After leaving Pine Creek around 16:00 on 26 Aug 2010, Zig (1+1) and I took the Kakadu Highway (Hwy-21) to the southern part of Kakadu National Park where Zig is a ranger. It is ~60 km trip from Pine Creek to the Goymarr Interpretive Center (as it is called on the Kakadu Visitor Guide map), where you can get a park pass. The Interpretive Center is part of the Goymarr Tourist Park (formerly the Mary River Roadhouse), which is located ~0.5 km from the south entrance to Kakadu National Park. We finished off the day with visits to the Bottom Moline Rockhole and the Ikoymarrwa Lookout. The next day we did the Bukbukluk Lookout, the original Goodparla Homestead site, the Old Goodparla Homestead and airstrip, and an unexpected gravesite on Gerowie Creek, along with some other things that we passed along the way.
Pine Creek is the closest town to Zig's (1+1) work house in Kakadu National Park, so he knows it well. We got there about 15:10 on 26 Aug 2010. We first went to Alex Gory Park where the historical railway precinct is located; however, the museum in the old railway station and the shed with the restored 1877 Beyer Peacock steam locomotive were closed. Miners' Park, which is filled with old gold mining equipment, is adjacent to Alex Gory Park. A self-guided tour of Miners' Park is possible because it has many signboards with information about the equipment and how it was used. There are also two kiosks with signboards about the history of mining in the Pine Creek area and South Alligator River Valley. Pine Creek is in the VT destination list. See also my tips and travelogues there.
Bushfires are a part of the Northern Territory landscape. There is a tradition of using "controlled" burns, i.e., prescribed bushfires. Some of them can get really close to the Stuart Highway. Zig (1+1) and I passed one a few kilometers south of the Edith River on 26 Aug 2010. Not only do the flames get really close to the highway, but the smoke can block the vision ahead. The Northern Territory Fire and Rescue Service (NTFRS) website says that "these controlled early season fires are essential as they create strategic fuel reduced zones which slow the spread and impact on life or property of an uncontrolled bushfire burning into these areas."
A few kilometers out of Katherine near where the Stuart Highway passes over The Ghan rail line, there is a limestone formation on which ancient Silver Cycads grow. One of Zig's (1+1) specialties is cycads, so we stopped to see them on 26 Aug 2010.
Zig (1+1) and I arrived in Katherine at about 12:35 on 26 Aug 2010. Even though when I was going south from Darwin to Alice Springs on the Greyhound Croc Stopover tour (5 Aug 2010), I had had a bad experience with Nitmiluk Tours and had missed seeing the Katherine Gorge, we did not have time to go out to the Gorge. We did stop at the Visitor Information Center and the nearby Memorial to the Men & Women of the Outback. We also had a picnic lunch at the Low Level Nature Park. Katherine is in the VT destination taxonomy. See also my Katherine tips there.
Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park covers 1499 hectares (3704 acres) of limestone (Karst) formations and complex cave networks. The Jawoyn people have a long association with the area and evidence of past Aboriginal activity is found throughout the Park; however, the web page says that there is no evidence of Aboriginal use of the caves. Around 1900, a European stockman discovered the main cave entrance, and named the cave "Smith's Cave." During World War II, servicemen visited the area and referred to it as "16 Mile Cave." The area was handed to the Northern Territory Reserves Board (now the Parks and Wildlife Service) in 1967, and a private tourist operator began cave tours shortly afterwards. In 1979 the area was renamed Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park. The Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park Fact Sheet summarizes the details about the Park and has maps.
The signboards tell us that there are actually ~50 tropical Karst limestone caves in the area. The Tindall limestone was laid down ~550 million years ago and the caves began to form ~350 million years ago. The Cutta Cutta and Tindall Caves are the two main caves. Tropical caves are warmer than typical caves. Cutta Cutta heats up to as high as ~35 C. Why this is so is not completely understood, but may be due to underground thermal water and poor venilation. Cutta Cutta only has one opening. No thermal springs are known in the Park, but thermal water discharges from the Tindall Limestone Aquifer through Rainbow Spring and Bitter Springs near Mataranka, which are ~85 km to the south, and the Douglas Hot Springs are to the north. Tindall Cave has two main openings. Both caves flood during the wet season. Although the water in Cutta Cutta seeps out slowly, the water in Tindall Cave flows through quickly causing substantial water erosion. Two openings also mean better venilation, so Tindall Cave is cooler than Cutta Cutta.
Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park is located ~23 km north of the Central Arnhem Road and ~28 km south of Katherine, about 1 km west of the Stuart Highway. Zig (1+1) and I arrived around noon on 26 Aug 2010. Although the cave tours are supposed to run hourly from 9 AM to 3 PM, there is also a lunch hour for the guide at noon. The Visitors' Center is unattended and locked during that time. All visits to the caves must be guided. We decided not to wait for an hour. I just took a few pictures around the Visitors' Center and information kiosk. There is a free 625 meter Woodland Walk, but the 650 meter Karst Walk to the caves is only available to those going on a guided tour.
Zig (1+1) and I left the Barramundi Feeding Show at the Territory Manor in Mataranka at about 10:00 on 26 Aug 2010. It is ~55 km up the Stuart Highway to the Central Arnhem Road intersection; Maranboy is ~20 km east on the Central Arnhem Road. Tin was first discovered there in 1913 and the tin field at Maranboy was the principal producer of tin in Australia for 36 years. There was also some wolfram and copper ore. A 10-headstamper battery was established in 1915. Different sources say the mine was finally closed in 1946, 1952 or 1962 (none of which match the 1915 plus 36 years). Only a regional police station and the old, abandoned tin mine with rusting equipment remain now. Maranboy does happen to be in the VT destination taxonomy, probably because Zig put a tip on it into VT in 2005. See also my Maranboy tips and a travelogue.
The Territory Manor Motel & Caravan Park on the north side of the town of Mataranka is famous for its Barramundi Feeding Show (daily at 9:30 AM and 1:00 PM). Zig (1+1) and I stopped for the show on our way back to Darwin after spending the night at the Mataranka Homestead Tourist Resort. Although we did not stay at the Territory Manor, we did arrive early for the 9:30 AM show on 26 Aug 2010 and I got a chance to take some pictures. The pond where they have the Show is quite beautiful. See a travelogue on the Barramundi Feeding Show. The show lasted for ~30 minutes. There is no charge but donations are appreciated.
I had spent two nights and two full days at the Mataranka Homestead Tourist Resort (MHTR) on my way south to Alice Springs. It is a nice stop just 7 km off the Stuart Highway near the town of Mataranka, so all of my tips are under that VT destination. After Zig (1+1) and I toured Bitter Springs we spent the night at MHTR. Our motel room faced the Elsey Homestead Replica and in the morning we could see wild kangaroos across the road at the edge of the forest. After spending some time at the Replica, we were back on the Stuart Highway by 09:00 on 26 Aug 2010, headed for the Barramundi Feeding Show at the Territory Manor on the north side of Mataranka.
After visiting the Elsey Cemetery and the original Elsey Station Homestead site, Zig (1+1) and I headed to Korran (Bitter Springs). Counting the ~7.5 km from the Homestead site back to the Stuart Highway, it was ~23 km to Bitter Springs. On the way we went past the turn to the Mataranka Homestead Tourist Resort; however, we did plan to go back and spend the night there. The turn to Bitter Springs is on the north side of the town of Mataranka near the Territory Manor. It is located ~3 km northeast from the Stuart Highway on Martin Road. Again, because of their proximity, I put my Bitter Springs tips under Mataranka. We arrived there at ~16:15 on 25 Aug 2012. We did not swim, but we did do the Loop Walk. We only spent ~30 minutes at Bitter Springs and arrived at the Mataranka Homestead Tourist Resort (MHTR) around 17:00. After the end of a long but very special day along the Stuart Highway, we just got a motel room and had dinner in the Garden Bistro. It was noticeably quieter at the MHTR than when I was there three weeks before. Maybe because the wet season had started?
The next stop after Larrimah that Zig (1+1) and I made on 25 Aug 2010 was the historic Elsey Cemetery. We arrived around 15:15. The turn to the cemetery is located ~62 km north of Larrimah and then ~7 km to the southeast on a paved road. The original Elsey Station Homestead site is ~0.5 km past the cemetery on the same road. Because there is a replica of the Elsey Station Homestead at the Mataranka Homestead Tourist Resort, I put my Elsey Cemetery tips under Mataranka, which is in the VT destination taxonomy. Many of the people mentioned in Jeannie Gunn's book, "We of the Never Never," are buried in this cemetery.
Fran's Devonshire Tea House is located in the old Larrimah Police Station and Museum. Fran serves delicious fare, including homemade camel and buffalo pies, roast lamb with damper, sausages, real corn beef, pasties, sausage rolls, waffles, scones, freshly baked bread, apple pies and rolls, Espresso and rain water filter coffee, and Devonshire teas. She is also a good source for fascinating historical information about Larrimah and the Northern Territory. The Tea House is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days a week. I saw a favorite meal in NT comment and an excellent review online, but note that another review did mention that half the stuff on the menu was not available. We just drove through Larrimah and did not eat there, but it does sound like the half of the menu that is available is delicious!
Larrimah is on the Stuart Highway ~89 km north of the turn to Daly Waters. Zig (1+1) and I got there about 14:30 on 25 Aug 2010. We did not actually stop. We just drove through and I took some pictures. The Larrimah Wayside Inn (formerly the Birdum Creek Hotel then the Larrimah Hotel) has a roadhouse, hotel/motel rooms, a caravan park, and the Pink Panther Pub. There are two other caravan parks: the Green Park Tourist Complex and the Larrimah Top O'Town Van Park. Besides the restaurant in the Larrimah Wayside Inn, there is also Fran's Devonshire Tea House.
The Sydney Morning Herald has a nice writeup on Larrimah from 8 Feb 2004 on its website: "The small settlement of Larrimah is located 184 metres above sea level on the Stuart Highway 534 km south of Darwin and 177 km south of Katherine. Originally the terminus for the infamous North Australian railway - 'the line to nowhere' - it was, in fact, 8 km to the north of the real terminus at Birdum [Creek]. Today Larrimah is just another stopover point on the Stuart Highway with a roadhouse, a caravan park, budget accommodation and a delightful outback pub, The Larrimah Hotel, which was actually the pub until it was moved to Larrimah in 1952 [Note! a signboard at the Larrimah Museum says it was the hotel at Birdum Creek that was moved]. There are now no relics at all of the railway line which was closed down in 1976.
The town's one point of real interest is the Gorrie Airstrip. Located about 10 km north of Larrimah it is one of the largest, if not the largest, dirt airstrips in Australia. The site of the largest army base in Australia during World War II the airstrip was named after F/OP. Gorrie, No. 2 Squadron RAAF who was killed in action near Menado, Dutch East Indies on 12 January 1942. It can be reached by driving west from the Stuart Highway for about 3 km on a dirt track which suddenly opens out and you find yourself on the actual airstrip. Gorrie was intended as the American's major line of defence against the Japanese."
The Lonely Planet Barkly Region Summary has information on Larrimah and a map that covers Wycliffe Well to the Roper Highway north of Larrimah.
The Larrimah Museum is housed in the former telegraph repeater station, which is located across the street from the Larrimah Wayside Inn. Admission is free but donations are requested.
The park and Museum have displays on the railroad that once terminated at Birdum Creek (~8 km south of Larrimah). There are also displays about the area during World War II, including the nearby Gorrie Airfield (~10 km north of Larrimah) which was built in 1942. During World War II, Gorrie Airfield was one of the largest in the Pacific region and was the base for ~6500 servicemen. Although the dirt runway is now largely overgrown, there are still some military buildings there.
A signboard near the Larrimah Museum says:
"A repeater station was constructed in 1942. Comprising two Sidney Williams huts, it provided direct-voice communications in conjunction with other sites at Barrow Creek, Tennant Creek, Newcastle Waters and Pine Creek, thereby establishing a military network of communications between Darwin and the South.
Many WWII sites exist within and nearby the township; the repeater station, rail siding, BIPOD installation and camp areas are the most tangible reminders.
The Wayside Inn was partly constructed from the materials of the dismantled Birdum Hotel, from which it was often stated that the war was directed. Reports emanated from 'the porch of the Birdum Hotel,' as this was the headquarters of the American base established there during 1942."
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