Finally a day which felt like we had the holiday on track! After the frustrations of the week since Yamba we have both become increasingly discouraged and a wee bit anxious that we were getting nowhere.
We started today in Mount Isa in the worst end of any caravan park in a working man’s town ... among the residents. Sue in particular felt uncomfortable for much of the night. A party raged across the road which at various times had racing cars, screaming young women, foul language and the issuing of threats of violence. At one stage, an older voice tried to ask for calm, only to be very impolitely told where he could go. Despite all this, we did manage some sleep snug and locked in the Forester.
We were up before sunrise again and out of the park by 7:45 am to find some shopping items and petrol. Our target was Barkly Homestead, about two thirds of the way across the Barkly Tableland in the Northern Territory. Given the reputation of fuel prices in those areas, I decided to fill my additional fuel tanks, which effectively doubles my fuel capacity. By complete luck, I found a United Petrol Station selling fuel for 160.9c/L. I soon snapped that up. I was told later in the day that the major companies were selling for 171.9c/L in Mount Isa.
Camooweal was our first stop for morning tea – 188kms from Mount Isa. The fuel here was 193.6c/L, making the Isa purchase a highly profitable one. We ate and drank quickly under some shady vines, whilst admiring a statue of a bullaroo – a mythical creature of these parts which is half kangaroo, half bull. Having seen the statue, I’d say there was more bull than just half!< Onto Barkly for lunch at 1:00pm and we were making very good progress, although driving well under the NT open road speed limit of 130km/h! I tipped in the first of the jerry cans to avoid paying the 240c/L charge on offer! We decided we still had a lot of day to drive in and couldn’t see much point staring at an unchanging horizon for the afternoon at Barkly, so headed in a further change of plan and the chance to catch up one of our two lost days. Sue took over and drove 150kms of the distance to The Three Ways – a Shell service station at the junction of the Barkly and Stuart Highways. We reached there at 3:45pm and decided to pass up the opportunity of staying at the Three Ways or heading south to Tennant Creek (25km). Every petrol station in north western Qld and the Territory seems to also offer accommodation Often, they are also a hotel. We set our destination for Banka Banka Station, a working cattle station that shows tourists what they do as part of their $6 a head charge for a piece of grass to park on and a hot shower. A phone call confirmed that no booking was necessary and that there was plenty of room at the inn, so off we set on the final 73 km.
We made it as the sun was setting and completed a 791km day, surprisingly fresh and happy at our progress. I doubt we will drive many other days on this trip for as long but strange as it may seem, it didn’t seem a hard day, despite being nine hours from start to finish.
Hot showers, cold beers, a sizeable feed of vegies and rissoles and it was all I could do to complete my chores and then sit down to write. It’s a full moon this evening and it looks down on us outside the Desert Hotel at Renner Springs and readies us for bed. Its moonbeams will tuck me in tonight in the Northern Territory, content in the thought that most of the rushing is now complete and from now on we have lots of time to enjoy what we drive through and to.