170721 Free Sprit Resort, Darwin
I settle in to Free Spirit Resort, again. Just over the road, rather conveniently, is National Storage where a pallet of my gear collected over the last 18 months is ensconced. By now Free Spirit and I have a relationship and once again I end up under the large shady trees on the back fence well away from the road and well near the pool and camp kitchen.
Come nightfall it’s typically tropical dark, enough so that I can surreptitiously pee against the bushes lining the chain-link fence. Given Australia has no shortage of instant death even I use a headlamp to ensure nothing’s curled up on the ground hoping to ambush something.
Sure enough, there’s nothing on the ground but there is something entwining its way through the buses – a banded tree snake. Stunningly beautiful animal.
Down Roystonea Ave, left onto the Channel Island Road, left onto Jenkins, right on Fink and arrow straight past an alarming number of burnt out car-wrecks to Berry Springs, one of the ‘must visit’ sights around Darwin and indeed the Top End. Whilst enjoying an ice coffee and a sammy, a grey-haired good looking dude and dudette starts talking with me. Locals, they give me the rundown on Berry Springs, ask the usual questions then deliver one of those ‘I’m not worthy moments’ when he tells me he rode a bike from Darwin to Perth in the late 70s, decades before it ever became fashionable. I willingly acknowledge awesomeness when I meet it. A truly remarkable tale and feat, especially since he and his companion were under significant time duress and were hardly cyclists before they began.
Julie and Peter offer to host me for the night once I’ve enjoyed the Springs. I look forward to it.
Berry Springs is like a vast natural water park with several large pools interconnected by gently flowing streams the intrepid can float along. An expansive grassed picnic area with free-BBQs and plenty of shade make Berry Springs a favoured recreation area for Darwinites and tourists alike. The sign at the entrance to the carpark says it all: ‘If the carpark’s full, Berry Springs is crowded. Please come back later’. I don’t find out if its full or not, although there’s plenty of vehicles, coz I ride along one of the paths leading towards the springs themselves.
It’s busy but there’s plenty of space. Crocodiles, I am reassured, have been cleared from the springs. Although there is always a risk a newcomer has snuck in again.
After a swim, I make lunch and basically chillout, watching and listening to kids play and the sophisticated performance of a full-blown Aussie BBQ for a sizeable group. A lovely experience.
Afterwards I make my way to Julie and Peter’s place.
J&P’s place reminds me of the possibilities Australia, and in particular the Top End, offer. Spacious house, expansive grounds, below ground swimming pool, oodles of verdant plants, kangaroos and a plethora of other animals crawling about. “We don’t have a dog so we can have the wildlife around” Jullie explains.
Truly wonderful people. Great food, beers, smokes. The night was long and a lot of fun. The Best Of Australia.
Mind you, not long after breakfast – OK, brunch – I begin to suspect I should have followed my instinctive thoughts of sitting today out. Either one more night at J&Ps or in the local caravan park. I can earnestly state that a hangover and a warm humid day whilst riding is not a good combination.
Right out the driveway on the Cox Peninsular Road until Tumbling Waters – aren’t the names here great? – then down the Darwin River Road until Darwin River Dam where I turn onto the gravel Old North Australian Railway.
Passed vast mango farms and perhaps the best use yet for a Mercedes with a sunroof. It’s not spectacular country. But it’s pretty much devoid of traffic and very pleasant. Except for the hangover experience.
The Rum Jungle uranium mine provides a challenge when I zig instead of zag and find myself facing off against a chainlink gate. Backtrack a bit, follow the track along the fence line, cross a cleared patch of land until I can turn left on another gravel road and eventually onto the Rum Jungle Road and into Batchelor. A quick stop for some much-needed energy and pick-me-up food and continue heading south towards Adelaide River along Coach Road.
I make the mistake of checking into the Adelaide River Caravan Park because they again give me a spot next to the industrial cooling unit of Digger’s Bistro, fully exposed to the sound of the enormous road-trains plying the Stuart Highway. Knowing what’s coming I get a refund and ride two kilometres along Dorat Road to the Adelaide River Show Caravan Park. Lacking the juicy grass covering and the surround-sound shade but definitely gaining on ambience and chill-out. Both have a swimming pool.
A dude in an RV invites me to BBQ and a couple of beers and we talk long about the joys and sorrows of a nomadic life. Thanks mate.
It’s like 15km to Robin Falls and my next destination. The road is scenic, winding with rolling hills. I’m in much better shape and enjoy the ride immensely.
Australia presents a unique perspecitve on fire-risk and management. Early ‘winter’ – that is the cooler dry-period – vast tracts of the country are deliberately set alight. The spectacle is quite disturbing. It’s hard for me to believe it’s good for overall biodiversity values. It’s also somewhat incongruous when compared to the plethora of creativity put into encouraging people to be fire-aware, through endless signs and warnings.
Even by bike-speed it does not take me long to get here and I have choice of camp place remaining from those already here. I choose one not far from the road where the George Creek offer perfect shallow pools in which to languish.
A family are enjoying the falls themselves and one of the kids braves the bracing falls though an “It’s cold” can be clearly heard.
Back at my campsite I’m studying the sun, the trees and the ground trying to work out where to put my tent. I decide to wait to make my decision.
Mr Fucking HUGE Landcruiser + caravan appears and asks if he can join. Plenty of room. Sure. The fucker then lines his rig broadside along the creek. I’ve a Landcruiser grill half a meter from where I wanna put my tent. Not content with this I approach the gentleman and express my concern. He’s quite surprised that I’m troubled by sleeping half a metre from his grill. “Ya can tie off ‘gainst mi roobar if ya want. I don’t mind” he tells me. I am fully prepared to move his rig myself but ask him sort of politely. And he does. Can’t say he does it graciously but he does.
Dorat Road continues pleasantly winding its way some 60km to Hayes Creek. Another laid back simple campsite and roadhouse. The last six kilometres are along the infamous Stuart Highway, but fortunately there’s little traffic.
As I settle into my camp routine I’m entertained by a dove enjoying a shower from a sprinkler. Tomorrow I take on the Hayes Creek – Pine Creek Road. A hot dusty gravel road which enables me to avoid eighty kilometres along the Stuart.