28 June 2021 – drive Alice Springs to Tennant Creek, NT – 5hrs, 508 km
Today we are driving to Tennant Creek. Before we leave on that part of the journey I need to bring you up to date with how our lives have changed since yesterday.
We’ve now found out that we cannot cross back into WA unless we have somewhere to self isolate for 14 days and then continue our trip. This is not possible as the only place we know of in Kununurra, which is the nearest place to the WA/NT border, which caters for self isolation is fully booked until September 2021. Friends in Broome [thank you Liz and Chris] tried to help us, but things were just too messy to proceed down that road – literally and metaphorically.
And so, Plan C has been hatched. We’ve abandoned most of the remainder of the road trip. We’ve booked a flight from Alice Springs (AS) to Perth, and made arrangements to send our Jeep back to WA by truck. Friends in Perth will let us self isolate on the bottom floor of their house. Perfect! [Thank you Martin and Michele.]
Also, before leaving AS today, we cancelled all accommodation and activities we had arranged for the West Australian leg of the trip. All providers were fantastic, understanding, and refunded any monies that had been paid in advance.
Again, we were sad to be cancelling the remainder of the trip, however we knew the risk before leaving home, and we are thankful to be healthy and safe.
Several other unexpected things have also occurred that also meant the best decision was to return home early, one of them being that we have received an offer to purchase our house, and it would be useful to have the extra time to pack, etc.
The flight to Perth does not leave until Saturday 3 July (in 6 days time), so we have decided to make the trip to Katherine for a couple of days then return to AS to catch the flight.
Before leaving AS we booked accommodation for our return on the night of 2 July 2021.
After completing all of the admin work associated with the trip changes, we ended up leaving AS mid afternoon, which is later than we would have liked. We crossed the Tropic of Capricorn 31km north of AS, made a short stop at the Barrow Creek Pub and met the resident puss and pooch, called Tiger, and Thomas respectively. It always buoys our spirits to have an animal encounter. Back on the road and the sun was getting low…
We are not fond of driving at dusk/night as we are constantly on the lookout for kangaroos, and other animals that may be crossing the road. There were frequent road side signs warning to watch out for wandering stock. Fortunately, all was well.
96km south of Tennant Creek – in the darkness – I could make out some large ball shaped objects near the roadside and commented to Michael that we must be passing the Devils Marbles/Karlu Karlu and that I hoped we would see them properly when we headed back to AS in a few days time.
We arrived in Tennant Creek at about 7.30pm, and checked into the Safari Lodge Motel. The receptionist checked where we had travelled from that day. Everyone is mindful of potential Covid infection.
29 June 2021 – drive Tennant Creek to Katherine, NT – 7hrs, 675km
Before setting off for Katherine, we went in search of the IGA to get supplies for lunch. We first found the burned out shell of the former IGA, and then the temporary IGA out the back of one of the service stations. Challenging for the community to have lost such an important part of daily life. The security guard told me that “some stupid kids” had set the IGA on fire.
As we headed further north anthills of various shapes and sizes could be seen on the roadside and beyond. Previous passers by have “dressed” some of the anthills in T-shirts, caps, glasses etc. From a distance it was easy to be fooled that there was – for instance – a mother and child standing at the roadside. Or, do I need to get my eyes checked? 😊 Check out this ABC article for a little more information.
We could feel the rise in temperature as we headed further north – the down jackets were put into the back of the Jeep. This is the first warm weather we’ve had since leaving home – yay! Summer clothes, for a few days at least.
Comms are often non existent in the outback, and at best sporadic. We usually use Optus as our mobile service provider – additionally – for this trip, we also purchased a Telstra sim, thinking we would have reasonable coverage at all times. This was not to be so.
Unbeknownst to us the Katherine accommodation had been trying to contact us to check, 1. If we were still coming, and, 2. Where we were coming from. However, we had not been in range of any comms towers to receive calls or messages whilst en route that day.
We were very happy to arrive at the Pine Tree Motel for a two-night stay. They were happy that we had come from the south.
Katherine was sunny and warm – on with the shorts and T-shirts.
30 June 2021 – Katherine, NT
We went on a boat cruise in Nitmiluk National Park. The cruise took us into two of the 13 gorges in Nitmiluk Gorge (formerly known as Katherine Gorge). This is a very pleasant trip – the tour guide was very entertaining, and informative. We cruised the first gorge, disembarked the boat, then walked an easy 200m, and got into another boat and cruised the next gorge. We reversed this process on the return journey.
Travelling by boat in amongst the majestic sandstone gorges is wonderful. Evidence of waterfalls could be seen, however at this time of the year they are not flowing. We passed quite a few people travelling in canoes, and we also saw hikers from time to time.
We were very excited, and interested, to see a Johnstone’s River Crocodile – also known as a freshie, or freshwater crocodile. We were told that the larger, saltwater crocodiles (salties), are unable to get into this part of the gorge during the dry season (May-October). I wonder if the salties know that…
Shortly after returning to our accommodation we heard that the Darwin lockdown had been extended.
Also, we heard the news that Alice Springs had gone into a three day lock down, ie until 1.00 pm on Saturday 3 July. Our flight was due to leave from AS at 1210 on Saturday. OMG, what did this mean for our flight home? This is more like being on a rollercoaster than a road trip.
We decided to continue with our plan to return to AS.
In amongst all of this, Michael realised that we could in fact self isolate at home in Bunbury, and that we could travel by hire car from Perth Airport to Bunbury provided relevant procedures were adhered to. A hire car was arranged for collection from Perth airport.
Michael also organised the transport of the Jeep to WA by truck.
I contacted our AS accommodation to say we were still coming and that we were booked to fly out on Saturday, but really we had no idea what would actually happen. The accommodation people were very understanding and booked us in for 1-3 nights and said we could cancel/extend as necessary. Thank you Alice on Todd Apartments.