Monday, 8 June 2015

Day 56 - 7th June

Katherine to Elliot (50 km north of)

Distance Travelled - 505.8 km

Went to sleep last night listening to the howl of dingoes in the distance and awoke this morning to moonlight flooding through the front entrance to the tent. Realising it was only 4.10 am I went back to sleep and awoke to the sounds of birds chirping and calling, this time at a much more respectable 6.30 am. Got up and read for a while, watching a lack lustre sun almost struggle to rise before packing and heading off about 8.30 am.

Drove the 18 or so km into Katherine to fue lup and then received a text from Aunty Jan. They are going to be in Qld, up near Cairns mid this week so we will maybe see if we can catch up somehow. After replying, I decided to head out to Katherine Gorge to have a look. My right knee was particularly sore this morning so I didn't feel in the mood for much climbing or walking. Got to the Gorge and had a quick look round but the walk to the lookout said to allow an hour for the 1 km return trip as the start is very steep and requires some scrambling over rocks so I decided to give it a miss on account of my knee.

Left the Gorge and called into Maccas to use their wi-fi to post my blog and after a few phone-calls I was ready to head off. Called in to the Katherine Fire Station on the way past to have a chat and see if I could score something for the station back in SX but could not find anyone. The place was unlocked but even wandering in and calling out I could not raise anyone so left and headed on my way. By this time it was nearly 12.30 pm.

Took my time wandering down the highway, looking at a few old WW2 historic sites, namely the Gorrie airstrip, and seems to have been in use primarily from May 1943. It was a drive of about 2 km in off the road and was in essence a big strip of gravel, about 1.8 km long and 100 m wide. There was no visible infrastructure left to see.

 I also looked at the site of the Birdum Hospital -established in 1942 and one of 7 field hospitals set up along the Stuart Highway. It was a quite a large palce in it's heyday comprising an operating theatre, two large wards, mess, powerhouse and kitchen with accommodation for staff in a tented camp. Now all that remains are the concrete floors of the buildings, with one fireplace still intact. Apparently the buildings were auctioned off and bought by the Publican at Daly Waters in the early post war period.

Stopped at The Hi-Way Inn Motel for a drink and could not believe my luck. As I was waiting to pay for my drink at the bar, the man being served was telling the barmaid that he works for a company that does the maintenance and servicing of all the lighthouses around Australia. I had a chat with him which proved somewhat fruitless as he has only been with the company for 2 weeks and this is his first trip but his colleague has been in the job for 10 years. He came in a bit later and was able to give me a bit of info on a couple of lighthouses that may give me the shot I am looking for. At this the one at Byron sounds the most promising so it will be interesting to see what happens.

Drove for about an hour or so after that to camp, getting in just after dark. Saw lots of kangaroos on the road, 3 or 4 cows, a couple of eagles and a few other birds. One kangaroo decided to go under my back wheel but no apparent damage to the car at this stage. At this stage I think there is about 200 km to the Barkley Highway turnoff so I will do that tomorrow and go part way along and make camp and then decide about getting to Qld then over the nexr day or 2.
                                                   Dead tree on way to Katherine Gorge

                                                                     Gorrie Airstrip

                                                      Birdum WW2 Hospital Ruins

Day 57 - 8th June

Elliot - Avon Downs Campsite  (68 km to Qld border)

Distance Travelled - 636.7 km

Campers driving in to the camp site at 3.30 am this morning woke me and I took the chance to gaze at an amazing set of stars but not worth getting up and sorting cameras for. Drifted off to sleep again about 5 am and tossed and turned for a while, not really sleeping properly until I got up at 7.15 an just in time to see the last of the sunrise.

Packed fairly quickly, read for a short while and was on the road before 8.15 am. Spent most of the day driving, stopping at Threeways for fuel before heading onto the Barkly Highway. At the Threeways roadhouse they have an interesting mural of a truck painted on the wall outside and they have then put a bullbar onto the wall to give it a 3D effect. It actually looks quite good.

 Initially I had thought I would only do a short bit of driving today and spend time resting and relaxing at one of the early campsites on the highway but got to the first one just after 12 and after a quick squiz decided to keep driving. Felt surprisingly un-tired so kept going until about 4 pm, pulling into the last campsite in the N.T.

Got set up and read for a while before I was treated to a very nice sunset. Cooked and ate tea before it was time to write the blog, listen to some music and go to bed. Tomorrow I hope to get to Hughenden, a decent drive, about the same as today from what I hear. Then Wednesday I will continue into Townsville and make decisions then as to whether I go up to Cairns or do something else.

                                                                    Sunrise day 57

                                                            Threeways truck mural

                                                      Windmill on the Barkly Highway

                                                       Sunset at Avon Downs Campsite

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