Day 13 30th May Darwin to Timber Creek over 601km
Last night we ventured down to the Jetty in Darwin and in particular to the Oyster Bar – not to be confused with the “Blue Oyster Bar” in the movie Police Academy. This one had all kinds of oysters and of course the old favourites on the menu. A dozen and a half, a few beers, good conversation and that was dinner!
We’re all up early and raring to hit the road. Right on 7am we roll out. We don’t travel as one big group. Instead, we make our own pace and agree on a meeting point for breakfast – Pine Creek 200 kilometres South. With the NT’s sensible open road speed limits, I have time to stop, take photos, wait at road works and still get there around 9am.
A good feed at Maysies café and a further trundle down the Stuart highway to Katherine 100km further South. A splash and dash re-fuel here with Lairdy and Huddo and we turn right onto the Victoria Highway. As soon as you leave the outskirts of Katherine you sense the change in scenery. Short scrub, that familiar deep red earth and cattle! Fenced roads are a rarity. There’s lots of cattle lazing around and the occasional pen where they are no doubt being kept waiting for road trains to take them to their final destination.
Cresting a rise there’s an eagle feasting on road kill. He lifts lazily into the air then, as I expected, he turns back towards me to gain lift under his wings. We both take evasive action.
Even the ant hills are different here. They’re bright red. Not as big as the grey coloured ones in the more heavier soils along the Stuart highway but they seem more prolific. I venture down a side road and ride off into the scrub and park among them, turn the engine off and stroll around for a while in this ancient country.
Back on the road I pass the turn off to the Buntine Highway that leads all the way south to the WA border and eventually Halls Creek, but it turns into dirt. We’re not going that way.
Continuing on the Victoria Highway there’s spectacular gorges cut out thousand of years ago, probably by raging waters long since gone from this now dry arid land. I simply have to stop and take more photos. The road train driver I passed about three times and then pulled up must think I’m mad.
Not far out of Victoria River there’s some long sweeping bends, YeeHaa!
A pull into the Victoria River service station and catch up with Huddo. The girls serving there are a hoot and have a laugh with us, make great home made sandwiches and all in all, seem to enjoy the outback. Of course out here, back packers are the main staff. There’s a girl from Argentina who lights up when I tell her I’ve travelled through her country.
Lairdy ,Georg and Spike roll in. Spike regals stories of close calls with a dingo, a kite and hitting a bush turkey. Luke is nowhere to be seen, he got in front of us at Katherine.
It’s only a further 100 kilometres to our intended stop at Timber Creek. Into the nearest caravan park behind the united brand petrol bowsers. They have single rooms for a reasonable rate ($70), that’s do me. Lairdy decides to pitch the tent. Luke is already pitched his behind the pub 50 metres down the road and is not moving… fair enough.
Less than 50 metres from where we’re staying is a small creek with it’s own resident Crocs. One is lazing on the grass waiting for a feed. He’s over 2 metres but is a fresh water Croc, supposedly friendly but still has bloody sharp looking teeth.
Luke, Laridy and me decide to go for a ride up the escarpment out of town. here there’s a small monument to the soldiers stationed here in WW2 to be forward scouts just in case the Japanese landed on the WA coast. They would go out on patrol on horse back. The view of the Victoria River is spectacular. It’s hard to believe that just over a ridge is an inlet that leads directly to the ocean via Joseph Boneparte Gulf.
We then ride down to Policeman’s point. Where the salt and fresh waters meet and salt water crocs lie in wait for spawning Barramundi. Luke throws a line in (he’s carried a ten foot rod all this way and is determined to get it wet) No Barra as Lairdy and I spot for him (keeping an eye out for Crocs)
Just before dusk we ride back into town. The pub is busy so we decide on take away food, a few beers and a friendly game of 21. Luke, the card shark gets fleeced initially, but gets his own back in the end.
Day 14 31st May Timber Creek to outside Halls Creek.
As dawn breaks we’re loading up and looking for a feed. A road train driver is out checking his rig. Again it’s a quick take away and a coffee. The road from Timber Creek follows the Victoria River for a while. There’s clear evidence of the floods that inundated this area not that long ago. There’s road works. One way portable traffic lights with sensible minute countdowns so we don’t have to sit there with the engines running too long. Just turn on with less than a minute to go. I don’t mind the broken up road as the big GS floats over the uneven road. Huddos Harley, well that’s a different beast and doesn’t like it.
We see the first signs of Boab trees. This is so similar to Southern Africa that I rode through a few years back with the pillion in a million. It’s easy to imagine our great Southern land connected to the African Continent as the scientists have told us.
It’s getting hotter and the plains are starting to look the same, then the Victoria Highway throws up a surprise canyon with dramatic escarpment. The wind is knocking us and the fuel economy around. Luke reckons he’s using over eight litres per 100km. Then again, he’s pushing harder than us.
Again it’s the obligatory photo at the WA/NT border. This time a friendly wide load escort driver comes up to talk bikes and takes a photo of all of us. We trundle up to the quarantine inspection point where they’re taking all sorts of food stuffs out of the Caravanners fridges. When it’s our turn the inspector takes down the rego numbers then asks if we’ve got any food or anything to confiscate. Dirty jocks and socks – that’s about it. He refuses to touch them. Don’t blame him – it’s hot and sweaty out here.
Into Kununurra for a stock up on food for a wild camp, and fuel. We find a great butcher’s shop where the boys kriovac our scotch fillet steaks, sausages and lamb chops. Right next door is a café for an early lunch. We discover we can’t buy alcohol until 12 midday so decide to separate. I go ahead with Huddo, Georg and Spike while Lairdy and Luke wait for the bottle shop to open. We’ve decided on a wild camp spot out of Halls Creek. Again, it’s a hot, straight run. The boys with smaller capacity must stop at Warmun for fuel. We pull in and they have a great little store. We buy a few more provisions and hightail it to Halls Creek. We all fuel up here and I get talking to the local Police officer who is fuelling up the police truck. He’s actually a Kiwi and tells me don’t’ stay in the campground in town, they’ve had heaps of thefts and have installed covert cameras to catch the little buggers. He and I discuss the indigenous problems and he says we’ve ‘stuffed’ it up. I agree, he goes on to say the Kiwis, while not perfect, have a lot better way of dealing with their issues. I couldn’t agree more and just hope we can improve the lot of the aboriginal people and solve a lot of the problems divided communities experience.
After a false start – riding 15 kays in the wrong direction! We finally find the right road and make our way out to Caroline Pool. About 5 kays out it’s dirt, and rough corrugations. No real problem on the GS but the other boys on their road bikes are struggling. All credit to them. They bounce along and finally get into the camp site. I can’t say they were happy campers though.
Luke and Lairdy roll in and we have a camp fire, well cooked steaks, a few beers and a night in the million star hotel that is our outback – Magic.