A lie in while out on tour! A 5.30am wake up call WITH time for a shower after a sticky night with mosquitos pestering us.
For a change, I WASN’T bitten. This was astounding though to be fair, I had enough bites from the previous day for this to be a moot point.
Nella had drawn the mosquito attention and she swore vengeance on waking up.
I actually didn’t fancy the mosquitos’ chances.
As we travelled further North the landscape was becoming lush. There had been substantial amounts of rainfall over the previous weeks.
Jack had told us that the trees would be taller as we drive further up the Stuart Highway. He was right – it was more like driving through forest than the scrub by bush we had seen further South.
After almost an hour on the road, the truck demanded another Diesel Pollution Filter process, though it had only been 500km since the last one.
We entertained ourselves by reading hair-raising signage.
Once the temperamental truck was dealt with we stopped briefly at Elliot before continuing on for another hour and a half to another traditional Outback pub.
It was around 200 miles up the road from where we had camped when I realised that I had left my towel back at the cattle station where we had slept the night before.
What a muppet.
The first rule of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy is always know where your towel is.
Technically I do. It’s probably still hung up on the shower door of the campsite bathrooms… but it was supposed to be folded up in my rucksack.
I knew I could pick one up in Darwin but I had another night’s camping with the tour ‘towel’ provided. It was only the size of face cloth.
As we reached the pub, Jack pulled up on the roadside to point out another wedge tailed eagle.
While we were here he pointed out that the trees alongside the road were mahogany, imported from Africa by the mining companies to landscape the area after they had finished excavations.
The trees thrive in the humidity but don’t do well in the cyclones as they don’t put out expansive root systems here and are easily toppled.
We reached the pub in the town of Daly Waters, population: 8.
It’s not the oldest pub in Australia but is the pub with the longest continuing lease, since it opened in 1930. There is still a requirement to have a pole to tether horses to.
We quite enjoyed the junk shop with its collection of Harley-Davidson and Indian motorcycles. I was less sure about the giant crocodiles on the ceiling.
I’m fairly certain it wasn’t real.
If it was a fair indication of actual size, I wouldn’t be heading into the water a time soon and, speaking of which, the scheduled kayaking trip would not be taking place…an explosion in the crocodile population.
That cancellation was absolutely fine by me.
We paused at Larrimah for Jack to recount a brief story of a whodunit that Agatha Christie would be proud to have written. It’s got pies, scones (of the Devonshire variety) and bitterness.
Larrimah: Population, 12
Every day, for ten years, Paddy went to the pub. It’s called the Pink Panther. This is a story that just gets better and better.
One day, Paddy didn’t show up for his pint.
The second day, when he didn’t appear, the publican went to Paddy’s house. The door was swinging open and Paddy’s keys were on the table with his wallet.
Everyone in the town was under suspicion.
At least five people were in competition in selling pies: the publican, the post office, the old lady across the road, another neighbour and Paddy.
If this wasn’t causing enough friction, Paddy also had a long running feud with the old lady across the road, Fran.
She also sold scones for Devonshire tea and as any right minded person knows, scones should be served Cornish style – jam first, not cream.
When I say feud, Paddy used to remove the penises from horses killed on the road and nail them to her front door.
Fran also had to contend with her estranged husband who had moved three hundred miles away to Darwin, bought a caravan and returned to Larrimah, parking it at the back of the pub… so the first thing Fran sees every morning is her husband.
What did I say about bitterness featuring?
So, Paddy was reported missing and, as mentioned, everyone in Larrimah was a suspect.
In trying to establish the friendship groups in the village, the police asked everybody: so, who would you have pint with with?
Answer from EVERYONE: Nobody.
They all detested each other.
As we pulled out of Larrimah, Jack mentioned that we were now out of the desert and in crocodiles country.
Maybe Paddy was bumped off and fed to a crocodile, I wondered.
“Well, the cops thought about that too so they drained the pool at the back of the pub to check he hadn’t been fed to the pub’s croc,” said Jack.
The publican had apparently said: “Aw, Sammy wouldn’t eat anyone.”
Did he know that because they had tried to get him to eat someone?
And speaking crocs we were off for a swim in the Mataranka Thermal Pools.
Freshwater crocodiles will generally avoid humans but swimming at Mataranka is in designated pools only. So the most minimum of risks of bumping into one.
The waters were crystal clear and jumping in on what had been a very hot day was incredibly refreshing.
From the charmingly named Bitter Springs, we headed towards our evening’s campsite at Katherine to set up our accommodation before heading onto Katherine’s Gorge to watch sunset.
Beer would not be joining us.