Hill Northern Territory to Lake Argyle, Western Australia
Leaving Humpty Doo, 35 km south of Darwin, and the
warm friendship and hospitality of Lee and Vic, we headed south on the
Stuart Highway to Grove Hill, about 150 km away, to do some metal detecting
in this historic goldfield, one of the Territory's first.
On the way Rod noticed the turn off to a place called
Batchelor and so we made a detour to visit the town and to look over the
remains of the nearby Rum Jungle copper mine.
He spent a couple of hours trooping up and down and
all over the tailings dumps...head down and geology pick in hand...looking
for mineral specimens.
The open cut mine itself was inaccessible as it was
full of water...but it was pretty...a vivid blue colour from the leached
copper it contained. Definitely not for swimming or drinking though!
Gleeful, Rod returned to the vehicle with a couple
of pockets weighed down with rocks. Then, with the new ballast loaded
into the Prado, we continued on to Grove Hill.
Seeing the sign to Grove Hill we left the Highway
and hit the dirt again and after briefly stopping in at the old Grove
Hill pub in an attempt to pick the publican's brains and find out where
'x' marks the spot.
When we left, not surprisingly, we were not a great
deal wiser for the experience.
However, in the pub we were shown a small plastic
container with compartments containing several small, locally sourced,
gold nuggets that were for sale...and so energised by the belief that
there were more of the little blighters just lazing around to be had...we
headed off in search of a suitable place to walk the metal detector.
About 15 km down the road a small sign pointed to
'Historic Mine Site' and we turned onto the track and climbed steadily
towards a large hill, stopping briefly to engage low range four wheel
drive as the track steepened.
As we proceeded , we were unsure whether there would
be enough room to turn the caravan around when we got to the mine site,
but, like true optimistists...we pressed on regardless.
Fortunately when we did arrive at the end of the track,
which turned out to be the site of an old gold stamping battery, we were
not only able to find enough room to turn the caravan around, albeit with
a bit of maneuvering, but also a rather secluded spot for an overnight
At the battery, a small sign indicated the direction
of the mine and gave the distance as 900 metres....but it omitted to say...
almost vertical !!
Rod sprinted off in hot pursuit of the shaft and I
followed sedately, turning back about a third of the way up...feeling
like my knees were going to give way under me.
When he returned about half an hour later, lathered
with perspiration, I realised I had made the right decision.
Undeterred, the next morning he lugged the metal detector
up to the top of the hill.
It was mountain goat country and after an exhaustive
couple of hours traversing steep gullies and ridges attempting to wave
the detector around in front of him, dodging trees, bushes and rocks,
he returned...drenched in perspiration...and empty handed.
Adjacent to our camping spot we could hear the sound
of running water and discovered a small spring...probably that which served
the miners and gave rise to the name "Spring Hill Mine".
Gold stamping battery at the site of the Spring Hill Mine; used to crush
the quartz reef gold bearing ore.
Victoria River across to Lake Argyle, Western Australia
Leaving the Grove Hill area we continued south, back
down to Katherine, where we turned off the Stuart Highway and headed west
on the Victoria Highway, bound for Western Australia.
Towards evening we identified what we thought was
a secluded track, just at the start of Gregory National Park, and drove
down it a kilometre or so looking for a place to camp for the night, out
of sight of the road...
....only to discover another four wheel drive with
caravan in tow had discovered it first and was already parked for the
evening. Within minutes we were greeted by a friendly couple, from Camden
in New South Wales as it turned out, who were on their way to Mount Surprise,
in Queensland, to dig for Topaz.
After a 'show and tell' session, where we proudly
displayed the proceeds of our own two days fossicking at Mount Surprise,
Barry and Dorrie, retired to their own van to leave Rod to work under
lamp light to replace several bolts that had vibrated out of the bull
bar on the Prado on the rough dirt roads we had experienced.
We had been advised that no fruit or vegetables were
permitted to enter Western Australia, so while Rod worked on the Prado,
I fried up some bubble and squeak with the vegetables we had in the van
and stewed up all the tomatoes.
The next day we headed off for the West Australian
border and Lake Argyle, enjoying some splendid scenery as we passed through
Victoria River and Gregory National Park, which bordered the Highway for
a considerable distance.