04 August, 2012

Heading into the Northern Territory

Wednesday — we enter “serious” outback (Wednesday 18th July)

About 650km today took us over the border. A first
for us both to be in the Northern Territory.
We left Winton at 7.30 this morning. One of our boys started badly, including getting very upset at anyone “looking at him”, which is hard considering the boys sit facing each other on two bench seats. Anyway, he soon calmed down and it turned into a very quiet trip. The boys, especially the older two, have been reading voraciously. Both of them have been known to get carsick in the recent past so t\it’s a testimony to how straight and flat the roads are out here that neither of them has shown any sign of motion sickness at all.

Flat landscape west of Winton.
Update on the MnM award system. We’ve been having “award” ceremonies after dinner. Yesterday our eldest got very upset about the system. However once he realised that it was just a temporary system (yeah, I’m not going to feed you 20 MnMs a day for the rest of your life with us) he settled down. Then after dinner last night we brainstormed some ideas for what to do to fill the hours of driving. The boys wrote their own lists. I don’t know if they used those ideas today, but it sure was quieter today, even though we drove further.

We saw the “wide open plains” today that Banjo Patterson wrote of. In fact the area around Winton was where he spent time. The land between Winton and McKinley (a small town north-west of Winton) is very flat and pretty tree-less. After McKinley through and past Cloncurry there are more trees, primarily because there are more creeks and rivers. Though you have to understand that these water ways are often dry unless rain has fallen. Many of them are dry now, in the dry season.

Rocky outcrops near Mt Isa.
Then the landscape changed again as we approached Mt Isa. Strange outcrops of rock and little sparsely covered hills poked up all over the place. The road became windy and a bit hilly as we made our way into the town.

It shocked me to see that the town is built on the doorstep of the mine. A massive “smoke” stack dominates the town. We stopped for petrol and some groceries here. In fact we stopped in most of the few towns we drove through (and there weren’t many). Switching drivers ever 1-2 hours seems to work well for combating our fatigue. These stops double as toilet stops as well as the boys all switching seats too. One facing backwards and two facing forwards. Rotating them around helps to stop fights.
This enormous smoke stack at the mine in Mt Isa
is practically in the centre of town.

Along the way we saw hundreds, if not thousands of ant hills pocking up out of the ground. Amazing.

We were aiming for Camooweal (a town of about 312 people), but the sun was still high and we figured we’d drive a little further and cut down our journey tomorrow (which was bordering on 800km again).

Our eldest son got very excited when he realised this extra bit of driving would get us over the border into the Northern Territory. None of us have been here before, and to our minds it means “serious outback”.
Entering the Northern Territory

So tonight we find ourselves parked in an off-the-road rest stop called “Avon Downs”. The boys are having a little bit of difficulty getting their heads around the fact that we aren’t near a town. Camooweal is the closest town at 67km (and it has a population of under 200 people). The only people just here are at the Police Station across on the other side of the highway and a bit further down the paddock is the “Avon Downs” homestead. Parked at the rest stop are around 20 caravans and motor homes. The sunset was magnificent and the star “show” that followed equally amazing. This is fantastic, just what I imagined as I thought about our trip over the last six months.
Spectacular colours as the sun set.

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