine again. We have the whole day in Katherine to enjoy them and do a bit of shopping.

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Our camp spot from the night before.

We had several long soaks in the hot springs which aren’t really that hot more like lukewarm, few degrees warmer might be nice but certainly lots warmer than cold.

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Katherine was packed, the local show was on and I think everyone had come into town.

We headed north late arvo. We took the turnoff to Daly River planning to come in the bottom end of Litchfield National Park. We found a place to stop for the night 34 kms along the road.

Back into Northern Territory

18/7/14 – Well that was our last night in WA and it was a peaceful one, we enjoyed looking at the stars before retiring to bed.

The last 50 odd Kms of Duncan Road has lots of rocky areas as well as flood dips. We were just saying how the tyres take a beating on this road when we did a tyre on the trailer, first one on the trailer ever. Like all things we like to do them in style and totally threaded the tyre. Mmm don’t think Chris could plug this one, as one tyre specialist said once, I think it’s stuffed. We haven’t seen any road trains on this road but the moment we are trying to change a tyre we get 2. They were both great slowed down and checked we were ok.

Stuffed

Well that was lovely. We stopped at a rest area for morning tea (WA time) and some foreign tourists came and asked us which direction we were heading. They had bought a big bag of fruit and veggies in Katherine but were heading into WA and didn’t know you couldn’t take them in, so we scored them all. So very nice of them, hope they have a wonderful and safe holiday in Australia.

We did a small top up of fuel at Victoria River Roadhouse @ $1.95 L, to get us into Katherine.

We stopped for the night 33km out of Katherine at an old gravel pit up a road off a rest area. Late tea by NT times, have to get used to the new time zone, we then had a fire and a nice peaceful night.

Fire