week 10...
where everybody knows your name

Daly Waters to Darwin

You don't get a lot of choice up the Stuart Highway. Almost 700 km between Tennant Creek and Katherine (what are considered major cities in Northern Territory, since they have over 2000 people) with only eight stops along the way. It's a little like the drive from Thunder Bay to Sault Ste. Marie.

But, the drive can be enjoyable if you know what's coming round the bend. Be an informed traveller! Read our reviews of Stuart's many roadhouses, so the next time you're driving up Oz's guts, you'll know when to stop, and when to speed up.

Km 24: Three Ways Roadhouse
No doubt you'll be happy to see it after your trip across the Barkly. It's got character, tasty-looking food and clean toilets. But, if you're looking for supplies, (or cheaper gas) you're better off doing your business at Tennant Creek.
Milk: $4.00/L     Burger: $7.00     In a word: Rustic!
Km 143: Renner Springs
Once you get past the less-than-rocket-scientist young backpacker waitress, you'll find a welcoming environment that is perfect for a day's lounging. Say hi to Scratch if he's there!
Milk: $2.50/L     Burger: $6.50     In a word: Friendly!
Km 252: Elliott
This is the only town that didn't have a review in the brochures. There's good reason for that. If you've got enough petrol to get to Dunmarra, drive on. Heck, even if you don't, take a chance. We didn't have such a luxury.
Milk: $2.25/L     Burger: $5.50     In a word: Creepy!
Km 355: Dunmarra Roadhouse
This roadhouse was the closest to a North American Gas Station that you can get. It had fluorescent lights, air conditioning and lots of junk food. Not much personality, not much flare, but clean and efficient.
Milk: $2.50/L     Burger: $6.50     In a word: Forgettable!
Km 399: The Hi-Way Inn
Why this roadhouse can charge decent prices, while others closer to 'civilization' can't even provide fresh milk, is a mystery. They've got a great business mentality: treat people right. Worth the stop, hands down.
Milk: $1.50/L     Burger: $5.50     In a word: Satisfying!
Km 403: Daly Waters
The slap-happiest of roadhouses on or off the Stuart Highway. We were treated like kings and constantly kept in cordial and iced water. We have no reason to believe that you won't feel the same. Take a dip in the pool!
Milk: $1.50/L     Burger: $5.00     In a word: Unique!
Km 484: Larrimah
This town of 20 people has three rest spots: the Shell station, the Larrimah Hotel, and Fran's Teahouse. Our suggestion? Drive up to the Hotel, take your picture next to the Big Stubby, and drive on.
Milk: $3.50/L     Burger: $7.50     In a word: Dodgy!
Km 558: Mataranka
You can visit the thermal pools, you can canoe the river, but do not leave town without eating a Kelly's Pie. It's not like other times when someone has told you to try a pie and it tastes like a Mrs. Mac's. These Kelly's Pies are good. Really good. By the way, don't go to the Shell station. The counter lady was a nasty old small-minded hag.
Milk: $3.00/L     Pie: $5.00     In a word: Tidy!
Army Blues:
Years in Service: 30
Specialty:
Bomb Squad
Current Occupation:
Part-time Truckie, House Builder
Partner In Crime:
Heather


Email Blue and he'll teach you how to make a bomb out of a Glowworm!


meet blue, man of mystery
Blue is the man who made our trip to Darwin possible. Little did we know that we were truly in the safest hands imaginable with Blue, who's a retired bomb squad expert with the Australian Military. Without giving away any classified secrets, we grilled him throughout the four-hour ride to the Top End.

How many calls would the bomb squad get each year? In a metropolitan area like Melbourne, we'd get around 1500 calls per year. Out of those, about 20-30 would be actual bombs that we've got to defuse. The rest are hoaxes.

What was the scariest part of your job? Believe it or not, it was the ride to the bomb location. Not because of the tension of what was ahead, but because I always had a police escort and they drove like to drive like maniacs.

Gimme a good bomb story. There was this one guy whose kid found a bomb on the way home from school. Just the evening before he had been watching the TV show, CHiPs, where he learned that dropping a bomb into water would save the day. So the guy dropped the bomb into his pool, then called the bomb squad. What they don't tell you on TV is that water is conductive, and the bomb can still blow.

Any really hairy situations? I'll tell you, the only time I ever felt nervous on the job was when someone else was in control. Whenever I was working the tools, I was pretty relaxed.

So... you ever have one of those 'red wire, blue wire' situations? Ha ha. Nope.
these are the people in our neighbourhood...

Al & Brenda
Proud new owners of the Hi-Way Inn. Here's a roadhouse tip: when the sign says "Under New Ownership", chances are the old owners were dweebs, and the new owners are trying doubly hard to make the place happier than ever. Al and Brenda sure did! A welcome stop.
Carey & Katrina
A Canadian groom and his Aussie bride, kickin' back in the outback. Canadians are always happy to lend a hand to other Canadians, so when Carey found out we were heading for Katherine, whe recommended a good spot to crash. If you see their shiny red ute, give 'em a wave!
Monica
Monica, thank you so much for taking such good care of us at Daly Waters. You kept us full of ice water and tasty lime cordial (we must have drunk 10 litres) and you were great company! Keep up the fine holiday visa work!
James, Rich & Heinrich
Okay, two Brits and a Swede walk into a bar... these three travellers were very excited about our trip, so much so that when a bus pulled up to Daly Waters Pub, they told the tourists that the bikes were theirs!
Cpl Crawford & Cf Trotter
You'd think the Australian Military would have better things to do on a Friday afternoon than haul a couple of trikes 400km to Darwin... I guess not! When these boys in green came to Mataranka to help Blue the Truckie with his busted drive shaft, they carted us back up with them. Hope their commanding officer doesn't find out! SIR YES SIR!
Phil & Victor
All in all, I'd say we scored about 6 beers off these gentlemen. They were fencing in cattle stations in northern Northern Territory, spending their nights at the Hi-Way Inn, and every night for four nights they've stopped in their ute to pass on some beers to lonely, weary cyclists. Thanks again, and again!
wally's amazin' facts!
Good day, my little smarty-pantses! Have you been wondering how cattle are rounded up in the Outback? It's Cattle by Copter, of course! The cattle pilots use helicopters or planes to buzz their cattle into the station. Should we recommend a Penninger?

This Week's Amazin' Fact: You know how some people always carve their names into bridges in foreign countries? Or write their name into other people's Zen gardens? It seems that our old friend Stuart (remember the Stuart Highway?) had the same obsession. He carved an 'S' into a tree near Daly Waters to mark the water source that saved his team from perishing. You can still see that tree today!

Since Aim and Kev don't pedal very fast, we're always looking for the road signs that tell us how far we are from the next town. But when a sign says Katherine: 545, what is exactly 545km from this spot? If you're good, I'll tell you when next we meet!

Don't forget to look for Wally this week!
Distance this week: 275kmDistance since Day 1: 3811km

What is Bikeabout? Click here to find out!

Day 65: See? Everybody does know your name
Distance Travelled: 50.2km Temperature: 41
Time on Trikes: 6.5h Water Left: 15L
Terrain: Flat
End Location: 30km past Daly Waters
service with a smile
How is it that the two jewels of the Stuart Highway are located within 20km of each other? The Hi-Way Inn was home and work to some of the nicest people up the guts of the NT, rivalled only by the cordiality of the Daly Waters Pub. Which is the better stop? We can't decide, so you'd better pencil yourself in for two days.
   The Hi-Way Inn proudly displays "Under New Ownership" on every sign, mostly because the old owners were miserable enough to have the Inn ejected from most travel guides (the ones that still mention it simply read "Don't stop here.") Well, don't believe the bad hype; the new bosses have cleaned it, shined it, buffed it, waxed it, and run it with the mentality of, "if you treat people right and don't overchage, they'll be back. And we will! Just, not on a bike.
   The Daly Waters Pub, on the other hand, is a solid fixture on the backbone of Australia. One wall is covered with photos. Another with stickers. Another with foreign money. Another with cluttered rusty junk. License plates, bottles, roadsigns, nametags, patches, beer labels... It's worth the stop just to see how much stuff from all over the world can accumulate in the middle of nowhere, or as Monica put it, the middle of everywhere.

"Do you have meat pies where you come from? No? What do you do when you're hungry?"
- Daly Pub Patron, to Germans.
Day 66: Ain't no flies on us
Distance Travelled: 54.4km Temperature: 32
Time on Trikes: 7.0h Water Left: 7.0L
Terrain: Twisty, windy
End Location: Larrimah
the old man is snoring
Rain! Sweet, sweet rain! The temperature drops by 20 degrees, we get a shower and the sun says goodbye for at least a couple of hours. We are in heaven.
   Remember when you were a kid and you'd run outside in your undies when it was raining? You'd jump in all the puddles and not have a care in the world? That's us when it rains. We love it.
   Despite our glee, each day brings a lesson, and today's was that Aussie clouds respond to taunting. "Ha!" we yelled, "You call this a storm?! Is this the best you can do?!" Within 20 minutes we received the downpourinest downpour that ever poured down. Lightning! Thunder! KABOOM!
   The downside: afterwards you get the surprise of seeing what didn't get covered up well enough. Today, it was the dried peas. We've got to eat 16 cups of dried peas before they're ruined tomorrow... holy frickin' frack! Better get your spoon.

"I'm a chicken finger!"
- Aimee.
Day 67: The Naggy named Fran
Distance Travelled: 72.3km Temperature: 34
Time on Trikes: 10.5h Water Left: 11L
Terrain: Easy Ride
End Location: The Never Never
larrimah's local lurgie
We'd rolled into Larrimah after a light morning's ride - we were in good spirits and our tummies were full of peas. We dropped by the Larrimah pub for a nice morning coffee and enjoyed a short chat with the volunteers there who are trying to restore the pub to its original glory. We didn't settle in for the day, as we normally would, because we had places to go... I'd read about Fran's Devonshire Tea House in a brochure about a week ago and it's been marked on our map as a prime stopping spot since.
   Despite entering the tea house with friendly smiles, within moments we knew they wouldn't be lasting.
   The entire area was smaller than your average living room, crowded with junk and a television blaring a morning aerobics program. We were greeted by a frantic, squat woman who seemed more interested in pressuring us to order right that second (we were the only customers at the time) than in letting us settle and decide for ourselves what we might want. This, apparantly, and because no one else could fit inside the joint, was Fran. She continued to wow us with her local charms...

...by telling us that we weren't allowed to sit inside because we were bikers and we'd mess up her cushions. "You're all sweaty. You understand." She sent us out to the uncovered plastic chairs in the front yard.
...when we asked about a glass of water, we were told that we had to buy it, since it's tank water (her ad read "Tank water available" not "Free tank water available").
...she refused to take one small empty tuna tin because she "doesn't take other people's garbage, see, because she's by herself, and, well, you understand," causing another patron to offer to take it, embarassed by her rudeness.

   In the end, we sat outside in the 40 degree heat and ate what was the most horrible devonshire tea we've ever tasted - oily cream and jam on top of 1 1/2 scones. What happened to the other half? Looks like that's just another way to squeeze a bit more profit out of the weary traveller.
   It must be said that we have never been treated as rudely on this entire trip as we did at Fran's Devonshire Tea House. What could have been a great afternoon left us feeling miserable and cheated. Perhaps Fran needs a lesson in how to treat her customers and perhaps should realize just how meaningful it is for some of the travellers passing through to see a friendly smile and a welcoming establishment. Perhaps she is more concerned with pinching as much money out of people as possible, knowing it's not likely they'll return anyway.
   We certainly won't.

"Now everytime I hear the word 'Devonshire tea' I'll think of Fran. She's ruined Devonshire tea for me forever."
- Kevin.
Day 68: Same bat channel
Distance Travelled: 31.5km Temperature: 39
Time on Trikes: 3.5h Water Left: 8.0L
Terrain: Only one hill
End Location: Thermal Pools
someday soon
Let's get you up to date, shall we? Kev's parents are visiting tomorrow! I know that we haven't really mentioned this much, so forgive us for just tossing this on you. For us, we've been counting down the days until they arrive. They'll be meeting us here on the Stuart Highway and wisking us away to Darwin for a week's worth of vacation and air conditioning. When you're surrounded by heat and humidity, you tend to think about your upcoming break. Probably more than is healthy.
   Maybe it's because we know they're arriving tomorrow and we're getting slack or maybe it's because we've worn out our poor little Canadian bodies traversing the Outback (which, incidentally, is now officially complete) that we've decided to go easy on ourselves and lounge in the Thermal Pools of Mataranka for the day, instead of facing the raging sun. After all, if we're being "rescued" within twenty-four hours, what's our hurry?

"At least they're only drinking mid-strength while driving."
- Aimee.
Day 69: Go army!
Distance Travelled: 66.7km Temperature: 38
Time on Trikes: 7.5h Water Left: 12L
Terrain: Fast!
End Location: Metro Inn Hotel
intelligence operation
A chance encounter with a stranded truckie, a chatty corporal and a flatbed truck. And BANG! We're in Darwin! Or, at least, Noonamah.
   As we mentioned, Kev's folks are flying into Darwin tonight. Their plan was to hire (rent) a ute (truck), drive south 350km to halfway between Mataranka and Katherine, drive us back up to a week of luxury in Darwin, then drive back down and drop us off. But we've heard hiring a ute up here will run you $100 a day, plus 20 cents a km over 100 km. That's pricey!
   So when Blue the bomb-defusing truckie (meet Blue over on the right) offered us a lift on his flatbed, we said, "Why not?" The army took the bikes, we hopped into the cab of a road train with Blue. Five minutes later, we were gonesville.
   Zoom! There goes Katherine! Whoosh! Bye bye, Pine Creek! Sheesh! Australia's not so big when you're travelling at 100km/h. Plunk! We're 40km out of Darwin! The army had to drop us out a little farther than we would have liked, since they're not technically allowed to travel with "civies".
   It was 6:00pm. We had six hours to travel 40km to the airport, in the dark, in rush hour Darwin highway traffic, the kind of traffic we haven't experienced since Townsville. Did we make it? Tune in tomorrow morning...

"I'd go back and ask, but the place smells like pee."
- Kevin.
Day 70: Better Late Than Never
surprise!
Isn't it depressing when your plane lands and there's no one waiting to meet you at the airport? It sure is! We couldn't allow Kev's folks to suffer a heartbreak like that! No way! What good kids we are! Now take us to the resort and pay for everything.

"This is hotter than my sauna."
- Kev's dad.
Day 71: We love the wet season!
the little things
We've dreamed about Darwin for months and we've finally made it! No, dad, we don't want to go to the pool. No, mom, we don't want to tour a museum. All we really, really want is to sit here and soak up the air conditioning. I want to drink cold things cold, eat hot things hot, and sleep on a mattress. Kakadu? Forget it. We've been outside for the past two months. Take me to the mall.
   Darwin, we may not know you as a city or a tourist attraction, but we will always remember you as the lap of luxury.

"Doesn't everybody keep pee in the fridge?"
- Kev's mom.
blue: 1. (n.) When refering to a person, it means he has red hair.
2. (adj.) When refering to a joke, it means it might be a bit dirty, and the ladies should cover their ears.


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day 65
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day 71
We've got mail...
Guess I should introduce myself properly.

I first read about your travels in the Australian Cyclist magazine, and promptly visited your website. I've been keeping tabs on you since, and reading about your previous adventures as well.

My partner Sharon, my stepdaughter Sandra and I live in Stockton, just across the river from Newcastle, New South Wales. You'll probably be passing through Newcastle some time mid next year. Please feel free to visit and stay overnight. We'll even feed you (making sure to have a good supply of King Island Dairy double brie and water crackers especially for Aimee).

The Penninger trikes fascinate me. Did you have any trouble "breaking in" to the riding position?

-Cheesy, the dwarf who knows a good brie when he tastes one.

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© 2002 Kevin Beimers & Aimee Lingman. Stuck in the middle of everywhere.