Timber Creek …

Pine Creek was our furthest north on this trip. The locals were so thrilled that they let off fireworks to celebrate our achievement. Or, perhaps, it was merely the case that our visit coincided with Territory Day, Jul 1. There was an organised display on the oval preceded and followed by an informal celebration of the right to blow your face off. Fireworks can still be purchased for personal amusement in the Northern Territory.

A day’s drive from there took us to our furthest west on the trip, Timber Creek. Similar in size to Pine Creek but without the gold or railway artifacts. Just as interestiIng though are the Gregory Tree and the Nackeroo Monument. No rare parrots but instead this area is often called the Finch Capital of Australia. It had lived up to that title on a previous visit so here we were again.

At the caravan park there were bats in the trees and freshies in the creek.

Black Flyingfox

The crocodiles are fed twice a week and we arrived on feeding day.

Freshwater Crocodile

The birding spots are around the creek, the Victoria River, Gregory Tree and up the hill at the Nackeroo Monument. The Nackeroos were an army unit set up in 1942 as an observation and geurrilla unit on Australia’s northern coast. Travel was by horseback, resupply was irregular. It was a pretty tough gig especially in the wet. There is a poem on the monument, author not stated …

Somewhere in Australia where the sun is a curse,
And each day is followed by another slightly worse,
And the brick red dust blows thicker than the shifting desert sand,
And the men dream and wish for a fair and greener land.

Somewhere in Australia where the mail is always late,
Where a Christmas card in April is considered up to date,
Where we never have a pay day and we never pay the rent
But we never miss the money 'cause we never get it spent.

Somewhere in Australia where the ants and lizards play,
And a hundred fresh mosquitoes reinforce the ones you slay,
So take me back to good old Sydney where I can hear the tramway bell,
For this god-forsaken place is just a substitute for hell.

Pine Creek …

A right turn at the end of the Barkly Highway and we were then following in the footsteps of John McDouall Stuart en route to Pine Creek. He got there in 1862, the route he pioneered was soon put to good use as the route for the Overland Telegraph which connected Adelaide with Darwin, Australia with the world. Along the line small settlements were established to keep the telegraph in working order. Pine Creek got off to a more auspicious start than most when workers digging post holes struck gold. A number of rushes and a railway followed. You’d have had to be pretty tough to make a go of it out here.

These days it’s a small town, population a little over 300, visitors come to see the mining relics, the residue of the railway, the water gardens and the Hooded Parrot. The parrot has a small population in a restricted range, this is the easiest place to find it.

We stayed at the Lazy Lizard, a very pleasant caravan park where someone has an excellent eye for design …

Should I be concerned about my new found interest in toilets?

Heading into the great outdoors the birdlife was quite abundant. A male Great Bowerbird had built his bower between disused railway lines in the caravan park. This is not a nest rather a theatre where he can perform for the ladies hoping that they will be sufficiently impressed to mate with him. The marriage is brief, they are soon left to be single mothers.

All of these and more were found within a short walk …

But the star of the show was the Hooded Parrot …

The Tanami …

The adventurous way from Alice to the Kimberly is via the Tanami.

The route runs through Aboriginal controlled land and a permit is required to visit the various settlements. Fuel is available at Tilmouth Well half way to Yuendemu and in emergency might be sought at one of the settlements but the traveler is encouraged to stick to the road and make it to Halls Creek, a stretch of about 900km. The road is sealed to Yuendemu and can be rough beyond that.

There are some operating gold mines along the way and road trains ply the route. It’s arid, remote and a test of the vehicle and to top it off the only beer you can buy at the takeaway in Halls Creek is Cascade Light.

We took the journey at a very leisurely pace over four days and three nights. It could be done in a calm two days or an arduous and frenetic single day.

We refuelled and had lunch at Tilmouth and spent the first night at Renehans Bore.

We encountered a lone camel the following day in country that was fairly typical of the Tanami.

We got a puncture just as we stopped for lunch. Gayle who rarely hears anything I say heard the hissing. We had the wheel changed before it fully deflated. We carry an extra spare and a repair kit for remote journeys.

That night we camped among the termite mounds just on the Northern Territory side of the border.

From there on the country was dry savanna rather than desert. We spent the final night on the bank of Sturt Creek, WA, where wild horses and Galahs were enjoying some surface water, the first we’d seen for a while.

Shortly after Sturt Creek we passed Billiluna, the top end of the Canning Stock Route – must do that one day – and also Wolfe Creek, site of a meteor impact crater which we have visited in the past.

Then we were refueling in Halls Creek which bills itself as the Heart of the Kimberley. We got the tyre fixed and bought some light beer.

Ross River …

On our first visit to Alice Gayle and I flew, rented a car and stayed in town. On our first full day we drove out to have a look at the West MacDonell Range. The morning sun is behind you on the way out. The vista is magnificent and when the day is done the sun sets behind you as you drive home.

The next day we checked out the East MacDonells. The sun is in your eyes going and coming and the scenery seemed less impressive.

On subsequent visits we’ve camped in the West MacDonnells but there’s not much you can do out there if you take your dog along so this time we opted to stay at the Ross River Resort at the eastern end of the bitumen and were pleasantly surprised. Resort fortunately is an exaggeration, it’s more like bush camping with added amenities. And the scenery is splendid. This was the view from outside our tent …

Grey-crowned Babblers were frequent and noisy visitors to the campsite …

and not far away there was plenty of opportunity for the landscape photographer.

The Ross River Resort gets the McGee seal of approval and I hope to get back there to explore the East MacDonnells more thoroughly.


Alice …

This little flurry of updates is being posted from the waiting area of ARB in Alice Springs. The aerial is being replaced by a much larger and sexier one that will hopefully prove more durable. The next leg of the journey will be across the Tanami Desert. The road is used by road trains and the ability to communicate with them may keep us out of trouble. Channel 40 is the word.

Meanwhile tonight will be our second night at Ross River which is at the end of the bitumen running east from Alice. It’s a lovely spot to camp at. I will tell more and bring you some photos when I get the chance.

Tiwi …

Blown Apart Gulf was a mill pond.

The Tiwi Islands are in Australia’s Northern Territory about 100km north of Darwin. There are two large inhabited Islands, Melville and Bathurst and nine small uninhabited islands. The largest settlement is Wurrumiyanga on Bathurst Island with a population of about 1500. From there Melville Island is a short car ferry ride away.

The Tiwi are aboriginal folk that have a different language and some significant cultural differences from their neighbours in Arnhemland, the nearest part of the mainland. Local Government is the responsibility of the Tiwi Land Council, an outsider needs a permit to visit. This is true of a number of areas under aboriginal control. As an Australian I always find it odd that I need a permit to walk down an Australian street, a Tiwi Islander doesn’t need one to walk down my street. But hey, I had one, and the Tiwi guides made us very welcome.

Wurrumiyanga is a tidy little town of well maintained houses and gardens. We had the opportunity to visit three art galleries, the museum and the church. Along the way we got to see kids at a school that could have been anywhere in Australia.

The strongest feature of the local art was, I thought, the carving which often featured birds. Here are some housed in the museum but there were many fine examples for sale.

Tiwi museum

Carving has its greatest significance in the Pukumani which are carved for the dead. The Pukumani poles are carved by men selected by the deceased’s family but not closely related. They are placed by the graveside in a ceremony that takes place two to six months after burial.

Some of the beautiful designs are also committed to fabric by a technique similar to batik.

As well as their indigenous culture two outside religions have been adopted … Aussie Rules football and Catholicism.

Catholicism came first, Father Gsell founded the mission in 1911. The Church is rather lovely with the interior decorated in the local style.

Tiwi church

Panels behind the altar …

Altar panel

Altar panel

Standing next to the church is a little radio shack. From here Darwin was warned of impending bombing raids during the Second World War. Local people also captured a Japanese pilot during the war as well as assisting in the rescue of some friendly combatants.

Combat these days is on the footy field. The Tiwi have taken to Aussie Rules with a passion, about a third of the population are active participants in the local league and some of the great AFL names learnt the basics right here, including Michael Long and Cyril Rioli.

The last activity on the agenda was tea and some traditional dancing. Here is one of our guides ready to impart some culture …







And the world went crazy …

I only turned around for a few days and look.

Mr Abbott gives Prince Phillip a knighthood. Mr Giles, the Northern Territory’s Chief Minister thinks it must have been April Fools’ Day.

Then that particular day came early to the Northern Territory. The CLP party room dumped Mr Giles and installed Mr Willem Westra Van Holthe as leader. The press were invited to the swearing in of the new Chief Minister. Mr Giles, however, failed to resign. Confusion reigns.

The problem for Mr W W Van H is that he needs to command a majority in the parliament, it is possible that the Giles supporters, now a minority in the CLP, might be joined by the opposition to defeat the flying Dutchman (born in New Zealand) on the floor of the house.

In an effort to avoid that Mr Van H has welcomed back a couple of loose cannons, Alison Anderson and Larisa Lee, who left the party last year and joined the Palmer United Party. When they discovered that everything within reach of that party’s leader was likely to end up as another globule of fat around His Corpulence’s waist they discovered the joys of independence. You can imagine how disciplined Mr Van H’s team will be if he gets as far as the swearing in.

The far more sophisticated Julia Gillard also found the knighthood a subject for mirth. The Sydney Morning Herald reports …

“I had this clearly eccentric idea that Australian honours should be for Australians,” Gillard replied with a cheeky grin, as the crowd – which included federal deputy opposition leader, MC Tanya Plibersek and social commentator Jane Caro – roared with laughter.

The SMH did not remind us that Ms Gillard awarded an Order of Australia to Sachin Tendulkar.

Meanwhile, the Islamic State has beheaded Kenji Goto and burnt Muath el-Kaseasbeh alive in a metal cage. Nothing to do with Islam.

Back in Saudi Arabia, an Islamic State governed under sharia law …

Saudi Arabia had on Sunday beheaded a convicted murderer, bringing to five the number of people executed since new King Salman took office, continuing the kingdom’s use of the harshest punishment.

Although there might seem to be some superficial similarities “the difference is clear” …

When we do it in Saudi Arabia we do it as a decision made by a court. The killing is a decision, I mean it is not based on arbitrary choices, to kill this and not to kill this. Interior Ministry spokesperson Major General Mansour alTurki.