Week 4 – Lawn Hill, Nathan River, Roper Bar, Mataranka, Litchfield
Today we left Lawn Hill for the Northern Territory. We decided to take the route through Kingfisher Camp or KFC as it is known. The drive from Lawn Hill to KFC was an excellent run. It appears that not many people travel this route, and the roads are more a 4WD track than a highway. Watch out for some of the bull dust holes, and be prepared for the gates which need opening and closing as you go through the various cattle properties! KFC looks a great camp site, being alongside a big water hole capable of supporting fishing and boating. The water hole must have been 7kms long and very deep.
Once we returned back to the main road to NT we came into Hellsgate Roadhouse. Diesel was $1.889 per litre, the most expensive we had seen so far. We held off getting fuel, as we were told that it was closer to $1.59 per litre 320kms further on. Road was very rough to the border and improved marginally when we passed into NT.
We were lucky enough to camp next to the Calvert River tonight. The campsite was a chance find and a magic photo opportunity. The rock formations here are unique. There is sedimentary rock in multiple layers with conglomerate rock layered on top. Many small waterfalls cascade into the River, from either bank. Tonight we will sleep to the sound of rapids.
Today we are off to Borroloola to stock up on supplies and then onto the Southern Lost City and Butterfly Springs. Our fuel gauge gave up the ghost about 10am, we think mainly due to the large amount of corrugations we have traversed. We will now have to guess fuel usage based on mileage as getting access to the fuel sender unit in the fuel tank is not an option while the vehicle has a drawer system in it.
Borroloola was larger than we expected and had a large indigenous population. We found 3 small supermarkets, but still found it hard to find fresh vegies and some staples. There was not a single 2 litre milk in town.
We arrived a few hours later at the Southern Lost City. This is a sandstone mountain range that has been weathered away over the years to the point where it now appears as a mass of tall skyscrapers. It was difficult getting a large selection of photos, being so close to the subject and because of its massive size. We walked around and through the massive pillars for an hour before we headed off to Butterfly Springs.
Butterfly Springs has 2 attractions… springs you can swim in and yes you guessed it, butterflies. Thousands and thousands in close against the cliffs. After we settled in, we had the pleasure of meeting BJ. BJ stands for Brian Joseph Patrick O’Neill and he wouldn’t want us to tell you his age, but this we can tell you, his number plate is one of WA’s originals and he was a great wag. We sat round the camp fire and sang songs till late. You may have guessed that BJ is Irish, but you should have heard his joke-a-minute routine. He made our week. A wonderful, wonderful person with an amazing voice. Will be sad to see him head back towards Northam WA tomorrow. Oh BJ had a small tin box (mini oven) on the top of his engine into which he would put a few sausage rolls when he started driving for the day… ready by 10.30am for eating. Perfect temperature we are told! And yes, he even had the tomato sauce close by under the bonnet.
Today has been declared a day of rest. A few minor items to address on the car today, eg a minor adjustment to the clutch, fix some squeaks. Chores done, time to do some swimming and relaxing by the springs. mmm.
Had a very enjoyable night talking to Alison and Terry, from Darwin, on a neighbouring campsite. You really do meet some great people out here.
A driving day today. Travelled from Butterfly Springs to Mataranka.
Took a detour down a dusty track (OK out here all tracks and roads are dusty) to a place called Rocky Bar Crossing. Amazing rocks here and you would swear some of them were man-made, eg the crossing pictured below. These natural crossings hold the salt water back of the ocean in times of extreme tides. Considered a camp site for the night here in the shade of some huge paperbarks (Def. anything taller than you car in the outback is big) but decided to move on as it was very hot and there had been recent fires, and also the earliness in the day.
Visited Roper Bar general store. Store was well stocked but he fuel was a little expensive @ Diesel 198 cents per litre.
Last night we stayed in Elsey National Park near the Mataranka Hot Springs. More minor repairs – needed to reconnect the airflow pipe to the snorkel. Just another small repair.
Katherine, the largest town we have seen in days, meant we stopped to do some grocery shopping and have our gas bottle refilled. Alison found the local beauty parlour who told her that tonight was the Masonic Ball in town. The road and rail bridges were marked with a scale going to 18m or so to indicate flood levels. We are told that it went very close to that in Feb this year.
Edith Falls camping grounds were dominated by its very green grass; we had forgotten what it looked like. In the end, we camped on the Edith River between a seasonal lagoon and the river, as we couldn’t get a suitable site at the camping grounds. The bird life around us was amazing. We were kept company by about 30 black cockatoos. We were inspired by fire we had with BJ, so we had our own camp fire that night.
After more visits from the local bird life, we went back to Edith Falls this morning in the cool and did the 3km walk / loop. The swimming pools looked great and we both wished we had bought our swimmers along with us.
At Pine Creek we stopped for lunch. The lookout casts a view over an old open cut mining pit that has been filled with water. The water is 135m at its deepest and holds 6800 mega litres. It took 14 months of diverting the local river to fill it. Also took the time to look around their railway museum. They have the steam loco there from a film Alison worked on many years ago called “We of the Never Never”. It is an 1877 Beyer Peacock Steam Loco and Carriage, which is believed to be the oldest restored locomotive in Australia.
WWII seemed to be on the agenda today. We visited 2 disused air force bases including Fenton Airfield. As well as finding the airfield plane grave yard, we also happened to find a memorial site for a B24 Liberator Bomber A72-88 crash. The plane crashed at 23.55 hrs on Feb 2 1945 after a 12 hour offensive in cyclonic weather. We left the site as we found it and hope others do the same to preserve the site.
Decided to stay at the Douglas Daly Camping ground and spoil ourselves with a swim and a drink in the bar this evening.
Today we left Douglas Daly Camping Area and visited the Douglas Hot Springs. The springs were on the side of the Douglas River and fed hot water into the cool waters of the river.
On to Litchfield National Park via Batchelor where we stopped for lunch. Bachelor is green and well kept, a gorgeous township. From Bachelor we headed to the magnetic termite mounds which are just incredible. Looking at the north / south profile, they are thin, but the east west profile, flat and tall.
From there Buley Rockhole called us for a swim. Soaking in the natural spas/pools is just so relaxing. Just magic.
Florence Falls 4WD camping area was home for the night. Firewood is scarce, but we were determined. This ends another great day and week.
Stay tuned as the adventure continues……