Saturday, 13 June 2009

Barkly Homestead, The Devils's Marbles, Banka Banka Station and Mataranka

Barkly Homestead is a Roadhouse directly on the Barkly Highway, the road that connects Queensland with the Northern Territory (NT). I remember it from last year's visit as a bit of a dust bowl, but because of recent rains in this area as well, its a lot greener now, quite a pleasant stay in fact, with helpful and friendly staff. I decide to treat myself to a Roast Dinner, letting me off the hook having to cook my own (as usual). It also turns out quite good, the can of beer to go with it though has a remarkable price of $5.30! Well, the roast was only $12.00 so I guess that the money has to be made from another source.

Sunrise over Barkly Homestead

The following morning I continue on to Tennant Creek, a rather long straight roud with maybe five or six bends in the road over 187km until I get to Three Ways, where the Barkly meets the Stuart Highway, which connects Alice Springs to the south, with Darwin in the north.
When I drove down this road last year I found the drive really boring and can only put it down to the fact that all was dry and drab looking at that time. Again, after much rain in the area the ground was covered with dry, straw cloured grass which also reflects the light giving off a soft light that does look a lot more interesting. So, coming down this road again, the only thing I could interpret as being boring was only the sheer endless straight line of the Highway ahead of me.

I re-fuel at Tennant Creek(about 35 cents/litre cheaper than at Barkly Station), buy a few supplies at the store and continue on south to the Devil's Marbles about 110km away. Yes, its a dusty kind of place but is well kept and looked after by the Park Rangers.

The large Granite Boulders, seemingly strewn randomly across the landscape are most picturesque, the various colours and shapes providing a sheer endless kaleidoscope of images for the camera. I stay for two nights, the nominal Park Fee of $3.30 per person per night does not break the Bank either.

Various Views of "The Devil's Marbles"

I drive north again, through Tennant Creek with rather a large population of Aboriginals lying or sitting around in the streets with nothing to do or to look forward to - a sad sight indeed. The "Camper Population" has an apt way to describe the town: "...the best view of Tennant Creek is through the rear-vision-mirror..."
I have decided to drive as far as Banaka Banka Station, about 100km north of Tennant Creek. This turns out to be quite a nice spot with lovely green lawns, clean toilet facilities, good washing arrangements and, most of all, beautiful clean water. Not surprising actually, once you are aware of the fact that the watersupply is provided by a large natural spring. A good place to re-fill water tanks in my Motorhome too.

I also meet a nice guy called "Nifty" who has a rather large collection of Opals, cut and polished and also for Sale. Nifty and his wife live out of a caravan, next to me, both of them virtual chain smokers and a lovely Poodle puppy. Nifty used to mine Opals at Lightening Ridge but today he just collects stones from the local miner population, has them cut and polished and then sells them on to jewellers. Yet another way to make a living in this country. They are going north to Darwin as well but want to stay a few more days at Banka Banka.

I leave the following morning with the intention to drive to Dunmarra Roadhouse but that looks a bit like a dust bowl, so I just re-fuel and push on Mataranka, another 200km+ further north. I stop at the Resort with Hot Springs in the forest, also quite enjoy floating around in the warm water for a while. Very relaxing I must say and I sleep like a baby right through to about 6 am the following morning.

From Mataranka its only a short 100+km to Katherine. Still Savannah country mixed with scrub, quite a bit of road-kill in Grey Wallabies for the first 50kms out of Mataranka. The morning sunlight, not too high over the horizon does light-up the top of the grasses, glistening like and endless expanse of spider webs in the sunlight...

I re-stock my fridge when I get to Katherine and then drive to the Caravan Park I stayed at last year, the same friendly staff as before, the grass around the camp sites even greener than I remember.

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