Top End: Part Two

Our travels through the Northern Territory began with a pleasant surprise – a morning swim at Katherine Hot Springs. Before hopping in the water we were greeted with yet another crocodile safety sign. Just in case we had forgotten we were in croc country.

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Despite the warm weather so early in the morning, the hot springs felt like a luxury. In most parts of the world, you would have to pay a premium to swim in a natural hot spring, surrounded by lush palm and gum trees, and yet here it was, free for all the public to use.

The stream looked almost completely still, but it had a surprising current running underneath the surface. As I was paddling around, I unexpectedly went down a little rock slide like an otter. After that I let myself be carried downstream, and around the corner.

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Expecting to find a moment of peace while surrounded by nature, it was such a disappointment to see that the stream around the bend was where all the trash and litter from previous spring users had collected. Sometimes you regret your explorations. Getting back to the group was more challenging than it would have appeared, that subtle downstream current was really strong.


Reluctant to leave Katherine Hot Springs, we had another long drive ahead. There wasn’t much ahead or behind except red dirt and blue skies.

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As we came up on the Northern Territory/Western Australia border, I was struck by how I had made nearly a full loop around the country, and visited all the states except Tasmania.

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We stopped at the office for Lake Argyle Cruises. Some of the group wanted to go on a sunset tour (not in my budget unfortunately), and there we met the friendliest dog in the world. She was a total sweetheart, and almost hopped onto the bus with us when we left.

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It turned out for the best that I did not go on the sunset boat tour. A small handful of us stayed back at camp, and instead hung out in what is surely one of the best swimming pools in the world.

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We wanted to find somewhere spectacular to watch the sunset from, and we were not at all disappointed. After a bit of nervous tramping straight through the bush uphill, praying there were no snakes hidden to attack our ankles (somehow we didn’t notice the actual road that led up the hill), we popped out at a fantastic lookout. As we stood in the quiet and watched the cliffs that surrounded the lakes go red, we were awed by the size of Lake Argyle, and how it could possibly be man-made.

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That night, I slept in a swag for the first time. For anyone not up with their Australian terms, a swag is like a one-person tent. Made of canvas. I chose my spot based on the morning view I wanted, and because of the heat, I decided to sleep on top of my swag instead of inside it. On top of my sleeping bag, with a balled up hoodie as a pillow and my trusty sarong as a sheet – this is how I slept for the remainder of the trip.

In the middle of the night I felt a few raindrops on my face, and half-asleep, crawled inside of the swag, and zipped it up above my head. The stiff canvas held it up from pressing directly on my face and I fell back to sleep. It could have been four minutes or four hours later when the sky really opened up. The coated canvas was keeping me dry, but the rain just kept getting harder. Over the storm I could hear people moving around, calling to each other and putting up tents.

“I’ll count to 100, and if the rain hasn’t started easing up, I’ll get out and put up a tent” I thought to myself.

I counted to 50 and it only got harder. As I stumbled toward the bus to get a tent, I could see some fellow campers were staying dry by dragging their swags under the bus itself. Our tour guide had helped everyone else put up their tent quickly in the night, and came over to help me too. As we finished with the very last clip, the rain stopped immediately. This is my luck. My swag was still dry inside, so I went back to sleep inside it, just beside my new tent.

There was no glorious sunset that morning, but it didn’t detract from my morning view at all.

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After a quick breakfast and tent break-down, we were off on the big drive again. I learned something that morning: when life presents you with a rum tasting at 9am at a place called “The Hoochery”, sometimes there’s nothing else to do but taste all the rum.

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It was another long day of driving. The landscape of The Kimberly is stunning, and awe-inspiring, but dirty bus windows unfortunately don’t leave much for decent photos. The tour stopped for lunch at a rest stop on the side of the highway.

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During our lunch break we were entertained by some of the local wildlife: a brumby (Australian wild horse) and her foal, some gorgeous parrots, and the largest bull I have ever seen. The brumbies were like no horse I had ever seen, not tall, with solid bodies and a really long neck. The foal was skittish at first, but began to ignore me once it realised I was not a threat.

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Momma horse was watchful, content to let me stand at a distance. When she got annoyed with my attention, she looked me dead in the eye and slowly began to walk straight at me. It wasn’t aggressive, but the message was there, “go away”.

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The parrots had come by to have a drink from the puddle we had created at the public tap. Their bright colours felt out of place in the parched landscape.

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On the other side of the parking lot was the largest animal I had ever seen outside of a zoo: a massive bull. Because so much of Western Australia’s roads cut through cattle stations, these guys are free to roam the massive properties wherever they want, sometimes bringing them right up onto the road, or into the shade of a big tree near a service station. He showed no sign of interest in us, but we all kept our distance.

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After lunch we all hopped back in the bus and began the drive to Purnululu. Commonly known as the Bungle Bungles, it was the main reason I wanted to come on this tour. And what a beautiful and strange landscape it turned out to be.

24 Comment

  1. Lake Argyle looks incredible and I love the location of the hot spring. I know so little about traveling around Australia, but your post inspired me!

    1. lmartin says: Reply

      I absolutely recommend traveling Australia to anyone, it is such an amazing (and big!) country. Especially the northwestern corner called The Kimberley – it makes you feel so small!

  2. Despite being an Aussie I have sadly seen a lot more of the world than of my own country. The NT has to be way at the top of my Aussie travel list and, with photos as stunning as yours, it isn’t hard to see why!! Living in Guatemala I am so homesick for a tropical storm – those ten minutes or so of intense rain followed by sunshine and rainbows. There is nothing like it. Next time I go home, I will have to explore more! Thanks for re-inspiring me to see Australia!

    1. lmartin says: Reply

      I think its quite common to have seen more of somewhere else than your own home, especially because we both hail from such large countries. I have met quite a number of Australians who have seen more of Canada than I have! I’m glad you enjoyed the pictures, I hope you get up there some day! I would really like to go back and get more into the NT, it is such a special place in the world.

  3. Joanna says: Reply

    Hi
    Thank you for this post – it’s a great read and your photos have just made me want to visit Northern Territory!

    1. lmartin says: Reply

      Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it, The Kimberly is one of my favourite places on Earth 🙂

  4. You got me at the crocodile swim. You mean REAL swim with REAL crocodiles?? Really? You are SOOOOO brave if that’s what you really did. Impressive!!

    1. lmartin says: Reply

      Haha, not quite that brave! Our tour guide was messing with us at first, but then he explained: when the Dry season comes around and the rivers drop, the park rangers trap all of the crocodiles and move them downstream. Because of their little legs, they can’t climb back up all the waterfalls that get created in the gorge until the Wet season when the rivers fill back up. He said they were 98% sure they got them all, but it was still a bit of a nervous swim!

  5. Amazing! I’m from Australia and am yet to thoroughly explore my country. The Kimberley region has long been on my to-do list and your pics are amazing!

    1. lmartin says: Reply

      Thank you! I hope you do get up there one day, it really is a special part of the world 🙂

  6. Gina says: Reply

    Your photos are absolutely stunning! I love them. I also hate people for leaving trash and making something beautiful into something not so beautiful. But I’m glad to see you had fun on the rest of your trip!

    1. lmartin says: Reply

      Thank you, I’m glad you enjoyed them 🙂 It definitely was sad to see such a gorgeous swim marred by laziness – there was a bin in the parking lot! Fortunately this doesn’t seem to be a trend in the rest of the region. It was a fantastic trip!

  7. Beautiful photos! Australia is in our bucket list. I definitely hate it when I am surrounded by beautiful nature only to find so much thrash around the corner. It’s so sad to see.

    1. lmartin says: Reply

      Thank you! You will absolutely love Australia, it is such an amazing and varied country. Usually the town councils are really good at keeping these kinds of places clean, but I guess sometimes they get backlogged cleaning up after others. If only everyone could just use the bins provided! It really is frustrating when you come across it.

  8. Wow! What a great adventure. The hot springs looked so relaxing, and as sad as all the trash is, thankfully there wasn’t a croc around that corner. Great photos to go with it all.
    Happy Traveling!

    1. lmartin says: Reply

      Oh I never even thought of that! There’s a sliver lining haha, trash instead of a crocodile! Personally I would prefer neither. Glad you enjoyed the post, cheers 🙂

  9. I really wanna visit Australia! One day I will! 🙂 Your pictures look amazing, the view when you’re in that pool is so stunning! And the friendly dog is amazing haha. Great post, have an awesome day 🙂

    adventurousmiles.com

    1. lmartin says: Reply

      Thank you! It was the best pool I’ve ever been to 🙂 I hope you make it there some day – Australia is so amazing!

  10. Wow these pictures are so beautiful. What camera did you use? Your post made me feel like I was there 🙂 I really want to go there now.

    1. lmartin says: Reply

      Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed them 🙂 I use two cameras, both of them are getting a bit old. Mostly I use a Canon t1i with a sigma 10-20mm lense, or a great little point and shoot the canon s95. They’re both going on 7 years old!
      I hope you make it there some day 🙂

  11. […] around in his seat, he could have been at a rodeo, bucking around on the back of one of those monster bulls we had seen earlier. Everyone was loving […]

  12. Heather Lovering says: Reply

    Lisa, I have a Canon with a few lenses and several filters. It’s gotta be 10 yrs old but has only been used a few times………id love to see it go to good use, if u want it u can have it on your next home visit… This is not digital though.

    1. lmartin says: Reply

      That would be fantastic, old cameras are so cool to use. They feel so much more solid 🙂

  13. […] The Top End: Part Two […]

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