A Travellerspoint blog

August 2017

Savannah Way Part 1

Katherine, Mataranka, Butterfly Sprijngs, Southern Lost City

sunny 33 °C

An overnight stop was required in Katherine to restock, get the battery in the camper replaced under warranty and to get an upper coil spring rubber replaced on the car which was making an annoying squeaking noise. We chose to stay at the North Bank Caravan Park this time as it was $20 cheaper than the others in town and turned out to be fine for the one night.

The car was ready to go around 3pm the next day and we drove out through Mataranka to Bitter Springs to float down the stream in the warm clear water with a dozen other travellers. We did two circuits of the stream which meanders through lush vegetation till you come to a some steps where you exit and walk back along the path to either repeat the experience or go back to your car. It was getting late so we dried off a little and then drove out to the Jalmurark campground in Elsey National Park to camp for the night. This was a fantastic campground with large well separated sites in a bush setting that had wood barbeques and picnic tables for each site and great amenities with hot showers. The campground is large and there weren’t many people camped there the night we stayed so it was very peaceful apart from the wild donkeys nearby which called out occasionally. We will return to Elsey National Park in the future to spend some time exploring the park.

The next morning we had breakfast, packed up and drove down the road towards Mataranka to visit the Mataranka Hot Springs at the homestead. After having been to Bitter Springs we weren’t expecting much in comparison but we were surprised at how nice these springs were. You walk to the springs through a tall rainforest environment where a large edged pool with clear warm water awaits. It was around 9am and there was only three other people in the spring so we enjoyed a lengthy soak in the clear warm water before getting back in the car and heading onto the Roper Highway to travel the Savannah Way through Limmen National Park.

There was plenty of road works happening along the Roper Highway where they are widening the single lane bitumen to double lane. Once the bitumen ended we were surprised by the good condition of the road all the way to Roper Bar where we took a wrong turn thinking there was a short cut via Ngukurr as it seems to show on the Hema map but as we found out there is no bridge over the Roper river here. Ngukurr is an aboriginal community which had a general store that also supplies fuel so we pulled up to get some diesel and the streets surrounding the store were filled with locals yelling at each other and threatening violence. The store owner told us that there had been a lot of violence here in the last week resulting in a death and him having to close the store a couple of days previously. He said the police are unable to control the situation and while we were filling up with fuel some police arrived and moved the milling crowd down one street and away from the store. The police then told us to leave town quickly by taking a detour around the mob. The place was like a war zone and very scary and we were happy to get out of there quick smart.

Once back at Roper Bar we stopped beside the river crossing for lunch and then pushed on along the dirt till we reached Butterfly Springs late in the afternoon after a long day of driving. Butterfly Springs was a lovely spot to camp overnight, there is nice waterhole close to camp to have a swim, with water coming out of a high rock face into the pool and lots of butterflies staying cool in the shade of the gorge. The small campground was quite popular and full by dusk.

Our destination the next day was Lorella Springs which was only about 70km away so we had a morning swim and a leisurely breakfast before hitting the dirt again. Before Lorella Springs we called in to the Southern Lost City which was 3km off the road to the car park where there is a 2.5km loop walk which takes you through the amazing rock formations and up high onto a ridge where there are great views of the surrounding country. This lost city was way better than the one in Litchfield and is well worth doing the loop walk which we really enjoyed.

About 5km before the turn off into Lorella Springs we came across an accident where a motorbike rider who was part of a group of four who were camped next to us at Butterfly Springs had hit a deep sandy patch in the road and lost control and crashed at 100km causing serious injury and a totaled bike. We stopped to see if we could help but luckily one of the riders had a satellite phone and had called for an air ambulance which was on its way. The injured rider was lying on the side of the road under a tarp with his mates telling him not to move as he was complaining of neck pain, his helmet was smashed so the impact with the ground must have been great. We just hope he is ok. We left them with a request for us to get someone from Lorella Springs to come out with a ute to put the damaged bike on.


Posted by OzJourney 17:30 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Kakadu Part 2

Southern Kakadu

sunny 34 °C

A long five hour drive from Garig Gunak Barlu National Park saw us arrive in Jabiru around midday where we needed to get some supplies and fuel before setting up camp at Kakadu Lodge again for an overnight stay. The following day we were headed to Gunlom to stay for two nights but first we detoured 12km off the bitumen to have a look at Maguk. The dirt road in was heavily corrugated so the short drive was bone shaking but worth the effort as Maguk is a beautiful spot.

An easy shaded 1km walk takes you through monsoon rainforest beside the crystal clear creek to a waterfall flowing into a large pool which is a lovely swimming spot. There were probably a dozen people at the falls when we arrived and after a nice swim we made our way back to the car park where a tow truck from Katherine was about to load a 2wd car onto its tray. Why people in stock standard 2wd cars drive on these tracks which are clearly marked 4wd only is baffling, the cost to tow that car back to Katherine would be enormous. On the way in we passed a hired 2wd campervan driving out at snail’s pace trying to avoid the suspension disintegrating, what is wrong with these people, they haven’t got a clue.

Gunlom has a huge campground which had a small number of campers there during our stay so we were able to get a nice shady spot. The view of the escarpment from camp and the surrounding woodlands makes for a picturesque campground. Our timing for driving on freshly graded roads has been impeccable and Gunlom was no exception, the road in was excellent having been freshly graded. After setting up camp and some lunch it was down to the plunge pool which is just a short stroll from camp to cool down in the huge pool. Later that afternoon we climbed the rocky track up to the top of the falls and swam in the infinity pool which gives amazing views out over the surrounding hills and woodlands. We stayed up there until sunset which just had a little cloud to make it a colourful end to a great day.

Next morning we drove out to the Yurmikmik walking tracks car park to walk the 8km return track out to Motorcar Falls. This walk is quite easy but you wouldn’t want to do it in the afternoon heat as there is very little shade. It took us about an hour to walk in to this quiet shady pocket of rainforest with a crystal clear deep pool beneath high cliffs with a small amount of water cascading down the rock face. The water temperature was just perfect for cooling down from the walk and to have a swim in the clear turquoise water. We had the falls all to ourselves for half an hour before another couple arrived and passed no other walkers on our way out.

Gunlom was the highlight of Kakadu for us, the beauty here is stunning, there is easy access to great swimming holes, the campground is excellent and it was totally uncrowded. Motorcar Falls should not be missed if staying at Gunlom. We have thoroughly enjoyed our time in Kakadu and sad it has to end but we have a lot more of Oz to see yet and we need to keep moving.


Posted by OzJourney 20:09 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Kakadu Part 1

Northern Kakadu

sunny 34 °C

Our plan was to stay at Shady Camp for two nights to see if we could catch a barramundi but our plans changed when we found the place to be a construction zone. They were in the midst of building a new boat ramp next to the barrage where you fish from, and the amount of noise and dust was enough to make us change our minds and only stay one night. The construction noise scared off both the fish and the crocodiles which are the two main reasons to stay here.

Instead we moved on the next day to Kakadu Lodge and Caravan Park in Jabiru which had a nice unpowered section where you choose where you want to camp. The facilities here are great with good amenities, a great pool and garden area with bar and bistro at the same price you pay for a basic camp site in Kakadu. We used this as a base to explore the northern section of Kakadu before traveling up to the Cobourg Peninsula for a week and then returning to visit the southern end of Kakadu.

The afternoon of our arrival in Jabiru we headed out to Ubirr to hear a ranger talk about this famous rock art site, admire the huge natural gallery of paintings and to climb the rock to watch the sunset. On climbing up to the rocky lookout the first glimpse of the lush green Nadab floodplain below stretching out to the horizon was something we will never forget, it was astonishingly beautiful and peaceful. The rock art was great but that view as the sun was setting was a truly magical experience.

The next day we drove south to Nourlangie where we saw some more interesting rock art and climbed up to the lookout which gave nice views of Nourlangie Rock and the savannah woodlands and escarpments. Next stop was Anbangbang Billabong where we walked the 2.5km loop around the billabong. There was quite a lot of bird life around the billabong which you could view from a number of car parks along the road so the walk was not necessary as nothing was gained other than some exercise in the heat. Our last stop for the day was Nawurlandja lookout which was a 300 metre climb up a steep slope which gave nice views of the escarpment, Nourlangie Rock and Anbangbang Billabong.

The pool at Kakadu Lodge has been a godsend as the weather here has been unseasonally hot so after a morning of walking in the heat it is nice to come back for a refreshing swim during the hot afternoons. Our last day here was a busy one, we had booked a Yellow Waters Sunrise cruise and had to be at Cooinda by 6:20am so had to leave camp by 5:30am. Well the cruise lived up to our high expectations as we had read good reports about it. The boat driver was very good at spotting and getting close to the large range of wildlife that was present around the billabong and the South Alligator River.

Max is a large male crocodile who rules the area and he is not scared of boats so we were able to pull up beside him and get a very close view of this magnificent specimen. We saw a number of other female crocodiles at close range but they wouldn’t let us get too close. The bird life here is incredible and not scared easily by the boat. This was a fantastic cruise with a buffet breakfast afterwards back at Cooinda Lodge, well worth the $99 each.

After our buffet breakfast we decided to drive down to Jim Jim Falls which is 50km of dirt road off the Kakadu Highway. We were in luck with the road as the grader had graded the entire road on our side on the way in and finished the other side before we returned so it was an easy smooth drive. It is only a 1km walk to the falls from the car park but the going is tough as you have to scramble over rocks nearly all the way. There was only a trickle coming over the falls into the cold dark pool below which we avoided swimming in, instead preferring the sandy beach waterhole just below the main pool. The water here was a nice temperature and we enjoyed a few swims to cool down before making the trek back to the car. The walk is shaded most of the way and the scenery is nice so even though the falls were a trickle Jim Jim Falls is well worth the drive. On our arrival back at Jabiru we had to prepare for our week long trip up to the remote Cobourg Peninsula.


Posted by OzJourney 20:03 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

Garig Gunak Barlu National Park

Cobourg Peninsula

sunny 34 °C

Garig Gunak Barlu National Park is located 570km northeast of Darwin on the Cobourg Peninsula. The park includes the entire peninsula, the surrounding waters of the Arafura Sea and Van Diemen Gulf, and some of the neighbouring islands. The park contains sandy beaches, dunes, coastal grasslands, mangroves, swamps, lagoons, rainforest patches, coral reefs, sea grass meadows and rich marine life. You need to apply for a permit to visit the park which we applied for 6 weeks before hand. The cost is $232 per vehicle which covers camping for 7 days and a transit fee through Arnhem Land.

There are two campgrounds, one for generators and one without generators, the latter being the better campground. The facilities here are excellent with composting toilets that don’t smell, hot showers, and each campsite has a BBQ fireplace, aluminium picnic table and shade sail. The campsites are huge and private with protection from wind and good for solar panels.

To get to the park you have to cross the East Alligator River at Cahills Crossing which is affected by tides so you have to time your crossing to avoid two hours either side of high tide on the bigger tides as we encountered. It took us 5 hours to reach the campground from Jabiru with us leaving at 6:30am and arriving around 11:30am. The road condition was good for most of the journey, there were some corrugated sections and washouts that were hard to see so you had to be careful but overall a nice drive through some beautiful country.

There were other campers here but most places you went you didn’t see another person. A lot of the campers are fisherman with boats who would be gone most of the day out fishing and the remainder older travellers. Each morning we would be up before sunrise to walk the beautiful beach in front of the campground and not see another person. There are crocodiles here but we didn’t see one, however you could see their tracks up the beach where they would cross the road to go into the billabong during the day. There were plenty of turtle tracks where they had crawled up the beach to lay their eggs.

Some of the things we did here were driving around the Wetlands Track which takes you through the bush around the large billabong where we spotted a group of Banteng Buffalo originally introduced from Bali and are now an endangered species in their native habitat. The coastal drive takes you around the remote coastline past numerous bays with sandy beaches, rocky points and blue water. Oysters and mud crabs can be procured from the rocky areas but you need to be careful when lifting rocks as we came across a deadly blue ringed octopus in one rock pool. Beachcombing was another favourite activity with the beaches covered in shells of all shapes and sizes.

Sadly the land based fishing was not so successful with just a few emperor to show for it. However if you have a boat you are in a fishing paradise, the amount of fish caught here by boaties is phenomenal. The ones we spoke to threw back a lot of their catch as there was just too much, they were catching nice tuna, reef fish, trevally etc and we were given a beautiful tuna which will last us a number of meals.

The week went by very quickly and we were sad to leave this beautiful place. The sunrises and sunsets here are stunning and the sense of isolation, natural beauty, wildlife and pristine beaches made this a memorable stay. We will be back here in the future with a boat which will add a whole new dimension to a magic place.


Posted by OzJourney 02:44 Archived in Australia Comments (0)


The Adventures Of Mossy And Baldy And Their Better Halves

semi-overcast 33 °C

A late night flight from Darwin to Bali got us to our hotel in Seminyak around 2:30am to find they had no booking for us even though we booked the room seven months prior. As luck would have it they had a room vacant so we dumped our luggage and went straight to bed. At breakfast that morning we caught up with our good friends Kate and Peter who had flown in from Melbourne two days ago. It was great to catch up again after being away for six months.

Our time in Seminyak was spent reading by the pool, swimming, having massages and some retail therapy for Deb. I was up at dawn each morning for an early surf then back for breakfast. On the second mornings surf I was coming in and paddled to catch what looked like a small shore break wave which became large suddenly and broke at the rear of my board forcing the nose to rise viciously, tearing the board from my hands and slamming into my face. The force was so great it cut my nose and pushed my front tooth right through my bottom lip. I had blood streaming down my face from my cut nose onto my board and could hardly stand up as i was almost knocked unconscious. Anyway I made it back for breakfast with a swollen lip and nose and the bleeding had stopped by then. It has taken 3 weeks for my lip to heal.

After four nights in Seminyak we caught the fast boat across to Nusa Lembongan, a small island to the east of Bali with good surf, snorkelling and a more relaxed pace of life than the mainland. We have stayed here a number of times and like the more traditional island lifestyle it offers. Things are changing here however and the once quiet island is becoming popular with Chinese tourists who arrive in large numbers which means the roads have become busy and the once peaceful natural wonders are now crowded. Unfortunately the world is shrinking and the less visited places are where people want to be, so we may have to look for another little piece of paradise somewhere else for a future trip
We stayed in a nice villa on the cliff tops overlooking the ocean with good views of the surf breaks and across the water to mainland Bali where the towering Mt Agung would occasionally appear through the almost constant cloud it attracts. The way to get around Nusa Lembongan is by motor scooter so we hired one for the week and together with Kate and Peter we had a great time riding around the island admiring the scenery and visiting its beaches. We also rode across the yellow suspension bridge which takes you across to the neighbouring island of Nusa Ceningan. There are some great lookouts here and a nice secluded beach as well as some rugged coastline.

The original suspension bridge collapsed killing a number of locals in 2016. The new yellow bridge was opened in February 2017 and is slightly wider than the old one. We did a cliff jump at Ceningan Point which is also a surf break and Peter managed to get a flat tyre on the scooter which resulted in a humorous stop at the local mechanic shop to get a new tube. One day we went on a boat trip through the mangrove forest where they take you in a wooden boat with the pilot using a bamboo pole to push the boat through the channels in the forest. The fresh local produce is a real treat here and we had many wonderful meals at various restaurants around the island, especially the fresh fish.

A week soon went by and we bid farewell to Kate and Peter as they headed back to Melbourne while we went to Ubud for another three nights. One afternoon in Ubud it actually rained which is something we hadn’t experienced for many months so was a bit of a novelty. All too soon we were back on the plane heading back to Darwin to resume our big lap. We stayed one night in Darwin to restock and then the next night back at Zanadu in Humpty Doo before setting off to Shady Camp in the Mary River National Park.


Posted by OzJourney 01:54 Archived in Australia Comments (0)

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