R is for roaming the roadways

renner-springs-windmill-11R is for RENNER SPRINGS

One of our regular overnight stops on the long drive to Brisbane is Renner Springs, especially when we set out from here later than intended. On the face of it, Renner Springs appears to be a pretty boring road stop with not much to recommend it but pop over to my post about the surprising things you might see if you wander around a bit, or if you’re up early.

R is for ROAMING

Since we’re on the road I thought today we’d have a chilled-out kind of R day and check out some of the weird and wonderful signs we’ve seen on those long-distance drives.

Just to set the scene I want to show you an image to capture just how vast our distances are as I’ve mentioned previously. Darwin is about equidistant to Brisbane on the east coast or Adelaide in the south, roughly 3300kms. I took this photo a few years ago on the coast of Ireland. Moscow anyone?

Yes we are a long way away from "anywhere".

Yes we are a long way away from “anywhere”.

The roads of the north are regularly sprinkled with road trains. They’re BIG and very daunting. With the prime mover and three or four trailers they can be up to 50 metres in length and be travelling at around 100kph.  Fortunately the drivers are generally responsible but it can take a long time to pass one of these even at the legal open-road limit of 130kph. So this is how to deal with them. I always have my heart in my mouth when I have to overtake one. 603 Road train sign

The large frill neck lizard is a feature of the Top End, as are Dry Season fires.

The large frill neck lizard is a feature of the Top End, as are Dry Season fires.

This road sign was at Mataranka, about 4 hrs south of Darwin. Not that I've seen brolgas there.

This road sign was at Mataranka, about 4 hrs south of Darwin. Not that I’ve seen brolgas there.

There are crocodile warning signs on most of the waterways in the Top End -with good reason -this is just one example. Do take them seriously…this is not a “beat up”: people and animals can and do get taken by crocs…not many live to tell the tale.Croc warning And if anyone can explain what a rhinoceros has to do with the Northern Territory I’d be happy to learn. We saw this on the way to Alice Springs one year.

Rhinoceros in the NT?

Rhinoceros in the NT?

This edited road sign on a Queensland road was a humorous warning of the hazards of cattle on the road. obey the cow god

A innovative response to marketing - start advertising at a distance! Only 2000kms away.

A innovative response to marketing – start advertising at a distance! Only 2000kms and another State away.

When we visited Tasmania a few years back, during poppy season, we were much taken with this signage on the fences. (so okay this is in the south, but how could I resist) P1030087 TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

Ripper beauty: Excellent, great idea etc. Or just “ripper” on its own.

Ratbag: another insult, generally mild and may even be somewhat admiring when it’s implying cheeky and the like.

Ring-in: someone or something that doesn’t belong, an extra on an outing. I’ve brought along a ring-in, hope that’s okay.

Ringer:  has two uses: (1) as the shearer of sheep with the highest tally (of sheep shorn) in a certain time (2) stockman droving cattle; and sometimes (3) as in dead ringer (below)

Dead ringer: a look-alike eg she’s a dead ringer for ….name your famous person. Or she’s a dead ringer of her mother at that age.

Reckon: estimate of cost or an opinion. I reckon he’s bitten off more than he can chew this time OR I reckon it would be worth a hundred bucks.

Rip off: when the cost of the item is more than it’s worth.

RMs: short for R M Williams – boots, jeans, hats, belts, the ridgey didge bushman’s clobber (clothing)

Ridgey didge: True blue, fair dinkum, honest, the real thing, the genuine article.

Ranch: Australians do NOT have ranches!!!

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Q is for El Questro and Queensland

a-to-z-letters-qOnce again today’s trip takes us across the NT-WA border into the magnificent Kimberley area.

Q is for El QUESTRO

El Questro Wilderness Park lies in the north-east of the Kimberley’s 421,000 square kilometres of natural wonderland. The property is perhaps more well-known for its high-end luxury accommodation in the homestead, but that shouldn’t deter those of us with less well-lined pockets as there are other options for staying here.

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When we visited back in 2001 we chose to stay in the secluded camping spots alongside the PentecostRiver, which have no facilities, rather than the busier camp site nearer to the Station. It was blissful to be just relaxing in the midst of the bush listening to the birds, rather than other campers. It’s not as if you’re miles from anywhere as it’s a short drive, or longer walk, to the shop near the campground. Why didn’t we take a photo of our campsite I’d like to know?!

Chamberlain gorge1

Apart from the two camping areas, the more upmarket bungalows, and the lodge, there are also the safari-style tents at Emma Gorge, closer to the entry to the property. Even if you’re not staying there you can go into the restaurant/bar area and have a “coldie” either before or after your walk into the gorge.

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Although you may be tempted to do a lot of chilling-out (not always easy in the 30+C heat!), there are plenty of activities you can organise through the Station. We chose to do the Chamberlain Gorge boat cruise and absolutely loved it. The scenery is magnificent, once again with the landmark red cliffs and fresh water. Of course the colour of the rocks changes with the time of day and when the sun is angled on it.

Look closely and you will see the "Bradshaw" paintings of people, a hand print and a kangaroo. All on the cliff face protected by overhangs.

Look closely and you will see the “Bradshaw” paintings of people, a hand print and a kangaroo. All on the cliff face protected by overhangs.

The guide will also show you some of the ancient Aboriginal art that’s tucked away among the cliffs, overhangs and mini-caves. It is such a privilege to see this art that dates back thousands of years, perhaps as much as 20,000 years.

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The Wandjina paintings are just beautiful I think and a nice souvenir is to buy a pair of stirling silver earrings in those shapes from a jewellers in Kununura.

If you want to know more about the facilities and touring options you can check out their e-brochure, and sadly I’m not getting any kick-backs on this promo. But I am reminded that it’s far too long since we visited ourselves, though it will be tents once again for us.

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The other really important thing you need to know is there is no access during the northern Wet Season (about December-March or April), so you need to keep this in mind. Similarly what sort of vehicle you’re driving will determine how early in the open season you can drive in, as the river may still be impassable in a sedan (especially a hire car!!).

The boab is a feature of the Kimberley landscape

The boab is a feature of the Kimberley landscape

And if you want to know what it’s like staying at the homestead you can check out this post by the couple we met recently in Papua New Guinea.

Emma Gorge

Emma Gorge

Q is for QUEENSLAND

Okay I’m not going to talk about Queensland here except to say the northern half of the state sits in the same latitudes as the other places we’ve been talking about. Some of the scenery may be similar but east of the Great Dividing Range you hit the Wet Tropics. More on that anon. How could I not mention my home state under Q?

Why visitFor yet more magnificent outback scenery, to see ancient Aboriginal art and just to have fun.

FYI: Don’t forget to check out where these places are on the maps on my A to Z planning post which will help you to pinpoint where today’s tourist spots are situated.

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

 Queer as a fish: feeling sick ie crook

Quid: a pound in the old money pre–decimal currency on 14 February 1966 (a jingle that those of us who were around then remember vividly).

Quids: as above but a measure of value: you wouldn’t be dead for quids.

Quack: the doctor. Not a reflection on his medical qualifications or skills. My dad always referred to his GP as “the quack”.

Queasy: sick, especially nauseous.

Where shall we travel for R, I wonder?

P is for Purnululu National Park (WA)

a-to-z-letters-p

P is for PURNULULU 

Today’s travel excursion takes us over the Territory’s western border to the Kimberley region of Western Australia and Purnululu National Park, more commonly known as the Bungle Bungles. Accessible by a rough 4WD track this site is justifiably famous for its amazing rock formations and wilderness. When my daughter and I drove in some years ago, there were a number of casualties along the road –camper trailers with wrecked axles, cars with flat tyres etc.

There is no resort there so you take in your own gear and take out your rubbish. If you don’t have a 4WD this wonderful site is inaccessible and you’re left with a small aircraft or helicopter flight as your only option. We chose to do that as well, making it my one and only helicopter flight, and what a great one it was! I’ll let the photos show you just how spectacular it is.

The distinctively striped domes of the Bungle Bungles.

The distinctively striped domes of the Bungle Bungles.

As well as the rock formations there are “hidden” waterholes providing shelter and serenity for the country’s original inhabitants, and its more recent visitors.

Seen from the air, the vastness and strangeness of this area is remarkable.

Seen from the air, the vastness and strangeness of this area is remarkable.

Those who have an interest in geology might be interested in a quick read here. It’s worth remembering that despite the relative youth of the nation of Australia, its Indigenous people have been here for over 50,000 years surviving in an often very unforgiving landscape.

A helicopter flight reveals the hidden canyons, waterways and domes of the national park.

A helicopter flight reveals the hidden canyons, waterways and domes of the national park.

Why Visit: To see a truly unusual natural feature and for a wilderness, rough camping experience. This is a seasonal location and can’t be visited in the summer months (the Wet Season).

FYI: There are a couple of maps on my A to Z planning post which will help you to pinpoint where today’s tourist spot is situated.

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

Prawn: don’t be difficult/silly or a pratt eg “don’t come the raw prawn with me”.

Pakapoo ticket* an indecipherable bit of writing.

Pav: short for pavlova, that delicious Aussie/Kiwi meringue dessert

Plonk: cheap wine or alcohol

Pommy: an Englishman (apologies to my northern hemisphere mates!)

Possie: a position/place: somewhere good to sit or eat or camp etc (we got a good possie where we could see the stage at the Xmas carols)

Prang: a car accident (not a major crash) “the kids pranged the car again”.

Why not check in tomorrow to see where Q will take us?

This water channel gives some idea of the force of the Wet Season's rains.

This water channel gives some idea of the force of the Wet Season’s rains.

O is for the Olgas ( Kata Tjuta) and Open Gardens

O is for the OLGAS

The Olgas or Kata Tjuta, as this rock formation is now known, is part of the Uluru- Kata Tjuta National Park. Kata Tjuta’s more famous big sister tends to take the highest profile but if you’re heading for the Red Centre you should allow time to do both parts of the park. This national park is truly Australia’s red heart and is smack bang in the middle of the country and probably encapsulates the sense of the Outback more than anywhere else.

The Olgas from a distance. ©Pauleen Cass 1994

The Olgas from a distance. ©Pauleen Cass 1994

Kata Tjuta is all curves as each rocky dune looms against the vivid blue of the desert sky. The contrasting colours are magnificent with the green of the Spinifex looking almost lime-coloured on film and in some light. It provides its own dot-painting effect against the vivid ochre red of the rock formation. Tucked among the rocks are hidden spots where the desert animals can live, survive and even thrive. A quiet bushwalker has the benefit of hearing the birds and may even see some creatures as well.

On the Valley of the Winds walk. ©Pauleen Cass 1994

On the Valley of the Winds walk. ©Pauleen Cass 1994

The track through the Valley of the Winds is peaceful and restorative, as well as tiring! This is certainly an experience best savoured in the cooler months of the year when overnight it can be decidedly chilly, especially in a tent or swag. Those hot summer months (about October to April) are best avoided as most people will find them unbearable. Do plan to hang around at the Olgas towards the end of the day so you can see the setting sun light the dunes with varying shades of pink and red. Just magnificent!

068 Kata Juta moonrise and sunset

O is for OPEN GARDENS

Welcome to the garden.

Welcome to the garden.

If you love gardens it’s always worth keeping an eye out for the local Open Gardens events   when you travel – they’re a great Opportunity to see new and different garden designs as well as plants you may not be familiar with.

The 2013 season Open Gardens NT commenced last weekend and we have a feast of Top End gardens to choose from throughout the Dry. It’s one of our favourite weekend activities to visit a garden and have a coffee and cake while soaking up the ambience. You can see my stories and photos from 2012 through this link.

Why visit: To see a unique natural wonder of Australia and the amazing colours, vegetation and animals of the Outback.

FYI: There are a couple of maps on my A to Z planning post which will help you to pinpoint where today’s tourist spots are situated

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

On the turps: big drinking session

Old mate: A NT special gradually soaking into the vernacular elsewhere. A generic expression meaning, roughly, bloke, someone you don’t know. So old mate drove his (Land) Cruiser through the creek….

Outback: Australia’s vast interior. The iconic idea of Australia often completely unfamiliar to its many coastal dwellers. The people are typically unemotional and physically tough and laconic.

Ordinary: not the usual meaning of “normal” but also in the Aussie sense can mean sub-par, inferior, not much good. How’re ya going mate? Feeling a bit ordinary today…

I wonder where the letter P will take us tomorrow? How about back into the Kimberley?

N is for Ningaloo Reef and bucket lists

a-to-z-letters-nToday we’re heading off to the coast of Western Australia, almost to the south-western boundaries of the map I posted here, and about 1500kms from Darwin (at a guess). We first visited the area over 10 years ago and were stunned by just how beautiful the coastline is, and believe me, coming from a Queenslander that’s a big compliment.

You get your first taste-tempter of the magnificence of red cliffs, white sandy beaches and turquoise waters when you visit Broome and it is just stunning visually. However it’s subject to the usual tropical stinger risks during the months ending in “r” just as Darwin is. How do they know stingers can read…that’s what I want to know. Okay, yes they’re the months when it’s hot, hot, hot! (Did you know that stingers can kill, and even if they don’t they really, really hurt? We’re not talking jelly fish here…so don’t be a “ning-nong” and take chances).

The vivid colours of the Broome coast.

The vivid colours of the Broome coast.

Further south from Broome at Ningaloo Reef, this ceases to be an issue. Sharks (of the man-eating variety) remain a consideration almost everywhere on the coast so there’s no point worrying about them too much.  I suspect Ningaloo Reef is one of those places which may be better known overseas than it used to be in Australia. When we visited in 2001, international tourists were much more in evidence than Aussies, except the ubiquitous grey nomads (retirees touring the country in vans/tents etc).

Ningaloo coast

The crystal waters and white sand of the Ningaloo coast.

Just imagine camping on the beachfront and looking out at this magnificent scene. A cold beer or wine, a book, your loved one, and “Bob’s your uncle”, you’ve got the perfect spot for a chill-out. The reef is relatively close to the beach so you can snorkel out to admire the coral and fish and generally have a wonderful time. At night the skies are smothered in stars, the Southern Cross, the Pointers and the broad dense sweep of the Milky Way, all glittering away from urban lights.

It was quite idyllic -until the wind blew a gale that night :-)

It was quite idyllic -until the wind blew a gale that night…

And that’s not all….there’s natural adventures in store as well, though this one does require you to splash the cash, and more importantly to be at Ningaloo in the critical migration months from April to July. Do you fancy swimming with the whale sharks? Huge creatures but not really dangerous because they’re plankton vacuum-ers not man-eaters, but boy are they big! Again we’d known nothing about them until we arrived and since it was the season it seemed important to “give it a go”.

I didn't get a photo of the whale sharks -too busy swimming -but this one in the Georgia Aquarium gives you a sense of scale.

I didn’t get a photo of the whale sharks -too busy swimming -but this one in the Georgia Aquarium gives you a sense of scale, and its beautiful patterning. Image from Wikipedia Commons.

As with the migration of the whales at Hervey Bay in Queensland, the boats work together to let each other know when a whale shark is spotted. There’s obviously a limit to how close the boat can go, so all fippered and masked up, off into the briny deep you leap swimming towards one of these creatures. Best to contain your imagination rather than think just how much ocean is under you, and what else might be swimming in it. Neither of those things bothered me personally but I rediscovered that snorkel masks make me claustrophobic so head down, boring through the water I very nearly ran into the whale shark! Did I mention how big his mouth is? They are amazing creatures, so huge, and they look like they’re barely moving, but try to swim to keep up and you soon find out differently. You can see a YouTube clip here to get a sense of scale (we also have our video of our swim).

Here comes lunch -fresh-caught Spanish Mackerel.

Here comes lunch: fresh-caught Spanish Mackerel.

This really is a great adventure for anyone who loves nature and I can highly recommend it. I’m unlikely to do it again unless I get past my mask-claustrophobia (I think due to chloroform when I was very young). But even if only one of you wants to do the swim, it’s still worth it. After the whale-shark-swim the team caught a large Spanish Mackeral which was on our plates within half an hour of being caught…the only time I’ve seen prawns ignored at a buffet.

Why visit: for the colourful magnificence of the scenery, for the perfect swimming and snorkelling and if you can, for the whale sharks. This is a bucket-list adventure, as is seeing the whales at Hervey Bay. Do it! You surely won’t regret it.

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

No worries/no problems: the ubiquitous Aussie response to being asked to do something or being thanked for doing something. “Think nothing of it” on the other hand is invariably sarcastic ie it really was a lot of trouble.

Nick: steal (kind of appropriate since Australia was founded on convicts who were banished for seven years or life, often for nicking something, not infrequently quite small).

 Narky: cranky, aggravated and somewhat bad tempered.

 Nana: No, not your grandmother, but “doing your nana” means “doing your block”, having a “hissy fit” or losing your temper. It’s pronounced like na-na.

 Ning nong: an idiotic or stupid person.

 I wonder where O will take us tomorrow.

M is for Mindil and to market, to market

a-to-z-letters-mM is for MARKETS: MINDIL BEACH and PARAP

I don’t know about you but I love visiting markets when I’m travelling though I can’t say  buying a fat pig is a prime objective. Without a doubt the markets in the Top End are one of its major tourist attractions. Not that this is the exclusive province of the Territory, or indeed to the Darwin area, as you’ll find wonderful markets in the north of Queensland as well as in Broome in Western Australia.

However Darwin’s varied markets are certainly full of fun and a great passion of the local foodies as well as the tourists. Being so close to Asia, the culinary influences are very evident and there are times you might even think you’ve been transported (ha ha, Aussie convict joke).

Breakfast, brunch or lunch, Parap Market has what you want.

Breakfast, brunch or lunch, Parap Market has what you want.

Mindil Beach is the most popular of the tourist markets even though it’s only on during the Dry Season months, usually commencing on the Thursday evening closest to Anzac Day, 25th April. It can be a veritable Babel with chatter in innumerable languages and almost as many food choices as well.DSC_0603

My own preference is for Parap Markets so all the photos are from there but you’ll see most of the same stalls at both places. Somewhere I have photos of Mindil, but where, that is the question.

Food is the dominant attraction and it’s a cheap place to have a night out with friends (BYO chair, wine etc) and you get another of those Darwin sunsets thrown in for good measure. The glitter of flashbulbs is enough to make you think the paparazzi have hit town. What would you like to eat? From Cambodian dishes to Dutch poffertjes, Thai temptations, Japanese Ramen or Vietnamese snacks, you won’t be disappointed.DSC_1015

Do as the locals do and match your meal or snack with a delicious tropical fruit smoothie…how about mango, pineapple and lime? The young ladies on the smoothie stalls run non-stop for the whole time the markets are on and if you could bottle their serving and order skills Darwin wouldn’t have the dubious reputation it often has for restaurant wait-staff.

Your choice of fresh fruit drink...always popular.

Your choice of fresh fruit drink…always popular.

And since it’s tourist central during the Dry there’s also lots of local crafts like fragrant frangipani soap or crocodile skin belts not to mention the whip-cracker who delights the audiences, or the jewellery and sarong stalls.

I loved this stall with butterfly craft.

I loved this stall with butterfly craft.

There’s inevitably a didgeridoo player to give some local atmosphere. No wonder people enjoy themselves. You may even find some quality Aboriginal craft like the baskets and weavings (below), which I photographed last Saturday with permission. Not inexpensive but there’s a lot of work in these.DSC_0575

The local Parap Markets on Saturday mornings are my favourite, hands down, a manageable size and not so touristy or crowded. Are you after breakfast, brunch, or lunch? You can pick up a samosa, a sushi, laksa, stir-fries or satays on sticks cooked over coals, and those fruit smoothies.

Delicious satays cooked over coals as you wait.

Delicious satays cooked over coals as you wait.

Grab a bunch of beautiful tropical flower for a pittance to liven up your hotel room if you’re here for a few days. Do as the locals do and have a crepe delight from Ken’s Crepes.

Buy a bunch of tropical flowers for under $10.

Buy a bunch of tropical flowers for under $10.

Shop around the many little local craft stalls…lots of souvenirs to be found and you’ll probably find that perfect gift for someone at home, or even for yourself. If you’re staying somewhere self-contained you may even want to buy some tropical fruit and Asian vegetables so you can cook up a storm.

Need to find some tropical clothes? They're here in abundance.

Need to find some tropical clothes? They’re here in abundance.

While you’re at Parap, wander round to Parap Fine Foods, Darwin’s iconic deli with delicious treats in store. 

Love the colours!

Love the colours!

Rapid Creek markets on Sunday mornings are a great place to check out the diversity of Asian fruit and vegetables especially if you’re unfamiliar with them. Don’t forget to take the camera and get some photos while you’re there.

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Why visit: to mix it with the locals, get a great feed at a great price, see the sunset (Mindil) and just plain have fun!

I was tempted to venture down the track to Mataranka or further still to the McDonnell Ranges, for the letter M but I thought you might find the markets more fun.

FYI: There are a couple of maps on my A to Z planning post which will help you to pinpoint where today’s tourist spots are situated.

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

 Mickey Mouse: Unlike the American version (as I understand it), this is rhyming slang for “grouse” and so means something is great, rather than that it’s cheap and rubbishy.

Mad as a cut snake: truly cranky and annoyed.

Mongrel: a nasty unpleasant person ( a worse insult than “bastard” I reckon)

Mate: the ubiquitous Aussie greeting for another person. Increasingly in recent years it includes women. It’s also the ultimate compliment defining a friendship of great loyalty. “G’day mate, how’re you goin’?“  or “He’s my best mate” or “you’ve got to stick by your mates”.

Misery guts: an unhappy, often whingeing person

Magpie: someone who collects bits and pieces (alternatively “bower bird” might be used, both after two Australian birds).

 Mate’s rates: either an official or unofficial price for a friend or perhaps even a local resident.

 Mozzie: aka a mosquito –definitely a word you need in the northern, tropical half of Australia.

 Matilda: a swag, as used by a swaggie (itinerant person looking for work) rather than the modern day camping version. Famously in our unofficial anthem Waltzing Matilda, there are variants depending on which state you come from, but since it started in Queensland I reckon that version has precedence.

Tomorrow’s excursion will take us over to the blue waters off the west coast of Australia…where is it?

Sunday Synopsis 14 April 2013: A to Z Challenge

A2Z-2013-BADGE-001Small_zps669396f9 (1)Whew, don’t know about you but I started this week on top of the A to Z then it all went downhill with computer problems and other commitments. With so many blogs in the challenge this year it’s certainly a challenge to try to visit a representative sample. I confess there are some that don’t “speak” to me (eg fantasy writing) but then I figure there’ll be others who are right into them.

My Pick of the Week for the past week: Raising the curtain (a serious look at life with a humorous twist)

 I’ve been steadily adding favourite blogs to my Google Reader subscriptions so they’re easy to keep up with.

Here are some of the other A to Zers who I visited this week and enjoyed (if you missed last week’s list why not go and have a look): 

Life’s ride as I see it (motor bike fan on life)

My Rite of Passage (creative writing strategies)

Tossing it out (host Arlee Bird’s posts on music themes)

Tattered Past (Arizona history)

Inspired Life

Lizy Expat Writer

Creative Fog (food and travel)

Kat’s Retirement Journey

Sandy Sanderella’s Musings (as it says, musings etc)

Bob’s Home for Writing
Peanut Butter and Whine (great stories of life and grandchildren and some fabulous art work)
Raising the curtain (a serious yet humorous look at life)

My morning cup of coffee (another addict!)
Travel Bug

Quirkster (photos and travel)(look under Misc tab)

Life is good (co-host Tina writes of her adventures as an immigrant child, leavened with humour).

Where Nature Presides –Kuantan (satellite images around the world)

Silvia Writes (about life)

A2ZMommy and what’s in between (all things ice cream)

Whole Foods Living (healthy vegetable ingredients)

A write a day

Yum! Food Blog

 And a couple of non-“A to Z” blogs I happened across and found interesting:

Diary of a Retiree (great travel photos)

Outnumbered (nice recipes)

I hope you’ve all had a good week blogging and visiting and that this week is productive. We’ve hit the half-way mark, we can make it to the end!!

Thanks to all those who’ve visited my blog, those who’ve commented, and especially those who’ve chosen to follow me.

L is a long reach into Queensland

RIDING RIGHT ON INTO QUEENSLAND TO…. (in the words of a Ted Egan song)

Brolgas near Avon Downs © Pauleen Cass 2011

Brolgas near Avon Downs © Pauleen Cass 2011

Just for once, today we’re going to head east from the Northern Territory, into Queensland (Qld). Our drive will take us 1000 klicks down the Stuart Highway where perhaps you overnighted at the Three Ways or the Barkly Homestead. Next morning you can take a left turn and head east across  the long open stretch of savannah grasslands that is the Barkly Tableland.

If you like bird-watching, keep an eye out for billabongs and rivers…on our last trip we saw several brolgas who honked madly (strange sound) as they flew away. You’ll be very glad to see those Qld-NT border signs and the rather quaint little town of Camooweal with its old store and the local pub with its wide-verandahs, not to mention that boring old fuel stop and facilities break.

Refueled and revitalised you can now journey on the next stage into the outback towns of Queensland but maybe you’ll want another overnighter: Mt Isa (mining) or Cloncurry? I’m always intrigued to see the similarity between some of the rock formations near Cloncurry and those around Alice Springs. I wonder what ancient geographical event produced those similarities between places so distant from each other?

Taken just south of Cloncurry, Qld this is so evocative of central Oz and the Kimberley.

Taken just south of Cloncurry, Qld this is so evocative of central Oz and the Kimberley. From a distance it can look like a pointillist painting.

Which all begs the question, where are we going and why? Why Longreach of course!

And what’s the big deal about Longreach?

 L is for LONGREACH

Longreach has several claims to fame. As a family historian it’s important to me because my Irish McSherry family lived there for a number of years and I’ve recently learned my great-grandfather was instrumental (ha ha) in establishing the Longreach Brass Band, not to mention the Hibernian Society.

Mr Cassmob has a fascination with flying boats since he flew on Catalinas ex Samarai in the 1960s.

Mr Cassmob has a fascination with flying boats since he flew on Catalinas ex Samarai in the 1960s.

Of course none of you could remotely care about that, but there are plenty of reasons for the tourist to stop for a day or two in Longreach. It’s the place where Australia’s iconic national airline, QANTAS (Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Service) was established. There’s now a wonderful museum/centre there which if you’re an aviation fiend, you will find riveting. Judging on the queues, the possibility of touring through the on-ground Boeing 747 and 707 is a major attraction for the non-aviation-nuts.

The replica de Havilland D50...isn't she pretty? You can read more here http://www.qfom.com.au/dh50.html

The replica de Havilland D50…isn’t she pretty? You can read more here http://www.qfom.com.au/dh50.html

The other massively important place to visit is the Stockman’s Hall of Fame. If you’ve ever been intrigued by the outback and its legends, or want to learn more about the people who helped develop the outback, this is the place for you. When we first visited nearly 20 years ago we’d been listening to tapes (yes, I know!) of Ted Egan, the Territory’s balladeer as well as former Administrator (think Governor). It was sort of weird to recognise the stories of all these famous stockmen, and women, and then to hear his songs in some of the theatres. One of his great stories is about famous stockman and cattle thief, Harry Redmond aka Captain Starlight. It’s a great yarn which you can read a bit more about here if you’re so inclined.

The Stockman's Hall of Fame in Longreach, Qld

The Stockman’s Hall of Fame in Longreach, Qld

Peter McSherry BW-1And while you’re in Longreach, why not have a look at the old railway station – you might even see Peter McSherry’s ghost.

Why visit: to get a real sense of the Australian outback as you travel vast distances and then to learn how those distances were overcome by the early settlers and aviators.

 FYI: There are a couple of maps on my A to Z planning post which will help you to pinpoint where today’s tourist spots are situated, except in this case where I changed my mind about the post. Longreach is very roughly where a line drawn down from the word “Queensland” and across from “Northern Territory” would meet.

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

Lip : no, not those kissing things on your mouth! Rather someone who gives a lot of cheek or is impertinent. Eg Don’t give me any lip young man (to a small boy)

Long drink of water: again, not what you’d think….this means a tall, skinny person. He was a long drink of water.

Lucky legs: someone with legs so skinny they look like they’ll break off in which case they’re lucky….(have I mentioned how rude Aussie vernacular is?)

Long paddock: the long stretches of grasses outside the fences of properties or cattle stations, public property, used to feed cattle when on the move but especially in times of drought and a way of keep the animals alive.

Long grassers: rather a Northern Territory special this one. Long grassers are homeless people who live in the bush or parks around the place. The consistently warm weather here means they don’t need to huddle in doorways as they do in colder climates, except perhaps when it’s pouring with rain. It’s also important to know that Australia has public benefits ($, housing, health) which make it (comparatively) unnecessary for people to live this way but as with other places you will find surprising people living rough…”there but for the grace of God”.

Laid back: supposed to be the definition of an Aussie, along with their speech which is laconic. Actually Aussies are nowhere near as laid back and lackadaisical as their reputation suggests -surely all those British employers of Aussie backpackers can’t be wrong <smile>

 Larrikin: Someone who’s often up to mild mischief, fun and cheeky.

 Lead foot: Plenty of these in the Northern Territory where we used to have an open speed limit on the distance roads. Even now our speed limit there is 130kph compared with the max elsewhere of 110.

Lair: Someone who dresses to get attention,  a “flash Harry”,

Lousy: nothing to do with bugs, this is someone who is mean with money or goods. “He wouldn’t give you 20 cents he’s so lousy”.

Leak: to urinate (men), regularly heard among the blokes at the bar.

 Limp fish: weak ….he’s got a handshake like a limp fish.

I wonder where the letter M will take us on Monday?

K causes a kerfuffle

a-to-z-letters-kRather than inundate readers I’ve tried to be selective in which places we visit, balancing those that are a bit unusual with the ones most tourist will visit. Today’s choices were “Konflicting” and caused a kerfuffle in my decision-making, so it’s a quick “plug” for each of them.

KATHERINE GORGE (Nitmiluk)

Katherine Gorge is one of the Territory’s iconic sights. The gorge winds through rocky cliffs and progressively narrows. Adventurous travellers can opt to canoe the gorge, and there are levels of access to the famous cruises as well, depending on the individual’s fitness and mobility. Even if you can’t clamber over the rocks that lead between the different levels you will still enjoy your peaceful outing.  Energetic bushwalkers also love the gorge and Nitmiluk national park as there are some great bush walks there….or so I’m told…don’t look to me for advice on that, I’m afraid!083 Katherine Gorge small res

It gets very hot on those rocks, whatever the season, so make sure you,  “slip, slop, slap”  to use one of our iconic Aussie-isms, ie slip on a shirt, slop on some sun cream and slap on a hat”.

084 Katherine Gorge canoe small edit_edited-1

Katherine itself is a mixed bag and many visitors find it rather confronting at times. You’d be wise to stay away from the pubs or you might wind up with a knuckle sandwich. Katherine’s about 300kms south of Darwin. Alternatively if you’re heading north, there’s another three hour drive ahead of you (unless it’s the Dry Season and the highway is inundated with slow-moving caravans –once we counted 100 on that leg of the journey…ugh!!).

Unless you’re “head down, bum up” as we say, I suggest you also stop and look at nearby Edith Falls which is a pretty place for a swim and has a pleasant camping area. In fact you may even prefer this to staying in town. Of course if you’ve won the Lotto or want to splash the cash, you might enjoy the new upmarket resort right in the heart of Nitmiluk.

K is for KIMBERLEY

The Kimberley is the vast top corner of Western Australia. When you cross the NT-WA border you are in the Kimberley and will be notching up the klicks as you travel. It’s spectacular, rugged country with great scenery and wonderful sites to visit, some of which you’ll tour here.

From the red rocks and pointillist vegetation...

From the red rocks and pointillist vegetation…

...to the vivid colours of the Kimberley coast at Broome.

…to the vivid colours of the Kimberley coast at Broome.

K is also for KALKARINGI

If you want to take a different route to the Kimberley you can always head out of Katherine on the Buchanan highway then take a left turn heading down the Buntine Highway. This takes you to Halls Creek via Kalkaringi. Until you reach Kalkaringi the road is bitumen but beyond that it’s unsurfaced and variable depending on when the grader went through last. You can’t overnight at Kalkaringi because it’s an Aboriginal community (with a very famous history for gaining equal pay for Aboriginal stockmen) but you might enjoy visiting their Karungkarni Art gallery (pre-booking is probably a good idea).

The wide open spaces near Kalkaringi from a "secret squirrel" spot.

The wide open spaces near Kalkaringi from a “secret squirrel” spot.

Here’s a photo of some of their artists at last year’s Indigenous Art Show in Darwin. After the long drive by the time you get to Halls Creek you may well be knackered, unless you choose to camp somewhere along the way. Fuel opportunities are limited so make sure you have sufficient to go the distance.

270px-Kimberley

FYI: Don’t forget, there are a couple of maps on my A to Z planning post which will help you to pinpoint where today’s tourist spots are situated.

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

Kiwi: a New Zealander (after their unique bird)

Knackered: exhausted, worn out from working

Knock off: another one that has to be judged by context: (1) knock off work=to finish for the day; (2) knock-off= a copy eg a dress or an idea/concept

Knocker: someone who has to put everything/everyone down

Kerfuffle: a fuss, bother, fight etc

Kaput: finished, broken permanently

Knickers in a knot: don’t get in a fuss “don’t get your knickers in a knot”

Klicks: short for kilometres, you’ll have done a lot of klicks if you were driving to all my touring spots.

Knuckle sandwich: a punch in the mouth (hence why it’s better to stay out of some pubs)

J is jumping into Jabiru

a-to-z-letters-jJ is for JABIRU

Jabiru is both the name of a bird and also a town in the Kakadu National Park. It’s a stopping point into Arnhem Land, that vast stone country on the eastern side of the Territory’s Top End. It’s also famous, or infamous, depending on your point of view for its uranium mines, Ranger (about to close) and Jabiluka. This link reveals why the local people opposed the white man’s mines for their encroachment into sacred sites and dreamtime storylines. They also knew that some areas were “sickness” areas which they avoided, and these are closely linked with the presence of uranium. Of course many balanda (white people) also oppose uranium mining for its land destruction and its risks.

A Jabiru in a run-off near Jabiru, March 2013. © Pauleen Cass

A Jabiru in a run-off near Jabiru, March 2013. © Pauleen Cass

Jabiru township services the local community and provides health services as well as general facilities such as a small supermarket. It also hosts the Holiday Inn Crocodile Hotel, famous for the fact that it is constructed in the shape of a croc, with its legs providing the steps to different floors and its glowing red eyes at night. Of itself the town is not especially photogenic, so today I’ll be showing you photos of some of the places I mention.

All the sites I mentioned in the C for Cooinda post are easily accessible from Jabiru and a standard vehicle will serve to visit them. You only need 4WD for some of the more challenging places like Jim Jim Falls, Twin Falls or Koolpin Gorge. Although cut off by heavy rain and flooding during the Wet Season, one of Kakadu’s more imposing sites is most easily accessible from Jabiru and that’s Ubirr, home of wonderful Aboriginal rock art dating back thousands of years.

Views of the escarpment. © Pauleen Cass

Views of the escarpment. © Pauleen Cass

Visitors are inspired to see the open-fronted caves where the Indigenous people sheltered during the Wet Season, or Gudjewg in their language, living their lives, sharing culture, and their kinship stories. It’s also inspiring to look out over the vast flood plains, from the top of Ubirr, and to watch a tropical sunset colour the land and turn the colour of the rocks.

If you’re visiting during the Wet (or Dry) you can also do a boat cruise with Gulumyambi Cultural tours (a different perspective from the Yellow Waters cruise) which teaches you more about Aboriginal culture and life as well as giving you an opportunity to see Ubirr in the Wet and to visit a tiny portion of Arnhem Land. I notice the tours get rave reviews on Trip Advisor too.

Jim Jim Falls near Xmas 1998 in full flood. Photo taken on a scenic flight. © Pauleen Cass

Jim Jim Falls near Xmas 1998 in full flood. Photo taken on a scenic flight. © Pauleen Cass

Kakadu touring can be slightly more limited during the Wet as some touring options are cut off by flooding or higher crocodile risks, but there’s a way around this if your budget stretches to it. Why not take a short flight from Jabiru’s airport? In a heavy Wet this is a great way to see the powering drama of Jim Jim Falls in full flow (by the time the road’s accessible, the impact of the waterfall has diminished), and you will also get a quick view of the uranium mines. Most importantly what you will get is a view over the stone country of Arnhem Land, the completely different sense of place from the open bush and floodplains that you see from your vehicle.

On your drive into or away from Jabiru, do stop and have a look at the floodplains, lotus flowers and waterlilies and birds at Mamukala Wetlands, especially in the Dry tourist season as the birds congregate here when other waterholes dry up. You can see my waterlily photos from April 2012 here.

Mamukala Wetlands

Mamukala Wetlands

Why visit: as a base for your touring, to see the art at Ubirr and the views of sunlit floodplains, and if possible, to take a flight over the escarpment.

FYI: There are a couple of maps on my A to Z planning post which will help you to pinpoint where today’s tourist spots are situated.

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

We’re a bit light-on for J Aussie-isms.

Jaffle: a sandwich made with a particular cooking implement, that toasts the bread and contains the filling (cheese/egg/ham/tomato or chop all of them together). Delicious over a camp fire. I inherited my jaffle iron from my grandmother many years ago.

Jackaroo (male) or Jillaroo (female): a novice working on a cattle property. This definition says in training for management but I’ve always thought it was about “learning the ropes” at a grass roots level.

Jag: manage to get something (more or less by luck) eg “I jagged a good spot at the outdoor concert”

Jake:  it’s all good, “she’s jake mate”

Joker: a man, usually a bit of an idiot/said disparagingly, but sometimes just means “some bloke” eg “That joker over there”.

Joey:  a baby kangaroo in the pouch, or a small one that’s progressed out of the pouch.