It was difficult to leave Nitmiluk. Our two stays totalling five days made it our longest port of call of the trip so far.
We started our day of about 280kms with the by now familiar 35km stretch west to Katherine where we made forward bookings for our flight, cruise and accommodation in Kununurra, WA. I had the tyres rotated (front to back) and balanced but wasn't able to get an alignment because "the wheel alignment guy hurt his hand so he's having a week in Darwin with his girlfriend." No sign of obvious wear and tear after 20000kms so I'll have it done later.
By the time we cleared the 130km/h speed signs leaving Katherine, we were further west than at anytime in our lives - a boast we will continually improve in the next few weeks. Things were uneventful until we approached the Victoria River Region (helpful sign told me that). Ridges of red sandstone stood beside us constantly, no matter how we snaked across the landscape - low mountains of flat-topped consistency like old narrow pancakes stacked but left uneaten. The highway weaved through gaps where creeks and rivers had made the work of engineers easier. Finally, when relief was most needed for eyes exhausted at repeating wonders to the brain, a sudden run down through a narrow cutting and we were crossing the wide and dramatic Victoria River. Construction and its workers were busy everywhere - they are building a new bridge - and the ubiquitous roadhouse filled the far bank with caravans in various states of come and go. Yet, in five minutes, it was all abandoned landscape again, as though that packet of civilisation had been a hoped for mirage by lonely travellers.
We followed the Victoria River on and on, its steep banks below us occasionally allowing an inviting beach to tempt us into the jaws of a constant watcher, the ginga or saltwater crocodile. The saltwater tag is a misnomer as they like the still, freshwater just as much as a hunting ground. The sandy beaches were attractive collaborators. Nature takes care of its mates out here.
We stopped at Timber Creek for fuel ($2.19/L and our dearest fuel of the trip). It was only a short hop to Big Horse Creek in Gregory NP, where we camped for the night. We managed to drive up to some lookouts and take a few snaps, but neither of us had much of a heart for the exercise. Both pretty crabby with each other. The portable shower had its first run and Sue reported having a lovely hot shower. As we were setting up, three of the biggest vans I've ever seen pulled up, each pulled by giant tow vehicles with double bogey rear drives. During their set up, we were disturbed by the sound of an electric motor raising a sat dish and automatically fixing a position on the satellite. There's nothing like roughing it I guess. An excellent slide show and talk from a local Ranger helped our mood some but by the time sleep grabbed both of us, it was a relief.
289kms @ 9.61 L/100kms Costs: Katherine 167.7 c/L; Timber Creek 219.7 c/L