THE OYSTER TRAIL AND PORT LINCOLN

Ceduna is the first major town at the end of the Nullarbor and its pristine waters produce excellent oysters and other quality seafood. It is also the start of the Oyster Drive which goes south to Port Lincoln and up the coast to Cowell.  We endeavoured to taste the oysters – which all taste very different – at each place!

First stop was Thevenard -four kilometres from Ceduna – where we found a little shack shucking fresh oysters for $12 dozen – so with a couple of dozen in the car we headed for a spot by the ocean to indulge.  They were good – very good!

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Next it was off to Smoky Bay, a small settlement where the oysters are also excellent but of a different taste altogether.

Streaky Bay was our overnight stop and here we witnessed one of the most beautiful, calm sunsets we have seen yet.  We walked along the jetty whee the locals were trying their luck fishing and the pelicans were ever hopeful!

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As the sun set and the shadows deepened the reflections became more dramatic.

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Of course, more oysters were on the menu along with King George Whiting and Blue Swimmer Crab.

Next morning more beautiful coastal scenery awaited us at Sceale Bay which is a tiny community and is known for fishing and holiday recreations. The permanent population is 40 and that can triple in holiday periods;

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Coffin Bay is renowned for oysters and on the drive to our favourite restaurant there – 1802 Restaurant – we came across Murphy’s Haystacks which just appears out of nowhere on the landscape.  This 1500 million year old geological wonder is one of the most visited locations on the Eyre Peninsula and is actually on private property.  The unique form of pillars and boulders dates back 100,000 years and are ancient wind worn inselbergs.

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They were buried by calcareous dunes about 30,000 years ago and subsequent erosion has revealed the pink granite forms standing on the hilltop today.

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The local legend is that coach driver Charlie Mudge named Murphy’s Haystacks following a remark by a Scottish agricultural advisor who saw the landmark in the distance whilst travelling on the mail coach.  Shimmering like haystacks in the hot afternoon sun, he was very impressed with the sight and remarked “that man must harrow, look at all the hay he has saved!”

At Venus Bay we went to the Needle Eye Lookout for amazing views of towering rugged cliffs and beautiful beaches as well as pounding, rolling surf.

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Here we spotted a pod of dolphins frolicking and playing in the surf.  An artist has carved his work on the granite rocks at the top of the cliff reminding everyone that this is tuna fishing territory.

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More oysters awaited at Coffin Bay – and I have to admit that these are my favourite.  Not too large and salty, they are delicious and can be prepared in a variety of ways.

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Followed by raw tuna Asian style

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This place is an absolute must for anyone travelling along the Eyre Peninsula.  The town is sleepy but swells in holiday periods.  Lots of pelicans keep you company!

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Port Lincoln was our final stop for the day.  This is a seafood lovers paradise with, it is said, the cleanest, freshest and most sought after seafood in the world.  Prized for its superb quality in sushi and sashimi, the majority of the southern bluefin tuna is exported to Japan with some available locally.  We decided to take a boat trip in Boston Bay to view the tuna and kingfish farms – now a multi million dollar business for the town.  The Marina is busy with fishing boats coming and going, some to catch sardines to feed the tuna in the farms, others to catch prawns and other fish.

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The farms are situated in the bay and the tuna are grown there before being caught and exported once they reach the required size.

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Seabirds know when it is feeding time!

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Mussels are also grown out here and are serviced daily by the fishermen.

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We took a little detour to an island where there is an enormous number of seabirds living alongside seals lots of seals many of which were having a roll about in the water.

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Finally we got to taste different sashimi – and shown the correct way to eat it!

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Lunch consisted of…..you guessed it – Sashimi!

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Our oyster experience was not yet finished – more was to come tomorrow!

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE FOREST ROAD TO ALBANY

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We spent five lovely days in Perth staying with friends and just relaxing after the 10,000km we have driven so far.  Long sleeps, great restaurants and little walks through urban villages made this a wonderful R&R.  All too soon we hit the road again.  This time to Albany.

There were lots of pleasant forest drives to this southern part of Western Australia which made a nice change from the flat landscapes we have had for days previously.  Albany is a small town on the southern tip and was known for its whaling station in the early days.  The former whaling station now houses a museum from where migrating whales can be seen passing off the coast in season.

We made our way to a different museum – the National Anzac Centre which is located up on a hill in the Princess Royal Fortress.  It overlooks the actual harbour where over 41,000 men and women departed Australia for the Great War.

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Immediately on arrival you are given a card upon which is a photograph and the name of someone who served in the war. Then you follow their personal story through state of the art technology, multimedia and historic artefacts.

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Mine was an Australian Army Nurse – Olive Haynes – who went to Gallipoli and then Egypt after which she was in Marseille and Boulogne in France.  It was fascinating to learn of her journey, see her letters and follow her life.  Happily she survived the war and lived to the age of 90.

There are amazing historical displays and many, many stories but one piece touched me deeply – a sculpture of a digger giving his horse a drink of water from his hat.  Those men were deeply attached to their horses and the bravery of both is highlighted in the museum as well.

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Albany has one of the most exposed coasts in Australia and about 20km from the town centre is The Gap – a 24 metre chasm to the ocean.  We had heard of this area but nothing prepared us for the spectacle that awaited on arrival.  Also at this place is The Natural Bridge which is a large span of granite that has been eroded and has formed an archway. There is a path leading to both attractions and even on the windiest day, it is possible to watch the fury of the ocean.

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The Natural Bridge is also amazing – and walking across the granite rocks to the bridge one can sense the magnitude of time and also think of the Dreamtime legends of the Aboriginal people.

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The coast here is rugged and wild and there are countless stories of shipwrecks.

Later we went to the Torndirrup National Park in Albany where there are a number of lookouts and walking trails.

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Being here amongst the cliffs, the wild sea, the granite rocks and in the little town made me think of one of my favourite novels – The Light Between the Oceans  by M.L. Stedman – which tells the story of a lighthouse keeper and his wife in this part of Western Australia in 1926 following the Great War and is loosely based on a story here in Albany.

Finally, in this place of granite rocks, we stayed in a Hotel called Dog Rock – and this is why……

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Can you pick the dog?

 

 

 

 

THE ENDLESS ROAD TO THE COAST – CORAL BAY AND SHARK BAY

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The distances here in Western Australia are so vast that it is almost beyond comprehension – even though we have driven over much of Australia over the years.  Here in the North West the road is endless and there is nothing to break it.  It was with great relief that we arrived at the tiny village of Coral Bay – and here we wanted to stay!

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This tiny settlement is perfect for families and for people seeking relaxation or something more adventurous such as diving, fishing or snorkelling.  The beautiful coral reef is just metres from the shore and the beach has pristine white sand and is safe for even the tiniest tot.  We found ourselves in a cabin right on the foreshore

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And all we had to do was cross the road and we were on the beach and in the beautiful clear water.

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There is a platform for coral viewing or snorkelling and even early in the morning the fish were friendly and just weaving around our legs – probably looking for food!

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The sunsets here are glorious and with an aperitif in hand, gorgeous view and the total serenity of the place, that long, endless road was forgotten.

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The next day we had a 420km drive to Shark Bay – or the little town of Denham. This is the most westerly point of the Australian continent and is on the UNESCO World Heritage list.  It has vast sea beds which are the largest in the world and which support the dugong population – which is also one of the largest in the world.  The Stromatolites are among the oldest forms of life on earth and it is possible to view them at low tide from a specially erected platform.  Apart from these features, we wanted to come here because of its proximity to Monkey Mia which is famous for its dolphin experience.

In the past visitors were able to swim and interact with the dolphins which came close to shore to be fed.  Today it is regulated by the Department of Wildlife because the lives of the dolphins were endangered by too much human interaction.  It is still a wonderful experience and the Wildlife Officer also gives a short talk about dolphin behaviour.

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Feeding occurs in the morning and the amount of fish each dolphin gets is strictly monitored so they still have to go out into the wild to hunt.

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These are such beautiful creatures and I almost had the feeling that Piccolo was human when looking at her eye.

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Monkey Mia is a tiny place with just one caravan park/hotel and is where tourists come especially for the dolphins and perhaps a little fishing. There are boat trips on offer as well.

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OeQes6B6SLCNNVATzjCybg_thumb_4a1Denham is a great little town and was settled by Europeans first in the 1850’s who began pearling, pastoralism and guano mining.  The original inhabitants were the Aboriginal people – the Mulgana – who were here for thousands of years and evidence of their presence can be seen in cave shelters and shell middens around the peninsula.  It is said that they were probably the first Australian Aboriginals who had contact with European explorers who came in the 1600’s.

We walked along the foreshore and found a sweet little building which is a restaurant called The Old Pearler.  Deciding to have dinner there, we then discovered its interesting history.

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This is the only restaurant in the world to be built predominately of sea shells. The shells are essentially of the small molusc family being bonded together by pressure and calcium.  The shell stocks came from the Hamelin Pool area and blocks were cut by saw from the ground.  An Englishman, Tim Hargreaves, took three or four years in 1974 cutting and laying the shell blocks.

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Railway sleepers were used for doors and window frames and the tables were made of timber salvaged from the original Peron Station shearers quarters.  Various artefacts are on the walls inside and the acoustics are exceptional which is due to the myriad of air pockets in the shell blocks.  These also ensure there is coolness in the hot summers without resorting to fans or air conditioners.

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This is also the most westerly restaurant on the continent.  We had seafood both nights we visited and the crayfish was sensational.

Several years ago we visited the area on board “True North” and also went to Dirk Hartog island which is close to Denham as well as Steep Point.  This is a rugged area which is the westernmost point of mainland Australia.  Access is by 4 wheel drive only as the track is through sand dunes.  We were fortunate to land by boat and this time is it good to see from the land perspective. Steep Point is also a renowned land based game fishing place with over 320 species of fish caught off the point.  We saw fishers harness themselves to the cliff and then float their baits off the cliff using helium balloons.  They then hauled their catch up the cliffs – no easy task as a shark very often gets it first!

Anyone visiting this part of Western Australia simply has to disregard that long, long road and come to Denham.  I promise you will not be disappointed!

 

 

 

THE ROAD TO BEAUTIFUL BROOME

It was a short drive from Derby to Broome along a bitumen road which was easy.  Broome is a cosmopolitan town on the coast which began during the pearling days in 1880’s.  The population is a melting pot of  traditional indigenous, Japanese, Chinese, Malays, Europeans, and Islanders.

It has an easy, laid back feel to it and, in what has become a tradition, viewing the magnificent sunset from Cable Beach is a must do on arrival in Broome! Many flock to the beach in their 4 wheel drives, others wander down slowly and sit on the rocks and yet others choose to watch the spectacle from the comfort of the Sunset Bar at the Beach Club or Zanders – both of which are located right opposite the beach.  Two camel trains wend their way slowly along the beach carrying eager tourists and children and as the sun goes down and the sky turns gold and then pink.

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The camels are a reminder of the Afghans who came to Australia in the 1840’s bringing their camels with them to assist in the exploration of inland Australia. Camels were also imported from British India at that time.  Today they are mostly feral with some being used for tourism purposes.

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Another tradition is to drive to Gantheaume Point which is at the end of a red gravel road and is a rocky outcrop which is stunning because of its intense red colour which contrasts with the very white sand of the beach and the shimmering aqua colour of the sea.  Dinosaur tracks can be seen in the red rocks at low tide. There is an old lighthouse here and the Keeper’s house is still occupied.  Legend has it that the Lighthouse Keeper had a wife, Anastasia, who was very beautiful but who was crippled from polio.  She loved to bathe at high tide and so her husband found a little rock pool which had formed naturally near the house and which would fill up at each high tide and then empty again on the low tide.  He would carry his wife down each day and thus the pool is now known as “Anastasia’s Pool”.

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We have been to Broome several times and this time decided to stay at the Cable Beach Club which, although a little way out of town, is in an excellent location on the beach itself.  Built in the style of the old bungalows of days gone by in the tropics, it has lovely gardens and an amazing Asian art collection donated by Lord McAlpine who developed the resort in the 1980’s.  This is one of my favourite places on the west coast and we will definitely return.

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The Red Road Deep in the Kimberley

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The road to Fitzroy Crossing and beyond is long and parts of it are gravel and the soil very red.  This makes for quite stunning colours everywhere even though the car gets covered in a fine silt.

We had heard about China Wall near Hall’s Creek and decided to make a little detour to see what it was all about.  Located on a private property, we had to enter through the station gate and drive on a rough track for about six kilometres and suddenly, there it was!

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This was so surprising and is a natural vein of sub-vertical white quartz rising up to 6 metres above the surrounding country in some places.  It rises high out of the ground and then disappears again only to reappear further on.  Apparently it transects the country for many kilometres but we only saw this section.

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Aborigines have a theory about how this came about but for us, it was just a fabulous little detour to witness a wall similar to the Great Wall only right here in the Outback!

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We came across many more termite mounds but these were a different shape and I have to admit a fascination for them.  A local told us that the Aborigines used them as a burial place for their dead by placing the remains of the deceased inside the mound which would then be sealed naturally by termite activity.  Thus these formations are sacred to many tribes and explains why, in some places especially in the Northern Territory, we saw mounds with clothes placed over them – a t shirt, cap or a dress.

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Fitzroy Crossing was our next stop and this place I remember from my road trip way back in 1969.  There wasn’t much there then but now it is quite a thriving community which serves the stations in the area – many of which are now owned by Indigenous groups.  It is very, very dry at the moment, so the mighty Fitzroy River looked a bit sad.

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We did see some water birds making most of the calm conditions.

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I also remember doing a little boat trip down Geikie Gorge when I stayed on Fossil Downs Station all those years ago.  The gorge runs through part of the station and I remember being awestruck by the cliffs and the colours of the rock.  Sadly there were no boat tours available yesterday but we walked down to the water’s edge and looked at Linyjiya Rock – or Old Man’s Rock – the story here from the Dreamtime is that an old, blind elder left his tribe to go wandering and drowned.  He sneezed and sighed before he sank to the bottom and it is said that if you sit quietly and listen, you will hear the sighs of the old man.

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We left the gorge and continued on the gravel road towards Tunnel Creek and Windjana Gorge before joining the Gibb River Road.  Along a very lonely stretch we came across a young man on a bicycle.  We stopped to see if he was OK only to learn that he was actually cycling to Kununurra some 550km away along the notoriously rough stretch of road.  No smooth riding for him!  We gave him cold water, learned he was from the UK and decided he must be mad – but a very happy mad man!

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This is Boab country and as we neared Tunnel Creek National Park we drove into a landscape peppered with black rocks, cliffs and hilly mounds.  This is an ancient 350 million year old Devonian Reef and is now part of the WA National Parks.

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Tunnel Creek itself is a 750m long underground water worn natural tunnel and it is possible to wade all the way through.  We opted to walk to the entrance and learn the stories that lie beneath the walls.

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Jandamarra was a young man of the Banuba tribe at the time of white colonisation of the Kimberley.  He became entangled in a war between two worlds. He learnt English and worked with stock, horsemanship and shooting. However he became greatly attracted to the secret life of the Banuba male world of ritual, secret sites, mythology and  the law of the Banuba country.  He left the station and took up life with the tribe but then returned to station life, turning his back on his Aboriginality.  Finally he went back to the tribe and led a resistance against the settlers.  In 1894 he tragically shot his friend, the white policeman he had worked with for years, released prisoners and distributed weapons. An armed resistance followed and Jandmarra was killed here at Tunnel Creek. The area is obviously very sacred to the indigenous people but is also one of interest and history to everyone.

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The entrance to the tunnel where Jandamarra hid

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We went on to Windjana Gorge which is part of the Jandamarra story and is an open air gorge through the Lennard River.  There are beautiful rock formations and freshwater crocodiles, birds, bats and other wildlife as well as amazing fossils which I managed to find. The entrance to the gorge is narrow and would have been a perfect hideout for Jandamarra and his gang.

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The gorge itself is quite dry but the little water there is had a few little crocodiles as well as a number of water birds searching for food.

The rock formations are impressive and the shady areas along the water are a respite from the intense heat of the day.

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With our minds full of history of the past and totally absorbed by the beauty of the area and tired from walking the trails, we went back to the car and headed on to our next stop – the little town of Derby.

 

 

Straight Road to Timber Creek

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The endless blue skies and long straight road led us out of Darwin south towards Katherine.  First we stopped at Pine Creek, a small town with a historical past.  I was interested to see that at one time the Chinese well outnumbered the Europeans who were all there for the Gold Rush.

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Today it is a quiet town which services the tourist industry mainly. However, it is a good stopping point to take a small rest before conquering many more kilometres.

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The iconic windmill which was so common in the past and now is seen less often in favour of solar power.

The next stop was Victoria River Roadhouse which also has accommodation and where many keen fishermen make their base before setting off on the Victoria River for barramundi.  It was very hot, very dry and there were lots of flies, so I was keen to keep moving but not before we called in for a chat with the owners.  Someone has a great sense of humour – see below:

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Crocodiles live here so no swimming and great care is taken to put boats in and out of the water.

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The road began to curve after this and the scenery started to change to hills and escarpments. A nice change from the flat terrain we had become accustomed to. Now we are in The Big Country and this is where the Durack Family made their mark by settling on leases in the Northern Territory and walking hundreds of cattle up here from Queensland.  Several books have been written about the family at this time – the most well known being “Kings in Grass Castles” by Mary Durack.

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Finally we arrived at Timber Creek after some 610km from Darwin. It was a relief to find the Hotel/Motel/Caravan Park and the big surprise was the amazing location.  In a dry, dusty landscape, this was a little oasis.

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Lovely grassy areas where children could play and shady barbecue and picnic areas were dotted around all with the creek in the background.  8MECkBhQRf6lNkFEZH4Y6g_thumb_1f4.jpgOHnUrFO0SL2qqMlSA%2fdg_thumb_1f2.jpg

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Huge timber trees along the creek edge obviously gave the place its name and the creek now has several resident freshwater crocodiles.  Wandering down to the water’s edge I was amazed to see quite a large croc just slowly surface from what seemed the calmest millpond.  There was absolutely no indication that the reptile was there!

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Other residents of this gorgeous place are the fruit bats – of which we have lots in North Queensland and consider them a pest – however there are some people who think they are “cute”.

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This morning we drove up to a lookout and learned the story of the “Nackeroos” – The North Australian Observation Unit (NAOU)  or “Curtin’s Cowboys” which was formed in March 1942 after  the bombing of Darwin and was made up of a group of soldiers and Aboriginal guides who patrolled Northern Australia looking for signs of enemy activity.  They operated in small groups and most of the patrols were on horseback. They lived in the harsh bush conditions and were aided by Aboriginal locals who had knowledge of the area. Their story is inspiring and a monument has been built to honour them.

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From this location is a great view of the town of Timber Creek and the Victoria River in the distance.

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Now it is on to Western Australia and Lake Argyle in the Kimberley – the road changes from here on!

 

 

 

 

The Road Leads to Darwin

Darwin, known as The Gateway to Northern Australia, is a lovely tropical city.  With so much history to devour, you really need several days here.  Then there are  the world famous markets, festivals, cafes and a thriving arts scene and yet things move at a slower pace than down south and I can’t help feeling this would be a great place to settle for a while.

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For a start there are fabulous sunsets and this one is from the balcony of a friend’s apartment very close to the city.  There don’t seem to be traffic problems and on a drive to the museum yesterday this is what we came across :

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Hardly what you expect to see in the middle of a city!

We walked along the Esplanade and came to The Waterfront area which is both residential and recreational with a big wave pool and swimming lagoon and a park for the kids.

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There are restaurants galore and we settled for a coffee before walking back – with the bonus of a lift to take us back up to the Esplanade thus avoiding the slog of walking up the hill in the heat!

One activity the Darwinites love apparently is the Deckchair Cinema.  This is down by the water and screens films nightly with a bar and restaurant food available if you don’t want to bring a picnic. How tropical is that?!

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Keen to see the MAGNT (Museum and Art Gallery Northern Territory) we drove through the attractive seaside suburb of Fannie Bay and past the Botanical Gardens to find the Northern Territory’s premier cultural organisation set in a scenic coastal location at Bullocky Point with a restaurant/cafe alongside with views over the bay. The museum features collections of art from the region as well as natural science, history and culture. There is a lot of local history and there is a huge exhibit featuring Cyclone Tracey which devastated the city on Christmas Eve in 1974.

The collection of animals, insects, reptiles, shells and sea life is huge and it is all presented so well and the exhibits are so real that it is easy to imagine all this outside in the environment.

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This is the little Jacana and babies – we saw several in Kakadu but they are shy and elusive so to be able to gaze upon these without missing anything is a real bonus.

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Some fascinating aboriginal art is presented along with comprehensive explanations and even a desert artist shows her skill with a paintbrush fashioned from the tail hair of a dog – her intricate and steady lines were quite amazing.  Her hand never faltered.

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One immersive exhibition tells the story of the didgeridoo – or yidaki as it is known here. It illustrates the importance of the instrument in Aboriginal life and culture and begins with exploring a stringybark forest to find the right tree and then carving the yidaki and finally experiencing the mesmerising power of the sounds.  The painting on the wood – as shown above – all has significance to the owner, the artist and the tribe.  I actually felt goosebumps at the end of the performance.

And for those who are fascinated by dinosaurs this prehistoric skeleton is that of a giant goose – something I am sure 6 year old Hamish would love to see!

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Tomorrow we will immerse ourselves in the era of World War 2 in Darwin and there is much to see and experience.

The Road continues – Katherine to Jabiru

Katherine was a bit of a surprise. It holds great historical significance to local Aborigines (who make up 60% of the population) as it is where the lands of three tribes – the Dagoman, Jawoyn and Wardaman people – meet and has been an important meeting place for thousands of years.  Sadly the Cultural Centre was closed as it was the weekend but we learned a lot from the guide on the Gorge Tour.

Katherine Gorge – now known as Nitmiluk Gorge is absolutely beautiful.  Apparently “Luk” means “Place” and “nit” means “Cicada” thus the whole area is the place of cicadas.  I have to admit I didn’t hear any but legends abound.

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We had a very informative tour for two hours through two of the thirteen gorges which are of immense significance to the traditional owners, the Jawoyn people as home to the spirits of creation.  Quietly motoring through the first gorge leaves one with a sense of peace and belonging.

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Then we reached a crossing point where we had to change boats as the water level was low.  Here more surprises awaited – ancient rock art.

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Some of the paintings were hard to find until they were pointed out and unlike many sites, these were not in caves but under overhanging rocks so they were sheltered over the years.  The estimate is that they are more than 10,000 years old but that may well change to be older.

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One painting depicted circles which told the people that bush potatoes were growing in the area.  Another showed a figure upside down – apparently he was a sinner who had done very bad things in his life and would be forever remembered this way!

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Huge sandstone cliffs line the river and in places there are sandy beaches and a lot of vegetation.  Mostly freshwater crocodiles live here but in the wet season huge salties come in and have to be removed by the Park Rangers under a special program which relocates them mostly to Darwin to farms.

 

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This is Jedda’s Rock – made famous by the 1950’s film and is about 62 metres in height.

Close to Katherine on the road to Pine Creek is the beautiful Edith Falls – we called in and found the most delightful little park with a large waterhole and a special swimming area – away from the crocodiles!

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Notices are everywhere up here but one thing I have learned over the years is that Freshwater crocodiles are more afraid of us than we are of them and I have swam in waterholes with them – albeit keeping well out of their way!

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There are lots of walks around Edith Falls and they are well marked and very well maintained.  In fact the Park is a credit to the caretakers.

The road to Jabiru is excellent with lush country all around – there has been a massive amount of rain in recent days and so the creeks and billabongs are full.  The road was devoid of traffic and at times we felt we were the only beings on the planet – wide open spaces, beautiful waterholes, no wildlife except the odd young dingo and a huge silence.

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Then we came across “Termite Country” – these have to be seen to be believed.  As they say – everything is larger than life and twice as vivid in the Territory!

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Now we are about to explore Kakadu – or what we can due to the amount of water everywhere.  I think perhaps a flight would be the best way ……..

 

The Road is Straight – Mt. Isa to Katherine

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Two days of roads like this – we are now in Katherine in the Northern Territory and I am more in awe than ever of the Road Train drivers.  The distances are immense and the landscape from Mt. Isa to Katherine rarely changes.  Just flat nothing and occasionally a few trees or scrub.  Some of the roads are unfenced which means cattle wander across at night and often get hit by a vehicle so dead animals line the side of the road, particularly from Tennant Creek to Katherine.

The border is just after Camooweal where we stopped for a quick coffee at the roadhouse and I met Skippy…….

 

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We decided to stay the night at Three Ways Roadhouse which meant we covered over 700km that day and this was a good choice.  We had a comfortable motel style room with air conditioning – essential as it was stinking hot and the flies were unbearable! One plus was the sunset – it was simply amazing and became more vivid as the minutes ticked by.

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Dinner at the Roadhouse Bar was interesting meeting locals and a couple of truck drivers.  We were convinced we had made the right decision to stay here after numerous stories about Tennant Creek and the problems with crime which is rampant at the moment.

We set off bright and early and came across quite a few cattle grazing quietly.  I just had to stop at a waterhole and capture a young calf having a drink.

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Then it was on to Katherine but not without a stop at the iconic Daly Waters Pub.

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This has to be seen to be believed. The bar is draped with hundreds of bras in every size and colour.  The legend is that a coach driver had a bet with his female passengers and they decided to leave their mark – and the tradition has apparently continued!  The walls are lined with mementoes and outside the bark shed hang thousands of thongs!

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This area is famous for locals with attitude and many stories to tell.  Recently the country has been fascinated about the disappearance of a well liked local in Larrimah, just up the road from Daly Waters.  No body has been found, neither has his dog and lots of theories abound but so far no one has been charged with anything.  It seems this mystery will go on.  A popular Podcast throws light on the story and it seems people are still talking about Paddy and are still looking for him.  Of course, we had to stop and investigate for ourselves!

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With that story firmly in our minds we drove on to Mataranka where the thermal Pool in the National Park is a constant 34C and flows from Rainbow Springs at an amazing 30.5million litres a day.

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Mataranka is known as the “Capital of the Never Never” and was home to Aeneas and Jeannie Gunn at the turn of the century.  Jeannie wrote the book “We of the Never Never” which has become a classic and a film was made in 1981.  A replica of the homestead was made for the film and stands in the park today as a little museum.  I was fascinated by the history and constantly wonder how women coped with the hardships of the day dressed in all the flowing skirts and long sleeves which were expected of “ladies” .  I complained about the heat and flies today and I was wearing much lighter clothing.  It kind of puts things into perspective somewhat!

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So now we are here in Katherine and tomorrow will visit the famous Nitmiluk Gorge.  There is a rich indigenous and pioneer history here so a visit to the cultural centre is planned as well as the art gallery.  First of all tonight we will see what dinner awaits – crocodile steaks perhaps?

 

A Medieval Find on the Welsh Coast

They say that travel broadens the mind – it certainly does and what I truly love is discovering places with so much history.  I imagine myself in a particular place at a particular time and sometimes wonder about “time travel”.  On a recent trip to Wales this was certainly the case.

We were in Cardiff and about to explore the Pembrokeshire coast.  Knowing very little about the area, we stopped at the Visitor Centre and chatted with the local staff member.  She insisted that we stop at “the chapel in the rock”.  Never having heard of this place, St. Govan’s, we decided to go and find out what it was all about.

The coast is absolutely jaw dropping – fantastic limestone cliffs, beautiful beaches, open grasslands, rare plants and many varieties of birds, caves by the hundreds and several World War 2 bunkers.  There are pathways for walkers and rock climbers can be challenged by the sheer rock formations. IMG_9741

Just near here is Huntsman’s Leap and legend has it that a huntsman leapt across the chasm with his horse and then died of shock when he looked back at what he had done!

We crossed a grassy plain and found some steps going down the cliff and there, we found St Govan’s chapel.  This tiny chapel is nestled amongst the rocks and is said to have been built in the 13th century although some believe it may have been as early as the 6th century after St Govan was saved from the pirates.  During the 5th and 6th centuries it was common for Celtic missionaries to travel the coast.  Tradition says that St Govan was being chased by pirates when a rock opened up for him to hide in and then closed until the enemy had passed.  Govan stayed here for the rest of his life and prayed and taught here until his death in 586.

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p Steps going to the chapel

Whatever the truth, it is a fascinating place and the logistics of building a little medieval chapel such as this so long ago must have been enormous.

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Govan’s body is buried beneath the rustic altar and his hand prints are on the floor of the cave – it is also said that one should make a wish here.  We did – and I am still waiting for that wish to be granted!

There is an air of ancient mystery here and it is an area of secluded beauty and well worth any detour to come and visit, dream a little and travel back in time.

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the grassy plain where steps lead down the cliff to the chapel 

St Govan’s chapel is at St Govan’s Head, one mile south of Bosherston on a minor road in Pembrokeshire, Wales.