The journey to Katherine was only 541km, so in the grand scheme of things, it was just up the road.
We split the journey in two and arrived just after breakfast, just in time for a morning swim in the natural hot springs on the outskirts of town.
We were told at the information centre that Katherine Gorge was fully surveyed for salties, and was open for kayaking.
When we got to the gorge and lined up to pay for our permit to paddle, we were told there were still salties in the water, and it was still closed.
I can’t help but feel thankful that these two members of staff didn’t get their info muddled up. With saltwater crocodiles reaching 5m in length, with enough power to launch out of the water, they’re definitely not something I want to go kayaking with.
Instead, we headed to Litchfield National Park and went for a swim in the gorges and waterfalls that were ‘definitely’ fully surveyed.
The first stop was Buley Rockholes, a beautiful trio of natural waterholes, connected by small, but powerful waterfalls. Great for relieving tension in your shoulders.
Next was Florence Falls. Nice to look at, but definitely not our favourite. Obviously it’s a natural waterfall and creek, but beneath the water were far too many tree branches and rocks. Great for sitting and relaxing, but not really safe to swim in.
Lastly, we visited Wangi falls, one of the most spectacular waterfalls and accessible, natural swimming areas we came across.
A short climb up the rocks on the far side of the creek, just below the main waterfall, was a natural hot spa. We climbed inside and relaxed in the beautiful warm water with a group of locals, enjoying an afternoon beer.
They shared stories of crocodile sightings and creek closures, which made us a tiny bit edgy, knowing we still had to swim back.
We opted to swim back at the same time as them. You know, safety in numbers 😉
We ventured back to our campground in a small town called Batchelor, on the edge of the national park, where we met a few more travellers, all with different set-ups, creature comforts and camp styles.
We loved meeting other travellers and exchanging tips and ideas on our set-ups. Whether traveling in a van, a four wheel drive, a caravan or a fancy pants motor home, they seemed to all have their pros and cons.
(Max, hanging out with the guys)
In fact, there doesn’t seem to be a perfect set-up. When looking at fuel efficiency, towing and transporting gear on the roof is too expensive and restrictive when parking and driving on bad roads.
Camper trailers and tents seem to be too much effort, putting up and taking down every day. You also have to store all your bedding and make the bed every night. We were lucky in that our design allowed us to have our bed set up all the time, so when we were tired, we could simply stop and crawl in to bed.
Maximus was fairly fuel efficient, considering what others had been spending. Diesel was as low as $1.08 per litre and as high as $1.78 per litre. We averaged 11.2 litres per 100km. That’s not bad, considering Maximus is a brick!
We brought gerry cans with us, just in case, but thankfully didn’t need to use them. Our rule was to fill up at every service station, even if it was just a few litres. This also allowed us a quick stretch and a wash of the windscreen, after hitting billions of suicidal bugs.
We love that our bed was our proper posturepedic, king size mattress from our bed at home, along with our memory foam pillows. Creature comforts at their finest 😊
We had two house batteries, charged via an alternator, which powered our fridge/freezer. All other electrical appliances, including our electric toothbrushes, phones, cameras, laptop and air conditioner, were powered by an inverter, running off the two house batteries, stored inside our homemade inverter box, which doubled as a mini kitchen bench.
Most mornings we would heat a saucepan of water on a butane stovetop burner, which we use to make fresh coffee and do the washing up after breakfast. We did, however, bring a small kettle and toaster, but we thought that would be cheating 😉
On rainy days, we still had enough room to cook, clean and entertain ourselves inside the van, watching a DVD or planning the next leg of our trip. There’s enough space above the bed to sit-up, leaving enough space below the bed to store our two kayaks and all our gear.
At the foot of the bed was our 120 litre fridge/freezer, the inverter box, which provided a workbench for the stovetop burner and small kitchen set-up, a portable toilet (only for nights when we really needed to pee, but were clearly surrounded by mosquitos and/or crocodiles!).
This left us with enough room to stand and either get changed, cook or get stuff out from under the bed.
So, what was under the bed you might be asking? Most importantly, we couldn’t have done an Australia by Kayak trip without our amazing Grifinn kayaks, Huckleberry Finn and True Blue. We efficiently packed a lot of stuff inside the kayaks for transportation.
Many things were simply there for insurance, such as a jump starter and air compressor, a comprehensive tool kit, 30 litres of spare water, over and above the water we thought we might need, which we kept on the side step of the van. (You can never have too much water in the outback!)
We also had our snorkel gear, life jackets, camp showers, wahu ball, fishing rods, firewood, hammock, tripod stools and laundry stuff. They held a surprising amount of stuff, which was great, but it was also a pain to load and unload, every time we wanted to paddle.
Either side of the kayaks, we had a pop-up gazebo with fly screen walls, which was great to set up when we stayed somewhere for two days.
We had a couple of fold away tables, very comfortable moon-chairs, stackable plastic boxes with our cooking gear in, and our mini Webber BBQ. (..and a case of our favourite wine, which isn’t there anymore).
For added comfort, we had a fibreglassed floor and fitted marine-grade carpet, and custom made mosquito screens on all three back and side doors. This meant we could happily sleep with the doors open on hotter nights.
We absolutely loved our set-up and don’t think there would be too much that we would change. Perhaps just one thing. We would probably consider paying for the extra fuel to put the kayaks on the roof, so it wasn’t such an ordeal getting them in and out.
If there’s a next time, we think it would be fun to have a 4WD, but we don’t feel we missed out on this trip. There’s still plenty to see along the sealed roads.
We didn’t think it would be right to drive all that way and not visit Darwin. After all, it was just up the road 😉 Three hours later, we arrived in Darwin and proceeded to check in to our first “last minute Mystery Hotel”. All the creature comforts in the world, even our air conditioner, couldn’t have prepared us for Darwin. We were happy to have a good shower after watching the sunset in what felt like 100% humidity.
Good timing, too! It was Game of Throwns night 😁
In the morning, we checked out the wave pool and local, croc-free swim zones before getting back on the road.
Our next place of interest was 2,507km away, across two entire states. There wasn’t anything in between. Just sandy desert plains and very quiet nights around the fire. This was the true outback. Straight down the middle of Northern Territory and across to Townsville in Queensland. We had no reception for three days and the number of campgrounds and service stations were very limited. I have to say we really loved this. Just the two of us round the campfire. No work, no communication with the outside world. Heaven!
We were, however, extremely glad to make it to the East Coast, where our next, last and possibly our favourite adventure awaits 😊