Sunday, 13 July 2014

Big Horse Creek

We fanged out of Douglas Springs with Katherine in our sights, ready to make a lightning stop filled with administrative good deeds and the most spartan of restocks before we hit Western Australia,  the quarantine point and the next big chapter of this adventure.

An average morning in the Uys Huis- Donald Duck on the tablet and me making coffee.

I've tried to write the next part of our trip  about five times. I'm full of trepidation, mainly because of my first world attitude and perspective and I'd like to preface it all by saying that... I'm sad and I'm sorry.

Here it is.
So we traipsed into the Big4 like we'd done it before (of course we actually had), made our forays into town and were confronted again with the social issues facing the local populace.  I'd restocked at Woolies, and headed straight for the bottle shop to complete the second part. I'd walked into the BWS and grabbed a few bottles of wine and a (heavily discounted) bottle of 12 year old Glenfiddich for Fiela, and was amused by the security guard making small talk with a policeman outfitted in some body armour- it was like watching a German Shepherd trying to take a Labra-doodle seriously. Anyway,  I'd driven away before I realised I'd forgotten the beer, which really was quite fortuitous as it meant I had another opportunity to buy wine (winning!). So in I drove,  to see another policeman, though this one was obviously bored because I came out with my carton of beer and answered various questions as to the whereabouts of the front license plate, the alcohol restrictions in Katherine and where I was staying (the latter being a bit impertinent as I am a married woman... He didn't think it was particularly funny?!)... At the park next to the river I spotted another police car, with the officers roaming about 'chatting' to the locals. Again, I wondered what was going on. It was only when I mentioned this to Fiela and he commented on the fact that it was Thursday- Centrelink or pension day, that the penny dropped for me and I realised Katherine was in a collective lock down of the physical iron bar and/or the alcohol dependent kind. Pretty name, but unfortunately Katherine is one of those places I'd happily drive through rather than negotiate it's social hazards and depressing inhabitants. Lucky me, I have that option.

Anyhoo. Onward ho with my first world problems...
Big Horse Creek Camping.
After the peace and quiet at Daly River and then spacious National Park camping at Douglas Springs,  the numbered efficiency of a Big4 park was suddenly stifling.  I couldn't wait to get out the next morning, and hit the road toward Western Australia (especially when the dipstick camped 5 metres from us got up at 5am, packed up his caravan, got his fish wife to direct him back to hook up just to make sure he was pulling away at 6.30am. You know, to beat that awful Outback Australian rush hour). We picked out a free camp via Camps7, and watched as the scenery slowly changed from low scrub and flat roads to undulations in both highway and flora. We saw our first boab tree about 150kms from Katherine- WA was  getting closer and closer. I 'fell asleep' (or rather just dozed in and out of consciousness while my neck became steadily stiffer), to wake up to the news that I'd missed "the most spectacular gorge ever" in Victoria River.  According to Fiela, the gorge was stunning in red ochre, tall winding cliffs and a lovely river at its bottom. And the scenery had changed. Escarpments jumped up in uniform steadfastness and chaotic blocks of yellow, rust and black rock; boabs stood Dr-Who-Dalek-like and the land became generally untamed. We were in love already.

Australia's Next Top Boab Tree.

Idyllic fishing on the Victoria River.

We zoomed through Timber Creek, one of the final Northern Territory outposts, in favour of Big Horse Creek. We thought it was a free camp,  but at $3.30 per person per night, it practically was. Our previous free camp forays had been pretty quiet; the largest number of fellow campers had been four at Barcaldine but it was now The Season and finding a spot by yourself would be hard going... We pulled in and realised the time of Solitude and the 100 metre Camping Buffer were over: the Grey Nomads had arrived. Big Horse Creek was shady and full of caravans, with about 20 different groups of retirees socialising gaily over canaste and bridge (I'm not being flippant- Mum and Dad you'd better brush up on your card skills ). Someone played Slim Dusty into the night, and I'm sure they alternatively cursed and sympathised with us as the kids went through their Troppo Hour Swansongs at top volume. We felt better already, full of anticipation for the next day and Western Australia.

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