Aus Update 8 - Alice Springs to Katherine

24 August 2006- We left Alice Springs after posting our previous update to the website. The best way to describe the intervening drive is more and more road, caravans and the occasional road train. Paula took the time to count the wheels on one of these 53.5m long monstrosities - 62 (the cattle ones anyway). This is probably a good time to mention the waving to the other drivers. At least 50% of the traffic coming towards you is either campervans or 4wd's or trucks towing caravans. All these very lonely travellers (typically you might see one every couple of minutes) are so pleased to see someone else that most of them give you a wave. Well, it's sort of a wave - anywhere between a full hand lift and a 1 finger (no, not the centre one) lift from the steering wheel - it's pretty hot so you have to save energy.

We stopped for the night at "The Devil's Marbles Conservation Park". Quite fascinating really, the rocks have worn away to mainly roundish shapes and resemble lots of very large marbles scattered around. The view is best at sunset or sunrise and there's really no reason to be there at any other time. As a consequence, it's a very basic campsite, more like a parking lot really. Here I am sitting by our vehicle, and here are some of the other very excellent photos Paula took.

In the morning, Paula got up to take some more photos... I didn't as you can see.

The 25 August 2006 involved a lot more driving as well. A distinguishing feature of the roadside are the MANY termite mounds. Without stopping and backing up to take pictures of some of the larger and more interesting shaped ones, this photo gives the idea. They're a bit like looking at clouds, as you see them go by they can resemble many things. Paula has seen many cathedrals and gatherings of people (ok).

We stopped at Tennant Creek. It's supposed to be very historic with lots to see and do, but the guy at the information centre was a fill in, and wasn't very informative. We didn't particularly want to spend $40 on a mine tour (though I wouldn't have minded looking around or fossicking in the tailings), so we left in search of things more interesting in a northerly direction. The Telegraph Station was the best thing we saw. It was very interesting to look through and find out more about why this route north was really developed. The explorer John McDouall Stuart surveyed the route, and between 1870 to 1872, the 3000 odd km of telegraph line was installed, along with many repeater stations like the one here at Tennant Creek. This link was Australia's first link to London and was a huge step forward in communications. We would have taken more photos, but the batteries in the camera went flat at the crucial moment. It was very hot (30+ deg C) and as the historical society seems to think that carparks are best located >500m from the historic sights, neither of us were keen to go and get more batteries, so here's one from the carpark as we left.

Road in front, road behind, no one in sight, much the usual state of affairs on this road really.

We planned to stop at Banka Banka Station, but when we got there, it was still pretty early, so we planned to continue to Renner Springs. Something was obviously wrong with our calculations, because it was still pretty early once we got there too. Eventually we stopped at a tiny town called Elliot with two of everything. Two aboriginal settlements (north & south), two service stations and two caravan parks. After driving by each of these two caravan parks we settled on the larger of the two and made camp. They had peacocks roaming the park, it was nice enough, but very basic.

One of the other visitors to the park certainly got our attention. It was a bus. Rarer than caravans or campervans, but not so unusual as to invite that much comment. This one was luxurious and big. It had pop out walls to expand the space, they pulled out the full size patio chairs and tables. They used their outdoor barbeque and fridges (two large Waeco units - no need really, they had a full sized double door home fridge inside). No, what really invited speculation was the GARAGE & GUEST QUARTERS! We had seen other buses/trucks towing a small 4wd either with an A-frame or basic trailer, but this bus had a large enclosed trailer behind it. They proceeded to open the back doors, back out a 5 door Prado 4wd, pop the top and go upstairs to the guest quarters! Now we didn't get a tour, so we were limited to outside perusing, but the lady in the site next to us got the full tour. Upstairs in the GUEST quarters was a double bed, bar, fridge and full ensuite bathroom. The bed popped up to reveal the wine cellar and golf clubs! Oh my gosh, and we're living in the back of a vehicle about the size of their run about vehicle. Oh well. I didn't want to be too obvious, so I just took the one shot showing the trailer and pop out sides.

So today, the 26 August 2006 we continued driving. We have noticed over the last couple of days as we have passed into the tropic of Capricorn that the vegetation is changing. The trees are taller, the leaves are bigger, there are more plants, and the air is hot and humid.

Tonight we are sitting in a caravan park in Katherine. This is a lovely place. There are lots of trees and plants, and best of all, they are with the times. We are sitting here outside our vehicle, with entertainment (a country singer crooning down the drive at the barbeque area) with best of all, WIRELESS INTERNET! Aah, we do miss being online, and this doesn't intrude on the camping/on-the-road lifestyle at all.