Wildlife and Culture - Yellow Water Cruise and Nourlangie Rock Art

Well, 5.45 the alarm went off, and we were up and out to the boat ramp to start our SUNRISE cruise on the Yellow Water.  It was cool and there were banks of fog on the water when we arrived, and our guide was concerned that we wouldn't see too much activity on the water if the fog didn't lift.  But, fortunately, he was wrong.  

I got some beautiful photos of dense mist on the water, the glowing sunrise through the fog and the trees, and plenty of birds. We saw magpie geese, jabirus, brolgas, jacanas (the little birds that dart about on the top of lilypads), white sea eagles, cormorants, a multitude of ducks, cranes, and many others I can't remember the names of. 

And the crocs - well, I stopped counting after six.  They put on a very good display for us, and I have some wonderful photos of them, too. 

The cruise was about 2 hours long, our guide was knowledgeable, and it was a serene and tranquil start to the day.  Afterwards, we went back to Cooinda Lodge where we had a full buffet breakfast which was included with the cruise.  We dropped into the Warradjan Cultural Centre on the way back to camp, and it was very interesting and well done.

After lunch we took a drive out to Nourlangie to have a look at the rock art in that area.  It was amazing, and has to be the best aboriginal rock art that I've seen.  It was respectfully presented and protected, and is jointly managed by the National Parks and the local indigenous people.  All of the stories are explained on boards around the walking trail.  Fascinating.

Jim Jim Falls - Corrugations and Boulders

After leaving Maguk we drove up to Cooinda to get some information about Yellow Water cruises, Jim Jim falls and other places of interest in the area.  Trev and I booked a Yellow Water Sunrise Cruise for the next morning at $99pp (including breakfast), then we drove 10km down the road to Mardugal Campground to set up.  Good campground, $10pp pn with good clean showers and toilets.  

After lunch we drove out to Jim Jim Falls - 50km of serious corrugations, then 10km of winding, deep, sandy 4WD track to arrive at the beginning of the walk into Jim Jim.  The first part of the walk was relatively easy, then we came to the interesting part - huge boulders crossing the river, many of them shiny and slippery with sand on top of them.  It was really difficult, especially for those of us with shorter legs!  And this walk was done in 30 degree heat - not pretty.  We finally made it to the lower pool where we all had a swim, while looking up at the towering rocks in the gorge.  There were large fish in the pool, and Trev and I took some movies with the little gopro waterproof camera.  

We still hadn't arrived at the pool directly under the falls and Carole and I were feeling very tired after our walk over the boulders, so Trevor and John continued on through another boulder-filled pool, climbed up yet more black slippery boulders to arrive at the crest, looking down into the last pool.  They both raved about how amazing it was, so I had to go, didn't I?  I swam/crawled through the rocky water, then clawed my way up through the rocks to meet Trev and John at the top.  I must say, I was very proud of myself, and I'm glad I made the effort.  The final pool was huge, in a deep, dark cavern against rich red rocks.  It would have been even more spectacular if the falls had been flowing, but it was still very impressive.  Meanwhile, Carole was back in the lower pool, and slipped over while taking a movie, giving her camera a wash and her hip a nasty bruise and graze.  Hopefully, her camera will recover.

The walk/climb back was just as difficult as it was on the way in, and by the time we got back to the car we were all hot and sweaty again.  Just as well we had some cold water in the car-fridge.  On the way back, poor Trev was driving directly into the sun, following some slow vehicles along the corrugations, and finding his way through their dust.  As we neared the end of the road, we had to pull up sharply as a couple of vehicles had stopped in the road - they were trying to move a large olive python (around 3m) from the side of the road, to no avail.  He wasn't interested in moving, so we continued on to camp.  Next morning we had to be up early for our cruise.

Kakadu - Gunlom Waterfall then Magic Maguk

We're finally heading into Kakadu National Park.  We stopped at Pine Creek on the way to refuel and pick up some wine, passed through Mary River Roadhouse, then picked up some information from the Ranger Station where we paid park fees of $25pp (for 14 days), then went on to Gunlom (pronounced Goonlom) Waterfall.  This is where the infamous Crocodile Dundee scene of the crocodile pulling Linda Kozlowski into the water was filmed.  It's also one of the iconic views of Kakadu, with the infinity pool at the top of the range overlooking Kakadu. I was really looking forward to this.

The road in from the highway was about 35kms of dirt road, and had some serious corrugations along the way - we were even stopped on our way in by a couple towing a caravan, who said it was the worst corrugations they'd ever been on and had turned back. But after our trip along the Roper Bar road, we didn't think we'd have any problems, so we continued.  And we're so glad we did!

Our site cost $10pp per night, and the camp had showers, toilets and good basic facilities. After setting up, we decided to brave the climb up to the falls.  This was a 2km round trip over a rocky path which was basically vertical.  I definitely needed my hiking stick here, and Carole also had hers.  It was a good climb, with a fantastic reward at the end. The pools at the top were just beautiful, and yes, there was the infinity pool.  We couldn't wait to get in and have our photos taken at that spot - again, it was a little cool, but after our climb we needed to cool off anyway.  We spent a lot of time here before attempting the walk back down - I think it was harder than the walk up, as you really had to watch where you were placing your feet so that you didn't take a faster trip down than expected!  

At the bottom of the cliff there was another walk to the Gunlom Billabong - through a pandanus and paperbark forest which opened out to another gorgeous body of water, with majestic cliffs rising above. The reflections of the cliffs in the water were beautiful, and Trev and I decided to come back here at sunset with a glass of champagne, to watch the colours change on the cliffs.  Very pretty.

At the Ranger Station we were told that we should definitely visit Maguk (Marguk) as it was the smallest but prettiest of the waterfalls in Kakadu.  Carole's friends had also said the same thing, so it was on our list.  

We set up camp, then discovered that we had to walk about 1km to the beginning of the track into the Maguk Waterfall, which was then a further 1km.  So off we went - the first 1km was a pretty ordinary walk, but when we got to the beginning of the track it was lovely.  Again, lots of pandanus, paperbarks and eucalypts, then clambering over rocks and sandy spots till we came to the first big waterhole.  It was very tempting, and I wanted to go in there and then, but we continued on to the waterfall.  Ohh, it was magic! And there were huge fish in this clear water, who obviously knew no fishing was allowed. They just swam around us, with no fear.  The water here was the warmest so far, no problems at all diving in and swimming over to the waterfall.  I had a nice shower under the falls, then sat on the rocks for a while taking it all in.  Even Carole, who doesn't swim a lot, swam right over to the falls with us and thoroughly enjoyed it.  On the way back I also had another swim at the first hole - couldn't resist.

After dinner John and Trev got a good fire going - not that we needed it, as it was a beautiful evening. But it was a great ending to another beautiful day.

Edith Falls - walks, swimming and R&R

Just 62kms up the road from Katherine is Edith Falls.  We managed to get one of the last sites available at the National Park, and booked for 2 nights - shortly after we arrived, they put the boom gate down to close it to campers.  Whew!

We set up camp, had some lunch then tackled a 2.5km walk to the Upper Pools then back down to the plunge pool back at the camp.  It was a lovely walk, the pools were very pretty against a brilliant red sandstone backdrop with two sets of waterfalls coming over.  Lots of young backpackers were plunging into the water, only to come up screaming as it was so cold!  Very funny to watch.  We spent a lot of time up here, clambering over the rocks to get different views of the  pools and the gorges, and of course to take a photo or two...(hundred)!  The trail back gave us lots of different views and angles of the falls and my camera was working overtime.  When we got back to the base, Trev and I both took the plunge into the water which was most refreshing - translate that as 'yes, quite cold'- but we enjoyed it.  Trev even went first, diving in, which was most unexpected.

After dinner, we played another game of 'Sequence' which Carole has introduced us to - Carole and I are partners, versus Trev and John.  We've played it 5 nights now, and while Carole and I started poorly, being trounced by the guys on the first 2 nights, we have now got it under control, and have soundly beaten them the last 3 times - yayyy!  Not so much crowing going on from the guys now - but of course when they get beaten, they must have got bad cards!  Funny how that excuse didn't work for Carole and I initially????

Next morning, Trevor, John and Carole went for another walk while I stayed at the camp to relax and catch up on my blog.  After lunch, John and I went for a quick dip in the base pool which again was very refreshing.  We enjoyed our couple of days here, and will be heading to Kakadu tomorrow.

Soothing Springs to Gorgeous Gorges

The drive to Mataranka was a pleasure after 300kms of corrugated dirt roads.  We booked into the Mataranka Homestead Caravan Park which had its own thermal pool on the property, just a short walk from our van.  The water is a constant 34 degrees, which is very pleasant.  The swimming hole was quite large, crystal clear with a blue tinge to it - it was also full of many grey nomads and young families.  We had a relaxing soak and a chat with other nomads, walked down a walkway where we spotted a small freshwater croc (on the other side of the river), then came back up past a group of wild pigs - this place had a bit of everything.  

The caravan park had a pub, a restaurant, and live entertainment most evenings.  Trev and I had dinner at the restaurant, while listening to a couple of singers, who were the preview to the main event - a whipcracking show by Nathan Griggs, who currently holds the world record for the most whipcracks in one minute.  He was a terrific young guy who was quite funny, and did some amazing tricks - my favourites were the lightning whips and the grand finale, firecracking.  Quite spectacular.  You can visit his website at www.nathangriggs.com.au.

Carole and John had decided to go on to Katherine the next day, and we would meet them there, but first we would visit Bitter Springs, which was highly recommended by our friends Lai and Garry.  We had a look at the National Parks campsite about 20kms down the road - it was pretty good, well set out and was cheaper than where we were staying.  From there we went into Mataranka township, had a look around, then drove out to Bitter Springs, another blue crystal thermal pool at the end of a pandanus palm forest.  This was just magic, and was more of a river than a pool.  There were lots of people here too, but you climbed into the pool and just floated with the current down the river - and because we all floated down at different times it wasn't as crowded.  I tried using our little waterproof 'gopro' in the water, and it worked really well.  I thoroughly enjoyed this place and really didn't want to get out of the water.  

Our friends set off for Katherine, and we went to see the barramundi feeding at Territory Manor.  We had a bottle of cider while we waited for the feeding to start - but it was a little disappointing.  The barramundi weren't terribly interested in being fed, so basically we didn't see anything.  We left and had lunch at the Stockyard Gallery in Mataranka - roast beef, cheese and onion toasted sandwiches - very nice.  We decided that we had done most of the things we wanted to do around Mataranka, so we went back to the caravan park, packed our van and headed out to Katherine to catch up with Carole and John.  I drove this time, only about 110kms, and I really don't know why Trevor was so tired of driving - maybe it had something to do with the fact that it was blacktop all the way, 130kph speed limit (not that I got up to that, of course) and very little traffic???

We caught up with Carole and John at the tourist information centre in Katherine, got some info about the region, then followed them to an 'interesting' little caravan park they had booked into.  It is basically on the property of an older couple, not terribly well organised, has some interesting permanent residents and buildings, and people put up their vans just about anywhere - but it does have decent showers and toilets and only costs $20pn. 

Next morning we drove out to Katherine Gorge (about 20kms away) in our car to do a walk and perhaps a cruise.  We got some info from the National Parks office, booked a Nitmuluk River Cruise for 2.00pm ($84pp) then did the short Barramei walk (about 2hrs round trip) to a lookout over the gorge.  The gorge looked beautiful, and we watched one of the river cruise boats go past.  We had lunch at a picnic area while waiting for our cruise.  Our tour guide, Dave, 'call me Oyster', was most informative, with a wry Aussie sense of humour.  We cruised two gorges, with a 500m walk from gorge to gorge, and it was lovely - we saw three freshwater crocs and some aboriginal rock art.  Top day, excellent walk and cruise.

We booked in for a further night so we could have a bit of a 'rest day', do some restocking, and go to the Katherine Show and Rodeo later in the afternoon.  Trev and I found the Katherine Springs, had lunch at the picnic area then wandered down for a swim.  Again, the springs were lovely, clear and relaxing, although the signage was a bit misleading.  Getting out of the warm water wasn't so much fun, as it's still a bit cool and windy up here for this time of year.  All the locals are complaining about how cold it's been, with temps only around 27 degrees (which we think is wonderful), and cold nights - we are still using a doona at night, which is very surprising this far north.  We are pretty well as far north as we can go.  Still, not complaining, because it's still better than freezing in the wind and snow around Canberra.

The Katherine Show was only $10 entry for seniors (take note, southern states!) and was fun and interesting.  The food on offer was pretty good (I'm not a dagwood dog fan), and it was definitely more of a country feel.  We watched some of the showjumping, then found a spot on the hill to watch the rodeo in the evening.  Now I know I'm in the country - lots of young men in their wrangler jeans, boots, fancy shirts and cowboy hats, with lots of young women wanting to have a chat with them.  They looked great, and were mostly well-behaved, apart from a couple of drunken louts standing just behind us.  The rodeo was great, but I particularly liked the horse-and-rider pick-up teams who worked to protect the rodeo rider once he'd fallen off the bull/horse, and also to shepherd the animals back to the corrals - poetry in motion.  I really admired their horsemanship, it was pretty to watch.

We stayed 3 nights in Katherine at this very average caravan park - I still ended up with a cool shower, there was never any toilet paper in any of the toilets, and there were no garbage bins provided.  At $20pn it was overpriced.  Certainly wouldn't stay here again. But we have enjoyed staying in Katherine.

Sandflies, Mosquitoes and Corrugations....

Insects just love me... I discovered after staying at Batten Point that I had many, many sandfly bites, which came up in big welts all over my body.  I tried taking anti-histamines and using dermaid cream to combat them, to no avail.  

So, off we went to Southern Lost City which is a group of spectacular red rocks in the Limmen National Park. This was really the beginning of our corrugated dirt roads along the Savannah Way.  Miles and miles of corrugations.... Carole and John were a bit concerned about taking the Ford Transit along this road, but it coped very well.  But there were some really, really rough patches, with intervals of relatively OK patches.  Trouble was, you'd get up some speed over the relatively OK bits, then come crashing back to reality when you hit the rough patches again, and it was difficult get back up to speed.

Southern Lost City was lovely - we went for a walk around the loop which took an hour and a half, just on sunset, with the sun shining onto the brilliant red formations.  I did take a few photos, then we set up our camp and had dinner.  Price per head at the park was only $3.30 - NSW and ACT parks take note!  The park had drop toilets, but when I lifted the lid to use one, a million mosquitoes flew out - yuk!  I took over some insect spray, and gave all of the toilets a really good going over.  But still they came out.  Eventually, I did have to use one of the toilets, and I'm sure the mossies took one look at my lily-white bottom and just attacked!  I ended up with many more mosquito bites to go with my sandfly bites.  Loving this!  I put antihistamine cream on that night, and lost count at 35 bites.  Not happy, Jan!

Next morning Trev and I did another quick tour of the Lost City and I took some sunrise photos.  Then we packed up and headed to our next stop about 30kms up the (corrugated) road to Butterfly Springs for a swim in the pool (a little bit cool - well, cold really).  There was no waterfall, as the last two years up here have been a 'dry wet', but it was still lovely, surrounded by paperbarks and orange feathered grevillea.  We enjoyed the swim then had lunch and moved on again. 

Back onto the corrrrrr-ruuuu-gaaaa-tions and up to Towns River, another popular fishing spot, for the night. Again, it was only $3.30pp per night.  This is where we spotted our first crocodiles.  In the middle of the river was a little sandbar - and there, sunning itself, was a reasonably-sized (2-3m) freshwater crocodile.  A little while later a smaller croc joined him.  The water was so clear and inviting, I really wanted to have a swim, but my mum will be pleased to know that I resisted the urge.

We had dinner then took another walk down to the river after dark to see if we could spot any crocodile eyes.  Yep, four sets of eyes over on the sandbar and the far bank.  How exciting!

We had been told to visit Tomato Island (which is not an island) by other travellers, so we headed there the next day.  It was only about 70km from our previous stop, but took about 3 hours to drive there over these wonderful corrugations.  Trev is loving it - well, maybe not???  It is hard work, takes lots of concentration, and you have to watch out for bends, oncoming vehicles, overtaking vehicles, but thankfully not a lot of wildlife on this stretch.   Tomato Island is a ranger station, a big fishing spot, and is huge and well laid out.  Cost here is $6.60pp per night, but the facilities are excellent - lots of toilets and showers, gas bbqs, hot water for washing, and Telstra service. 

Next morning it was off to Roper Bar to refuel, restock at Ngurkurr Community Store, have a look at Roper Bar, which is really just a little ford and waterfall across the road, then we finally got off the corrugations and onto the blacktop (Yayyy!) to drive to Mataranka.  I think we are all very happy to have finished with that section of the road - we can relax a little now.

Meanwhile, I just keep getting mosquito bites to add to my collection :-(

Cape Crawford to Batten Point

The road to Cape Crawford was another 'Eagle Highway' - but every time we stopped so I could take photos these shy birds would take off.  I lost count of how many we saw.  We arrived at Cape Crawford (which is basically the Heartbreak Hotel Caravan Park, pub, service station and helicopter pad) just after lunchtime and picked out our spots.  

After all the red dirt it was good to see some green, and I'm looking forward to hot showers and flushing toilets.  We set up, then I paid for USAT wifi so I could upload my blog and post some photos.  Carole had a shower and said it was good, so then I popped over for mine.  Well, I picked the wrong one.  The shower head was caked with calcium, so the water sprayed out every which way, except down to where I was standing!  No matter which way I turned I got sprayed in the head, but very little on the body.  I did manage to wash my hair, but it was a challenge.  I'll try a different shower next time.

Our timing was good, as we arrived on the day of the final State of Origin game.  We decided to go to the pub for happy hour, had a game of darts (which I won!), then Carole and John went back to their van to make dinner, while Trev and I ordered a meal from the restaurant.  Trev had a chicken parmigiana, I had a reef and beef - they were huuuuge!  And very tasty. 

While we were having dinner the restaurant started filling up with travellers who came to watch the game.  Well, the four of us were wearing blue, and yes, you guessed it, the rest of the spectators were on the other side.  It made for a very interesting, fun evening, with us against the rest of Cape Crawford.  It certainly wasn't our night, but there was some good-natured heckling going on from both sides and we all had a great time.  I was so glad when we finally got our one and only try - we drowned out all those maroon people!

Next morning I went across to try another shower, and picked one that had barely warm water - well, it wasn't even 'barely warm', it was more like 'not quite cold'.  When I returned from the shower I found Trev cleaning fruit bat guano from our van and car - not pleasant, but if you don't clean it off straight away it can damage the paint on the vehicles.

I'd managed to get in contact with our friends, Irene and Peter, who confirmed that they would be heading our way as we were heading north to King Ash Bay, so we would probably meet on the road.  We got underway and about half an hour up the road I put a message out on UHF, and saw their vehicle coming towards us.  We all stopped and had a chat for a while - it was good to catch up with them as we haven't seen Irene and Peter for about a year - our paths keep crossing and we keep missing each other. They gave us an idea of the condition of the roads we would be going on, then we continued on our way.

We got to Boroloola and stopped at the supermarket to get a few items - it was a very busy little town and had apparently grown quite a bit since Carole and John had been through a few years ago.  We saw a lot of the schoolkids dressed in a bright purple uniform with aboriginal motifs painted on them - they looked fantastic.  From there we drove through to King Ash Bay over a pretty corrugated 20km stretch of dirt road, which gave both vehicles a bit of a test.  About half way along we stopped and let some air out of the tyres, and we definitely had a smoother ride after that.  

We arrived at King Ash Bay and had a good look around at the campsites available.  It was very busy, dusty and the sites weren't quite what we were looking for, so we continued on towards Batten Point where there were plenty of bush camping spots right on the river. We found a good spot with water views and set up for a couple of nights.  Apparently there is a resident croc who patrols the river at night but we haven't seen him yet. There were heaps of eagles, little eagles, kites and a couple of sea eagles here, feeding on leftovers.  We had a brilliant sunset over the river and a magic inky black star-filled night. The night skies out here are so fantastic - no city lights to cancel out the glow of the stars.  

On our second night we had a roast dinner cooked on the little brazier:  roast beef (carne asada) with roast veggies and gravy - delicious.  

We still didn't see the crocodiles, but we did see a couple of huuuge gropers that patrol this part of the river looking for scraps from the fishermen.  I also got a couple of shots of SUNRISE over the river.  While having a chat with neighbours (who go to Batten Point every year for several weeks to meet up with friends and go fishing) they suggested we stop in at a place called Tomato Island which is a National Parks camp with electricity, water, telstra coverage right on the river.  I had a problem relaying this to my fellow campers, as I couldn't remember the name, and called it Red Turtle, or Big Red - but I did notice that they had a stubby holder with the name on it, so Trev and John did a bit of investigating and finally came back with the correct name - Tomato Island.  So we'll probably check it out on the way.  Next up, were heading for the Southern Lost City in Limmen National Park.

Northward bound - the first week

OK, it's that time again - when Canberra settles into winter, and starts having temperatures in the minuses, it's time to head north and chase the sun.  So here we go...

We packed up our Paramount Duet caravan, cryovacced lots of meat, stocked up on food and of course, drinks and set out for our first stop at Terramungaine Reserve just outside Dubbo.  We met up with friends, Desi and Geoff, then set off early next morning for Lightning Ridge.  

We tried to book into the Outback Resort, where we had stayed on two previous trips, but they were fully booked so we ended up at the local council caravan park, only $26 per night.  We booked for two nights, as Carole and John were hoping to catch up with us there.  Next day we did a 'Yellow Car Door Tour'of Lightning Ridge in our Landrover, checked out John Murray's Gallery, then got back to the caravan park in time to meet up with Carole and John. We had time to go to the artesian baths just up the road, where Trev, John and I had a good soak in the hot mineral waters - soooo relaxing. We had a good meal then sat around the brazier with a glass or two before bed.  It was still cold at night, so we made good use of the heater in the van.  

Next morning we headed for Mitchell and stopped just short at Springfield, a little freecamp on the banks of a sandy river.  We had a roaring fire along with a beautiful sunset that evening, before filling our hot water bottles and going to bed.

We went to Morven next morning, where Desi and Geoff left us to go to Boulia.  We carried on through Augathella, and stayed at Barcoo River rest area just before Blackall.  Another cold night.  Next morning we stocked up on groceries at Barcaldine.  This was a busy little place - all the grey nomads had stopped to do the same thing and we had to fight to find somewhere to park. 

Up the road we went to Longreach where we visited the Stockmans' Hall of Fame, as you must do when you get to Longreach.  It was quite interesting, a great building, but a little overpriced at $32pp.  Lots of reading to do, and not so many interactive exhibits.  We stayed the night at Macsland rest area - a big freecamp back from the road with decent drop toilets.  Another cold night, although the days are certainly quite pleasant - 25 degrees and rising. The roadkill from Longreach to Winton was unbelievable.  We must have seen hundreds, if not thousands of kangaroos in the middle and at the sides of the road.  The roadtrains must just bowl them over like skittles.  There were also a large number of wedgetail eagles that had been clobbered - they are huge birds and I think they must underestimate how long it takes them to take flight when they are  getting that last bit of meat from the roadkill.  Such a shame.

Our next stop was at McKinlay and we stayed at the Walkabout Hotel Caravan Park - $20pn for an unpowered site, with free washing machine - bargain!  This is the iconic hotel which was the base for the Crocodile Dundee movie. There are lots of photos of the making of the movie inside the pub, the 'Never Never Safaris' booking office and car and lots of memorabilia.  We had a drink in the pub and read a lot of the jokes and cartoons plastered all over the walls - very entertaining, and a good value stop.

Next day we went through Mt Isa, refuelled and grabbed a few more groceries, had lunch by the side of the road, then went on to Camoweal Billabong for an overnight stop.  This was a top spot on the banks of a billabong (hence the name) with lots of waterlilies and birdlife, including a pair of magnificent brolgas.  Unfortunately there were no toilets here, not a lot of trees, and many, many grey nomads camping all along the wetland area, so it was quite a challenge finding a private spot to go to the loo!  Regardless, it was the nicest place we've stopped so far.  As you can imagine, I did take a few photos here.  And the sunset and moonrise were fantastic. 

We have now crossed into the Northern Territory for the first time (at least for me) and stopped at the Barkly Homestead Roadhouse to refuel.  This was again very busy, and I did buy a nice top here.  We turned right up the Tablelands Highway, and our progress slowed down considerably.  There is one lane of blacktop with dirt road either side of it - when a road train approaches you have to pull over onto the dirt and let them pass.  If another vehicle or caravan approaches, each vehicle pulls over to the side, but remains on half the blacktop to pass each other.  There is lots of nothing out here - I took panoramic shots to prove it.  But even all the nothingness has its own stark beauty.  We are now at a freecamp at Brunette Downs it's huge, all red dirt, spinifex and free-roaming cattle.  It's about 220km south of Cape Crawford, which will be our next stop.  The night sky tonight was inky black, with millions of stars and a glowing Milky Way - magic.

So far this trip we have covered around 2800km, averaging about 350-400km per day.  From our next stop we will be taking it a little more slowly, giving us time to take in more and enjoy the trip.  We hope to be able to catch up with friends Irene and Peter, too.

Last day at Lord Howe Island

Oh, it has gone so quickly.... and there's so much more to see and do.  We spent our last day walking down to the 'CBD' for the last time, and we had lunch at The Anchorage.  Then it was our last walk back to Lorhiti to wait in the 'transit lounge' for our lift to the airport.  Jess has the transit lounge well stocked with drinks and snacks for her guests, all on an honour system, and there is a shower and toilet available for use after you have checked out of your room.

We've been really happy with our accommodation and the cheerful, friendly service provided by Jess throughout our stay.  The gardens were beautiful, and the location was fantastic - I loved the fact that we could nip down to Ned's Beach from the back of the property, and that it was only a 10 minute walk to the CBD.   

Over 6 nights, I am very proud to say that we ate out every night - hey, I'm on holiday too!!!  Some of the restaurants were closed for winter, but we managed.  We ate once at Pandanus - lovely food, and the seafood salad in lime and chilli was excellent.  We ate twice at the Golf Club - we had to go back because the beef cheeks in Indian masala spices were divine!   We had many good coffees, several lunches (the chilli beef & chorizo pies and the Moroccan lamb shank soup were fantastic) and one dinner (yummy apple & rhubarb crumble) at The Anchorage.  And we had two meals at the Bowling Club - I previously mentioned the wonderful salt and pepper squid.  The meals were about the same price as you would pay on the mainland, they were of very good quality, and you got free transport there and back.  Can't complain about that.

Even though it was winter, the water at Lord Howe was still warm enough to swim or snorkel (though I'm from Canberra, so that might explain it).  The  coral and fish I saw while snorkelling was some of the best I have seen, particularly since it was only a 10 minute boatride out to the reefs.  And swimming with sharks and stingrays was an exciting bonus.

Because Lord Howe has a population of only around 350, with a cap on tourists of 400 at any one time, the island has a lovely, friendly, relaxed feel, where you constantly see familiar faces and stop to have a chat.  The locals are so proud of their beautiful home and are happy to share their stories with you and point out places to go.

During our time on the island we walked many kilometres over some challenging, rocky, but spectacular terrain.  We chose not to climb Mt Gower this time - we'll save that for our next trip, and we'll start training for it.  But we'll definitely be back.