Jun 21, 2018

Mataranka - Roper Bar - Daly Waters - 2018

Katherine was next on the stop, we did a food and grog restock, pain in the butt because we had to wait until the grog shops opened at 2pm and then went and stayed at the Katherine Gorge Caravan Park and Dave and Jo booked a cruise up the Gorge, having been here previously and Kayaked up the gorge we were happy to sit around the pool and van. 

Mataranka was next on the map, we had stayed at the Homestead and at Territory Manor previously so this time choose to stop at Bitter Springs, again they are van parks and it was peak season time but we were looked after and given a large site beside each other. We checked out the hot springs at both Bitter and Mataranka but we all agreed the Bitter springs were the more natural and nicer. We did take a walk at Mataranka to another spring but after walking for what felt like an eternity and it was hot we were greeted with a No Swimming sign, perhaps put the sign at the start of the walk not the end. 

Vickie and Joanne at Mataranka Hot Springs

I think we stayed two nights, and i was happy to leave and get some free camping along the roads. We called into what was a free camp at Roper Bar but it had been closed down, we still had a bit of a look around and drove across the river for the obligatory photo. We checked out the old jail and what was left of the buildings before moving on to the Gulf Savannah and Tomato Island camp ground.

Tomato Island when we were last here seemed a bit feral to us and we did not get the warm fuzzy welcoming looks, but hasn't things changed. Now its a large well looked after camp ground with new amenities, and water taps available. It is very popular with the fishing nomads and just about everyone had a boat. The Roper River has some very large Saltwater Crocodiles and i think the bigger the boat the better. Each evening the camp has a happy hour and camp fire, we felt welcomed and had some interesting chats with other campers. Dave found someone who had made an auto adjusting free standing solar panel that tracked the sun and he was keen to find out more.

The next day we continued along the Savannah road stopping the night at Lomarium Lagoon, this is a very beautiful place with thousands of water Lilly's covering the lake, birds galore which i always love to see and at night we spotted plenty of big red eyes from the Crocs in the water. Vickie and I have camped here before by ourselves and the experience of being remote and so peaceful remains a wonderful memory. I was keen to show Dave and Jo Towns River where we had stayed before and saw a massive crocodile cruising along the river so after a great hearty breakfast we checked out the ruins at Saint Vidgeons and moved on. 

Thousands of Beautiful water lilly's

We only got another 30k along the road when the caravan wheels hit a massive bull dust hole, immediately followed by a water culvert, It felt like the car had lost power and i was thinking 'great', this is all i need after all the problems it had already had. So stopping the car and getting out to find we had lost a wheel on the van was actually a bit of relief, We had broken a stub axle, this is something i was well aware of, with some friends with the same era Bushtracker van's all having broken a stub axle. I kicked myself because all along it was my intention to change all the swing arms over to the stronger newer versions but i kept putting it off.

Sad Faces :-) But in reality,Shit happens and we deal with it.

You can see where the axle had been cracked for quite a while before finally snapping completely

Some Bush Mechanics soon had the swing arm chained up 
With only myself to blame, Dave and i did some bush mechanics using a length of chain to hold up the swing arm,i found the wheel 500 metres back down the road and around an hour later we had turned around heading back to Tomato Island. Fortunately there is phone signal there and a very good one due to the community across the river. It was now around midday Friday and i made a phone call to Simplicity, the makers of the suspension and Richard had a new swing arm ready waiting to be picked up that afternoon. We were expecting a wait of a week or more but to our great surprise we got a phone call Monday morning to say we had a delivery waiting for us at Katherine. Talk about happy.

As soon as i hung up we were all in the car heading back to Katherine, it was a 330klm drive one way but we were not towing and the NT speed limits on the highway is 130kph but 1st we had to drive back over all the corrugations to get to the highway. It was a long day but a relief to know we had a new swing arm and we could soon have it changed over and be on our way.  The next day with the help of another camper who had a battery powered rattle gun we had the arm changed over, a new brake drum fitted, wheel bearings re-packed and the spare wheel fitted. The one that went bush had destroyed the tyre but the rim and hub were still OK.

Now having broken one swing arm, i didn't want to tempt fate and continue on the Savannah, we suggested to Dave and Jo to continue on and we would catch up after i had organised and replaced the other three swing arms but they were happy to turn around and take the bitumen to Queensland. I thought having the other swing arms sent to Townsville would work out well but it didn't, the difference in time to get one swing arm sent to Katherine from Melbourne was 3 days if that, the time to get three freighted to Townsville took 3 weeks.This wasn't the fault of any transport company, it was simply because Simplicity had run out of stock and were making new suspensions as quickly as they could, I was lucky to get the one i did as it was the last in stock. 

Prior to us heading up the Gulf we had been in contact with Vickie's cousin Barry and wife Lis, they also have a travel blog 
and being retired Prison Officers their blog is called 'Two Screws Loose' They were heading West after attending a Lotus Caravan gathering at Kilkivan Qld, now that we were no longer heading North and taking the bitumen route we made loose arrangements that we may catch up at Daly Waters Hotel, which is what did happen. Considering the cousins had not seen each other for 40 odd years, We all had a great time catching up with stories of the past, travel stories, a good meal and fun night with music entertainment. The next morning we said farewell to Barry and Lis, with us heading East and they heading West

Daly Waters Hotel

Two Screws Loose, Lis and Barry

It is a lot busier than when we were last here
After batting horrible headwinds where fuel consumption plummeted we stopped a night at a camp beside a huge lake, so did what appear hundreds of others. The next day the decision was made that Dave and Jo would do some exploring of their own whilst we made our way to Townsville, unknown to us at that stage it was to be a long wait. 

It also gave me the opportunity to call into Moranbah and see a mate Matt Stockwell, the genius behind the Stocklock torque converter lock up kit. The installation of my kit by a company in Perth has caused nothing but problems and it was a huge relief to have Matt stop what he was doing and spend a couple of hours fixing the terrible install. I do believe a company is only as good as its worst worker and although i had been extremely stuffed around by the work done by Toyotune i was happy enough to see them take full responsibility, apologise and refund me my money. With one job completed i only had to sort out the remap engine tune that had also been done by them but that would have to wait.

Jun 15, 2018

Kununnurra - Lake Argyle

Next to visit was Kununnura, we stayed at the Ivanhoe Village van Park, as parks go it was OK, we didn't need much, just a place to park the van whilst we showed Dave and Jo around the area. We visited the Hoochery, the art galleries, Zebra Rock which was in the end stages of closing down as the property had been sold, drove across Ivanhoe Crossing for the obligatory photo's, went to the pub for an evening meal only to hear someone yell out "DAVE JO",  it was the people who we had been bumping into along the Gibb.

Dave had an issue with his car and a call to his mechanic back in Perth gave him some things to check so we spent the best part of the day removing the inter cooler from the engine and checking all electrical connections, we could find nothing obviously wrong and was running out of time so we took a drive to the Toyota dealer in town,upon pulling up outside Dave went to close the electric windows and they wouldn't close, the gremlins had just got worse. At 1st we got the "sorry we cant look at until Friday"today was Tuesday and we had hoped to be leaving the next day. After some more conversation with the office lady we found we all had something in common, Donnybrook WA,after that the service manager said he would get the mechanic to have a quick look and connect up the Tech stream computer system to see what they could find out.

With closing time almost upon the workshop the Mechanic took the car around the back and within 45 minutes returned with everything working as it should. The problems were, blown fuses, fuses put into wrong connections and some error codes that needed resetting. The fuses we had checked a dozen times and because Dave's 200 is a GX it has a lot of missing fuses because it doesn't have the options the fancier models have, Dave mistakenly was checking the fuses but putting them back in the wrong place. With that sorted all he had to do was pay the bill, now considering this was a squeeze in job that went on after hours we were pleasantly surprised to hear the word $100. So Thank You Kununurra Toyota.

The next day we were able to leave and head to Lake Argyle. This place had changed a lot since we were there last, no large infinity pool back then! and the size of the camping area had grown. We got the vans set up and hit the pool, one word FREEZING, the next word, amazing and more words after that .... well, you get the drift. We did the photo thing of us blokes in the pool, the girls were too soft to give the freezing water a go. That night we went to listen to an entertainer, he was very funny but actually very borderline risque for a family venue.

The next day was spent driving around the area, checking out the Lake Argyle from the viewing area's, Dave and Jo went to look at the Historic Durack Homestead which we had seen before so we left them to it and went back to camp. Whilst we were there some travellers arrived towing what looked like a Bushtracker, but there were things about it that didn't add up and made me doubt it was. After talking to the owner and builder i found out he made it himself and copied some of the Bushtracker design. I was impressed with what he had achieved.

Jun 11, 2018

GRR Bush Camp, Ellenbrae. HV8, El Questro, Wyndham 2018

Getting away from the usual Must Do Places we were all keen to just do some camping in the bush, we found two very beautiful places off the road by following some tracks. One was called Frog Creek and it lived up to its name with hundreds of croaking frogs, there was also a large water monitor that liked eating frogs and it wasn't the least concerned about us interrupting his dinner.

Places like that and another spot we found are far more enjoyable to us than the tourist stops. Camp fire and five million star sky, beautiful.

But travelling the Gibb, you have to call in at places especially as the Billy's had not been here before,Gibb River Station, Ellenbrae Station, Home Valley Station and El Questro were all places we visited.

At the GRR station i bought a music CD from the station owner / manager, it wont make the Hit Parade but it put us in the feel of being In The Outback,I don't think I've played it since though.

Ellenbrae was the go to place for a Coffee stop and Scones, Jam and Cream,they were nice BUT Vickie's are way better, Nice gardens though and some lovely finch's flying around the bird feeders. Years ago we stayed here and the campground was just a dusty unattractive area, nothing like the surrounds to the Station and shop.

Home Valley, this is the place to stop and wash away the dust and thirst, with two main camping areas, the Station and down by the Pentecost River,we chose the green grass of the Station with the swimming pool and Bar, we booked in for the evening meal which was very enjoyable with a guitar playing entertainer.

We left after two days but went and checked out the Pentecost River Camp, spectacular views especially at Sunset but we weren't hanging around another night at Home Valley prices so moved on to somewhere even dearer, El Questro.

Yes, we have been here before, checked out the attractions, gone for drives, It was busy and really not our scene, Dave and Jo took their opportunity to go up in a Helicopter but it meant staying an extra night, so we decided to leave them and head to Wyndham and have them catch up with us there.

The Caravan Park at Wyndham is quite good, we were not crammed in and had plenty of space. A mate told me to look out for any Gouldian Finches and i said i would, less than an hour after being asked i had found some and taken some photos to send to him, he couldn't believe my luck as he lived up in the Kimberley for many years and was a rare occurrence when he saw some.

We went up to the five rivers lookout for sunset and like previously it was very nice. One of our visits many years ago Vickie bought a carved Boab nut from a young local lad, Joseph Johnson, we asked another local if they knew him and it was sad to find out he had been killed by his wife a few years before.This wasn't a nice thing to hear and we felt very melancholy after wards.

Joseph Johnson, Boab nut carver [deceased]

Jun 8, 2018

GRR - Bell, Galvan, Manning & Mt Barnett Gorge's -2018

We left Windjana and headed back to the Gibb River Road, not long after that the road became dirt but so far it was nothing to be worried about, both our vans are off road style and corrugations don't bother them provided you use some common sense, lower all tyre pressures on car and van and drive to the conditions. The biggest worry is the single vehicle's that are in a hurry and appear on the bends on the wrong side of the road. Each year there are multiple and single vehicle accidents involving fatalities mostly because of speed and inattention.

Bell Gorge was our 1st stop and we stayed here two nights, we all walked to the beautiful three level water fall at the Gorge with Dave and I venturing down to the lower level for a swim. The water was freezing but refreshing at the same time. The girls found a nice rock pool and were soaking in that, in reflection that would have been a lot easier.

Galvan Gorge is another pretty place to check out, years ago you could drive in close but that's no longer allowed so its a kilometre walk in which is very easy. The gorge is small but it ticks the boxes, its a beautiful swimming place, it has a waterfall, Boab tree's and some Aboriginal art. It also has some resident Merton Water Monitors.

A few hours relaxing and checking out the area it was time to leave, we headed off and within minutes we got a call from Dave that his car wouldn't come out of Park,before we had a chance to turn around we saw them coming down the road. Luckily there is a button that can be pushed to release the automatic lever so he was able to get underway. It needed looking at though when we could.

Manning Gorge was another must see for the new to the Gibb travellers, here it was packed and we were lucky to find a place where we could park both rigs. These camp area's are all controlled by the Parks and Wildlife service so there is a cost.

The next day Dave and Jo walked to the waterfall at the end of a reasonably long at times difficult walk climbing over rocks. We have done it before so choose to stay down at the large swimming area that needs to be crossed to venture on the walk. They have a aluminum punt there now attached to ropes that you can pull yourself across on, i snorkelled around looking for any lost treasures from previous visitors but found nothing. Last time we were here we took our Kayak and explored further up the river.

It made Dave and Jo's afternoon when two JB Scorpion Sting caravans arrived, no different to us when we see a Bushtracker though.

Mount Barnett was our next stop, here we walked what seemed like an eternity following a long gorge, Vickie and I decided to call it enough and return back to the car's, on the way back we came across some other travellers,we asked them if they see two people ahead, its Jo and Dave and to tell them we had turned back. Well the number of times we bumped into that group at different places was amazing, we would be minding our business and hear a call, Dave and Jo !! and there they were  .. it was so funny. I guess when your travelling the same direction you are going to keep meeting people you have seen before.