The Great Budget 4wd Trip Around Australia – Week 10

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We love a rough and dusty track but after a week bouncing over corrugations and rocky roads it was nice to see some bitumen as we finally made our way onto the Stuart Highway – the main road that runs up the middle of Australia!

Distance Travelled:
1319km

Spot of the Week:
Ubirr in Kakadu National Park, NT

One of our all time favourite places in Australia! This amazing spot never disappoints with its stunning views, sunsets and calm peaceful energy. Ubirr is one of those places that every Australian should visit.

In fact, one of the other travellers, also there for sunset, summed it up with the statement “the only ugly thing here is the tourists!” Between us, we’ve visited Ubirr 5 times now and we’d still go back for more!

Camp of the Week:
We had some amazing campsites but Cooinda Lodge was voted the best

Tip of the Week:
If you are travelling in remote areas in Australia make sure you have a Satellite phone or a SatSleeve for your smartphone.

This clever device turns your regular mobile into a satellite phone – and could really come in handy during an emergency! (More about why this is useful in a bit!)

Disaster of the Week:
Getting a hole in the radiator on the way to Arnhem Land was the obvious choice for the disaster of the week!

For those not in the know, Arnhem Land is one of the most remote places in Australia – situated at the top of the Northern Territory – and breaking down there is not much fun!

This sort of thing is part of travelling in remote parts of Australia, but it can be very expensive and stressful!

We didn’t have any way of communicating with people after we broke down – no phone signal, no radio, no satellite phone (hence the tip of the week!) – so we just had to sit on the edge road in the 40-degree heat for 6 hours waiting to be rescued!

We’re actually lucky really that it was only this long and we had plenty of water and food!

Our advice?

Make sure your vehicle is well prepared and you have more than enough supplies. We always carry enough for at least 3 days.

The Budget ($ AUD):
Fuel – $207
Groceries – $206.80
Camping Fees – $96
Yellow Water (Kakadu) Cruise -$99 (special discounted rate)
Kakadu Park Passes – $80 ($40 each)
Printing / Scanning Fees for Permit – $9.90
Hardware (Liquid Nails and Duct Tape) – $27.65
Total – $726.35

A bit of a blowout, but sometimes you need to do that in order to see some of the most special places.

We think these sort of splurges are worth it, as it’s the memories we’ll remember and not the couple of hundred bucks! Without going to Kakadu (where we paid $179 for 2 park passes and a tour) we would have been well within budget.

 

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Day 1 – Mt Price Free Camp

bitumen

The free camps in the Northern Territory are generally very good with their drinking water facilities and picnic tables. Some even have toilets as well – talk about luxury!

Mt Price was a large roadside rest area with all these amenities and we found a lovely spot tucked in behind some boulders for a very peaceful night’s sleep.

 

Day 2 – King River Rest Area via Mataranka

mataranka

Mataranka is a pretty small town but was our first sign of any real civilisation in a while, so we were excited! Gregory Downs (the only other hamlet we stopped in the last 2 weeks) was lovely, but with only a pub and a shop in shipping container it hardly counted as  civilisation!

Anyway, the real goal of visiting Mataranka was to take a welcome dip in the hot springs there, which we did.

We had a pretty cruisy day ahead, so we made the most of these natural geothermal pools, enjoying both a swim at Bitter springs and out at the Mataranka Homestead.

Both places were lovely, set within the natural forest around, and come highly recommended as one of the greatest things to do in the Northern Territory.

Visiting them was a welcome treat after some very hot days of driving and, best of all, they were FREE!

After our splash around and snaps of the giant termite mound in Mataranka, we headed for our camp at the King River Rest Stop.

Thankfully we have an awning attached to the side of our vehicle, as that day was stiflingly hot and any shade was a blessing.

I don’t think we moved from our chairs for 3 hours once we got to King River, as it was just too much effort in the heat to do anything! 38 degrees and counting!

 

Day 3 – Katherine Gorge / Nitmiluk National Park

katherine-gorge

A  quick stopover in Katherine to find out about permits for Arnhem Land and a small grocery shop was all we needed before motoring on to the fabulous Katherine Gorge / Nitmiluk National Park.

This protected area is actually home to 13 gorges, which cut dramatically through the sandstone landscape creating deep escarpments and stunning lookouts.

We spent a busy afternoon at our campground, catching up on some blogging and planning the adventure to the Coburg Peninsula.

We also had to clean out the whole car and remove as much red dirt as possible, because everything was covered in a fine film of the stuff!

Finally, it was time for a much sought after shower and a dip in the pool!

 

Day 4 – Katherine Gorge / Nitmiluk National Park

nitmiluk-np

When temperatures are hitting 36 degrees+ in Australia, any hiking needs to be done early!

So on day 4 we set the alarm and were off at the crack of dawn on a walk through one of the country’ most famous national parks.

We love Katherine Gorge and you can read more about our hiking and time there here!

The walk to Pat’s Lookout and Jedda’s Rock we did were absolutely stunning with amazing views of the gorges and abundant wildlife to keep you highly entertained.

Had it not been so hot, we would easily have pushed on to the Butterfly Gorge for a swim, but with 11am nearing, we beat a retreat back to the shady campsite and swimming pool instead!

 

Day 5 – Free Camp South of Pine Creek

free-camp-sunset

Another stop in Katherine on the way out of the Gorge allowed us to get some printing done for our Coburg permits.

We also stocked up on fuel and food for the next week of camping, before making a speedy exit to our next free roadside camp.

 

Day 6 – Cooinda, Kakadu National Park

gunlom

The boy was very excited about going back to Kakadu National Park as it is one of his most favourite places in the world.

I also love it and so, being so close, we decided to make the detour and pay for entry to Australia’s largest and probably grandest national park.

Kakadu is a UNESCO Wolrd Heritage Site, one of only 15 in the world to be recognised for both its cultural and natural significance.

Full of amazing attractions, including wildlife reserves, indigenous rock art, soaring waterfalls and incredible lookouts,  it is a must on any Northern Territory itinerary.

Also, one of the best things about Kakadu for budget travellers is that, after paying your entrance fee, there is a heap of free stuff to enjoy and explore.

One of the best free things to do in Kakadu National Park is to bathe in the crystal-clear waters of Gunlom Falls, so we headed there first and enjoyed a good few hours snapping pics and cooling off in these stunning natural pools that sit at the top of a waterfall.

After that, we headed to Cooinda Lodge, a great place to camp in Kakadu National Park and got to explore the nearby Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre, which was fantastic.

 

Day 7 – Kakadu National Park inc. Yellow Water Tour

sunrise-yellow-water

Waking early at Cooinda, we set off at 6:30 for a rare treat – a guided tour!

The Yellow Water Cruise really is an absolute must if you are in Kakadu National Park and worth every cent.

Our guide was brilliant – knowledgeable and personable – and, because of him, we got to see and experience a lot of stuff in the park that otherwise would have passed us by.

In addition, sunrise out on the water is truly amazing at Yellow Water River and watching the birds and animals springing to life at this time in the day is awesome.

And don’t forget the crocs! We saw about 20 crocs in the 2 hours on the water – eek!

So that was Week 10 folks! Stay tuned to get the next weekly update of our budget 4wd trip around Australia, same time next week.

 

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About the Author

About the Author: Creator of Big World Small Pockets, Stephanie Parker is a budget travel addict! Originally from Jersey in the Channel Islands, Stephanie backpacks the world collecting tips, advice and stories, to share with a smile .

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There Are 2 Brilliant Comments

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  1. David B says:

    I really like the way you take others on the adventure with you, all aspects of the journey, not just the feel good parts. Mentioning things like everything having a fine film on it etc really portrays travel in this vast country as it really is.
    Something that may help you and others to know when it comes to vehicles, especially radiators doing naughty things to hold you up. There is a product called SealWel, the industry part number is T5101-2 and it is a wonderful product. You can simply add it to your radiator anytime, not just when trouble starts and it waits, not causing trouble, just at the ready. When a leak does occur, it springs into action and generally seals the leak before you even know it has happened, it honestly is that good and I have been using it both personally and in customers vehicles for over 20 years ( I am a qualified mechanic, though I don’t operate a repair business full time anymore)
    I have even used it to repair blown head gaskets, sometimes with permanent results, sometimes just to save the cost of a recovery vehicle. This is the manufacturers phone number so you can find out who stocks it in the area you are in (03) 9438 5291 JDM Industries.
    The other thing that is absolutely invaluable to carry is Fuse It Tape, it is a self amalgamating repair tape and I have used it repair everything imaginable. The most memorable being I came across a backpacker just east of the NT / WA border with a radiator hose that was literally blown in half. I cut the side out of a food tin to make an internal sleeve, wrapped the hose in the tape filled it with water, put the cap on first lock and we both headed for Katherine, following them expecting the repair to need to be redone along the way. When we got to within 50 kms of Katherine, gaining confidence I fully seated the cap so the system pressurised. No issue at all. Something this simple could potentially be a life saver in this vast country, especially if you are getting off the main roads.

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