Into the Territory

Got a black magic woman
Got a black magic woman
I’ve got a black magic woman
Got me so blind I can’t see

Words and Music by Pete Green

We have been in Western Australia through various lockdowns, border closures (internal and external) and reopenings. We exited the Nullabor into Western Australia in early March. We have enjoyed every minute of our time in this delightful state. But now we have the chance to move on to the Northern Territory so with some sadness we leave Lake Argyle and head for the border. Our forms are complete and the quick interrogation from an empathetic Police Sergeant sees us through. The policeman tells us he has been away from his family in Perth since March on various biosecurity and border security details. Hard times for all but particularly difficult for those required to leave home to help ensure our safety and well being. He did have a slight smile though. He was going home in a week’s time. We wished each other safe travels and took off for Victoria River Roadhouse at Victoria River Crossing.

Victoria River Wallabies

The journey was like a revival of previous trips through the western U.S. states of Wyoming and Utah. Small towns and camping areas named Big Horse Creek, Little Horse Creek, Timber Creek and Razorback passed by. We stopped for a pie at Timber Creek, a small Aboriginal Community of less than a hundred people but a top spot for hungry and thirsty travellers. It is also the gateway to Gregory National Park and the Katherine Region. Once again we had arrived in an area of beautiful gorges, parkland and towering red coloured escarpments all divided by the full flowing Victoria River. A haven for trampers and barramundi fishermen, the Gregory National Park is lush and a delight to make your way through – unhurried and contented. The Victoria River runs some 560 kms to the Timor Sea and was, quite obviously, named after Queen Victoria in 1839 by Captain J. Wickham of HMS Beagle whose most famous round the world passenger was the naturalist Charles Darwin. We stopped overnight at the Victoria River Roadhouse and spent a lovely evening under the stars then shared our breakfast with the local wallabies, cockatoos, kites and hawks before moving on to the township of Katherine.

We woke up this morning to the sad news of the death overnight of Peter Allen Greenbaum. A founding member of Fleetwood Mac (then Pete Green and Fleetwood Mac) with Mick Fleetwood and John McVie, Pete Green wrote such classics as Black Magic Woman and Albatross before leaving the band. He cut his teeth with John Mayal’s Blues Breakers and was considered by some who would know as the era’s best blues rock guitarist – this in a time of emerging talents such as Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. As a teenager I thought he was great and Scout and I had the privilege of seeing him play at the Cambridge Corn Exchange some years ago. He suffered from mental illness and the effects of substance abuse throughout his career and this concert was one of the first he played after being out of the scene for many years. What a night that was. And why don’t they make songs like this nowadays.

Katherine Thermal Pools

We had visited Katherine before on a camping tour of the Kakadu National Park. This NT service town is 320km south east of Darwin sitting on the Katherine River. With a population of 6,500 people it is the fifth largest settlement in the N.T. and is a service town for cattle, agriculture and transport. Being the gateway into the Top End of the N.T. it is also full of caravaners and grey nomads at this time of the year. Due to Covid the number plates are almost exclusively from Queensland, South Australia and of course N.T. Again the campground we were in was about 75% full but we were told normally it would be overfull. Katherine itself is no oil painting but the countryside and river is inspiring and beautiful. The N.T. has strict alcohol purchase limits and you are required to provide ID when buying at the bottle store. This ID goes into a central register and stops further purchase at another outlet. We did witness an amusing little episode when a man was turned away from the bottle store with a “Go away. You know we cannot serve you.” The server then told us that the gentleman in question was on the banned register but had turned his jacket inside out and come back pretending to be his cousin. I suppose when you need a drink, you need a drink. There are some sad sights and we were regaled on our walk one day at about 11am with “White mother f….., black motherf…..” for a few minutes by a drunken Aboriginal woman with beer cans in all her pockets. However we are told that the alcohol restrictions are making some progress. Let’s hope so as there are many local people putting a lot of personal time and effort into improving peoples lives and health.

We restocked and refuelled in Katherine and set off for Darwin.

3 thoughts on “Into the Territory

  1. Did you have to turn your jackets inside out to ‘restock and refuel’??
    Eric Clapton’s autobiography was fascinating -I didn’t know he was such a scoundrel or legendary guitar player. I only know him from the ‘Unplugged’ album which you thrashed when we were kids……


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