Travelling Australia - Journal 2006
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30 August 2006 - Daly Waters Pub to Barkly Roadhouse

Location map Another welcome cool night of 13 degrees at Daly Waters Historic Pub (to use its full name) - it was built in 1930 and looks like it. The caravan park emptied quickly since most vans stayed hitched to their towing vehicles. From Daly Waters to Newcastle Waters the road continues through the Sturt Plateau bioregion we entered yesterday. This flat or gently undulating plain had little relief and the road had long relatively straight sections. The region is part of the divide between the eastward (to the Gulf of Carpentaria) and westward (to the Joseph Bonaparte Gulf) flowing watersheds and few signs of natural water were seen from the road. Woodland continued to dominate the roadside vegetation until Newcastle Waters but the trees were shorter, with more scrub, and more often grew with multiple trunks from the ground. Turkey Bush remained visible but the Kapok Tree was no longer to be seen.

We stopped at a rest area near Newcastle Water for a hot drink. Newcastle Creek is recognised as the boundary between the dense woodlands of the tropical Top End and the Red Centre's desert landscape. The contrast between the Top End and the open southern area is emphasised by the western extremity of treeless Mitchell Grass Plains being visible from the rest area.

South of Newcastle Waters the sky was clear of smoke for the first time since we left Darwin; the band of thin smoke around the horizon which was normal in the Top End around Darwin and south to Newcastle Waters had completely gone. There were signs of a few past fires but none were currently burning. The terrain changed to be more hilly; the road was often passing through cuttings in which we could see the orange, red or yellow basic rock. Many wildflowers beside the road were species we had seen in the Kimberley and Pilbara.

We stopped for lunch beside the road a little way south of Renner Springs (we keep bread rolls in the freezer and I take two out each morning to thaw for lunch). The flies were very bad, the worst we have experienced for many months. Even after we had driven on, there were several persistent flies still in the car; opening both front windows got rid of the worst of them.

Today we drove 561 kilometres and refuelled three times on the Stuart Highway and Barkly Highway. Prices for unleaded petrol ranged from 162 cents per litre at Daly Waters (on the highway, not at the Pub), 174.9 cents at Three Ways where the Barkly Highway meets the Stuart Highway and 180.9 cents a litre at Barkly Roadhouse which is very isolated.

The lack of traffic on the road was obvious. Yesterday we had passed an average of nine caravans, camperhomes or motorhomes an hour going in the opposite direction; today we passed an average of six an hour. Other traffic categories were also very light. Whenever we stopped there were few vehicles of any sort going in the same direction. Possibly the tourist season in the Top End has ended at the end of August this year. The "travelling season" in Northern Australia is broadly described as May to September, but it may have ended early this year.

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