Posts tagged Outback Queensland

A taste of the Top End

We left Brisbane in late July, and have been keeping fairly busy since then, working, exploring and having fun on the road. I won’t try to write about everything we’ve seen and done since then; that would make for an incredibly long, boring and self indulgent post, and my brain would probably melt down from struggling to remember it all.

We’re now in the Top End, and it’s bloody HOT. After a week or so up the Queensland coast, and then five weeks working at Maronan, a cattle station in outback Queensland, I thought we were beginning to acclimatise. Not so. But more about that later.

Maronan was a pretty memorable part of the trip. Here we worked/WWOOFed, mostly doing gardening and other work in and around the house, as well as occasionally helping out with some of the cattle work on the station. It was a fascinating, and at times, really challenging place to be. After our first week there, the couple who own and run the station unexpectedly had to attend to urgent family business in Townsville, so we were left to mind the place while they were away for a week. Hours after they left, I received news that my grandmother had passed away. I really struggled with this, wanting to rush over to NZ to be with my family, but knowing that I couldn’t really leave the station. It was a really weird, difficult and totally unexpected situation, and took me some time to come to terms with.

The rest of our time there was thankfully, much more enjoyable. I became very fond of the chooks; we cuddled day old chicks, gave some of the hens a haircut, and collected a bazillion eggs.

One afternoon we rode a four-wheeler motorbike and helped take a big mob of cattle back out, after they’d all been vaccinated that morning. Another day, we watched Colin do a ‘killer’ – that is, shoot one of the heifers for meat, and then skin and gut it. A few days later, Oli and I helped to cut it up.

In our time off, we went fossicking for garnets, or went out stargazing with our little telescope. Oli taught me to ride a small dirtbike, starting with laps up and down the big red dirt airstrip, and eventually graduating to rides further afield on the massive property.

But after five weeks in one spot, we had itchy feet again and couldn’t wait to hit the road and see some new things. Darwin was the next destination on our to-do list.

If you’re ever driving from Brisbane to Townsville, or from Townsville to Darwin, expect long stretches of road with bugger-all in the way of scenery. That nothingness is stunning in its own way, but when you’ve lived most of your life in a city or reasonable-sized town, I think that sense of isolation and distance can be kind of scary. On the coast, it’s cane sugar as far as you can see. In outback QLD/NT, it’s acres upon acres of grass, spinifex and the odd willy-willy thrown in for a bit of excitement.

So arriving in Mataranka after the long drive from Cloncurry was like finding an oasis in the desert, and Bitter Springs thermal pools were just what I needed. Crystal clear water, at the perfect temperature.

We made friends with a couple who lived just around the corner from us in Newtown, so we spent a couple of nights hanging out with them before we made our own way up to Darwin. Oli and I decided we had to check out Litchfield National Park on the way up, and were rewarded with beautiful waterfalls, bushwalks and more crystal clear swimming spots.

Obviously, the further north we’ve come, the hotter it’s become. We’re now in Kakadu National Park, and have spent the last few days trying to stay out of the sun. The park is huge, and the landscapes here so diverse, from wetlands to tidal flats and estuaries, stone escarpments to monsoon forests. The place is teeming with wildlife. We’ve seen so many crocs, as well as gorgeous birds galore,frill-necked lizards, a snake, a long-neck turtle, wallabies, and possibly half of the 200 species of flies that can be found in Kakadu.

And it’s a spiritual kind of place. We’ve seen ancient rock art at Ubirr and Anbangbang and learnt about Mimi spirits and local Dreaming stories about how the landscape came to be. Last night at a bush camping spot we sat outside listening to some music and watching the stars, then slept with the back door of the van open all night, so we could feel the cool evening breeze. I woke a couple of times to the sound of animals scurrying around nearby and could see the moon shining down. Just magic.

This part of the trip will stay with me forever. It’s been unforgettable.

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