The North (a mechanical and crocodile nightmare!)
Places: Fitzroy Crossing-Halls Creek-Kununurra-Unknown roadside stop-Katherine-Pine Creek-Darwin-Elliot-Camooweal-Hughensen-Cairns
We had done near to 10,000kms on our trip so we booked Mazie in for a good service and dragged ourselves away from Broome and headed for Darwin.
Our first stop was a place called Fitzroy Crossing which unfortunately had very little to offer so we thought we’d plough on towards the next town (4 hours away). Mazie on the other hand, didn’t fancy that idea as less than an hour further on she decided to lose power every now and again. We were literally in the middle of nowhere so we stopped by the roadside, had a good ‘look’ under the hood and decided to continue. No more than 10km later Mazie started to lose power again.. At this stage we were over an hour away from one town and near three to the next, and daylight was not on our side. We had no choice but to pull over for the night in a lay-by surrounded by stray cows. Remember what we said about cows in our last blog? Well you’ve got to laugh!
After a worry fueled night we headed back to Fitzroy Crossing in pursuit of a mechanic (although Mazie had decided to start behaving herself again). Just as we pulled into the ‘town’ it suddenly occurred to us that it was Saturday. Nothing opens on a Saturday in this part of the world!! The whole place was a ghost town. We certainly didn’t want to stay in this place for a whole weekend and as Mazie seemed cherpier we made tracks for the next town. Needless to say two hours later, Mazie started playing up again. We were stuck between a rock and a hard place. Do we continue, or go back? We chose to continue.. We thought Mazie must be overheating so in the 43 degree heat there we were, windows down, blasting the heaters. Jamie was in some sort of heat coma and communication with him was pretty non-existent. We made it to Halls Creek (some hours later).
Halls Creek was worse than the town before! The only place open was the petrol garage. We drove around in the hope that we would find a nice mechanic that would be open on a Saturday (we were hoping for a miracle!). We did however find one mechanic who had a mobile number stuck to his closed sign. Amazing!! Until we realised we had no signal on our phones.. So off we trundled to find a pay phone. Jamie took ages trying to persuade the man at the garage for some change to use the phone and after eventually succeeding the man informed us the pay phone was out of order! Surprisingly he wouldn’t let us use his phone, nor did the motel down the road, or anyone else we happened to stumble across. We were literally at our wits end in such heat! Until, in this town of nothingness, we found a public swimming pool (very random and very deserted). And it was open! Charlotte literally pleaded with the man to use the phone and he said yes! Within 10 minutes of making a quick call, our knight in shinning armour arrived! In fact he was a skinny man, with bleached hair, named Steve. He had a look at Mazie and us told we shouldn’t drive any further until he could have a good look at her, and that wouldn’t be until Monday. He also told us that if Mazie needed a part it would take a good week to get to Halls Creek. A WEEK?!?! So we were stuck, in a place we have later learnt to be called as Hells Crack by Western Aussies, for the weekend. Humph.
Monday morning came and we made sure we were outside the mechanics at eight o’clock on the dot. We thought we’d waste some time in a cafe or at the library whilst Mazie was in the mechanics but there was a huge power cut in the whole ‘town’ and everything was (again) closed. Instead we sat under a tree in the rain! Some hours later we receive a phone call (we’d manage to change networks!) Awaiting with bated breath Jamie took the call which consisted of ‘hi, yeah, ok, bye’. So.. ‘How’s Mazie?’, ‘Is she fixed?’, Do they need to order a part?’, ‘How much has it cost?’. Jamie replied ‘I dunno, didn’t ask..’. Men!! In no time we were back in Mazie and were told she was fixed and we could leave this horrible town!
So off we headed to Kununurra, a four hour drive away which promised civilisation! This region is called the Kimberly’s, a remote part of Western Australia with absolutely stunning, mountainous scenery. We were enjoying the drive and felt relieved that Mazie back on the road again. Halfway into our journey though, yes you guess it, Mazie starting playing up, again! This time we weren’t going back! So once again we made the journey going at nearly half speed with the heating blaring through the radiator. It was not fun!
The following day we luckily found a very nice mechanic who knew what he was doing this time, and he had the part Mazie needed in stock! The poor man got ridiculed by the two of us after being paranoid we’d break down again. Once again Mazie was back on the road and we could now enjoy what this region had to offer; discovering beautiful waterfalls and lovely walks.
We left Kununurra and made the 6 hour drive to Katherine, and we made it with no hiccups!! Katherine and the surrounding areas were beautiful with lots to see and do. Our first stop were the Hot Springs; even 30 degrees made these hot springs refreshing in the blistering heat. Once cooled down we jumped back into Mazie with the intent on going to Katherine Gorge. Only Mazie didn’t want to start.. We waited, tried again, but nothing.. Agh!! This time we had to call the RAC out and Mazie was towed to a nearby mechanic. We were just thankful this didn’t happen in the middle of nowhere.
Nonetheless we encountered the most horrible women in Australia who we now refer to as The Wicked Witch of The North (the receptionist at the garage). She was so rude and then basically told us they were too busy to look at our van as it was getting close to the weekend (it was Thursday) and couldn’t possibly give us any indication whether they’d look at her this week. All of a sudden, we had no van and no home! Fortunately our insurance paid for a motel (with air-con!) for the night and a hire car for the following day. Phew!
The next day we took off in our shiny new hire car – it was very novel not being overtaken by everyone else on the road – and visited Edith Falls. If you don’t know this all ready, the waters in the North of Oz is full of Saltwater Crocs! These beasts haven’t really evolved from the dinosaur age as theyre already the perfect killing machine. Apparently they can sense a humans heart beat from over half a mile off and we heard some pretty horrific horror stories. What made it worse is that the Aussie’s are scared of them (the Aussie’s aren’t scared of anything)! So whilst the lower pool of Edith Falls had a giant sign exclaiming ‘NO SWIMMING, SALTWATER CROCODILES PRESENT’. We decided to give the ‘open’ and empty top pool a miss!
We then spent the afternoon in Katherine Gorge which was stunning! Here we actually did swim as we were assured it was safe to do so. Some school children were more hesitant than we were, asking the guide over and over if there were any ‘Salties’. He replied ‘if there were, those two in the water would be gone!’. Great!! Needless to say a Freshwater Croc was spotted just around the corner when we got out, but don’t worry these ones are ‘safe’. Hmm..
Throughout the day we had one thing on the back of our minds ‘poor Mazie Bongo’ stuck in the garage. We had many conversations with the wicked witch who’s responses to our enquiries after Mazie were: ‘dunno love’, ‘can’t see it happen’in this week’, ‘who knows’. Agh!! Needless to say a friendly mechanic phoned us up at the end of the day to let us know we could pick her up! A new fuel pump and a fair bit lighter in the pocket, we were once again back on the road!
Well that’s what we thought.. We soon discovered at the petrol garage up the road that our fuel gauge was now broken and our fuel tank was leaking. We were well and truly DONE! Oh and you guessed it, it was 5pm on a Friday night. We were furious!!
This was not, however, going to stop us continuing to Darwin! We set off early the following morning and our first destination was Litchfield National Park. Here we swam in the most beautiful waterfalls! For the first time we were relieved that these tourist attractions were busy – crocs on the brain! We were in the Northern Territory during their wet season; this is when the dreaded salties are on the move. Meaning the waterfall pools stay open until a croc is spotted. Let’s just say we had our wits about us the WHOLE time!
Coming out unscathed, we finally made it to Darwin! And it was HOT!! 40 something degrees with 90% humidity proved quite uncomfortable in a van.. Oh and did we mention there are crocs in the North? In the sea?! No swimming for us! After hearing only negative reports of Darwin we weren’t too optimistic. However, it may have been because we hadn’t seen familiar civilisation for a while, but we actually really liked this very small ‘city’!
We thought, after having nightmares about crocs, we should go see these beasts in the flesh. So we booked to go on a croc cruise… Here, on the Adelaide river we saw tens of saltwater crocs, the biggest being over 4 meters! It was amazing at first until we realised we were in a pretty small boat, surrounded by man-eating crocs. We both felt pretty nauseas and couldn’t wait to get onto solid ground. It was an incredible experience but it definitely didn’t cure our nightmares!
8am, Monday morning and we were back in Katherine, back at the mechanics. The look on the wicked witches face was priceless! After another wasted morning and the witch quite literally slinging our keys at us we were on our way again! (Fortunately they admitted fault and rectified the problems. Well kind of!)
Our next destination was the East Coast which meant crossing the whole of oz once again.. This trip took 4 days and some serious driving. The driving was pretty bleak and we barely saw a sole during the two days it took to get to the Queensland border. We did however witness the most spectacular and terrifying storms and at one point we had no choice but to literally drive into the eye of the storm. Never have we seen lightening strike so close! Another great experience we don’t want to repeat.. As we crossed the border into Queensland there was a huge sign reading ‘adjust watches forward by 5 years’. And how true that sign was! We thought we had arrived in a new world. There was civilisation every 20 minutes! Wow! The landscape and climate also changed from dry and dusty to lush green and rainforest.
We arrived in Cairns in one piece and went out to celebrate – we’d made it back to the East Coast! Walking into the town we were almost hit by culture shock! Shops, bars, clubs, restaurants, tour agencies and souvenirs galore! And no one waved back to us whilst we were driving! Oh was this the end of our tour of outback Australia?!
Positive lessons: there is something worse than an unreliable car.. An unreliable mechanic!
Next stop Noosa..!
Love Charlotte & Jamie x x