Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Farewell, and Hello

I'm sitting here watching the sun play over the surface of Uluru. A fitting end to my four month trip around WA and NT. Now I head south, back to Adelaide and home.

Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park, NT

I've driven just over 20,000km, spending $4,500 on petrol. More importantly, I've walked over 600km on a dozen or more trails, spending five weeks - over a quarter of my holiday - on walking trails. I've been to many special places and met some cool people. Maybe I've learnt a thing or two as well. Australia is much vaster than I imagined, it is full of life, there doesn't seem to be any emptiness out there.

Thanks for all your comments and emails along the way, I'm glad you've enjoyed reading my blog as much as I have writing it.

Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park

It's an image every Australian has been overexposed to. Uluru. The Rock. I didn't have high expectations, but when I first saw it on the horizon, I was still left breathless. It really is awe insprining.

Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park, NT

The rock climb. I'd be interested to know, how many Australians who visit the park do the climb. Is it mostly internationals? The climb is not noted on the map amongst the other walks, the distances and times are not mentioned. There is no information on how to access the walk, only a request not to climb it, and safety advice should you wish to, including listing the symptoms of a heart attack.

The national park was created in the 1950s, the land excised from the adjoining Aboriginal reserves created in the early 1920s. In 1983 the federal government agreed to close the climb. In 1985 the park was returned to the local indig people, on the condition the land be leased to the government - to be jointly managed as a national park - and they reneged on the climb - it was to remain open. There is no longer any real discussion as to whether the climb should be open or not, it now a matter of when it will be permanently closed. Last year, in a draft of the next 10 year management plan, it was recommended that the climb should be permanently closed.

Uluru or Ayers Rock? Well, since dual naming was officially adopted in Australia in 1993, either, both. So in December 1993 Ayers Rock was renamed Ayers Rock / Uluru. Then, in 2002, the order was reversed, Uluru / Ayers Rock. Most Australians though simply refer to it as Uluru. The road signs are a real mixture, near Alice, Uluru or the dual name. Closer to the rock, they revert to using Ayers Rock. In the national park, exclusively Uluru.

Then there is Yulara, the town created in 1984 some 20 kilometres from the rock. When it opened, all the existing motels, airstrip and other buildings at the base of the rock were demolished and the land remediated. The road signs point to Yulara, but when you get there, you are left wondering if you are about to turn off into the town or not. There is no mention of the Yulara name, it is called Ayers Rock Resort. The town was created by the NT government - hotels, motels, caravan park, supermarket, all the hallmarks of a designer town. When the town in it's enterity was divested of by the government to a private company in 1997, that company adpoted the name Ayers Rock Resort. No Uluru, no Yulara.

Modelling the socks and sandals look, my feet were too injured for those hiking boots, I hiked the short circuits of Kings Canyon, Kata Tjuta / The Olgas, and a walk I was particularly looking forward to, the base walk around Uluru.

The Valley of the Winds walk, through Kata Tjuta / The Olgas, is pretty special. We are not overexposed to images of the Kata Tjuta, so it is all a pleasant surprise. Just 30 kilometres from Uluru, each visible from the other, they are similar, yet very distinct from each other. Uluru is an inselberg, the term monolith now frowned upon. Contrary to popular belief, it is not Australia's largest inselberg. Just down the road, it number three, Mt Cromer. Think western movie, Utah, the granite plug look. Over in WA, Mt Augustus claims the first prize. 1,000 kilometres inland from the coast, it looks every part a mountain, covered in trees and plants, and nothing like a single rock. Uluru, the second biggest, but every bit rock. Kata Tjuta is a different type of rock to Uluru, Uluru being granite, Kata Tjuta being conglomerate. It is a a series of 36 steep-sided domes, plenty of trees and grasses spread throughout it. Pretty special walking.

I saved the best till last for my four month holiday. I had been looking forward to this, the 10 kilometre base walk around Uluru. To see it close up, to see the waterfalls and vegetation that benefits from the rainfall running off the steep sides.

Uluru Base Walk map

Download kml file of the Uluru Base Walk to view in Google Earth or adapt to use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit

The Valley of the Winds Walk, Kata Tjuta

Download kml file of the Valley of the Winds Walk in Kata Tjuta to view in Google Earth or adapt to use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit

Ten very stupid things

What would a travel blog be without a list of the ten most stupid things I have seen people do in these last four months? Well, here she is, in no particular order.

  1. Two lovely, albeit stupid, Canadians cooking sausages over the fire, one sausage at once, neatly skewed on a 25cm wooden skewer - too short to be able to hold close to the fire. Result: burnt outside of snag, uncooked inside, hot fingers. They were lovely people but.

  2. A backpacker provoking a snake with a stick. "It's safe," he tells me, "the stick is longer than the snake." It was, or so he thought, a rare yellow taipan snake, very poisonous, prior to the introduction of anitvenom in 1984 there were no known bite survivors.

  3. Driving a 2WD car - not the stupid bit - wait for it, on the wrong side of a dirt road - the driver had found the so-called Sweet Spot on the road. Problem? Two relatively fast travelling 4WD's approach each other, the 2WD is lost in a cloud of road dust, head on collision between the oncoming 4WD and the 2WD. Bloody dangerous, bloody stupid.

  4. Driving a 4WD vehicle on a 4WD track, 4WD mode not engaged - to save fuel - tyres at full bitumen pressure - too lazy to deflate - and with a very inexperienced dirt road driver - second time on a dirt road. Result? Vehicle roll-over, a 3,000km emergency medical airlift for a fractured vertebrae victim, uninsured car a write off, a true holiday-ruiner (I didn't see this, a friend of a friend.)

  5. The Top End. Asking at a roadhouse for the weather report. Reply? "Look outside, same tomorrow as today. Same next day too." To be honest, I almost fell for this one too, but I goofed out on asking, I had an instinct if I might be ridiculed.

  6. Hiking 12km in thongs along a rocky path in Katherine Gorge. Maybe this one is undeserved, I've spent the last three days walking in sandals due to my injured feet. Maybe he was just a very tough guy, or just stupid, dunno.

  7. Driving with a broken windscreen. Not a problem if you do it right, I saw a few cases. This one though, exceptionally stupid. Shattered but intact windscreen, 20cm hole punched through driver's main field of view, covered in a clear - well, clear-ish - plastic bag. Vehicle seen driving out of a major town in the NT, one where I know there was a windscreen replacement workshop.

  8. Driving a 4WD with over-inflated tyres on a sandy track. Common advice, let the tyres down to 20psi. They were very clearly struggling to drive the vehicle, I followed them for many kilometres. They had reduced their tyre pressure by 10psi, to 35psi, the recommended tyre pressure for the rear wheels on a bitumen road. Same car model as mine, so I was quite familiar with the recommended tyre pressures. Even when they asked me, they decided to disregard the manufacturer's label on the car concerning tyre pressure, and 20psi, that's absurd, or so they thought. Keep battling mate, and damaging every track you drive on.

  9. Dropping stones off a cliff into the Katherine River, to test the water depth - as if they could even hear the rock in the water - so they could jump the eight or so metres. Incidentally, a saltie was found in the river a few weeks later.

  10. Free camping in Kakadu National Park, on Aboriginal land. Stupid, but it gets better. Lighting a campfire, which was easily seen from the nearby official campsite with the ranger in attendance. There is a $5,500 fine per person for leaving the road and being in an unauthorised area, including free camping. And this before we even mention the respect thing, it is, after all, the local indig folk's land they are letting us cross.

Fuel economy of a 1997 Mitsubishi NJ Pajero

This is, without doubt, the most boring blog post ever. I include it here, tucked between some more interesting posts, not for my friends to read, but so the great Google can gobble it up and spit it out to fellow travellers who might, like myself some six months ago, want to know these details.

The fuel economy for city driving for a 1997 NJ Mitsubishi Pajero is 15.0L/100km, for country driving 14.9L/100km. I include that statement for Google's benefit, the detail to explain that is below. I don't have the foggiest idea what it uses in city driving.














No roof rack






13.4L **



Roof rack*









*Roof rack loaded only with additional spare tyre
**Out of interest, with a fierce tailwind, this dropped to 11.8L/100km (100km/h). The 18.2L/100km for the 130km/h was into a headwind, so might be lower in normal driving conditions.

And also useful, is a table of tyre pressures. These are useful for when you need to deflate the tyres for a 4WD track, or to reinflate them to bitumen road pressure after leaving a 4WD track or dirt road. The pressure reading will be different depending on tyre temperature, so reinflating the tyres after leaving a dirt road or 4WD track can be a little troublesome.




























11 seconds 2

15 seconds 2


80km/h & 4WD high-gear mode










4WD mode









1. The dirt road pressure is 10% below bitumen road pressure. This helps to keep tyres intact on dirt roads with sharp rocks and improves grip on the slippery surface. On worse roads, deflate by a further 10% or more to suit.

2. Time in seconds of how long to deflate tyre from bitumen to road pressure to reach dirt road pressure. As a guide, every 30 seconds 9psi is let out of the tyre.

These pressures are as per the manufacturer's recommendations.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

An abrupt end at Ellery Creek

Like I said, my hike of the Larapinta Trail (see earlier blog post) came to rather an abrupt end midway along it, at Ellery Creek. I'm at pains to describe exactly what happened, but one moment I was excitingly opening my food drop package, and moments later it seemed to game over.

Larapinta Trail, West Macdonnell Ranges, Alice Springs

I didn't want to taint my previous post about the Larapinta Trail with this ending. It was with great reluctance and disappointment that I decided to exit the trail here, at Ellery Creek. I had hiked five days and 100 kilometres, six days and 120 kilometres remained.

At the campsite, the open food drop box beside me, I removed all my various foot bandages, some merely for protection, others for injuries. What I saw had me a little gob smacked, for I knew this could only mean the end of my hike. As some of you know, my immune system conspires against me. One author of a novel I read when talking of a similar condition, described the double edged sword that medication treatment held, "it was not so much pain relief with side effects, but effects with side relief."

Ellery Creek was a good spot to exit the trail, the main bitumen road lay just one and half kilometres to the south. The following morning, I bid farewell to my new trail friends, as they continued on eastwards. I plugged in my iPod, I hate it when I see hikers walking with iPods, but my hike was over and I needed cheering up. If anything, it helped me remove myself from the natural world, an attempt to pull me back to our world of cars and cold supermarkets. I walked slowly, hiking boots carefully attached to my pack, crocs on my feet, out to the bitumen road. I stopped by the emergency phone, checking out the criteria for it's use. On the road I hitched a ride into Alice Springs with a local retired butcher doing some plumbing work for his son. He had spent almost his whole life in Alice, he had seen it transformed from a town of 1,500 people with an unreliable railway to the south, and a hastily constructed world war two single lane bitumen road to the north, to a town with 25,000 people. He recalled from his childhood how the train came almost to the main street, how there was just one house on the other side of the Todd River, now there is urban sprawl.

In Alice I phoned each of the four medical clinics in town. None could fit me in for a further five days. One rather hopefully offered me an appointment on August 26, some 14 days away. In terms of infections, five days was an eternity, 14, well, at least four times an eternity. So I had no choice but to wait four hours in Emergency, simply to get some antibiotics.

The following day I decided I would pay a little visit to the Old Telegraph Station, which is where I would have finished hiking the Larapinta Trail. The trailhead stood some distance from, and well out of sight, of the Old Telegraph Station. Shunned to a obscure corner of the carpark, the trail's presence was left unmentioned amongst the short walks trailhead in the Old Telegraph Station's grounds.

On that sunny afternoon I gave up the idea of completing the trail. When I exited the trail, I thought I would spend a week recovering, checking out some Alice sights and the distant Uluru and Kings Canyon, but having partook of the convenience of the supermarket with it's boundless food choices, and realistically assessing the health of my feet, I realised returning to the trail in seven days time was impossible. I tallied up my time spent on hiking trails in the previous four months of travel, and it rather neatly totalled 600 kilometres. It had been, in anyone's book, an excellent hiking season.

Hopefully a few kilometres remain in my feet, I want to walk around Uluru and Kings Canyon, but we shall see. What else could anyone do. The Larapinta Trail will wait for me.

The Larapinta Trail

This is my first trip to the Red Centre Green Centre. Yup, very green Centre. This has been an excellent season for rainfall in central Australia, the infamously dry Todd River in Alice Springs has flowed five times already. Everywhere is green, and desert wildflowers are in bloom.

Larapinta Trail, West Macdonnell Ranges, Alice Springs

On the second day of the Larapinta Trail hike I met two girls from Alice. They were hiking the Trail because it had been such an excellent season. They assured me the landscape was covered in green plants, normally it was dominated by dry spinifex and red rock. One had lived in Alice for 20 years and knew her flowers well, some of the ones we were seeing are so rare she did not know what they were. They only flower after consistent rains, and that hasn't happened in twenty years. In the first four months of this year, it rained 372mm, last year only 116mm of rain fell, 302mm the year before that.

Almost every day I saw flowers I did not recall seeing previously. Some on mountain tops - many, some in open country, some only in sheltered gorges. They came in every colour: red, purple, yellow, pink, blue.

The Larapinta Trail took me somewhat by surprise, not least because of how green it was and the flowers, but also how magnificent the landscape was. It struck me as a kind of mixture between the Flinders Ranges and New Zealand. Dramatic red parallel mountain ranges, rocky outcrops, gum lined creeks - some with large pools of water, some dry. New Zealand? The mountain tops, vast windswept valleys with small, almost alpine like plants.

The weather in the desert winter is perfect for hiking. Warm, sunny days, between 18 and 20 degrees. Cold nights, about zero to five degrees. Nice for a small campfire, although, of course, we didn't have any, the collection of firewood is not permitted in national parks.

There are a few curiosities along the trail. Firstly, the debacle of Mt Sonder. All the literature and signage suggests you climb to the summit, when you do not. The cairn, marking the alleged summit, even states it is Mt Sonder summit, 1380m above sea level. You can't miss the Mt Sonder proper summit, laying immediately in front of you, across a small gully some 750m or so to the north east. The false summit is about 30 metres lower than the proper summit. This theme is continued, between Serpentine Gorge and Ellery Creek lies a trig, with a somewhat homemade look about it, which it would have, since it doesn't even mark the highest point of the low rocky outcrop, surrounded by larger mountains.

One website describes this section as "This is arguably the most boring section of the entire trail." Going further, "prepare to tear your hair out in frustration," referring to the constant hills and ridges the track follows, when there is a seemingly good route a few hundred metres to the south over flat land. "If you are a bird watcher or bushwalker this section may not be too bad," they state. Too right. Didn't mind a bit.

The trail regularly went up to the top of a hill or mountain, providing wonderfully scenic spots for breaks. From many of these Mt Sonder, and further beyond it, Mt Zeil, Northern Territory's highest peak, dominated the distant west.

I started from the western end of the trail, the alleged end of the trail. The trail starts just four kilometres north of Alice Springs at the Old Telegraph Station, running 223km westwards along the West Macdonnell Ranges to Mt Sonder. It made more logistical sense for me to start from the western end. I paid Alice Wanderer, a local bus company, $400 to transfer me from Alice Springs to the western end, which included two food drops along the way. The food drops are securely stowed in locked rooms, and they provided me with a plastic tub for each drop. If I hiked the trail out from Alice Springs, I would have to pay for the food drops to be driven out, and pay to be collected from the end. This would have cost something like $580, and I would have a schedule to meet.

I met several parties of hikers on the first day and night. The Mt Sonder summit (read false summit) hike is popular amongst day hikers. As it is a return hike, the campsite near the trailhead often has more people camping there: those starting out on the trail and about to undertake the summit hike, those just completed the summit hike, and those completing the trail and waiting for a lift back to Alice Springs. The campsite is not marked on the 2006 map edition, but is located just 200 metres from the trailhead, on the banks of Redbank Creek.

On the second night, at the excellent Finke River campsite, I was enjoying the free gas hotplates in the evening light, the sun having set just moments before, when a solitary hiker stumbled in. Cutting it fine, he had only left Redbank Gorge to hike the 26 kilometres at 11am. He had to catch up with his son, who had started out three days previously. I met the son the following day as i passed through a campsite, and the pair of them stumbled into a my campsite further down the trail just moments after the sun sunk over the horizon. We had similar hiking schedules, so hiked and camped together for the following days.

The trail is well marked with blue arrows, and generally well formed. Only on the rocky mountain tops did I ever stray from the trail, and usually it was just a matter of looking for the rocks crushed underfoot, or the white dust from within the crushed rocks.

Trail facilities are generally good. The shelter at Finke River was particularly impressive, of a similar standard to the Bibblimun Track and Munda Biddi Tracks in Western Australia. It included ample roofing, sleeping platforms, a vermin proof cupboard for food, multiple water tanks, a picnic table and benches, and, yes wait for it, a couple of gas hotplates. This shelter isn't shown on the 2006 edition maps, so a little research pays off. A good website for that would be the larapintatrail.com website, look at the Sections page for details of camp facilities and an honest, if not brutal, appraisal of the trail terrain. A little overwhelming perhaps to sort through before hiking any of the trail, but regardless a good supplement to the maps.

Water seems readily available at water tanks, and we had to drink none of the bore water that was about. Naturally, with so much rain, there was ample flowing water in the creeks. Many of the larger rivers required detours of several hundred metres to skirt around the widest, muddiest sections of the large pools.

I wasn't sure how long the trail would take me. The trail is divided into 12 sections, but some of these are defined as two day sections, with campsite options midway. That said, they didn't seem to be uncheckable far apart for a hiker like myself, so I used that as my template. So the trail could be hiked in as little as 11 or 12 days, but many hikers take their time, using up to 19 or 20 days. I had food for 16 days, and a few options to spread that food further, and there was kiosk near the end with a few basic supplies.

That said, my hike came to rather an abrupt end at Ellery Creek. I had hiked five days and 100 kilometres, six days and 120 kilometres remained.

There are two albums this time, one general album, and one devoted to all the desert wildflowers I saw.

General album:

Desert wildflowers album:

Download kml file to view in Google Earth or adapt to use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit.
Download file in GPX format to directly upload to most GPS units.

Tracks and waypoints sourced from two sources. Source 1: Sections 7 through to 11 (excluding the last 6km of Section 11) - handheld GPS device. Source 2:- sections 1 through to 6 and Section 12 - from www.larapintatrail.com


The Larapinta Trail
Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday Wednesday
07/08/2010 08/08/2010 09/08/2010 10/08/2010 11/08/2010
Redbank Gorge to Mt Sonder and

Redbank Gorge to Finke River Finke River to Waterfall Gorge Waterfall Gorge to Counts

Counts Point to Ellery Creek
Distance 14.55km 25.91km 22.86km 17.68km 18.97km
Start Time 10.36am 7.41am 7.51am 8.11am 7.10am
End Time 3.15pm 3.27pm 3.56pm 5.46pm 2.57pm
Moving Duration 3h14m 5h21m 5h35m 5h38m 5h24m
Stationary Duration 1h25m 2h27m 2h38m 3h57m 2h23m
Moving Average 4.5km/h 4.8km/h 4.1km/h 3.1km/h 3.5km/h
Overall Average 3.1km/h 3.3km/h 2.8km/h 1.8km/h 2.4km/h
Oodometer 14.5km 40.5km 63.3km 81.0km 100.0km
Overnight Low -0.2C 1.1C 0.9C 2.6C -0.4C

Thursday, August 12, 2010


It is with great relunctance and dissapointment that I have been forced to exit the Larapinta Trail early. I have walked five days and 100km, six days and 120km remain.

Larapinta Trail, West Macdonnell Ranges, Alice Springs

A blog post of those five days to come...

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Poles Have Shifted

The magnetic polarity of the planet has gone nuts. This is very clear to me. The Artic Circle has moved, it is now centered over Alice Springs.

It all started back on Wednesday, in Katherine, when the sky fell in. This weird, wet, and cold substance fell from the sky. I don't know what it was, but I high-tailed it outta there. I drove south, as fast as I legally could, 130km/h, until it eased a little and a more economical speed could be sustained.

Emerging from my car some 800 kilometres south, it was sudden and absolute. It was cold. Bloody cold.

Last night in Alice, it was -4.6 degrees at 5.30am. Ok ok, that was the Apparent Temperature Reading - which is always useful to make a temperature sound colder or hotter than it was, nevertheless, it's a real measurement of how the temperature feels. The real one was -0.6. It was cold. The days are nice though, sunny, 18-20 degrees. The nights, 1 or 2 degrees, for the next week anyway.

I have spent the last couple of days organising my next hike, on the Larapinta Trail. I will be walking the 223km trail over the next 12 or so days. Just imagine all the election banter I will miss. Mind you, I've pretty much missed it all anyway. I voted today at an early voting centre in Alice, still not avoiding the leaflets being shoved in my face. Enthusiastic mob.

I spent three hours sorting and packing my stuff, which included organising two food drops. An old man sat in the sun reading his paper, occasionally looking up to peruse my busyness, still marvelling at how I survived last night in a tent.

I saw my first sign pointing to Adelaide yesterday. There was a handwritten one below a big sign north of Alice. Someone had spray-painted "Adelaide ??" at the bottom of the roadside destination sign.

Here's a nice photo from my drive down from Katherine into the Artic Circle. It is the Devil's Marbles. Each rock is a person was frozen to death in the last couple of nights. Truly. Forget the geology.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Jatbula Trail

"It's a tough track ya know." The ranger was scrutinizing my walking plan for the 58 kilometre Jatbula Trail. Four days seemed reasonable to me, but the Jatbula Trail is a trail that demands that you take your time. This is what I, like many others who have walked it, have learnt on the trail.

Jatbula Trail, Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge), Northern Territory

The comments book at the kiosk at the end of the walk reads the same, again and again - "It took a couple of days before we worked it out." Rising early - before first light, walking - preferably slowly - in the morning, swimming and relaxing in the shade of a tree in the afternoons. I even got up at 6am once or twice, Graham you would be proud. The terrain is not difficult, it is the tropical heat that beats you into submission. Venturing into the sun, away from the water's edge, you suddenly realise just how hot the afternoon has become.

The Jatbula Trail starts from the Katherine River in the Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) National Park, 30 kilometres east of Katherine, in the Northern Territory. It follows the escarpment across the park to Leliyn (Edith Falls). The campsites are ideally spread about 10 kilometres apart, each beside a picturesque waterfall, creek or rockhole.

In the queue for the ferry at Katherine Gorge, I met two fellow walkers, two women who had escaped their partners and children in Melbourne for a week walking. We looked around for the other seven hikers who would be beginning on the same day, only to see none of them. How odd, we thought. The trail, or so we thought, was limited to 10 hikers starting out per day. We soon learnt though, that this was not the case. We saw no-one else on the trail until the fifth and final night, at Sweetwater Pool, where anyone can hike the four kilometres in from the end of the trail at Leliyn. Perhaps it was limited to 10 hikers on the trail. We had both had trouble booking a place on the trail months beforehand, it certainly seemed to be fully booked.

My four day hike turned into a six day hike. It was so relaxing just to take it easy and relax each afternoon. I spent six days - six hilarious days - with Kris and Kristen, who I had met on that first day, hiking, swimming, relaxing and playing cards on our makeshift picnic rug. We exchanged tales of our hiking adventures, all of us becoming converts to hiking in the previous five to ten years.

Our first campsite, at Biddlecombe Cascades, was the entree of what the Jatbula Trail held in store for us. Water flowed from the escarpment over the terraces into large rock pools. Being swamp fed the water was deliciously cool, warmer than other nearby pools.

Crystal Falls is on a river, seemingly unnamed, so much water is there. Flowing over rocks creating eddies in the many rock pools. The shady trees on the bank offered numerous choices to set-up camp. Glorious riverside camping, the afternoon spent dipping ourselves in the rockpools or relaxing in the shade, as we pleased. The Crystal Falls themselves remained hidden down the valley, the following day we saw the falls plunging far off the escarpment into a narrow chasm below.

The falls weren't hidden at our third campsite, 17 Mile Falls. Walking in, we were treated to a clifftop view of the falls, the water dropping into a large plunge pool below. The campsite was bright and overpowering in the midday sun, but relaxed into the afternoon as the shade crept across it. We spent the afternoon, once again, at the water's edge.

The photos do no justice to Sandy Pool camp. The shaded campsite, set on the sandy banks of a large, deep pool. The Edith River enters over rocks upstream, dissapearing into reeds at the other. The edge, with it's lily pads, hiding the near vertical rocky sides.

It's not all picturesque creeks and falls though. The Amphitheatre is a little oasis on the escarpment edge. A narrow track leads down into the deep, steep sided valley. The sheer cliffs on the three sides, adorned with the ancient of the Jawoyn People. A stream, seemingly emerging from no-where, meanders through the landscape. If it were not for the tropical humidity, cool as the Amphitheatre was, one could mistake this for Tasmania - the tall myrtle trees dropping their leaves to cover the forest floor, dappled sunlight coming through the thick canopy.

The landscape is diverse: savannah, swamps, melaleuca stands, rocky escarpment outcrops. The wind whips through the trees on the turbulent escarpment edge, providing welcome relief to the tropical heat. At 17 Mile Falls, rain and lightning rolled around us, lighting the night sky. It did not rain on us, much to the relief of Kris and Kristen with their mosquito net, their Forcefield against the night's bugs but somewhat ineffective against rainfall.

Now, how much do you think such an exclusive hike would cost. Well, there's the six dollar ferry fare. Then, the three dollar nightly camping fee. Seriously, there are limited options on how to return from the end of the trail at Leliyn (Edith Falls) to Katherine, or to Katherine Gorge. The only services provided are by the several taxi services from Katherine, putting the cost at about $150 to Katherine. There are some rumours that as of 2010 Dysons buses are providing a service for about $100 but I haven't been able to confirm this. Nitmiluk Tours, via Dysons buses, provide an affordable shuttle service between Katherine and Katherine Gorge.

The Jatbula Trail, a unique and seemingly exclusive trail. I have two pieces of for you. Take it easy, get up early, walk slowly. And to ensure you can enjoy what this trail offers, book early.

Download kml file to view in Google Earth or adapt to use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit


Jatbula Trail
Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday Monday Tuesday
29/7/2010 30/7/2010 31/7/2010 1/8/2010 2/8/2010 3/8/2010
Nitmiluk Visitor Centre to Biddlecombe Cascades Biddlecombe Cascades to Crystal Falls Crystal Falls to 17 Mile Falls 17 Mile Falls to Sandy Camp Pool Sandy Camp Pool to Sweetwater Pool Sweetwater Pool to Leliyn (Edith Falls)
Distance 7.9km 10.5km 9.8km 16.8km 11.2km 4.1km
Start Time 9.08am 7.49am 7.19am 7.20am 7.57am 6.41am
End Time 12.18pm 11.39am 10.48am 12.00pm 10.19am 8.05am
Moving Duration 2h04m 2h45m 2h16m 3h31m 2h11m 1h03m
Stationary Duration 1h13m 1h04m 1h12m 1h04m 10m 21m
Moving Average 3.8km/h 3.8km/h 4.3km/h 4.8km/h 5.1km/h 3.9km/h
Overall Average 2.4km/h 2.7km/h 2.8km/h 3.7km/h 4.8km/h 2.9km/h
Oodometer 7.9km 18.5km 28.3km 45.3km 56.6km 60.7km

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge)

Occasionally, although thankfully, rarely, things can go horribly wrong on a hike. No, not an injury, getting lost, or even the much feared snake bite or croc encounter. One can run out of reading material. Even those who have meticulously packed for their hike, including not one, but two books, can be caught short. I completed both my books during the long, lazy afternoons at each campsite.

Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge), Northern Territory

Maybe not horribly wrong, but as those of you who are fellow book lovers, this isn't a situation one wants to find oneself in. I had tried to fill my days with hiking, picking the furthest campsites with the most difficult trail ratings. As you might know, I waste no time in walking. I completed each day's hiking within four hours. The first day, this wasn't so much of a problem as I only started out at 10am. The second day though, I was eating an early lunch atop the cliff's edge overlooking Katherine Gorge and my night's campsite.

I could have done all the walking in two, not three, days, but I wanted to give my ever-injured feet a break, and to enjoy each of the spectacularly placed campsites on the Katherine River.

The day before my hike the Katherine River was closed to swimmers and canoeists due to a saltie sighting. A canoeist had seen what they thought looked awfully like a saltie, and not a freshie. Two days later, the rangers confirmed it. As is their way, the saltie had moved up the river undetected. It was only a little fella, only two metres in length, but still, it wouldn't pass up the opportunity to have a bit of a nibble on a German or Japanese tourist. It had snuck past the main swimming and boating area near the visitor centre, over the first set of rapids and into the second gorge.

There was no danger to my planned hike, or so I was assured. The croc still had to cross a few more sets of rapids to reach my swimming and camping spots. Even so, the thought plays on one's mind as one swims in the river. These crocs can move about undetected, let's not forget that.

I walked first to the Eighth Gorge, not deviating down any of the side trips from the main east-west track. The network of walks here is referred to as the Southern Walks of the Nimiluk (Katherine Gorge) National Park. It presents many options - one main track leads end-to-end, many side tracks lead down to the gorge and river. Several weeks ago I had walked a day hike into Butterfly Gorge and Pat's Lookout with Beni - at the time we had been limited to day walks as we needed to check daily at the post office to see if the new radiator for the crippled car had arrived.

Butterfly Gorge is not so special. There are butterflies, true, but they aren't of particular interest. The monsoon forest here has been blackened by recent bushfires. The river's edge is somewhat inaccessible. Returning from out walk here, we diverted down another side track to Pat's Lookout and the Southern Rockhole. The lookout has panoramic views over the river from the cliff edge. We also enjoyed a nice swim in the river, not put off by the signs on the opposite side of the river stating, "Warning. Do not enter beach. Croc breeding ground." They were, of course, only harmless freshies.

Eighth Gorge is special. The campsite is beside a large plunge pool with waterfall. The river can be found by following the trickle of water leaving the pool's edge, growing to a creek, before it itself tumbles over the cliff edge to the Katherine River far below.

On the second day, I returned along some of the main track, but this time deviating into Jawoyn Valley. The indig rock art was hard to find, I suspect I found very little of it, but the views and surroundings were pleasant so the detour was well worth it.

Returning to the main track, I took another side track, this time to Smitt Rock where I would spend the afternoon and camp. Naming the place a rock is quite an understatement. The river is split in two by the huge rock formation, it as high as the surrounding cliffs. The campsite sits on the sand banks of the river. I had this campsite, like the previous night's, all to myself. There were no other hikers, and no-one was permitted to canoe up the river to join me. Pity, it was a wonderful place to spend a warm afternoon reading in the shade of a nice gum tree.

Download kml file to view in Google Earth or adapt to use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit


Southern Walks of Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) National Park
Monday Tuesday Wednesday
26/7/2010 27/7/2010 28/7/2010
Nitmiluk Visitor Centre to Eighth Gorge Eighth Gorge to Smitt Rock via Jawoyn Valley Smitt Rock to Nitmiluk Visitor Centre
Distance 15.65km 15.5km 10.8km
Start Time 9.50am 8.10am 7.38am
End Time 2.10pm 12.40pm 10.06am
Moving Duration 2h55m 3h10m 2h08m
Stationary Duration 1h07m 1h23m 19m
Moving Average 5.4km/h 4.7km/h 5.0km/h
Overall Average 3.6km/h 3.3km/h 4.4km/h
Oodometer 15.65km 31.7km 42.1km

Assurances of Secrecy

I've had a few requests for details of the secret camping location in Litchfield. Assurances of secrecy and loyalty. Want to know the details of the eight campsites, a short walk from the carpark, each with it's own private rock pool and waterfall?

Litchfield National Park, Northern Territory

Just forward me the 16-digit number that appears on the front of your credit card. Don't forget that little three digit security code on the back either.

I cant post it here, I simply cannot. I cannot put it somewhere like this, where the great Google in the Sky will spread the details far and wide. I just cannot risk it. As it is, the campsites are popular. I lucked it on the first night. When we returned to camp another night, even though we were early, all the campsites had been taken. You might need to allow for an extra night, one to camp out in the car park first, so you can be standing, ready at the chalkboard, for when the first person vacates their campsite in the morning.

Sunday, July 25, 2010


My main interest in Litchfield National Park was the 39 kilometre Tabletop Track. However the park was so good, and the offer of a friend to come down and join me for the weekend from Darwin was too good to refuse, so I stayed on for another three days.

Litchfield National Park, Northern Territory

The Tabletop Track is a loop walk, accessible from several different link walks that connect to car based campgrounds or natural attractions. So even though it is a 39 kilometre walk, one has to walk further to access the track, and further still to take in some of the side trips the natural attractions such as the rock holes and waterfalls. Well, if, and I mean IF, one can cope with walking during the day seeing almost no-one, then walking down a side track to a waterfall which has seemingly just been inundated with several tourist buses worth of people, each armed with an SLR camera and complaining about how tiring the three hundred metre walk from the carpark is.

Florence Falls is one of the more famous sites in Litchfield National Park, perhaps only Wangi Falls rivals it. I did the two kilometre side trip to Florence Falls, the link walk taking me through a humid monsoon tropical forest to the spectacular falls with a large, cool plunge pool. Somehow I quite accidentally managed to get a photo with no-one in it, how I don't know, as I swam another tourist bus load of people arrived.

The following day though, I couldn't bear to repeat the people inundation experience at Wangi Falls, so I skipped this side trip. I did return in the following days though with my friend from Darwin, and there were so, so many people, but it was still good, maybe helped by his tales of visiting Wangi during the Wet. No people there then, just lots of water and maybe lots of crocs lurking around too.

Much of what is easily accessible in Litchfield National Park, including the Tabletop Track, lies in the north of the park. The Tabletop Plateau dominates, the roads skirt around the plateau following the escarpment edge, frequent short roads in to the many waterfalls and water holes. The Tabletop Track likewise follows much of the escarpment, but on the plateau well away from the road and people. While most of the waterfalls are accessible by these short roads, some are only accessible from the Tabletop Track, which is what makes this track so special.

The walking in the savanna was hot, I really should have done the walk over more days and restrict my walking to the cooler mornings. The monsoon forests and many creeks and waterfalls though were so much cooler to walk through, always a nice place to sit and relax, maybe swim.

One campground was particularly special, only a very short walk from a link walk car park, each campsite with it's own private bit of creek, rock pool and waterfall. But if I tell you it's name I will have to kill you. So if you email me or leave a comment asking me, I will need to send a hit man around. And that wont be very pleasant, now will it? I would like to keep the Best Ever Campsite a secret as much as possible, although I shared it with my Darwin friend and I decided I would let him live (he was, after all, rather nice to talk to).

I lost my much loved and travelled hiking GPS unit, an insurance agent slammed into the back of my car on the highway, and I accidentally took too much of what I like to call my Deadly Drug (a medication), but these are all stories for another time...

Sorry, no map from the GPS for you this time. Too bad heh, you won't be able to find the secret campsite unless you come up here and explore it for yourself.

Updated 25/05/2011. There are GPS files available for this walk now. They come from http://en.travelnt.com/experience/walking-trekking/tabletop-track.aspx - I reconfigured the XML file as a GPX file and KML file. The path doesn't have a huge amount of points, but should be ample for navigating the trail should you wander off it (really only possible through burnt out areas of wide creek crossings.) I would place a caveat on the area around Walker Creek though, I'm not sure it looks correct, the trail goes from the main trail west to Walker Creek Campsite as a spur trail rather than the main trail passing through the carpark. If coming off the main trail you won't get lost, the spur meets to the carpark to campsites trail near the toilet, at about campsite 6 of 8. Turn left for sites 6-8, right for sites 1-5 and carpark.

Download GPX file - for use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit
Download KML file - view in Google Earth

View in full screen format
The above Google Map shows the official trail file from TravelNT.com
Download GPX file
- for use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit
Download KML file - view in Google Earth

Farmers Union Territory

Oh, half of Darwin is populated by people from Adelaide. Welcome back to Farmers Union territory Jeremy

Monday, July 19, 2010


Spent a couple of days chilling out in Darwin: the lagoon, Mindil Markets, some beaches. Meeting some locals.

Darwin, Northern Territory

Spent an afternoon at the Melbourne Docklands style wharf precinct - nice and warm though with a swimming lagoon and lawns. Also the sunset Mindil Markets, lots of asian food stalls and some good live bands. Emdee, contemporary didgeridoo music. I have seen them at the Fringe before and have an album of theirs, good stuff. The Fringe show was more intense, but hey, it's free market music. Also World Fly, a Darwin based trio recently signed to a German label. Enjoyed their chilled out sounds, cello, I love it.

Met some locals, caught up with some friends made on the road. Farewell to Beni, back to Germany. Cool city, hot people, warm climate. Tempting to stay a little longer. I've always thought Darwin could be a nice place to work for awhile, good to see it lives up to expectations.

The beaches though, keep a watch out for crocs and stingers, and undetonated hand grenades from the war: news story from this morning.


"People need to come here and relax, sit on the country, feel the spirits of this country, and go home and feel the same way" -- Natasha Nadji, Bunidj Clan

Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory

There is a lot to see in Kakadu, and it will touch you in a special way. The park is divided by an escarpment ranging between 60 and 300 metres in height, on the top is the Arnhem Land Plateau, lower down, the billabongs, monsoon forests and flood plains. On the Plateau, Stone Country. Two rivers pass through the park, the water plunging over the escarpment making many waterfalls over it's length.

Lots of swimming holes, and of course salties, a plethora of bird life. Lots of hiking. And lots of Indig Rock Art, some 5,000 known sites. A further 10,000 sites are thought to exist in the park.

The best place to see the rock art is at Ubirr, in the park's north east. Here there is rock art of different styles and vastly different ages spread over a wide accessible area. There is a painting of a Thyracine, the Tasmanian Tiger which became extinct on the mainland some 2000-3000 years ago. There are paintings of white men from the 1880s, buffalo hunters. Clearly clothed, their hands in their pockets or smoking a pipe. Paintings of life size barramundi, they used to be so much larger than they are today. Perhaps we fish too much. Pocket Fish the local indig people now call them. They used to require two men to carry one. Stories of hunts. Stories of discipline. Stories of the spirits. Anatomical drawings of turtles to educate the younger folk as to the best bits to eat. Mimi paintings very high on the roof of an overhang, near impossible to access, the very tall Mimi spirits are said to have painted them. In one place the paintings are up to 14 painting layers deep. The age is difficult to determine, context is the key. Style, what it depicts. There is no organic matter in the paint used here, so carbon dating cannot be used as it is used in the south of the continent.

Archaeological digs at one shelter site suggest occupation for at least the last 20,000 years. Axes, stone tools, grinding stones and grinding holes, discarded food bones. The complexity of the artwork reflects the environment at the time. 20,000 years ago the land was very different, a sparse ice capped planet, not much food here. 6,000 years ago occupation increased, as did the painting complexity. A changing environment. Only in the last 2,000 to 3,000 years did the Wet and Dry Season cycle we are familiar with begin, seas rose, life was abundant, so indig populations flourished.

We did a few hikes, one to the top of Jim Jim Falls. Only 7km return, it was a tough climb up the escarpment during the hot afternoon, then a walk over the stone country, two swim in one of the upper pools. Another hike through monsoon forest to a swimming hole.

Crocs a plenty. In the billabongs, on the flood plains, in the rivers and pools. Twin Falls was closed due to a croc attack (it was a just a nibble), no, not really, just closed because the salties returned after being removed. They remove salties from the big tourist sites, otherwise tourists couldn't see these places.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Back on the Road

My face lit up, yep, over there in amongst the hundreds of parcels awaiting collection was a large radiator sized box. Our seven day wait for a new radiator was over.

Katherine, Northern Territory

The car has been struggling since the second-to-last-day on the Gibb River Road. The radiator had a hole in it, we kept topping it up with water, a lot really. In Kununurra the mechanic could not source a new radiator, only 13 years old and no longer manufactured, they suggested the radiator be removed from the car, trucked to Darwin and repaired. Seven days to wait in Kununurra without a car. Mmm. We could drive to Darwin I thought, the radiator only needed topping up with water every 20-100km (depending on speed and road conditions). 4WD dirt roads were particularly bad, as was city driving.

Five minutes on Google and we had a new radiator, to be flown from Melbourne. Today, there it was in Katherine Post Office. Straight to the radiator repair place here in Katherine, fitted within the hour. Back on the road. To Kakadu we come!

We have spent the last week in the Bungle Bungle and Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge). I cant wait to get back here at the end of the month to walk the four day the Jatbula Trail, and also another three day hike we couldn't do now because we had to keep going to the post office to see if the parcel had arrived yet.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

The Bungle Bungle

Although known to local pastoralists and indigenous folk, the Bungle Bungle was unknown to the outside world until the mid 1980s. It did not appear on maps - not even topographical maps - nor was it photographed, not even named. A helicopter camera crew discovered it by accident, making it's dramatic scenery known to Australians and the rest of the world.

The Bungle Bungle, Purnululu National Park, WA

The local pastoralists saw it only as a source of a river, the business of cattle kept them occupied. Gold was discovered in nearby Halls Creek in the 1880s, but still the Kimberley held the secret of the Bungle Bungle. To the indigenous folk it had special meaning, but we know they like to keep their secrets sometimes, and why not?

If I share, too many white men will come all right, and they will go on doing this. Sticky beak all right, and look for something. If they find something goody goody, they'll take it.

-- source: interview on ABC's Stateline, 28/5/2010, concerning rockart in Kakadu (url http://www.abc.net.au/news/video/2010/05/28/2912636.htm)

Some stuff is still a well guarded secret by the indigenous folk. Their rock art, which includes depictions of crocodiles, and burial sites.

This is one of the iconic places I wanted to visit on my four month trip, I think you will see why in some of the photos. To enter Cathedral Gorge one is filled with awe. Walking through a narrow gorge, the shear cliffs towering 200 metres above on each side. The gorge floor is occupied by a flat creek. It feels like you are about to stumble upon an ancient city in the desert, Petra maybe. Not a noise can be heard, it's one of the places in the world that seems to call for silence. Walking several hundred metres through this narrow space, the gorge suddenly opens up, revealing a huge amphitheatre formation. The area, made round by rolling boulders as the water runs down the cliff above, open to the sky in a narrow opening. The middle occupied by a shallow pond, a reminder of how much water would be here during the wet season. The roof ceiling provides a perfect environment for your echo, the place calls for silence but at the same time wants sounds to reverberate around it's walls.

Naturally the Bungle Bungle has more to reveal than just this one special place. The drive from Kununurra down Highway One is spectacular in itself, but it is merely setting the scene for the Bungle Bungle. The 50km 4WD road in from the highway hints a little more, only very close to the park does one see for the first time the mountains of the Bungle Bungle. The orange cliffs rise abruptly from the plains. Dramatic as they are though, they are not the Bungle Bungle one sees in photos. It is only when you drive further in, or better still, walk further in, that one sees their iconic and true beauty -- the stripped beehive formations. These are the most exceptional examples of sandstone cone karsts anywhere in the world. Standing up to 250 metres tall, they create an intricate maze of twists and turns, almost a city of rock sky-rises (to borrow a phrase from the national park literature.)

The sandstone is an ancient riverbed, uplifted high above the surrounding plains. Weathering and erosion slowly formed the distinct shapes we know today, as new rivers were formed through the old riverbed. The sandstone is sedimentary, layers of gray or orange rock. The grey rock has a high clay and moisture content, allowing cyanobacteria to grow on the surface. The orange bands have a lower clay and hence moisture content, preventing the cyanobacteria from growing. This layer oxidises forming the distinct rusty orange colour. Occasionally recent landslides reveal the true colour of this band - a bright silver white colour.

It was through this that we undertook a two day hike. If we did not have a new radiator awaiting collection in Katherine, to be fitted to the crippled car, I think we would have spent three days on this hike. We spent a day hiking along the Piccaninny Gorge, camped beside a rock pool, then hiked back. Had we a third day, we could have explored some of the five side gorges that are present in the upper gorge beyond our campsite. Although only a 14 kilometre hike in, it is a difficult hike. Following the creekbed, it is either sandy, soft gravel, navigating eroded rocks or large boulders.

On the first day we had lunch at the distinct Elbow in the gorge, well, so we thought, until we came upon a more distinct Elbow further upstream. It really was slow walking.

We had the gorge almost to ourselves, beyond the tourist bus groups near the very start of the gorge we passed only two other parties. Both had chosen to hike in and out in a single day, both were jealous we would have so much time to explore and have such a magnificent campsite. The campsite we chose - we could camp anywhere we liked - was beside a rockpool. Cliffs soared high above us, the rockpool being in the corner of the gorge. During the Wet water would cascade down the cliff, filling the rockpool and overflowing into the main gorge creek.

During the day the gorge was filled with a cacophony of bird sounds, echoing up and down the gorge. As night fell, silence descended. Our voices could be heard echoing far up and down the gorge, in the silence we could finally appreciate how far the echo travelled. Our campsite was fitted with a security device, not that it was needed in this isolated place. The cliffs the other side of the rock pool amplified the sounds from the main gorge creek, we could easily have heard footsteps as they approached from either upstream or downstream.

After the hike, we visited nearby Echidna Chasm. We had missed the best time of day to visit, the narrow chasm, sometimes only shoulder width wide, was best seen at true noon, the only time the sun could shine down into the narrow space. The chasm is a fracture in the rock mountain, snaking it's way from the palm entry deep into the mountain, gradually narrowing until it's eventual abrupt end.

Download kml file to view in Google Earth or adapt to use as a navigational aid in a GPS unit


Piccaninny Gorge, Bungle Bungle, Purnululu National Park
Wednesday Thursday
7/7/2010 8/7/2010
Carpark to Gorge 1 Gorge 1 to carpark
Distance 15.2km 13.1km
Start Time 9.27am 7.33am
End Time 2.52pm 11.27am
Moving Duration 3h33m 3h02m
Stationary Duration 1h56m 56m
Moving Average 4.3km/h 4.3km/h
Overall Average 2.8km/h 3.3km/h
Oodometer 15.2km 28.3km

Monday, July 5, 2010

Gibb River Road

Ten days on the Gibb River Road, a 4WD dirt road stretching from Derby in the west, to Kununurra in the east. Stunning gorges, cascading waterfalls, and aside from a few crocs, beautiful cool afternoon swims.

The Gibb River Road, in the Kimberley

The Gibb River Road cuts through the heart of the Kimberley. It is a 4WD dirt road. True, it is possible to drive a 2WD on it, we saw two in ten days - countless 4WDs though. Thing is, the two wheel drivers, they will see almost nothing. The attraction is not the road, it is the various rough 4WD tracks that lead off to gorges, waterfalls and pools. These tracks are rough, but every one is worth travelling down. The track to Mitchell Falls is some 250km long and takes about five hours to drive. Walking a further 3.5 kilometres from the carpark one is struck by the immensity of the falls, cascading down from the river into three lower pools.

A few small sections of the Gibb River Road are sealed, sometimes in the conventional manner, sometimes just a lane width in the centre of the road. Most of the bad hills are sealed. There are frequent river or ford crossings, on only one is it not possible to walk out and check the depth. You might just loose a leg to a saltie.

The shy freshie crocs inhabit many of the waterholes, but they pose no problem to people. They don't eat us, not even a nibble. Well, as long as you don't go poking your fingers in their eyes or something. They're shy fellas, they keep their distance. In the huge Diment Gorge we paddled four kilometres up and back in a canoe, we saw just one croc. In the distance, the eyes and snout just above the waterline distinct, as soon as it saw us, it submerged.

The gorges are stunning, or, as Beni couldn't let go of his lamo play on words, just gorge-ous. Waterfalls fall down one side of an almost circular gorge, just one side leading to the downstream river. Boulders, lily pads, boab trees, gum trees, palms, line the sides. Refreshingly cool water, nothing better than an afternoon swim to get out of that 30 degree heat and wash away the bull dust of the dirt roads.

In Windjana National Park the devorian range stretches for many kilometres, just a narrow width, a remnant of an underwater ancient barrier reef. It stands in stark contrast to the countryside around it, rising some 100 metres above it. The Windjana Gorge cuts through it, a series of large rock pools and sandy beaches with freshies laying in the sun, waiting for a fruit bat to fall out of the tree above. Further down the range lies Tunnel Creek, a 750 metre tunnel through the range. A creek, inhabited by freshies, flows through the tunnel. Walking through, wading in ankle or waist deep water, the tunnel only broken by one roof collapse midway.

Adcock Gorge and Galvans Gorge, both stunning circular pools. Both beautiful, one the most visited, one hardly at all. One, the carpark on the Gibb River Road, a short walk in. The other, a rough eight kilometre drive in. Words and photos do neither justice. Luckily for us - read bad planning - we arrived at Galvans Gorge, the most popular, very late in the day. Sunset was just minutes away, the winter solstice not so long ago. But what a treat, the popular pool all to ourselves.

Manning Gorge, a couple of styrofoam boxes lying beside a creek. Chuck in your camera and clothes, thank goodness for bringing those hiking dry sack bags to protect the camera - the styrofoam boxes being well used. Swim across the river, walk a few kilometres to explore and swim the Manning Gorge. A large circular one, huge falls pummelling down. Swim under them, can you stand the water pressure? Jump from the top into the deep pool below. Climb to the cliff edges, witness it all. Try to take it in.

Diment Gorge, wide, lots of water. Steep narrow cliffs at one point, no wonder it has been the site of two plans to dam the gorge. What a travesty it would have been. The Australian Wildlife Conservancy's Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary occupies much of the land that would have been flooded. Destock of the Kimberley cattle in 2004, three threatened species have thrived. On a night time motion activated camera, rare footage of a bandicoot previously thought to be extinct in the Kimberley. A bar, inside or outside, the edges blurred. Green lawns, tables set out, a fire pit, a cold beer. Listen to the talk from the Australian Wildlife Conservancy ranger. Special work they do.

Spent a night with a couple of Polish Aussies. Fresh succulent beef care of the Aboriginal community they had been welcomed into the previous day. A camp fire, a few drinks. The all Star Hotel, as many stars as you like in the starry night. Stories from war torn Poland, a prisoner of war camp and an escape to Australia into the small hours of the morning.

Zebedee Springs, 32 degree springs, pool and creek. Moss covered rocks, tall palms, nestled in a steep gorge. Okay, jealous? Please note we had to get up at 4.30am to enjoy this one to ourselves, we heard a bus tour was starting at 5am here. By 12 the place closes up to the public, the fancy pants $400+ a night tour groups get the arvos.

Still dealing with that jealousy? Don't overlook the leaking door panels in the car, fine red bull dust entering the car and filling every crevice and hole, nothing is safe. Stone chips on the windscreen, thanks for speeding past with the camper trailers guys. A hole in the radiator, stopping every 20 kilometres to pour more water into the leaking radiator, limping into Kununurra. She'll be right, a helping hand anywhere on the road. Oh, and no mobile reception, not anywhere. Better coverage in more places, not up here. Watch for the cattle on the road. They don't respond to a car horn, they've heard too much of them. Petrol at 205.5c/L. Fill the jerry cans, do the fuel consumption calculations, this petrol beast has a long way between roadhouses. Diesel is king up here. Inmintji Roadhouse just sells diesel, no unleaded petrol for you city folk. Nice ice creams but. No tvs to watch the World Cup either for my German friend here. Germany is going into the semi-finals, pity the family weren't so good at commentating the match live from the tv in Germany. Not a skill we all possess I suppose.

The Gibb River Road, well worth the effort. So glad I bought the 4WD instead of a 2WD. It was this road that tipped the scales. 2WD? See nothing mate. We met a couple a few weeks ago in Broome, the kitted out 4WD. Gibb River Road, two days, rough. Saw nothing mate. This is the Kimberley, take your time. Enjoy the swims and sunsets.