Travelling Australia - Journal 2013
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3 June 2013

Tennant Creek to Newcastle Waters
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The night was made noisy by strong wind gusting around us and moving branches on nearby trees. In the morning the wind was still blowing and the bright, sunny day was cool (20°C at 8:30)

We packed up and connected caravan and Pathfinder without haste and drove out of the caravan park at 8:30. We were soon clear of Tennant Creek on a deserted Stuart Highway heading north. The road initially ran north-east so the southerly wind struck us at an angle making the caravan move unpleasantly; fortunately the road soon swung around to the north so the wind was from immediately behind and much more comfortable.

Passing ThreeWays we continued north on a good bitumen road with no other traffic in sight, a clear blue sky and strong tail wind. The land along the road was nearly flat and covered with eucalyptus trees to three or four metres high with a lower layer of vegetation less than one metre high. The road was in long straight stretches which usually had a gentle slope up or down; overall the road was gradually descending but the change in elevation was very gradual (from 332 metres elevation at ThreeWays to be 272 metres at Renner Springs 140 kilometres further on). We called in to the Attack Creek rest area to confirm the position and to check facilities.

Although this is cattle country we saw very few cattle. Apart from a dozen or so grazing in a patch of grassland, we encountered four or five grazing along the edge of the bitumen and slowed down in case they decided to cross the road but they were too busy eating. The Stuart Highway passes through grazing leases and is generally unfenced; grids across the road marking property boundaries were the only sign we saw of the properties.

There was none of the usual roadkill along the road so kites and ravens were not clustered on their breakfast carcasse. In the gusty wind it wasn't clear whether birds would be out and about; the only bird we saw was a hawk standing in grass at the side of the road. We did eventually see one roadkill wallaby but it was the only carcasse seen in 273 kilometres travelled today.

We stopped at Renner Springs for fuel and to make a cup of coffee. By now there was a little more traffic on the road but it was hardly busy. The wind continued blowing and the road gradually descending to be 227 metres at the Newcastle Waters rest area where we stopped for the night. This was not a long single descent, the road continued gently rising and falling but the overall trend was slowly down. Vegetation along the road continued much as before. Although the species of plants appeared to change a little, it could probably all be generally described as "scrub".

Except for a handful of places the land alongside the road was devoid of signs of human activity. ThreeWays roadhouse and Renner Springs roadhouse were two obvious exceptions as was the Attack Creek Rest Area. The only settlement along the road was Elliott which was very quiet. Between ThreeWays and Elliott there wasn't even a fence along the road, there was no advertising and no property names (except for one mine entrance clearly marked 'Authorised Vehicles Only' to discourage exploration). The most common signs of human activity were a series of microwave repeater towers running roughly parallel to the highway. After passing Elliott an aerial power cable running beside the road was a major increase in signs of human activity.

Stuart Highway near Newcastle Waters The Stuart Highway near Newcastle Waters rest area. Scrub in the background is typical of much of the region.

Tennant Creek to Newcastle Waters - page 2
About twenty kilometres past Elliott we pulled into Newcastle Waters rest area for the night. Newcastle Waters rest area is one of a few between Katherine and Tennant Creek and quickly fills at this time of year. When we arrived, this one still had some caravans which had stopped for lunch and they soon continued on their way; other vans were settled in for the night. By sunset there were about 20 vehicles, mostly caravans, in the rest area and there was space for one or two more for late arrivals. The afternoon had warmed up to the high twenties but the temperature dropped again at sunset.

Terrain near Newcastle Waters Low vegetation (generally described as "scrub") dominates the terrain south-east of Newcastle Waters. The grassland is an extension of the Mitchell Grass Plains more widely found in Queensland; this is the western limit of those plains.

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