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