Although the night was very windy it was not cold which was good because we could not put on heaters or turn on electric blankets! We left around 8.30am and our first stop was Tennant Creek.
Ian wanted to go to a local Gold Mine which provided a tour of the mine and where you could see a 10-stamping battery in operation. (A battery is a large crushing machine which helps extract the gold from quartz). However, this is no longer operational but it is still on display, together with other now unused machinery so we walked around and had a good look instead. This was just out of the town so we drove into the town so Ian could post a letter. Unfortunately, the town was very uninviting so we did not stay for long.Just a few kilometres north of the town was a site for the Overland Telegraph Station base. The buildings were in remarkable condition – all up there were 12 or 13 of these stations around the 1870’s but this is one of only 4 left standing. They were built of very sold 18″ thick stone walls and this is probably the reason why they still exist because termites would have destroyed anything built of wood. Termite mounds are everywhere.
Our next stop was a place called Three Ways where the Barkly Highway from Queensland meets the Stuart Highway from Alice Springs. There was a memorial there for Rev. John Flynn (founder of the Australian Inland Mission and the Royal Flying Doctor Service) but it was close to the busy Highway it was hard to stop there. He was the man who realised that a vast area of Australia from Cloncurry to north of Adelaide, west of Perth and all the area north of both those cities was unserviced by either medical or spiritual help, and so established hospitals, nursing homes, missions etc. Greatly revered in his time but almost unknown by modern generations who take these facilities for granted today.
Our next stop was another 50kms on at a spot where there was a memorial for John McDouall Stuart, an explorer who reached that point in 1861 but was driven back by an attack by aboriginals. It was beside a Creek which he called – wait for it – Attack Creek! There was a free roadside camping spot at the ‘Stuart’ memorial so we stopped there and had lunch. Although it was just around 1.00pm it was already beginning to fill up with caravans pulling in for the night. There are a lot of caravans/campers on the road at the moment and we are beginning to notice these spots being filled very early in the day.
After leaving there we saw an ‘almost’ collision with a Road Train and a Murray Grey bull. The bull was on our side of the road (across the road were cattle yards and a few head of cattle) and behind the bull was the drover in a Ute. We pulled up and stopped and the Road Train coming from the opposite direction decided to do the same. It took an awful long time for the Road Train to come to a halt – the smell of burning rubber lingered for some time! However, fortunately, the bull did not move across the road until the road was clear. We have nothing but admiration for these Road Train drivers. They do an excellent job.
We have actually seen very little road kill – the sides of the road are well mown, but we still have to be alert at all times for any type of animal. There are warnings all the way along the highway and we have been told not to trust fences as stock and wild animals are still a great danger. We have seen only one live kangaroo, some emus ran in front of us one day, and there certainly have been the odd cow/calf.
We stopped to stretch our legs at Renner Springs and decided to try to reach Dunmarra for our night stop. We drove through a little historic town called Newcastle Waters. Such a surprise. It was just 3 kms off the road and we had to drive over a causeway which had water on both sides – it was so lovely and lush and green. Very unexpected. I managed to get a photo of a Jabiru Stork standing there.
This old town of Newcastle Waters had an old pub and an old shop – both in disrepair unfortunately. This town was also a large airfield during the second world war and the remains of this airfield are still visible. There are quite a few signs pointing out WWII army sites, usually well aware from towns or townships. To keep the soldiers out of trouble perhaps? Just before this little town was another FREE camping overnight spot . It was absolutely chockers!!! We were grateful we did not intend to try to stay there.
It was around 5.00pm by the time we got to Dunmarra. This was just a petrol station/cafe/pub but a very adequate and spacious caravan park was next door. Cost was only $19.50 per night. Much to our surprise the people we met in Alice Springs who came from Drouin were also there as well so Ian went and had a good chat. Whilst looking around the surrounds Ian & Bruce got chatting to a road train driver who had his vehicle parked at the servo. Ian will now write about this “I appreciate that not everybody is interested in these details but it will give you some idea of what and how these vehicles operate. It was a 600 HP Mack prime mover pulling 4 trailers/tankers with 74 wheels all up and was carrying 116,000 litres of diesel (if he was carrying petrol he can carry 126,000 litres of petrol because petrol is lighter than diesel). His overall length was 53.5 metres and the whole rig weighed 147.5 tonne. He was driving the Darwin – Alice Springs route which was 1500 Km and takes 18 hours to traverse and he would use between 1700 & 2000 litres of fuel depending on road conditions.They are only allowed to travel at a maximum speed of 90 KMPH loaded and 100 KMPH (speed limited) unloaded, and they are only allowed to drive for 14 hours and must have 7 hours of rest during the night and are not allowed at all on the road between the hours of Midnight & 4 AM and just in case you wonder “who keeps track of all this?”, they are GPS monitored all the time so the “Boss” can find out where they are at any given time. He had been doing this job for over 18 years and is based in Alice Springs.
There is always someone to talk to and there is always something to learn. A part of this trip which Ian enjoys very much.
If anyone is not sure where these towns are which we are staying at it might be a good idea to get a good Australian road map – because even I haven’t known of some of these places until now!
At last I have caught up on the 2 nights missed because we were out of internet access.
Love to all, Janese and Ian