Day 253-259: Darwin to almost Cairns
Trip Start Sep 12, 2004
57Trip End Jan 05, 2006
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Litchfield tour day so a very early start, up at 6, though the alarm must have gone off earlier than that coz I'd been up and had breakfast by 6. Bus picked up about 7.15pm, quite a mixture of people, a couple of old couples mixed in too. Not much was said on the way, everyone too tired, had a snooze on the way to the first stop which was the Jumpin Croc Cruise. Tea, coffee and toast awaited our arrival, by the time we got there it was 8.30 so already 2½ hours since I've had something to eat so had a little bit. Then we were introduced to Mat, a carpet python, so for the first time I had a snake wrapped around my head, felt like a cold handbag, which I guess he'll eventually be.
A few other tour groups slowly arrived and we shuffled onto the boat about 9. As soon as we were on you could see a couple of crocs swimming around, these are wild saltwater crocs which live in the river that we're cruising on.....the guides have even named a few of them including Hannibal, Fido....er, can't remember anymore. Basically what they do is tie some meat to the end of a rope which is on the end of a pole and dunk it in the water, then the crocs come along and try and snap up the meat. There was also a little interlude of bird feeding with loads of eagles trying to snap up chunks of meat as they were chucked into the air. The only slightly disturbing thing was the thought of the boat sinking with all those bloody crocs swimming around, we wouldn't have stood a chance.
Back on the bus and onward to Litchfield National Park. We had a quick fuel stop en route where the driver noticed a rapidly flattening tyre at the front of the bus, so it became our impromptu lunch stop whilst he got the tyre sorted. Just a cold meat sandwich affair but helped people start talking to each other a bit more. The oldies were aussies, there were a few poms too, dutch girl, german girl, aussie girl who worked for qantas and really didn't look like she was ready to be wandering around a national park; thongs with red painted toe nails, black croc skin handbag, big Jackie O shades, some couple who's origin is unknown...think that's about it. Chatted to Qantas, Dutch and German girls over lunch.
Finally made it to our first stop early afternoon, Wangi Falls where we went for a gorgeous swim for half an hour, those that didn't wanna swim went for a hike which is clearly the wrong choice but unsurprisingly that's what the olds did. Despite have minor reservations about getting my man-torso out in front of strangers there was no way I was gonna pass up the swim. Water was lovely and warm, swam to the falls but one of them was a little too strong to stay under for long, the other was just right and there was a little climb up to a rock pool which was just like a personal jacuzzi.
Next stop was some termite mounds which weren't very exciting but quite a feat of nature considering the size of the little buggers that made them. Then we stopped at Florence Falls lookout before having another swim at the Bluey Rockhole which was slippery as hell to walk around and I almost lost a few limbs but came away unscathed. We took a little bit longer than we should but it was soooo nice we just didn't wanna get out. Then it was back to Darwin, we got some free meal vouchers for The Vic pub so that's tonights food sorted.
Went for the freebie about 8, to be honest for free it ain't bad, 2 veggie and 2 meat choices every night, Butter Chicken with Rice for me tonight. Bumped into 3 people from the tour, a couple of english girls who weren't the blond girly girl types that you usually come across, in fact they were rather butch, probably hockey players. Plus an english bloke now living in Sydney working at a children's hospital, slightly camp. We all just ate and left coz the Vic's basically a shithole backpacker pub, imagine any English bar in Spain and you'll get the idea.
Lay in this morning after yesterday's ungodly start. Had a doctors appointment at 9.30 to get a prescription for my thyroid drugs, the doc wanted to do a blood test first just to make sure I have the right dosage so have to get the results on Thursday...doctors appointment cost bloody $50, tho I did get about $30 back on Medicare, plus the script's gonna cost money - and I'd have gotten it all free in the UK :O( Perhaps I should have popped back for it.......?
In the afternoon I caught a free shuttle bus to the Casuarina Square Shopping Centre, which is pretty much the only one in the Darwin area. First stop was the cinema to book a ticket to go see Star Wars Ep 3 just in case it was real busy, no probs getting a ticket tho. Then I just wandered around aimlessly for a couple of hours in the shops getting a few nessecities before they run out. Saw the film at 4 and pretty much enjoyed it tho it was super-cheesy in places, especially when Darth hears of Padme's death and you get the usual "NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!!!!!!" as the camera sweeps upwards, you'd have thought old Georgie could have been a little more original.
Back into town on the bus. Another free meal at The Vic this evening , lasagne and chips this time. Another not very eventful evening...running out of stuff to do in Darwin.
Went for a jog this morning which was bloody hard work, think it must be the humidity and temperature coz I don't remember it being this difficult in Adelaide. Of course the best thing about being up here is being able to finish the jog off with a dip in the hostel pool. Quick change and then met up with a local bloke, Simon, who'd I'd been speaking to online a couple of times. Met for a coffee over the road and then he took me on a little
tour of the area, went to a couple of beaches which were lovely but it was sooo hot an no shade so couldn't really hang around long. Basically spent the afternoon hanging out and having some lunch, always good to have a local to show you around.
Simon dropped me off just before 4pm, had a bevvie and chilled by the pool whilst a volleyball competition was happening. Felt totally knackered which was probably a combination of the heat and drinking late in the afternoon...tsk! Chatted briefly to Irish Ian from the Adelaide tour who was now at the hostel, but he bagged himself a woman so went off for a stroll with her. I went and bought some more illegal alcohol and sneaked it into the fridge. Went to a travel place en route to the bottlo and scored some more free meal vouchers for the Vic so that's me sorted for the week.
Meal tonight was Shepherd's Pie, Chips and Salad, haven't had Shepherd's Pie for bloody ages, pretty good actually. Didn't hang around the Vic long as it was 'Babe Nation' night with a breast painting competition....classy. Watched some of the State of Origin rugby back at the hostel but couldn't get into it so just went to the room and listened to some tunes on the megapod.
Called for the test results this morning but the nurse wasn't available so waited for a call back. As it's the last day in Darwin I had the last couple of touristy things to do. Walked down toward the port area to take a look at the WWII Oil Storage Tunnels.....and now that you've woken up again, yes they were as boring as they sound. Think the guide books over hype them slightly, they're described as going under Darwin's city centre, but
the one you go in isn't that long and it's not this cool maze of tunnels which go on for miles - luckily I only wasted $4.50 on it, I was also lucky enough to miss the 30 odd school kids about to go in as I left.
Got the bus to the Museum and Art Gallery of the NT which is about 10 mins out of town. Some good displays including local wildlife, a 5m croc called Sweetheart, and exhibition on Cyclone Tracy which pretty much trashed Darwin on Christmas Day in 1974, and an exhibition of Andy Warhol screenprints which all managed to kill a couple of hours.
The nurse called while I was on the way back to town on the bus, apparently the results indicate that I'm not taking enough and the doc wants me to double the dose for a month before having another check wherever I am at the time, which could possibly account for why I've been feel lethargic lately, I just put it down to the heat, we'll see if the new dose makes any difference. Got the script from the pharmacy....$18.95!! Also had to bung out for another night at the hostel as it would appear I didn't pay for enough nights, which I discovered once my card wouldn't let me in any of the doors.
Spent the afternoon finishing stuff off on the net as I'm away from a machine for a few days before getting to Cairns, also got the 'Da Vinci Code' for $9 from a secondhand bookshop, so that'll give me something to read on the trip...yes I know it's one big bandwagon which is why I waited to find a secondhand copy rather than spending money on a new one. Had another free meal in the evening and went back to the hostel to finish off the illegal drink I bought, unfortunately I was busted, luckily by the bloke-who's-also-a-drag-queen barman so he let me finish it off. Was very very bored this evening, definitely ready to leave Darwin, had an early night ready for the stupid o'clock start in the morning.
Had a shite nights sleep thanks to Brendan snoring louder than he ever has before, which is great timing. Alarm went off 30 mins early again for some reason, about 4.45am, so had loads of time to get ready for the 5.45am pickup. By 6 they still hadn't shown up so gave them a call, turns out the pick up was at the bus station but they didn't bother to tell me that when I booked....luckily the bus station is just over the road from the hostel. Unfortunately they also took the money off me for the trip there, I was hoping they'd forget. Only 7 people on the bus altogether so pretty quiet, nice big bus tho so plenty of room for everyone.
First stop was a roadhouse on the Adelaide River which was just a leg stretch and loo stop. Everyone didn't seem very chatty but it was still pretty early really.....a very good looking bloke called Marco said hello, thought he was American at first coz of his accent but turned out to be Austrian, other people are; Simona - Italian, Ninca - Dutch, Daniel and Florian - German friends, and Tomo - Japanese guy with a towel on his head (it's a common Japanese thing), plus the drivers Ozzy and Jim. I had sat near the back of the bus behind everyone but a bit out of the way so positioned myself a little more centrally opposite Marco. Next stop was some hot springs in Mataranka where we had lunch first. The springs were gorgeous and the water was so warm, nobody had bothered to change into swimmers as we weren't really expecting much....was a bit gutted tho coz it would have been real nice to go in, the bus was too long a walk to nip back and get them too. Ended up having a little paddle anyway. Started to get to know the others chatting to Marco and Daniel.
The rest of the afternoon was taken up with other roadhouse stops including the Daly Waters Pub which is apparently 'famous'. It's the quirky little place where hundreds of visitors have left mementos such as money, drivers licences, passport photos, underwear (yes) and other stuff all over the walls, cheaper than decorating I guess...didn't have anything to leave but Tomo pointed out the business card he left when he was last there. Early evening we arrived at the Heartbreak Hotel in Cape Crawford which is apparently Australia's most remote roadhouse which is mildly disturbing as they're pretty much all in the middle of nowhere. Dinner was very nice indeed with a help yourself buffet type thing; lasagne, meatballs, sausages, veggies, mash, etc. Got some
Japanese lessons from Tomo in the evening and now I can say "What is the time?" and "What is your name?" in Japanese, tho of course I can't remember it right now but have it written down. No one else was drinking...bunch of dullards...but I fancied a couple, price seemed to depend on who served you too. Some crazy drunk aussie outbacker dragged Marco into the bar to buy him a free drink and I went in and joined them, by the time we got out everyone else had gone to bed. There was a pommie girl in the bar, turns out she was from Bury St Edmunds, for some crazy reason she'd decided to stay in the middle of nowhere for over a month - mental!
I was sharing a dorm with Tomo and Marco (who I noticed had shaved armpits, said he'd been doing it for years - str8 boys are weird), me and M chatted for a bit before going to sleep, I kinda thought he was flirting a little tho I doubt it as he's been going on about shagging women....it's probably just wishful thinking.
Some mental case woman was banging on all our doors at whatever o'clock trying to get us to come to the bar and 'party'....she soon buggered off. So not a great nights sleep and a 5.30am start...joy! This was pretty much the dullest day ever with the whole day spent on the road with just occasional roadhouse stops. Most of it was on
dirt track which was hell, bumping up and down almost constantly.....started to feel sea sick almost. We had lunch in the middle of nowhere, somewhere that probably didn't even have a name, it was pretty dull on the bus too, hardly a chatty bunch, M was pretty much the only entertainment. Read lots and thank god for the Megapod which kept me entertained for some time....we covered over 600km (372 miles) during the day, which doesn't sound
a lot but when it's on dirt roads it feels like a billion miles.
We did however do something mildly interesting and that was cross the NT-Queensland border, tho coz it was dirt road there was no giant sexy sign, there was a sign of a cow eating a car tho (you'll see that eventually). We arrived at our permanent campsite in Adels Grove just before sundown. Quite fancy for a campsite, shared a tent with M, 2 properish beds, little wooden verandah outside. Dinner was served to everyone on the camp at the same time, or so we thought. We queued up at 7 only to be told that the backpackers would be served at 7.30 - cheek! Then when they served dessert we were served separately; ice cream with chocolate sauce....everyone else got apple cumble and ice cream....talk about feeling like backpacker scum. We nicked some of the apple crumble anyway....that'll show em. One notable point during dinner was the distinct lack of conversation, anyone hardly seems to talk, I try and initiate conversation but frankly I can't be arsed to do it all the time.
People did come alive slightly after dinner but even so not a lot happened, M went to bed early and I hung back and chatted for a little while longer before hitting the sack too.
Nice lay in this morning with brekkie and 7am.....as second class scum we just had cereals and toast, other people on the site had the option of cooked breakfast. Adels Grove is in Lawn Hills National Park, the morning was spent walking around the gorge, there was also the option of kayaking with the german boys did, but didn't want to go on my own coz I thought I'd fall in...so walked the hiking track with M, Ninca and Tomo, Simona went the other way round - she's very very quiet, doesn't seem to join in much. The views were good from the top of the gorge, but of course I've been spoilt with scenery so it takes a lot to be impressed now. The walk was about 2 hours tho we did get a little lost toward the end taking a detour in a restricted area....oh well. We left the
park around half 10 with some more dirt road to take us to the Burke and Willis Roadhouse where we had a brief stop off. We finally got onto decent roads in the afternoon so no longer felt like vomiting continuously (well a slight exaggeration but it was pretty nauseating).
We had lunch by a river where we all went for a swim - well minus Simona of course - it was a little chilly and the current was pretty strong but it was refreshing. A tour from the same company going from Darwin to Alice Springs stopped off at the same spot and had their lunch too, didn't really mix much tho a 70 odd year old woman from the tour came over and said hello....now that's one way to spend the inheritance. More uninteresting stops in the afternoon tho we did stop for a group shot infront of the bus and a shot of me and M standing on the bull bars on the front of the bus. Late afternoon we arrived in Normanton which only has one claim to fame and that's the absolute outright lie that a 8m croc was shot there in 1957, they've built a replica of it and it stands in the middle of the town....it's bloody huge! Of course the obligatory pics were taken but I'm more than sceptical that it was ever that big.
Last overnighter was spent at the Club Hotel in Croydon, not far from there we apparently hit a wallaby on the road, I wasn't aware coz I was listening to the Megapod tho I did feel a bump. M is a bit of an animal lover, he can't stand conversations about eating kangaroo and he was a little upset about the accident, what made him more pissed off was that he assumed the driver drove straight at it and then made a joke about it....anyway, needless to say M didn't have any dinner and spent the evening pretty much on his own....a little bit emotional but I guess people deal with stuff in their own way tho he didn't need to take it out on the group, tried to talk to him but he was being a grumpy sod.
The hotel was a shithole really, all 5 blokes in the same dorm and the rooms are directly above the bar so you can hear everything and it's pretty noisy. Dunno if you can imagine what a real outback aussie pub is like but this is a typical one. However tho it may appear scary the landlord took me and Ninca on in a game of doubles pool and he bought us a drink each...yay!...which is bloody good coz one can of Woodstock and Coke was $6.60!!!! Music in the bar was fucking loud and coz of my incredibly sensitive bat-ears I was getting a headache so headed up to the room. Read for a bit, stuck the ear plugs in and went off to sleep....last day of the tour tomorrow and then Cairns here I come.