John Clark’s Katherine to Threeways Review
Day 329 Katherine, Australia to Mataranka, Australia – 110km
Our mornings on the road in Australia have been great so far. In the simple caravan park kitchens we relax and enjoy cereal, toast and coffee. Each of us adjusting easily back to our familiar diets.
Aaron took the first stint of driving today. The rest of us hit the road as he finished packing the final few items into the car. Although we didn’t have a very good start as Karina suffered a puncture before we’d exited Katherine. She told us to carry on ahead though as she was keen to have a day of riding alone.
The landscape seemed to change a lot today as the shrubs on the roadside began looking much drier and the red soil seemed to radiate loads of heat towards us. By our first stop after 55km the temperature was around 44 degrees! Again we had tuna sandwiches but unlike the repetitive Nasi Goreng in Indonesia I can’t see myself becoming sick of eating it.
Aaron and Tim swapped places, Daniel changed from Aaron’s bike to Tim’s rickety bike as his remained broken and strapped to the roof of the car as a result of the recent mishap.
We cycled fairly casually today, chatting away, returning waves from passing traffic and battling through the occasional gusts of headwinds created by monster sized road trains. Although when they came from behind we would increase by 2-3km/h without any effort. It’s almost like catching a wave at the beach.
Tim drove on ahead and managed to secure another free night at a campsite in the small town of Mataranka. The support so far by caravan park owners has been terrific and we all hope it continues.
Once we set up Aaron, Karina and I drove to the Mataranka Springs, which is the town’s sole tourist attraction that draws thousands of visitors during peak season. The springs were crystal clear pools of fresh warm water surrounded by palm trees. A very tranquil spot and I understood immediately why so many people had raved about the hidden location.
Day 330 Mataranka, Australia to Larrimah, Australia – 77km
It was a nice short day today, especially for Daniel and I who shared the driving! I took the first stint in the support car and stopped at a bridge where I relaxed for about an hour looking across a river that had overflown its banks. I was actually hoping to spot a crocodile from the safety of the bridge but I had no luck.
At the 40km mark I set up lunch for the others. Whoever drives takes pride in the spread they prepare for lunch. I grated up carrot which was a great addition to the tuna and cheese sandwiches!
Daniel and I swapped and we knocked off the second half of the day quite quickly. Upon arrival into Larrimah excitement grew as signs advertised a bakery with famous homemade pies and scones, but unfortunately it was closed, like many other businesses during the quiet wet season.
Daniel had arranged free camping by the time we arrived, this time it was on the grounds of the famous Pink Panther Pub, rated in the top ten bush pubs in Australia. We each had a photo with the iconic giant Pink Panther and NT Draught stubbie (beer bottle) before exploring the pub’s free zoo. Here I finally saw a crocodile although it was only a metre long. Karina loved meeting some famous Australian animals; the zoo featured fresh and salt water crocodiles, wallabies, snakes, birds and two emus!
In the afternoon Karina, Daniel and I went for a run which proved completely exhausting in the heat. Once we’d cooled off in the filthy swimming pool we checked out the small museum which documented the town’s role during WW2. I couldn’t imagine that at one stage close to 6000 troops were based at a nearby airbase. The current population is around 30!!
In the evening we watched the football at the pub, although we were made to sit in the back room as the owner didn’t like Australian Rules footy! We found it funny as we were the pub’s only customers that night and he still didn’t turn the footy on in the front bar!
Day 331 Larrimah, Australia to Daly Waters, Australia
The sun’s morning rays woke us all up from a comfortable night’s sleep as the overnight temperature became quite cool. It was the first time I had used my sleeping bag for a really long time and made a nice change.
Tim was driving first and decided to sneak in a morning run – a very rare sight – as the four of us hit the road. Sections of the road today were so dead straight that the road literally disappeared out of view as it melted away into the watery horizon.
There was nothing on the roadside! There was just endless kilometres of long grass that flooded the base of thousands of eucalyptus trees. The only things that would pull me from a day dream was stinky road kill I had to avoid and when an eagle would fly overhead majestically on the lookout for food.
Other than the impressive birds and several road kills all was straight forward until my puncture. I let the others carry on and caught up with them at our lunch break. It was my first flat on home soil and was enough motivation to switch my continental tyre with the new Schwalbes Aaron and I had collected from the Jabiru Holiday inn.
Karina, who was celebrating her birthday, led the way from lunch. Her incredible athleticism was on show as she maintained a scorching pace into a strong headwind. After several morale boosting signs directing us to the historic Daly Waters pub we turned off the Stuart Hwy and cycled the 3kms to Northern Territories most iconic outback pub.
As we arrived a Contiki tour bus also pulled up and for a moment we were excited we’d be having a big party tonight, like we did in Vienna, unfortunately though they were only stopping for lunch! The pub itself was brilliant. Out the front stood ‘Australia’s most remote traffic lights’ and inside hundreds of items of clothing hung from the ceiling and walls, left from travellers to mark their presence at the great pub. Also around the place were passport photos, identification cards, name badges, business cards or permanent marker scribble on any spare piece of wall. Most eye catching though were the bras and female underwear that hung above the bar but despite hanging around the bar for several hours I didn’t get to see any new editions.
It’s certainly a unique pub which plays on many Australian stereotypes and is a very popular place for people on driving holidays. The Irish bartender told me that around 200-300 people would visit per day in the peak season!
To celebrate Karina’s birthday we had a pub meal and a few beers. Daniel went a step further by ordering the ‘Pub Challenge’ meal which was big enough to feed all of us. No joke, the plate stacked with pork chops, bacon, burgers, sausages, ham, chips and hash browns weighed about 5kgs! The five staff members working had never seen anyone finish it. The owner/chef Robyn said reckoned there was a success rate of one in ten people and that was a generous guess. Although in just over an hour Daniel managed to get it all down. Robyn was so impressed that she gave Daniel a Daly Waters pub hat and singlet and announced that we can all have a free bacon and egg sandwich in the morning. The meal left Daniel in pretty bad shape, completely bloated and forced him to bed early.
Day 332 Daly Waters, Australia to Elliot, Australia – 152km
The bacon and egg sandwiches Robyn knocked up were a great start to the day. Daniel couldn’t bring himself to eat anything so had his wrapped up for later. We then said farewell to the friendly staff and headed back to the Stuart Hwy to continue south.
The roads today were once again dead straight and the surroundings offered little entertainment; it was actually very boring. Thank god my ipod was fired up!
It felt like the hottest day yet but temperatures were only around 40 degrees. Karina and I escaped into the air-conditioned comfort of the car during one of our breaks.
The landscaped changed dramatically after about 100kms as the tall eucalyptus trees became replaced by low shrubs. It also felt as if we were at a much higher altitude than we’d been; almost a plateau like atmosphere.
Finally, after the long exhausting day we arrived into Elliot. It’s a shocking little town. The first town so far I haven’t liked. The pub wasn’t even worth visiting and the caravan park was very rundown and unmaintained. Ironically it was the first park that charged a fee for us to camp and it was easily that worst place yet. Even the local police officer suggested camping further on out of town.
Day 333 Elliot, Australia to Renner Springs, Australia – 91km
The others set off while I finished packing up the car as it was my turn to drive. On the way out of town I was stopped by police to be breatherlized and to have my licence checked. I chatted to the officer about our ride and how far we had to go. He was very impressed although confused me when he was confident I would be back in Melbourne in time to replace my licence that was to expire in eight days’ time!
I drove ahead to the 45km mark and hung out my clothes that were drenched from an overnight shower, and then I relaxed until the others arrived.
The remainder of the day I was back in the saddle and we had a strong headwind on our hands. Since Darwin it’s really been either against us or across us making things very difficult. What’s more worrying though is that it’s named the Barkly Breeze as it generally blows along the Barkly Hwy which we’ll be turning onto in just a few days.
Once again there was a change in terrain. Today was quite hilly, which came as a surprise. It was again very dry and rocky. At the top of one climb the view was incredible, I’m pretty sure I could see Melbourne in the distance…
We arrived into Renner Springs which consisted of just a service station, tavern and caravan park. The spring itself was by no means a glamorous spot like Mataranka, instead just hooked up to a pump to supply water to the small town. However there was a great pool where we recovered and relaxed. I cooked up a pasta for dinner before we headed to the tavern for a drink.
In the tavern we met a couple of interesting characters. One was an Irishmen who had somehow fallen in love with the place and had moved there! The other was an ex-miner who was very eager to put some worries in our heads by going on about the vastness of the Barkly Hwy, poisonous snakes we’ll come across and then he made us laugh when he told us he’d been banned from the Elliot Hotel after throwing a snooker ball at the barmen.
Day 334 Renner Springs, Australia to Threeways, Australia – 136km
Aaron and Tim scored with the split day of driving and riding while Karina, Daniel and I would ride the whole way. Having said that, Karina has cycled the whole way from Noonamah as she’s been unable to drive due to insurance! Quite often she’s been very jealous as we take turns in the car. Although today would be the last of it!
The first half of the day was very undulating. The surrounds again very dry and in sections where the road was higher than the ground you could look over the arid foliage for kilometres.
We split the day into quarters to ensure we’d maintain our hydration. Today at a rest stop my thermometer read 50 degrees!
Tim drove second and had set up camp in the Threeways Caravan Park located behind the famous Threeways Roadhouse. The town simply named as there are three ways you can travel from here, where the east to west Barkley Hwy meets the north to south Stuart Hwy. It was our first real milestone for the Australian leg and where we will turn east onto the Barkley Hwy and head towards Mt Isa and the east coast.
Unfortunately we didn’t receive a discount; our early luck has seemed to have run out already! The bloke working in the roadhouse also spoilt our positive mood as he complained about us cycling on the highway and refused to fill up Daniel’s water bottles. He had made out every truck driver that had stopped in had complained about us too, however most of the trucks wave or honk at us in a friendly manner in support.
We emptied the car and locked up the bikes and drove 25km south to Tennant Creek to take a look around. It was a simple one road town where every shop had bars all over their windows and closed once night began setting in. We sat at Red Rooster for a while catching up on emails, texts and phone calls as we finally had reception before returning to Threeways to spend the evening.
Days 335 to 337 Road trip to Alice Springs, Australia
The long drive down to Alice Springs was nicely broken up with a visit to the incredible Devil’s Marbles tourist sight. It’s truly amazing, massive chunks of round rocks delicately balancing on others. We climbed all over them and took some photos before continuing on.
We arrived into Alice and met up with Mike. He is the father of Stacey who is friends with Tim. Mike had kindly invited us to stay with him while in town.
We got involved with some local sport while in town. Daniel and I went to Cricket training with Mike’s son Myles and then the next evening Daniel, Tim and I went down to Friday night training with the Pioneer Eagles Football Club. Astonishingly the club has won 31 premierships in 60 years!!
Karina proved she wasn’t all talk in the kitchen and was constantly busy baking cakes, scones and cheesecakes! She has definitely left a good taste in my mouth! We said our good byes to her in Alice as she will be travelling south to Adelaide and to Melbourne before returning home to Denmark.
The main purpose of the journey to Alice was to collect Noel, Harvey, Geoff and El who arrived by plane from Melbourne. Noel and Harvey will be our support crew through the desert and Geoff will be cycling with the four of us, El will continue taking some great footage and photos of the journey.
Mikes daughter Stacey arrived in time for a big night out. She’s an absolute legend and loves her footy. She has arranged for us to play a game of footy in Mt Isa and Whitsundays! Both games we are really looking forward to. It was also interesting to hear about her line of work where she goes out to remote communities and sets up indigenous Australians with work and/or training.
Before we left town Noel led the way in Coles (supermarket) where he had Geoff, Tim, Harvey and I running around stocking up trollies, ensuring we would have plenty to eat for the next week on the road.
We then drove back to Threeways and met up with the others who had kindly been driven the 500km trip by Mike. Noel cooked up a great dinner of steaks and pasta, a perfect meal to have before we set off on our next leg of the trip.
From Threeways we’ll be heading east on the Barkly Hwy, aiming to ride the 642kms to Mt Isa in six days. In Mt Isa we’ll be having a day off and also saying good bye to Noel and Geoff.