Magic Maguk

Sun. 23rd June 2019

Monument to Uranium minersHaving done our chores in Katherine last night, we head straight back through town and on to Pine Creek an hour and a half away. This town was once busy with the gold rush, then iron ore but with both these booms over, it is now a sleepy little settlement. After coffee, we head out past the Miners Park which had high ratings on Google. It looked to be our sort of place with rusting train locos and other machinery, but we elected to head on as we had lots to see today.

Pool at top of Gunlom FallsWe want to get to Kakadu National Park and start with Gunlom Falls for lunch. We called in at the rangers station on the way into the park hoping to pick up information on the campsites and walking trails. The building was open but unmanned, so we read the display boards which confirmed that Jim Jim Falls access road is closed. We had considered heading to Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls on a true 4×4 road but that was not to be. Not really a problem as there are loads of other places to visit, and the list keeps growing the more people we talk to! We fill our water bottles and move on. As we leave we see the monument to Uranium Miners and learn that it was only later that pockets of sickness in the area were correlated to the uranium exposure.

The only road in and outThe road to Gunlom Falls is 37km but we did not realise all of it would be dirt road so off we bumped. The first 26km were rough and then after turning off it got really bad! The were red triangles warning of hazards, mostly justifiable markings but sometimes hard to spot what the actual hazard was. The only solution was to slow down but then you really felt the corrugations. Finally the road opened out into a car park with a camp site and picnic tables. However, all the tables were in the sun not the shade so effectively useless. Thank goodness we had our own table and chairs in the Beast.

Great place to sit and view the surrounding areaThe path to the top of the falls and plunge pools is 1km long, mainly straight up. We saw metal steps half way up to the top but unfortunately they were not finished so we had to scramble up the rocks adjacent to the lovely new steps. Once the steps are finished the walk will be much easier. The pools did look inviting and all those swimming said they were great. We did manage a few photos. Avoiding most of the swimmers and the views at the bottom were worthwhile too.

Gunlom Falls from belowIt was have been lovely to stay longer but a) our swimmies were in the car below and b) although there is a campsite here we wanted to get further into the park before we stop for the night. It was back in the Beast and back down those lovely 37km to the main road. The campsite we are heading to is a bit further along the main road and then 10km down a 4×4 track. Will it be worse than those 37km we have just driven? Mostly no, but there were a few rocky river crossings and big holes in the road to negotiate, justifying its label of 4×4 only.

All the campsite facilities including yellow honesty boxTonight we are staying in Maguk National Park camp with composted/long drop toilets and no running water. There is an honesty box to pay our 12 AUD (£7) camping fee. This is the nearest we will get to wild camping as our vehicle does not have a toilet or a shovel to make our own toilet (enough information). We have silly little burners to cook on so we manage to boil some ravioli and heat up some ready made sauce.

Our little haven in the treesIt was great sat out, eating our supper listening to the birds and the guitar playing from the next tent. There were less than a dozen tents, campervans and caravans of various shapes and sizes dotted between the trees, all 4x4s as they are required to negotiate the track in. As we put our tent up we discover that the rough roads have loosened a bolt at the top of the ladder and also the welding fixing one side of the ladder to the tent base has sheared off. My girl guide knotting skills were needed to secure the ladder to enable us to climb into the tent. We were the last to turn in at 9:30pm and were asleep just after 10pm. Night, John Boy.

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