50Km down the dirt road was Tunnel Creek which is a picturesque cave with a river running through it. As it was fairly dry we could wade through the river complete with bats, fish, freshwater crustaceans and lizards. In the evening we made it back to a tarmac road and headed towards the famous Bungle Bungles (Purnululu). This was were we had our first major near miss with animals on the road. A cow this time rather than a roo. We’ve seen lots of roos hanging around by the roadside but they haven’t jumped in front of us yet. This cow was clearly fed up with life and it took a severe swerve and floored brake to avoid him. Australia - too lazy to build fences. On Tuesday we reached the 50Km dirt road that leads to the Bungles. There was a warning sign that said we’d have to do some river crossings but they should only be 50cm deep at most. What a lie this was! The first one we sank into so deep that the water filled up the head lights. Amazingly the engine handled it ok and got us through with a bit of sputtering on the other side until it dried out. Changing to a points distributor clearly paid off there. Another 50Km of corrugations, steep hills with creeks at the bottom and blind corners and we were in an offroad heaven as the huge buildup of mud on the Landy testified. Eventually we made it in to the national park and headed down to do the Cathedral Gorge walk. I’m not going to bother with a wordy description of the Bungles. The photos will do that better than I can but suffice to say they are worth the trip and are easily the best thing in Western Australia. We camped in the park and the next morning signed up for a helicopter ride over some areas of the park that are restricted to walkers. I wasn’t so keen when I saw that the chopper was tiny and had no doors but once we were up it was pure quality. Afterwards we did the Echinda Chasm walk which was good but not on a par with the Cathedral Gorge. Then it was back on the dirt road out and heading north until we crossed the border into the Northern Territory. On the way up to Darwin we started to see our first cane toads but nowhere near as many as we expected to see. We passed through the small town of Adelaide River which has the water buffalo from Crocodile Dundee stuffed in a bar but more interesting is the massive croc they have stuffed outside. We reached Darwin late in the night and parked down by the shore after a quick scout of the town. Of course we got woken by the council the next morning saying we couldn’t camp there but the obvious fact that we already had was clearly lost on them. Darwin was a nice city but an unwelcome return to the tropical climate for us. It has a lot more life than Perth though and good bars with cheerful punters so we spent Friday exploring it. On Saturday we drove into Kakadu national park and signed up for a tour of the Ranger Uranium Mine. It was a much smaller-scale operation than I expected but informative although they did gloss over what they were going to do with the tailings after they’d mined all the uranium. Afterwards we went to look at some Aboriginal rock art. It was pretty rum to look at but is interesting for the sheer age of some of it (20,000 years). Luckily the park rangers are too lazy to work weekends and we got to camp for free. It was here that our erstwhile companion Mr Clayton discovered the joy of tropical areas - mosquitos. Waking up with over 100 bites all over his body and with the best impression of a baboons bottom that I’ve ever had the misfortune to witness provided me and Richard (who take elaborate precautions with mossies) with great amusement and the victim with a lesson he won’t forget anytime soon. On Sunday we took a boat cruise down the Yellow river and spotted alot of birds - darters, Jacana (Jesus bird), herons and the massive Jabiru. We headed out a dirt track to see a scenic water spot in the evening but the corrugations were so bad that they shook a wire loose from the keyswitch and left us motionless beside a bush fire that the rangers had just started. After a hour sweating behind the dashboard (Landrover keyswitch is in a really awkward position to reach) I had it fixed but was in no mood to drive any more corrugated roads so we slung hook and started the long, long drive through the Northern Territory.
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Dwyer Rooney's excellent blog from our London to Sydney Adventure