Darwin to Adelaide Roadtrip – December 2017

Left Darwin around 11.45 am, off on our first roadtrip with our 9-year-old grandson Joshua.

The last time we did this trip was in 1994 with his mother Tara and her sister Aisling, then aged 7 and 10-and-a-half respectively, and my mother Phyllis, who was visiting from Ireland. We were on our way to Tasmania for Christmas.


After fuelling up we stopped at Tara’s workplace to say our goodbyes. It wasn’t long before we were on the open road and passing a herd of Brahman being loaded onto a roadtrain at Coomalie Creek cattleyards.

Our first pitstop was Adelaide River where we ate a hurried lunch of chicken rolls. Besides the heat and the flies, it’s hard to relax when roadtrains you know you’re going to get stuck behind are constantly rolling past.

It was 1.40 pm before the radio reception ran out. Yay! Time for Bob Seger, always the first CD on our roadtrips. Radio reception has improved – we used to be halfway through the CD by Adelaide River.

Not long after passing the Pine Creek turnoff we spotted a goods-train travelling alongside us. This was a first for us. We haven’t even seen the Ghan yet and I think that’s been running north of Alice Springs for over twenty years.

We got to Katherine at 2.55 pm and fuelled up at the first petrol station over the bridge, United. It wasn’t there last time we went through and that really threw us out – it was being rebuilt! 

Then it was on to Mataranka Homestead for our first overnight stop.


We really appreciated the airconditioning having been turned on before our arrival and the jug of cold water and chilled glasses in the fridge, but it didn’t take long before we were soaking in the thermal springs.

Preparing dinner proved to be a bit tricky between having to wash the cutlery and use our own bowl in the microwave, which doesn’t seem like much but when you’ve paid $124.50 you expect a bit better.

Watching TV was another challenge without a remote control. I tried looking for it in one of the drawers:

These cabins have seen better days!

Should have been time to get a good night’s sleep, but the insects that had managed to get inside had other ideas, they even got under the topsheet! But while we tossed and turned and fought off insects, Joshua slept like a log. He said it was because he had to sleep in complete darkness instead of having a night light. 

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Mary River Weekend

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Just had a three-night stay at Mary River Wilderness Retreat courtesy of daughter’s Christmas present. She and grandson joined us for the Friday and Saturday nights but then had to return home for work and school, leaving us to our own devices for the Sunday night.

The Retreat is about 120 km from our house in Darwin. It took us an hour and thirty-five minutes to get there, a bit longer than normal due to a huge thunderstorm that reduced visibility and speed to a minimum.

Activities were severely curtailed because of the weather and the presence of crocs. It’s the Wet Season, so all of the walks and points of interest were inaccessible because: they were under water; the resident saltwater crocodile was on the move; and, a decent-sized freshwater croc had been spotted close by. We still managed to enjoy ourselves though.

At night we played board games and watched movies on a DVD player hooked up to a TV screen we brought with us – there was no TV in the room – and on the last night the clouds cleared for long enough to allow us to sit on the verandah under the stars and even make a wish on a shooting one.

In the daytime we went for a 100 km-plus drive around nearby locations, all of which were inaccessible due to flooding. The pool was a welcome relief from the heat when there was a break in the storms and no lightening. Otherwise we just walked around the grounds and enjoyed the wildlife.

While we self-catered on Friday, we dined at the Gecko Restaurant on the other two nights. The food was delicious, reasonably priced and beautifully presented, the service was excellent, the staff  friendly and informative and we appreciated the complimentary glass of wine with each main meal. The menu included vegetarian options and the children’s menu included dessert.

Alternatively, there was a camp kitchen equipped with microwave, toaster, jug, cooking rings, bbq, washing-up gear including a sink with a plug, but no utensils, crockery, cutlery or pans.
We enjoyed seeing the wallabies, kangaroos and kingfishers. The massive thunderstorm we drove through on the way down was an experience! We loved the variety of birds we saw at Fogg Dam on the way home. All in all it was a great weekend!

Darwin to Sydney Roadtrip – Day 7

St George – Gunnedah

10.25 Left St George

11.15 Drove through Thalon.

11.40 Fuelled up at Mungindi border town on the Barwon River: 59 L @ $1.319 per litre – $77.82

11.55 Crossed the QLD / NSW border into New England.

12.40 Passed through Garah; 13.00 Ashley; to Moree where we stopped and ate lunch. at 13.10. The weather was cold although the sun was shining.

13.40 Left Moree and drove on through Gurley at 14.05.

14.59 Narrabri and the Kalmilaroi Highway where we took the Kaputar Road turnoff.

15.15 Reached the base of Mt Kaputar and engaged four-wheel drive for the 20 km dirt and bitumen track to the summit. We were greeted at the top by a large grey kangaroo which was still there when we returned from climbing the stairs to the lookout – nice view but a bit dull at that time of the afternoon. The rest of his family came to check us out. A female with a joey in her pouch and a juvenile in tow came right up to the vehicle. Cyclists were using the track for racing and we passed a few on the way back down.

Roo Mt Kaputar
Roo family

16.40 Got to the base and disengaged the four-wheel drive.

18.00 Arrived at Gunnedah and checked into a cabin at the Top Tourist Park – $89 – too cold to camp.

Had a choice of three major supermarkets to shop for dinner: Aldi, Coles and Woolies, where we got some pork with native spices and had that with mashed potatoes and fresh green beans for dinner.

Amenities
The cabin we stayed in was clean, warm and spacious and adequately equipped for our needs.

Wildflowers
We started catching glimpses of wildflowers after we left Blackall yesterday: small patches of purple clumps, paler smaller purples forming roadside carpets in places, yellow sprays, thicker yellow bunches and prickly pear – not an infestation, just individual stands – and bottle-shaped trees like the boab trees in Western Australia.

Small purpleClose-up

Today, as well as the purples, yellows and prickly pear, we saw yellow daisies, wild cotton and canola that had escaped from the fields, sunflowers around Moree, a little white flower and lots of yellow wattle.

Small white
Yellow daisy

Yellow wattle

The Hisatsu Orange Railway

Today we went in search of the Orange Train which Brian had read was a local train servicing rural and coastal towns and doubling as a little-known tourist attraction. Very little-known from our experience. We almost turned back at one stage because although people understood we were looking for the orange train, they couldn’t tell us how to get there. But we persevered and with the help of our ‘Japanese for Tourists’ booklet, which we used for the first time, a very patient ticket inspector at Kawashiri Station was able to tell us which station to get off at – Yatsushiro, another eight stations further – and a couple of young girls there were able to direct us to the right platform. The experience and scenery were worth the effort but tinted perspex windows meant photography was  impossible, so very frustrating.