Author Archives: Russ

Day 38 – Friday, 1 July 2022 

Happy birthday, Abdi. Hope you have a great day and that Stef and the kids treat you like a King. 

We actually had a light shower in the early hours of the morning, but Bruce assured us it was not a sufficient amount to register in his rain gauge. 

Today is Territory Day, and a big day for Bruce and company in the Sunset Slushie van. Kaye’s cold has worsened, and Tyler is not feeling flash so Bruce has decided he cannot work with food either. If they were feeling better later in the day, they would have gone into Mindil Beach for the fireworks, but neither of them appeared. 

Bruce had left us a Stallholders Pass so we can get off street parking when we arrive as the public car park was expected to be full by then, and it was. Thank you, Bruce, for your forethought. We were waved through each of the roadblocks as soon as we flashed the Pass. 

We had a lazy day before heading out to the dump point first. We have joined the CMCA which stands for the Campervan and Motorhome Club of Australia. They have a very comprehensive website for members. I didn’t have to pay the one off $17 so our yearly subscription was $44, and we had no problems using the facilities at Humpty Doo. 

So, Territory Day. In Darwin there are massive pop-up stores that only operate on this day. The stores open at 9:00am, and there is usually a queue waiting to get in. The stores close at 6:00pm, but by that time most of them have sold out, and the big-ticket items are sold out by noon. 

You are not permitted to light any of your fireworks until 6:00pm, but there are no restrictions on where you can light them up, but any items left over by 10:55pm must be handed into authorities.  

There appeared to be a vast number of people who went to Mindil Beach to light up their fireworks, and there was already a lot of noise when we arrived. 

We grabbed something to eat first. Russ had his calamari and I had Peking Duck with rice. Both lots of food were very enjoyable. We didn’t hassle Bruce as the van was inundated with people waiting to get served. 

Bruce was having problems with the chilled water distribution pump which was overheating from the constant use. The crowds on the main drag did not let up until the official fireworks started at 8:15pm, so all the vendors were extremely busy, and used the half hour of the display to get some of their clean-up in hand. 

As neither Kaye nor Tyler appeared Bruce very kindly got out the two folding chairs for our use. After we had eaten, and while Russ was setting up his tripod, I went down to the beach area, but it was already so packed full of people (more arriving) that I ended up retreating back to Russ at the back of the Slushie van. 

The whole time we were there the fireworks were a continuing barrage in the background. I took my monopod with me but didn’t end up using it. I stood behind one of the industrial dumpsters and braced my elbows for the shots I was taking. Russ had swapped out his camera for mine as he was having troubles getting it to focus properly on the tripod. I had no problems with his camera at all. 

However, we finished the night with about 800 photos altogether, so I know what I am going to be doing for a lot of tomorrow. 

Before the crowd streamed back onto the main drag I raced down and purchased a strawberry sundae soft serve for Russ and a caramel one for me. They went down a treat and fortified us for the long trek out and back to Humpty Doo. 

We thanked Bruce for the loan of his chairs and packed them away before navigating our way through the crowds to the car. After that, it was hurry up and wait. We were amazed that there was no police presence doing traffic control. All but two of the feeder roads to the Mindil Beach carpark area had been blocked off which left two roads leading back to the main highway, one going east and the other west. On the whole, most of the drivers were courteous, although you always get one or two drivers who think they are somehow privileged people. 

We made it back to Humpty Doo about 9:35pm and Bruce, with the truck and slushie trailer, made it back about 10:45pm. He will be exhausted after all the work he has done over the last two days. 

I should mention here that Russ and I are both very impressed with one particular aspect of the Darwin highway system. Where the highway is intersected by a road (major, of course) there are traffic lights. About 400 metres before the traffic lights and intersection there is a board on either side of the two lanes with the ability to flash amber lights. The amber lights start flashing shortly before the traffic lights are about to change to red, and all cars have plenty of time to slow down. Speed cameras are present at most of these intersections. It seems to be a safe method of traffic control. 

The rain held off, but a lot of people who came to watch the fireworks display found out they were wearing insufficient clothing to keep warm as the evening progressed, Russ amongst them. 

The temperature had reached 27 degrees in the late afternoon, but the breeze was very cool. 

Day 37 – Thursday, 30 June 2022 

The weather has deteriorated so that it is very windy and a lot cooler, also more humid with the cloud cover, and most unseasonable for this time of the year. 

We were expecting rain today, but it circled around us, so I was able to get all the towels and sheets dry. 

Our chiropractic appointment went very well. Steve, whose mother is Irish and his dad Greek so he says it makes for an interesting combination (and he can talk forever), is an experienced practitioner and he spent a fair amount of time releasing tense muscles on both of us, but we are no0w feeling great. He was as good as John in Mildura so we are happy campers, and we will try to get another appointment before we leave Darwin. 

I rang for an appointment to get into the Past Police Association Museum and found that it is in a locked area which is why an appointment is necessary, and not everyone gets in there. However, when I explained about Cousin Harry, the President I was speaking with said he would look into their files and call me back.  

I was in the chiropractors when he rang so he sent a text message to say that he has a file with photos on Harry and we are set for a 10:00am appointment on Thursday, 7 July. 

Before heading to the chiropractor, we used the new printer to get copies to post off to mum and Trish. 

Later in the afternoon, I finished looking at all the latest photos and choosing the best ones for publishing on the website. There are some magnificent ones in this batch. 

Russ uploaded the diary to the website and then the photos. I thought he might dissolve into a puddle of joy when he saw how beautiful some of the photos had turned out. 

I also found a lot more information on Litchfield National Park, and the Magnetic Termite Mounds in particular. 

Litchfield National Park – in 1985 by the NT Government acquired Tabletop Range and some of its surrounding lowlands to create the Park, which was named after Frederick Henry Litchfield who was a member of the 1864 Finniss Expedition surveying northern Australia. 

The rushing waters and rugged vistas which made life so difficult for the early miners, loggers and graziers; now it provides a focus for the Park and a highlight for the thousands of people who visit the area. 

The park includes cascading falls, rainforest pockets, historic sites, pandanus lined pools, walks and 4WD tracks. 

The Magnetic Termite Mounds are found in the Litchfield NP. Though termites are tiny individually, together they leave a bold and lasting impression on the surrounding landscape. 

This is made apparent by the many mounds around, but only a fraction of termites, live in mounds. 

Three quarters of the termite species found in northern Australia are hidden from view as these species build their nests in trees or underground. 

The large, very high mounds found at the Magnetic Termite Mounds area are made by the aptly named Cathedral termites (Nasutitermes triodiae). Reaching over five metres high, these structures are impressive achievements for a mere five-millimetre-long termite. 

Floodplains in the Northern Territory are extreme environments, suited only to those who have adapted after hundreds of years. It is the tiny little termite who has thrived on floodplains. 

They fulfil the role of harvesters in the tropical environment, the role that kangaroos, or even cows, fulfil in other places. 

Termite mounds have housemates who live in the hollows in the nests which provide shelter for many animals, particularly when bushfires sweep across the land. Quolls, goannas, snakes and rats take refuge in the strong and well-made towers. 

Cathedral termites build their nests on well-drained soils, unlike the magnetic termite who always build on seasonally flooded black soil plains. 

When the first Europeans explorers trekked overland through the Top End, they were astounded when confronted with the extraordinary structures of the magnetic termite. 

These incredible elongated mounds all align on the north-south axis, and the termites that make them are found nowhere else on earth. Scientists believe that the mounds they build are a remarkable solution to a number of dangers the termites face – extreme temperature and food safety. 

Many species of termites escape extreme temperatures by burrowing underground but this is not an option for the magnetic termite. A home above the ground is required, safe from the annually waterlogged soils of the West Season. Food for the colony must be well protected from bacteria and fungi. 

The smart structure of these mounds keeps the termites above the water table in the Wet and provides sufficient space for well-ventilated food storage near the mound’s surface. 

Scientists have conducted experiments and found that because the termite mound is aligned north-south, one side will always be in the shade which ensures they always have a safe place in the mound for a creature that requires temperature and humidity to be consistent. 

To explore the world of the termites imagine climbing inside a mound where you would be immediately confronted by Soldier termites with their large jaws and armour. Most invaders of the mounds are ants. 

Worker termites are the labourers of the colony and amongst them are the Nymphs – reproductive termites before they become sexually mature and grow wings. 

Once they grow wings, they become Alates, and once a year they launch an armada which flies out of the termite colony to look for a mate. Only a tiny percentage will pair and return to the mound where they shed their wings and begin digging a burrow in the vicinity of the parent mound. 

At the base of the mound, you would find the King and Queen in the royal chamber. The Queen with her expanded abdomen, when compared to an average sized termite, is enormous. On the other hand, the King is difficult to distinguish from other Nymph termites. 

The launch of the Alates is where the humble termite pays a massive dividend back to the rest of the surrounding ecology. Most of these little termites are consumed by hungry birds, reptiles, mammals, and even fish. 

By the following morning, only the shed wings are seen blowing on the ground. Many native animals launch their own reproductive process to coincide with the flight of the Alates. 

Scientists have recently come to the conclusion that these small, blind insects are critical to the survival of the tropical ecosystem as they give the ecosystem access to a huge amount of recycled energy. 

So, how did the little, blind termite work out the cosmic magnetic alignment? 

The mound builders are the Worker termites. Scientists believe they have an in-built compass to guide them, and by using magnets to change the north-south alignment of the mound, proved the hypothesis to be correct. The Worker termites dutifully built repairs to the nest in the alignment of the introduced magnets. 

Day 36 – Wednesday, 29 June 2022 

It was very overcast and breezy this morning and the forecast was for rain which happened at the end of the day. It was so cool that long sleeves were required for most of the day and then a lightweight jacket by teatime. Bruce assures us that this is very unseasonal weather for Darwin, but tomorrow it is expected to rain fairly heavily. 

We slept in this morning as I had a restless night, so we were a bit late starting out. At 10:00am it was 26 degrees, but it felt a lot cooler. 

Our first stop of the day was at Officeworks at Stuart Park to pick up the printer that had arrived, then on to Harvey Norman where they had a special on the four-terabyte hard drive for only $118. 

After that we went to BCF where Russ picked up a new battery holder for the second battery as he does not think the present box is doing its job properly. 

We then filled up at BP ($2.35 per litre) before stopping at Chemist Warehouse to fill my scripts now that I have them. 

Finally, we finished our trip at Coles at Coolalinga before heading back to Humpty Doo, where Russ installed the printer and got it working. 

We have also discovered that an appointment must be made in order to visit the Police Association Museum so I will ring tomorrow and see when we can visit. This place has a lot of information about Russell’s cousin, Harry Cox, who was the inspiration for Joliffe’s cartoons about the Top End in the old Post magazine. 

I finished the day by concentrating on updating the diary, so it is now time to retire for the night. Tomorrow we will print out the diary and post it. 

Day 35 – Tuesday, 28 June 2022 

Today we headed out bright and early to visit Litchfield National Park. We could find very little information on the park and what is in it, which is extremely disappointing. Even the signs at the entry into the park give you very little to go on once we got there. Even when you visit the website there is no information in detail to help you plan your day’s travel. 

We turned off the Stuart Highway onto the Cox Peninsula Road at 9:27am and the temperature was 24 degrees but expected to reach 30 degrees by the end of the day. 

School times for Safety Crossings in the NT start at 7am and go until 5pm, which means if you pass a school on a school day you have to slow down to 40kph. 

Shortly after we turned off the highway it started to sprinkle with rain, enough that the windscreen wipers needed to be turned on several times. 

We pulled in and stopped at Wangi Falls without knowing much about it. There is a big café there that sells coffee and ice-creams. 

We followed that pathway from the car park, and it took us to a viewing platform of the twin waterfalls. The pool is not opened for swimming as yet as there may still be crocodiles about after the wet season. 

We spent quite a bit of time at the platform. Russ took along the tripod for his camera, and he had both the zoom and short lens, and I had a zoom and prime lens. 

We were lucky enough to get some good shots of the falls, but also some pictures of the orb spiders, rainbow bee eaters and a double winged reddish-brown dragonfly. 

It was very humid, and Russ was now fighting a headache, so we had our lunch in the car with the air conditioner going.  

We headed further into the park and saw signposts to other places but on this journey, we only stopped at the Magnetic Termite Mounds which was quite fascinating. We will need to go back several times in order to see everything that is of interest to us. 

We turned towards Batchelor and home (the long way) and came across the sign for Zebra Rock. I have this on the schedule when we get to Kununurra, but apparently the mine there is now closed to the public, so we detoured and stopped for a look.  

The world of rocks and minerals has many puzzling and interesting areas for exploration but only a few of them have caused as much bewilderment as a mysterious rock type found in the Kununurra district of Western Australia. The Rock is known as Zebra Rock. 

Zebra Rock is a very attractive fine-grained siliceous argillite (indurate siltstone or clay stone) with rhythmic patterns of red bands or spots contrasting sharply with a white background. 

As yet, it is not known how the rhythmic and regular patterns were formed, but it is known that the red portions are coloured by ferric (iron) oxide. 

Geologists have investigated Zebra Rock for the past 40 years without producing any valid explanation for its origin. It is realised that the rock poses an interesting problem of genesis. 

The origins of the rock may be based on one or more of the following explanations: 

• Ripple patterns imposed on the rock during the deposition of sediment. 
• Slump structure formed while the rock was still in a plastic state prior to solidification. 
• Selective leaching and reconcentration of iron oxides and silica. 

The age of Zebra Rock has been placed at 600 million years in the Upper Proterozoic era or Pre-Cambrian period. 

The only known deposits of Zebra Rock in the world have been found near Kununurra in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia. The deposits are found in small reef outcrops of stratified claystone or shale in the Ranford Formation. 

Digging is difficult because of the shale surrounding of the reef. The best implements to use for the extraction of the rock are crowbars and picks. 

The Zebra Rock is not found throughout the whole reef but in small individual reefs, which are spasmodically placed within the major reef. Individual pieces of Zebra Rock may appear as brown stone without any apparent patterns but when they are cut with a diamond saw they may show one of the many Zebra patterns. 

Most of the Zebra Rock can be cut with a hacksaw but a diamond saw does a better job and is more economical from a commercial point of view. 

Zebra Stone varies in hardness and quality, depending on the site from which it is taken. Some types are very porous and chalky with visible pitting faults and in different patterns whilst other specimens are dense with sharply defined rhythmical patterns. 

The Rock is a fine collector’s item and has many beautiful rhythmic patterns, which vary considerably, but the rock is too soft to polish. The rock is simply rubbed back with sandpaper, then left or sprayed with a clear lacquer to give a “wet look”. 

I bought a pair of earrings! 

There was a brief shower of rain as we were going through Acacia before we turned onto Rum Jungle Road (you gotta love some of the names!) 

Rum Jungle is a locality in the Northern Territory of Australia located about 105 kilometres south of Darwin on the East Branch of the Finniss River. It is the site of a uranium deposit, found in 1949, which has been mined.  

The area derives its name from an incident when a thief stole 750 ounces of gold from miners after getting them drunk with rum.  

The GPS tracking for today was very interesting also. We began our trip from Humpty Doo at 34 metres above sea level. We descended to 18 metres at Tumbling Waters on the way to Litchfield NP, and climber to 225 metres just before the Tolmer Falls Lookout (a trip for another day). 

We were supposed to be going out for the smorgasbord tea at the Darwin Turf Club tonight with Kaye and Bruce, but Kaye has come down with Bruce’s cold, so it was cancelled. 

While Russ napped, I rang and made an appointment for both of us for our chiropractic maintenance visit with Dr Steve. 

Day 34 – Monday, 27 June 2022 

Happy birthday to Bruce Johnston from the Beach Boys. 

This morning is very humid and overcast. The breeze only blows occasionally so it gets a bit hot in between times. 

I made sure I wrote down all the info for my required prescriptions for when I saw Dr Asma Sumona, but I forgot to take my Medicare card. Russ comes in very handy in these situations as he has it all on his phone. Dr Asma arrived in Humpty Doo from Adelaide about five years ago and she said it was an interesting time. She is a tiny lady who speaks beautiful English. 

It was funny to have to go back to wearing a mask while in the surgery. I would hate to have to wear one during the wet season. 

I still haven’t heard back from the Caravan Association about the use of their dump point, so we headed to their camping ground anyway. The Custodian was away but had asked Martin to fill in for him for the day and he said there was no hassle to use it. Hopefully the Custodian will be of the same frame of mind. 

The camping ground has two dump points and each one has its own septic tank which are pumped out regularly. If you are a member of the CMCA a site costs you between $3 – $5 dollars a night, with a maximum stay of 14 days. Non members can also stay there but they are charged $15 a night.  

The caravan or camper must be fully self-contained, and that includes grey water tanks which can only be emptied into the dump point. 

A yearly membership cost $44 with a one-off cost for admin purposes of $17. 

When we got back to Humpty Doo Russ put the new battery into the battery box and did some maintenance on the vehicle. 

Day 33 – Sunday, 26 June 2022 

Bruce, Kaye and Tyler, their grandson, took off for Mindil Beach early in the morning to set up for the Beer Can Regatta, which is an annual event on the Darwin calendar.  

Participants create boats using empty beer cans, soft drink (soda) cans, soft drink bottles and milk cartons. Up to 30,000 cans have been used for a single boat.  

The vessels are not tested for seaworthiness, prior to water events, and those that fall apart are part of the day’s entertainment.  

A great many sundry events go along with the regatta, including concerts, and the “Henley-on-Mindil” competition (named after the Henley-on-Todd Regatta), where participants run their “boats” around like Flintstones cars.  

There is plenty of activities for the kids and includes sandcastle competitions, running races, thong throwing competitions & team events. 

The Regatta was begun in 1974 by Darwin businessmen, Lutz Frankenfeld and Paul Rice-Chapman, as a way to clean up beer cans littering Darwin’s streets.  

The Darwin Regional Tourism Promotion Association was the organiser of the event until 1978 when it came under the aegis of the combined Lions Clubs of Darwin.  

In the 1980s the Regatta had about 18 classes, which included motorised beer can boats.  

The 2014 Darwin Lions Beer Can Regatta took place on 6 July 2014, watched by 15,000 people and attended by visitors from all over Australia.  

The winner of the first beer can regatta was Kevin Jaques driving the Darwin Powerboat Club’s entry “Pistol Knight”.  

Des Hoare the cricketer and then Sales Manager for Swan Brewery Darwin, presented Jaques with the winning cheques totalling $1,000, doubled because the beer can boat used only Swan beer cans. As Jaques used his 80 hp Mercury Motor he was also presented with a Mercury First sticker. The perpetual trophy is held within the NT Museum storage area and a keepsake trophy is presented to each year’s winner. 

We went and joined them later in the morning to see how the Sunset Slushie van was configured and to taste a slushie. We also wandered along the beachfront and had a look at all the other food stalls on offer, as well as the craft section of the market. 

I took my camera with me and went down to the beach to take some shots of the beer can boats, but due to user error, I discovered I had left my SD card in the caravan after I had downloaded it yesterday, so no photos, sorry 😉. 

Brett had asked us to keep our eyes open for souvenir frogs as his friend, Tanya, collects them. We managed to pick up an Asian looking frog for her. It is really cool, made of wood with a raised backbone and a small baton stuck through it which, when rubbed along the spine makes a noise like a frog. 

After we explored Mindil Beach we headed off to the Visitor Information Centre. This was a very disappointing experience as the Info Centre is nothing more than a glorified booking agent for the tours around the area. There is an absolute and total lack of information about anything that doesn’t cost money, and nothing at all about any of the National Parks in the area (of which there are quite a few). Normally we would be able to pick up the Fact Sheets at least. 

We decided to go to Officeworks which was just down the road to see if they had our printer for an early pickup, but the staff member we spoke with said it was still at the warehouse – in Brisbane!!! Not sure we will get it on Tuesday. 

We headed back to the van and had lunch, and then I watched the Collingwood game (we won – Go Pies!) with two sets of earphones – one for the commentary from Kayo and the other for my phone so I could hear arriving texts from Jeannie and Stef while the game was on. Russ slept through it all. 

After tea we called Mum and had a good conversation with her. 

Day 32 – Saturday, 25 June 2022 

A lovely cool breeze was blowing when we woke up this morning. It is very pleasant to got to sleep with all the windows wide open. Of course, once the daylight begins to creep in, we close them until we wake up. 

The public dump point is seventeen kilometres from Bruce and Kaye’s place and is next to the Darwin Showgrounds where they are hosting the Caravan and Camping Show over three days, so the highway was packed with cars waiting to access the area/. Luckily, we were able to continue on for a bit before we needed to access the dump point area. I think we will look about for alternative arrangements if we can. 

Bruce has indicated we could use the storm drain area, but Russ says it is a septic tank system and the chemicals in the toilet cassettes are not safe to put in them.  

I emailed the CMCA (Caravan Association) to ask if we could make use of their dump point which is just down the road near the famous (not sure why) Humpty Doo Tavern and only a short distance from Kaye and Bruce’s place. It was of no point to phone them as each separate CA park has a Custodian on site, and the phone number goes to their headquarters in Newcastle, NSW. 

We also called into Autobarn where Russ had made arrangements to pick up a replacement for the second battery that had died. What an interesting experience that was. They no longer had the battery in stock, and there were four people serving the public (two of whom were trainees and always having to ask questions of the two experienced servers so disruption all round) and the queque was consistently long while we were in the store. 

Finally, the young guy serving us was able to locate a battery that was suitable and able to be used in the Nissan Navara, and discovered it was also the last one on the shelves. 

We then headed to the Car Wash place where Hornet got a thorough going over. Russ swears that he went faster once all the dirt and mud had been removed, haha. 

Finally, we headed to the IGA store at Zuccoli (there are only two IGS stores in Darwin) and we were able to buy more mixed nuts, and only three dollars dearer than in Victoria. 

Russ headed off to get his afternoon nap completed but was interrupted by the power going out. Bruce had put the ice machine on to have enough supplies for the market tomorrow and it kept tripping the power supply. 

I spoke with Brett for a catchup, and he said he has been entertaining magpies in the cattery on a regular basis. They fly in and eat the crumbs from his deep fryer. The cats give them the evil eye but leave them alone. 

The rest of the afternoon was somewhat lazy, although there are always things that need to be done in a caravan. 

Day 31 – Friday, 24 June 2022 

We woke up to the sound of squabbling curlews, a sound we have not heard since leaving Townsville. Their cry sounds like a baby crying and is very eerie if you don’t know what you are listening to. 

Russ woke up with a headache that turned into a migraine when he scratched his left eyeball somehow or other. The eye cream I had in the first aid kit helped considerably but he was forced back to bed after we had completed the shopping at Woollies. 

Woollies at Humpty Doo is not far away from Metcalfe Road where we are staying so we finished our list, and broke the budget for the day, but as there are no other expenses today, we are all good. 

We managed to get everything on our list at the Amcal Chemist next to Woolworths, and the girls serving in there are very friendly and helpful. 

I discovered that I have inadvertently deleted the email I got from the Ontario Medical Clinic with my electronic scripts on it from Mildura. As I cannot get a telephone consult with my doctor for another two and a half weeks, I have made an appointment at Humpty Doo Surgery for late on Monday morning. 

The weather here so far is nowhere near as hot as it had been in Katherine, and for most of the time there is a cool breeze helping to keep the temperature in the almost comfortable zone. 

Once we got back to the van there was housework and washing to be done, and I finally got to do a good bit of reading. 

Day 32 – Saturday, 25 June 2022 

A lovely cool breeze was blowing when we woke up this morning. It is very pleasant to got to sleep with all the windows wide open. Of course, once the daylight begins to creep in, we close them until we wake up. 

The public dump point is seventeen kilometres from Bruce and Kaye’s place and is next to the Darwin Showgrounds where they are hosting the Caravan and Camping Show over three days, so the highway was packed with cars waiting to access the area/. Luckily, we were able to continue on for a bit before we needed to access the dump point area. I think we will look about for alternative arrangements if we can. 

Bruce has indicated we could use the storm drain area, but Russ says it is a septic tank system and the chemicals in the toilet cassettes are not safe to put in them.  

I emailed the CMCA (Caravan Association) to ask if we could make use of their dump point which is just down the road near the famous (not sure why) Humpty Doo Tavern and only a short distance from Kaye and Bruce’s place. It was of no point to phone them as each separate CA park has a Custodian on site, and the phone number goes to their headquarters in Newcastle, NSW. 

We also called into Autobarn where Russ had made arrangements to pick up a replacement for the second battery that had died. What an interesting experience that was. They no longer had the battery in stock, and there were four people serving the public (two of whom were trainees and always having to ask questions of the two experienced servers so disruption all round) and the queque was consistently long while we were in the store. 

Finally, the young guy serving us was able to locate a battery that was suitable and able to be used in the Nissan Navara, and discovered it was also the last one on the shelves. 

We then headed to the Car Wash place where Hornet got a thorough going over. Russ swears that he went faster once all the dirt and mud had been removed, haha. 

Finally, we headed to the IGA store at Zuccoli (there are only two IGS stores in Darwin) and we were able to buy more mixed nuts, and only three dollars dearer than in Victoria. 

Russ headed off to get his afternoon nap completed but was interrupted by the power going out. Bruce had put the ice machine on to have enough supplies for the market tomorrow and it kept tripping the power supply. 

I spoke with Brett for a catchup, and he said he has been entertaining magpies in the cattery on a regular basis. They fly in and eat the crumbs from his deep fryer. The cats give them the evil eye but leave them alone. 

The rest of the afternoon was somewhat lazy, although there are always things that need to be done in a caravan. 

Day 30 – Thursday, 23 June 2022 

By 7:52am this morning we were all packed up and moving out the gate at Manbulloo Homestead Caravan Park. We headed through the Low-Level Nature Reserve Road, which cut out most of Katherine, and onto the big BP Truck Stop on the outskirt of the north side of Katherine. Diesel today was $2.26 a litre. 

 It was registering 16 degrees on the temperature gauge when we left and was 29 degrees at 10:30am. 

We travelled through hilly terrain with lots of big boulders dotting the landscape, along with a collection of pandamas palms every now and then. 

For the first time since south of Port Augusta we encountered overtaking lanes regularly, and the traffic was almost constant flowing in both directions. Four trailer road trains carrying ore or fuel were prolific. 

At 8:45am we crossed Fergusson River, and it had water in it. The Fergusson Bridge across the river was named after Sir James Fergusson, a Governor of South Australia. 

While travelling today the Navara has clocked over 90,000 kilometres. 

As we were passing through the town of Adelaide River, we were pulled over for breath test analysis. The area looks to be a permanent set-up for a breath test station with constant use and the young (most of them now are young to me) police officer was friendly with a sense of humour. 

On our journey so far, we have passed a lot of caravans, including four Blue Sky vans, but we are still waiting to find our first Brilliant Caravan. 

When we left Katherine, we were at 114 metres above sea level. We climbed to Emerald Springs, which is 245 metres above sea level, and finally at Humpty Doo we are at 32.6 metres above sea level. 

We followed Kaye’s directions once we reached Humpty Doo, and they were spot on. We passed a Millar Street on the way, Mum. (For other readers, Millar – with an a – is a family name on mum’s side from way back.) 

We were warmly welcomed by Kaye and Bruce when we arrived. They have their grandson, Tyler, staying with them for a bit as well. It didn’t take us very long to set up. 

The property they are renting has a large yard with lots of trees, and out van sits under the shade of the trees for most of the day, so it is very pleasant. 

Kaye and Bruce headed off to their mobile Sunset Slushie Van at the local Mindil Beach Market which runs from 4:00pm until 9:00pm on Thursdays and Sundays and go to other big events also. There are twelve different flavours to choose from, or just get a big sippy cup which fills with a rainbow of colours. There are also soft serves available. (I’ll look forward to trying them out while we are here when we head to one of the markets.) Mindil Beach is three kilometres from the Darwin Central Business District (CBD). 

We unpacked our summer sheets now that we have made it this far north and the polar fleece sheets and pillowcases have been packed away for when next required. 

I did lots of housekeeping before going onto the Internet to try and find out what unit my dad served with here in Darwin during WW2. He was in the Army from March 1940 until January 1944, made it to Corporal, and won the Military Medal during an action at Jezzine in Syria in 1941. His tour of duty also took him to Iraq and Iran. 

He then joined the RAAF in January 1944 after delisting from the army and served in the Darwin area as a Leading Air Craftsman until November 1945. However, none of our family records mention what unit he served with while here, and there is no mention of the unit from the Australian War Memorial records. I have his service number, so I am hoping to be able to find out more at the Military Museum here. 

After he delisted from the RAAF, he then re-joined the army in Victoria in October 1946 in the Royal Australian Engineers Field Training Battalion until April 1947. I have no knowledge of which unit he served with at this time either. 

It will be interesting to see if I can provide more light on his Darwin time. 

Day 29 – Wednesday, 22 June 2022 

It was hard getting out of bed this morning at 6:45am. We woke up to a beautiful sunrise.  

I made our coffee in the thermos flasks, and we grabbed some biscuits to take with us in case we got hungry. 

Yesterday when we arrived back at the caravan park Russ hurriedly exchanged his wide-angle lens for his zoom lens so he could take some photos of the straw-necked ibis (great shots by the way). 

When we went to get into the car this morning the wide-angle lens (worth $325) was still sitting on the bonnet where it had been all night. We are very lucky people, and our guardian angels are doing a wonderful job looking out for us. 

The temperature was already 19 degrees when we left the park at 7:45 am. We had a good journey to the Nitmiluk (pronounced Nit – me – look) National Park. The Park’s main entrance is located 30 kilometres northeast of Katherine on a sealed road. 

We arrived there with plenty of time to spare and were able to amble our way from the Visitor’s Centre to the Boat Ramp area, about 400 metres along concrete paths. The Nit in the name means Cicada as it is the noise that they make. The full name means Place of the Cicadas. 

After about five minutes spent trying to find the birds in the trees, unsuccessfully we might add, it was time to stand in line with all the other people who were going on the boat tours, waiting to have our names crossed off the list before boarding – almost like being back at school. 

We paid $90 each for our tickets today and it was definitely worth the price, especially when you see the logistics involved with getting the show on the road, sorry river, each time a tour group arrives. 

We had a majority of adults of mixed ages in the group on our boat with a handful of families with children. While talking to others waiting with us, I received another compliment on my hair. Thanks Vinnie. 

Our tour guide, and boat handler, was Stewart who would have been in his late 50s or early 60s. He was a very knowledgeable person. 

The boats used are a three hulled aluminium boat with two Honda outboard motors. Our seats were stackable plastic chairs in the first boat, and there was drinking water made available, and with a small toilet on board. 

We were only a few minutes late getting underway, and it was lovely sitting in the sunshine with the breeze from the water blowing into our faces as we went. 

For thousands of years Nitmiluk has been the foundation of the Jawoyn (pronounced Jar-win) Aboriginal people, providing an abundance of water and food, and a gallery of art and artefacts. Today it is the living testament of ancient Aboriginal culture. 

The Katherine River originates in Kakadu National Park and has been formed over millions of years, carving through ancient sandstone to form thirteen gorges, with rocks and boulders separating each gorge. During the wet season stunning waterfalls, rapids and magnificent vistas of escarpments form part of the amazing landscape. 

The Aboriginal people believe that Bolung, the rainbow serpent, formed this series of gorges in the Katherine River, and then returned here to inhabit the deep pool of the second gorge, and care is taken that they do not disturb him. Therefore, the Aboriginal people do not drink or swim in this gorge to show respect. 

In order to see all 13 of the gorges you need to take a helicopter tour, where a ten-minute flight will set you back almost $300 per person. 

And to stay at the Nitmiluk Caravan Park will set you back $70 for a site with power and water, or $34 for a free camp site. Our stay at Manbulloo with power and water is only $31 per night. 

For the first part of the trip Russ and I were seated in the second row of the boat, but as we generally lag behind the crowd taking photos during the walking segments, we were down the back for the remaining trips. 

We took heaps of photographs, although I don’t believe we managed to do justice to the beautiful scenery and incredible landscape. 

At the top of the first gorge, we left our boat and visited the rock paintings on the sandstone cliffs of the gorge before walking another 400 metres or so on a clearly defined pathway in very good condition to reach the start of the second gorge. 

As we started out on the cruise of the second gorge, we all got a heck of a fright when the boat hit a submerged rock under the surface. Russ banged his knee on the bar of the seat in front of us, and a little girl called Zoe hit the top of the seat in front of her. She got a blood nose and was very frightened and is going to have a black eye and another bruise on the bridge of her nose. 

Stewart apologised to everyone and to make up for her fright and pain Zoe was allowed to steer the boat on a safe stretch of water for a short time. She was very happy after that. 

We did not need to get out of the boat at the end of the second gorge but turned round and headed back to the start. 

The Rangers in the Park have a system whereby they can check to see if any crocodiles have been left in the number two gorge once the water level has subsided after the wet season. If there are any discovered, they are relocated to deeper water. Swimming and canoeing are not allowed until they are fairly sure that there are no crocodiles left in this part of the system. 

The Jawoyn are the traditional owners of this area, and it took them over eleven years to prove to the NT government that they were the people eligible to hold native title. 

As tourism was already a big part of the landscape here they leased the National Park back to the NT government with several conditions – mainly that they are involved in the decision-making process for the area. The Jawoyn Elders sit on the Board of Management along with the NT Parks and Wildlife Commission people. 

We arrived back at the starting point in the first gorge at 11:30am and had our coffee and biscuits before heading back to the van. 

As we approached the caravan park on the way back Russ stopped to take some photos of a tiny bird sitting on the power line. When he went to identify it later, he discovered he had shots of the uncommon red-backed kingfisher which spends winter in the north then flies south for the summer. 

Later in the afternoon we took down the awning and clothesline, pulled up and packed away the ground mat, and removed the locks from the wheels and tow pin so that we are good to hitch everything together tomorrow morning and head off bright and early (again!) 

Also learned from the News Notifications that Mason Cox (Collingwood Magpies, people!) will become an Australian citizen this afternoon at the MCG. Welcome Mason and Go Pies!!!!! 

The wood has been delivered to Brett at home, so it took him a while to barrow it all to the back yard from the driveway. (The delivery truck is too big to fit through the second garage door into the cattery.) 

Brett has been sending videos to us of the magpies visiting the patio to pick up crumbs, and of Sookie sitting on his knee giving head butts and purring her little heart out contentedly. (Sookie is our wild child and this is unprecedented behaviour for her.) The other two cats are going well also.