Monday, July 25, 2011

Douglas Hot Springs

We decided to camp at the national park campground at Douglas hot springs for two nights. We arrived there to discover it was about 50ks off the highway (including just under ten ks of heavily .... dirt road) but once we got there we realised it was well worth the (pretty small) trip. The campground was really dry and basically just dirt but there were small firepit/bbqs everywhere. We found a fantastic site to set the van up right in the centre and we very quickly gained some neighbours. We set up the van then walked down the 10 metres to the springs, we noticed a HUGE group of people in one spot right at the centre of the creek resemblent springs. We figured they must be a huge family or somthing and decided to give them their space so we first dipped our toes in down river from them, looking for a less populated area. The water was icey cold. We then walked past them, following the "river" up and dipped our toes in. The water was scorchingly hot (60+ degrees), what a shock! So we went down to where the group was and jumped into the perfect temperatured water. It was like a hot/warm bath (dependent on where you sat) but we quickly realised that the spot where everyone was sitting was right where a cold stream that ran paralell with the hot springs, met up with the hot springs and the boiling and cold water mixed together.

We ended up pretty quickly becoming part of the big "family" that was infact not a family - just a HUGE bunch of tourists trying to get the best spot in the water. It was a beautiful, little, social enviroment and over the two days and nights we spent there we became very friendly with a number of different people from all different age groups. At one point we joined a group of 60 year olds and the next morning we were initiated into the brat pack of ten year old girls. Everyone that comes to the springs says the same thing "wow, this water is so hot you could cook an egg in here" so of course I had to take an egg down and try! Well two eggs. We cracked oe and put it in a foil "dish" we fashioned ourselves and sat it to float in the spring. It had cooked stringy bits through it but it never actually cooked. Then we sat one in its shell right where the water was bubbling from the ground (At its hottest), we left it there for over twenty minutes but unfortunately it didnt cook either. We had lots of fun doing the experiment and we had a pretty big group of tourists (including our helpful accomplices the ten year old girls) curiously awaiting the results. It was alot of fun.

We ended up befriending a small family that came in the second night and we had a great time sitting by the fire with them and another man in a neighbouring van, telling stories. It was fantastic!

everyone crowding into the part of the spring where the cold and hot stream meet.

trying to cook an egg unsuccessfully in the hot springs

Our big boy on his new bike

Our camp (to the left)

Cutta Cutta Caves

I wasn't keen at all to go into the Cutta Cutta caves as I have a sort of calustrophobic fear of squeezing through small underground gaps. However when we arrived (and did the 700 metre walk through the bush to the caves) I seen the entry and realised it was actually quiet open. I decided to give it a go. We walked in and the cave was beautiful, but the descent was a little scary. The caves go 200 metres accross and about 20 metres deep and are filled with the most beautiful stalegnite (or whatever those pointy things are called that hang from the roof and come up from the ground) formations. They were gilstening, sparkling, white, orange, absolutely beautiful.
There were snakes in the cave and apparently it is home to alot of bats but thats seasonal. I ended up getting scared about 80 metres in when we came to a section that required you to squeeze through a tiny gap. So I decided to go back out of the caves, thankfully because I was told the squeezes became more difficult from then on. Brent and Zac and our friends Barbara, Matt and Yohana kept going and all said it was even more beautiful and cathedral like further in. Unfortunately I forgot to leave the camera with Brent so we didnt get any photos right deep inside, only of the first 80 metres.

Zac and Johana walking to the caves

Inside the caves
Zachery absolutely loved the caves and Brent said he enjoyed climbing and walking through them. Apparently it got really hot and muggy towards the far end of the caves. Cutta Cutta caves are beautiful and are pretty cheap to go and see too. It was quiet a big deal for me to go underground into a cave so I feel quiet good about my small experience with them despite not going the whole way through. Brent and Zac thoroughly enjoyed the entire walk.
The entry to the cave

Katherine Gorge

The most iconic "landmark" in Katherine would have to be the infamous Katherine Gorge. This is a place I have always thought about visiting and I have always been absolutely blown away by the images of it. We decided that we must do a cruise along the Katherine Gorge while there so we booked in for a "two gorge cultural tour". The tour was on a fantastic big boat full of plastic chairs. The boat was guided by two wonderfully informative aboriginal men (whom also had us all in stiches of laughter with their stories and jokes).
We got in the boat and began our trip through the gorge, the sight was absolutely amazing. The walls of the gorge went up so high and there was alot og wildlife. We seen little freshwater crocs hanging out lazily on tree branches on the side of the river. At the end of the first gorge we got out of the boat and walked up to an enormous rock wall which had aboriginal artwork painted on them in red adn white ochre. The artwork was believed to have been there for over ten thousand years and there were a variety of stories about how it got there and what it signified.
We then got on the second boat and continued on through the second, and twice as spectacular, gorge. We learnt alot about the local tribe the "Jaowyn" people and their history and culture. We noticed that all throughout the gorge there are small sandy banks with signs on them saying "Do not walk on this bank" (or somthing similar) we were informed that all of these sandy banks are crocodile nesting ares and if you walk on them you wont nessecerily be attached by a freshwater crocodile (you would by a salty) but you will break/damage their eggs and possibly debilitate their breeding process. We also learnt that one of the banks was the spot where the Australian "crocodile movie" Rogue was filmed.
The gorge was breathtakingly beautiful and exceeded our expectations. The walk down to the gorge was beautiful and Zac had alot of fun pointing out the fruit bats in the trees along the way.

Whilst at Katherine we met up with some friends we made at Mataranka springs, Barbara and Matt and their little girl Yohana . We had a wonderful evening with them drinking beer and rum, eating nibblies and watching the kids play. It was fantastic. The next day Brent helped Matt do a service on his car and in return Barbara cooked us the most delicious dinner. I dont usually eat fish at all but I ate it all up that night and absolutely thoroughly enjoyed it, aswell as the beautiful salad she made. I definately cant wait to start experimenting with cooking fish now that I know I like it again. We ended up spending alot of time with Barbara, Matt and Yohana and discovered that they are wonderful, relaxed and alot of fun. It was great to make some friends along the way and it was great to all go to Cutta Cutta caves together, just South of Katherine, for a day trip.

Crocodile breeding sand patch in the Katherine Gorge

Katherine Gorge
Katherine Gorge
Brent in the pool with ac and Johana

Monday, July 18, 2011

Our first day at Katherine

We left Mataranks springs early this morning to head toward Katherine. I decided to have a try of towing the caravan and it was surprisingly easy! I actually enjoyed towing it and will be sharing alot of the driving with Brent now (although he goes a little faster than me - I do 90 and he does 100 and somtimes 110 - the speed zones out here are mostly 130 - how crazy is that?). I felt really proud of myseld for stepping up and giving towing the van a try, I towed it the entire way to Katherine (an hour and a half drive).

When we arrived at Katherine we decided to go to the caravan park our friends suggested to us yesterday, the friends we made at Mataranka - a young couple Matt and Barbara and their daughter Yohanna. We arrived at the caravan park and set up then just relaxed at camp for most of the day as we were a bit exhausted from the last few days of LOTS of walking at Mataranka. We then went for a drive into town and had a look at the Katherine hot springs along the way (they were beautiful and warm like the mataranka ones). We bought some groceries and booked in for a cruise of the Katherine Gorge for tomorrow.

We spent the afternoon/evening at camp chatting with our friends and watching their daughter and Zac play. They had an absolute blast together! They absolutely adore eachother and they play so well together. I love watching them play, its very cute. We ended up having a few drinks and eating a bunch of nibblies (instead of dinner). All in all it was a wonderful night and we now have plans for tomorrow night.

I cant wait to go for a cruise of the Katherine Gorge tomorrow.

Mataranka Springs

We spent two nights at Mataranks springs. It was absolutely wonderful! The springs are so beautiful and crystal clear and in the river next to the springs there are lots of freshwater crocodiles and turtles to spot, which kept us entertained for ages. I find it so crazy that there are signs saying "crocodile managment program being followed here" next to the rivers but you you are welcome to swim just at you rown risk. Its crazy being faced with that decision rather than being at a zoo or reptile park with these creatures and not having the choice to be in their habitat. Apparently the freshwater crocs dont generally go near humans but they have found the odd saltwater on occasion in there and therefore cannot say the rivers are entirely safe. But still, you can swim in them.

The campground at Mataranka springs was fantastic. It was really well spaced out and had a little pub at it too. We ended up having dinner and a few drinks at the pub one night and listening to live music for hours. Zac even made a friend, a little girl Yohana (Im not sure how to spell it). They danced the night away ont he stage and made the singer very happy. They also dug in the dirt and repeatedly took their pants off and ran around covered in mud! They were very funny together. The campground is also full of wallabies and they are really tame and will eat from your hand. Its lovely! Zac loved it and was patting them and playing with them.

We also did about 4 kilometres of walking at Mataranka, around the springs and out to a waterhole. Zac walked most of it on his own, he seems to really love bush walking!

The springs

Walking toward the trees through the rainforest (we seen a snake slithering around next to the path through the forest
Zoomed in photo of the croc we seen bathing in the sun on a log in the river
The "not zoomed in" photo of the croc on the log.

All in all Mataranka springs was a wonderful adventure and definately a beautiful place. There is so much wildlife including crocs, turtles, countless wallabies, snakes, peacocks and other birds. There are alot of beautiful places to view the gorgeous river from and there alot of really happy, friendly locals. There are some beautiful walks through the forest and its just a beautiful natural place. The springs are amazing and the most perfect temperature and the days outside are 32 degrees in the middl e of winter, gotta love that!

Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Devils Marbles and Wycliffe Well

This morning we left Alice at about 6am and drove straight to Wycliffe Well. This is a town famous for all of the stories of "alien landings/sightings". There wasnt really anything there other than a service station with an Alien Exhibit and a wall covered with newspaper articles. Including a rather interesting story about a sex crazed emu who is burning out lovers faster than trucks burn out tyres. We had a read of a bunch of the articles and notices quiet a few about pop star Robbie Williams, apparently he is UFO m.a.d and ended up buying a big property in the area to try and see the UFO's for himself. Not sure how it went though. There were alot of claims of aliens hanging out among the Devils Marbles too.

The devils marbles shocked me as I was expecting one, beautiful stack of ginormous marble-esque rocks. Which we did see! But there were countless stacks of marble-esque rocks over a huge spanse of land. They were magnificent! We clibed them and went into the middle to the cave like areas. They were such a wonderful sight.


Alice Springs Reptile Centre and Museum

These blog entries are all a big behind as I have been out of phone range for a couple of days.

On the 15/7/2011 we went to the Alice Springs Reptile centre and we were actually pretty pleasantly surprised by what we discovered there. It simply looked like a signposted home from the outside, in the middle of a normal suburban street. But when we got inside it was four or so rooms (And an outdoor area) of lizards, snakes, turtles and a big saltwater croc. It was very cheap too I think it was $12 each which is just awesome! (it was free for Zac).

We slowly walked through all of the rooms marvelling over the variety of desert lizards espcially the really spikey ones. We went into the underwater viewing area and had a peek at the croc but he didnt move at all. You could see him in such detail though because he was practically up against the glass. Zachery was very impressed. We then got called inside for a reptile show.

A young woman went up the front of the room and showed us a huge variety of snakes and lizards. She had one enormous snake that she let everyone have a hold of. She lined all the children up on the stage (Zac included) and let the snake start from one end and slither accross all of them to the other end of the line. Zac was absolutely in his element and shocked everyone with how interested he was. We then had to (at Zacs request) stay back after the show so he could hold each of the lizards and ... sort of voilate an unsuspecting blue tongue lizard. The lizard was kissing Zac with his long tongue so Zac decided to share the love and licked the lizards tongue... haha. Ew!

It was such a fantastic experience! Zachery loved it and how "hands on" he was able to be. I highly reccomend it to anyone going through Alice Springs.

Awesome spikey lizard
I couldnt get a good photo of Zac with the snake as I was too far back because there were just so many people there.

Then we went to the local museum. Which also surprised us! It wasnt as big as a city museum but it was just as beautiful and had a wonderful variety of local information and artifacts. There were dinosaur bones, animal bones from all the animals found in the desert and many more. There was alot of extrememly interesting information on Ted Strehlow, a man who spent years and years with aboriginal tribes and learnt an unimaginable amount about their cultural practices and lifestyle. His researcha nd information is so extensive and so personal to the tribes he pertained it from that a huge majority of it cant even be shared for privacy reasons. There are annual conferences on the information and what can be released while still remaining sensitive to the aboriginal people and their practices. There is actually a book and a movie on it that I intend on reading/viewing when we get to Darwin if I can find it.

We seen some fantastic rocks that came from comets (I think thats what they are called... the ones that hit the earth and cause craters?) we seen pictures and models of craters aswell. There was alot of information on outer space etc. Zac was really tired by this point though so I didn't get to slow down and read as much as I would have liked to, due to a grumpy kiddie! But thats ok, I guess its a good reason to come back again?  :-)