The Track

Wednesday 21st December 2016

 

First stop this morning (Tuesday 13th) was Katherine Gorge.  We followed Gorge Road out of town and arrived half an hour later at the Visitor Centre.  As luck would have it, there was a boat trip to two gorges with a stop at the Southern Rock Pool for a swim, leaving at 11.  Just time for a quick bite of breakfast before heading down to the jetty.

 

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The first gorge.

 

At the end of the first gorge we disembarked, walked about 600m to find another boat waiting to take us through the second gorge.  The guide explained the significance of this area of the gorge for the local Aborigine people

 

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This rock face was used in the film Jedda (1955).                                                A hidden beach.

 

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The second gorge narrowed as it came towards its end.

 

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Bottle-shaped Fairy Martin nests on a  cave ceiling.                                         The layers of rock are clear to see.

 

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The waterfall at the southern rock pool.                                                                Totally isolated, surrounded by rock face and boulders.

 

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The water was clear and very cool.  Wonderful!

 

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We didn’t want to get out.                                                           Even the guide got in to cool off!

 

We had the entire pool to ourselves, apart from one other couple – one of the advantages of being here at the end of the season.  The guide said they would be operating for only one more week and then would close down until after the wet season.  Excellent timing on our part – for a change!

 

On the way back through Katherine we stopped at the supermarket for some provisioning for lunches and snacks, and bottled water.  Steve popped into the bottle shop for some beer, and was interested to discover that there has to be a police officer on the premises at all times when open.  We were aware that the Northern Territory has an alcohol problem, but this seemed a bit extreme. 

 

We hit the road around 2 p.m., with a little under 300km to drive to Daly Waters, some 590km south-east of Darwin, where we had booked a room for the night at the historic pub, built in the early 1930’s.  The small township now only has 11 permanent residents, and the only business is the pub, but its airfield was once an important refuelling stop for the first Qantas flights to Singapore.  The spot was named by John McDouall Stuart during his third (and this time successful) attempt to cross Australia from south to north.  He named the natural springs there after the then Governor of South Australia.

 

The pub is adorned with all manner of trivia left behind by visitors and guests.  One room even has bras dangling from above!

 

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As we entered town, Santa gave us a cheery wave.                                         All was quiet at the pub, where we checked in.

 

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First job was to fill up with petrol.                                                                             By day this looks like a pile of beer barrels.

 

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By night it was a Christmas tree!

 

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Inside there is memorabilia everywhere...

 

Our cabin was...interesting...a bit like walking into a time warp.  It reminded me very much of the hydro worker’s place we stayed at in Tasmania, sort of 1950’s-ish.  They had at least upgraded to a modern air con unit, although the old one was still on the wall beside it!  No matter, the bed was fine and we had a good night’s sleep after a very acceptable fish and chip supper at the pub.

 

Next morning we were back on the road again, this time with a 400 km drive to Tennant Creek, fifth largest town in NT and at around 1,000km from Darwin, two-thirds of the way to Alice Springs. We were, by now, used to the road trains that thundered past, and were happily overtaking those that got in our way.  We discovered that many of the drivers were helpful guys, and would flash their right indicator a couple of times to let us know it was safe to pass.  We were kept amused by the termite mounds that had been dressed in t-shirts and which, from a distance, looked like people.  We enjoyed watching the changing landscape, which had gradually moved from mainly trees with grass below to scrubby bushes with the occasional tree.  But it would change again, every so often, presumably according to the availability of water in any particular area.  We enjoyed the peace and quiet (mainly because there were no radio stations out there and we had so far been unsuccessful in pairing the phone with the stereo system!)

 

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No way of knowing how long it is unless we turn a bend!                                              Did the pilot try to land on the road?

 

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A short, heavy shower proved it does rain sometimes!                                   Termite mound ‘people’ – some outfits made us laugh!

 

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Didn’t expect to find a cyclist way out here!                                                         Thousands of termite mounds lined the road.

 

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A ‘ship of the desert?’                                                                                                    Still a way to go...

 

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An unexpected hold-up.  Not for long though.

 

Just before we reached the town of Tennant Creek, we came upon a sign to the Telegraph Station, and turned off for a look.  Between 1870 and 1872 an overland telegraph line was laid between Port Augusta on the south coast and Darwin in the north, to connect to an undersea cable to Java which would connect Australia with the rest of the world.  The Tennant Creek telegraph station was one of eleven repeater stations along the line.

 

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The Telegraph Station through the tree.                                               

 

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Part of the original “Track” that ran beneath the telegraph line.  It was a dry-weather track used for servicing the line.

 

The town didn’t feel as comfortable as Katherine, and despite having paid for the room in advance, the motel swiped our credit card as a precaution against damage to the room.  We found the local RSL club and went for supper there, where the locals were courteous but not overly friendly.  So we watched a bit of telly and had an early night.

 

As we had the last 500km to cover to Alice Springs before 2 p.m. when the car was due back, we didn’t spend any time in the town next morning, but headed off straight after breakfast.  I took the first turn at the wheel, and Steve idly browsed through the instruction manual for the stereo.  “Aha!”, he suddenly said, with a big grin on his face, “it says here that the stereo will not pair with a device unless the engine is off!”  Our previous attempts had been on the move, so at the first opportunity I pulled off the road, switched off, and lo and behold, the phone paired with the stereo with no trouble at all.  So for the last leg of the drive, at least, we would have music!  Yes there was a lot of muttering from the passenger seat along the lines of why hadn’t I read that when I was looking at the instructions days earlier, but I just sang along happily with the tunes and zoned all other noise out...

 

About 100km south of Tennant Creek we arrived at the Devil’s Marbles.  The marbles are remnants of a solid mass of granite, the bulk of which still lies below them.  The marbles were formed by cracking and weathering at the edges of the granite, leaving what look like marbles balancing on top of each other.

 

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Having marvelled at the marbles, we continued on our way, and knew that we must be nearing our destination when the flat landscape changed and hills became visible.  We stopped to look at a sculpture where we crossed the Tropic of Capricorn, conveniently sited next to a long-drop loo. 

 

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Hills in the distance – not far now.                                                                            Tropic of Capricorn sculpture, next to the loo.

 

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Confirmation that we are nearly there!

 

We arrived in Alice Springs in good time to check into our hotel, dump our bags, clear out the car, and get it back to Thrifty in town by 2 p.m.  Phew.  Over 2,500 kms on the clock, and a lot of extra kms to be paid for, but we were there and we were happy.  We walked out into the hot sunshine of Alice Springs with huge smiles on our faces.  Time for a look around the town before heading back to the hotel and packing small bags for the camping trip tomorrow.  And maybe a dip in the pool...

 

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Welcome to Alice Springs.  Yes indeedy!