Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Winton to Daly Waters

Luckily there was no overnight dew and we rolled up the big tent dry as we wouldn’t need it on the three day ride from Winton to Daly Waters. As we rode out of town we were surprised by a sign post telling us there was no fuel at Mckinlay (240km). Where fuel is concerned we always play by the rules and we obediently filled up at Kynuna (160km). As we rode through Mckinlay we couldn’t help notice the thriving roadhouse!

The south easterly trade wind was still assisting with our fuel consumption and Devil was purring along the Landsborough Highway consuming only 3.5 litres per hundred. Just south of Cloncurry a forest of ant hills appeared and we saw our first wedge tailed eagle since the Nullarbor Plain. I really enjoy these days out on the road. Life seems incredibly simple when all we have to do is ride, rest, and ride some more.

50m long road train dwarfs the bikes.
I remembered riding the road between Cloncurry and Mt Isa in 2010 and I was delighted to be back for a second turn. The road meanders through rocky hills and valleys and we both enjoyed leaning into one sweeping corner after another; this has got to be one of the best outback rides in the country.

By 4pm, the little tent was up in a caravan park in Mt Isa and we were kicking back in our big camp chairs, drinking beer and musing over the days ride.

Little tent at Daly Waters, where we met some other bikers.
When we are using the little tent everything, clothes bags and food boxes, stays in the bike panniers and the trailer. This keeps us tidy and minimises the work load when we are packing up and preparing for the next day’s ride.

Steve set the alarm for first light and by 8am we were queuing for fuel in the middle of town. We usually like to fill up with fuel the night before and while we waited we remembered why. Then we were on the road again. With the sun behind us we rode along as happy as can be. At lunch time we rested on the veranda at the old pub in Camooweal, while our hostess served homemade apple and rhubarb pies with delicious coffee. The Northern Territory border is only a few kilometres from Camooweal and we stopped at the border crossing, horrified at the graffiti on the welcome sign. While Steve took photographs I stood in quiet contemplation, excited about the road ahead, and at the same time, wondering when we would visit Queensland again.

Barkly Roadhouse was a welcome site when we pulled in for fuel and a camp site at the end of the day. We had the pick of the grassy sites and then made haste towards the unisex, ensuite style bathrooms. Communal ensuites simply don’t work when the campsite is busy because no one can use the toilet and shower at the same time and queues usually eventuate. Despite the ablutions, Barkly Roadhouse is a great place to rest up for the night and the tucker in the roadhouse looked excellent. I like the little sign at the front of the roadhouse which makes no apologies for the extortionate price of fuel, explaining that the roadhouse used 500 litres of diesel everyday to run the generators; point taken.

The next morning we were back on the road as soon as we felt the kangaroos were tucked up in bed. It is about 560km from Barkley to Daly Waters and we had to get on with the ride so we could be off the road by 4pm; kangaroos start becoming active around this time. The tail wind was still with us and the riding was sweet and easy. Three Ways, where the Barkly Highway meets the Stuart Highway, is a real staging post and it is only here that we felt we had arrived in the Northern Territory.

As we rode north, the south easterly wind which had been kind to us for so long, caused turbulence when we crossed paths with the south bound road trains. You don’t appreciate how many road trains are on the road until you have to make allowances for them every time you meet. As we trundled northwards the temperature started to rise, half a degree at a time, and by 2pm it was 30 degrees.

We stopped for afternoon tea in a free camping rest area. These rest areas are full of travellers and if you don’t claim your spot by early afternoon you will find there is no room at the inn. I attempted to use the pit toilet but was turned away by the swarm of flies when I lifted the seat. It amazes us how many people are prepared to spend the afternoon sitting in a lay-by when, for example, Daly Waters pub only charges $7 per person per night for an unpowered tent site which includes a hot shower and a flushing toilet.

We fuelled up on the highway before making our way to the Daly Waters pub. Our road map showed the road out to the pub was gravel. When I was paying for the fuel, just for something to say, I asked the attendant if the road was gravel and she assured me it was. No one was more surprised than me when it was bitumen all the way. I guess they spin this yarn to try and get punters to camp at the highway roadhouse instead.

Chilli and Jane at Daly waters pub.
The Daly Waters pub lived up to all the hype and that night we dined on outback steak and wild caught barramundi. We drank cheap wine in the beer garden and thoroughly enjoyed Chilli’s outback show. Chilli is the resident bush poet and balladeer and he made us laugh and cry. So here we are, chilling out in the Northern Territory and it feels good.

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