Tom & Matt’s Four-State Road Trip
Day 7 — Tuesday, 2nd August, 2011 — Pamayu (Renner Springs) to Darwin, NT

 

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To Darwin at last!

It has been an enjoyable trip but I have to honest and say we are glad to have arrived. I think I got the quote of the trip this morning from a grey nomad fellow with whom I was chatting about 7:00am as I waited for Matt to emerge (yes! I was up before Matt!) This fellow had driven from somewhere in the Darling Downs region of Queensland and so, like us, had travelled on the Barclay Highway from Mount Isa to Renner Springs. His comment:

“You know, mate, you have to sit down for a long time to get anywhere in this country!”

So today we do a fair bit of sitting down as we are to cover 830 km* from here to Darwin. We were actually on the road by 7:40am (Australian Central Standard Time) and arrived in Darwin about 4:40pm, a total of nine hours, including a petrol top-up at Elliott, a morning coffee break at Larrimah, a lunch break at Katherine and another petrol top-up at Pine Creek. We probably could have made the journey without the last petrol top-up but better safe than sorry and we are sticking fairly rigidly to the principle of a break every two hours or so.

We had no real traffic problems (including not a great many slow-driving grey nomads) until we reached Katherine. From there to Darwin it was sometimes painfully slow to be stuck (with several other drivers) behind a carefree grey nomad blissfully pottering along at about 80 kph on a single-lane highway with a speed limit of 130 kph but a solid centre line that meant no overtaking. Not only that, there was just a lot more traffic.

*830 km is about 515 miles; 80 kph is about 50 mph; 130 kph is about 81 mph.

 

Geese 

 

 

At the Renner Springs resort, my early morning wandering about led to the discovery of a couple of ponds that, of course, attract a certain amount of aquatic bird life. These geese (I have combined two photos) seemed to belong to the Renner Springs Desert Inn, ie., semi-tame. It’s just that I didn’t expect to find them in such an arid environment.

 

Early morn caravan park 

 

 

 

Being a night person, it is not often I see the light of early morning. But I have to admit that it is very photogenic. This is the caravan park at Renner Springs and the grey nomads, who are dedicated to enjoying a leisurely life, were not yet up and about.

 

Early morning road 

 

 

 

And so onto the road. This was just as we left Renner Springs about 7:40am and you can tell by the long shadows coming from the right that (a) it is early(ish) morning and (b) we are headed north.

 

Endless road 

 

This looks like the same patch of road but, in fact, was about an hour later as we got closer to the town of Elliott, a town of about 350 people, including a police officer. We were warned by Sean that the police officer is particularly diligent about making sure drivers observe the local speed limit (60 kph* within the town) so we watched our speed closely.

We chose to stop in Elliott for petrol rather than top-up at Renner Springs because we were then that much closer to Darwin and petrol prices tend to rise the further one gets from a capital city. The most expensive petrol we have bought yet was at the Barclay Homestead Roadhouse — 198.9¢ per litre for premium unleaded. I am not even going to try and translate that for UK readers!

* 60 kph is about 37 mph.

 

Open woodland 

 

The further north we went, the more the dominant vegetation changed from open grassland with occasional stunted bushes to open woodlands, but still with plenty of thick grass.

Indeed, the grass is a fire hazard during the hot summer months and, particularly between Katherine and Darwin, authorities take the opportunity during the (relatively) cooler months to stage hazard-reduction burns – of which more in a moment.

This photo was snapped out of the passenger window while travelling at 130 kph and yet there is surprisingly little blurring. Gotta love modern camera technology!

 

Termite mound 

 

This one is not quite so clear of blurring as I didn’t even have time to focus but just point and click as we rushed past. But I wanted to show you that the termite nests here are much bigger than those we first saw as we went west from Mount Isa.

Termites are often, though incorrectly, called white ants. They are not ants (Formicidæ) but belong to a different family (Isoptera). You needed to know that, didn’t you?

I am told that termite nests are engineering marvels, built so as to maintain a steady temperature inside, regardless of the outside temperature. But you can read all about that in the link a couple of paragraphs above.

 

Title 

 

 

The further north we went, the more undulating the landscape became. At this point we reached a crest in the road and I snapped this as we headed down into the next valley. The lines of blue hills in the distance looks inviting (but also look a long way away!)

One lonely caravan, undoubtedly driven by a grey nomad or his/her equally grey and equally nomadic spouse.

 

Title 

 

Earlier up this page I mentioned the hazard-reduction burning. Here it is very evident as get closer to Darwin. I think this was somewhere between Katherine and Pine Creek.

We had stopped at Katherine for lunch. It is the fourth-largest town or city in the Northern Territory but still has less than 6,000 people. That gives you an idea of how few people there are in this part of the world. But, for all that, it is a busy little centre with a lot of vehicular traffic for us to negotiate.

Pine Creek, where we stopped to get a petrol top-up, by comparison is tiny. It has about 600 people but enjoys some significance because the Kakadu Highway from Mudginberri (within the Kakadu National Park) joins the Stuart Highway at this point and so a lot of traffic comes through Pine Creek.

 

Nightcliff Road house

 

 

Because we arrived in Darwin about half-past four, Kris and Sean were both still at work, of course. However, Matt and Sean were in contact, both by mobile phone and text, so we knew what to do when we got to their home.

We opened the gate, drove in, found the little refrigerator on the verndah (obscured behind the trees on the left side of the house) helped ourselves to a cold beer and settled down in the deck chairs to relax.

Believe me, after nine hours of being on the road, we needed to relax!

The picture was taken after Sean arrived home, that is why his car is behind mine.

 

Kris and Sean

 

 

First Sean arrived home, looking surprisingly fresh and relaxed after a day’s work. A few moments later Kris arrived. It is so good to see them both after several months (we saw them at Christmas time). Both Matt and I visited them in Darwin in 2009 (me in July, he in October) but they are now living in a different (and better) house and have become very acclimatised to Territory life.

Sean barbecued a lamb roast and Kris prepared some vegetables to go with the meat. Matt helped with his gravy-making prowess and so we settled down to a most enjoyable dinner which both Matt and I agreed was the best meal we had enjoyed since Tuesday of last week!

It was great, too, to get mobile and internet access again and to catch up on what people have been doing for the last few days. Then, of course, came the task of writing this and the previous blog post and getting them online.

 

Because we are here for a holiday, we are not planning a great deal of activity over the next few days so the next blog post will cover several days (unless I take a lot of fascinating photos and have heaps to tell you about. I will also (as I have done earlier today, post Matt’s videos. Have a look at his videos for Day 4, Day 5 and Day 6.

Matt’s Video for Day 7

 

 

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Want to respond to this or something else on this site? Contact me by e-mail: pardy@ozemail.com.au