To Townsville

We had another chat with Judy before leaving for breakfast at Joey’s in Mission Beach. We enjoyed a walk on the beach hoping to see one or two sky-divers coming in to land, but there weren’t any about while we were there. Inevitably there’s a warning sign. If the plants and animals aren’t out to get you, falling humans will have a go.

Parachute warning sign

Yes, I was tempted, a little, to do another parachute jump myself, it would be a great experience over the Great Barrier Reef, but time wasn’t really on our side. Next time, maybe.

Mission Beach

There was some interesting wildlife on the beach. Nothing big, so I drew a crocodile in the sand. Millions of small crabs each with their own little hole surrounded by lots of balls of sand from below. Plus one single caterpillar.

Crab and caterpillar, the Ant and Dec of the beach

On the way back to the car, we found what may have been the caterpillar’s mother, who knows?

Butterfly

On the way out of town, we passed by more of those banana trees with the fruit now ensconced in plastic bags. We wondered whether they were to deter cassowaries rather than insects?

Bananas in pyjamas, er…

Judy had said not to bother stopping at Cardwell because there are crocodiles on the beach. So we had to stop at Cardwell to see for ourselves. Not one croc. Not even the slightest indentation in the sand that might have been a croc’s footprint.

Cardwell Beach

We passed under several of these ‘fauna rope bridges’ which I’m sure are a great idea, but we’re not sure how the animals know where the crossings are, nor how to use them. From our sedentary position in a fast-moving vehicle, it was very hard to work it out.

Animal rope bridges

Near Rungoo, we stopped at a lookout to look at the rather large Hinchinbrook Island, almost a holiday destination in its own right. In fact, we met a couple who had been there and we directed them to a better viewpoint, the lower one being ruined by intervening power lines.

Hinchinbrooke Island over there

I heard Liesel say “I have forgotten my teeth” so I queried that statement. She claims she actually said “I have food caught in my teeth”.

Hmm, I thought, that looks good, pies with my name on.

Mick’s Pies

Four kilometres later, we turned right at the traffic lights to find that the place was closed. C’est la vie.

Onwards to Ingham where we took some time out to do some laundry. Luckily, the laundrette was open, very few other shops were. I went for a walk, and I found one coffee shop open.

There’s a pub here that doesn’t sell beer, but that doesn’t matter because we didn’t go. It was probably closed anyway.

Pub with no beer

By contrast, there were some unexpectedly good photo opps here. Unexpected in the sense that we weren’t really looking out for interesting flora and fauna, it was purely about clothes: wash Ingham and dry Ingham.

They like big trees here: grow Ingham
They like ti trees here: plant Ingham
Swallow or swiftlet: it’s hard distinguish Ingham
Grasshopper with his legs: rub Ingham

If the plants don’t get you and the animals don’t get you and the humans don’t fall out of the sky on top of you, then the buildings will definitely have a go.

Warning: asbestos

Having had coffees and drink Ingham, we didn’t need a Driver Reviver, but what a great idea: free coffee.

Driver Reviver

We passed an RAAF base where one of their latest fighter planes had come to stop just in time before hitting the highway.

RAAF old plane

As I told Liesel, the last time I was in Townsville, a third of a century ago, we were driven in, sharing the front seat of a tow truck with the driver. Our campervan had broken down. We didn’t see much of the town on that occasion. But we arrived here today in the sunshine, and headed straight for the Strand.

We saw a dolphin!

Jolly dolphin

Not a real one: it would be cruel, sticking a real dolphin to your garden wall.

It’s election time so be sure to place your cross between two trees.

The Strand, Townsville

We thought we’d walk to the end of the pier, which we did, only to find it occupied by people fishing and, at the far end, filletting fish. Not the typical seaside pier, really.

It was good to see so many cyclists, roller skaters, roller bladers and runners using the path above the beach. But we’ve never seen so many dog walkers. All the dogs were on leads, we saw no dog mess, we heard no signs of aggression from any of those dogs.

90 minutes before sunset

The Sun was incredibly bright but with a bit of jiggery-pokery, I captured this image. It looks like a nice beach too, although we didn’t walk along it this time. There’s a small swimming area, with a jellyfish net around, but very few people in the sea.

The beach at Townsville
Where’s Liesel?

We dined at a Laos/Thai restaurant and again, I couldn’t finish my meal. I think my stomach must have shrunk or something. We found our Airbnb: we’re sharing with a lovely couple, two dogs and a cat. The neighbours have about 43 dogs between them by the sounds of it! They’re taking it in turns to start a Mexican wave of barking.

To Mission Beach

Mossman Gorge is just north of Port Douglas and was the venue for our first hike of the day. There’s an Aboriginal Village between the visitor’s centre and the gorge itself, and we were requested not to walk through. So, along with just about everyone else, we took the shuttle bus service, and enjoyed a much shorter walk.

Small stream

In the rainforest, you’re always on the lookout for something different: unusual trees and other plants, maybe even animals. Sometimes it just looks and feels prehistoric, but it’s always gorgeous. We’re grateful for the boardwalks they’ve installed, it’s easier for us townies, but it means that you are still in touch with modern life, with civilisation and to a certain extent, that’s what we’re trying to get away from.

Mossman rapids

Just one bloke ignored all the warnings and jumped in the water to ruin everyone else’s photos.

Liesel was delighted to walk across the relatively new Rex Creek Bridge. It was a bit wobbly but we all survived.

The challenging Rex Creek Bridge

Normally, there’s nothing special about moss, but this large patch was almost glowing.

Moss, man

Back at Port Douglas, we walked up to the Lookout and along some of Four Mile Beach.

Four Mile Beach from the Lookout

We both commented on how pleasant the temperature was, after being in the heat for so long. One day, we’ll be complaining it’s too cold, I know, but right now, it’s just right.

It’s a nice beach, flat, with perfect sand, but there are three main hazards to look out for. Box jellyfish might come along and sting you. Crocodiles might come along and eat you. Humans might slip off the rocks and fall onto you.

Another warning sign

A small section of the sea was safe to swim in as there was a net keeping the box jellyfish out. Both Liesel and I fought the temptation to leap in.

The safe swimming area

We brushed the sand off our feet and set off for Cairns. The winding road by the coast was great but it was nice when it straightened out for a while.

Liesel pointed and said that that was one job she wouldn’t want to do, and I can see that it might become a wee bit exhausting and even boring and repetitive. Putting plastic bags over the new bunches of bananas before they grow too big, presumably as a pest deterrent. I assume they’re not conventional plastic bags, but allow air and moisture to flow through. Hundreds, if not thousands of trees in fields, different coloured bags making it all look quite artistic. I wonder if we’ll see more sometime, and get a picture?

In Cairns, we looked at the menu outside Yaya’s Hellenic Kitchen and Bar and there were plenty of nice-looking vegetarian dishes to choose from. We went in and the sign at the door said “Please wait to be seated. Grazie.” Hang on, I thought, that’s Italian, not Greek. Greek would be Ευχαριστώ. As we realised we’d entered the wrong place, we were being shown to a table. We had Italian food instead, the waitress was very friendly but we didn’t ask whether her accent was American, Irish or something else: it was certainly flexible.

While eating, we heard one solitary rumble of thunder, and as it was cloudy, we thought a storm was on its way. We had felt a few spots of rain at Mossman Gorge. But no. We later wondered whether it was thunder after all, maybe it was a jet.

After lunch, we walked along the Esplanade and enjoyed watching birds out on the mudflats. The pelicans were a lovely surprise.

Australian Pelicans

They’re so elegant when they glide just a few inches above the water with barely a twitch of the wings.

Curlew rooting away
Curlew with food plus photobomb

We passed by the war memorial, always sad to see, but the big gun has been out of commission since the 1960s, so the birds are safe.

25 Pounder artillery gun/Howitzer

This chap was standing still for ages, to the point where I wondered if it was real.

Very stationary egret

He had his eyes on something, I was poised with the camera, he didn’t move, I didn’t dare blink, I stretched to relieve a crick in my back and boom, he moved, I missed the moment, but he walked away with a juicy morsel and I’m sure he winked at me as if to say “gotcha”.

Caught something tasty
Yellow-fronted beachcomber

A couple of exercise areas caught our attention, briefly, but we decided to leave the equipment for other people to enjoy. Not that there was a long queue or anything.

Promenade gym

The children’s play area by contrast was fully occupied and we thought these serving suggestions were pretty good.

Playground

Back in the car, as we progressed in a southerly direction, we were treated to two signs indicating “The highest mountain in Queensland”. Well, we thought, they can’t both be right. The two contenders are neighbours. Mt Bartle Frere is 1611 or 1622 m depending on which source you believe while Mt Bellenden Ker is a mere 1593 m above sea level. In any case, these mountains had their heads in the clouds as we drove by.

One of the highest mountains in Queensland

It’s election time in Australia and the radio adverts are the same old same old, but this large mural is hard-hitting in a fun way.

Vote for … somebody

We made a quick detour to Etty Bay, E Bay for short, because it’s famous for the local family, group, herd, whatever, of cassowaries.

Etty Bay

The beach was packed: just one young lady reading or meditating or something. I walked to the far end to use the facilities and when I told Liesel there actually was a toilet and I didn’t need to use the bush, she decided to go too. I said I’d walk back up the hill looking out for cassowaries, and she could pick me up when I thumbed a lift. Hah. The only cassowaries I saw were on road signs. I did find some very tasty-looking red berries though.

Juicy red berries

No, I didn’t eat any, no idea what they are.

Liesel drove up the hill, big grin arriving well before she did. Did you see a cassowary, she asked? No, I replied. I did, she boasted, by the campsite.

Liesel’s cassowary

I was tempted to say, oh please, please, please, take me back, but it was getting dark. The Sun sets behind the mountains and, being still in the tropics, there’s no real twilight period.

Sunset over the mountains

In Mission Beach, we have a room in the house shared with the host, Judy. She is a very friendly, chatty kiwi. She told us there would be no naked people in the pool, so that put the kibosh on my plans. She didn’t need to see one of her guests bending over outside without any clothes on, again. The pool was lovely, though, I just floated around for about 15 minutes, looking up at the lack of stars. It had been overcast for most of the day.

Mick in the pool

You can do a sky dive here at Mission Beach, landing on the actual beach. I wonder? I will if Liesel does…

To Port Douglas… and beyond

Goodbye to all the lovely ladies in The Territory: Katherine Gorge, Mary and Adelaide River, Edith Falls and Fannie Bay, Apologies to Alice Springs, we’ll catch up with you next time.

I felt sad to leave NT, almost homesick, which surprised me. Plus, Liesel wasn’t feeling 100% either. We returned to The Fannie Bay Coolspot for one final NT breakfast before jetting off to Cairns. The most entertaining part of the drive to the airport was listening to the Google Maps lady telling us to turn right into Dick Ward Drive. We went round the block several times just to hear her strange pronunciation.

Inside Cairns Airport, there’s a bicycle with a bamboo frame.

Bike with bamboo frame

This bike is much more interesting than our new rental car. New? It’s so old, it’s been driven around the world 5¼ times and it has no Bluetooth connection, just a USB port.

So, hello, Queensland, just a little cooler, we thought, for the drive north to our first port of call, Port Douglas. We didn’t stop, we just wanted to get there, eat and rest, but I did take a few pictures on the way and maybe we’ll get better ones on the return journey.

Just north of Cairns, looking west
Somewhere near Kuranda, looking north-ish

Nicola met us at her house and after she left, we went into town for dinner. We had a bit of a walk before settling down at a bistro near the marina. Queensland teased us with a sunset of weird, spooky and eerie colours.

Sunset over the Marina

I couldn’t see the lorikeets in Batchelor well enough to take a picture, but these Port Douglas residents made up for it. Probably thousands altogether, trees full of them and their chattering.

Rainbow lorikeets in a tree

Ooh, here’s a bonus sunset pic.

Sunset and a yacht

After a good night’s sleep, we rose early to drive even further north. Early, he said, hahaha.

Driving by all the sugar cane fields plus seeing old wooden houses in Cairns plus some of the place names on signs, all conspired to remind me of my very first trip to Australia, in 1986.

Sugar cane field and mountains

There’s an awful lot of sugar in Queensland. We passed a sign to a Tea Plantation and all we needed now was a source of milk. Would you believe it, we actually passed a few cows too. The group of three having a chat about the mechanical digger in their field would make a good photo/cartoon.

The sign told us (as if we didn’t already know and as if this wasn’t one of the main reasons for being here) that this was cassowary country.

Cassowary country

The road was winding so we had to drive slowly anyway, but the frequent road humps, with embedded rocks and a speed limit of 20 kph, forced us to crawl.

We half expected to see cane toads too, either live or squashed, but we didn’t. We did see a couple of birds of prey, one hovering above a field.

When we saw a man crossing the road in front of us, we thought he could have at least worn a cassowary outfit, then us visitors could leave thinking we’d actually seen one.

Looking upstream from the Daintree ferry

So, ferry ‘cross the Daintree ’cause this land’s the place I love. The road became narrower if that’s possible, we really were in the place where the rain forest meets the road.

Daintree Road, take me home

The road took us right next to the coastline occasionally, but there were very few opportunities to pull over for a proper look. Oh and here’s a surprise: a cassowary wearing Father Brown’s hat.

Caution: Cassowary wearing a hat

Daintree National Park is a rain forest, and it does extend right down to the beach. In fact, our first proper stop for a walk was at Cape Tribulation Beach. Lt James Cook had grounding issues with his ship in the area, hence the name.

There were some turkeys: not as exciting as a cassowary would have been! And butterflies, loads of them, all full of energy and determined not to trouble my camera at all. And just when you think it’s safe to walk on the beach…

Warning: crocodiles

…and…

Warning: box jellyfish

But what a lovely beach. Hard, compacted sand, very few people, the water looked inviting, apart from the possibility of box jellyfish, the rain forest behind absolutely stunning too.

Cape Tribulation Beach
Where’s Liesel?

“The only place in the world where two World Heritage listed areas, Daintree Rainforest and The Grest Barrier Reef, exist side by side.”

Selfie of the day

Very few people but surprisingly only one bird. He was very patiently fishing, caught a couple while we were watching.

Cormorant or darter or something else but not a chicken

A bit further along the road, we went for a walk along Dubuji Boardwalk, through the forest but one path also took us down to the next beach, Myall. This was a fantastic walk: fascinating in its own right, but also because we were much cooler than we’ve been for a while and it was mostly in the shade.

We heard noises from birds and animals, but other than butterflies, some shrub fowl and a few fish in the mangroves, we saw nothing but trees, bushes, climbers.

Thick-leaved raphidophora vine wraps around tree trunks
Fig tree climbing up another tree

Myall Beach was as fabulous as Cape Trib Beach (we’re friends now) but a little smaller.

Myall Beach where the rain forest meets the reef
Looking up through the umbrellas

The contrast between the brightness on the beach and the darkness in the rain forest was amazing. And hard to believe crocodiles live here.

Bright sea, dark jungle

On the drive back south, we stopped at Thornton Beach for a quick snack. Blimey, their portions were huge: I think this is the first time I’ve been unable to finish a bowl of salad and chips. We were pestered by a swarm of very small flies.

Pretty fly

No, they weren’t pretty flies, that was the next song played on the radio in the car. Oh yeah, I forgot to say: it won’t even play music from my phone with the USB cable connected. So, Triple M it was. With its fascinating and innovative new programme format. Get a couple of blokes who are funny, or who think they’re funny, and get a girl in to laugh at their every word. It’s a surefire winner. Between that and the election adverts, I think it’s fair to say, we’ll be glad to get back to the music on my phone!

One thing we did learn from Triple M was that the current batch of $50 notes have a misspelling in the micro text: ‘responsilty’ three times. That’s an absolute outrage so I will be returning all ours to the bank and demanding my money back.

Someone should take responsibilty for this

Thornton Beach is another where we could have stayed and walked for much longer, but we weren’t 100% sure when the last ferry would carry us back over the Daintree River.

Little island off Thornton Beach
Thornton Beach

Back on the road again, I was watching the sea on my side and watching the road still looking out for… [expletive deleted] said Liesel as she braked and she was right: there was a cassowary crossing the road right in front of us. Fumble fingers messed up the photo but ooh, how exciting, we actually saw a real, live cassowary out in the wild and we could not have been more excited!

There were a couple of waterfalls too but, well, they’re a lot easier to come by than actual cassowaries.

We stopped at Walu Wugirriga, or Mount Alexandra Lookout, from where we could look over the Daintree Valley towards Port Douglas.

Looking south over the Daintree estuary

Luckily, I got my pictures just in time, before a bus full of tourists turned up. We also set off before them, we didn’t want to be following a bus all the way to the ferry. I know, we’re such snobs.

Looking downstream from the Daintree ferry

Back in Port Douglas, Liesel went indoors while I went into town for a few bits at Coles. On entering, I was delighted to hear the strains of Tasmin’s Sleeping Satellite over the PA and I thought, what a wonderful shop. Then they played something modern and I thought, maybe not. I know, I’m such a music snob!

I’m glad I went into town, because I felt bad about not taking a picture of the cows chatting earlier so I made up for it by snapping a cow on roller skates. No, I was not hallucinating.

Cow on wheels

Tonight’s, early sunset wasn’t as colourful nor as interesting as last night’s but what a fabulous first day in Queensland. A cassowary!

Overnight, we heard some strange animal noises from outside while in the comfort of our room: birds, possoms, squirrels, bats, monkeys, teenagers, I don’t know if we’ll ever know.

Return to Darwin

Our second visit to Florence Falls was much more worthwhile. Everyone else is back at work and we took advantage. We even found a parking spot under the shade of a tree and that’s very unusual.

We had a bit of a moan about the lack of wildlife spotted recently, so it was delightful to see some on the early morning drive. Two wallabies crossed the road in front of us but even better, we passed a kite flying at a very low level next to the road, with his breakfast in his claws. Very exciting!

Florence Falls

We walked to the viewing platform and then down the 135 steps to the plunge pool. 135? I made it 168 and even then, I think I missed some when we greeted passers-by.

Where’s Liesel?
Where’s the golden orb spider?

The pool itself was inviting but I was keeping my powder, and my body, dry for later on.

The plunge pool

Before we’d left, a group of young people came down, started swimming, a-whoopin’ and a-hollerin’, enjoying the echoes.

One of many early morning lizards

Similarly, Buley Rockhole was relatively deserted. We were surprised but very pleased that there was so little litter in either place. There are no bins, you’re supposed to take all your rubbish away, and it seems that the vast majority did so. Either that, or the rangers had done a good job very early.

Buley Rockhole without the crowds

We considered holding a spontaneous jumble sale when we came across several items of forgotten clothing.

Any offers considered

One Dad was having fun with his little girl, encouraging her to jump in from the rock. But, at the last moment, he couldn’t bear to look.

Go on, jump, you know you want to…

Yes, I was tempted to join in here but we had other plans.

Along the road we stopped by Tolmer Falls Lookout. This was a half-hour walk, along a boardwalk well above the trees. Another spectacular view reminding us again just how immense and impressive this country is.

It’s a big, big country alright

The waterfall itself looked relatively small and insignificant in the distance: I felt sorry for it.

Tolmer Falls
Tolmer Falls

As we walked back along the walkway, we saw a couple of ladies looking at photos on their phones. So we just ploughed on right up to them. Thereby scaring away the goanna they’d actually been photographing. We apologised of course before taking our own pictures.

Goanna

What a great day for animals, in the end.

I still needed to pay a couple of bills, so we returned to Wangi Falls to use their wifi. All that and one of the credit card bills was for just 79p.

We had coffee and a sandwich and then, at last, I ripped my clothes off and jumped into the water, shouting and yee-haaing. Well, I went in quietly, one slow step at a time. It was cool and refreshing. Liesel walked to the lookout deck and saw this.

Where’s Mick?

I swam over to her and I couldn’t believe the size of the golden orb spider underneath where she was standing. For the first time ever, I realised how useful a selfie stick might be: you could safely take the spider’s picture from up above.

We encountered one other unexpected sight today. We’ve seen smoke from the road a few times, but today we saw big plumes of smoke and big flames. Yes, a couple of big fires. We wondered where the supervisors were, being sure it was a controlled blaze.

Other than that, the drive back to Batchelor and then along the highway back to Darwin was uneventful.

We’re in a motel for the night. We chose the slighty more expensive cabin at the back, away from the noise of the traffic on the main road. What they didn’t tell us was that we’re under the training flight path of the local RAAF base. We can hear them, oh yes, those jets are loud, but we can also feel them through the floor.

RAAF planes in close formation

Sadly, this is our final night in the Northern Territory and I’m already feeling a bit homesick for the place. I really hope we come back sometime.

Litchfield National Park

After breakfast, I returned to the shop to buy some tissues. It was already quite warm but good to see a blue rather than a cloudy sky.

Here is a picture of the castle in Batchelor Yes, in Batchelor, near Litchfield National Park, in the Northern Territory of Australia, a castle.

Batchelor Castle

The original Karlstein Castle was built from 1348-55 in Bohemia (23 km south-east of Prague in the now Czech Republic) by Charles IV, King of Bohemia, Emperor of Germany and of the Holy Roman Empire. At various times, this castle held treasures and relics from the Holy Roman Empire, the Bohemian crown jewels and the Czech crown jewels.

The Batchelor replica miniature was erected by Bernard Havlik, resident of Batchelor, purely from photographs, from 1974-78. It is located in what is now known as Havlik Park.

Our young and good looking friends from the museum said yesterday that a visitor once turned up from the then Czechoslovakia. He lived close to the real Karlstein Castle and he commented that this model was spot on.

Another side of the replica castle

What a difference a day makes, 24 little hours. Blue skies. We drove to Litchfield National Park and stopped to look at the Magnetic Termite Mounds. Liesel was disappointed that these constructions weren’t covered in fridge magnets.

The mounds are built by magnetic termites. And no, you can’t attract hundreds of those by waving a horseshoe magnet about either.

These mounds are oriented north-south to reduce the amount of direct sunlight shining on the surface, thus reducing the internal temperature.

Magnetic termite mounds
Narrower than usual

Other mounds are also in the area. The Cathedral Mound is built by a colony of Cathedral termites. What a coincidence!

Colossal Cathedral Mound with little Liesel

It’s an 18-feet tall monolith and it reminded me of an early scene from one of my alltime favourite films, which is now 51 years old.

2001 – A Space Odyssey

It was a very pleasant walk and after a very pleasant drive, we found ourselves at the very pleasant Wangi Falls.

One of the selling points here is the free wifi. We had things to do online. Like tell our host that the oven doesn’t work. Like check that yesterday’s blog had posted on schedule (it hadn’t). Like sync the Fitbit. Like check the bank acc… Oh no. I got kicked off with the message Data Limit Exceeded. I tried with other email addresses but it knew, it knew… Later on, Liesel was kicked off too, Time Limit Exceeded. So, sorry, banks in the UK, I’ll pay the bills very soon, honest.

I had coffee and we had a sandwich, a bowl of salt with some chips in and a slice of cheesecake. That weighed me down quite nicely when I entered the water.

Watching the Chinese group try to order food and drinks was informative yet embarrassing. One lady ordered her meal then walked away. Her friend told her (in Chinese) that she had to pay. Then number two got to the front of the queue before starting to decide what she wanted. The girl behind the counter looked at me with eyes that said “I’m an underpaid café worker, get me out of here.” All I could do to help out was to place my order, clearly and distinctly, and pay without being prompted.

Wangi Falls

It was so refreshing in the water, even with lots of people, noodles and fish. This pool only reopened to the public this week: it’s taken three weeks to be absolutely sure there are no crocodiles in the vicinity after the Wet.

Where’s Mick?

I’m not a very good swimmer and the waterfall was just too far for me to reach. It’s fresh water too, so I was less buoyant than in the sea.

We started on the circular, mile-long Wangi Falls Walk not initially intending to go the whole way, as we’d left all our water in the car.

Wangi Falls
The Golden Orb Sign

The sign told us to look out for a Golden Orb Spider. Well, we found one quite easily, because it was being photographed by a few other people. It’s huge! There were some small, golden normal sized spiders on the web too, but the large one was magnificent. This is one of those rare times when I wish I had a real camera with manual focus. The spider is out of focus in all of my pictures: very disappointing.

Least worst photo of the Golden Orb spider

We continued along the path and up the steps and along the path and round the corner and up the steps to the Treetop view. The higher you climb, the further you see over the Park.

Looking over LItchfield National Park

In the distance here, you can see some smoke, presumably from a controlled fire, known as “fuel reduction” according to some signs we saw today.

At the highpoint, we crossed a bridge over the stream of water that would later plunge hundreds of feet into the swimming hole.

Selfie of the day

You’re supposed to keep to the path to preserve the vegetation and the wildlife but these naughty people climbed through the fence and went walkabout. Liesel asked why I took the picture. Evidence, I said. This is what they looked like before being washed over a waterfall and/or before being eaten by a dingo and/or a crocodile.

Naughty people

It was certainly easier, and quicker, climbing down the steps, but it still required concentration. A little hydration would have helped, of course.

Rocky steps

So, not surprising then that when we next encountered flowing water, we didn’t drink any but we both spontaneously splashed ourselves with it, to cool off. And back down at the bottom, I didn’t need to be asked twice whether I wanted another quick dip. I have no idea how much water we downed when we returned to the car.

On the way home, I sat on a towel so as not to get the car seat too wet.

Lost City

The sign pointed to Lost City. Sadly, the track was 4WD only so we don’t know whether or not we would have found it.

As we approached Batchelor, we saw a car had landed, crooked, on the gravel strip next to the road. Behind it, we saw three unoccupied police vehicles, each from a different police department as far as we could see. We turned the corner only to see a fourth police car approaching. Very exciting, very intriguing. I suspect the driver of the vehicle had run off into the bush and was being chased by Batchelor’s best: a real life 39 Steps. We can’t believe such force would be necessary just because someone parked a bit funny.

The oven still didn’t work, so we fired up the barbecue. Cous-cous with roasted, well, barbecued, vegetables and halloumi. Liesel is a fantastic cook!

We do like to see a bit of colour. But sometimes, a total lack of colour can be just as exciting. The ebony night sky with its myriad stars mesmerised me in the middle of the night. There are trees here that blot out some of the sky, but even so, and even with the annoying motion-sensing lights, the sky was as beautifully bejewelled as I’ve ever seen it. Just too many stars to make out the most obvious of constellations. Marvellous!

When I returned to bed, I tried not to think about number of bites I’d received without realising. It was so quiet outside, no birds, no insects, just the neighbour’s TV gently burbling away. I certainly didn’t hear the warning whine of mosquitoes.

Come breakfast time, the itches had subsided and only a couple of residual bumps showed.

Buley Rockhole is a series of small, round rock pools connected by cascades. It’s closer to Batchelor than Wangi Falls but mostly, we followed the same road. It felt even hotter today than yesterday, although the car’s thermometer suggested otherwise.

Buley Rockhole Cascade

What we hadn’t realised was that today was a public holiday. Everybody was there. Darwin must have been a ghost town.

We had a quick walk but we couldn’t find any shade and even the pools all had too many people in them. Maybe we just don’t like crowds any more!

People having fun and boozing

The young larrikins drinking cans of beers put us off too: just too much jostling and joshing with young families nearby.

The car park at Florence Falls was full, in fact, cars were parked in stupid places a long way back, along the road.

We shall return!

So we went back to Batchelor Museum where the history of the township revolves around the early settlement, farming, World War 2 and the nearby Rum Jungle uranium mine.

One of the first names I noticed was Joe McGinness. Possibly my cousin Joe. His father and my maternal grandfather share a surname and both came from Ireland. I wonder? Something to follow up when we get home.

Joe McGinness

The early settlers tried hard. They grew so many different crops to find out what worked and what didn’t. One of the selling points of the Northern Territory was that it didn’t have many of the expected tropical diseases, not even malaria.

There are stories from some of the airmen based in the area during the war, including Dr Fenton, who we read about in Katherine.

The uranium mine is just along the road and now we know what to look out for should be ever need some uranium ore.

Tobernite

Of course, we’re law-abiding citizens, so we turned our rental vehicle back just as soon as we’d taken this photo.

Restricted area

The local group of lorikeets is either invisible or very well camouflaged. We can hear them, we know which trees they’re in, but we can’t see them. Spooky.

To Batchelor

Before leaving Katherine, we had a quick chat with Toni. On her recommendation, we went to have breakfast at the pop-up café by the Hot Springs.

Early dip in Katherine Hot Springs

I think my fried eggs on toast were much nicer than Liesel’s banana bread. But we felt like extras in a Hitchcock movie when hundreds of cockatoos came swarming and squawking over us. Nobody else paid any attention so this must be a regular phenomenon.

Count the cockatoos

As we drove along the straight (mostly) highway, we remarked on how many shredded tyres there are by the side of the road. So what an unexpected bonus when one such item photobombed my picture of a tree with hundreds of shoes in it. Yes, a shoe tree.

Shoes do grow on trees

We wondered, what do shredded tyres look like in the dark? A piece of rope fooled us yesterday, after all.

The first planned stop was at Edith Falls, Leliyn. There are several walking tracks here and we chose by far the shortest. People were swimming in the water and it was tempting to join them but we had a long drive ahead of us.

The lowest of Edith Falls’s falls

The water was very clear, we saw some fish too.

The scenic hill by the falls

When the path petered out, so did we. It will go on much further when it’s finished, up into the hills.

As we walked back to the car park, for some reason, both of us made the mistake of touching this razor plant. Why? I think we were momentarily possessed by a spirit of recklessness. We both saw the sharp thorns, and yet…

Another pandanus, Pandanus ouchii

I think because it’s such a gentle, harmless shade of green, we felt it couldn’t be that aggressive, right? Wrong!

On seeing a mile marker signed AR, I suggested to Liesel we were headed for Ayers Rock by mistake. A couple of beats later, she corrected me. Adelaide River. We were on the right road.

This is the view we had much of the time. Long, straight, open road with the occasional other vehicle; grey clouds in the sky with the occasional flash of blue. But lo, in the distance here, a waft of smoke.

Lots of road, lots of smoke

We never did find the source so probably everything’s ok.

The only place we stopped at in Pine Creek was the lookout, looking out over the old Enterprise Pit, Pine Creek Goldfields. Unbelievably, the bottom of the mine was 135 metres below the water level. I can’t imagine the heat and the claustrophobia, never mind the continual threat of water inundation.

Pine Creek Lookout
Selfie of the day

Back on the road, we ga(s)ped in awe again when a couple of road trains came by. I thought three was the maximum, but a some today were hauling four tankers.

Very long road-train
Fort anchors

Adelaide River was a bit disappointing: we looked at the museum but, like the market, it wasn’t open. So we proceeded all the way to our home for the next few days.

We passed some time at Batchelor Museum where the young and good looking volunteers made us coffee and showed us where to start.

Batchelor Museum Volunteers

We watched half of a one-hour programme about the bombing of Darwin by the Japanese in WW2. Some details of this event remained secret for over fifty years, and although they say about 250 people died, it may well have been many more. We’ll cover the museum properly later on, but for some hot and humid reason, we both needed to sit down for a bit and do nothing in our new Batchelor pad.

I did go for a quick walk to the local shop to buy some drinks, otherwise it would be water again. The lovely girl behind the counter sought my fatherly advice about whether or not she should go to a party at a total stranger’s house. I think she knew the answer already.

This is a nice, spacious Airbnb but disappointingly, the oven doesn’t work. That didn’t stop Liesel from concocting a fab meal of Linda McCartney Sausages, a broccoli like vegetable called broccolini plus toast. For dessert, we had eggs. Boiled? No, Cadbury’s.

There was a pub quiz at the local Rum Jungle Bowls Club. It was tempting but in retrospect, we’re glad we didn’t go. On reading the notice properly later on, I realised we should have taken a plate of food to share.

A couple of safety notices made us chuckle as we passed them at a high speed. We’ve seen plenty of evidence of controlled fires and they really don’t want people starting their own fires out in the bush, which could then get out of control. “We like our lizards frilled, not grilled” and “Everything is burn-a-bull”!

Nitmiluk: Katherine Gorge

The nighttime shenanigans will be dealt with later. Getting up at dark O’hundred seemed such a good idea when we made the plans but the practical side of dragging our carcasses out of bed so early always raises doubt about our sanity.

We drove towards the sunrise and saw beautiful, bright Venus leading the way. Then, just before the Sun appeared, we saw a very thin crescent Moon.

Hello Venus

The sky was partially cloudy, but it looked like we were going to have a wonderful day.

All kinds of animals should be stirring at dawn, we thought. There were a couple of kangaroos ‘having a rest’, but our excitement was piqued by the sight of some snakes warming up by the side of the road. No way was I going to get out of the car, but the photo taken from the passenger seat is pretty damn good.

“Snakes”

I thought about selling this picture to National Geographic or something, but that would just be money for old rope. I’m sure we’re not the only visitors to fall for this jape.

Blue-headed honey-eater

We arrived at Katherine Gorge, Nitmiluk, Visitor Centre, with plenty of time to spare and we joined 12 other people for a cruise along the river, through the gorge. Nitmiluk means cicada country.

The birds didn’t come too close but the blue-headed honey-eater is very pretty. His song was drowned out by the sound from many, many bats though.

There are 13 gorges on the Katherine River, numbered 1 to 13 and we were going to see the first two, accounting for about a third of the total length. Each gorge is separated from the next by rocks and rapids, so we had to board another boat for Gorge No 2.

On Katherine River

The water was calm, a couple of fish jumping, a few birds flying by, but mostly we just gaped in awe at the immensity of the rock formations.

So many rock formations

On a previous cruise, someone had asked the guide if this bird was a penguin?

Little pied cormorant

Well, it’s black and white and hiding behind a branch, so an easy mistake to make.

The rocks are sandstone, fragmented and cracked, and eroded by water over millions of years. The trees are fascinating, sometimes growing in the most ridiculous places.

Tenacious trees and sweeping sandstone

Crayfish are caught in a yabbie trap. Usually, only freshwater crocodiles inhabit this river, and they’re fairly harmless. They only eat things they can swallow whole, such as fish and birds, so we’re quite safe. Unless we annoy them by stomping on their tail, or something. Which we didn’t.

But, after the Wet, and the floods, sometimes gingas, saltwater crocs, can make an appearance.

Yabbie trap

Evidence of their presence includes badly mangled yabbie traps. The river isn’t opened to the public for recreational canoeing until the rangers are certain that there are no gingas.

Another method of detection is to leave some red, blood-soaked polystyrene balls on the surface. A curious croc will take a bite, decide it’s not really food, and move on. The tooth prints will indicate whether it’s a saltie or a freshie.

The red-ball croc detection system

We did see one, small, freshwater crocodile today, a long way from the boat, by the shore, and as soon as he saw us, he swam into the caverns behind.

Freshwater crocodile

It was fairly obvious when we’d reached the end of Gorge No 1. Many rocks across the river, and some rough water just upstream.

Rocks at the top of Gorge number 1

We disembarked and walked about 400m to the next boat. The boats higher upstream are brought in when the river’s in flood, and left there for the season. No heavy lifting required.

The walk itself was interesting: we saw some small frogs in a puddle and some 10,000-year old Aboriginal rock paintings, including underneath where a big chunk of rock had fallen off, many thousands of years ago.

Aboriginal rock painting

The local, Jawoyn, clan can read these paintings like a book. The information board didn’t tell us which book, though.

Some of the trees are growing right down at water level. They’re so lush, even the water looks green in places.

Trees with snake-necked darter

Because of the way the rocks fractured, some of the bends in the river are very nearly right angles.

A very sharp bend in the river

In places, you can see where a fracture on one side continues through the rockface on the other side. Again, my geological knowledge is limited but I would be fascinated to learn more about these structures.

This apparently is the view everyone wants:

Katherine Canyon

Due to eddies and currents and erosion, the water at this point is about 20m deep. This is where the Rainbow Serpent is resting and it’s Jawoyn law that nobody’s allowed to swim here, in case they wake the Serpent up.

We were told about some films that have been made in this area. Jedda, or Jedda the Uncivilised, was released in 1955 and was the first to star two Aboriginal actors. We passed by Jedda’s Rock. An imminent release is Top End Wedding which we’ll look out for. The best recommendation was Rogue, about a crocodile that chases tour boats. Our tour guide (spoiler alert) said that it did have a happy ending though: the tour guide survived.

Selfie of the day

The water is typically about 6m deep in this area. During the floods of 1998, the water rose 20m, engulfing the higher of these two holes in the wall, although you don’t really get the scale from the picture.

Erosion occurs in all directions

At the height of the flood, enough water flowed through the Katherine to fill Sydney Harbour evey nine hours. That is a staggering statistic.

Water from the recent, disappointing, Wet Season, is still making its way through the channels. We saw a couple of cascades today, but many more black stained rocks indicating the presence of waterfalls at other times.

A light waterfall

There are plenty of inviting sandy beaches too. But this is where the crocs lay their eggs, so very soon, signs will appear telling people to stay off. After laying the eggs, the mums aren’t interested and there are enough predators around, without people compacting the sand and making it difficult for hatchlings to emerge.

Nice sandy beach

We returned to our starting point, transferring back to the first boat, feeling exhilarated but tired, and not really up for the hike we’d considered.

Lots of noisy bats in the trees

Some birds and a lizard watched us make our way back to the car park, and we picked up some coffee to take away. The noisy construction will result in a brand new Visitors’ Centre, so we’ll have to come back and see that, one day.

The drive back to base was punctuated by several stops.

Beware, your hat might fly off
An old abandoned car

We saw a bright green and red parrot-like bird. Actually, it probably was a parrot, it was too big to be a lorikeet. We saw some large birds poking at and trying to wake up the resting kangaroos mentioned earlier, to no avail.

Some of the side roads looked interesting, but we didn’t explore. Some said they were Private Property, some didn’t say but they probably are too.

Long straight track to nowhere

Liesel took her first flying lesson today, but I don’t think they’ll be asking her back.

Crashed areoplane

We took a chance and parked our hire car in front of a barn decorated with very many old car number plates.

Lots of regos

I was too slow to take a picture of the dingo that ran across the road in front of us. And similarly not fast enough to snap the pig snuffling by the side of the road. Then it looked up, with its pink collar and its doggie head. The back end still looked like a pig though.

The powerlines are supported by metal posts. I suspect between termites and annual deluges, wooden posts wouldn’t last very long.

Metal post

Other sightings included somebody’s trousers in the middle of the road, some cows, goats, horses and some houses on stilts, although I expected to see more of those.

Back home, we had tea, toast and a nap then I played with the butterflies in the garden. We went back to Woolworths for some shopping and decided against a proper, long walk today.

Here’s an early warning for squeamish visitors. I’m about to relate an incident from last night. This is the Northern Territory and Things Live Here that we don’t normally like to see indoors. Maybe in an outhouse, but not in the main, clean, tiled, inhabited part of a house.

If you’re still with me, I apologise in advance.

As regular visitors may recall, I have reason to visit the lavatory once or twice every night, sometimes more often. And if I can’t sleep for some reason, there can be several nocturnal hikes. Such was the case last night. I couldn’t sleep because I knew we had to get up early and so I ended up losing sleep at both ends of the night.

The first time I went into the bathroom, as soon as I sat down, I felt something scratch my arm. Now, the last time I felt something scratch my arm like that was when a mouse ran out of a mail bag at work, up my arm, and into the prep frame. So obviously, I deduced that this too must be a mouse, in my middle-of-the-night torpor. To investigate, I turned the bathroom light on, something I don’t usually do because it wakes me up too much. I was relieved to see that what hit my arm was a bottle of moisturiser that had fallen off the top of the shower screen when I slightly nudged it.

On the other hand, I was shocked, horrified, surprised and not at all delighted to see a cockroach sitting on the bathroom sink. Not as large as the big red one I saw at Jabiru but worse, because it was indoors. Waving its feelers in my direction. Sorry, but I have to admit, I washed it down the plughole when I washed my hands, and put the plug in the sink. I took some slow, deep breaths to calm myself down, hoping I’d get back to sleep very quickly.

I needed to go to the loo a second time but by now, it was 5:15am and very nearly time to get up anyway. So I turned the bathroom light on only to see the cockroach sitting on the floor. Laughing at me. How the heck did it escape? The plug was still in place. It must have come up through the overflow. I was taking my ease when it started moving towards me. I was quite philosophical when it was running about on the floor. But when it started its fast little jog up the outside of the toilet bowl, I screamed to myself, grabbed it with loo paper, and flushed it away. I don’t know what the ‘going to the toilet’ equivalent of coitus interruptus is, but that’s what happened.

No time to continue so I washed my hands. I released the sink plug and immediately, out popped the original cockroach, looking around like an Alien. Giving me the finger. Swear words echoed around but only inside my head as Liesel wasn’t quite awake yet. I grabbed it with loo paper and flushed it away to join its twin.

I have no idea how many cockroaches we’re sharing the house with but I hope none of them stow away in our bags when we leave.

Not a big problem really. This is the Northern Territory, where every conceivable environmental niche is probably inhabited by bugs of one kind or another. That’s what makes it such a fascinating place. Not just the bugs themselves, but the bigger animals that prey on them.

All together now: Good night, sleep well, don ‘t have nightmares.