We had spent the night in a very commercial campsite. There were lots of motor caravans and large tents and caravans. There was a very up market toilet and shower block – it was a far cry from some of our experiences. It was also our last night in our swags.
We had a lie in. Breakfast was not until 6.15! I woke up to a dramatic sky the sun rising in front of me – a beautiful sunrise looming without getting out of bed! There were lots of squeaking and tweetings going on around us. A black parakeet could be seen in the improving light sitting on a tree nearby and squawked to his mate across the way. Something was cropping grass just beyond us – I later learned it was a kangaroo. I had to get up before the sun tipped over the horizon……
It was not with just a little sadness that I took a photograph of my swag before I rolled it up for good, but not before a passing dog had cocked its leg inches from my head!
After breakfast we struck camp and left the site at 7.00. We had to drop by and pay for the previous night’s boat trip (no time yesterday!) and took the opportunity to buy a small piece of the local zebra rock to remind us of a very special place. Just after 8.00 we crossed the border from Western Australia into the Northern Territories and clocks went on by over an hour. I think this is a very odd trait of Australia. It is like adjusting the time when you move from Kent into Sussex – why would you?!? There are also strict rules on taking food from one territory to another…… very interesting. In any event, we thought it polite to join in the celebration of the achievement.
We had a good few Km’s to go before we were to reach Katherine for our last night on the road. It sounded to be a very upmarket place with permanent tents. (As it turned out, although the accommodation was good, we got bitten to death there. That was later.)
The scenery stayed similar to that which we have seen for some time. A tree speckled savannah with hills in the far distance. We are back on metalled roads now and can move much more quickly.
Later in the morning we visited the Gregory National Park. The largest National Park in the country and it just happens to bear our name! Keith and I had come across this chap Gregory before. A very active explorer, he was to venture into all sorts of places. On this occasion, we spent some time in his National Park and stopped to look at a large Boab tree where, of course, he had recorded his passing through
He had been sailing up the Victoria river (as you do on the opposite side of the world from home in 1856) when his schooner’s keel snapped. He set up camp here in order to effect repairs to the ship and create a base from which he could penetrate deeper and survey the surrounding area. He was pretty well equipped – he brought 50 horses with him to cart supplies and ride. (He had set out with 200 sheep as well but many of them died on the way. It must have been a pretty big ‘schooner’!) Apparently there were 19 in the party.
They built homes from Bush materials using paperbark from the local trees for walls and made thatch out of leafy branches and grass. They cut down another, smaller, Boab near to Gregory’s tree (how dare they?) to make a table and used its stump as a water trough for the horses. It all sounds pretty cosy and permanent. There is an indication that they also created a garden where they grew radishes and mustard and cress (my favourite!).
Further along we found the twin Boabs where the explorers set up a forge. This exploring business does not cease to astound me.
On the road shortly afterwards, we were stopped at a traffic light!! A bit of a first! It felt like the middle of nowhere. We paused for what seemed ages when the light changed to green. No traffic had appeared the other way. A few minutes later a second red light appeared…. by this time the Victoria River was clearly visible to our left.
It was soon time to move off again. We had lunch at a lovely spot, an old crossing point of the river.
It was over 40 degrees and we were quite relieved when the planned walk was abandoned. I think if it hadn’t been there might have been a mutiny!
So on to Katherine. It immediately looked very clean and orderly. Before doing anything, there was a final dip in a warm pool, for those who wanted it and then it was off to the posh camp. It comprised of very smart, small, green huts with two double bunks in each…. we had one to ourselves!
It also had an amazing kitchen, where pizzas were concocted with wraps used as a base. They were surprisingly good. A last camp fire was made.
I was very touched when a cake was produced for me. I felt a bit damp around the eyes….. they are lovely people!
Keith joined the last game of Cards Against Humanity, while I adjourned to bed.