Up until this point not many of the names of our campgrounds have caught or kept our attention, but with a name like Hells Gate, you have to stop and take notice. The accommodations were actually quite nice for a roadhouse in the middle of nowhere. Hot showers, sink for washing dishes, delicious water, and the front desk had a free book exchange which we took advantage of.
Hells Gate also lived up to it’s name not only because the weather was about to get consistently warmer, but because the road conditions between the roadhouse and the Northern Territory border were some the worst we’ve encountered yet. Indeed, we felt like we were in hell during that part of the drive, creeping along in second gear (sometimes only first). But as soon as we reached the boarder the corrugation diminished (the dirt remained for another 100km).
The Northern Territory
All the corrugation and endless dirt road was worth it as we saw our first emu run swiftly across the road in front of us. No picture was taken because those things move fast! Instead of getting a picture of an emu we did find time to take a picture of some really cool termite mounds (they are a constant feature along the entire northern road).
The other constant by the side of the road is cattle. They roam around everywhere, including crossing the highway at whatever pace they please.
Our first day in the Territory ended with us camping at a free rest stop outside Cape Crawford. The rest stop had no toilets, but it did provide for a very pretty sunset and bird watching the next morning.
After a leisurely morning of breakfast and birdwatching we headed out for the Stuart Highway and our next stop, Daley Waters. Daley Waters was recommended to us by some greys nomads and their son who said that the roadhouse was famous for its pub and food. So we thought, hey, why not? This turned out to be a fantastic recommendation. Let me tell you why.
First, when you walk into the bar you immediately can see that it has a lot of…character. And by character I mean your typical country/dive bar kitsch: panties and bras hanging from the ceiling, student IDs and international currency stapled to the walls, and lots of silly signs with purposefully bad spelling. Basically every square centimeter covered with some kind of crazy decoration.
Second, their was live entertainment in the evening. But before the show started we looked around and noticed that about 90% of the people around us having dinner were over 70 and confirmed what we’ve long suspected: Christina and I are living a retired couple’s life. Hence the title of the post.
Then the live entertainment started. This was by far the best part of the night. The show starts with a man named Steve standing on stage with a electric guitar slung around his shoulder and what looked like a small television setup on a table next to him. I wasn’t sure what the television was for but soon found out that Steve would be playing guitar and singing along as the words to the songs were shown on the screen next to him–essentially doing karaoke with a guitar. He played the hits from the 50’s and 60’s and even had his own rendition of ‘The Gambler’ by Kenny Rodgers. In a word it was fantastic. Just pure entertainment. I suppose the heat or the beer was getting to our heads, but we had a really good time watching this older gentleman serenade a group of his peers. We couldn’t have asked for more.
Our next stop, Mataranka, was another recommendation from greys we met way back on the road to Carnarvon. Mataranka is in between Daley Waters and Katherine on the way to Darwin, the capital city. The draw to Mataranka are their lovely hot springs, the best being Bitter Springs where you float down the river, hop out, walk back and jump back in again (over and over). The temperature of the water is what makes Bitter Springs special. The water temp is a consistent 32 C. That’s pretty much 90 F! The water comes from a limestone aquifer that is filled every year by the monsoon rains and spills over into Bitter Springs. The color of the water is what is most striking. I don’t have the vocabulary to describe it other than beautiful.
It’s also been the only water so far that I could have stayed in all day and not get cold. In fact, we had to get out of the water to cool down!
Our next stop was Edith Falls, which is part of Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) National Park and the falls are located on the north side of the park. Edith Falls has three different parts to it. The bottom plunge pool, which was only a few hundred meters from our campsite, the middle pool, and the upper pool. The upper pool is only accessible by a short walk, 1km, and the middle pool is not accessible at all, but could be viewed from a distance on a return walk to the plunge pool. We decided to do it all!
The upper pool was extraordinary beautiful. Cold, crystal clear water, cascading down the side of a basalt rock into a deep emerald pool. The water was extremely refreshing after hiking almost straight up hill, but I couldn’t stay in too long since I get cold easily. But, I soon found a place to get out of the water and jump from a rock.
On our way back down toward the plunge pool we had to stop and take a photo of the middle pool.
Once we arrived at the plunge pool we had warmed up and decided to take a dip. The water was again very cold so we didn’t spend too much time swimming around, but did manage to snorkel (always looking for freshwater crocs, but only saw fishies). A bit tired from all the swimming and hiking we decided to retire for the day to rest up for our next part of our journey at the Top End.