Members Trips

stories from Australia


Alf & Vicki's
trip to Darwin

by Alf Atkin

roadtrain outside Winton Qld

Vicki and I set off from Yass on Monday 23rd February. We travelled to Hay via Cootamundra, Junee and Coolamon on our first day. I prefer to travel this route as I find it more picturesque and less stressful as there is less traffic. That afternoon I went down to the Murrumbidgee River behind the caravan park to have a fish. Wasn’t I happy when I caught two small Murray Cod within an hour. Both of these fish were released to fight another day.

Our second day saw us travel via Ouyen to Pinnaroo. We made a side trip to the Pink Lakes in the Murray-Sunset National Park. What a fantastic experience this was. We only spent a couple of hours here but intend to return for a couple of days to more fully explore this remarkable place.

After Pinnaroo we travelled into Adelaide where we stayed with an old Navy mate of mine for a couple of days. We spent our time here exploring Victor Harbor, Goolwa, the Barossa and the Adelaide Hills. We also visited the Adelaide Camping and Caravanning Show.

Early on Sunday the 1st of March we took our car and camper trailer down to Keswick Rail Terminal where it was loaded onto the Ghan for its trip north. We then relaxed for the next couple of days while we were transported to Darwin. We had two stop overs on this trip. The first was at Alice Springs where we took an Aboriginal tour of their sacred sights and heard how they believed that the gaps through the Macdonald Ranges had been formed by three giant caterpillars.

Our second stop was at Katherine where we went out to Katherine Gorge. The Katherine River was flowing a lot stronger than normal so a power boat was used instead of the normal boat. This enabled us to travel further up the river than normal as we went straight over the rocks that you would normally have to walk over.

We arrived into Darwin at five on Tuesday afternoon. We had booked a cabin at Happy Valley Caravan Park for our first night in Darwin. We did this as we did not know what time we would have our car and camper trailer off the train.

The next morning after setting up our Camplet Camper Trailer we did the usual touristy things like visiting Stokes Hill Wharf, the Australian Pearling Exhibition, Aquascene and Crocodylus Park. We joined in a tour of Crocodylus Park and learnt a lot about crocodiles. I was even given the opportunity to feed one. We both also held and had our photograph taken with a small crocodile.

We wanted to see Kakadu but did not want to drive out there as we were planning on going to Litchfield on our way home. We did the next best thing and went out on a bus tour. The tour took us to the rock art sites at Nourlangie Rock. We also had a cruise at Yellow Waters. Both of these were beyond our expectations. Once again because of the amount of water we had an extended boat ride which took in two billabongs as well as the East Alligator River.

We left Darwin on Friday 6th March to begin our long trip home. Our first stop was to be Litchfield National Park where we spent a full day exploring. We made our way around right around to Wangi Falls. When we turned onto the road that led to the falls we were met by the impressive sight of these falls directly in front of us. When we stepped out of the car the sound of the water running over the falls was the dominate sound. Then as we walked down the boardwalk to the falls the mist from the falls met us. This is what I had imagined the tropics to be like. We had lunch in the picnic area at Wangi Falls before making our way back taking in Tolmer Falls and Florence Falls before having a swim at Buley Waterholes. What can I say about Buley Waterholes except that it was a fantastic experience? The water was like being in a warm bath and the pounding of the water was like being in a spa.

On our way out of the park we stopped for a second time at the magnetic Termite Mounds. There are also Cathedral Termite mounds here and the shear height of these is very impressive.

That night we stayed at Litchfield Caravan Park which is just outside of the entrance to be Litchfield National Park. This was a nice quiet location as were most of the places that we stayed at. The main reason for this was that we were travelling outside of the tourist season. The other advantage of travelling at this time of year was that we saw a side of the Northern Territory that a lot of others do not see. The waterfalls in Litchfield National Park were at their peak and Kakadu put on a different appearance to what is normally seen by the majority of travellers.

The next morning after a quick look around Batchelor we started our southward journey in earnest. Our first stop was at Adelaide River where we stopped at the Second World War Cemetery. This is a lovely spot for those who risks their lives for our country and died doing so. We left the highway at Pine Creek so that we could have lunch. What a find we had there. Maisie's is an eatery next to the pub. We as well as another group who were there at the same time could not believe how much food was served up to us and at a very modest price as well.

After lunch we made our way south and had another look around Katherine before heading to Mataranka Spring for the night. We stayed at Mataranka Spring Homestead that night. While there I had to have the obligatory swim in the spring.

Sunday 8th March was spent travelling further south with a detour to Daley Waters where we had a soft drink at this historic pub. I missed the turn off to Newcastle Waters and as I had just got in front of two Road Trains I was not going to stop and go back. Our overnight stop on this night was at Renner Springs Desert Hotel and Caravan Park. We really enjoyed our stay here as we were able to mix in with the locals as well as other travellers while having a quiet drink at the bar.

After a quick photo stop at Attack Creek we made our way down to Tennant Creek the next day. After looking around the town we made our way back to Three Ways for lunch after stopping to look around the Tennant Creek Telegraph Station. The Telegraph Station gave us an insight as to how hard life was for our early pioneers. They were certainly tough individuals.

That afternoon we made our way across the Barkley Highway and made our overnight stop at Barkley Homestead. We arrived mid afternoon and after setting up our camp we had a swim before retiring to the bar to take in some more outback hospitality. Watching the local cattle wander around the campsite and watching the birdlife kept us amused until nightfall that night. The next morning as we had breakfast flocks of Diamond Doves, Budgerigars and Finches came down for water. The local predatory birds soon joined the action and it was extremely interesting watching the Eagles and Falcons continually harassing the smaller birds.

The recent flooding that had cut the Barkley Highway was evident as we headed towards the Queensland border. The road itself had been repaired but you could see from the creeks that the highway crossed that a lot of water had run down them. Not far before reaching the Queensland border we came across at Avon Downs what must be one of the most remote police stations in the country. The creek at this location was a picture as it was covered in a mass of white and mauve water lilies while above a large flock of Eagles soared.

After lunching at Camooweal be headed to Mount Isa for the night. Even though there had been a fair bit of rain here the ground was extremely hard. I bent five tent pegs trying to get one in. Other campers were having the same problems. Mount Isa did not do a lot for us as it was just another town that revolved around a mine and unlike Broken Hill it did not seem to have the same atmosphere.

Our trip from Mount Isa to Cloncurry the next morning was quite slow as there was a lot of road work due to the recent flooding. This however gave us the opportunity to take in the fantastic scenery along this road. After having travelled along virtually flat roads the hills in this area was quite a contrast. We were unable to find parking in the main part of Cloncurry due to the road works that were being carried out. Instead we stopped at the Mary Kathleen Memorial Park and Museum. This park has a good display of machinery and railway related items. The visitor information centre is also located here.

We found the road south of Cloncurry to be very rough; I think that the number of road trains that use this road through to McKinlay would have something to do with this.

Most of us would recognise McKinlay as the pub there was the Walkabout Creek pub of Crocodile Dundee fame. From here to Winton the scenery is very interesting. Not far from the small township of Kynuna is the turnoff to Combo Waterhole. This is the waterhole that Banjo Paterson based Waltzing Maltida around. I would have loved to have taken this track but I did not want to risk our little Kia Rio along it. Oh well there is always another time. About halfway between Kynuna and Winton a series of jump ups or mesas appear. These reminded me of the American Westerns that I used to watch on television. They certainly stand out in this flat landscape.

About 40 kilometres from Winton we ran into grasshoppers. There were so many of them that the road appeared to be moving with them. When we got to Winton the front of our car had turned brown with the number that had committed suicide there.

Winton was an interesting town. It suddenly appeared on the mostly flat horizon. We had a look around before setting up camp that night. The next morning we visited the Waltzing Matilda Centre. The displays within this centre not only gave an insight to our most famous song but also included a display of items from around the area. The light and sound show which introduced us to the centre was very well done. For those such as us who could not make it out to Lark Spur Quarry there was a concrete replica of the dinosaur footprints.

After a couple of hours in the Waltzing Matilda Centre we headed off to Longreach for lunch. We did not do the usual tourist things here as we found that nearly every town has attractions which are just waiting for more of your money. We did however have lunch in one of the town’s pubs. The atmosphere and the food were both exceptional.

Our next stop was at Barcaldine where we stayed for two nights. Being a railway enthusiast I had a dream to go out to Aramac and look at the remains of the tramway which had once connected Aramac with Barcaldine. Aramac is also famous as the town where Harry Redford alias “Captain Moonlight” began his epic journey across Australia to Adelaide after stealing a mob of cattle. A white bull was his down fall when he sold it off during his trip. The bull was traced back to its owners in Queensland. A monument in the main street commemorates this feat.

After looking around Aramac we headed onto Muttaburra which is a further eighty kilometres down the road. Muttaburra is famous as the place that Australia’s first complete dinosaur fossil was discovered. A replica of Muttaburrasaurus Langdoni is in a park cross the road from the Empire Hotel. The Empire Hotel is also famous for those in the know for the great food that it dishes up. We had a quiet beer at the Empire Hotel as well as a good feed.

When we had arrived at Barcaldine the previous day we had noticed a large square structure being built in the main street. The local tourist information centre informed me that this was to be where the new Tree of Knowledge. The original tree had been poisoned in 2005 and the trunk had been sent to Brisbane for preservation. When finished the trunk would be replaced inside of this structure. From the top of this hang steel cables which then have large pieces of wood attached. These pieces of wood form the leaves of the tree and move about in the breeze. It looks very effective.

One of my dreams was to have a fish in the Barcoo River. This was not to be though as when we reached Blackall there was not enough water in the river. We did have a good look around Blackall before heading further down the road for our overnight stop at Charleville. On the way we stopped at Tambo where I had a Fanny Burger. This was a large hamburger, much like a hamburger with the lot which was bought from the local café which was called Fanny Mays. We also made a quick diversion into Augathella before we reached Charleville. That night we walked down to one of the local pubs for a meal. To say that the Roast of the Day was huge would be an understatement.

The country south of Blackall was the driest that we had seen since we had left Darwin. It would stay that way until south of Cunnamulla when it again greened up for our journey homeward. It finally lost its greenness again just north of Goulburn.

We had lunch the next day at Cunnamulla and a look around before heading to Kidmans Camp at North Bourke. We stayed here for two nights as I had always wanted to have a fish in the Darling River at this location. For my efforts I caught three Carp, two undersized Yellowbelly and a feed of Yabbies. I enjoyed myself all the same. We had a good look around Bourke and ventured down to the weir and lock. The lock was the only one constructed on the Darling River and was only used for a few years as the river trade declined.

Our stay in Bourke was to be our last time that we would use our camper trailer before arriving back home. We would be staying with relatives for the remaining few nights on the road.

After leaving Bourke we travelled through to Nyngan then onwards to Gilgandra via Nevertire and Warren. After an overnight stay at Gilgandra we made our way towards the coast with a quick visit to see relatives in Singleton. It was here that for the first since leaving Darwin two weeks earlier that we made contact with a large amount of traffic. I was nearly ready to turn around and head back out to the outback. A couple of nights at relative’s house near Forster with the obligatory fishing and a good feed of prawns and oysters help to bring us back to reality.

The final leg of our journey saw us visit our daughter and granddaughters at Gosford before undertaking the final leg of our trip through Sydney and back down the Hume Highway to Yass.

Overall we had been away from home for just under a month and had covered nearly 7,500 kilometres. We had seen a lot of Australia and it had not cost us a lot as we have only a small rig which is economical to run. The most that we had paid for fuel was $1.69 at Barkley Homestead which is halfway between Threeways and Camooweal.



Murrumbidgee River at Hay pink salt lakes Murray-Sunset Nat Park  Victor Harbour Horse Tram



Vicki & Alf waiting to board the Ghan

Emily Gap, NT Katherine Gorge


Nourlangie Rocks, Kakadu Nourlangie Rocks, Kakadu Yellow Waters, Kakadu



Vicki with a baby saltie Vicki & Cathedral termite mound, Litchfield Wangi Falls, Litchfield



Tolmer Falls, Litchfield Florence Falls, Litchfield the Barcoo River, south of Blackall, Qld



Mataranka Spring Daly Waters Pub Renner Springs Roadhouse



Tennant Creek Telegraph Station Barkley Homestead Avon Downs



Avon Downs NT, Qld border between Mount Isa & Cloncurry



Walkabout Creek Hotel, McKinlay Qld the white bull, Aramac, Qld Muttaburrasaurus, Muttaburra, Qld



Exchange Hotel Muttaburra, Qld structure for the Tree of Knowledge, Barcaldine, Qld  notice in shower block, Barcaldine, Qld



Propert Folding Caravan, Barcaldine, Qld the Warego River, Qld Bourke Weir & lock, Bourke, NSW


april 2009