Tom & Matt’s Four-State Road Trip
Day 12 — Sunday, 7th August, 2011 — Darwin, NT, to Tennant Creek, NT


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Our longest day

Well, not our longest day in terms of hours — that will probably be tomorrow — but certainly our longest in terms of how far we have driven. According to the maps, it is about 990 kilometres* but, as you will see further down this page, that is not strictly accurate.

Today we left Darwin and headed back south, down the Stuart Highway to Tennant Creek. All but the last 25 km* was ground we had covered before and so, instead of the usual heap of photos, we have less than a dozen for today.

We decided to make it an early start so that it would not be after dark when we arrived in Tennant Creek. As I said much earlier in this blog, I am a night person, Matt is a morning person; so it was more appropriate than ever that he be the driver for the first leg. We aimed to be on the road by 6:30am and, with Kris and Sean appearing briefly in dressing gowns to see us off, we actually pulled onto the street at 6:32am. I reckon that is pretty good!

* 990 km is a bit over 615 miles; 25 km is about 15.5 miles.


130kph before dawn 


It was still before dawn when I snapped our first 130kph* sign (complete with a road train barrelling towards us). We love the speed limit! Driving at that speed for a couple of hours puts a lot of highway behind you and, as I said about a week ago when we first experienced the limit, one gets used to it in a surprisingly quick time. With such vast distances between towns in the Northern Territory, it makes a lot of sense.

Yet is was only introduced relatively recently (2007) and before that there was NO speed limit outside of Northern Territory towns. You could drive as fast as you felt you could handle it. A couple of horrific road smashes (interestingly enough, each a single-vehicle accident) persuaded the politicians to introduce a maximum speed limit of 110 kph for most roads (as in other States) and the 130kph limit was created for the Barkly, Stuart, Arnhem and Victoria Highways. None of the other States or Territories offers anything above 110 kph.

* 130xph is a shade over 80mph.


A cloudy dawn sky 



When dawn did break (I tried to photograph it but, with Matt getting every morsel out of his 130kph, the pics were far too blurred), the sky had more clouds than we have seen yet on this holiday. We still have not turned on the windscreen wipers since I left Woonona over 5,000 km* ago — not even once!

5,000 km is about 3.100 miles.


Matt cooking breakfast 


Katherine was where we stopped for breakfast, round about 9:00am. It being Sunday morning, Matt and I decided that bacon and eggs was in order and so, for the first time since Gladesville, Matt was able to use his little frying pan. The aromas coming from the back of the car were wonderful! The bacon was cut into bit-sized pieces and fried with onion and then had beaten eggs added to make scrambled eggs with bacon and onion. Marvellous!

You will notice that, for safety reasons, the petrol jerry-can has been taken out of the vehicle and is on the ground to Matt’s left.


The coffee pot on the gas cooker 



In another first, Matt put “proper coffee” into his little coffee pot and that, too, proved most enjoyable.

It was about a 45-minute break. Then I took the wheel for the next leg of the journey and we were on the road again.


Mataranka picnic area 



On the way north, we had been quite impressed with the pleasant picnic areas in Mataranka, but it was not passed by us at a suitable time to stop. We made a mental note that maybe we could stop at Mataranaka on the return journey. Sadly, again it was not at a suitable time to stop and, although I took this snap (and a few others b ut chose this one), we did not stop. Maybe on a subsequent trip?


Apostle Birds Our next stop was 160 km* further on where the Stuart Highway is joined by the Carpentaria Highway at a place known to locals as the Hi Way Inn Roadhouse (basically a petrol station but it also offers accommodation), fairly close to Daly Waters Station (a cattle station), if you are looking it up on the map.

We simply parked under a tree in the camping area behind the roadhouse, unfolded our little table and made sandwiches. Almost immediately we were joined by a bunch of these birds, a sort of minor section of the local squadron, the majority of whom stayed at a distance and watched.

They are known as Apostle Birds because of a myth (well, sort-of myth) that there are always twelve of them in a group. Our group had slightly more than that and most groups have between six and twenty. In common with birds in all tourist areas, they are absolutely fearless — Wary and watchful, but absolutely fearless.

After lunch it was Matt’s turn to drive again and, two hours later (at Renner Springs again) we had our afternoon break and then I drove from there to Tennant Creek.


The road goes on and on 




On and on goes the road. Until you drive these roads, you really have no clear idea of just how vast this land is. In a photo like this, the furthest point you can see on the road is prbably no more than about three kilometres* away.

* Three kilometres is a little under two miles.


Far Horizon 1 


At the top of a rise approaching Renner Springs (where we spent the night of Day 5) we stopped the car to take this snap looking due west. What looks like a lake just below the horizon is, in fact, a mirage. I have checked all the maps and there is no indication of any body of water in that area.

We did not get petrol at Renner Springs on our northerly trip but pushed on to Elliott before we did so. This time we stopped to top up our tank at Renner Springs and wished that we hadn’t — it was the dearest fuel of our whole trip at 199.9¢ per litre. And that was just for ordinary unleaded petrol (91 octane); they didn’t have premium unleaded (95 octane) which my car prefers and runs best on. Sheesh!


Far Horizon 2 




Turning 180° and looking the other way, the only difference is the lack of a mirage. It’s a B-I-G country!


The day’s statistics We reached Tennant Creek about 5:00pm, after almost ten-and-a-half hours on the road.

This snap of the read-out from my car’s on-board computer tells an interesting story. Let me take you through it:

• From start
The car resets its parameters for all of this section above the cross-bar whenever the ignition is off for more than five hours, ie., every night.
• 1005 km
This is the distance we have travelled (roughly 625 miles) today. When it reached 1,000 km, Matt and I each leaned forward and patted the dash board, saying in unison, “You’re a good little car!” It has never given us a moment’s concern for the whole trip.
• 8.26 h
This is the total time that the engine has been running. In other words, we were stopped for a total of about two hours throughout the day, including lunch, morning and afternoon breaks and petrol stops.
• 119 km/h
Dividing the total distance by the total time indicates that this was our average speed for the whole trip — not bad considering we stuck to the posted limits everywhere (we don’t want an interstate speeding ticket!)
• 8.7 l/100km
This is our fuel consumption in litres per 100 km. We have learned that driving at 130 kph burns up a lot more fuel than more leisurely driving. Usually on a trip I consume less than 7 litres per 100 km.
• 0km/h
Current speed. Aren’t you glad we stopped before taking this photo? The tachometre to the right indicates that the motor is not running.
• 17:04
The current time in the 24-hour mode, ie., four minutes after 5:00pm.


You can be sure that we needed no rocking to go to sleep tonight. We had dinner at a local club (if you are from far away, you don’t have to be a member of another club to be signed in) and fell into bed, not even writing up the day’s blog (or, for that matter, the previous day’s blog, as you may have noticed). That can wait until I have more time to go through photos etc.

Tomorrow is a much easier prospect — just around 500k to Alice Springs — half of today’s effort.

Oh, and at last Matt has posted another video. I have put it at the foot of yesterday’s page.



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