3 weeks on my own in Katherine done and dusted! It was time to hit the road again and make our way to Cairns, just needed to collect Chocco from Darwin and stuff my face with as much Japanese as possible…unsurprising for those following along at home.
After a night in Darwin and 2x Japanese meals and 1x takeaway Japanese meal we were headed for Litchfield National Park, our aim was to leave by 3pm…we left at 4:15pm pretty good by our standards. We were actually going to reach our camp before dark so of course we had to drive straight past a G-Wagon filled with a Swiss family we’d met/wanted to befriend for future Swiss holidays, on the Gibb so after Chocco completed a U-turn on the median strip at 60kph and did 10kms over the speed limit on Stuart Highway for 20 minutes, we in fact DID NOT catch up with the cool Swiss family but we did make it impossible to get to our intended campsite before dark and go for a swim at Berry Springs…classic Choong and Choc. Instead we settled for a drive by the Humpty Doo pub (would not recommend), payed $20 to camp on a paddock out of desperation, drove down the road for dinner at another ‘way cooler’ caravan park and decided to free camp at the creek because we hated the paddock, we were off to a great start *rolls eyes.
We started the next day with a bang. While I would consider snakes on par with death by drowning, Chocco cannot get enough of them. So back we went to the cool caravan park to hold a snake, I nearly perished when it touched me and Chocco looked like me whenever he suggests we go out for dinner (like its Christmas morning and you’re 5). If that wasn’t enough, when we finally took off for Wangi Falls, we had to stop 10 minutes down the road so Chocco could film THE BIGGEST snake I’ve ever seen cross the road, follow it into the bush and try touch its tail…the man is a sicko. We spent the rest of the day exploring Wangi and Florence Falls, and Bluey Rock Pools…along with every mother and their cat, before hitting the road heading for Edith Falls in Katherine to camp for the night.
We were up early for quick hike to the upper pool of Edith Falls before driving into Katherine to get a few house keeping things done. Got the car serviced, had 20 toasties from the local pop-up van and did a big food shop before we officially hit the road for Cairns via the Savannah Way. I treated Chocco to a night with my new mate Marksie who cooked us a three-course meal in camp ovens, unfortunately Marksie let slip that I’d been frequenting his camp oven nights regularly in Katherine. Before heading off I wanted to show Chocco around my home for the last 3 weeks, so we compromised with a quick hike of Katherine Gorge because someone (hint: not me) wanted to try catching a Barra before leaving the NT.
First up on the Savannah Way, Mataranka Springs!!! We rolled in after dark, found our campsite, grabbed some beers and headed down to the springs…what a treat. Set among palms and rainforest right in the desert is this amazing hot springs, however things turned sour when I became victim of theft. I mean who doesn’t know when they’re putting on someone else’s $40 Haviana’s when they leave in place $5 K-Mart pieces of CRAP?! I was ropable! Off to the bar we went to find the thief. Unfortunately all that happened was I looked like I had a weird foot fetish and learned that 95% of people in Mataranka also own black Haviana’s. The silver lining was getting to witness a professional (self-proclaimed) whip cracker, crack a whip to the beat of “Who Let the Dogs Out” I mean we’ve seen some things but this…this was something else. Imagine seeing your parents make out, now times it by 10, that’s how uncomfortable it was to watch. We spent the morning up the road at Bitter Springs…another beautiful oasis in the desert. The fact that these places exist is amazing.
Destination number two on the Savannah Way was Lorella Springs with a toastie stop in Roper Bar along the way. It was my turn to drive, all was well until I decided to spice things up with a drive into a creek off the side of the road. While I made it out the other side, the radiator fan and alternator (I still don’t know what this does) did not, whoops! So while Chocco did his best to patch Bluey up and subsequently take over the driving it meant we were not going to make it to Lorella Springs…but hey what’s new. Instead we set up camp at Limmen River Fishing Camp, how convenient for Chocco still trying to catch a Barra. Not so convenient was the crock-infested river we had to camp next too, but we came out alive, had our first rinse in a ‘Donkey’ shower and still could not fix poor Bluey’s alternator.
Onwards and upwards, and after a stop in Borooloola for more toasties and a charger for the car battery (that’s what the alternator does) we were en route to Lorella Springs. What a spot, you could spend weeks here and not get bored. 1 million acres of fun, and too many decisions for two indecisive travellers. In the end it was a swim in the gorge and MORE FISHING in crock-infested waters in a dinghy. 1 hour later we had no fish, I just a more intensified fear of spiders after I steered us into a low hanging tree…while I tried to decide if death by tree spider or crocodile was more appealing Chocco calmly paddled us away from certain death.
Lawn Hill National Park was our next destination and we absolutely did not make it there by sunset (we were still having battery issues caused by my rally driving, but day 5 and Chocco was still being diplomatic about the cause) instead we crossed the Queensland border, cracked a tin and had a 20 minute photo shoot in our crocodile hats at the QLD sign. We rolled into Hells Gate Roadhouse that night begged them to let us plug in our battery and cooked dinner on their awesome wood fire BBQ’s…Chocco was in heaven.
Early to bed so we could definitely go to Lawn Hill the next day AND make it to Karumba for sunset. Quick breakfast of yoghurt and muesli and get on the road? “Naa” says Chocco, lets start another fire and cook eggs for breakfast! Next thing Choong the rally driver is in the captain’s seat deadset on Lawn Hill (a 400km dirt road detour to Karumba) and Chocco’s floating in and out of consciousness, dousing himself in wet flannels… Lawn Hill was beautiful however we again didn’t make it to Karumba and our second battery was in desperate need of a charge so we knocked on a Farmers door at sunset and asked to sleep in their shed…safe to say Chocco was no longer diplomatic about who caused the battery issue, I was no longer diplomatic about what I wanted for dinner.
Second last day on the road to Cairns, still on track to meet our mate Bunga…as long as we drove for approximately 10 hours. So from the hospitable farmers shed with the second battery fully charged we were en-route to Miilla Miilla (just out of Cairns). Given we missed Karumba sunset, we decided it was best we make a 2 hour detour up to the Gulf of Carpentaria anyway because we had so much time up our sleeves NB: we did not!!! After seeing the ocean for the first time in weeks and not buying the various beaded and bedazzled garments on offer at the local market we headed back down to Normanton, visited Krys the Croc, ate a pie and made two unnecessary fishing stops for one last dig at catching a Barra…one unhappy Chocco.
We finally made it into the dense rainforest of FNQ…as the locals say. Unfortunately this meant having to pass through the many interesting towns of Western Queensland…guess I’d be pissed too if every body of water was croc-infested and it was 35 degrees year round. One last stab at underestimating how long it will take us to get somewhere and I’ve nailed it, “Chocco it’s only like 80kms to Cairns from Miilla Miilla, so maybe 50 mins tops to get Bunga” next thing we know we’re winding down a mountain at 40kms an hour and 2 hours later we arrive in beautiful Cairns!!
Bunga and Chocco are off up North and I’m off to get myself a job for 7 weeks…YUCK!