Friday, October 28, 2016

Visiting Darwin, Capital of the Northern Territory

We’ve been to Darwin dozens of times and for 18 months from 1997 lived there in the dreadful humidity until we could no longer stand it.

At this time of year it was much less humid (the Dry Season) and pleasantly warmish. My main objective was to have a growing cyst that was becoming increasingly a pain in the neck attended to while Christina’s main objective was to have fish and chips at the Stokes Hill Wharf which we had loved to visit during our previous times at Darwin.

Other tasks included the purchase of a new awning for our caravan. The old one had deteriorated while sitting in the sun at The Alice and after being battered by hail-stones during July, had numerous holes in it. We also bought a new side step since Christina had fallen off the plastic one and cracked it, and we bought two shade cloth screens, both to complement the awning so we look like we are in an annex, but aren’t and still have some privacy.

In the best medical care I have ever experienced (not that I have had much), a doctor at Palmerston Doctors who just happens to be a GP and a surgeon, removed my cyst which was infected. No ifs, buts, or stuffing about. He assessed the situation, agreed it was a cyst and cut it out the same day.

We attended Stokes Hill Wharf and much to our surprise found a joint Darwin WWII Bombing museum and Royal Flying Doctor display centre had been added since our last visit. Before our fish and chips, we paid the small entrance fee and spent an hour or so within the centre.

It’s very well presented and if anything, needed more content, but it had only been open for a week, so it’s early days yet. Many people are unaware of the massive bombing raids the Japanese carried out on Darwin so it’s a worthwhile addition to Australia’s war and flying doctor histories.


PS: Since writing this I have been to Broome which also has a history of Japanese wartime bombing. Much to my embarrassment, I never knew that.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Perth - Our Loveliest Capital City?

Perth Skyline
Perth Skyline
I wonder whether Perth could be classified as our loveliest capital city. It has much going for it including that it’s not yet over-populated like Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane. You actually feel like you have space here and getting a parking spot is neither difficult nor expensive.

Apart from the peculiar “up” names, the suburbs look nice and clean and the rail and bus service is excellent. Perhaps due to the high presence of transport police and video cameras, the trains and buses lack the graffiti and signs of wilful destruction often found in other states.

Planning of Perth and surrounds has been done better than elsewhere with railway stations on raised platforms in the middle of dual carriage highways in and out of the city. You drive down the freeway, take a short diversion to a railway car park and then hop on a train. Buses often use the same facility, so you can bus to the station, hop off a bus and get straight onto a train.

I know this is the case in both Brisbane and Sydney (and possibly Melbourne), but here, it seems much better integrated and smoother.

We stayed at a very nice caravan park at Gwelup (is it pronounced well-up or we-lup - who knows?) not far from Joondalup and Karrinyup, both of which are lovely suburbs with nice roads, large shopping centres and mostly modern housing.

The median price for a house in Perth and suburbs is nearly $550,000 so one would expect to see some lovely houses. But, why aren’t we building simpler, cheaper houses for our young people to be able to get into the market?

Kings Park overlooks Perth and is a huge area of sanctuary for fauna and flora. Excellent views of the city centre are to be had from Kings Park, especially of an evening.

Our travels through WA suggest that Western Australians holiday in their state. Because South Australia, the Northern Territory and eastern and southern states are so far away, I expect that’s what keeps them here. Most of our companions wherever we stayed were from WA with a mixture of international visitors, usually in RVs and and assortment of motor vehicles carrying tents.

If you haven’t been to Perth and Western Australia, make sure you include it in your bucket list.


Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Kakadu National Park

After a couple of rest days at Mataranka (Bitter Springs Caravan Park) we drove north-east to Kakadu National Park visiting Pine Creek en-route.

Mataranka boasts hot springs in which people swim and relax, apart from that it doesn’t seem to have any other interesting attributes. At least not for me. It’s an untidy place with a  road-house, where you can stay long enough to refuel and have a bite to eat if so inclined and you are happy to pay premium prices. (In the Sixties, freight was blamed for high costs).

At Kakadu we stayed at Cooinda Lodge (Yellow Waters) for four nights so we could do day trips to the sights which are spread far and wide with a lot of what I call ‘clapped out buffalo country’ in between.

We last visited Kakadu in the 80s and what appeared to me then was that there was a lot of crappy country among which several really beautiful spots existed. Nothing has changed of course, you still have to drive kilometres between the various spots of interest.

We’d been to Jim Jim Falls during our last trip and decided to revisit. After 50 odd kilometres of shaking and bumping on the corrugated road, we arrived and went for a walk through the area leading to the falls, which were at this time of year, not flowing. (It is the Dry after all).

The walk in is not for the mild spirited or unsteady of foot as it largely involved climbing from one rock to another and at times required large steps up or down and a bit of balancing as well.

There is water at the base of the falls and an area where people swim as despite the signs warning that their could be crocodiles in the water, they apparently don’t bother to go to the beach - if there are in fact any. The presence of a crocodile trap a hundred metres up steam suggests that there are salt water crocs found there.

By the time we climbed out of Jim Jim and faced the road back, we were stuffed. It’s very demanding being a retiree!

The next day we went to Ubir Rock to look at the Aboriginal art-work. Since our last visit all those decades ago, the art work has faded significantly and we wondered how it would fare in the decades to come. Like the rest of us, it will eventually fade away and all that will be left are photographs to show tomorrow’s inhabitants what it was like.

My advice is to see it before it deteriorates or disappears.

From Kakadu we headed to Darwin as we had to get a few things done that could only be done in the big city.


Monday, October 10, 2016

Wildflowers: A thing of beauty is a joy forever ...

Keats was one of my favourite romantic poets when I was at school and I remember much of his work. In particular, the first words from his lengthy poem Endymion always come to mind when I see something/someone beautiful - “A thing of beauty is a joy forever …”

The wildflowers in Western Australia are beautiful. As we drove between the turn-off to Monkey Mia (the place with no monkeys) and Kalbarri, the highway was chock full of wildflowers. They line the sides of the highway and extend back off the road as far as the eye can see. Some are in huge clusters of the same type flower eg, smoke bush, or in dozens of small clusters of a huge variety of gorgeous colours: reds, purple, green, yellow, blues, white, and more.

There are smallish ‘feather flowers’ that stand close to the ground and larger ‘grevilia pink pokers’. Some are more attractive than others depending on one’s view, however, the colours are incredible. The bees are having a field day, good to see after all the stories of bees becoming extinct in some regions throughout the world.

Flower spotting and photographing meant that our journey between the two points took much longer than it would usually. Unfortunately, one cannot take a photo that shows the whole beautiful cornucopia of Nature’s work - to really appreciate it, you need to stand among it and take in the vista.


Wednesday, October 05, 2016

The Devil's Marbles

The Devil’s Marbles is located south of Tennant Creek and north of the Devil’s Marbles Hotel at Wauchope (for some reason pronounced “walk up” which I could never understand).

In the “old days” my parents and I used to visit Wauchope for the annual races event, which had several horses and a few races, but was really another opportunity for adults to consume vast quantities of beer and other beverages, mostly alcoholic. Me and other kids spent our time jumping in and out of the swimming pool since Tennant Creek in those days didn’t have one.

Today, the original Wauchope Hotel building still stands, but it has been improved somewhat with nice accommodation added at the back of the main pub building. New owners have given it a paint job and it looks very nice.

Outside is a lovely grassed area with chairs and benches where you can sit and eat your cooked lunch or dinner, sip a cool beer, or perhaps have a cup of coffee or tea. All are available.

The Devil’s Marbles attraction is huge and visited by almost everyone who passes by. It’s off the highway a short distance and juxtaposed by a largish caravan and tent parking area for which the NT Parks and Wildlife Department charges a nominal fee. There is an honour box and a permit one has to display on one’s car. Rangers do check, so it pays to be honest rather than be embarrassed by not paying.

We only stayed long enough to have lunch and a half hour or so to walk around and then continued north. When we visited there were dozens of people and numbers of Army vehicles were in transit apparently having been on exercise in South Australia.

You can see from the photo here what the Devil’s Marbles looks like. Another example of nature at work creating beautiful vistas for us to photograph and look at.