15 August, 2012

The Loooong Haul

(Monday 23rd July)

Today we drove the longest we’ve driven this trip. About 830km. We left at 7.36am and arrived a bit after 6pm. We took one toilet/driver swap stop, two driver swap/fuel stops and one other fuel stop, none of them long. Lunch was tacked onto one of those fuel stops and consisted of sitting on the gutter at a service station scoffing sandwiches made before dawn. Those who didn’t beat the driver through their sandwiches got to finish their lunch on the road (the driver had her banana waiting at lights to get out of Alice Springs). It was a Loooong day.

The day started well, with lots of quiet in the back, which was good, because it was a challenging start. I drove east just after dawn for two hours before handing over to David. I wore a cap to help me view the road in the face of the sun rising in front of me! It was a bit tricky. Thankfully no wallabies or kangaroos jumped out or we could have been in trouble.

The noise from the boys got worse later, especially towards lunchtime. Without going into details, you only need to know that there were various clashes as siblings are wont to have. One drama king, one stubborn, opinionated boy, and another long-suffering sibling who put up with a lot, but got quite tired of the nonsense and eventually put his foot down. We put our “foots” down quite a number of time too! After lunch David put a DVD on to help quieten the mob. But of course a DVD only lasts so long, so eventually they had to find their own things to do.
A Karlu Karlu sunset

We arrived at our isolated destination not long before sunset and immediately sent the boys to climb on the abundant boulders that lay around. You see we’ve arrived at a place called “Devil’s Marbles”. Actually I prefer the native name for it Karlu Karlu, or “God’s Marbles” as I’ve also heard it called. It is a remarkable area covered with large granite boulders, like a giant’s marble collection that he failed to keep neatly packed away.

We ate a simple tea of bacon and eggs, boiled mixed veggies, and a triple-decker cheese quesadilla (three tortillas with cheese sandwiched between the layers and baked in the small oven we have onboard).  We are “free” camping. Actually we’ve paid $AU7.70 (!) to park here (with about 30 or 40 other parties) and camp with no facilities except a drop toilet. Again, like Avon Downs last week, there is no settlement close by. Free camping has the advantage of being uncomplicated. When you pull up somewhere you have nothing to connect to. You just turn on your gas and, if you’re as late as we were arriving today, start cooking dinner!

We discovered on arrival that the park ranger just happens to do a campfire with an hour of explanation of the local area, flora, and fauna. He also answered questions from the many who gathered around. We got there for the last half of his talk and it was fascinating. One really interesting part was about the climate of this area. It doesn’t have a defined annual cycle. Rather more of a 10 to 20 year cycle that includes wet and dry times. 2010 and 2011 were very wet years (Alice Springs got 76mm of rain in 2009, 760mm in 2010!). Both of David and I were expecting to see a more arid, barren Northern Territory. But it seems we’re here not too long after a prolonged wet period, and that is why it doesn’t seem too arid.

My boast for the day is passing my first three-trailer road train. I'm not sure I've even done that in a car, to do it in a motor home was quite something — holding-my-breath, kind of something! For those of you who aren't Aussies, a road train is a truck with two or more trailers (see Wikipedia's explanation here). The one I passed was more than 50m long. I do need to temper my boast and tell you that the truck was driving at 70km/hr (on a 130km/hr road) and driving up a hill . . . but I did pass it. (Ed's note: I passed another one the next day too and David passed one later, east of Mt Isa . . . or at least he says he did, I was asleep.)

Well, we’re up early again tomorrow, hoping to leave at about the same time — just after sunrise. We’re aiming for Mt Isa, where we’re booked into a caravan park. If we get up early, though, we might just have a little bit of time to explore the close-by boulders a little (the boys did today before the sun set, but we didn’t as we were busy with making dinner and a little bit of set-up).

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