9/09/15 Departing from a camp site is generally a rather drawn-out process for us – waking with the light; enjoying a few leisurely cuppas; catching up on the news and social media if there is internet coverage; having breakfast; and eventually getting motivated enough to pack up and head off. It’s usually around 9:30am or 10:00am by the time we are on the road which is OK as the plan is usually to travel no more than two hours to the next camp site. At Katherine, however, despite not having far to go to the next stopover, we set the alarm for the first time and were up at 5:00am, thinking this would allow time for all the morning rituals and have us on the road much earlier for a change. And it worked. It was just us and the sparrows on the road at 8:00am; and the new day had begun.
The intention was to overnight at Mataranka, but we arrived there so early that we decided to push on to Daly Waters for a pub lunch and then go on to camp a bit further south from there. The iconic Daly Waters Pub caught us in its spell, however, and enticed us to book in for the night to the small camping area next door. The bar was a clutter of bras, caps, and t-shirts hanging from the ceiling, and just about anything else you could name hanging from the walls. We met prospective Kimberley Kruiser owners, Bob and Pauline from Victoria, who were very interested in our van and we joined them for a very pleasant dinner at the pub that night to celebrate Father’s Day.
In the morning (though not quite so early this time), we headed off to Longreach Waterhole, a bush camp near the town of Elliott about 150kms south on the Stuart Highway. With about 25kms to go to the waterhole, we’d pulled in at Newcastle Waters. The town was built in the 1920s during construction of the bores on the overland stock route, and is now mostly a ghost town featuring many of the original buildings, still in a reasonable state of disuse and abandonment.
Longreach Waterhole was very large and no other campers could be seen from our site, making it very quiet and private. It seemed like we had the entire place to ourselves. This was a great spot to chill for a day or so. We woke the following morning to a cool breeze that blew all day, making a nice change from the heat of the past few weeks. It was the start of the “Barkly Breeze” that blew for the next three days.
Despite the cooling effect of the strong winds, we were soon very much over them. Thongs left casually outside the van would soon be racing away on the wind. And depending on which way I was facing, my hat looked either like something adorning a Light Horseman or Corporal Agarn from F Troop.
After two days at Longreach Waterhole, much as we would have liked to have stayed a bit longer, we moved on. We’d intended driving a fair distance south, but soon wearied of battling the “Barkly Breeze” headwinds and just wanted to pull in somewhere, so after only 150kms we stopped at Banka Banka Station.
Banka Banka turned out to be a pleasant spot, and offered a rustic bar from 6:00pm in the original mud brick building and a roaring fire pit outside to sit around. Di and I had a couple of celebratory drinks for my birthday and caught up with the kids via the Telstra phone box at the property. The station had a pet donkey. While cute, I could not forgive it for the suffering inflicted on me when I was a young child, bitten on the back by one of its ilk. These creatures just cannot be trusted.
“No matter where you go, there you are.” – Buckaroo Banzi