Cairns to Darwin – Day 2

Breakfast on the go

Breakfast on the go

I woke, packed up the van and headed south to the first picnic spot I could find. Here I parked up again and prepared breakfast: sausage sandwiches and HP sauce. Yummy. It was stinking hot and not even 9am when I put all the food stuff away and headed south.

I’d have preferred to have continued west along the Developmental Road but as it’s unpaved in parts I wasn’t allowed. So south it was to Cloncurry and through Mt Isa again. Legend has it that once you cross the river in Mt Isa then you’re bound by supernatural laws to return to the city. Well, I crossed the river a few days ago and I was indeed back again! This time, though, my stay was barely an hour.

I filled up (twice), had a McFlurry so I could get some free wi-fi and bought some beers for later. The reason I filled up twice was due to a problem with the van. When it was hot (pretty much after it had been running for more than an hour) it would make any fuel squirted into it “froth” and spill back out. As such, filling it was a very slow and tedious process. At some times I was lucky to get 1l of diesel per minute into the tank. The first time I stopped, I thought I had filled it but when I got in I found I’d only made it to the 3/4 mark. Hence a second stop to put another 10l in.

Another border crossing

Another border crossing

West it was. I passed the border into the Northern Territory at around 6pm and duly put my watch back half an hour to cater for the time difference. As duck fell, the insects arrived in their droves and made little “tak” noises as they squirted their innards all over my windscreen (which now sported an impressive chip courtesy of a road train and a piece of gravel).

Some of these insects were the size of small birds, although the effect when they hit the windscreen were different. Birds made more of a “whump” sound before whipping over the top of the van and not leaving a mark.

Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t aim for birds. The opposite, I tried to swerve and slow to avoid them but the smaller ones in particular were just intent (it seemed) on bouncing off the van. Maybe it’s some weird avian version of “dare” but they’d fly into the path of the van, often flutter away and then cut back in again at the last second in a bid to make me duck pointlessly behind the steering wheel as they “whump”-ed harmlessly (for me) overhead.

Oh, I think I got a snake as well. Although it could have been a bit of old tyre rubber. I couldn’t avoid it as there was a car coming in the opposite lane at the same time so there was no swerve space.

Anyway, after driving through the dark for some time I made it off the westbound road and up onto the Stuart Highway which connects Adelaide with Darwin. I’d been up here before, but there was little other choice. I had toyed with the Tableland route, but the distance between roadhouses was too far.

Food, drink, expensive diesel

Food, drink, expensive diesel

I hit the 3-Ways roadhouse for some fuel and a leg-stretch, pushed north a bit and pulled into a picnic/rest area. Amazingly – and wonderfully – a lot of these are clearly marked as allowing 24-hour camping. So if you’re not bothered about showers or electricity then they make for a great place to pitch for the night. Many have toilets and barbequeues as well as seating areas and information posters. The one I stopped at already had about six vehicles parked up, the occupants – I assumed – already in the land of Nod.

After prepping the van so I’d not concuss myself should I roll over in bed, I joined them.

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