Our lie-in until the late hour of 6:00 didn’t happen. The birds in the area, including the turkeys, decided that 5:20 was a much nicer time of day to wake us all up. The noise was deafening, but at lest I know the turkeys will get what’s coming to them next month. That’ll teach them.
In the bus, northward bound and first stop a place called Elliott. Formed during WWII as a staging point for troops heading to Darwin, all the buildings are on the left hand side of the road. The troops had been camped on the right, and nobody seems to have thought of using that land since, even though the troops are long gone. It was recently given a grant by the government to spruce itself up a bit, add some pizazz or whatever. After weeks of debate, they decided to spend the cash on a 9-hole gold course. Good grief.
The Mobil service station has a list on the wall of people who are banned for life from entering. The list contains more people than actually live in Elliott. At least we were allowed to stop and nobody complained that we used too much toilet paper.
Further north (surprise) we stopped at Dunmarra to refuel – the last available fuel stop for 500km. Don’t fill up here and your journey could be over a bit sooner than you expected. The place name is thought to be a shortening of the name of the founder: Dan O’Marra.
Heading to Daly Waters we passed Stuart Tree. After his problems at Attack Creek, he set off again from Adelaide. The Aboriginals had left Attack Creek and he got past there with no troubles the second time. Further north, however, they encountered trees which were brittle yet strong. As they passed through them, the branches broke and formed knife-like splinters which cut both the men and the horses as they brushed past. They were so sharp that many of the horses were actually killed by the injuries suffered and they were forced to turn back… to Adelaide again.
Daly Waters is home to Australia’s first international airport, though we couldn’t look at it as the road had been closed. This upset Carl as he usually speed-tests the bus on the disused runway. Daley Waters Aviation Complex was opened in 1928 and came into regular use in the 1930s. Planes then weren’t able to hold as much fuel so travellers to and from Sydney needed a stopoff. This was it.
The town has a permanent population of eight, most of whom man the bar next to the remotest traffic lights in Australia, which sit permanently on red. The bar is amazing with souvenirs, photos, patched and so on from thousands of visitors. Bras, underpants, shirts, flags and so forth hang from the walls and ceiling, most with messages scrawled on them. There are even collections of official patches from various fire, ambulance and police departments (including Durham Constabulary). Out back, they have a pool where we had lunch then frolicked for an hour or so. Before getting in the bus and heading… you guessed it… north.
At Mataranka, we disembarked for another plunge. During the war, troops were employed by their officers to pave the pools here, put in steps down to them and so on. The officers them took these pools – heated thermal ones – and relegated the troops to using the river. I had a dip in both, tough there are supposedly crocs in the river. I didn’t see any, which is probably for the best. The thermal pool was lovely, surrounded by trees where I could see flying foxes hanging upside down.
As we left, Carl spotted a young kangaroo on the road twitching wildly. It had obviously been winged by a car but whoever had done it hadn’t bothered to stop. He carried it into the bush and a passing car stopped. The driver got out with a huge lug wrench and, thankfully out of our sight, put the poor creature out of its misery.
The road north beckoned and we stopped off at the third-largest settlement in the Northern Territory for more supplied. Katherine is another town formed around an old telegraph station and was named after the second eldest daughter of James Chambers, who financed Stuart’s expedition. The current Katherine town is actually very new. The old one was flooded in 1998 when the river reached 22m in depth and washed it away.