Some more Darwin exploring …

Today was our last full day in Darwin and with Jenny back home, I could spend it exploring via Geocaching. And that’s just what we did.

We headed northeast of the city doing some 4WDing following tracks and roads that were barely marked on the map. Some of the areas visited looked like they would be perfect spots for crocodiles but none were spotted.

We continued until dark and then called it a day as tomorrow we hit the road again, slowly heading south so that the acclimation to the cold is not too severe.

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Relaxation and Re-cooperation …

Well I didn’t quite get to midday but I did manage to sleep into 1030am. It would have been later but the air conditioner decided to stop cooling and start heating about 130am.

So the AC was turned off and a fan was turned on with the van getting warmer all the time. At 1030am, the van was already at 27C. I checked out the AC and it appeared the filters were due for a clean. After cleaning the filters, the AC was back to its old self and cooling the van very well. A little too well as it got down to 12C while we were out and about all day and into the evening.

The caravan next to us offered massages but only neck and shoulder. A massage would be great. Managed to find a Chinese massage place over at Parap and booked in for an hour at 100pm. After all today is all about R & R. The massage was great until he grabbed my right foot which is still not recovered from the gout. I didn’t need to scream but he knew something was wrong from the rest of my body cringing.

The afternoon was spent exploring around Darwin by means of finding Geocaches.

We ended up at Stokes Hill Wharf to check out the Bombing of Darwin experience and the Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) Museum. This was not your normal museum with use of Virtual Reality movies, holograms and other effects to bring both the bombing of Darwin in World War 2 and the history of the RFDS to life.

Since we were already at the Stokes Hill Wharf, it was time to have another feed of Barra and feed the fish swimming around the wharf the bits on the plates we didn’t feel the need to eat. I am sure there was 3 kg of chips on the plate but the fish and the seagulls made short notice of them.

It was cooling down which was perfect to do some urban geocaching around Darwin. There is not as many people around and you can spend a little more time looking for those tricky hides. I even managed to spot our first cane toads for the trip. We finished back at the caravans at 1030pm.

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Last Day of the V8’s …

The third and final day of the Darwin V8 Supercars always seems to come around too fast but the saving grace is that it is also the last day that I have to get up at the other 5 o’clock that I don’t see too often.

The smoke from the fire was still hanging around and there were still trees and logs burning as we headed into Hidden Valley Raceway.

It had been a fairly quiet weekend on the track and the third and final day was going to continue that trend.

All the races went off without incident. At it must be a first for a V8 Supercar race in Darwin to start and finish with all the cars and have no Safety Car. I cant recall one.

It was that quiet, when a punter walked into the medical centre with a blood nose, he was descended upon by 5 medicos for treatment. I would like to see that in a hospital.

To finish the day was the Officials Dinner with plenty of cold beverages and it seemed a never ending supply of eats including pizza, fish, BBQ, hamburgers and I think there was some salad as well.

After a couple of hours, we headed back to the caravan for a well deserved shower and a long sleep. You may see me before midday tomorrow but don’t count on it.

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Another early start to the day …

Another early start. I thought there was only one 5 o’clock in the day and that is in the afternoon. At least I had a decent sleep last night.

A quick shower and coffee and a farewell to Jenny (she flew home today) and it was time to head to the Hidden Valley Raceway for Day 2 of the V8 Supercars. I am sure Jenny was snoring as I walked out the door.

The gate procedure was a bit more organised this morning and we were through in 5 minutes as opposed to the 15 minutes yesterday. Once again the Army APC’s were in the front of the queue.

Today was mainly qualifying with 6 races today and it was relatively quiet with no major incidents, well at least until the V8’s had their race. It almost seemed that the V8 Ute drivers had migrated over into the V8 Supercars. There was plenty of biffo in the first few laps although they eventually did calm down as the race progressed.

The big excitement was seeing huge palls of smoke coming up from over near the caravan park. I couldn’t ring Jenny as she was at the airport ready to fly home. There was a fire in the grass and scrub adjacent to the caravan park, dropping ash all over the caravans. Luckily the wind was blowing the fire away from the park.

When we finished at the track, the fire was still burning and sending smoke and ash over the caravan park. Luckily the roof vents were closed except for the shower one so the van did smell a bit.

For dinner, we headed into town to Fiddlers Green for a feed of NT Barra followed by some icecream from Trampoline before hitting the hay in readiness for the final day of the V8 Supercars.

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Start your engines …

After a very broken night of sleep, the alarm went off not long after 5am, time for a quick shower, some coffee, bite of breakfast and on the road at 545am to the Hidden Valley Raceway.

Probably didnt need to rush too much as the gates in to the track were still locked and the gate staff were unsure of the procedure. They needed to get their act into gear quickly as the first two vehicles in the line were Army APC’s full of troops.

A little bit late and they let the first few through without checking passes and we were luckily in the first few. It was only a quick drop off for us as Jenny took the car back to the caravan park. Her plan was to get to the track around 11am before the Stadium Super Trucks and get some more sleep.

One of the perks I have found out of being a Senior in Race Control in Darwin is a car park pass just behind the tower. Win.

Things change a bit up her and my original role has changed and I am now the Controller on the Medical Channel, this should be interesting. My offsider, the Chief Medical Officer Andrew was good to work with but it is interesting working with the medical fraternity and Andrew spent most of his time dealing with those issues.

All up it was a quiet day with a couple of spins and recoveries but only one response for the medical loop for a Porsche into a concrete wall. It was the same point as last years big V8 hit however a tyre wall has been added since last year. Of course the car hit the concrete just past where the tyre wall finished.

The evening was the usual Chief Ministers function at Parliament House with the views over Darwin Harbour. Jenny managed her annual photo with Craig Lowndes so she was happy. It was a good function with plenty of beverages but you needed to be quick on the food. The budget must have been cut with the parachutes and fireworks not on the agenda.

A “mainy” down Mitchell Street which was a lot busier than a couple of nights ago with a concert closing down most of the street and it was back to the van for an earlyish into bed.

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Plans always change …

Today was supposed to be a quiet day, doing some resupplying of the caravan and taking is some sights around Darwin. How soon things change.

I had found out that I had a couple of meetings at the Hidden Valley Raceway starting off with Race Control at 930am. So off I went to the track while Jenny headed out with Deb and Garry to do some shopping (that is always a worry).

My 930am ended up going for 3 hours by the time we sorted out some stuff and introduced the rookie John in Race Control to some of the personnel he will be dealing with over the weekend.

I finally caught up with Jenny over at Nightcliff and it looked like she hadn’t bought too much. What I was unaware of that they had already been back to the van and dropped the booty.

My next meeting was at 6pm, which is a Senior Officials meeting. I have never had to attend one of those meetings before in Darwin as this is the first time I have been “volunteered” into a Senior position. Darwin has always been a chance for me to get on the tools and wear the “reds”. They have pulled on my experience at Clipsal 500 and have placed me up in Race Control to train/mentor the local Emergency Coordinators.

The 6pm meeting was a dampener on my usual Thursday night plans. Thursday night is always taking in the Mindil Markets with its spectacular sunset, some interesting food, entertainment followed by a Geocaching event. Looks like I will miss the sunset (Lucky I got one in last night) but should make the Event.

The meeting took a lot longer than expected and did manage a few midgie bites from the carpet in NT Motorsport House but I just made it in time for the “Mingle at Mindil” at 730pm.

So much for plans.

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Darwin is within sniffing distance …

Well the bed seemed too enticing this morning and we didn’t manage to get the early morning dip in. Even with not feeling like getting out of bed, the van was packed up and we were on the road before 9am and heading north to Darwin.

The Stuart Highway was certainly busy this morning with road trains and convoys of caravanners, some of them slow with little opportunity for overtaking.

It should have taken a little over an hour to get to Katherine but of course with a few geocaches along the way, it was closer to 1.5 hours.

With fuel around $1.30 a litre in Katherine, we managed to find a truck stop not that well known in the industrial area for 10c a litre cheaper. And once again we were soon on the way again.

More traffic and road trains with a smattering of road works and we could finally smell Darwin around 3pm. But with all the traffic lights, it wasn’t until 330pm before we made it to the Discovery Tourist Park.

There was just enough time to set up everything then have a shower to wash off the sweat and it was time to head into the Darwin Ski Club for the Officials Welcome Dinner.

There is nothing that compares to a Darwin sunset and tonight didn’t disappoint. It is always good to get free cold beer, a good meal, a chance to catch up with all the firies for the V8 Supercars that make their way to Darwin from all over Australia and the spectacular sunset.

Something that was visibly absent was the midgies. For some reason they didn’t seem to be biting. That will be a welcome change. I have since found out that the moon has a lot to do with them and there is such a thing as a Midgie calendar where you can find out when they will be bad and this week is not one of those week, what a bonus.

Back to the caravan park, with what was going to be an easy day tomorrow.

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Could get used to this …

Another easy day with a late sleep in. After all we are not moving on today. It was another day of soaking both here at Mataranka Thermal Springs and up the road at Bitter Springs.

There was a geocache I had trying to get for a number of years which was somewhere in a whole lot of 44 gallon drums that have been rotting out in the scrub since World War 2. Garry had found it a week ago by pure luck so we headed out to find it again. With Garry playing hotter and colder I eventually found it and that’s another nemesis cache off the list.

After picking up the girls from the caravan park, we headed north to Bitter Springs, noodles and wet shoes in hand for several hours of floating down the springs, walking back up and floating some more. It is a little different to the Rainbow Pool at Mataranka Springs but relaxing all the same.

It cant go on for ever, so back to the vans for some afternoon tea before going down for another soak in the thermal pool until dusk.

The band that didn’t show last night started playing as we were having tea and we were in no rush to head down to watch them. They were killing a lot of popular songs.

We were happy to head down to the homestead at 9pm for the whip cracking show by Nathan Griggs. Even though we saw it last night, it was worth a second look. It seems that he is doing his show every night now at Mataranka so will get to see it again in a week.

If we get up early enough in the morning, should get one more soak in before the big push through to Darwin.

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Time for a soak …

Not having power overnight meant for an early to bed and early to rise but still managed around 10 hours sleep for the night. A quick bite to eat and on the road by 800am. That is the earliest we have hit the road this trip. We even beat the grey nomads out of town.

After an easy drive with a few stops for some geocaches, we arrived at Mataranka Homestead just after 1000am. You would think that would be early enough to get into camp but there was 10 people in front of me in the queue and another 6 behind me. It was going to be interesting to see if we get power.

We didn’t need to worry too much as there was a lot of other campers moving out after their stay and we managed a site right next to Gary and Deb who arrived yesterday. They even had scones with jam and cream waiting for us.

After a bit of relaxing, it was time for a bit of soaking. Headed down to the now expanded thermal pool for 3 hours of soaking. Gee it is hard to take. My gout infected toe even felt great after the soak. Will need to go again. Oh wait, we are here for a couple of days. 🙂

Another night of dining out, this time at the Mataranka Homestead and a feed of Barra for something different. The Barra at Daly Waters Pub last night was better though.

There was supposed to be a band for a couple of hours but someone forgot to tell the band as they were still up in Darwin. Whoops.

A little later on, Nathan “Whippy” Griggs, a whip cracker put on a show and it was a great show. If you ever get a chance to see his show, don’t miss it. Plenty of tricks, cracking of whips, audience participation (great to see the looks on their faces as whips crack around them) and a grand finale of flaming whips. He certainly made up for the lack of the band. And I even bought one of his stubby holders.

In all of this, we held a geocaching event but the only attendees were myself, Jenny, Gary and Deb. We have another event planned for Thursday at Mindil Beach. Maybe we will get some more attendees then.

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Daly Waters Pub – a NT icon …

Last nights cartons must have quietened down the locals overnight as there was no sign of any when we left Borroloola this morning.

Today’s journey is on the Carpentaria Highway through to the north-south Stuart Highway. It consisted mainly of single lane road for most of it with some normal two lane road on the crests and where the road has been replaced after being washed away.

Not far from Borroloola is the Caranbirini Conservation Reserve, which we were told by the caravan park is a must stop for with a permanent waterhole and sandstone pillars. So I guess we had better stop.

We are glad that we did stop. There are a couple of different loop walks and we took the 2 kilometre walk around and through the centre. From the outside, it looked like any other sandstone outcrop seen in the Territory but once you got into the centre area, wow.

The pillars and sandstone features were spectacular and well worth the stop and the walk.

There were a constant stream of 4 trailer road trains coming our way once we were back on the road and given it was single lane road, they were welcome to it and I pulled off as each of them passed. Soon we found out where they were coming from, the McArthur River Mine. I believe it is a bauxite mine and they ship out of Bing Bong, not far north of Borroloola.

We stopped at an oasis called Cape Crawford for lunch which had a nice spot with shade and green grass. Jenny had a craving for hot chips and luckily they cooked them here. There was a variety of bird life here and Jenny made the mistake of tossing the Apostlebirds a couple of chips, they are now her friends for life.

It was just now time to sit back for another 270 kilometres on the single lane road, getting off for the occasional road train.

Pulling in Daly Waters, it was like Rundle Street with cars, caravans, motorbikes and trucks. By the looks of things, it looked like the caravan park was full and it was only 330pm in the afternoon.

A quick abandonment of the van in the street and I joined the queue of hopeful travellers. The powered sites had all gone but the overflow unpowered site was filling fast. We were lucky enough to get one of the last sites. It wasn’t long after we parked up that the chains went up on the main park and the overflow, with all others being moved on.

Last time I was through, the Daly Waters Pub was up for sale and finally the pub and caravan park has sold to a bloke from Coober Pedy who has a number of businesses around Australia. He takes over in October.

Meals are a little different at this pub due to the large number of people needing feeding. They do a “Beef and Barra” meal with $32 a head. There is then a number of different meal times starting at 630pm then each half hour after that. Ours was down for 730pm. In the meantime, it was drinking and music time while we waited in the beer garden. Tom Maxwell was a country singer that wasn’t too bad and he was followed by a rock and roll guy that was pretty average.

I estimate that there would have been close to 200 meals served tonight and this happens every night. There would be some pubs back in Adelaide that would kill for those sort of meal numbers. Oh and the “Beef and Barra” was good too.

Back to the van for some reading before hitting the hay. Tomorrow is an easy drive with 168 kilometres to Mataranka but we will need to get on the road early to beat the grey nomads to the powered sites.

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