Friday, 29 August 2008

Darwin to Broome

This is quite a lot to write about as the distance between these two places is pretty big and covers a lot of cool places, I'll also upload all the pics rather than just these sample ones when I get the chance, but here goes for now:

We decided to leave Darwin after only 2 nights and head to Katherine via Litchfield NP.  This is a popular spot for Darwinites (or Darwinians?) as it's so close to the city, and was suitably busy.  We had a quick look at the main attractions, except one where the car park was full!  The only respite was a 4wd track to get out of the South of the park and closer to Daly River NP.  The 4wd track was pretty and not too hard, the great thing was the first creek crossing was 70cm deep (and it soaked everything on the car carpets, again!) so it kept out all but the very determined!  Daly River was a quiet, odd spot, mainly for fishermen I think, but a very pretty river nonetheless.  Turning around we headed back to the Stuart Highway and down to Katherine again, aiming for the Springvale Homestead where we had stayed before with Darren and Nik.  Arrived as it was getting dark, but set up near the billabong where we camped last time as we knew where everything was and that it was a nice spot.  Guinea fowl were noisy through the night though, roosted above our tent!

Next day was a big one, lots of driving.  We headed directly West on the way to Kunnunara, on the Savannah Way, but before getting to Kunnunara, which is the gateway to WA, we veered South into Gregory National Park (named after explorer Augustus Charles Gregory) on a dirt road to the homestead Bullita, which is now a ranger base.  The original homestead has been restored and is now a kind of museum, but was fascinating, one of the best we have seen in fact, you could almost expect a stockman to come home there and his wife be cooking in the kitchen!  There are boab trees (more info at the end of this article) all around the tracks and area, some were marked and called "hotels" by the stockmen as they often camped under them.

We camped at Bullita campgound with two other campers (it's pretty quiet around this area, as the dirt road in was rough and keeps out the caravans, yeah!), but not until after beginning what is known as the "Bullita Stock Route".  This is a very rough track which the cattlemen used to drive stock over on the way to Kunnunara and Wyndham on the coast.  My god it was rough!  The entrance to it was across a rough river bed and was scary enough in itself.  We drove 10k down the track, had a heated discussion about what we were doing, as it was getting dark, then turned around and headed back to the easier to reach main campgound!!!  The rest of the NP is hard enough to drive through anyway, and is amongst the remotest NP's in Australia.  We also registered our trip intentions with a free phone reg service where they take all your details about where you are going, including $100 on your credit card, which is refundable as long as you deregister, otherwise they send out a search party and you get billed!  Better safe than sorry though.

Bullita Stock Route, the start:


About 10kms down near where we turned around (the picture doesn't do it justice - there were also rougher patches than this, it's just my photographer was petrified in her seat!):


Humbert Track, Wickham Track and Gibbie Track were the three tracks (these are most definitely not roads) South through the park, we had to drive all three of them, about 200kms in total - not far you might say, but when you can only go between 5-25 kms an hour, it takes some time, patience and a bit of low range gear work to negotiate, and it certainly felt remote which adds to the atmosphere.  When we left the Bullita campsite in the morning, we didnt see another human for 8-9 hours until we finished the tracks and got to the quirky Aboriginal township of Kalkarinji.  There were signs on most of the tracks, but we almost got lost at one stage as the creek crossing just didnt look like part of the track!  And a station about two thirds of the way down, but no workers there at the time.  Lots of cattle, horses, a camel!  And birds of course.  All in all an awesome day with some spectacular country crossed and not a sole in sight.  Brilliant.






We've got some little video clips of the off road stuff that I'll put up on the blog when I get some more time.

Kalkarinji was an experience.  Darren had told us about it.  Apparently a few Aussie Rules Aboriginal footballers have come from here.  Me & Em could see why.  The local people were big!  When we arrived there were only a few groups kicking around, which is always an odd sight, as they just seem to amble around looking like they are looking for trouble, most often they aren't and its a dry community too which helps.  But we were relying on getting fuel there and the servo was shut, and it also looked like it had closed down forever!  Panic set in a bit (we could still get to another town 170kms away, but in the wrong direction making it an expensive detour) and it was getting dark.  I wandered into the closed Police station area and asked a white bloke on his balcony whether it was open and he curtly told me yes, at 9am and that's just the way it looks (rundown and closed).  The "caravan park" was next to the closed servo, this also looked run down and shut, but there was one old guy in there in his caravan so we camped up nearby.  He owned the Rare Rocks shop in Katherine and had been coming to Kalkarinji for 30 years, they were "an ok crew here, shit yeayh" as he told me.  Nice chap, lent us his key to get into the toilet block.


Next day we got fuel from the buzzing and vibrant servo and main store, a variety bash (we still arent sure what this means, some of them were in clown setups, and they were all driving old cars) crew turned up to add to the weird feeling of the place!  We set off with a full tank and feeling like we had had a special treat in K'rinji and especially completing the tracks through Gregory NP without problems (and had also remembered to deregister our trip with the bushwalker's phone service people!).  The road out is along the top of the Western deserts, and was suitably boring - just dirt and dust and corrugations - and hot.  It runs just North of some of the remotest roads in the country, the Tanami Road and the Canning Stock Route, maybe one day we'll get to see them....Anyway we got over the border into WA without event and into Halls Creek for some more fuel.  This is near Wolfe Creek crater, which is the namesake of the stupid film that we neither liked or talk about on this trip.  Needless to say we didn't go there (we heard it's just a massive hole in the ground anyway).

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