Day 51 – Gemtree to Barrow Creek WWII Staging Area

It was cold but not freezing last night, although a strong South-Easterly wind blew up overnight.  We woke to clear blue skies and warm sunshine but the wind-chill factor made being outside quite uncomfortable.

After packing up Bertha and a quick stop at a very rural dump point we drove back 70 kms down the single lane Plenty Highway.

Track to the Gemtree dump point

Just love single lane highways!

We were surprised by the number of SUVs and caravans heading east so early in the morning but had no trouble moving off the road so we could pass each other safely.  This stage of our journey was quite uneventful except for a small mob of cows that casually sauntered across the highway.  We had plenty of warning so there were no dramas.

Cattle crossing the Plenty Highway

We stopped for thermos coffee at the junction of the Plenty Highway with the Stuart Highway, before turning north up the Stuart Highway.  There was quite a lot of traffic on the highway; caravans, trucks, SUVs, etc, but pretty well zero motorhomes or campervans other than the hire variety.

Coffee stop at corner of Plenty and Stuart Highways

Some roadworks sent up huge clouds of red dust as they were grading the sides of the road.  This makes great sense as it reduces feed for wildlife so close to the road, and assists with drainage should storms arrive.  Having wide edges also makes it a lot easier to see other traffic on the road.

Roadworks means lots of red dust

Nice wide edges to the highway

The speed limit on most of the Stuart Highway is 130 kmh so it did seem a bit strange to be asked to reduce speed to 100 kmh, then to 80 kmh and 60 kmh.

Scenes along the way

Ant hills have started to appear on the roadside in this stretch of our journey.  Occasionally they are dressed up with hats, singlets, and so on.  Hopefully the ant hills are a sign that the weather will warm up soon!  Today the winds are keeping temperatures down a bit.

We’re starting to see bigger ant hills

We took a minor turn off the highway to Aileron where there is a roadhouse and some very impressive sculptures, but we didn’t stop.

Scenes from Aileron

We soon stopped at the Prowse Gap Rest Area (Camps 9 #26) for lunch beside Bertha.  This rest area has drop toilets and allows 24 hour overnight camping.  It also has a mobile phone ‘hot spot’ so Ann called our son Phil to assure him that we were fit and well and would update the blog as soon as we had proper mobile and internet coverage.  Ann was also able to download email on her phone.

Prowse Gap rest area

After lunch we drove another 45 kms to Ti-Tree Roadhouse which we had thought would be our overnight destination.  There were caravans everywhere, including the truck parking area so we decided to keep driving up the highway.  It was still early so we had plenty of time.

We continued up the Stuart Highway to the McDouall Stuart Memorial Reserve rest area (Camps 9 #24) for a stretch in the sun.  This is a quite large area and overnight camping is allowed although there are no facilities other than a Telstra ‘hot spot’ which was getting quite a workout from a car full of young people.

McDouall Memorial Stuart Reserve

There are also two memorial plaques here.  One is for Ian Dahlenburg who founded Ti-Tree Grape Farm and Red Centre Mango Farm in the early 1970s.  We had passed the farm earlier at Ti-Tree and had commented at the size of the vineyards and the fact that they were here in central Australia.  At one time Ti-Tree farm was the second largest horticultural business in the Northern Territory.

Memorial Plaque

The second memorial monument and plaque is for John McDouall Stuart who ascended and named Mount Sturt in April 1860 – the mountain was later renamed Central Mount Stuart in honour of the explorer.  Tennant Creek, where we will arrive in a few days, is located in the McDouall Ranges, also presumably named in honour of the explorer Stuart.

Back on the Stuart Highway we headed for Barrow Creek Roadhouse as another option for our overnight stay.  We drove through what seemed to be endless mulga scrub until we came across some roadworks for line painting.

Scenes along the highway

Not unexpectedly we had to stop at the Stop sign where the road reduced to a single lane until the flag-lady waved us through.  What we didn’t expect, and have never seen before, was a pilot car escorting us along the 3 kilometres with a flashing sign asking us to follow the pilot car as there were wet lines.  Quite amazing!

Roadworks – line painting

Roadworks – line painting

Arriving at Barrow Creek we were a bit disappointed.  The entire place looked run down other than the restored heritage Telegraph Station, and we couldn’t see any caravans or motorhomes anywhere, so we decided to continue on our quest for overnight accommodation.

Barrow Creek Roadhouse & Caravan Park

Barrow Creek Telegraph Station

Is this Coddiwompling?  We are certainly “travelling purposefully toward an as yet unknown destination”.

Camps 9 came to the rescue with a reference to a rest area at the Barrow Creek WWII Staging Area (#22) some 20+ kilometres down the highway from the roadhouse.  Turning off the highway we were completely in the hands of our Garmin GPS as we headed down a dirt track in reasonably good condition into the unknown.  After about 1 km we came across a sign and a number of caravans and a motorhome came into view.

Welcome to Barrow Creek WWII Staging Area freecamp

We soon found a great site on a nice wide concrete slab, with a fire-pit nearby.  Most other vans here are also parked on slabs so after setting up Bertha we went for a walk to understand more about this place.  The sign we had seen explained that this was one of the military staging areas for troops moving north from Alice Springs to Darwin in WWII.  According to the map on the sign, Bertha is currently parked on the site of one of the original mess halls.  There are other slabs that have the remnants of walls and fireplaces, but we do wonder where all the bricks and other materials went after the war.

Parked at freecamp

Back in Bertha, we settled in for a night of freecamping.  Ann cooked up a delicious dinner, only popping outside quickly to take a beautiful photo of the sunset.

Sunset at Barrow Creek WWII Staging Area Freecamp

Yet again, no mobiles, no TV and no internet.  Updating the blog will have to wait another day.

Still thoroughly enjoying The Motorhome Experience!

Categories: 2017 Up The Centre Adventure, Free Camping | Tags:

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