Monday, August 4, 2014

Road Warrior travel post

No wargame posts from me for a while as we have had a much loved Grandpa (Jock) pass away and it's been a hard time all round. He lived interstate so around 3,000kms away. I am not going into details but it came about that I would fly down to Adelaide from Darwin get picked up and taken out to Jocks place then drive back to Darwin with my lady, a trailer and a big dog. We had no hesitation in bringing one sad Rhodesian Ridgeback back to our household. My lady and her brother had been making arrangements and organising his house for sale (a tonne of work with grief stress and shock on top of that).

Sorry Tasmania. You got left out again. 
The road journey home is a simple one. South Australia (Yorke Peninsula) to Darwin (Home). Only one road to go so no chance of getting lost. That road is the Stuart Highway. All the way from cold Southern hemisphere winter to tropical winter at home. We had driven it once before down and back up years ago but this time it wasn't for leisure. Plenty of time to spend together and chat about the past, present and future and keep each other company. Also every minute that went by got us closer to home despite the long road ahead of us.

We didn't properly hit the road until Friday afternoon and we soon had some light rain after sunset. Clouds that I had earlier noticed out the window of the flight down that morning thinking see you on the Road soon. More Fuel at Port Augusta then away into the South Australian out back which was a more relaxing and natural feeling for us Top Enders. However it was dark and cold and we made the call to pitch our tent for the night. In fact it was really cold for this tropical living lad. However the night sky was absolutely incredible! Milky Way was crystal clear.
Central Australia....The Red Centre.

Sleep didn't come to me easy and I eventually woke up in the very early morning and said enough is enough lets go. Busting the tent down was super fast as it was around 2 degrees Celsius. But my fingers and hands had never felt so painfully cold that I recall. Heater on full and up the road into the void. Slowly colour starts to return to the desert sky and we see the sign for a Road House ahead. Yay....Coffee time. Spuds Road House is on the turn off to Woomera and we arrived just before it opened at 6. Coffee and Bacon and Egg toasted sandwich as the sun rises. We saw some interesting fog that was clear underneath then a fog layer of about 2 feet then clear again after sun rise. 
Woomera is a Government Defence town. RAAF Woomera is a test range. Established during the Cold War and it has a space race connection as well. Would have been interesting to go to Missile park and play tourists but we had road to burn up and lots of it.
Interesting Fog south of Coober Pedy.

We stopped in at Coober Pedy for something from a bakery and had a quick chin wag with a couple of other dog owners one who had a massive Boston Great Dane. He told us he has two others at home and he hasn't had a burglar yet since living there. Coober Pedy exists because of Opals. Not the sort of environment to just have a walkabout in the desert due to all the holes. The location was however used for scenes in Mad Max II. Many houses are built underground here so it is a very unique place.

Later we stopped near dark for the night to set up camp at Kulgera Road House. A great feeling to be back in the Northern Territory at the first (or last) pub. Cold overnight but not as cold as the previous chiller. For those of you reading this that do not know Central Australia is not all a true desert. There is much more of it that would be described as Arid zones. In this vast area though large populations of Camel roam free. They descend from Camel trains operated by Pakistanis and Afghans who would transport everything and anything to Alice Springs. Mechanization of course means that camels became redundant so many just got set free. They didn't perish but thrived instead. So on the menu at Kulgera was Camel Burger that I consumed and it was delicious!
Kulgera Police Station behind the trees as seen from our camp at sunset.

Next day we stopped at Erldunda Road House for Coffee and this place is best avoided if you are passing through. It sits at the turn off to Uluru (Ayers Rock) so it's set up to extract the maximum amount of money from tourists. A bit embarrassing for us Territorians really. We pulled into Alice Springs and had a walk around town and I manage to catch up with a fella I worked with in Darwin but has moved to Alice. It was one of our longer daytime breaks during the day actually. The big dog enjoyed the walk around town and seemed to lift in spirits with the increase in temperature. We hit the road with the goal of Renner Springs for the night. Before that though we passed through Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve. Again no stopping to play tourists but some snaps with the phone from the moving car. Forward, forward ever forward.
The best sleep on the road I had was at Renner Springs that night. Great feeling knowing that provided we had no dramas we would be sleeping in our own bed the next night.
Renner Springs sunrise

We did a refuel and before lunch snack stop at Daly Waters pub. It's off the Stuart Highway but it is historically significant as it was once an international airport. A refuelling stop for the golden age of aviation for those traveling to and from Sydney/Singapore then London. I noticed way up in the cloudless sky four Pelicans fly past above Daly Waters. Usually associated with the coast they move to lakes in land as well.
Daly Waters Soovenear shop as seen from the pub.

Katherine was fuel and food then the excitement of a section of Highway we know well. A really good 300kms because of lots of passing lanes at various points which is handy for the busier traffic. Road Trains and in particular Cattle carrying Road Trains converge here from all over North Australia with live export for the regions to Australia's North (Indonesia, Vietnam, etc). It was soon all over with an unloading, a burger then bed.
Road Dogs getting close to the goal. Home!

An exhausting way to spend a few days and we had no bad luck come our way thank goodness. We had plenty of reminders of the dangers to vehicles (and those inside) with Cattle dead and live on the mostly unfenced road. We did get surprised by a horse next to the Road as an oncoming Road Train blocked the view around a curve but he stayed put gladly for us. Didn't see any wild and free Emus this time but saw two road kill versions. Other road kill was an Echidna, sheep, lizards, birds and of course plenty of kangaroos and wallabies. As we got further north a relatively new roadside phenomena we noticed was termite mound decorating. A couple looked remarkably human from a distance with hats and shirts on. We even saw one in tropical mode with Hawaiian shirt, a lay and huge comedy sunglasses. Nice work.

More info...
The Stuart Highway is rich with WWII history. Many airstrips from that time are near the road. The Highway or Track as we call it, is named after the first European to to make the trek south to north and the actual highway is in near identical position to his route in many places. It has history with the overland Telegraph line. A hugely significant piece of technology infrastructure back in the day. This wasn't without it's problems with deadly clashes with the original Australians. Unfortunately modern day murder has also cast a sad shadow on the Track. The NT portion of the Track a few years back outside of the few built up areas was an open speed limit but now most of it is capped at 130kmh. There is still a small section though that has reverted back to no speed limit. I don't usually find the need to go more than 130 though. A long distance trek is reminder of just how big this flat land is and just how much of it has at first glance, nothing there.

Cheers from Darwin.


  1. Condolences on your loss mate, never an easy time. Sounds like you made the most of the trip given the circumstances though, an interesting read. Some classic outback photo's there too, love the "soovenear" shop! Cheers, Paul :-)

  2. I am sorry to hear of your loss, but a fascinating read.

  3. Thanks for sharing, was a great read!

  4. Thanks people. It's not wargaming related but I thought it was worth sharing.
    thanks for reading.
    cheers all