WA2021: Into the Northern Territory

The police checkpoint at the Queensland/Northern territory border

Friday 18 June (no internet)

It seems a giant leap forward to report that we made it into the Northern Territory, considering the last post was talking about getting into Queensland, but on Wednesday, we crossed the border from Queensland into the Northern Territory. After six days of driving from entering Queensland, we have covered 3000 km with one night at each overnight stop. At long last we are taking a break

Mt Isa

On leaving Boulia we made it to Mt Isa and set up camp in a caravan park – one of those parks where they cram the vans in. Our site was OK as it was at the end of a row, next to the camp kitchen and close to the toilets. We had thought about staying there for two nights, but very quickly decided to keep moving. Mt Isa is a very industrial town with a major focus on mining. As a result, there was a constant background hum of industry and road trains up and down the adjacent road.

Just after we started to cook dinner, bearing in mind our kitchen is outside when we don’t have the awning, it started to rain (for the first time on our trip)! Of course, when we went inside to eat, the rain stopped – a case of bad timing.

That evening was within the time requirements for us to apply for our WA border passes, so after dinner we sat down to use the available internet access to complete the forms. But everyone must have been watching Netflix or something as the speed was about zero. We gave up and went to bed with the intention of getting up really early to complete the online applications. Although the WA questionnaire was one of the most comprehensive, we received approval and our passes almost instantaneously. This compares with us receiving our SA passes (which of course we now don’t need) some five days later! This is an example of a manual versus an automated process – why is SA so far behind the times?

Into the Northern Territory

From Mt Isa we headed for the border on Wednesday, crossing at the police check point without any hitches, and onwards to Barkly Homestead Campground. This is a very busy and very remote homestead campground offering everything from fuel, restaurant, bar, cabins for workers, cabins for tour groups and of course powered and unpowered sites. We selected a nice shady spot under a row of trees next to the boundary fence. We arrived there at around mid-afternoon giving us a chance to relax for a bit.

We rose with the birds next day to get on the road early with a campground just south of Dunmarra as a destination. This turned out to be a roadside rest area on top of a hill with nothing going for it. Since it was still early afternoon, we decided to push on to Mataranka. At 734 km, this ended up being our longest stretch yet!

Decision time

Saturday 19 June (no internet)

A few clicks north of Dunmarra a road off to the left leads eventually to the Bungle Bungles. We stopped to give our next step some serious consideration:

It would mean a couple of additional long drives

We have both been to the Bungle Bungles

We would probably lose our booking fee if we cancelled

The hot springs at Mataranka had some appeal

We were both tired

So, we continued up the road, arriving at the Jalmurark Campground in Elsey National Park, to the east of Mataranka, late afternoon with the intent of staying two nights before moving on.

Because of our new route into WA, we had a couple of extra nights in hand before our Kununurra booking, so we decided to stay an extra two nights – it is a very peaceful setting with an additional attraction of a Bower at the rear of our site. Watching the Bower Birds’ antics has been a great source of entertainment. Their usual booty is highly coloured, mainly blue, items, but our birds seemed to be keen on sea shells – where they found them is still a mystery.

Four nights and three whole days without moving is a luxury – it has been great and has really got us in to the holiday proper. There are two sets of hot springs close by, so we have made use of both during the last two days. One of these is located at the Mataranka Homestead where a replica of the original was built to feature in the movie ‘We of the Never Never’.

This morning we tackled one of the walks around here – a 4 km walk to the Mataranka Falls on the Roper River. The day time temperatures here are around 30 degrees, so we got out of bed early and set off at 10 past 7 to avoid the worst of the heat. It was a very easy walk across a variety of surfaces including soft sand (hard going on the way back), packed earth and loose rocks. The Falls, however, were a bit of a disappointment – they are what I would call a weir! One of the great things about an early start was that the river was like a mirror giving some amazing reflections.

Roper River Reflections
Roper River Reflections
Mataranka Falls

Our next challenge(s)

For a variety of reasons, we did not manage to get the Landcruiser serviced before leaving, so I thought I would book it in for a service at Kununurra. When I phoned Toyota yesterday, I was told the earliest they could do it is the end of July! It was the same story when I called the next guy. Apparently, they are all booked up with tourists. The region is so busy that when the road trains arrive to fill the supermarket shelves, the tourists descend like a swarm of locusts and empty them. The locals are not happy as they struggle to buy food. I have managed to book in for a service in Broome mid July.

This situation gives us some concerns:

Will we be able to restock on provisions?

How long will the queues at the diesel bowsers be?

Will they run out of diesel?

How busy will all the attractions be?

Not the quiet, relaxing stress free adventure we signed up for!!!

Distances travelled:

Tuesday: Boulia to Mt Isa – 312 km

Wednesday: Mt Isa to Barkly Homestead – 448 km

Thursday Barkly Homestead to Mataranka – 734 km

Total travelled so far – 4750 km

9 Responses

  1. Goodness sounds challenging. Glad you have both finally got into NT and then on to WA but sounds a worry that there are so many other travellers. Hope this is not the new norm.
    Does seem like slowing down might help. Strange looking bower bird. Didn’t realise they had such curved bills. Roper river looks appealing Freezing cold here this morning although sunny for a change. But wet for another week! Enjoy the sunshine.

  2. Wow, you’re selling it to me🤔🤔. Every forum we read speaks of packed sites. We have another couple of grey nomads going up the west coast and they are reporting exactly the same problems at Broome and onwards. I’m guessing when you all arrive at Darwin you’ll eat the weakest😀😀😀. Great blog……please open international borders next year, selfish I know, but we’d like it a little quieter👍👍

  3. Great experiences along the many, many kilometres you both have travelled – have enjoyed reading along with the photos. Cold winter in Victoria so enjoy the sunshine! Stay safe.

  4. Great read and well done to get thru this epic journey. Life ain’t meant to be easy one famous Aussie once said.
    Good luck and keep safe.

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