Wild donkeys braying during the night, foll morning Alf tries out his helicopter, he's really good at it, taking off and flying about then back to landing it, should have fun chasing old ladies down the road back home. Off next to try the egg beater lure in the billabong, Geoff and I in the boat troll up and down with two lures out (one being the egg beater).. not a thing, try the other end where we caught the Saratoga yesterday… just casting out…nothing.. just one troll up and down, before going back.. only to see a croc launch into water and come straight for us..egg beater is out of the water in 30 secs flat and we are off out of there…no fish today, complain to Willy over not mentioning his eggbeater also attracts crocs, he never has any trouble, (Mick says, they always take guns with them, if crocs trouble them then Willy shoots them with a shotgun, if the croc persists he then puts a hole in their tail with a 357, the wound that makes takes a long time to heal, the crocs remember and stay away from his boats).
Moving on today and heading for Jabiru and Ubirr. Take our leave of this pair of old scallywags at Four Mile Creek and head for Jabiru via the old Jim Jim Road, (Incidently seen some Jabiru at Willy's, a solitary large stork like bird with black/white plumage, Bill had said there were some on the Mary River but they had been forced away by the pelicans, a more aggressive bird)
Camped at Jabiru, it's been a hot day, not much shade at campsite, but the washroom/toilet are best we have yet had, a shower curtain, toilet paper ,hot water, all mod cons, some flies and mozzies but horse flies more troublesome, head north to….
Ubirr, our next stop is beautiful high spot overlooking a very large wetland, with huge craggy rocks, and unusual formations, which can be climbed to get a wide scenic panorama of very green wetlands, it's a dry old drive to get here, which makes the sight of it a real surprise, from the ground, you could miss this place so easily despite it's size, it's surrounded by ranges, the aborigines have known of this place for thousands of years and have left unusually detailed drawings on the rocks to show what food is available and where it is to be found, and pictorial stories of their history, quite spectacular, this is a unique place could easily spend much more time here.
Head South toward Pine Creek , via Cahills Crossing and Jabiru and Cooinda, on the Kakadu highway and join the Stuart highway heading down to Katherine, all is tarmac'd so able travel quickly, I think the Japanese bombed Katherine during the War, anyway a claim to fame is a local young lady shot the largest croc in Oz there, a replica to the original's size is there, of curious colour and shape, but I got a Photo of an original pic.. it's a very big croc. You don't see them that size these days, Thank Heavens
At Cahill's Crossing the river flows over a road causeway, a pretty place, but two guys are standing in the causeway shallows fishing upstream, croc warnings are there, makes one nervous. Just heard a guy in a canoe visited one of the offshore islands further North, but found he was unable to leave because a salty croc was stalking him every time he tried to return to his canoe, and he was stuck for several days before being rescued by passing fishermen.
Camped the night at Pine Creek, still find it odd as the sites grass with a concrete slab alongside, but they have planted trees at the end of the concrete slabs so you must park on the grass and camp on the concrete.
Tmrrw will head towards West Oz down the Victoria Highway.
Set off early for Victoria river, stop for lunch, there has been talk in papers of the Americans apparently having permanent forces in Oz, there is a small convoy of Yank trucks and Hummers stopped at this roadhouse, buying loads of food, very friendly and polite, some seem very young, hope they are not being trained up for Afganistan, head for Timber Creek and the WA border, we have to get rid of all vegetables and seeds before reaching the border as not allowed to take anything like that into the West
Pass thru Border Quarantine and head for Kununurra to camp there, nice place very green surrounded by rocky ranges, a hot day 38 deg, walk into a local pub, very swish and modern, (not as Geoff remembers when he worked near here) but meals expensive, A$31 for a burger, go round to a pizza restaurant and have a an excellent spicy fresh prawn pizza for half the price. Next day try to go for a river cruise, again too expensive, so go to 'The Hoochery' instead, a rum distillery, test a few samples, quite nice, but again too rich for us, the Orde River runs through this area and they have been developing the irrigation system here since the early 60's, there's a couple of dams, and with the irrigation plus fertilizers anything grows, a lot of Indian sandlewood, mangoes, butternut type squash, sorghums, peanuts, maize, sugarcane, it's expanding and state money is helping in keeping the expansion going. A good thing
Have put the clocks back 11/2 hrs, (WA time) as we now head north on Gt Northern Highway to join the Gibb River road heading west, which we will follow until the turn off south for Fitzroy Crossing, our next fishing attempt.
The Gibb River road is unmade up road , so bit slower pace as very corrugated, but we have been passing over flat plain, cattle country interspersed with Ranges, picturesque, now it's dusty again, as we pass through the impressive Pentecost Ranges and reach Home Valley homestead. modern and very well set up, but dry, no grass, a willy willy just swirled past, missing us but putting dust and small stones all over the caravans close by, meet Mick (chopper pilot) grandson of Terry (old soldier we met in Darwin) , quick decision from Geoff and we take an evening chopper flight with Mick, over the Pentecost Ranges and Cambridge Gulf, beautiful views and scenery. Really enjoyable and first time up in helicopter for Geoff, Alf won't consider going up in a helicopter, nearest you'll get him to a real one is his model. There were no doors on Mick's chopper, so only seatbelts held you in, it was cool and not at all windy inside.. good fun
We all woke extra early, and ready to go 07.30am, the change of time has thrown us completely, set off for Mt Barnet Roadhouse, rough dusty old road with corrugations, not much wildlife about, but have seen bush turkeys and even some flying in front of the car, as well as black parrots with red or yellow tail flashes. Just passed a guy walking this leg pulling a light trailer 35k down the track from Mt Barnet, travelling east, amazing
Reached Mt Barnet early, trip was again flat plain with ranges, but very dry, spot a sister Landie to our beast parked outside, and find out a lady is stuck having probably cooked the engine, by leaving the radiator cap off and spilling rad water, she's waiting for a lift to Derby… anyway a meat pie and we are off again for Galvan's gorge, park just off the road and follow the path into the bush… past come a couple of very small billabong with lilies forming, continue till reach large deep billabong with high rock faces on three sides, surrounded by gum trees, it's a hot day so in for swim, very nice.
There are a number of similar gorges along this stretch of road.
About 20k out of Mt Barnet, we are travelling at abt 80k over corrugated surfaces, with Alf following we are suddenly swerving abt over the road, with what we think is a flat, pull to a halt, inspect the damage and realize we have a busted rear axle casing, the longer axle casing on the left has separated at the diff casing, real problem we need a whole rear axle as it's built in one piece. We are stuck, this no easy fix, and tho Mt Barnet is closest, there is nothing there to help us, the nearest place is at Derby which is close to 300 k further on, we need a flat bed truck to move the beast,… a thought crossed our minds of getting back to Mt Barnet to nick the rear axle off the Landie stuck there, The decision is for Alf to continue on to Derby to get help, we will stay with Beast and camp alongside the road, we have enough food and water.
Alf gets on his way, we set up camp and wait, light a fire, people are passing and stopping to ask if we all right, do we need any food or water or help, a guy in a Range Rover stops and it turns out he is on his way to Mt Burnet to pick up the Landie lady stuck there to bring her back to Derby, A very tall German called Sven rolls up with a young backpacker pulls out chairs and shares his beers with us to pass the time, very kind all of them. We are left with an evening of pondering how this happened, we know it wasn't previously leaking, it's a clean break, we have been on much harder tougher tracks, and Geoff's given a extra battery and his solar panels away so the beast is a bit lighter, the corrugations weren't extreme, we had thought of lowering tyre pressures, but as soon as u think u will stop and do it the road improved. Calc help won't be here till midday tmrrw.
Foll day, Geoff's decided to remove the leftside half shaft and drive shaft to the rear wheels, which we do and then set up a sheet cover as the day's getting hot and we will need some shade later to sit under. A guy stops to ask if we need help, turns out he's the local medic on his way to surgery, he expects to be back abt 1400 and will get us water and food if we are still there and need it.
At 11.00am a flatbed truck arrives, the driver with a slim little bloke called Robby, sorts us out and the beast is winched onto the lowered flatbed, turns out he is a fisherman, he'd left at 0600am to reach us by 11.00 (Alf's done bloody well, and we have been very lucky to have this so quickly sorted out), start back about midday, travelling through some beautiful ranges and gorges/passes, arrive abt 1600pm in Derby, Robby's boss is Stewart, Alf had arrived the previous night, found a camp site, and found the campsite manager a font of local knowledge on rescue, recommending Stewart's company.. how lucky can we be. Stewart says we can camp in his yard and use his facilities overnight, but Alf's already arrived with a campsite organized for us.
No one in Derby is a LandRover agent, the nearest is in Broome. Geoff's busy on the phone, it's quickly obvious, to move the beast to Broome is expensive plus then have to get the parts and the work done, cheapest is to truck the beast to Perth and repair her at home. It's cheaper to truck the beast to Perth than send her to Broome. Geoff's thinking we should fly back, Alf's saying, no we can all fit in his Toyota and only need swags and clothes which can chuck in the back so let's stick together.
Foll day Stu says can take the beast to Broome or arrange for her leave tdy for Perth, (will arrive on Monday) decided on the latter and grab clothes/swags put into Alf's Toyota and set off on the Gt Northern Highway toward Prt Headland, everything for the North moves along this road, it's Road Train after Road Train carrying huge freight, we turn off onto the Marble Bar Rd toward Newman, it's quite incredible, it had rained a few weeks ago and everything was green, we drove through ranges of hills and mountains covered in green grass, with lots of shrubs and plants coming into flower….how lucky to see this, even without the green foliage, it's a most picturesque route and much better than the Gt Northern Highway
Marble Bar is the hottest place in Oz, spent the night here, and moved on to Meekathara and Cue, the landscape is flatter and much less green, roads are very long and straight, Alf and Geoff are sharing the driving, the roads good so covering ground, set up camp at Cue, set up swags but starts raining during night and have bought our tents so end up on washroom floor.
Leave Cue for Mt Magnet (enormous hole in the ground, not a mountain anymore) again long straight stretches, pretty arid, reach Paynes Find. The place is an old gold mine and processing installation, there is still gold there, they have dug shafts down to 850ft and dragged the ore up the surface. it was originally a state run mine but was bought out by a private family who still own and can mine there, the old machinery is still operating and is able to refine gold, the lady who shows us around and shows us a video of how it all worked, is actually on the video. Basically you put a ton or more into a hopper which feeds into a crude crusher, that breaks it into very small pieces and feeds it through fine and finer meshes from which you extract any gold nugget, the dust is mixed with mercury which attract each other, the mercury is boiled off through a condenser, and what's left is gold, its then smelted into ingots and sent to the Perth Mint, this extraordinary old lady is almost 70 and is still able to maintain this huge machine, her daughter has bought the roadhouse on the main road, done it up and is intending to restore the mine.
Move onto Wubin and then Dalwallinu, landscape is changing more rolling hills and getting greener as coming to wheat belt, reach Pithara en route to New Norcia, but make a wrong turn and head to Balidu and Wongan Hills, rather nice really it looked good, very green with wheat and yellow flowering Canola and looking prosperous, next Goomalling and Toodyay, where we spend the night, have heard weather may turn and Geoff's booked us into a hotel for tonight, a wise decision as it turns out for in early hours there is thunder and lightning and heavy rain, a break in the rain allows us to get into the Toyota in a dry state, this the last day as we set off for Mandurah, we started this trip in a hotel on the first night and have ended it in a hotel, that's OK
We have got back on Saturday, popped into Tegan's old school to vote then unload our stuff from Alf's Toyota, into the washer, start seeing if a Salisbury axle is around, need truck to move the beast from Perth to here on Monday agw, Alf's leaving to get himself a new TV in time to watch the Dockers who have nearly got to the AFL final, we will be meeting up for that,
An old workmate of Geoff's will bring the beast back on Monday
So that's that the end of our great adventure