We awoke early again with the sun rising over the silence of Avon Downs and once again, for the thousandth time we pinched ourselves at the great blessing of being able to live like this.
A slight flurry of activity was taking place as the over-nighting grey nomad population stirred slowly into life, prepared breakfast, and got underway to their respective destinations with most heading west.
Does the beauty of the outback ever diminish? We were again treated to vast ever changing open spaces, this time dotted with millions of termite hills growing in size as we moved further into the interior.
The recent rains over these magnificent plains had bought a good tinge of green to the grass on which the huge Northern Territory cattle grazed in multiplied thousands. Brilliant blue sky and mild temperatures accompanied our trip ever onward across the Barkly Tablelands until we finally came upon another pocket of civilisation at Barkly Homestead.
Seemingly stuck in the middle of nowhere, but conveniently about ¾ of a tank of fuel from Camooweal, this oasis has food, souvenirs and fuel – at $2.02 per litre. We met another grey nomad filling up next to us and were amused at his remark that he needed a bank loan every time he stopped for fuel out here.
We topped up with fuel at the Barkly Homestead and made our own coffee and eats before again heading west.
By the time we made Three Ways, the spot where the Barkly Highway meets the Stuart Highway and where a right hand turn takes you to Darwin and a left turn to Alice Springs, we realised that we had only seen three houses, (The Avon Downs Police Station, and the Barkly Homestead, and the long ago abandoned Wunara Store), in 481 kilometres. There are homesteads along the way but most are many kilometres inland off the highway.
We headed south onto the Stuart Highway and headed toward Alice Springs.
Tennant Creek was our next stop for fuel; empty the toilet at the dump pit and a look around.
The dump pit was in the local football grounds and there happened to be a Sunday footy match on so we parked and emptied the toilet amongst literally thousands of Aboriginals out for the game. Being city folk we had never encountered a full community of Aboriginal people before. They were enthusiastic about the forthcoming game and hundreds of them looked on curiously as we emptied the toilet with the Aussie Wide standing out, looking rather out of place amidst the sea of dark skinned people who were obviously more at home in this unique outback town.
We stopped the other side of Tennant Creek to make a sandwich for lunch and have a cold drink before once again heading south. This was a long non stop leg of 241 kilometres to Barrow Creek with me sleeping as we passed the Devils Marbles, a collection of unique rock formations just in from the road. Kerrie decided not to wake me nor stop for photos as we will be coming back along here and in about 3 weeks time and will be stopping more frequently to explore as we travel to Kakadu and Darwin.
The landscape had significantly changed again with huge, ancient and weathered red rock hills forming a brilliant backdrop to the magnificent white trunked ghost gums that were everywhere.
Barrow Creek was an interesting stop. Although its appearance today is that of a small wayside stop on the highway, Barrow Creek was originally an important telegraph station. It was also the site of an 1874 punitive expedition against the Kaytej people by police after a telegraph station master and linesman were killed during an assault by 20 Kaytej men. This attack is the only known planned attack on staff of the Overland Telegraph.Now It’s a small roadhouse with $1.93 per litre diesel and is a strange collection of buildings that has evolved into a shop and a bar.
This is where Joanne Lees, the girlfriend of the allegedly murdered Peter Falconio ended up the night he disappeared. His body has never been found.
We fear that the owner may get ripped off frequently because the fuel pumps don’t register amounts inside at the cash register and you must remember the amount you took so you can tell him what to charge you.
From Barrow Creek we rolled on to Ti Tree where we stopped at the roadhouse there to ask if we could have some water. We have gotten into the habit of filling up with just enough water for the next day as nobody has ever refused us a half a tank of water – except here at Ti Tree!
We did find another store over the road which was closed but had a tap close to the road. We couldn’t find a living soul anywhere so we filled up with some water – just enough for showers and toilet etc for tonight and the morning as we would be in Alice tomorrow at about lunch time.
We found we had phone reception at the Barkly Homestead so we’d phoned Vicki and Rick in Adelaide to see if they were on the road yet on their weekly run in their truck from Adelaide to Darwin and back.
They were just hooking up the trailer in the yard in Adelaide and we arranged to meet for breakfast around 8:00am at Aileron about 130 kilometres north of Alice Springs. They leave Adelaide with one trailer and then stop at Port Augusta to pick up two more before heading up to Darwin and they always stop at Aileron for breakfast on Monday morning, so it would be a great opportunity to meet briefly.
We decided to stop for the night at Prowse Gap a free camping area only 7 kilometres north of Aileron.What a great, peaceful little spot with good water available and toilets. About 15 other caravans and motor homes were parked up for the night by the time we got in. It had been a big day with 770 kilometres travelled between about 7:30am to 6:30pm when we pulled in.
Again the moon created the best evening visual display at it rose, big and orange over the outback Spinifex. Wild dingoes? wailed at it as we settled into the peace and quiet of our wonderful home on wheels again and were thankful for the faultless and comfortable performance of the Nissan for another 770 kilometres.