Travelling Australia - Journal 2013
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9 July 2013

Brunette rest area to Soudan Bore
The morning was windy and cool as vehicles left the rest area; wind had been strong and gusty overnight but was less now. There was an interesting sheet of high cloud to the south indicating the weather may change as we moved south.

Vegetation around the Brunette rest area was dominated by bloodwoods carrying masses of pale yellow flowers and buds with an understory mostly made up of three or four acacia species but within a few kilometres of leaving the rest area we entered grassland which seemed to be unlimited but which we found stretched to the south to a point 100 kilometres from Brunette rest area. The road remained single lane, of variable quality with speeds of 60 to 70 the most practicable. The grassland was nearly flat and the road had been built in long straight sections, interrupted only by grids when crossing property boundaries. In a few places scattered trees and patches of scrubby plants interrupted the grass but for most of the distance the tussock grass was uninterrupted. Elevation was a nearly uniform 220 metres.

Traffic was light, mainly other caravans with heavy transports also not uncommon. Floodways remained a good place to wait for oncoming traffic or to let faster overtaking traffic go past and the UHF radio was invaluable in communicating between vehicles. Disappointingly, a surprising number of caravan tow-vehicles didn't have external UHF aerials and presumably didn't have radios. They may have been relying on handhelds; but without success since they didn't respond to calls.

A surprising number of 4WD vehicles were towing large boats; we couldn't decide where they were going.

Tablelands Highway Tablelands Highway crossing grassland between the Barkly highway and Brunette rest area.
Line of cattle One of many lines of cattle making their way to or from water. This is one of the shorter lines.
Brunette to Soudan - page 2
The grassland was pretty dry and barren, we stopped for morning coffee by pulling off the road at random and could see how very hard and dry the ground had become. While driving we looked for kangaroos (alhough at this time of day they are usually resting so we didn't really expect to see any) and emus but we didn't see any of them either. Indeed emus have been noticeably absent, so far in the Territory we have seen more brolgas and bustards than emus. The lack of wildlife roadkill tended to confirm the conclusion that they have moved elsewhere, probably in search of water and feed. We continued to pass cattle roadkill.

The grassland is an enormous cattle grazing area and on the flat, mainly featureless, plain we could see cattle many kilometres away; sometimes they were quietly grazing but more often were moving to or from watering points scattered around. They walked in single file and had made the same trips to and from water so often that tracks had been worn in the grass and could be seen crossing the road. At one point we intercepted a small group of about a dozen cattle walking in file along a track approaching the road. The cattle did not respond to our vehicle near them; they kept walking on their accustomed track, at their usual speed, onto the bitumen and over to the other side. It became easier to see how they could be run down by a vehicle whose driver expected cattle near the road would get out of the way.

two cattle Several cattle were grazing near the road. We were not entirely sure what they would do as we passed them; some appeared to ignore us but generally they took a long look at us then returned to feeding.
Grassland ended 49 kilometres before the road reached the Barkly Highway at the Barkly Roadhouse. The change was comprehensive; not only did the grassland end to be replaced by woodland with bloodwood upper storey and thick undergrowth with acacia species visible, but the road also improved substantially. Still single-lane but now a good bitumen surface with 80 to 85 kilometres an hour comfortable; the vegetation along the road had been thoroughly cleared for at least eight metres on both sides and there was a very well graded verge so pulling over was easy for oncoming traffic (if there wasn't a convenient floodway to hand when needed).

Arriving at the Barkly Roadhouse we were greeted with the apparent confused activity of this busy roadhouse which is the only place to refuel or buy food between Three-Ways on the Stuart Highway and Camooweal in Queensland. The activity comes from drivers of caravans, 4WDs, sedans and motorhomes positioning for their fuel of choice (unleaded petrol, LPG or diesel) at the bowser best able to reach their vehicles fuel filler. Then finding somewhere to park while they have something to eat.

Leaving the Barkly Roadhouse, travelling east on the Barkly Highway we were on a two lane highway with good bitumen surface. Roadside vegetation was the mixed trees and scrub commonly found on the Barkly, outside grasslands, termite mounds remained very common. Weather was good for travelling although the wind was a bit gusty.

The next fuel place is Camooweal in Queensland and this part of the Barkly Highway is subject to headwinds which can increase fuel consumption so much that it becomes impossible to reach Camooweal with fuel carried. The wind had increased in the last hour so I kept a careful eye on fuel consumption in case we had to change plans. Traffic was light, mainly caravans and heavy transports travelling in the opposite direction with a few heavy transports overtaking us.

The wind settled down giving acceptable fuel consumption at a reasonable speed so we could continue to our planned night stop at Soudan rest area. First we past Wonora rest area where eight to ten caravans and motorhomes had set up (although this was still early afternoon) giving the appearance the area was full but we knew, from previous visits to this rest area, that it could hold many more. We continued to Soudan rest area which was nearly empty and set up in spot we had previously used.

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