On the long road home – Part 1

 

Leaving Lake Argyle and getting back out onto the main road, you are within 5 minutes of the WA/NT border crossing. For those travelling from east to west, there is a permanent quarantine station there for those entering WA. We were sad to be leaving the Kimberleys without having been able to get right into it and explore, but it’s on our list of places to get back to! The NT is all kinds of awesome, so there was excitement tinged with that sadness.

It’s very easy to forget how large the travel distances are between towns and planned overnight stops. We’ve always tried to be in our camp location by early afternoon, so we have time to set up and relax. Our first stop was planned for Timber Creek, 3hrs away, and we chose to stay at the caravan park behind the Puma roadhouse rather than free camp. This later turned out to be a wise decision! It was only $33 for us to have a powered site, and many more people arrived after us. The camp site is beautifully shady, amenities are clean, and if you go for a stroll down to the creek you may catch a glimpse of a resident freshwater crocodile! We did! He’s fed from the narrow pedestrian bridge a couple of times a week, and they also feed the kites in a clearing by the creek. Our arrival didn’t fit in with either of those activities, but the kids loved being able to go and watch for the croc, and stare at the hundreds of fruit bats hanging in the trees by the water.

Why did it turn out to be a good idea not to free camp? Taking the tray of chicken from the fridge, Kirstine noticed it didn’t look so good anymore. Paul’s keen sense of smell was able to confirm same, and so we ended up getting a feed of hot chips from the roadhouse for tea instead. I don’t think the kids were terribly disappointed mind you!

The next day we filled our larder again as we passed through Katherine, not needing to stay in town as we have been through there previously. We’d noted a free camp further down the Stuart Highway, the Warloch Rest Area. Being a free camp with toilet facilities, it was already packed with about 20 vans and campers, but we got a pretty good spot though it was really the last one there! Paul made good use of one of the mobile booster stations that are scattered throughout the NT. They really do work!

The Daly Waters Pub is a mecca for travellers along the Stuart Highway, and rightly so! We had been offered a powered site for the night, and though it was around lunch time when we arrived, the place was humming! Bookings for the famed Beef and Barra meals were filling fast, and if the budget had allowed we would have been right in there putting our names down for one of the sittings! We were given a prominent site and Paul lost no time in setting up the banners as well. The kids showered, and Kirstine took them to see the Pitt Family Circus who put on a short but very entertaining performance in the beer garden. From there the kids really wanted to have a go at raising some money, so table and chairs were arranged, best smiles and friendly demeanours engaged, as they waited for guests and patrons to stroll past them with some spare change. We are super proud to announce that the kids successfully raised $136 for Lifeline that evening! It’s amazing how a few coins add up, and we had a few people tell us how wonderful the kids were for wanting to help out. We didn’t call them into bed till nearly 9.30pm, as they were enjoying the live music and chats with other kids visiting. Earlier in the afternoon, Paul had spoken with an ex-paramedic who lauded us for our bravery in travelling to get people talking. In his opinion, there needs to be more emphasis on mental health, particularly in first responders.

We could easily have stayed at the Daly Waters Pub another couple of days. The atmosphere is wonderful, the meal portions looked huge, and the prices were very reasonable!

Unfortunately, we needed to push on further south, but only after Kirstine had a lovely chat with Lyndall from 10 Itchy Feet, another travelling family, whose kids had a great time with ours. Lyndall is fabulous, and it was hard to say goodbye after sharing stories for a brief time. The few minutes we had boosted Kirstine’s spirits, for which she is very grateful!

The Stuart Highway is a long road we’ve travelled before, so finding new places to stay has made the journey home far more enjoyable. Renner Springs Caravan Park gave us an unpowered site, and we had a relatively quiet stay at the free camp at Prowse Gap. There is a road behind the rest area itself, leaving plenty of space to explore near the fence line. It never ceases to amaze us when other campers pull up close even though there is ample space to give clearance. What made matters worse is that they then started cutting down branches from the trees in order to have a campfire. This included crossing the fence into private property. Very uncool in our books. If there’s no wood on the ground and you haven’t brought any of your own, you go without. Simple!

There are some great places to stay as you journey north-south or vice versa, and this is just the northern end! We’ve had fun figuring out which ones to try. The only knack is making sure you have provisions and water on board. So far, so good!

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