After a night separated from the group in different hostel dorms, we met up at 6.30am again to be picked up from Jan, our next tour guide. We picked up some other people because a few from our top end tour had left us. Now we were 17 girls and a Danish guy, an Italian couple in their sixties (we adopted them as our grandparents) plus Jan. There even is a Swiss girl from Solothurn 🙂
Jan is very energetic and so he spread a good mood among the group right away. We had a pen with which we could draw on the bus windows on the long drives but first, we all had to enter the Weet Bix-challenge. Weet-Bix are compressed cereal shaped into small bars. You take about three of them and soak them in milk to have a bowl of cereal. It’s an Aussie thing. However, the challenge now was to eat it as quick as possible. Without any liquids. That was torture! After a while it was like swallowing oversized pills. But we all survived and the winner only took 1’11”.
After 1,5 hours, we stopped at a gas station we had already fueled up yesterday on the way back. It should have been just a short toilet break but then Jan got a call that he forgot to pick up one girl from Hong Kong and so we all waited the 1.5 hours while somebody was driving her down. Jan brought out some oranges (they taste different here) and a didgeridoo, where we could have ago. I was as successful as I had been in Switzerland with the Alphorn, which means I only produced a weird elephant noise. Luckily, that happened to most people.
Then we went on a short walk to have a look at some flora and the WWII war cemetery.
Finally, our group of 20 people was complete and on we went.
We had lunch on a grass patch in Kathrine and then drove for another half an hour to Kathrine Gorge.
There is a nice exhibition about the area in the visitor center (and air-conditioning). It was another really hot day. Therefore, some chose to do the 80$ boat tour, while we others went on a walk with our guide. We hiked to the top of the gorge. The views were stunning but we had to earn them in this heat. Luckily, there was a water tap with cold (!) water at the top. The water was pumped up from underground that’s why it was colder.
Then, we walked back down to the visitor center, passing different kinds of trees and flowers. Afterwards, it was time to jump in the river and I was really looking forward to it after the walk. However, because the water wasn’t clear here and there were saltwater crocodiles in the area, everybody was very hesitant with jumping in the water. Even after Jan had jumped in. And the employees in the restaurant said it was safe too. In the end, it was only me and the other Swiss girl who went for a swim. We didn’t see a crocodile.
Back in the bus, we drove to the shopping center in Kathrine, where we had half an hour to buy more things we might need and there was wifi too!
Then, we lucked out that there was no other group at the campsite. We’d have had to sleep in swags with only a small kitchen tent but instead we could have the big kitchen and cabin tents with beds and electricity inside! And a bedside table too!!
For dinner we had pasta with chicken and vegetables and afterwards we were sitting around a campfire for a short time but soon, everybody was overwhelmed by tiredness and retired into the cabins.
The next morning, it was freezing! I had to keep wearing long clothes until our first stop in Mataranka. We didn’t swim in the Mataranka hot springs because that’s a manmade place. Instead we went to the Bitter Springs 3km out of town.
Now, we were glad that it wasn’t so hot yet because the water was 34º bathtub temperature. And that in a beautiful blue creek in a palm tree forest. It was wonderful! We stayed in the water for at least an hour. Swimming along the creek was cool too. Except for the many big spiders that towered in their nets right over the water. I just pretended to be a crocodile and kept my head half in the water.
At 10.30am we were on the bus again heading towards our lunch stop; the Daly Waters Pub. It’s the oldest pub in the Northern Territory and has a very cool set up. It’s filled with things that people leave behind and funny signs. Also, the food and drinks were cheaper than in Darwin.
During that break, our driver tried to fix the air-conditioning of the car. The belt broke and so the bus had been making weird sounds for the last 40min of the drive. When we set off again, it worked for five minutes but then weird noises were back and from now on, our air-con were the windows. It’s ok but after walking in this heat I would have preferred to really cool down.
From there it was pretty much just driving and having toilet and fuel stops until Jan parked the bus along the road in the middle of nowhere. The country side was flat and wide in all directions. That’s where we watched the sunset. From the roof of the bus. Standing on the roof of a car in a wide open space was a point on my life list. Really makes you feel free 🙂 Now I can check that off.
We even had a sunset platter with olives, feta, crackers and a dip. Momentary upgrade to a 5 star tour 🙂
When the sun was gone, we drove to our campsite on a cattle station. Banka Banka was an actual caravan park with a nice kitchen building and good showers and toilets. We had a delicious bbq dinner and afterwards sat around the campfire, where Jan played the guitar and didgeridoo.
Then, it was finally the night where I’d get to experience sleeping in a swag. I was expecting the nice looking ones from the people I had met along the way. However, ours just were bags on the ground with two thin mattresses inside. The grass with all these bags on the ground looked a bit like a disaster had happened…
There was no mosquito window for the face, so either, you zipped yourself up all the way and had bad air, or you left your face in the open. I just wore my woolen hat, a jacket and cuddled in my sleeping bag. Like this, I was actually warmer than the previous nights in the tent! Plus, it was quite comfortable and we even had a real pillow! I felt bad for our Italian grandparents who are doing this trip in their sixties and weren’t expecting to sleep on the ground. But they seemed fine too this morning and now they will have great stories to tell 🙂
When my alarm rang in morning, I was surprised that I didn’t wake up when the Singapore group that was sleeping next to me left their swags. I really must have slept well!
On the road again, Jan was asking us quiz questions over the microphone. We stopped at a few roadhouses for toilets (we are drinking so much water in this heat) and at the Tenant Creek Telegraph station. Then, we reached a fantastic place called Devils Marbles. The marbles are granite rocks that were shaped into round and oval boulders over the years. They looked really cool and so we went on an explorer walk and had some fun with taking pictures.
Lunch we had at Wycliffe Well. One of the funniest places I’ve ever been to. They call it the UFO capital of Australia and everything is in an alien theme.
From there, we pretty much drove straight to Alice Springs with just a few stops at gas stations and to take a few road kill pictures of ourselves on a long straight stretch of road. At the Tropic of Capricorn line, the whole group held hands and on three, we jumped from the tropic into the desert. That was fun and we entertained the whole parking lot. Welcome to the red center!
Once we arrived in Alice Springs, I couldn’t believe I actually made it here. To the center of Australia. Was a long but exciting and amazing journey from Perth along the South and East Coast and then from the top end down to here (and I’d do it again).