Day 26 – 30 July 2012 – At Pussy Cat Flats

Yes, that is the name of the place. It is 2 km. east of a small township called Pine Creek and is on the Kakadu Road. So for the first time for a while we are no longer on the Stuart Highway.

Today was another lovely day weatherwise, but as soon as we headed off we noticed a very heavy haze in the distance – obviously smoke. This haze stayed around all day and Ian and I thought it was to do with controlled burning which is frequently done up here. But Linda found out that there is a fire-bug in the area and so far over 22 fires have been lit. There were fire engines in the distance and it was obvious that more than just grass and scrub was burning. There was no danger to us on the road, but it is terrible to think that someone can cause so much distress to so many people.

Fire in the distance

After leaving Mataranka we stopped at Katherine (105 kms from Mataranka) and took the time to buy food etc. to see us through the next few days while we are in the Kakadu area. We have heard that shops are in short supply there. There was a Target Country there too so I managed to buy some bathers, so can now swim whenever the opportunity arises. We also topped up with medicines and I was able to get a battery for my watch which had stopped way back in Peterborough. I  know that now we are ‘retired’ time should not be an issue, but I really missed not being able to easily tell the time. Ian has not worn a watch for years so he was no help! Linda kindly lent me a spare watch of hers but it was good to get my own workiing again.While in Katherine we parked in a Van roadside stop right in the town and by the time we finished shopping it was lunch time so we had a quick lunch before setting off. We also refuelled on our way out of town. Diesel was 150.5c a litre – this included the Coles 4c a litre discount. The most we have paid so far is $1.95 (twice) at Curtin Springs and Dunmarra. We believe it was over $2 a litre at Uluru. We are averaging around $1.60 per litre so far.The various Parks we stop out also have a range of fees. Tonight’s is $21 for 2 people (powered). The $41 at Alice is the most we have paid, and the $6.60 at Devil’s Marbles was the lowest. Mind you, the old adage “YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR” is certainly true! We have also found it handy to have $1 and $2 coins available for use of the washing machines and/or dryers. We are becoming very travel savvy! There are also different names for the toilet facilities. Curtin Springs had SHEILAS  and BLOKES, whereas here tonight they are named SHE CATS and TOM CATS! Another interesting difference in the Parks is that in Mataranka and at Dunmarra the facilities were uni-sex. Instead of separate toilets and showers, these cubicles were like a small ensuite with toilet/shower/basin. They were prefabricated tin sheds (tin because of the termites we guess) and were a great idea for families and couples.

This Park tonight is situated on a Race Course (no longer in use) and has a small bar/dining area attached to it.

Dining section at the small pub

In typical N.T. style it has just a roof and no walls. There is a menu up on the wall, so Ian and I will be taking the chance to have a meal cooked for us. For $15 we can get a hot fish/chips/vegies meal. Sounded good to me. Bit better than the eggs on toast I had originally planned for my night off from cooking! It was quite nice.

Finally was able to get a photo of the large termite mounds which are prolific in certain areas. They seem to be getting bigger as we travel further north.

Large termite mound at Pussy Cat Flats

The weather is around 28C and there is a lovely cool breezing blowing.

I haven’t mentioned much about the Aboriginal people. They have certainly not been a bother at all, but we are saddened to see them so aimless. They sit around under trees right in the centre of towns and all they seem to be doing is eating take-away food and drinking coke. All the towns here are ‘dry’ so the alcohol problems of  years ago and now no longer evident, although that does not mean they have gone away. Another concern is that it appears many of the children do not seem to go to school at all. The only place we saw no children on the street during a school day was Tennant Creek and we were impressed with the size of the school there and could see the children out doing P.E. but in all the other towns, during school hours, aboriginal school age children are on the streets on their scooters etc. – just playing or hanging around the older kids or adults, but certainly not learning. The ads on the TV here are constantly aimed at the indigenous people encouraging them to go to school, not to steal other people’s property, and respect others. It is a big issue and certainly not easily resolved.

Talking about different ads. on the T.V. There is one telling children to always remember to wash their hands many, many times a day – owing to a high concentration of lead in the air. It may just be for the residents of Mount Isa or certain mining areas, but the ad appears on the local T.V. The T.V. news here is from Queensland and ads. cover all the way to Roma, the Darling Downs, and S.A.

Just as we were finishing tea a few fellows pulled up for a drink at the pub – they were in worker’s clothing with luminous hoops and they all looked like Al Jolson. You could tell they were not aboriginal, but they were black – their faces, their arms, their clothes, their boots. Ian asked them what they did to get so dirty and they said they were working at a nearby iron ore mine and it is a different type of iron ore compared to W.A. iron ore and it very greasy and sticky. He told Ian that when they have a shower they have to use Palmolive Dishwashing liquid to remove the dirt. So I went up and asked them if they would allow me to take a photo so I could put it into my blog and they kindly agreed. The cook was talking to us too and she said the floor around the bar, and then the floor of the shower is RED when they have left. And we think dairy farming can be dirty!

Iron ore workers

As we move into the Kakadu region there is the strong possibility that once again we will out of mobile/internet access so I will catch up with my blog whenever it is possible. Love to all, Janese and Ian

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