Newcastle Waters to Katherine
Our trip through the Northern Territory and down the Stuart Highway is a story about Roadhouses. So far we have stopped at the Barkley Homestead on the Barkley Highway, and then the Three Ways Roadhouse and Renner Springs Roadhouse on the Stuart Highway. Today we will stop at Dunmarra Roadhouse and the Highway Inn Roadhouse at Daly Waters.
The Roadhouse in the outback is the one stop shop for travelers and truck drivers. They are not like the Travelers Stops we see on the motorways around Brisbane. There is no servo with it’s shiny petrol pumps, spotless shop and an attendant sitting in a security cage. There are no bitumen car-parks with neat painted white lines. There is no McDonalds, KFC or Sexie Coffee. The outback Roadhouse is a combination servo, general store, restaurant, caravan park out the back and a pub. Apart from the caravan park it is usually all mished mashed together in one building. They are dusty, well used and often quirky (look for the pictures of the hats on the ceiling at Renner Springs). They have very large forecourts that can accommodate several road trains at one time. Sometimes a little bit of grass and often a lot of dirt. They are perched on the edge of the dessert after all. Inside the air conditioning provides a cool relief from the hot sun while the attendant will give you a warm welcome and take time for a chat. It has come to a point that when we come to a town, we miss the genuine character of the Roadhouse.
At the Highway Inn Roadhouse we were chatting to some fellow travelers who said we must visit the thermal springs at Mattaranka. This had been mentioned to use before, including by Reid who remembers going there with his family when he was younger. So, once again we split. Lynda, Daun and Graham F go sight seeing in the car while Dan and Graham H stay with Reid on the road in Flo. The thermal springs are just a short drive of the main road. Thermal by name, however, in summer they are cool in nature. A welcome relief from the heat. Lynda and Daun went swimming while Graham (who did not have any bathers) dangled his feet in the water. We saw two large red kangaroos come charging through the bush at high speed, next to where we sat. Amazing agility as they zigzagged through the trees and thick under growth without pause. The relief was shorted live as soon as we were out of the water and away from the trees the relentless heat was back. We bought a bite to eat for lunch while there. We were supposed to stay the night at Mattaranka yesterday so this means we are still only half a day behind our schedule and are still on track for the record.
We met up at Mattaranka, swapped cars and Flo travelled on to Katherine to set up camp. Dan and Lynda stayed with Reid. When we arrived in Katherine the temperature had dropped a couple of degrees (still high 30’s), however, the humidity was 90%. It was very uncomfortable. When we previously camped on the road there was no humidity at all. We would sleep under the stars enjoying a cooling night breeze. No night breeze in a caravan park so we hired an air conditioned cabin. A valuable decision. A cool nights sleep after a long hot day. Early to rise tomorrow for the ride into Darwin. Goodnight weary travelers.