The Wandering Tops

The Wandering Tops

19 June, 2016

Darwin for 8 weeks

We arrived in Darwin near the beginning of June.

Always good to be back in the territory and catch up on the NT news!!
For the first two weeks we stayed at Bruce and Julie's property near Noonamah. This worked out well as we had to do some work on our house in Palmerston so wasn't too far to travel each day. Gardening was on the agenda, I hired a lawn mower and trailer, and after numerous trips to the waste transfer station, lucky free in Palmerston, we cleaned up the garden and patched up a wall with the help of Tim a builder we met whilst staying at Noonamah.

Hidden Valley raceway 

Lucky for me (or very well planned according to Helen!), we completed the majority of the cleaning and repairs in time for the V8 Supercar round at Hidden Valley and I managed to go into the track on Saturday.  Caught up with Richard who dragged himself away from the corporate area to have a drink with me.  Was a great day and enjoy watching the race on a dedicated race track rather than city streets like so many races today!
Track side entertainment between races
After a couple of weeks we decided to move out to Darwin River with Gary and Jean.  They also have a nice property and was able to catch up with several other friends. From here we could go into Darwin for other catch ups and shopping.  We also did a day trip to Dundee Beach with Ray and Carol and although Dundee hasn't changed much was good to go back and have lunch at the pub.

Dundee Beach Pub
Noticed this park going out to Dundee, thought it was appropriate!!

On the 28th I took Helen to the airport to fly to Vanuatu (via Brisbane) for 5 days for Megs and Andrew's wedding.  Refer to the next blog, Vanuatu, for Helen's holiday away from me.  I stayed and fended for myself, well most of the time, other than when I had a beautiful roast dinner with Ray and Carol and Ray forced me to drink too much red wine !!

On 1 July 1978, around 6000 Territorians gathered at Darwin’s Cenotaph to be part of something special.
Self-government was finally here, a new era, bringing with it a sense of relief and excitement that the Northern Territory could now stand on its own two feet, no longer dictated to by the Commonwealth Government.  Each year Territory Day is celebrated with fireworks (supposedly between 6pm to 10pm) - anyone can buy and discharge and is something one must see to believe!
Whilst Hels was away living the life of luxury. I along with a few other couples went to Berry Springs community oval fireworks.  This is a great night with the locals letting off their own fireworks in designated areas, although some did seem to stray at great speed into the crowd (only in the territory)!! followed by professional fireworks - a much more controlled display.

Gathering for the fireworks on Territory Day

A good crowd enjoying the balmy night

Professional fireworks

This little Honeyeater had built a nest in the bush just outside our camp at Darwin River, was so tiny we walked passed it for days before noticing the nest.

We watched over this nest for weeks but unfortunately they didn't hatch.

In the following weeks we had our Doctor check ups, drove to Crab Claw catching up with Frank & Jenny from Coffin Bay SA, hair appointments, Coolalinga Markets, dinner at Litchfield Pub and enjoyed the surrounds at Darwin River.

One of morning rides up to Darwin River Dam

Darwin River Dam

For our last week we stayed at Marlow Lagoon Short Stay - Charlie has set up 3 concrete slabs on his property each with power and water supply.  There are 2 showers (cold), washing machine and now a dump point.  He is just setting things up and we were his 3rd customers.  From here you are fairly close to Darwin so we were able to re-visit places we frequented when living at Palmerston.  Did the visit to Casarina Shopping Centre, Mindil Beach Markets, dinner at Stokes Hill Wharf, walk around the Waterfront, drive around Cullen Bay, drive down Mitchell Street, Nightcliff Markets, drive around Nightcliff foreshore, drive to East Arm and sat under the tree we had our orphan Christmas day with Chris and Les in 2012.

Mindil Beach sunset

Stokes Hill Wharf
Karen organised a John Holland Reunion while we were in Darwin. We had a gathering at the Ski Club on Friday night after the others had finished work.  Was good to catch up as John Holland don't have an office in Darwin anymore so most of the others are now working for what was opposition company's on various projects around Darwin. Always good to have a chat over a beer and reminisce about the good times. Thanks Karen for getting this organised.

Since we were in Darwin 3 years ago a lot of development has gone on and there has been a lot of residential development around Palmerston, a new Woolworths at Bellamy and a new shopping centre being built at Yarrawonga which will have Woolworths and Kmart.

Never visited the Aircraft Heritage Museum when living in Darwin so decided to check it out this time - and we were very impressed. There are 19 aircraft on display, as well as 38 major displays, relics of crashed aircraft and 21 engines.  An impressive presentation of Aviation videos of the B-52, and the bombing of Darwin are displayed.  You can see some rare amateur footage of the first air-raid in Darwin, and also original footage from Japanese archives.  The main exhibit is a massive B-52 bomber (one of only two on display outside the US) along with other military aircraft, engines and the wreckage of a Japanese Zero fighter shot down in the 1942 air raids on Darwin.  

B-52 Bomber

de Havilland DH-82 Tiger Moth

We spent quite a bit of time in the museum and thoroughly recommend people visit.

02 June, 2016

Back in the Territory

It's been a while but ........ we,re back!

On the Barkly Highway noticed the increase of Caravans and after stopping at a Rest Stop 70 km from the Stuart Hwy for afternoon coffee, picked up a passenger who was on her way to Darwin but the fan belt in her Ford had broken. Took her into Tennant Creek where she could get road assistance - we stayed the night at friends property.  Wonderful to catch up with Megan, Andrew, Sydney-Jack, Lilah-Rose and Jayvontaye - thanks guys!

Headed up Stuart Highway to Longreach Waterhole just north of Elliot.  It was a very slow drive in the 12 km from the main road as the track was quite corrugated and sandy in parts, however the effort was worth it as the Waterhole had a lot more water than when we camped 3 years ago.  There was a flood plain branching off from the main waterhole and with some of it drying out we maneuvered the van through the trees and found a great spot with a million dollar view!  Quite a few vans camped up (approx 30) but once again the birdlife was amazing.  Next morning rode the bike up the track to see where we camped last time, but found it was underwater.  So much birdlife to watch - only stayed for 2 nights, could have stayed longer but we were keen to get to Darwin.

Longreach Waterhole, about 2 meters higher than when here last in 2013.

We managed to find a way over to the other side to camp

Dart drying it's wings.

On dusk the pelicans start gathering for feeding


Rainbow Bee Eater

Just so nice didn't want to leave.
Gorrie WWII Air strip

Reluctantly we left our paradise and drove to Gorrie WWII Air strip where we camped the night. Glad to have the sun go down as very warm today (at 9am it was 24 degrees!). Had a massive drive next day to Mataranka (80 odd kms!!!!) where we stayed at Territory Manor - had not stayed here before so decided to try it out.  Not a bad place although our site was near a leaking sewer pipe!!! Had a rest day so watched the Barra feeding in the morning, had coffee & scones (not recommended!), drove to Mataranka Homestead for swim, drove to Bitter Springs for float down the creek on noodles.  Hels brought out her new croc noodle much to the amusement of travellers.  Huge problem - we ran out of plunger coffee so had to have instant OMG what a catastrophe!!  Glad to be in Caravan Park as needed to put air conditioning on to cool van down.

Barra feeding at the caravan park

Enjoying a noodle down Bitter Springs

From Mataranka we drove to Katherine where we stocked up with fuel, food and coffee!!!  Had to wait for a long time in line to fill up with diesel and when I finally pulled next to the pump realised the fuel filler was on the other side of the car! Grrrrrr Why did Toyota swap fillers to different sides between the 100 & 200 series? Went to Ausfuel Depot which did not have all the other caravaners filling up.  Drove up the Stuart Highway to Hayes Creek Caravan Park where we stayed the night.  Had a great cool off in Hayes Creek swimming hole which is a spring fed creek with no crocs!