a much awaited part of the journey...
Id been hanging out for this, and so had Izaak. Experiencing real Aussie wilderness...the amazing North! And it didnt disappoint us.
We had planned to stay at 3 ways after a 7+ hour drive from Mount Isa into the Territory but when we got there decided to keep going after a quick sandwich break and see where we ended up.
==Banka Banka Station..==
Well we didnt travel far before we found a little outback oasis called 'Banka Banka Station'- a cattle station come caravan park.
And it didnt disappoint. This was the best view of the night sky so far. The owners were super friendly and laid back, letting Izaak stay for free (a first) and giving him an icypole on arrival. They also suggested we top up our water supplies with their on tap spring water- which we did gratefully! Although Banka Banka is a popular overnight breather between major towns, I could easily have settled there for a few nights. It had a great lookout over the station and a 2km walk to a waterhole (which we didnt have time or energy to do while there). There were aboriginal stockmen working on the station, which added to the richness of the atmosphere. Izaak made friends with a couple of boys who had come with their parents from Ballina, NSW. They were also heading in the same direction as us, although we didnt cross paths again. I got to test the full ability of the zoom on my camera here, zooming in on Dad from the distant lookout.
==Mataranka and Katherine..==
From Banka Banka we headed to Katherine, with a quick stop in at Mataranka Hot Springs, where Izaak began to learn to swim on his own! It must have been something in the water I just suddenly had the urge to encourage him to start trying to swim out to me in the deep water and after a short time he had picked it up and was super excited! It reminded me of the healing waters in the bible (I think pool of Bethsaida) and I wondered of they had been hot springs too. The waters are certainly meant to have healing properties for all sorts of ailments due to the combination of temperature and mineral content. I found a link on the benefits of hot springs here http://www.wiesbadenhotsprings.com/healing.html if anyone is interested. There are some in VIC on the Mornington Peninsula that Ive always wanted to check out but they are quite expensive. These ones are free!!
Anyhow, we got to Katherine after dark and set up the tent for the next two nights. I was able to test out my camera even more here with a much awaited full moon- one of the main things I wanted to be able to capture with a strong zoom. And it didnt disappoint me.
The following day we went to the Katherine Hot Springs, which was just as beautiful as Mataranka in spite of a few spiders around. Izaak was keen to continue to develop his swimming abilities and I was happy to watch him and to wash my hair in there (with organic shampoo of course!)
We went for a walk and discovered the source of the spring and some aboriginal kids swinging into a forbidden deep pool from a rope swing. They seemed to know what they were doing though! Back at the hotel we went swimming in the massive heated pool, which now seemed inferior after the springs but still nice none the less.
==Batchelor, Lietchfield National Park and Darwin..==
From Katherine we headed north to stay at Batchelor, which we'd heard was beautiful and funnily enough I'd picked up a flyer for the Big4 there early in our trip at Ballina, not knowing where in NT it was. The caravan park was amazingly beautiful, in a forest type setting with lots of shade and greenery. It was probably the best camping spot yet! There were lots of beautiful birds around and we could watch a feeding twice a day on the grounds. There were teams of Lorikeets, Galah's, Cockatoo's and other native birds. The park also had a mini golf and excellent value meals.
But the main attraction was the fact that it was on the edge of Lietchfield National Park- one of the great treasures of the territory. Lietchfield has a number of waterfalls with plunge pools and other waterholes aswell as wonders like giant termite mounds.
We twice visited Florence Falls for a swim. The first time was a public holiday and it was packed with both people and fish (big blue ones) and there were lots of young guys showing their bravery (or foolishness in some cases) in jumping off rock ledges and the falls into the plunge pool, being cheered on by their mates. Not something you would expect in the middle of the bush! The following day Mum and Chris caught up to us and we took them out to the Falls, which they loved!
Izaak was super excited to see Nanna and we enjoyed catching up with them for a few days. We also checked out Wangi Falls with them while we were there, although it was closed for swimming due to strong currents and crocs!
We went into Darwin with them for an afternoon and caught up with our dear old friends Gary, Liz, Katrina and Keith and their now extended families and children. It was great to catch up with them after so long! Katrina and Keith are both married now with their own kids. Hope that we can meet with them again sometime...