Tuesday, 12 July 2011

The Northern Territory

Northern Territory – July 1st

So after bidding a fond farewell to the Kimberley’s we ventured into the Nothern Territory. With Lola asleep and the others refusing to get out as they had just been allowed to watch a DVD, I was alone in my obligatory ‘crossing the border’ photo. I was lucky Mike even stopped the car as he hates it when we have just overtaken the grey nomads (or slowmads, as Mike calls them) and I call for a scenic photo stop! We ventured down the highway for another night of free camping. We had a quick stop at Timber Creek for lunch and were bitterly disappointed to see a sign for fireworks, and then a big SOLD OUT sign over it! We continued down the road and stayed at a rest stop about an hour from Katherine.

As we pulled up we noticed that another family who we had been meeting at various spots on our trip had also pulled up for the night. They had 6 kids, so our kids had a great time playing with them as the parents swapped stories of where we have been and where  we have stayed. I loved to hear the mum talk about what she feeds them and where they stay as they are very budget conscious, it is so interesting to get ideas from other people. We were also very excited as they had purchased fireworks and invited us to watch the
“’Spectacular’ So after a great afternoon where the kids enjoyed playing, the parents enjoyed relaxing, we waited until dusk for the firework show, it was so strange to be in the middle of nowhere with just  a dozen or so other campers around you lighting fireworks. Some of the fireworks were great, others were a bit of a fizzer, but the funniest was when an old nomad came out of his caravan and in a very gruff voice, firmly told us to stop all the rot, we are going to start a fire! He was very concerned his caravan would go up in flames!

So after moving a suitable distance we let the last of the fireworks off, and headed for an early night. As it was a beautiful night Mike and I slept with the sides down under the stars, at about 3am we were woken by a very noisy car pulling in to the rest stop, the guys got out, used the toilet and then proceeded to have a very late tea, or a very early brekky. They had obviously been celebrating ‘territory day’ (the only day fireworks are permitted for sale in NT) and had had a couple, they were shouting to each other, as they scoffed a bbq chicken, it was a little weird to  hear one yelling ‘Wanna leg mouldy arse?’, after such a peaceful star watching drift off to sleep. As they were leaving they screeched out the road throwing ground fire crackers and laughing there heads off. 

After a brief few more hours of sleep we got up, said good bye to our friends and headed for Katherine, we drove into Katherine at about 10.20, Mike and I saw the golden arches sign, peered at the clock and gave each other a little nod, we had 10 minutes to find maccas before the brekky menu closed. We did a quick drive down the main drag and tried a few corners, we were nearly about to give up when I turned a corner and there it was, we then told the kids our plans but mentioned they had to run really fast to get there before 10.30. Well I have never seen my kids sprint so fast, their little arms and legs were pumping and breathlessly they asked if we had made it in time for pancakes….WE HAD YIPPEE, the Watson kids inhaled their food faster then lightning and then gave mum and dad a few minutes of peace as they went and played on the play ground…aaah the simple things in life are really the best!

We then continued our trek to our destination, Darwin. My cousin Damien, had very kindly offered a lovely site for us to set up camp (at his house), we had a pool right next to us and bathroom facilities right next door. Damien, Nicky  and the kids were away camping themselves, so we just pulled up at his house and set up camp. As they were not home we were hoping we had set up at the right house, imagine if we set up, let the kids jump in the pool and then the owners came home and looked a little confused to find us Watsons invading their home. We were very grateful for the offer to stay at Damien and Nicky’s, we made use of their beautiful pool and outdoor area whilst they were away, did a million loads of washing (there is nothing better then fresh sheets after a few weeks of camping!) and commenced sight seeing!

On the Sunday we headed into Darwin, Damien lives in a beautiful country area about half an hour from Darwin, so after doing a much required grocery shop we set off to the Mindle markets, I absolutely loved the markets, the place was buzzing with people and there was so much to see, so even though we had tired and grumpy children we hang around for as long as we could, enjoying the entertainment, yummy food and lively atmosphere.

We headed back into Darwin and wandered around town, visited the esplanade for a picnic lunch before heading to the museum. We all had a great time at the museum the exhibitions were so interesting, displaying the different seasons, animals and landscape that is the Top End. I particularly enjoyed watching the kids get excited when they named all these different creatures and species that three months ago they wouldn’t have known. The Cyclone Tracey exhibit was haunting and very emotional, it was well worth a look around. The kids spent ages in the interactive area and Mike and I enjoyed the chance to sit and watch them play. We then made our way back to camp and enjoyed the beautiful pool once more.

We went to casuirina, a huge shopping centre, the kids saw cars 2 at the movies, whilst I shopped with a sleeping Lola, what bliss. That night Damien Nicky and the kids arrived home from their camping trip, it was great to finally see them, although I am sure that they were tired from the long day of unpacking and driving.

We went to the Territory Wildlife Park which was amazing the kids really enjoyed wandering around, seeing the different seasons of the top end and the amazing animals, Mike and I also enjoyed learning so much about the top end.  We walked around the park to most of the exhibits, it was fascinating as they had recreaated the different seasons, so when you got to the moonsoonal rain, you pressed a button and the 'rain' poured down. When the heat of the day became too much and the groans from the kids were no longer ignorable (or GINORABLE, as Scarlett says to us know), we jumped onto the train that wandered through the park in the hunt for icecream. I think the watson's should have bought shares in icecream the amount we are consuming!

Today we went back into Darwin and wandered around the monuments and attractions based on Darwin’s involvement in WWII, dragging the kids to different aviation museums, much to their horror! (they wanted to play with Lachy and Claire) and although they won’t admit it, they did have a good time. That night oscar and I ventured back to the Mindle Markets, it was nice to spend some time with my boy, he loved wandering around watching the buskers perform, he danced to some music and ate huge amount of fairy floss!!! It was a lovely few hours with my gorgeous boy.

On Friday we did a day trip to Litchfielf National Park, the scenery was amazing and although the Wangi Falls were closed to swimming, (there was a croc sunning itself on the rocks) we wandered around the monsoonal forests and swam at Bluey’s rock pool. The kdis loved it there being carried away with the water rapids, Oscar was watching the older kids jumping off the rocks into the deep pools and although he got up there twice he couldn’t quite make the jump! It was an awesome day in the sun just relaxing and enjoying life.

Saturday welcomed us with another market, at parap, Mike gleefully followed his wife around the market, waiting with Lola at every corner as it was so busy that he couldn’t get through with the pram, but you know Mike hejust loves a good market, nothing would keep him away….there was not a thing he would have rather been doing!!!! I did enjoy again the diversity of culture that was on offer and wandered around picking up a few little items that I can store in the camper until we get home. That night we caught up with the lovely Labbett family, who were holidaying from Ballarat. I think Mike enjoyed having another bloke to talk to and I know I enjoyed having a laugh with Jo, we had a great night, even if the boys had to walk a mile to cook the bbq. Mike again felt the urge to don the frock as the photos on Facey will show you, even Ash got in on the action with his sunnies! What a laugh we had! We hope we see them again before we head across to the east.

On our last day with the Collis Family, Damien had generously offered to take Mike and the boys fishing. With a glint in his eye Damien also mentioned there may need to be a little stop on this fishing expedition at goat island but wouldn’t reveal the reason. The boys headed to the river for a leisurely fish, hoping to catch us some supper. Oscar put his rod in and not long after felt a bite.  Mike and Damien came round to assist and sadly told Oscar that they thought he was just caught in a snag. They kept pulling trying to unhook the snag and much to their surprise a BLOODY BIG CROCODILE was attached to Oscar’s rod. Oscar had tangled around it’s foot, so they quickly cut the line before he got too angry and started chomping at the boat! The boys say he was about 3 metres in length, I think that this is such a great tale to tell when he returns to school, and even though they spent the day fishing this was the only bite they got. They all had such a great day, in the afternoon Damien steered them in the direction of Goat Island. This is an island on the river in the middle of nowhere and to Mike’s surprise the only thing on the island was a PUB! They pulled up next to another boat and were about to jump out when they both realized that they had left their wallets in the car (ha ha) They were about to leave when the publican came down and said where are you going, they explained the situation and he said, ‘Doesn’t matter we will work something out’ I love this tale that the boys tell as it exemplifies what great characters Australia is made up off.. Here in the middle of nowhere surrounded by  a river full of crocs is this pub, run by a man originally from denmark, who has owned it for about 8 years, they all went inside and had a cool beer and softdrink. The publican then got the boys to work with his can crusher making them show him their muscles to see if they could do the work. The boys set about crushing cans, leaving Mike and Damien to have a few minutes of peace. The publican was cluey though as when the bag of cans ran out he told the boys to made their dad’s drink quicker so they could crush their cans!  As luck would have it the only other people at the pub were known to Damien so they borrowed some moola to pay their way! I love that this was the boys last day in Darwin, what a great memory for them to share!

It was so lovely to stay with Damien and Nicky, we hadn’t seen Damien since our wedding over 11 years ago, and although had always received progress reports from Aunty Sue and Uncle Kev, it was great to catch up and meet his lovely family. The kids had a ball playing together, as Damien and Nicky have two kids close in age to ours, Claire is Scarlett’s age and Lachlan is a few years older than Oscar. They all got on like a house on fire, Oscar wanted to know if we could move to Darwin so he could see Lachy all the time! We often had to drag them away to go sight seeing as they did not want to leave. Nicky kindly offered to babysit the older two a few times so that I could duck in to the shops and get a few things done!!! (what bliss a little me and Lola time!) We really enjoyed the quiet evenings chatting with Damien, Nicky and their two older kids Alicia and Jake. It was lovely to be welcomed into their home and spend this time with getting to know each other, we greatly appreciated their generous offer, hospitality and their warmth. (oh and the fish that Damien caught during their camping trip was delicious!!!) I also loved our extended stay in Darwin, I felt right at home wandering around the city and I think Darwin had such a lovely feel about it, I loved learning a little of the history, enjoyed seeing the ways they build to maximize the climate they live in and would love to return in the wet season to witness how this amazing land can change.

So after a lovely 9 days in Darwin we packed up are camper, said our goodbyes, tore the kids away from their new friends and headed off to kakadu. We are going to spend about four nights wandering through kakadu and seeing as much as we can of this beautiful land. The first day we have spent relaxing by the pool and visiting the cultural centre. I have learnt so much already and we haven’t even ventured too far from our caravan park. Tomorrow we intend to see some rock art, go to a traditional basket weaving demonstration and go on some lovely walks. We are looking forward to the Labbetts joining us again for another night of fun and laughter!

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