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Burning Diesel

blog-0960994001397858546.jpgIn my notes, I titled this day as above. Unlike the curving road we found coming into Mount Isa, the road was straight for long stretches with little change in elevation and only one town with fuel. We started out on the Flinders Highway and then at Camooweal the name changed to the Barkly Highway. The other fuel stop we made was at the Barkly Homestead. This is a large homestead which has everything that someone on the road would need. There is a caravan park, hotel, restaurant, activities including camel rides and the all-important fuel. At the Barkly Homestead they are not on the electric grid. They run a generator 24 hours a day to provide the electric they need to operate. I know this because they had it posted outside the store. They gave the amount of diesel the generators use as an explanation of why their fuel and other prices were so high. We paid $2.099 for a liter of diesel.

Just west of Camooweal we crossed into Northern Territories, the seventh Australian state we would travel through. Northern Territories is so sparsely settled that it doesn’t have the status of state in the government and has very limited representation in the Australian Parliament. I noted with a chuckle when we pulled into the petrol station at Camooweal a sign which indicated that eastbound travelers should set their clocks ahead 5 years AND 30 MINUTES. The thirty minutes being the time change between the state of Queensland and Northern Territories. The 5 years was a regional slur on their neighbors to the west.

We stopped briefly at the border to photograph the welcome sign to Northern Territories. We don’t do this at all borders but this being such a remote location I decided to pause and collect a souvenir photograph. Observing someone else who was photographing the sign busily swishing flies away from their face I decided to go with the through-the-windshield option for the photograph. Flies are a pesky nuisance in this part of the country. These are not biting flies but they love to be in your face. If the wind is blowing they will be on the downwind side of your body. So you face into the wind to keep the flies off your face and your back is covered with flies. When it is time to get back into the campervan you have to wave off as many as you can before quickly ducking through the door. Then you kill as many as you can before driving away! This is all very reminiscent of our mosquito experience in Canada on the drive north into the Arctic Circle on the way to the native village, Inuvik. Not wanting to shortchange Alaska, I’ll add that we found the same to be true in Alaska.

We are getting a special treat. You will notice quite a bit of green in the photo with this posting. Central Australia got a good rain about a week and a half ago and we are seeing the desert dressed in green. You can still see plenty of soil in the picture, that is where the region gets its nickname, Australia's red center. You will also notice dark mounds of dirt on the landscape. These are termite mounds which are common in the area. We saw many of the on parts of the road and in other places very few but they are an ever-present reminder of the recycling going on as plants die here in the desert.

We drove the entire length of the Barkly Highway today. The drive, like yesterday, was pleasant enough. The temperatures were a little cooler, low 30’s, in the 80’s Fahrenheit. We had a few clouds, always welcome late in the day when heading west. The road was straight, level and the surface in good repair. We covered another 660 kilometers before reaching Tennant Creek and our camp for the night. Tennant Creek is on the Stuart Highway which runs from Adelaide on the southern coast of Australia to Darwin on the northern coast. We drove a short distance on the Stuart Highway when we left Adelaide a month ago but at that time we turned east to explore eastern Australia. Now we would travel south toward Uluru (Ayres Rock). The Stuart Highway is the only north-south highway through central Australia.

One of the things that Louise and I noted at the end of the day was another day without road repairs and also the fact that we hadn’t seen the abundance of kangaroos that we expected. In fact, we hadn’t seen a single live kangaroo. There were a few dead ones along the roadside but not a single live on. At Camooweal they had a statue of a kangalope outside the gas station. Those familiar with the Texas jackalope know what a kangalope would look like! Kangaroos are primarily nocturnal so driving during the day we wouldn’t expect to see them. We do watch carefully for them in the early morning and late in the afternoon. So far, our greatest kangaroo sightings have been in Tasmania and when we were in Lightning Ridge where we had kangaroos on the lawn outside the bath house in our campground each night.


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