Sunday 31 July 2011

Last Part of Australia: Katherine to Darwin to Kakadu to Darwin

Hooray! The last bit of Australia has been done! Well, the riding part anyway.

I left off in Katherine last time, stayed in the Motel there to get everything charged again.

So. I got up moderately early and headed out to Katherine Gorge to have a quick look. I didn't know that the car park was on the flats at the lowest part of the gorge, I thought you'd come up to the edge of it saving me any effort in walking anywhere. I just went for a wander along in motorbike jacket/pants/boots to have a quick look at where the river left the gorge, but I couldn't see much except for the stairs to the top. Well then I went to the top in the heat, in my jacket, no water, and it took me quite a long time.

This is what I saw:

Looking up Katherine Gorge

Out of Katherine Gorge
Worth the walk, but should have left my jacket with the bike. I'm getting better at organizing what to take with me and what to leave with my bike wherever I go. It takes time to get these things sorted!

Next was the run north to see how far I could get. And it turns out that was just Adelaide River. Not Adelaide River Bridge where the jumping crocodile cruises are, but the township of Adelaide river, which has a roadhouse, and a train museum which hasn't opened yet. There are still lonnnngggg stretches of nothing out here.

In the morning it was a quick run into Darwin to get new tyres. Expensive new tyres. $493 new tyres. I don't have a job anymore so that's a huge hit to the budget, but I needed them. I could have had a set shipped here for less than that, but, poor planning of course.

The other thing I collected was my Carnet. This is the bit of documentation that will allow me to temporarily export and import the bike around the world without paying import duties. The only places I can't go are Iran and Iraq! :( More on that later! But because I was early in Darwin I headed back out to Kakadu until it was time to check in to the hotel I booked.

The Kakadu park entrance is a long way from Darwin, and there's not much to look at on the way. More dry bushland, similar to what you see on Cape York. The first night I stopped at the first big campground in the park which turned out to be a privately owned roadhouse.

The next morning I set out fairly early expecting the scenery to change, but it still didn't happen. I guess I was expecting whatever it was I saw on the Bush Tucker Man. There are little pockets of that, but not much. I guess I have to come back here in the wet season to see what it's like.

Jabiru is, nondescript. There is the Crocodile Hotel, and umm. Not much else. Again, not like I thought it was, or what I had seen on TV before.

Aww, but I... Oh. :(

Next up was Nourlangie Rock:
Rock art at Nourlangie Rock

Nourlangie Rock. That lone boulder up there on the second step from the top is a feather from someones headdress, that was put there after they broke incest laws and created the rainbow serpent. I'm not sure if I'm remembering that right, there was a sign there that explained it. 
I'm very very sure I've seen this on TV before. Something like Blinky Bill / Hunter / Totally Wild or something. There's one section of the walkway which must have been on several TV shows. Whatever show it was, It looks very different from what I thought it would look like. Maybe it's a dry season thing. Also the temperature was around 34 degrees that day. That night I stayed at Mardugal 2 which is a managed campground, it has showers and toilets and big open campsites. There were about 4 other people in the 10 sites there that night, prefect.

I went and had a quick look at Yellow Water in the morning, I think this is a famous one and might have been in the same TV shows I've seen.
Yellow Water
A Bird 
Annabangbang Billabong
 After this I headed out of Kakadu to get closer to Darwin for the following day. Had a plan of staying at Mary River but it was 4pm and this was the road in:
To Couzens lookout, Mary River
More dirt. There was a very deep sandy/dusty layer on top. Decided not to risk it and headed back out to the Bark Hut Inn for a noisy campsite.

Campsite rant:
I tend to try and set my tent up close to tables because I don't have one, and don't have room for one. Yet at most campsites I see there are caravans almost on top of the tables for some reason (most of the time after I've set up). Because they have one inside their van I guess that means that they need that extra one outside. Along with the other one I'm sure they're carrying somewhere. The moral of the story is, caravaners in the Northern Territory are the worst people on the planet :D

Bonus photos:
Milky Way
Humpty Doo
East Alligator River

Between Normanton and Cloncurry

Some Bark. And some focus.

Tuesday 26 July 2011

Georgetown to Katherine (Massive amounts of pics! (and text))

Been in and out of coverage lately so I haven't updated. Mostly in coverage, but when I'm camping somewhere I don't really feel like bloggerizing (it's a word, I made it up).

So, to sum up the past... 6 days?

After Georgetown it was another boring run over to Normanton, the trees change every so often but there wasn't a lot to see. A large majority is a sealed single lane with unsealed edges and I don't want to dive into the dirt when I see a road train, but because there are hills you have to brake very quick and dive off and hope you don't slip over in the dirt. I'd been to Normanton before in a school trip from a lonnngggg time ago, the only place I remembered was the hall where we played in. I drank at the purple pub (After being warned about it), but the Albion was better!

Next day it was the long run down to Cloncurry. I had planned to go the Savannah Way all the way into Darwin but it's dirt and I mostly wussed out, but I was also carrying a bottle of Royal Liquor still and you can't take alcohol into Doomdagee. So it was the long run down to Cloncurry where I would try and find Harpal. Turns out that's rather easy, if you search for his name on google you get his direct work number, but I could have used the phone book too... I had dinner with Harpal and his wife and energetic son, then it was back to the hotel. I stayed in a hotel so I wasn't intruding at very short notice, and also it gets cold there, very cold. Next morning it was up again and over to to visit on my way out, then I was off to Camooweal.

Cloncurry to Camooweal has hills to look at which was a change from the day before. There is Mount Isa in the middle but it's pretty much just a mine with houses and a McDonalds. On this day I also discovered my freshly extracted wisdom teeth may have caused a hole to form in the tooth in front and it's quite painful, but it will probably have to wait until Darwin. I arrived in Camooweal and, well, there's not much in Camooweal. Two caravan parks, a few houses, a pub and two service stations. I stayed at the Post Office Hotel in a pub room, possibly a mistake on a Saturday night there. I think the music stopped about 2am. But it was cold.

The next day I made it from Camooweal to Three Ways where the Barkly Highway joins the Stuart Highway. I'm not sure if I saw any corners that day. The speed limit was upped to 130 which seemed a tad ridiculous, so I sat on 120... There are only a couple of rest stops along the way, and the Barkley Homestead where I needed petrol. Otherwise a fairly uneventful boring straight line ride. I camped out the back of the Three Ways roadhouse that night and had planned an easy ride the next day (planned, not performed).

In the morning I headed south half way to Tennant Creek to look at the telegraph station and the devils pebbles (the marbles were too far in the wrong direction). Photos of that below. Then back to heading north. Again, mostly straight 130km/h roads. I stopped at Renner Springs for lunch, which was also the last time I saw my GoPro camera. It must have fallen off somewhere between there and Daly Waters. I also stopped at Elliot but I don't remember if it was there or not. Probably buy another one in Singapore where it's about $100 cheaper.

I had planned on staying in Elliot that night but after seeing the place I decided to keep going to Daly Waters. Far too many people there, all wanting to stay at the famous pub (like me), and I wanted to at least get some sleep and not make the same mistake as Camooweal so I headed back to the highway where there was another Road House that charged me $7 to camp, and gave me a free Schooner of  beer! I chose VB wisely as it was the most expensive and highest alcohol content. This was the place where I re-noticed how many Irish people are out here. Everyone working in the roadhouses seemed to be Irish. Strange. Why would you leave your cold, damp climate to come out to some of these places?

To today. Which, oddly enough, was another one of those straight road 130km/h deals. I understand why people say Australia is so big now, but they have it wrong, there's just nothing out here to stop and look at. I stopped in Larrimah for a(n expensive) home made pie. And then to Mataranka to look at the thermal springs. Stopped at both springs near the road briefly, pics below. And then on to Katherine to join the challenge in finding somewhere to stay cheaply. Some of the motels here are charging $150 a night for a room... So tonight I'm staying at a backpackers in a Motel style room for roughly half that.

If you plan on visiting the Northern Territory bring buckets of money.

And now for the massive amount of pics!:
I'm visiting all those places! Well, some.

Western Queensland landscape. Next time I'm this way I'm exploring those hills.

Mount Isa

On the way to Camooweal.

Old shopfront in Camooweal

My second border crossing!  Also notice the background? That's what it looks like for hundreds of kilometers.

Further in to the Northern Territory the vegetation turns into this.

Tennant Creek telegraph station.

Inside the blacksmiths at the Tennant Creek telegraph station

Devils Pebbles

Renner Springs roadhouse has hats. Daly Waters has bras [photo missing]

Whoops. Almost destroyed my bike. That strap was about a meter longer and it got caught in the wheel. It bent that PVC tube and gave me quite a fright...

The other end of that strap, safely wrapped between the sprocket and hub.  Anywhere else would have been a lot worse.

The river next to Mataranka Springs

Cabbage Tree Palms (I think)

Rainbow Spring at Mataranka

The water is very clear at Bitter Springs

More Bitter Springs

Heh. Not going there then...

Wednesday 20 July 2011

Cairns to Georgetown

Just some photos from today.
Junction Creek

Old bridge at Einasleigh River. Probably not wise to ride on it, all the concrete was cracking :D
The view back to Cairns

I've been there! Once before! A long long time ago!


Monday 18 July 2011

Cairns Coffee and Pies!

The top 4 coffees in Cairns as voted by me, are:
  1. Caffiend - It was almost like coffee syrup, that's the way it should be! The scrambled eggs were quite awesome, which is why Industry One is second. I should go back...
  2. Industry One - They roast their own beans here and it gives a very different taste, very smokey! I bought beans to take with me!
  3. Bang - The one that seemed to start all this in cairns, from what I'm told.
  4. Silk Caffe - Good, but lacking something...

Now to pies... I sampled many pies at Meldrums Pies in Paradise. Including the Steak Bacon and Cheese, Steak Kidney and Bacon, and the Caribbean Chicken (or "Crack Pie"). All good... But unfortunately none of them topped the Steak Bacon and Cheese pie from Queen of tarts. Or the Sausage Rolls. Meldrums may have all the awards, but Queen of Tarts makes a tasty pie. If I'm going to order the pies I've had on this trip it would be:
  1. Queen of Tarts - Steak Bacon and Cheese
  2. Big Mama's in Mt Larcom - Steak Kabana and Cheese
  3. Meldrums Pies in Paradise - Steak Kidney and Bacon

The dishonor list:
  1. Roundabout Bakery in West Wyalong - Complete failure pie. Not even worth stopping. Keep driving. Add this to your GPS to make sure you avoid it. (Am I going overboard?)

Cairns (mostly in pictures)

Been here for 9 days now, delayed my departure (hey that's becoming a theme...) to rethink my packing. Leaving tomorrow! I swear!

Lots of things have happened. I drank a lot of local coffee (which is very good now, considering it used to be the local crop). I ate lots of pie - pie scoring comes later. I caught up with a lot of people, but not everyone. Found out everyone knows each other, even more so than what I thought before. Discovered a familiar last name in the museum. Drove a car for the first time in 15 months. Found it odd to hear everyone saying it was cold at 19 degrees. Performed some minor bike maintenance. Had a birthday including drinking and an impromptu hallway rave. Won nothing on my birthday Gold Lotto. Went to Mosman to visit my Grandparents briefly. And also attended Steak Friday after having many many many thousands of emails on the subject all with attached monkey pictures.

Thanks to Heidi for letting me stay, and Cheryl for cleaning up after me!

Now for the photos!
Henry Ross Lookout, on the Kuranda Range Road. Used to live thataway--> 
My bike has friends! Big group of riders coming from Darwin to Cairns as a tour.

I used to live there!

Most weekdays were spent with this view. This particular one is from Silk Caffe.

I almost fell off the edge of the hill getting this one, probably best to stick to the designated trails...

Freshwater lookout, I think... Just near Copperlode Dam

New chain and sprockets time!

TIL that C45 and C49 are steel types. I thought it was the tooth count.

That's worn more than I thought it had.

Centenary Lakes

Port Douglas
Cairns! (swapped this one in cause the other was blurry!)

And one bonus video: