A strange type of hospitality

Trip Start Jul 07, 2011
Trip End Oct 10, 2011

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Where I stayed
Dunmarra Roadhouse
What I did
Have a shower after Devil's Marbles!

Flag of Australia  , Northern Territory,
Friday, July 22, 2011

In the plan it says "need to get to Daly Waters early to get a good site, no bookings taken, but should be OK", but Col and Kath (sounds like a good name for a sitcom) reckoned accommodation at the pub there was a free for all and a mess. Much quieter, more pleasant, more family oriented, with nightly movies for the kids, at Dunmarra; a roadhouse-come-caravan park 30km short of Daly Waters.

There are known unknowns and unknown unknowns (according to Rumsfeld).  Daly Waters was the former and on the plan.  Dunmarra wasn't, but Col’s advice was to do this instead – the unknown unknown!

Col and Kath have left bricks and mortar behind.  They’ve sold up, bought a (monstrous) van, hooked it to a brand new cherry red Mitsubishi Challenger and have been on the road for 14 months (with doggie) living the Grey Nomad dream and going where their whim takes them

After chatting to Bruce and Kate, we’d decided to tag team it to Dunmarra (our new destination), but needed to make it to Tennant Creek to top up first.  The Col and Kath nomads were (back) off to Queensland today, so if anyone knows them, get them in contact through this blog so we can respond to their advice!


Tennant Creek marks the point at which the Barkly Highway leaves the Stuart Highway and snakes east to Queensland – a suitable enough reason to establish a town and a pub, but probably not mush else.  Meanwhile, every piece of advice we received about Tennant Creek said “don’t stop, just drive straight through”.  Surely it couldn’t be that bad.

The advice was correct.  The best thing to come out of Tennant Creek is the road.  The place looks like a fully functional war zone.  The main highway (we weren’t game to deviate) is festooned with Aboriginals meandering, loitering and aimlessly sitting around doing nothing.  The backdrop to this hive of (in)activity are shops fronted by boarded up windows covered by steel mesh grills – I’m sure that the security guards are just out of sight

The only reason we did stop was to refuel – again. (The most expensive part of this trip is proving to be fuel…)  From the BP forecourt Chris heard arguing and shouted abuse from a drunken squabble between two Aboriginals as we paused for the aforementioned fuel and comfort stop – and then we were out of there; leaving the 'delights’ of this road junction town and mobile/internet coverage (which is why blog updates were slow at this point) well behind.

“Don’t stop, just drive straight through” – Sound advice!

Don’t be a statistic

4 hours of driving tagging along with Bruce and Kate, was punctuated only by lunch and a swerve to pass a police car and a rolled-over vehicle: A white sedan laying upside-down 20ft off our side of the highway having veered off the oncoming lane into the dirt, come sharply back on and then flipped and rolled goodness knows how many times.  Obviously quite recently.

There was no need to stop – no one was in the car, but the roof and doors had been cut off and possessions/debris was strewn over a 20-30m stretch of the verge.

We found out later (from our campsite neighbours) that the car was full of Aboriginals, at least one of whom had suffered spinal injuries.  Discussing it later with Bruce and Kate, we found out that they had also come across the caravan roll over 50km outside Kings Canyon the previous week shortly after that had happened.  (I worry about coincidences like that!)

It certainly makes you want to avoid becoming a “+1” stat.

Col was nearly right

By 1:30 we were at “Family Friendly” Dunmarra and pulled in.  The front and inside of the roadhouse looks like a 1950’s establishment catapulted into today.  The greeting was as distant: A woman (who we later found out is the owner’s South African wife), complete with ‘tea-cosy’ hat, seemingly reluctant to offer any service or help.  It would be OK serving here if it wasn’t for all these darn customers.  The restaurant (if you could call it that) shut at 7 – PM that is – just in case you wanted to eat.

Dunmarra is quiet and pleasant enough – the other campers make it so – and we all agreed that this was (is) a better option than the Daly Waters campsite lottery, but we sure can’t see the family friendly atmosphere or the free nightly movies which the kids were looking forward to watching. 

We reckon the next one will be a make-it or break-it for Col’s advice – this one was “strike 1”.

Nomatter, the 4 kids made their own fun by running through a sprinkler and getting soaked (which was a good prelude to well needed showers – since we were still getting the Gemtree dirt out of our systems) and we backed the two Jayco’s into adjoining sites, all then sitting down to soak up the now much warmer afternoon sun (22C today).

We've got the power - you aint!

And in addition to running through sprinklers, the kids just played.  Glow sticks into hoops, throwing them into the air and catching them (and getting the occasional one on someone's roof) and just running around being kids.

We got some great compliments next morning.  The folk on one side said how nice it was to hear children playing and being so well behaved.

The people on the other said how nice it was for one of them to unplug their power.  Unplug their power, surely not.  Our kids?  The same nice children.

Frau Grumpy stomped around and made Herr Henpecked come up to me and tell me how all of her meat in the Engle car freezer was now defrosting because it had had no power overnight.  And she proceeded to grumble and throw comments our way until they drove off to wherever.

All I can say is: If it was that important to keep the power on, you should have secured the plug better; you should have had an alarm on it to tell you there was no power; and your Engle is pretty crappily insulated if all the contents thaw overnight.

Thaw your heart lady - they're kids!  Next time, we'll do it deliberately - then you'll have a legitimate complaint!  Enjoy "wherever" there aren't any kids.

No sandwiches tomorrow - hurrah: Pub lunch

We’ll get to Daly Waters for lunch tomorrow (without the tussle for a campsite), and perhaps mail the postcards from the post office where Megan’s Grandfather was the postmaster during the second world war.   If we don’t mail the postcards soon (they’ve been waiting since Alice), we’ll be bringing them home!

For the Record

Things you're now allowed to do:
  • Let kids play in a garden sprinkler - just run around and get wet.  The simple games and pleasures that are now banned in SA because of water restrictions
From the Gross file:
  • Megan getting "chatted up" by Phil the roadtrain driver who carts accommodation blocks (dongas) from QLD to Pt Hedland.  Megan was worried that he may accost her in the middle of the night if she went to the toilet.  She didn't go to the toilet - all night.  Lucky for her, Phil left at 5:30am.  What a relief - literally!
Cheapest Laundry (so far)
  • $3 a load in a brand new Miele washer.  The box was still next to it - with the old washer inside.  The washing machine was the newest item in the whole of Dunmarra.
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Grandma on

Another excellant read .

Wendy on

I love the story about Phil what a classic

shaz on

am so envious but sounds like you are all haaving a fabulous trip.

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