After a wet and chilly pack up in Alice we were off to Devils Marbles with a few small stops along the way. First up was the Tropic of Capricorn which, when Master14 asked me what the big deal was I couldn’t for the life of me remember anything about it other than learning something about it in high school and that we could have a photo and Google it later!
Next photo stop was at Aileron for the giant statues where we met a very muscular boxing kangaroo who was just a little too happy to see us (Master14 noticed what I’m glad Miss6 didn’t!) and posed for us showing off his physique.
Our final stop enroute was at Wycliffe Well, where I’m sure Miss6 was disappointed that there weren’t any actual aliens there to look at, before we arrived at Devils Marbles. This was our first official ‘free camp’ where we had no power an running water to the van (and practically free at $3.30 per person).
We wondered around the various ‘marbles’ and even found the white boulder that had originally been taken (without permission from traditional owners) to be used at Flynn’s Grave memorial in Alice Springs. While in Alice we’d heard the story of some drunken locals that went out in the middle of the night and painted the rock which then needed to be sand blasted clean. Eventually returned to the Devils Marbles (and replaced with a more local rock), it now stood among its rusty counterparts looking quite pale in comparison.
With a long drive between Devils Marbles and Daly Waters we thought we’d pack plenty to eat enroute, including a thermos for some cuppa-soups as it was a little chilly in the morning. While filling the thermos, Master14 spilt boiling water on his hand – my first aid training was limited to running a burn under cool water for 20 minutes however, after pumping water by hand from our tank for a few minutes we swapped it for some ice to keep it cool and got going. Little did I know that ice on a burn is a big no-no so it wasn’t long before Master14 was nearly sobbing from pain the back seat.
Our petrol stop at Tennant Creek soon turned into another hospital visit for the team kickarse family. I was struggling to find a car park near the hospital with the camper on the back until a man pulled up beside me to see if we were ok and offered to let us park on his empty block just up the road from the hospital. At the hospital, Master14 was ushered in pretty quickly however, even they couldn’t run his hand under cold running water as their water runs warm! While his hand was put into a bowl of ice water to cool, our doctor contemplated giving him a tetanus shot and wondered when he’d had his last one. I knew he was up to date with his immunisations but had no clue what I’d signed permission for him to be jabbed with. Turns out even real doctors use Dr Google and while I found this amusing Master14 was glad Dr Google advised that the Victorian immunisation schedule means that he didn’t need a shot.
Back on the road and the weather had gone from a cool start to the day to a warm and sunny 36 degrees – it was at this point, knowing we had a long day of driving still ahead of us, that I was starting to regret my choice to wear skinny leg jeans.
There were a lot of army trucks on the road today and most of them gave us a friendly wave along the way – the regular convoy certainly impressed the kids.
We eventually arrived at the Daly Waters pub and as I parked to sort out a campsite I heard someone shouting my name – my hot pink rear window sunshield, easily recognisable by our friends from Uluru.
Although we’d had around 8 hours in the car with all of our stop offs today, our Arkpak hadn’t charged at all and we’d only managed an unpowered site for the night. All of our lovely Uluru friends offered to charge things for us and even borrow generators if we needed for our freezer.
Once I had camp all sorted it was off to the pool for a quick cool down then happy hour where I was pretty happy to enjoy a few middies of Carlton Draught for $3.50 before our huge servings of barra and beef – no wonder people rave about this pub – the food and atmosphere are great.
The evening looked like a sea of silver with all the grey nomads having a grand old time rocking along to the live musician playing golden oldies into the night.
Our Uluru friends advised us to get out early to get to Mataranka for a powered site so we did our best to pack up quickly and head off.
STOP THE PRESS!! We actually managed to get to Bitter Springs before 10am – people were still checking out! It was high fives all around in our little crew as we secured a shady powered site and took our time setting up, enjoying some lunch and then heading off to Bitter Springs for the afternoon.
We floated down the springs for hours with noodles, thongs and floaty jacket in tow – it was so relaxing among the water lily’s, crystal clear waters and the odd backpacker who’d jump in excitedly without shoes or noodle making the realisation part-way along that it was a long way to the other end to float solo and then walk back up the rocky path back to the start without shoes – some even opted to swim upstream rather than make the barefoot walk back.
The next day we headed to another local park for some barra fish feeding where we bumped into some families with kids that we’d met along the way and stayed for lunch with one of them. While eating we saw some local brolga’s dancing for each other – a rare occurrence apparently. When the kids went to have a closer look, the sprinklers came on (another rare occurence for Melbourne kids) so they spent the next hour running around under those having a great time.
In the arvo we decided to check out Mataranka and the springs at the caravan park – they were supposed to be more kid friendly as they’d been fashioned into somewhat of a pool. The water was deep so you still needed your noodle, but the current wasn’t strong so you didn’t necessarily float anywhere. The edge of the pool had a man-made edge that formed a small waterfall. Miss6 wanted to check it out but I didn’t realise that the man-made edge abutted some natural rock with a small gap in between – this gap created an extremely strong current that my skinny little munchkin nearly got sucked straight through! Luckily big brother was on hand to drag her back and I managed to save the noodle from disappearing down the spring.
Heading back to camp, I may or may not have been daydreaming and drove straight past the caravan park entrance, so I kept driving the extra 500 metres to the Bitter Springs carpark. We thought we’d enjoy a sneaky last float before we headed home, knowing that we had to pack up and leave the next morning. It was 5pm and only four other people were at the springs when we got there plus three turtles that we could see. It was so peaceful and quiet that we decided to have a few floats down the spring before heading home – we all decided that Bitter Springs was definitely our favourite of the two springs.
We only had a two hour drive to Katherine the next day so I’d booked my car in at Toyota for 12noon – my confidence in our packing up had risen significantly since we started this trip. On the way to Katherine, I noticed a sign that said ‘Cutta Cutta Caves’ and thought ‘that sounds familiar’ and very quickly decided to take the turn off and check it out. The cave could be seen by official tour only so I called Toyota and pushed back my appointment and we took a tour of the caves.
Cutta Cutta means ‘place of many stars’ to the local Aboriginal people and after walking around inside I could see why. Miss6 especially like the sparkly rocks while both kids were impressed with the bats that lived there too. I’m glad we detoured to check out the caves – I hope it’s not the last unexpected detour we make this trip, the next destination will always be there so it won’t hurt to wait.