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City Profile : Gladstone

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While Captain Cook sailed past in 1770, and Matthew Flinders had a brief glance in 1802, it was Colonel George Barney who steered the Lord Auckland into the port of Gladstone and started a penal colony in 1847.  The colony only lasted two months and a few years later in 1853, the area was looked upon again for the beginnings of a new settlement.  By 1863, Gladstone was declared a town of free settlers.

 

These days, Gladstone has a population of over 35,000 people and is the launchpad for tours of the southern end of the Great Barrier Reef and the surrounding islands.  Goondoon Street is the main street through town and it is rich with heritage and beautifully preserved buildings.

 

Our visit to Gladstone was supposed to be brief – get in, fuel up, restock the fridge and get out.  After a quick visit to the Information Centre to get a few maps of more southerly regions, we decided to stick around for the day and check out a few of the attractions, before popping into Dan Murphy’s to see if they had any specials.  Not only did they have a slab of Sail and Anchor for half price, we also got to sample a few ports and muscats at the tasting station and got a bit toasted before heading to Benaraby.

 

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Things to See and Do

Auckland Hill Lookout

Just a few hundred metres from town is Auckland Hill Lookout, which provides awesome views of the marina and Auckland Point, where calcite is stockpiled for shipment to Geelong in Victoria, where it will be used for a variety of things like plastics and toothpaste. There is also what seems to be a manmade waterfall.

 

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QAL Lookout

The local kids call it the Hogwarts Lookout because of the QAL refinery.  Queensland Alumina is one of the world’s largest alumina plants, refining 9 million tonnes of bauxite a year to produce nearly 4 million tonnes of alumina.

 

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Gladstone Marina and Spinnaker Park

The Gladstone Marina is a popular spot for boat owners and is the home of the Visitor Information Centre.  It’s a great place to start your time in Gladstone.  Nearby is Spinnaker Park, which is the official finish line of the Brisbane to Gladstone Yacht Race.  The park has great picnic areas, BBQs and walking tracks.

 

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Tondoon Botanic Gardens

Specialising in native plants, the Tondoon Botanic Gardens covers 107 hectares and includes a Japanese Tea Garden and a gum forest, as well as picnic and BBQ facilities.

 

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Gecko Valley Winery

This multi-award winning winery is popular with both locals and tourists for a very simple reason – their wine is good!  Made onsite with local ingredients, they offer a selection of reds, whites and sweet wines.  Because Gladstone is along a similar latitude to the Mediterranean, it makes the climate perfect for growing grapes.  Unfortunately, a recent fire torched Gecko Valley and they lost all of their vines.  They’re waiting for the perfect season to start again, and once that time comes, they will be back to full production within two years.  We did a quick tasting session and these were our favourites.

 

  • Lightly Oaked Chardonnay – this was our favourite. The smell is very much like apricot and almond cream cheese, which reflects the fruity flavours and smooth finish with toasty oak and a citrus finish.
  • Special Reserve Verdelho – this was another delicious wine with plenty of tropical melon flavours and a smooth sweet finish.
  • Lightly Oaked Shiraz – this sweet red was very easy to drink and had a delicious port aftertaste.
  • Muscat Liqueur – floral, sweet and slightly viscous, this was just like drinking Turkish delight laced with rosewater.
  • Liqueur Mead – made with honey from the property, it didn’t have a strong scent but once sipped, sweet honey bloomed in the mouth.

 

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Tannum Sands and Boyne Island

About 20km south of Gladstone you’ll find Tannum Sands and Boyne Island, two communities separated by the Boyne River.  The combined population is around 12,000 people.

 

We rolled in to Tannum Sands on a Sunday morning and drove straight to the Millennium Esplanade, but we couldn’t find a parking spot – it was only 7:30am! What’s going on?  A little further down we found out that they were holding a Mothers Day Classic fun run.  That explains why we couldn’t find a park so we went back to town to get a coffee.

 

We found a fantastic little coffee place called Say Espresso Bar, and it was packed!  Lots of lucky mums were being treated to well made coffee and delicious breakfasts in the warm sun.  By the time we finished our coffees, we went back to the Millennium Esplanade, checked out the beach, saw an amazing seahorse sculpture and turtle-shaped speed humps that made us laugh.

 

 

Agnes Water and the Town of 1770

Considered to be the birthplace of Queensland, it was here that Captain James Cook and his crew from the Endeavour came ashore on the 24th of May 1770.  The exact point is called Monument Point, and a big cairn is there to mark the spot.  Nearby is Joseph Banks Conservation Area with a few lookouts over the headland and deep blue water.

 

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The area has been hyped as the New Noosa because of the area’s beauty and lack of commercialism.  It’s become a popular place for locals and visitors for holidays and draws in the fishing enthusiasts.  Because it was Sunday, we got to go to the markets and picked up some unpollinated avocadoes for $2 a punnet.  Also known as cocktail avocados, they look like little cucumbers and have no pit.

 

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Deepwater National Park

From Agnes Water, the road along the coast leads to Deepwater National Park.  It was a great opportunity to get some sandy 4WDing in before getting to Fraser Island.   There are three stops along the track.  The first was Flat Rock, which was barely visible under the tide.  Middle Rock and Wreck Rock were the next two destinations that also have nearby campgrounds.  They looked much the same as each other, except the beach at Wreck Rock had shells.

 

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On our way out, we crossed Deep Water Creek and were amazed at how still the water was.  It was almost a mirror, eerily still and stained with tannin.

 

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We stayed at two rest areas near Gladstone – our favourite was the Calliope River Campgrounds.  Despite the mozzies, the camping area was spacious, free for 48 hours and campfires were allowed.  The other rest area was near Benaraby. It was much smaller and crowded, but at least it had a toilet block with cold showers.

 

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Camping & 4WDing : Blackdown Tableland

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We were supposed to go to Carnarvon National Park to camp and explore the gorge but when the time came to book our campsite, we found that the park was booked out… for whole month!  We had to change our plans and chose to go to Blackdown Tableland instead.  We’re glad that we did because it was quiet and we practically had the place to ourselves.

 

The Blackdown Tableland is south east of Blackwater and covers approximately 47,950 hectares.  The elevation is nearly a kilometre above sea level, which makes the towering escarpment cooler and moister than the surrounding plains.  It’s a steep climb to the top that rewards you with great views of the surrounding areas, and smoke from a bushfire in a nearby valley wafted through the trees.

 

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We set up camp, cooked dinner, and once the sun had gone down we started to feel the cold.  They weren’t kidding about that cooler climate.  In the morning, we set off just after sunrise to explore the various walking and 4WD tracks.

 

Mook Mook Lookout is a short 1.2km one way track to a lookout.  The path passes massive sandstone formations, one that we named Mummy Rock because it looked like the head of a bandaged mummy.  There was a trickling creek, and a nearby waterfall to explore, and once we got to the lookout, we saw the source of the surrounding smoke.

 

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The next track was Goon Goon Dina, a 2.5km loop that weaved through the trees and told the story of the traditional owners of the land.  Stepping stones lead us over creeks, there was a rock art gallery, and charcoaled tree trunks hinted of a recent fire.

 

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These two tracks were near the campground so once they were completed, we packed up and headed south to Guddo Gumoo, which is also known as Rainbow Waters.  There is a 2km track that leads to the water fall, with a pool of clear water at the bottom, ferns growing from the rocks and colourful stripes on the overhead cliff.  It was a really beautiful spot.

 

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From here, we took the 4WD track back to the entrance of the park.  It started off relatively smooth, with the occasional fallen tree that caused the need for an alternative route, but there are some steep rocky sections that definitely need 4WD and full attention.

 

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Cape York

Experience : Cape York – Part 2

For Experience : Cape York – Part 1 – click here!

 

Bamaga Tavern

 

Day 5

Bamaga

We completed the rest of the 5 Beaches Track and made our way back to Bamaga.  When we took the Troopy out of 4WD, Dave noticed that one of the front spring mounts had snapped. Afraid that the other mount would snap too, we crawled to Bamaga and went straight to the wreckers.  A new mount was an easy $10 and Dave installed it in about 30 minutes.  We then met an inquisitive local named Mark, who worked in one of the aboriginal communities and was interested in hearing about Our Naked Australia.

 

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It was about lunchtime so we lingered around the Bamaga Tavern for a drink and a meal at the northernmost pub in Australia.

 

Seisia

To be honest, there isn’t much to see other than the wharf and jetty.  Fishermen of various ages were trying their luck with the massive schools of fish hanging about below the surface of the water.  One man was even spear fishing.

 

Cape York

 

DC3 Plane Crash Site

On the 5th of May 1945, a DC-3 VH-CXD aircraft that was operated by the RAAF, was flying from Brisbane to Port Moresby to deliver meat to troops.  It needed to refuel in Bamaga but due to foggy conditions, it clipped some trees and crashed about 3km short of its target.  All on board perished.

 

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If you have a chance to swing past and see this crash site, then definitely do.

 

Muttee Head

This was a great place to camp.  It’s right next to the beach, the camping permit is included with the ferry pass, and the sweet scent of fig trees perfumed the breeze.  It looked like someone thought it was a great place to live because there was a campsite with a makeshift sink and little garden.  Perhaps a recent bushfire had chased the beachside hermit away.

 

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Day 6

In the morning, we headed straight to the Jardine Ferry, but the ferryman hadn’t turned up yet.  It was still early so we hung around for 45 minutes with a bunch of other people waiting for the ferry to open.  The guy eventually turned up at 8:15am and got to work straight away.

 

Old Telegraph Track

Today we would complete the northern portion of the OTT, but because the road was closed from the Jardine River, we had to travel a few clicks before finding the side track in.  We checked out Eliot Falls, Twin Falls and Fruit Bat Falls, did a nerve-wrecking water crossing, and headed back to the southern portion of the OTT.  The Jardine Ferry ticket included camping at Bertie Creek so that’s where we spent the rest of the afternoon.

 

 

Day 7

After a quick wash in Bertie Creek, we decided to continue down the OTT instead of taking the Gunshot Bypass back to the main road. We usually avoid back tracking but we liked the OTT so much the first time, we were happy to do it again.

 

After a brief stop at Bramwell Junction Roadhouse to pump up the tyres and stock up on some more water, we went to Moreton Telegraph Station to book our campsite for that night in Iron Range National Park.  The lady at the station was really helpful and told us that Telstra customers can get a few bars of reception at Chilli Beach – if we wanted, we could book our site once we checked out the campgrounds.

 

Frenchmans Track

We took Frenchmans Track into Iron Range National Park, and found the track to be thoroughly unpleasant.  It alternated between unavoidable corrugations, soft sand and the occasional creek crossings.

 

 

There are two rivers that intersect with Frenchmans – Wenlock Crossing is fairly easy to navigate through but watch out for Pascoe Crossing.  It’s steep and rocky and you’ll definitely need a high-clearance 4WD vehicle to get through.  Unfortunately, the Troopy got hung up on a rock and while trying to get free, the brake booster blew.  Highly inconvenient – Dave had only one shot at guiding the Troopy down the steep rocky path into the river and he did a bloody good job.

 

The great views that followed the Pascoe Crossing were besmirched by the brake booster busting.  And to make matters worse, our water goon bag had bounced around in the back and tore on a bracket holding the curtains in place.  We dealt with the goon, ate a banana to cheer us up, and made an effort to appreciate our surroundings before continuing on.

 

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Kutini-Payamu (Iron Range) National Park

Once off the Frenchmans Track, we followed the tarmac road through the ranges to suddenly be surrounded by rainforest.  We even saw a cassowary hurry off into the bushes!  The road alternated between paved and gravel road, and the rain made it easy for Dave to see pot holes.  The smell of the forest was wonderful, and we were amazed at how thick the foliage was.

 

There are two camping areas in Iron Range.  The rainforest campsites are nice and shaded right amongst the rainforest, but Cooks Hut is the only site that forbids generators.  It’s a large communal clearing with picnic benches and toilets.  Chilli Beach is the other camping area.  While reception is available on the beach, you can actually pick up a signal from the highroad on the way in.  This is where we made our first Queensland campsite booking.  The guy on the other end was really friendly, but we still have to wonder whether this micromanagement of parkland campsites is really the way to go.

 

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Chilli Beach

The sun had set by the time we got to our designated camping spot.  Dave was so frazzled from the day that when he opened the back of the Troopy to find that the goon water had leaked all over the bed, he refused to have anything to do with it and sat down to relax.

 

Juz sorted out the wet sheets and cooked a quick dinner of chicken and broccoli on rice cakes.  We both felt a lot better after a meal so we went to the adjacent campsite and met our neighbours.  Palm Cove locals, Symon & Robyne were holidaying with their kids and while we were on our way south, they were heading to the Tip.  We shared tips, exchanged details, and agreed that it would be good to meet up for a drink once we got to Palm Cove.

 

Cape York

 

Day 8

Juz crawled out of the Troopy in time to catch the sunrise on Chilli Beach.  After 4 days of overcast skies, the sun was finally out.  Eventually Dave woke up too and we went for a walk along the beach, picking up shells, spotting beached jellyfish and terrorising coconuts that were still hanging from the tree.   We also did the short forest walk behind the campgrounds and spotted lizards and butterflies amongst the undergrowth.

 

Cape York

 

Portland Roads

A short drive from Chilli Beach is Portland Roads, a cute little seaside spot with a few holiday houses and the Out of the Blue Café.  If you’re in the vicinity, stop by and get some seafood and chips – amazing!  We were also lucky enough to walk away with a big soursop fruit from the garden, compliments of the chef.

 

Cape York

 

Lockart River

If you need fuel, go to the local aboriginal community of Lockhart River.  It’s only $1.89 for diesel but remember – no photos while in the community. There isn’t much to photograph there anyway.

 

On the way out of Iron Range, we noticed rising smoke in the distance.  A bushfire was slowly burning through the dry scrub, and Juz told Dave to drive faster because the heat was too intense.

 

Cape York

 

Archer River Roadhouse

This was the last stop before the Quarantine checkpoint so we ate the entire soursop fruit for an afternoon snack.  Turns out, the quarantine checkpoint was closed anyway, but no matter – the fruit was delicious.  It was green and prickly on the outside with white flesh full of big black seeds like watermelon but five times bigger.  The flesh is stringy like pineapple or mango, and the flavour is slightly tart/sour.

 

Back in Coen

We got back to Coen just before dinnertime and had two long-awaited drinks at the SExchange.  We spend the night at the Bend again, and it was wonderful to have a wash in the fresh, croc-free water.

 

Day 9

We had another morning wash in the river before heading out to Lakefield National Park.  It was going to be a short day of driving because of the shot brake booster and poor quality fuel, so after swinging past Lotusbird Lodge, gazing at the flowers at Red Lily Lagoon and spying a kookaburra at White Lily Lagoon, we got to Kalpowar Crossing and relaxed.

 

 

Because of the croc-infested river, we had a cold shower in the toilet block and spent the rest of the afternoon reading.  Once the sun went down, we noticed that the ground was moving and found tiny little frogs everywhere… as well as big ugly cane toads.

 

Day 10

Because we didn’t have a boat for fishing on the river, there was nothing else to do at Kalpowar so we set off early for Cooktown.  This would be the final destination of our Cape York adventure, and what was supposed to be a two day stop ended up stretching to 10 days because of an unexpected Helpx invitation.

 

Overall, we enjoyed our time at Cape York.  The two biggest highlights were definitely being at the northern most point of mainland Australia and four-wheel driving along the Old Telegraph Track.

 

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Kakadu National Park

Wildlife : Golden Silk Orb Weaving Spider

Kakadu National Park
Name: Golden Silk Orb Weaving Spider

Scientific Classification: of the Nephila genus.

Alternative Names: golden orb-weavers, giant wood spiders, banana spiders

Location: they are found throughout Australia

 

Fast Facts:

  • Nephila comes from the greek language and means ‘love of spinning’.
  • These spiders live in warmer climates throughout the world, such as northern Austrlaia, Asia, Africa, and central America.
  • There are several species of golden orb weavers, with a variety of colours like silvery grey, plum and light green, but they often have stripey, banded legs.
  • It is not the spider that is golden, it’s their intricate web. Some webs can be 1 metre in diameter, they are usually spun from human eye level upwards so make sure you are watching were you are going!  Various compounds contribute to the golden colour of the web, which is believed attracts more insects.  People have tried to make clothes from the silk.
  • The spider has venom similar to black widow spiders but it is not as aggressive and is not lethal to humans.
  • Females are usually larger than males at around 5cm long (not including legspan!!), and the largest recorded spider was 6.9cm long. These spiders are so big, they have been seen feeding on small birds, bats and snakes, but they usually eat the regular smorgasboard of insects like flies, cicadas, locusts and moths.
  • Their main predators are wasps, who land on their web and pretend to be a damsel in distress. The spider comes over, is stung by the wasp and is carried away to be devoured in the wasp’s den.
  • These are the oldest genus of spiders in the world – a fossilsed specimen was discovered to be 165 million years old!

 

Cuteness Rating: none… totally gross.

Danger Rating: if you get bitten, go seek medical help.  You’ll have redness and soreness and blisters, but beware of an allergic reaction.  Just don’t touch them, ok?!

 

Our Encounter:

We’ve seen plenty of these, much to Juz’s dismay.  The first scare was in Meckering – Juz went to visit the rose garden and shortly afterwards returned to the Troopy white and wide eyed.

 

Spiders in Meckering

 

There were plenty of hairy moments due to poorly positioned webs in Kakadu National Park. It seems they like to construct their traps in places that would have a lot of insects, such as near water, in and around toilet blocks or lit up picnic shelters, or on flowering bushes that attract bees.

 

Kakadu National Park

 

Juz’s anarachnophobia allows her to take pictures of spiders, provided that they are still and she is aware of them and any others that may be around her.  If they move or she is confronted with a surprise spider, then she is the first to bolt in the opposite direction.  This does not count for Jumping Spiders – they are super cute.

 

 

Uluru-Kata Tjuta

Experience : Uluru – Kata Tjuta National Park

Uluru-Kata Tjuta

 

A visit to the outback would not be complete without a stop in at the most iconic landmark in Australia – Uluru.  This World Heritage-listed place is both culturally significant and historically ancient, as the people who have lived in this region, the Anangu, have survived for 30 000 years.   The rock is an enormous monolith that stands about 350m high, 3.6km long, 2km wide and extends for several kilometres below the ground.  It’s big, but not the biggest – that title belongs to Mount Augusta in Western Australia.

 

About 50km west of Uluru is Kata Tjuta, another rocky outcrop that literally translates to ‘many heads’.  Comprising of 36 domes of conglomerated rock, Kata Tjuta’s highest peak is 500m high and the area is considered sacred to the Anangu, so stick to the walking track.

 

Both attractions reside within the Uluru-Kata TJuta National Park, which was originally known as the Ayers Rock-Mount Olga National Park, until it was changed to the traditional names in 1995. A three day pass will set you back $25 per adult, but this is plenty of time to enjoy all of the activities, including sunrise and sunset.

 

Uluru (Ayers Rock)

We were born and raised in Australia and this visit to the Rock was our first time, ever.  When our eyes initially landed on the rock from over 50km away, Dave couldn’t help but suggest that it looked like a giant turd sitting on the horizon.  As we grew closer, we couldn’t take our eyes off it – not because it looked like a turd but because it was so surreal.  We had seen thousands of photographs in our lifetimes but to finally see it with our own eyes, we were mesmerised.

 

Uluru-Kata Tjuta

 

Pilgrimage to the Sunrise Viewing Deck

We woke up in the dark, packed up camp and hooned towards Uluru so that we could watch the rock wake up with the glow of the sun.  Apparently, everyone else had the same idea and the excursion turned into a strange and frantic race to the sunrise viewing deck, with confused tourists fiddling about with their entry passes being overtaken by avid photographers and Troopcarriers.

 

We’re not going to deny it – we broke some rules to get the parking spot that we did.  Cars and coaches all around us were spewing out people who were all heading to the same location – the viewing deck on top of the dune.  It’s was like the rapture was coming and everyone was lining up in the pre-dawn light to witness it.

 

With the platform overloaded, we chose a spot along the trail that had minimal desert oaks obscuring the view of Uluru.  Our eyes were on the sky – these stupid clouds better clear off or this sunrise is going to be a massive anticlimax.  The time of the sunrise came and went, and the Rock changed from a dull red to a slightly lighter colour.  Five minutes later, half of the people had left for their vehicles while a few disappointed disciples lingered around for another hour or so in the hope of getting at least one good photo.

 

Uluru-Kata Tjuta

 

Please Don’t Climb Uluru

After some breakfast, we drove over to the Cultural Centre for a little enlightenment before exploring Uluru.  There was information about the local wildlife and what bush tucker was available, as well as information about the Anangu culture and why you shouldn’t climb the Rock.

 

Leading up to our visit to Uluru, we were undecided about climbing.  Sure, it’s a once in a lifetime opportunity to climb Australia’s most recognisable icon but is it the right thing to do?  Once we got to Uluru, we unanimously decided not to climb, for a few reasons.

 

Firstly, we wanted to show cultural and spiritual respect.  When you go to a Buddhist temple, you’d take your shoes off before you go in – not because it’s part of your tradition, but because it’s part of the Buddhist tradition.

 

Secondly, we wanted to protest against the environmental degradation that years of climbing Uluru has inflicted.  There are no toilets on top of the rock, so when a tourist needs to go, they go up there.  When the rains arrive, all of that human waste is washed off the rock into the surrounding soil and waterholes.  Fucking gross, and icky for the local animals who want to have a drink.  The batteries from dropped cameras and phones also contaminate the waters below with cadmium and lithium.

 

Thirdly, we didn’t climb Uluru because we were asked not to.  The Anangu, who still live in the area and continue to have a connection with the land and their culture, do not want tourists to climb Uluru.  Even they don’t climb the rock themselves due to cultural and spiritual laws.  Not only are they obliged to protect their scared sites, they also have a responsibility of care for visitors to their land, which makes deaths and injuries a terrible experience for the Anangu.

 

Uluru-Kata Tjuta

 

As we watched tourists pass the signs that clearly say “Please Don’t Climb”, we wondered, “do they think that if they only climb halfway up that it’s less disrespectful?”  It was sad to learn that the main reason why the climb is still open is because the tourism industry doesn’t want tourists to stop visiting.  We think this is appalling – we didn’t climb Uluru and we still found it an enriching experience.  That said, we can understand why people want to climb the Rock, and will while the climb remains open.

 

Exploring the Rock

We didn’t do the base walk.  Not because we’re lazy but because we knew that we’d be seeing rock all the way around.  We preferred to do the Kuniya and Mala Walks so we could learn about the stories related to those areas.

 

Uluru-Kata Tjuta

 

The guided Mala walk was fantastic. It was lead by one of the rangers, Steve, who dished out heaps of information about the Anangu and their traditional law, which is called Tjukurpa (chu-kur-pa).  Defining Tjukurpa is difficult, but the way we see it, it’s their belief system, which encompasses ancestors and creation stories, how to live their lives, treat each other, gather food, care for the land, everything.  Tjukurpa is everything.

 

We gained a better understanding and respect of the culture and way of life of the Anangu.  The land is not only their kitchen and their bedroom, but it’s also their supermarket, hardware store and pharmacy.  Also, the Anangu don’t like their creation stories to be called Dreamtime stories, because they feel that it’s condescending and insulting to suggest that their beliefs are dreamed up and imagined.

 

The most interesting part of our new education was what the Anangu value.  Unlike us westerners who care about money in the bank, new threads or a shiny car, the Anangu care about two things – relationships and knowledge.  To them, a creation story or location to find water is just as valuable as a Lamborghini and they won’t just pass that knowledge on to just anyone!  Maintaining harmony in relationships is also important, as a friend will keep you alive much better than a pretty bead necklace.

 

Since the arrival of Europeans, the lives of the Anangu have changed in many ways.  They lost the rights to their country, their nomadic life was disrupted due to cattle destroying the land, their culture has been broken with forced assimilation into white society, and the diseases that foreigners have brought have killed many.  They were also forbidden to manage the land with controlled burning so when a wildfire swept through the area in the 1970s, the surrounding trees and wildlife were killed.  Most of the trees around Uluru are only a few decades old, which is a very strange thing to the Anangu.

 

In 1985, the federal government officially returned the park to the traditional owners, in an event called the Handback.  The Park is now jointly managed by the Anangu, who ensure that the park is managed in accordance to Tjukurpa.

 

We also did the Kuniya Walk and checked out the great rock features on either side of the Mutitjulu Waterhole.

 

Uluru-Kata Tjuta

 

Kata Tjuta

The Valley of the Winds walk was recommended to us by so many people that we had no choice but to do it.  The trek is a 7.4km loop that leads you up to the lookouts and around the domes.  There were plenty of drinking stations to ensure our hydration, and there were also plenty of tourists, but the view was great.

 

Afterwards, we checked out Walpa Gorge.  It was lush with plants such as native tobacco and spearwood that were watered by an ephemeral stream, and the sheer walls on either side towered high over our heads.

 

Uluru-Kata Tjuta

 

After a huge day, we had an early dinner at the Sunset viewing platform before deciding that the view wasn’t good enough, so we found a place on the side of the road to give us an unobscured view.  Unfortunately, due to the impertinence of clouds once again, we missed out on a show stopper.  This is about as good as it got.

 

Uluru-Kata Tjuta

 

Yulara

Yulara, aka Ayers Rock Resort, is the tourist community about 20km from Uluru.  The name means ‘crying’ or ‘weeping’, and if you’re taking a break from checking out the surrounding rocks, you can take part in the free daily activities, like dance shows, bush yarns or the craft market.

 

You can book all your tours near the town square, which also includes souvenir shops, a beauty salon, post office and a supermarket with reasonably priced meats and vegetables and an awesome selection of imported foods.

 

There is a Shell service station with petrol prices that are marginally cheaper than Curtain Springs up the road.  If you show the operator a receipt from any store in Yulara, you’ll get a discount on your fuel.

 

If you’re after a decent coffee, Kulata Academy Café is the place to go.  It’s staffed by supervised trainees from the local National Indigenous Training Academy, giving students a great opportunity to learn in a real environment.  Tuck into some quandong cheesecake, build your own sandwich or soak up the sunshine as you sip on a smoothie.

 

Camels can be found at Uluru Camel Tours, just south of town.  While we didn’t go on a camel ride, we got to meet Milkshake, the juvenile camel, who was very friendly and seemed preoccupied with having a taste of Juz.

 

Uluru-Kata Tjuta

 

There are heaps of accommodation options in town.  If you have a wad of cash the size of Ayers Rock, then head to Sails in the Desert for a 5 star experience.  There are also options for the more budget conscious.  Ayers Rock Campground offers unpowered sites for $38 a night, and they’re nice and close to all the facilities like BBQs, toilets and showers, and the laundry.

 

The Outback Pioneer Hotel & Lodge is great for travellers who don’t have their own vehicle, and because they’re affiliated with YHA Australia, YHA member discounts apply.  It’s a great place to hang out during the day or to sit down and have a meal, but don’t expect to be served alcohol unless you can prove that you’re a guest at the resort.

 


Book your stay at the Outback Pioneer Lodge at TripAdvisor
The lodge is connected to two dining options – the Outback Pioneer Kitchen and Outback Pioneer BBQ, where you cook your own meat and pair it with the all you can eat salad bar.  The Outback Pioneer Kitchen has a great selection of burgers, pizzas and fried food, and while the calamari rings are like circular shaped fish fingers, the pizzas are absolutely delicious.  It was here that we met up with our mates from home, Parksy and Nick for a few rounds, and even met another Melbournian, Lauren.

 

Uluru-Kata Tjuta 2014-07-19 149

 

If you can’t afford your own accommodation, there are some rest areas outside of town.  About 10km out is an unsheltered rest area where most other campers will be.  About 2km in from there is a road that leads you behind some trees.  This is more sheltered but who knows if it’s a rest area or not.

 

 

We went in with fairly low expectations because this Aussie icon is touted around like a cheap hooker, but we found our time at Uluru-Kata Tjuta enlightening and refreshing.  It needed to be seen with our own eyes as no photograph will ever display the spirit of the place.  After three days of dodging tourists and consciously minding our wallets, we payed homage to our nation’s Mecca and drove away feeling more Australian.

 

 

Devils Marbles

Natural Wonders : Karlu Karlu (Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve)

Devils Marbles

 

We were fangin’ down the Stuart Highway, watching everything turn yellow as the sun approached the horizon.  It had been a while since we raced the sun.  This time, it wasn’t to find camp before dark but to get to Devils Marbles before sunset.

 

Needless to say we made it.  We even had time to find a place to park, make dinner and meet our camp neighbours George and Mary who were from Shepparton in Victoria.  We sat down with them and shared the glow of their tea light candle over drinks and travel stories.

 

Devils Marbles

 

The Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve is one of the most iconic places in Australia’s outback and one of the most visited reserves in the NT.  It protects one of the oldest religious sites in the world and is of great cultural and spiritual significance to the traditional owners of the land. Karlu Karlu means ‘round boulders’ and also refers to the surrounding area.  The English name comes from a guy called John Ross, who was part of the 1870 Australian Overland Telegraph Line expedition.  He said, “This is Devil’s country; he’s even emptied his bag of marbles around the place!”

 

The shallow valley that the conservation park protects is covered with large granitic boulders that have been exposed to onion weathering, whereby curved shards of rock are peeled off to create the spherical shape.  Cracks caused by thermal stress weathering can go so deep into the boulders that they split straight in half!

 

 

 

Camping is super cheap – only $3.30 pp/night and the campground is right amongst the boulders.  It was packed out with caravans, campervans and buses but we managed to squeeze into a spot and still enjoy the amazing landscape that surrounded us.  The toilet next to camp was super smelly and scary as hell, but the toilets next to the info booth were quite pleasant.

 

Devils Marbles

 

At about 1am, Juz went for a toilet run.  The moon was waning, the night air was cool and the only sound she could hear was the crunching of gravel under her thongs.  She started to psych herself out, thinking about Bradley Murdoch and Ivan Milat.  “This is how people disappear in the desert”, she thought to herself.

 

In the morning, we listened to kids howling like dingos before getting up to catch the sunrise over Devils Marbles.  It was too cloudy to be spectacular, so we climbed some boulders and did the informative walk next to the information booth.  The split boulder reminded Juz of Monkey Magic – “Born from an egg on a mountain top!”

 

Devils Marbles

 

Wycliffe Well

About 30km south of Devils Marbles is the UFO Centre of Australia.  This hilarious attraction is worth the stop.

 

Wycliff Well

 

We met a cute little kitten at the entrance to the general store, which had a plethora of alien souvenirs.  The walls were covered in newspaper clippings of UFO sightings and they also happened to have an excellent beer selection.

 

 

As we ventured into the caravan park to check out more statues, we were amused by donkeys that were wandering about opening bins and rummaging for scraps.

 

Wycilff Well

Wycliff Well Wycliff Well

 

 

Katherine

Town Profile : Katherine

Knotts Crossing - Katherine

Located on the river of the same name, Katherine is 320km south of Darwin.  It started out as an outpost between Adelaide and Darwin for the Australian Overland Telegraph Line.  These days, it’s a simple town with one major supermarket, a few pubs and acts as the ‘Crossroads of the North’.

 

Fast Facts

  • With a population of just over 10,000 and 60% indigenous, Katherine is the fourth largest town in the Northern Territory.
  • It’s the closest town to the RAAF Base Tindal and provides services to Defence families.
  • Traditionally, Katherine was an important meeting place for the Jawoyn and Wardaman people.
  • In 1845, explorer Ludwig Leichhardt crossed what is now known as the Katherine River and is the first European to be recorded in the area.
  • On his 6th successful journey from the north to south of Australia, John McDouall Stuart crossed the Katherine River in July 1862 and officially named it.

 

We rocked up on Saturday morning, just in time for the markets.  We took advantage of the cheap food and listened to some music before getting down to business.  We found a van park to stay the night, did some work in the library, stocked up on fuel and food and then headed to the Stuart Hotel for cheap $10 jugs of TEDs.  Turns out the Stuart Hotel has a great tropical beer garden and we enjoyed the friendly guys behind the bar.  They also do food, claiming to be Katherine’s cheapest.

 

 

 

Points of Interest

Knotts Crossing

Located only 5km NE from the centre of town, Knotts Crossing is a lovely place to have a picnic and a splash in the waters.  If we had more time, we would have spent a whole afternoon here.   Knotts Crossing is actually where the originally settlement of Katherine started, when people came to work on the Overland Telegraph Line.

 

Knotts Crossing - Katherine

 

Katherine Hot Springs

A short drive SW from the centre of town brings you to the hot springs, a series of pools that sit at around 32°C.  We had a bit of a dip in the afternoon while we chatted with some other happy travellers.

 

Katherine

 

Katherine Icon

Just behind the Information Centre is a bronze statue of Sabu Peter Sing, a stockman, horseman and bushman who represents all the men and women of the Outback. The erection of the statue was part of the Project of the Northern Territory Cattlemen’s Association for 2002, Australia’s Year of the Outback.

 

Katherine

 

Nitmiluk National Park

Accessible via Katherine Gorge or Edith Falls, Nitmiluk is the ‘jewel of the region’.  You’d have to spend a week in Katherine Gorge to do all the hikes, and also have the endurance because they can be tough.  We did three hikes there and were absolutely exhausted.

 

Edith Falls is a great place to camp and the plunge pool is wonderfully close to the campground.

 

Edith Falls

 

Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park

Located just 17km south of Katherine, the Cutta Cutta Caves are a unique attraction with beautiful rock formations.  Check out our post here.

 

Information & Accommodation

The Katherine Visitor Information Centre is located on the Stuart Highway at the southern end of town.

 

We stayed at Knotts Crossing Resort, very close to the actual Knotts Crossing, and paid only $24 in an unpowered site for the night.  Close by was a camp kitchen, amenities, and a restaurant bar.  We also had a long chat with some really nice Austrian guys, who filled us in on the non-existence of an Australian-Austrian working visa arrangement.

 

Gregory Tree

Experience : Gregory National Park & Victoria River

Gregory Tree

 

Gregory National Park is one of the largest national parks in the Northern Territory, covering about 13,000 square kilometres of area.  To gain awareness of the park’s unique cultural heritage, the traditional owners have requested that it be called Judburra National Park.  From 2011, Gregory National Park will be dual named for 10 years before officially becoming Judbarra National Park.

 

We checked out Gregory’s Tree, which is where Baines carved Gregory’s arrival and departure dates into a large boab tree.  We also did the quick Calcite Flow Walk and admired the stromatolites and sharp rock formations.

 

 

There are a few 4WD tracks, one of which is only 20km long but took us about 3 hours to traverse, much to Juz’s dismay.  The road was full of sharp, rocky ridges that ran diagonally across the road so the Troopy was bouncing and bobbing like a boat.  To make matters worse, the sun was on the passenger side and the only way to prevent herself from getting heat stroke was to use her shirt as a shade cloth, which meant that the window needed to be wound up to fix the shirt into place.  It was the longest 3 hours of her life…

 

 

Miners Lookout and Park While we were in town, we also checked out the Miners Lookout and Miners Park, and learnt about

Experience : Kakadu National Park – Part 2

Continued from Experience : Kakadu National Park – Part 1

 

DAY 4

Bukbukluk Lookout

We got up early to check out Bukbukluk Lookout at sunrise.  It was a nice little lookout, and we later found out that bukbuk means pheasant coucal – a bird that we saw many times over the previous days.

 

Kakadu National Park

 

Yurmikmik

Yurmikmik is within the Jawoyn people’s country and there are a few walking trails available.  We tried to do as much as we could but we were really tired from the day before.  We aimed to complete three walks – Motor Car Falls, Boulder Creek and the Lookout, which provided amazing 360° views of the surrounding sandstone cliffs.

 

Kakadu National Park

 

The 3.8km walk to Motor Car Falls started with a bouncy rope bridge that allowed only one person at a time.  It was the most entertaining part of the journey – the rest of the way was hot, rocky and dry.  Luckily, bush passionfruit was available along the way to fuel the long hike through grass and woodland.

 

Kakadu National Park

 

Once we arrived at Motor Car Falls, we had refreshing dip in the pool before looking around.  We found some huge Golden Orb Spiders in massive webs that the butterflies skilfully dodged, and there were turtles and freshwater yabbies in the water.

 

 

On the way back, we went to Boulder Creek and it proved to be the best way to end the day.  We climbed the cascading falls and cooled off in the pretty pools.  We only went as far as the first tier, but two girls we met along the way went up even further.

 

Kakadu National Park

 

Kambolgie

Because we were so exhausted from the last two days, we made our way to camp early.  When we arrived, there was smoke everywhere and fires surrounding the camp site.  As it turned out, the rangers were patch burning the area to clear the dry fodder, increase biodiversity of plants and create a firebreak to protect the campers from unexpected wildfires.  It was great to meet the rangers and watch the yellow grass burn and crackle as the flames grew.  We noticed hundreds of grasshoppers jumping around, doing their best to get away from the flames and asked the rangers about how the lizards and other critters deal with the controlled burning.  They advised us that they factor that into the path of the fire and ensure pockets of unburnt land for animals to flee to.  Before they left, the rangers also hosed down the toilets so we had clean utilities for our stay – WIN!

 

 

Kambolgie was the best camp spot, in our opinion.  There was heaps of space, drop toilets, picnic benches and fire places and while it only costs $5 per person per nights, they were not accepting payment.  Recycling bins were available at the entrance and there were NO MOSQUITOES after the sun went down.  This could have been from the back burning but it was lovely to sit by the fire and enjoy a nice glass of wine.

 

DAY 5

Ikoymarrwa

While this location isn’t marked on the map, we were given the heads up at the information centre a few days earlier.  We were unsure where the turn off was because it’s also unsigned but once we found the place, it’s just a short walk to waterfalls and swimming hole.  As you explore further down the creek, you’ll find plenty of St Andrews Cross spiders waiting for a meal.

 

Miners Lookout and Park While we were in town, we also checked out the Miners Lookout and Miners Park, and learnt about

 

Picnic facilities and a fireplace are also available – with the possibility of camping too.

 

 

We knew we had completed our Kakadu experience when we got to the Mary River Roadhouse.  Overall, we really enjoyed our time in Kakadu and our only regret is that we didn’t go in June, when all of the attractions are open.  While we only spent five days in Kakadu, but it’s so big that you could easily spend two weeks exploring the park.

 

Miners Lookout and Park While we were in town, we also checked out the Miners Lookout and Miners Park, and learnt about

Kakadu National Park

Experience : Kakadu National Park – Part 1

Kakadu National Park

 

We said goodbye to Darwin after an 11 month stay and headed to our first destination – Kakadu National Park.  We were really excited to see the waterfalls and billabongs and couldn’t wait to get our boots dirty on a few hikes.

 

The name Kakadu comes from the Aboriginal floodplain language of Gagadju.  The Rainbow Serpent, a very important creation being for the Bininj Mungguy people, created most of the landscape, forming habitats and controlling the life cycles of plants and animals.

 

Kakadu was internationally recognised as a World Heritage area in 1981 for its rock art galleries and archaeological sites, and at nearly 20,000 hectares, it is the largest national park in Australia and second largest park in the world.  The traditional owners, the Bininj Mungguy, have been living in Kakadu for more than 50,000 years and are possibly the oldest living culture on earth.  The rock within the park could also be the world’s oldest rock, dating back 2,500 million years!

 

There are approximately 280 species of birds residing in the national park, which is around a third of all bird species in Australia, as well as 2,000 varieties of plants that have been used by the local aboriginals for food and medicine.  Crocodiles, or ginga, live within the park and while they are trying to increase the population since the hunting days in the 1960s, Crocodile Management Zones focus on relocating crocodiles so that the area is safe for visitors.

 

DAY 1

Bark Hut Inn

After a long drive along the highway, we stopped at the Bark Hut Inn for a beer.  Lucky for us, they had NT Draught on tap and they were particularly proud of the fact.  The Bark Hut Inn is essentially a historical pub that offers accommodation, food and fuel before hitting the national park.  It’s also the last stop for alcohol before Kakadu.

 

The place looks fairly ancient with all the dusty wood and animal heads mounted on the walls but it was erected in the 1970s.  There are some old Toyota wrecks dotted around the establishment with plaques providing information on what they were used for.  One of them had a specially designed bulbar with a platform for a person to stand on while they tried to lasso wild buffalo!  Outside, you can check out the enclosed emus and buffalo while inside, they have a pet snake and turtle.

 

 

After a schooner and a wander around the place, we continued to the Kakadu Information Bay at the entrance of the park.  We planned to sleep at Two Mile Creek but the gates were closed so we returned to the information bay for the night.

 

DAY 2

Mamukala

Our first stop for the morning was the Mamukala wetlands.  There were beautiful pink lilies, a few ducks on the water and the sound of magpie geese in the distance.  The water seemed to go on forever and the view was really lovely.

 

Kakadu National Park

 

Visitor Centre

The lady at the information centre was friendly and informative but it wasn’t all good news for us – a lot of the attractions were closed due to impassable river crossings or they hadn’t been cleared of crocodiles.  Apparently, the start of the Dry Season is not the best time of the year to come.  Even though the weather is great, you still have to wait until June for evething to open.  What this meant for us is that we missed out on Ubirr, Jim Jim Falls, Twin Falls and Gunlom.  Poopy…

 

Jabiru - Kakadu National Park

 

Jabiru

Jabiru is a small and simple town with a small shopping complex that consists of a supermarket that sells everything, a Westpac branch, post office, newsagency, a café and council offices.  The Kakadu Bakery is around the corner and sells pies stuffed with buffalo, roo or croc, and there is a lake at the edge of town with a playground and BBQs.

 

The Crocodile Hotel is also in Jabiru – an enormous building shaped like a crocodile, and phone reception is available with all networks.

 

Crocodile Hotel - Kakadu National Park

 

Malabanjbanjdju

Our first camp spot in Kakadu, and we were inundated with mozzies.  We shouldn’t have been surprised considering that the site is next to a lagoon, but at least it was quiet and the birdlife was lovely.

 

The Malabanjbanjdju camping area has heaps of space, drop toilets, picnic benches and fire places and is $5 per person per night.

 

DAY 3

Gubara

We had a bit of a rusty start – forgetting our hats, and being completely disorganised for our first hike in a long time.  We completed a lovely 3km walk through grassland and great scenery to cross a bridge and arrive at a fork in the road.  One clearly leads to the pools, which were clear and cool and more than welcome for a quick refreshing wash.  Tiny frogs and St Andrews Cross spiders were clearly visible in the area but we were conscious that there could be freshwater crocodiles as well.  As we rested by the waterhole, a monitor lizard sunned himself on a rock.

 

We returned to the fork in the road and followed the unmarked path to shaded waterfall.

 

Kakadu National Park

 

Nawurlandja

This lookout took us up a long rocky ramp to a beautiful view of the escarpment.  This is one of our favourite lookouts and reminded us of Cave Hill in Western Australia.

 

 

Nourlangie (Burrunggui)

The Anbangbang gallery is a popular location that exhibits Aboriginal rock art. It’s an easy 1.5km loop with wheelchair access in some parts and includes a lookout.  The Nourlangie region consists of two areas.  Burrunggui is the name for the higher parts and Anbangbang is the name of the lower areas. The rock shelters in the Nourlangie area have been used by Aboriginal people for the last 20,000 years.

 

At the lookout, there’s a fork in the path to begin the Barrk walking trail.  Barrk means male black wallaroo and the walking track is a 12km circular loop that includes walking through bushland, gullies, and climbing rocky ridges to see various galleries along the way.  It’s an area that Ludwig Leichhardt passed through in 1845 and this history is reflected in the artwork.  We did a short stint of the Barrk walk to a small creek to refresh ourselves.

 

 

Mirrai Lookout

This was a very steep 2km climb to a lookout structure that was partially obscured by trees.  Signs at the top pointed out landmarks in the distance.  We stayed long enough to catch our breath before returning to the Troopy.

 

Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre

This was a quick stop to check out what was on offer.  There was an interesting exhibition inside about the aboriginals who live in this country, as well as a souvenir shop, kiosk and toilets.

 

Kakadu National Park

 

We learnt how they cooked wallaroos, and that they thought flying foxes apparently taste good.  We also learnt about the buffalo farming industry, message sticks and different types of spears.

 

As we continued south west along the highway, we crossed Jim Jim Creek and saw a crocodile in the water below!

 

Gungurul

We camped at Gungurul and did the lookout walk at sunset.  It’s a fair climb to the top with great views all the way around.  Juz’s keen eye spotted a cute little legless lizard catching the last few rays of sunlight on a rock.

 

 

The Gungurul camping area has limited spaces, with drop toilets, picnic chairs and fire places and is $5 per person per night.

 

Kakadu National Park

 

Experience : Kakadu National Park – Part 2

Fortescue Falls - Karijini National Park

Experience : Karijini National Park

This beautiful and rugged landscape is part of the Hamersley Range and is Western Australia’s second largest national park.  There are three aboriginal tribes that traditionally own the Karijini area – the Banyjima, Yinhawangka and Kurrama people.  They’ve lived in the area for over 30,000 years, telling stories of creation, navigating the landscape without maps and practicing fire stick farming as a form of land management that increased plant diversity in the park.

 

The rock in Karijini was formed from iron-rich sediment over 2,500 million years ago under the ocean.  Horizontal compression caused the rock to buckle and crack before rising up out of the water.  Over millions of years, water erosion cut into the cracks to form the deep gorges that we enjoy and can explore today.  During our time in Karijini, we came across some beautiful flowers, including purple mulla mullas, tiny violets and Karijini wattle.

 

 

The climate in the park can vary from scorching 40 degree temperatures and the occasional thunderstorm in summer to clear days and frosty nights in winter.  We were there in the middle of May and were lucky to complete all the gorge hikes before the rain came, but unlucky that we couldn’t stay longer.  As soon as it starts to rain, you need to be careful of flash flooding and get out of the gorges, or you could have a seriously bad time.

 

Hiking

All walking tracks are graded according to Australian Standards.  Many of the tracks that lead into the gorges are quite steep and the rocks can be very slippery, especially when it’s wet.  Make sure you wear appropriate shoes and carry water with you at all times.

 

Mount Bruce (Punurrunha)

The first hike we did was up towards Mount Bruce.  This is the second tallest peak in Western Australia at 1235 metres tall, and is an important landmark that borders the three aboriginal tribes in the area.

 

As we climbed, we could see the Marandoo Mine Site in the distance, but that was overshadowed by the awe-inspiring view of the mountain rising up before us and the beautifully coloured rocks beneath our boots.  We got about 2.5km in before we turned back – Juz was on day 3 of her hangover and wasn’t feeling 100%.  It goes without saying that she won’t drink that much ever again…

 

 

Joffre Falls & Knox Gorge

The lookout to Joffre Falls was breathtaking and we decided to check out the track into the gorge.  About 300 metres in, we were at the head of the waterfall and were quite happy to not go any further.

 

Knox Gorge Lookout provided some great views of below and reminded us of the Z-Bend Gorge in Kalbarri National Park.  Lunchtime was approaching so we decided to head to Weano Gorge and cook up some bacon.

 

 

Oxer & Junction Pool Lookouts

These lookouts are perfectly placed at the intersection of four gorges – Weano Gorge, Hancock Gorge, Red Gorge and Joffre Gorge.  At the base of this intersection is an isolated pool, and the gate on the handrails gave us the impression that tour groups come here to abseil down into the gorge.

 

 

Kalamina Gorge

In between the Weano Picnic Grounds and Dales Camping Area is the Kalamina Gorge and waterfall.  We descended into the gorge and explored for a few kilometres, marvelling at the layers of colourful rock, steep cliffs and clear waters.  The contrasting layers of psychedelic red and magnetic blue rock throughout the gorge was really special.  We returned to the waterfall for a refreshing dip in the chilly water amongst curious little fish.

 

 

Fern Pool & Fortescue Falls

First thing in the morning, we packed up and headed for the walking trails.  We didn’t know when the rain was going to start so we wanted to make the most of the dry time.

 

Fern Pool was first, and the 300m walk from Fortescue Falls was shaded by giant fig trees growing out of the rock.  Once we arrived at the pool, we instinctively knew to be quiet and respectful.  There was something sacred and supernatural about this place, and when we felt the deep blue green water, it was strangely warm.  Two chicks were in the middle of some sort of morning ritual so we left them in peace in this special place.

 

 

The Fortescue Falls were stunning, both from the lookout and in the gorge.  We moved around the tiered amphitheatre and admired the water falling into the pool below, which would be perfect for a swim on a hot day.

 

Circular Pool

A steep descent into the luscious gorge adorned with little flowers, lush ferns, paperbarks and bare-rooted fig trees.  Circular Pool was so exquisite that Juz refused to leave without getting in for a swim, despite the cool of the morning.  So she got her kit off and jumped in.  The water was eerily warm until she got in the deep end; the bitter cold stung her legs so she came back in to dry off and get dressed.  Dave said that if the weather was nice and hot, it would have been tits, but because it was cold, it was just nipples.

 

 

It was now that the rain began, so we climbed out of the gorge and completed our experience at Karijini National Park.  We drove away, saddened that the weather wasn’t kinder to us. We could have stayed another day if the weather was warm to complete the gorge rim hike and go for another swim in the peculiar-coloured water.

 

Camping

There are two places you can camp in Karijini – the Eco Retreat near Joffre Falls or Dales Camping area.  The Eco Retreat is a privately owned resort with a variety of accommodation options.  Dales camping area is managed by DEC and costs $9 per adult to stay the night.

 

 

Facilities include gas BBQs, picnic benches and drop toilets.  There are seven camping areas at Dales and only one accepts noisy generators.  There are no bins in the area (why would a garbage truck want to drive all the way into Karijini National Park?) so please take your rubbish home with you.

 

Turquoise Bay - Cape Range National Park

Top 9 Towns along the Coral Coast

The Coral Coast of Western Australia spans all the way from Cervantes in the south to Exmouth in the north and covers about 1,100km of coastline.  Within the area is Kalbarri National Park, World Heritage areas Shark Bay Marine Park and Ningaloo Marine Park, as well as beautiful sandy beaches, rugged limestone cliffs and bizzare rock formations.

 

Lancelin does fall a bit short of being part of the Coral Coast, but for the purpose of this post, we will dub this great little town an honorary member…

 

Lancelin – 127km north of Perth

This relaxed coastal town is known as the WA base for wind and kite surfers.  Water sports are the main thing to do around here, unless you like 4WDing or dirt bike riding.  Head north out of town to find some wicked sand dunes to drive or ride over.

 

The town boasts a few cafés, as well as a bakery, surf shop, pharmacy, pizza shop and supermarket.  There are a few pubs in town, including the Endeavour Tavern, which has a kick-ass beer garden.  If you’re looking for some accommodation in the area, check out the Lancelin Lodge YHA.

 

 

Cervantes – 147km north of Perth

This town was established in 1962 as a cray fishing town and got its name from the American whaling ship that was wrecked off the coast in 1844.  It’s another coastal town that offers a variety of water activies, but it’s also super close to the Pinnacles.

 

One of the main attractions in town is the Lobster Shack, a family owned seafood processing operation where you can tour the factory, have a seafood lunch or buy some fresh lobster.  Just out of town is Lake Thetis, a lake that is home to stromatolites and thrombolites and is twice as salty as the ocean.

 

Dongara-Denison – 350km north of Perth

These two sister towns are separated by the Irwin River and boast great fishing, great beaches and the historic Priory Hotel, which was constructed in 1881 as a hotel before being converted into a school that was run by the Domical Sisters for 70 years.

After we checked out Fisherman’s Lookout and the Obelisk in Denison, we drove across the river into Dongara.  Big Moreton Bay Fig trees line the streets, and everyone was really friendly, including the chick who owns the Stomp Music shop.

 

 

Geraldton – 415km north of Perth

Geraldton is a city, not a town, but it’s a fantastic place to visit.  Also known as the Sun City, it has everything from supermarkets, theatres and an aquatic centre, to pubs, restaurants and cafes. Plus, it’s a short drive from Greenough’s leaning trees and Greenough Wildlife & Bird Park.  Check out our post on Geraldton.

 

Kalbarri – 589km north of Perth

This little town sits right on the mouth of the Murchison River and is surrounded by the Kalbarri National Park.  Explore the coastal gorges and rock formations just south of town or drive inland to check out Nature’s Window and deep river gorges.

 

There are two pubs and two supermarkets in town, as well as a really cheap café called Angie’s Café, but if you prefer to catch your own dinner, head to Chinaman Rock with your rod.  There are heaps of accommodation options, from expensive resorts to caravan parks.  Kalbarri Backpackers YHA is a brilliant choice if you’re looking for something relaxed and social and within walking distance to everything.

 

 

Denham – 834km north of Perth

The hub of Shark Bay, this little town is the home to Australia’s westernmost pub, The Shark Bay Hotel.  It is also a short drive to Ocean Park, Monkey Mia and Francois Peron National Park, and further down the coast is Shell Beach and the stromatolites of Hamelin Pool.

 

If you’re a keen 4WDer and fisherman, head to Steep Point.  Once you’ve conquered the sand dunes, see the ranger about a camp spot before dropping a line into the turquoise coloured bay.

 

 

Carnarvon – 905km north of Perth

We thought Carnarvon would be much busier but it’s totally chilled out.  It has a thriving tropical fruit industry and the town is surrounded by plantations that produce papaya, bananas and mangoes.  We also scored some cheap vegetables before doing a spot of tasting at Bumbak’s Preserves & Ice creams Outlet.

 

 

The OTC Dish is a massive landmark that can be seen from town.  It was opened in 1966 as a communications satellite dish and was closed after helping to locate Halley’s Comet in 1987.  It also participated in the Space Race and helped put man on the moon in 1969, and was also the sender of Australia first satellite TV broadcast.

 

Coral Bay – 1132km north of Perth

People were constantly recommending this location and when we got there, we realised why.  Coral Bay is such a beautiful place.  The town survives purely on tourism and is made up of a supermarket, bottle shop and a few caravan parks.

 

Juz went snorkelling by the reef, which is only a few meters from the shore, but other activities include quad biking and fishing.

 

 

Exmouth – 1260km north of Perth

We expected a little more from Exmouth – the layout of the town was a little strange and it felt like more of an inland town than a coastal town.  It was named after the Exmouth Gulf, which was surveyed by Captain Phillip Parker King in 1818.  The surrounding coastline is quite treacherous and is responsible for the Wreck of the Mildura in 1907, and its rusty skeleton can be seen from the beach.  Two lighthouses have been erected to make the coastline a little safer – the Vlamingh Head Lighthouse and the Point Cloates Lighthouse.

 

 

The area was the location of a secret base during World War II and was code named Operation Potshot, which is why the pub in town is called the Potshot Hotel.  We couldn’t afford to pay $30 for a chicken parma at the pub so we feasted on souvlakia from Planet Burgers before crashing at the Excape Backpackers YHA next door.  In the morning, we drove over the cape to the western side of the peninsula and visited the Jurabi Turtle Centre.  We learnt about the different turtles that live in the surrounding waters and the need to minimise the impact of humans on turtles coming to the area to nest.

 

Further along is Cape Range National Park, which is part of the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage area. The park covers over 50,000 hectares and is made up of white beaches, limestone ranges and rocky gorges.  We would have loved to go snorkelling over the reef but Juz was way too hungover from the previous evening so we went for a hike in Mandu Mandu Gorge instead.

 

 

BIG4 Holiday Parks on the Coral Coast

Dongara Denison Beach Holiday Park, Dongara

Sunset Beach Holiday Park, Geraldton

BIG4 Plantation Caravan Park, Carnarvon

Exmouth Cape Holiday Park, Exmouth 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Red dirt - François Péron National Park

Experience : François Péron National Park

A short drive north from Denham will bring you to the turn off for François Péron National Park.  The area takes up 52,500 hectares on the tip of Péron Peninsula in the Shark Bay World Heritage area and is edged by striking cliffs, white beaches and deep red soil. There are many rare and endangered animals that live in the park, like euros, thorny devils and thick-billed grass wrens.

 

Cape Peron  - François Péron National Park

 

The park was named after François Péron, a French naturalist and explorer who travelled with Nicolas Baudin in 1801.  Baudin was sent to Australia by Napoleon to explore and map out Australia’s western and southern coastline.

 

The Péron Homestead makes for a great short visit.  The self-guided tour around the former sheep station, which ceased operation in 1990, gives you an idea of what life was like in the area in the early days.  If you have a 4WD, there is a great track that leads all the way to Cape Péron.  If you don’t have the appropriate means of transport, Ocean Park offers 4WD tours through the dunes of the park so you don’t miss out.

 

Camping is available at designated sites around the park but campfires are strictly prohibited.  Entry and camping fees apply.

 

The Péron Homestead & Heritage Precinct

A former sheep station that has been preserved to give visitors an historical experience.  You can walk through the old shearing shed that has a great diagram of how the sheep were processed.  There was a certain routine to shearing sheep and a ‘gun shearer’ would be able to complete the entire routine in 2 minutes.  We also got to see the old living quarters, complete with kitchen, beds and a bathroom with ironing board.

 

 

A picnic area and BBQ facilities are available, as well as the ‘hot tub’, a circular bath filled with artesian water that comes from over half a kilometre underground.  The water is naturally heated to 40 degrees, which was uncomfortably hot but we got in anyway.  After a few minutes, we started to feel a bit woozy so we rinsed off and headed for Cape Péron.

 

4WDing

At the beginning of the 4WD track are tyre deflators so you can bring your tyres down to about 20 psi.  The track cuts straight through the middle of the park, all the way up to Cape Péron.  There are a few offshoots towards the Big Lagoon, the Gregories and Skipjack Point, just to name a few.

 

We went to Cape Péron first and worked our way backwards.  All around us was this beautiful red dirt, which contrasted beautifully with the deep blue ocean.  At the very tip of the cape was a beach lined with cormorants, bathing and socialising in the afternoon sun.

 

 

Skipjack Point was fantastic!  There are two lookouts that provide an incredible view of the sea life below.  We saw a massive sting ray, a pair of manta rays, a shark and a few turtles.

 

 

The track is a mixture of a few firm, flat clay pans, or birridas, in between long stretches of relatively soft sand.  The clay pans are the remains of what used to be lakes many, many years ago.  The sandy track was easily manageable in the Troopy, even the one or two hairy bits didn’t require the low range gears.  Overall, the 4WDriving through the park was really enjoyable and we loved every minute of it.

 

Project Eden

The wildlife on the Péron Peninsula are under threat from feral animals and what Project Eden aims to do is control the number of foxes and cats in the area and reintroduce native wildlife so that their population can be brought back to a healthy number.  Two ways they are achieving this is with the Feral Proof Fence and removal of large stock like goats, sheep and cows so that the vegetation can rejuvenate.

 

Since the beginning of the Project, they have seen fantastic improvements, with the successful reintroduction of bilbies and mallee fowl.  They hope that the same results will happen with the bandicoot and hare wallaby populations, and continue to educate people about the importance of conserving the Peron Peninsula ecosystem.