Again we woke to another day of clear blue skies and sunshine but it is still windy.
We left Daly Waters at about 9.15 am – leaving the car park can be very interesting when over 100 rigs all try to exit at roughly the same time through 3 exit gates – but somehow everyone does.
Our first stop was the Daly Waters WWll Aerodrome about 3km down the road. It is an amazing place and in reasonable condition – a bit like a movie set. Interestingly it is still pretty much intact, and with no signs of graffiti or vandalism! It was obvious that several travelers had used this area as a freecamp overnight.
Back on the Stuart Highway we noticed that the road surface was deteriorating and there are lots of warning signs near pot holes and damaged edges. Not sure if it is flood damage or just wear and tear and a lack of maintenance.
We stopped for coffee at the Alexander Forrest Memorial Rest Area about 45km north of Daly Waters. This is quite a large area and overnight freecamping is allowed. There is a covered seating area, rubbish bins and a water tank (not drinkable), but no toilets. It is just off the road so it would be quite noisy. The memorial itself is not actually accessible from the rest area, which is a bit strange. We assume that Alexander Forrest is an ancestor of ‘Twiggy’ Forrest of Fortescue Metals.
Further down the highway we turned off the main road and stopped at Larrimah to have a look around. There is the Historic Larrimah Hotel and the iconic Pink Panther Pub and Caravan Park.
We actually decided to indulge in a Devonshire Tea at Fran’s Devonshire Teahouse back on the highway. It was the strangest Devonshire tea that we have ever had – warm whole meal scone with jam and clotted cream, plus 4 slices of frozen cake!?! Fran served interesting food including camel pies ($12 each) with a friendly but direct “Basil Faulty” approach. It was like a side show with her brow beaten husband George! A great double act and we’re still not sure if they are for real or if it’s just put on for the customers. Everyone definitely had a great laugh! We weren’t game to ask questions about the food though! We will definitely chalk this experience up as one of life’s truly weird experiences!! If you’re intending on visiting Fran, make sure you ask for prices before ordering!
Most of the way up the Highway today the undergrowth on the western side of the highway had been burnt or was still smoking. Over 100 Kms – amazing really. It appears to be planned but why only one side of the road?
As we travel further north, the termite mounds are growing noticeably taller.
At this point we might comment that our Coddiwompling approach to travelling has caught us a little unstuck. Our destination has always been Darwin, and we have thoroughly enjoyed rambling and meandering along the way; visiting interesting places; staying for as long as we felt like; and so on. No bookings – just turn-up where-ever! Yesterday, with Darwin only perhaps a few days away, Ann tried to book some accommodation but couldn’t. The V8 Supercars are on in Darwin this coming weekend and there isn’t any accommodation anywhere. It’s not a major problem as there are plenty of places we can stay and/or visit until we can move on to Darwin, but it is something we perhaps would have anticipated if we weren’t quite so casual about our travel. Ce la vie!
Having said that, it was quite a thrill to see a number of V8 racing team trucks pass us on the highway!
We arrived at Mataranka at about lunch time and Ann picked up a few items at the supermarket before we headed out to Bitter Springs Cabins and Camping on PK’s recommendation. This park has a lovely tropical feel. We were given a park map and told to drive around and pick our site. This sounds great but there are no site numbers and there is thick tropical vegetation so it was not long before we were very lost. People here were very helpful and we are now settled in our site of choice and have worked out where everything is located.
It is such a lovely setting that we are feeling relaxed already! I am now in shorts and t-shirt after weeks of feeling cold and wind-blown and wearing long trousers and jackets.
Tomorrow the plan is to head off to the springs and actually go for a swim! Maybe.