Friday, October 23, 2009

Barkly to Ti-Tree

October 21

More monotonous landscape to drive through all morning.

We stopped for lunch at Camooweal, the last town on the Queensland side of the border. Very little there except a gas station charging outrageous prices, a corrugated tin "historic store" (which was closed) and a parched plot with a couple of picnic tables under tin roofs. We ate at one of these, watched by a couple of mynah birds in a nearby shrub. Without warning ,a kestrel that had been hovering above us swooped under the tin roof and ripped a granola bar out of Michael's hand. To add insult to injury, it then dropped it on the ground. Obviously not a vegetarian.

About 100 km west of Barkly Homestead we crossed into Northern Territory at Three Ways, turning south towards Tennant Creek.

Threeways had the usual roadhouse and nothing else. A couple of road trains were parked outside. These trucks are allowed to haul loads up to 54 metres long.

Almost immediately the landscape changed and became more vivid.

Tennant Creek was disappointing, a shabby strip of town with tired looking shops and people. It had a great old telegraph station, though, just before the town. There was no-one there when we stopped to inspect it, and it must have been just as desolate for those who manned it in the days when it was a vital link in the line that stretched across the continent.

The local stone used for the walls glowed in the heat.

Shortly after we left Tennant Creek, a storm blew up with dark clouds, lightning, heavy rain and a fierce wind that almost blew us off the road. When it passed, every small indent along the roadside was running with water, and you could easily imagine the danger of flash floods in more prolonged bouts of rain.

Luckily the storm had passed before we reached the Devil's Marbles. These rock formations are the result of long ago lava flows, or, if you prefer, the eggs of the rainbow serpent. There were tons of them spread over a wide area, and it was hard to decide just which ones to photograph.

A little further down the road was Wycliffe Wells, self-styled UFO capital of Australia. Hmmm.

There was a nice caravan park there, but we didn't want to risk being carried off by aliens so we continued south, admiring more interesting landforms, and running through another fierce little storm.
We fetched up for the night at Ti-Tree, another roadhouse cum caravan park cum pub. The only remarkable thing about it was its resident peacock, which kept me awake at night with its shrieking, but rewarded me with an early morning display: first his back,

and, finally, a full frontal.

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