The next 3 days we explored all around Burketown. The information centre was very helpful, giving exact locations where Derek could fish. We drove out around the countryside and found this amazing spot where the water flows over the road. One side is fresh water, the other is salt. There is a fish ladder that was really interesting as it seemed almost like someone had built it to the side. There were two dominant large crocs that ruled the area, one salt water and one fresh. The Aborigines had a clearing where they met and had a fire or shared food. It was one of the places they recommended Derek fish but when he went out there and set up, he turned around and realized he was standing very close to the big croc’s slide. They all like to sun themselves and then they create a slide in the mud so they can easily access the water when needed. It was not a good place to be. He decided no fish was worth the risk. He came home and we ate spaghetti.
The crocs are serious business. They are huge. I mean so big that a man fits easily into their body as a good dinner meal. No problem. They are powerful and can heave themselves onto the shore or up into the air to grab you in their jaws and then take you down into the water for the death roll. You don’t play games with them or make the mistake of underestimating their strength. The people native to the area take dealing with them as matter of fact and while they appear to have an ease with them, understanding their ways and what to watch for, none of them takes foolish risks. Putting yourself in dangerous situations with a croc is to disrespect the power and nature of the large reptile.
When we went out to the Gulf itself, we were told you could fish off the gangway because there was a metal mesh protecting you, but not to go onto the pontoon because you would be easy pickings for the crocs. We got there to find two couples fishing. One were standing on the gangway and the other was on the pontoon. The man was seated in a chair on the far end while the woman strode back and forth and had tied their small dog to the other end. She bragged about her fishing expertise and what they caught while we just stood there in disbelief. We never saw any crocs during this part of the journey but we certainly saw plenty of evidence of them and the Aborigines told us that they were there.
While we were there, the garbage truck came up to pick up from the bins provided for the fishermen. (Many big boats launched from there as well). The Aborigine that was driving got out and talked to Derek, small chit chat, and then he noticed the man and the woman on the pontoon and marched right over there and told them to get off. He pointed out again, two strong male crocs that ruled the area and that were at either point off the pontoon and how easily they could leap and grab the people from there. They both grumbled and complained, insisting they knew what they were doing.
It was kind of incredible to realize how dangerous it could be to just wander around the beautiful places, without any regard. Even walking along the water edges was dangerous.
We followed some obscure signs to “historical sites” and had a great laugh. One sign directed us down an old dirt track for a promised “Historical Site.” It offered a chance to see some kind of old rendering plant AND the famous “Landsborough Tree.” Intrigued, we found another broken sign after driving down this little dirt track that wove itself through the field. Then we had to drive around to find another sign and it was hit and miss like that for awhile. As we drove and searched, our anticipation grew as to what this tree would look like or what it would mean. We would see a tree that stood out among the unspectacular brush around us and suggest that it had to be the one, only to drive closer and find out it was not. I was sure it was going to be some deeply spiritual tree, relevant to the Aborigines and we were going to be able to stand next to it and feel the power ourselves. These were all the prominent trees it was NOT:
Then we found it, or thought we did, it had to be the tree in the cage right?
I mean what was the big deal? But wait, we were wrong again. HERE is the “Landsborough Tree.”
And HERE is the story behind it.
I love the Australian sense of humour, they don’t even try and they are funny. Of course it involved a bunch of them out of control and alcohol.
We headed back to town and decided to try some of the local food. The butcher/cake shop (because who does not love a bit of cake with their road kill) called to us. Derek heard, “Eat here.” I heard “Run, run for your lives.” Derek was driving so we had to stop. He ordered “Crocodile – Thai Green Curry.” I had “chicken.” (not shown on this sign and hidden in the corner of the display cabinet behind some old cake with the sign, “For Canadian Weenies. I was proud to step up and wear my weenie t-shirt for the occasion.)
The people could not have been more friendly and helpful. I was grateful for the break. I really did not want us to forgo our original path around Australia and assured Derek that I would deal with it if we could keep the days short. I was not having any problem with the roads and their roughness, just the dirt. Unfortunately, as we kept talking to everyone about going through Hell’s Gate and the road we had chosen ( hundreds of miles on dirt roads with river crossings) we learned that not even the big bulldozers for the council had been able to get in to clear and fix the road since the last cyclone. The rivers were full of boulders that had been washed down. While the Aborigines had been through it, they had gone in a single vehicle, not pulling a caravan. Locals told us that our truck might be able to survive the trip but we would trash our caravan. People were totally destroying their vehicles trying to get through. The only way to check for all the fallen logs or boulders in those rivers was by getting out and walking through the river. Who is willing to do that with the big crocs everywhere? Not even Derek!
We were going to have to go around, adding considerable miles, but keeping us on the better roads.
We also had one other issue. Despite planning everything about our prescriptions before we left, the doctor had a policy change last moment. We delayed our leaving to sort that out and came up with a plan where they would let them know where we were going to be and they could then end through our prescriptions to a pharmacy there. We would have to make all the arrangements and let them know. We figured when we would be in Katherine and so we called the pharmacy there where they announced, “No, they did not accept Queensland prescriptions.” We had to go to a doctor there and get a new ‘script and we would have to pay full price for the doctor, no bulk billing, no concession for pensioners for the ‘scripts either. A big money making scheme!! Ironic, as one of the ‘scripts has to be approved in Canberra so I presume NT is under the same gov’t, right?? The pharmacist back home, the doctors, and not even many of the caravanners we spoke to had any idea this was the practice. So we made appointments and crossed our fingers that this was not going to screw everything up in the long run. THEN we wondered if the other states were going to do the same and how we were going to navigate several months of monthly visits to strange doctors. Finding pharmacy’s and doctors along the road to visit at an appointed time takes a lot away from our “go where we want to go when we want” idea of this trip. We were either going to have to delay or pass over parts of our travels.
When we decided not to go through Hell’s Gate, it meant we had extra time to kill if we were going to make the appointment with the doctor in Katherine. The trip began to morph into an entirely different creature than what we first intended.
Our First Windshield Crack.