Barrow Creek, Tennant Creek, Devil's Marbles and on to Daly Waters

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September 10th 2016
Published: September 11th 2016
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Saturday 3rd September 2016

Last night we all agreed that we would move northwards and Barrow Creek Roadhouse, 280kms away, was to be our stop for the night.

Mark and Helena decided they were going to do more sightseeing before leaving and as we hadn’t been through the Olive Pink Botanic Gardens we went there.

Good decision, the Olive Pink Botanic Garden was well worth going to. Miss Olive Pink was an unconventional anthropologist who championed the welfare of the aborigines from the 1940s, a botanical artist and a woman ahead of her time in promoting the cultivation of Australia's native plants. The garden consists of more than 600 plant species from all over Central Australia including 33 that are rare or endangered. The garden was opened to the public in 1985.

We set off climbing the rocky path of Annie Myers Hill, only to be passed by a young indigenous girl. Ari befriended us and became our guide, pointing out various plants and signs of animals. Rags talked to her and found that she was in Year 2 at school, 7 years old, and that her Mum and Nan were having tea in the café below. Lovely looking, and chatty little girl. We saw some euros and black footed wallabies much to her joy.

After about 30 minutes in her company a lady came towards us calling out her name. Apparently everyone was out looking for her in the garden below so she quickly scampered off down the hill! So much for our little guide.

Back at the cafe below we decided to have a coffee before walking back to where we had parked the car and van but on sighting other people eating what looked like a delectable breakfast we decided that this might do us for an early lunch too before we began the drive to Barrow Creek. Wise choice as the breakfasts were scrumptious and the poached eggs perfectly cooked!

We hit the road just after midday and headed north, our destination was Barrow Creek as Wikicamps had it marked as parking in a hotel ground, with power, for $7.50. Sounded interesting.

We stopped at a few sights on the way, memorials to explorers and surveyors dotted along the road. The road was quite good and when we came to a smooth,
Aileron Aileron Aileron

Judy is dwarfed by this sculpture next to the art gallery
straight section the speed limit became unlimited. We just continued at our normal speed of the low 90s, this being the most comfortable, and we were passed by a few cars.

Suddenly there was a roar next to us as a red Ferrari zoomed past, another similar car hot on his tail. They both disappeared in the distance so quickly they must have been travelling at well over 200kph.

About an hour later they came back the other way, so quickly Judy couldn’t get her camera working before they appeared as a tiny dot on the horizon and passed us.

One of our stops was at the town of Aileron which consists of a roadhouse and an aboriginal art gallery. Both were closed unfortunately, but the huge sculptures towering over the town made it a place we had to stop at. Apparently there was an artist at work at the art gallery whom Helena and Mark spoke to when they came through later.

Barrow Creek Hotel is an old, rundown place but we were given a friendly welcome and told to park and settle up later with the $7.50 cost confirmed. Mark and Helena arrived a few hours later and we went up to the bar for a drink, to pay our camp fees, and probably buy a meal there. Disappointment – we were charged double what Wikicamp members had been charged just a few weeks ago, the manager sneering at our questioning. We did purchase a drink but decided against the meals, we returned to our vans and cooked for ourselves. The hotel did get a few terse comments on Wikicamps, others won’t fall for it if warned.

Sunday 4th September 2016

We got away at about 0900hrs and ended up meeting again at a WW2 staging camp set in the bush about 5kms in from the highway. This was the first stop for troops moving from Alice to Darwin and used from 1942 until 1945. There was little there except for the concrete pads of the original buildings but even so would have been daunting as the temperatures rose during the hotter months.

Wycliffe Well was our next stop, this place renowned for the number of UFOs sighted around here. Of course the roadhouse has taken advantage of
Wycliffe WellWycliffe WellWycliffe Well

They call themselves the "UFO capital" because of all the alleged ufos seen from the town.
this, with pictures and motifs all over it to promote their area. The campsite there continues in this vein and has signs etc to promote the theme. Good for a laugh. This soil in this area was found to be very fertile, all that was needed was water to make it perfect for growing vegetables, and the area produced much needed food for the troops as they moved north in WW2.

Well before Tennant Creek we reached Devil's Marbles, an area with huge, granite boulders balanced on each other in all sorts of arrangements. They vary in size and some are up to six metres across. Many of the giant stones are precariously balanced on top of one another, appearing to defy gravity. They continue to crack and erode today, and we could see where they appeared to be "peeling". This is still a sacred site for the male indigenous locals and we felt this as we walked through the rocks, imagining it to be a dark, still night. The huge, granite boulders there made you feel quite insignificant, as they towered well above you.

Tennant Creek was much nicer than what we imagined after seeing it 5 years ago and we made our way to the Information Office set in an old gold mine on a hill overlooking the town. As we pulled up, our phones suddenly beeped as we finally had Optus reception again. Our daughter had messaged to see if we could Facetime as the grandchildren were asking after us. So we were soon connected and chatting to them - they were all at lunch at our son's home. Rags was also responding to Father's Day messages from children.

Battery Hill Mining Centre we could explore an old working mine as well as reading about the rich gold strikes made here in the early part of the 20th century. They were extracting up to 7kgs of gold per tonne of ore, an unheard of figure for a normal mine. Millions of dollars of gold were extracted over the last 50 years, making fortunes for the early backers. But there were also stories of the hardships of the early miners and their families and it is impossible to compare their lives with the easy life we lead.

From here we drove up to the Bill Allen Lookout. This afforded us a 360 degree panorama of Tennant Creek and surrounds and reinforced just how harsh this landscape is.

Just 11kms from town we found the Overland Telegraph Station. When the line was complete in 1872 it completed the first overland telegraphic link to Britain. Unfortunately when it was complete and the first message was sent it couldn't make it to Britain due to the undersea cable being damaged. This station stood here in isolation until 1925 when a linesman discovered gold. This led to the soon thriving town of Tennant Creek where in 1935 a post office was operational and the telegraph station closed.

We drove about 8kms along a dirt road (so much for washing the car and van in Alice) to our campsite for the night, the Pebbles. These are just a smaller granite outcrop than the Marbles and an indigenous womens’ sacred site. We were quite unimpressed with the site as we walked around it after setting up camp.

Helena had cooked up a delicious meal with pork chops as its base and this set the tone for an enjoyable evening. Tomorrow, we decided, we would head off towards Daly Waters, stopping wherever the mood takes us.

Monday 5th September 2016

Today was a day of driving through some rather uninteresting country. We took off at about 0930 hrs and stopped at every roadhouse and historic marker between Tennant Creek and Daly Waters.

This included another John Flynn memorial at Three Ways roadhouse, Stuart Memorial, Renner Springs and Elliot roadhouses, and a historic marker outside of Dunmarra showing the remains of a staging camp used in WW2.

When we reached Daly Waters we visited Stuart Tree, a dead stump allegedly with an original S carved in it. Stuart never mentioned it in his diary, so perhaps, like many others, we visited a stump!

The old airport was next, with a view of parking in the old hangar as Judy and I had seen others do previously, but a local came along in his ute and told us the strip was still in use and we had to leave. We debated whether to look at Daly Waters and return but once we'd seen Daly Waters we decided it had much more atmosphere and booked an unpowered
3Ways Roadhouse3Ways Roadhouse3Ways Roadhouse

Every roadhouse now seems to have a gimmick. Here they collect number plates. The roadhouse is so-named as it is at the junction of the Stuart and Barkly Highways. North to Darwin, South to Adelaide, East to Mt Isa.
site here.

We therefore joined many others in the park next to the old hotel, this itself is a bit of an institution in Daly Waters with a helicopter parked on the roof and all sorts of bits and pieces on display inside. We didn’t order the steak and barra dish for dinner as many do, we weren’t overly hungry and we had a curry in the fridge that Rags had prepared 2 days ago.

The temperature has risen considerably since we left Alice, today reaching over 32 degrees. Sitting outside in the shade was a comfortable and pleasant way to enjoy the curry which turned out to be very tasty. Well done, Rags! We then started to talk over a few drinks but could hear the music from the resident one-man-band coming from the hotel which was right next to us, so we walked over and found a table where we could better listen and soak up the surroundings. We were even persuaded by the group nearby to get up and join in the dancing which we did with so much gusto that Judy had a blister on her foot the next day. Fun while it lasted and gave Judy the extra steps she needed to reach her step goal on her Fitbit today!

Additional photos below
Photos: 16, Displayed: 16



Overlooking the town
The PebblesThe Pebbles
The Pebbles

"I didn't mean to! "
Crested PigeonCrested Pigeon
Crested Pigeon

This guy was hanging around at Olive Pink Botanic Park watching to see if there were any crumbs coming his way.
The musician at Daly WatersThe musician at Daly Waters
The musician at Daly Waters

First time we have danced in ages!

11th September 2016
Look who's behind the bar at Barrow Creek Pub?

In control or have they lost control?
20th October 2016

Barrow Creek
Apart from being ripped off, remember the car wrecks? Especially the poor Subaru parked not far from ours! Great photos.
21st October 2016

Oh yes, I remember the Suburu but didn't get any photos... :-(

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