It was a little different sleeping with the windows closed again, and it did cool down quite a lot over night. We actually felt cold when we woke up in the morning (just as I’d packed our warm clothes away) but we were fine still in our summer clothes.
We had breakfast and enjoyed being in nature on a sunny morning, there wasn’t any shade where we were but we weren’t hanging around so it didn’t get too hot before we left. We’d hung washing up the night before and the air was dry enough for it to be dry not long after the sun rose. Everyone managed OK without a toilet – using the bushes and trees and shadows that were available for privacy was fine.
|Sunrise at our free camp|
We headed off before 10 and drove the short distance (about 30km) to Katherine. The kids really wanted to see if any of the puppies were still at North Bank caravan park so we called in there – we parked out the front and walked in, and didn’t see anyone we knew. It was weird to be back, it felt quite familiar although did remind me a little of how frustrated we felt at the time. We saw Bundy and Pumbaa and the kittens, and the kids had a pat and a play with each of them. None of the other puppies were still there. Satisfied to have seen them again, the kids said goodbye and we drove into town. The kids and I went to Target to look for snorkels (no luck, though we did get a Skylanders figure for only $2), to the Visitors Centre to use the toilets and buy some Top End postcards and a tea-towel, and to Woolworths to get milk and other supplies for the next few days. Tony went to Home Hardware to get our empty gas bottle refilled (it had run out during breakfast this morning),to get petrol and to buy meat for the next few days.
Driving around Katherine also felt familiar and like we were almost locals. It was very exciting to head out on the Victoria Highway, on a road that none of us have ever been on, and to start the next stage (far more unknown) of our holiday.
This road felt very long and isolated (surprisingly so, having come up the Stuart Highway. I guess this one is not quite as well used, not as many people come this way, and it’s heading to even more remote areas than the Stuart does). We saw lots more cows (Brahmins) and lots of kites. The ground was mainly sparse woodland – not much undergrowth, and the trees spread fairly thinly. After a while we saw our first boab tree of the trip – quite an impressive tree.
We pulled into the Victoria River Roadhouse to get petrol. I got a brief glimpse of the river as we crossed the bridge before the roadhouse, and the kids and I walked through the campground to see if we could get closer to get a better view of the river. There was a path leading down between tall cane grass, which rustled a lot as little animals moved around in there. It was quite spooky, not knowing how far away the river was and knowing that crocodiles lived in the river. Every rustle made us (well, some of us, LiAM seemed quite calm) jump a bit. We reached a sandy area high up on the river bank and could see the water and the bridge through the trees. That was good enough for us and we looked for a while then headed back. The kids also met a couple with a fluffy dog and talked to them for a while before we went on our little walk. It was hot in the sun, not so bad in the shade. We had a cool drink then kept driving west.
The drive from here was along huge craggy escarpments for a while, as we drove through part of Gregory National Park. The rocks were red and high above the road and so amazing to look at. We passed out of that section of the park and the road passed through sparse woodland again. There were many long straight stretches in this bit – it was a lot windier through the national park area. As we approached Timber Creek the escarpments returned. For a while we drove alongside the Victoria River – it was incredibly wide, the largest river we’ve seen so far. Looking at the map we could see we really weren’t that far from the mouth and the Timor Sea (about 100km).
|Gregory National Park|
Just before we reached our campsite (Big Horse Creek Campground in Gregory National Park) there was a bridge across the river which was signposted as a lookout, so we drove in to have a look. The bridge crossed the (still very wide) river and led to a Defense Force restricted zone. There was on vehicle access allowed on the bridge but pedestrians were able to walk out and look at the river – which we did. It was pretty cool looking along this long, wide river, with very green foliage all the way down to the edge. We looked for crocodiles but didn’t see any.
It was only 500m down the highway then to the campground. We drove around a couple of times and the only spots left were narrow bays in the middle, we looked at each of them for shade potential and flatness and eventually selected one. Tony backed the trailer in perfectly, right against one edge, and we were almost able to pull the tent out without it hitting the bollards on the other side. We were able to work around it though – with the kids’ beds down that end, we don’t use the bottom end of the tent so the little dent in the wall didn’t really matter.
The kids explored the campground while we set up, then LiAM, Caitlin and I went for a walk (bike ride in Caitlin’s case) down to the river. There was a boat ramp at the campground and we stood on it watching the water and the birds and noting how high the water level was so we could see if it was tidal. Caitlin rode back and met some people with a dog and chatted to them. We spent the rest of the afternoon sitting and doing puzzles and playing games, and had another walk down to the river to see a ground bird’s nest surrounded by shells and sparkly things. The kids talked to more of the other campers and met lots of people and dogs.
In the late afternoon we drove back to the east a little way to where we’d seen a sign saying Escarpment Lookout. We turned off onto the road indicated and it quickly climbed the escarpment and came to an area marked ‘Sunset Views’. We parked and got out – the sun was setting over the river and the escarpment and it looked amazing. We watched for a while then had a look at a memorial that was up there, commemorating and telling the story of the horse brigades that patrolled this area of Northern Australia in the 2nd World War. It was fascinating, a piece of Australian history I knew nothing about. Another couple arrived and were looking at the monument too – and the lady said that her dad was one of those soldiers. She was so excited and moved to find all this information about it and to know that more people would learn about these men. From there we drove further along the escarpment and ended up at a lookout over the town of Timber Creek, with a different view of the river. It was quite peaceful up there. We had to drive past some parts of the bush that were being burned off, amazing how much less fierce these fires are than the ones at home.
Back to camp where had hotdogs for dinner (I had soup) and the kids played on the iPad for a while. It was another pleasant evening, temperature-wise, and the forecast was for a coolish night so we did close the windows again. We were slightly concerned about where we’d put our tent – there was dampness around one of the pegs, which was pegged in outside the bollards, so wondered if we’d hit a pipe or something.