TUESDAY 20 JUNE DUNMARRA TO TOP SPRINGS 198kms
Despite the highway noise, and that of other travellers getting going, we managed to sleep in until 8 and 8.30am, respectively. It was not intentional.
The bush thick knee was wandering about near our site, again.
We were the last ones out of the caravan park!
We bought fuel at the Roadhouse – $1.12cpl!
Then, John decided he wanted to phone his mates at Cockatoo. This took half an hour, so it was 11am when we finally left Dunmarra.
There was a few kms on the highway, then we turned left onto the unsealed Top Springs road – the Buchanan “Highway”. We stopped at the turn off to take off the weight distribution bars.
The road seemed reasonable. It was firm gravel type surface and was not rough, compared to some we’d been on.
We saw a big, 2 metre long reptile just starting to cross the road, and stopped to take a photo of it – at a prudent distance! I did not know what kind it was – maybe a King Brown snake? Or a python of some sort? I did not know how to tell the difference between a snake and a python. But it looked somehow more “snaky” to me.
There were plenty of birds about, and plenty of plants in flower, which made the drive an attractive one.
We got a flat tyre on the van – the first one ever! It took us about half an hour to change the wheel. The tyre was ruined – it looked like a sharp stone had gone through the side wall. The van tyres are still the ones we started out with, in 1997, so are different from the ones we now have on Truck.
Not long after we got going again, we encountered a Down Under Tours bus, towing a trailer, heading east. On the CB, he said the road ahead wasn’t too bad, there was a bit of a washout at Coolibah Creek, beyond Top Springs, but it was better than last year.
That was the only vehicle we saw on the road, all day.
We had a late lunch parked by the crossing of the Armstrong River – really a creek with a bit of water each side of the ford. Watched birds while we ate – mostly finches.
We reached Top Springs about 3pm. We knew it was too late to go on and reach Timber Creek today, so had to decide whether to stay here or go on and try to find a camp in the bush further along. We’d been told this place could get pretty rowdy – hooligans, according to one traveller – but decided to take the risk. It was not a weekend, when workers from the surrounding stations might be in to celebrate, and it wasn’t pension payment day, either.
Top Springs is a hotel/motel and roadhouse, with a sort-of caravan area. It is at a crossroads – the east-west road we are taking, and a north-south one that goes from west of Katherine, down to Halls Creek, in WA. This is a region of really large cattle stations.
We were charged $14 for a powered spot. Had to go under overhanging trees and plug into an extension lead rather than a pole. It was alright for a night. The showers and toilets were adequate.
There were butcher birds about – singing their carolling song, and we saw a rufous throated honeyeater – a new bird.
After the minimal set up, we wandered over to the hotel and had a beer each at the bar – $3.50 each. There was a road making crew came in and stayed at some of the room accommodation. Some aborigines set up camp out the front, too.
When we arrived on our site, there was a man working on his car, near us. Then a helicopter flew in, landed at the side of the enclosed yard area, and this man went through a form of job interview – for about five minutes. He was hired, there and then, as a stockman on Camfield Station, about 90kms SW of here.
The chopper took off again, and the stockman left to drive to his new job. Just like that!
Tea was soup, fried rice, yoghurt.
I phoned K from the public phone box over at the hotel, and left a message where we were.
After dark there was a surprising amount of road train traffic. They all seemed to stop, for a meal or a drink, before moving off, with accompanying noise.
There was a nice moon. The night was so warm that we didn’t need the doona at all, for most of it.