TALES OF TEARS & LOSS ON THE ROAD
Trip Start Oct 05, 2009
325Trip End Oct 31, 2013
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FRIDAY JULY 2 2010
JOURNEY: Alice Springs, Aileron, Ti-Tree, Barrow Creek, Taylor Creek Road stop
MILEAGE: 19681 KMS
WEATHER: Overcast, 8 degrees at 9.30am
OVERNIGHT: Taylor Creek Roadside Stop. $0
It had been a sleep interrupted night as yesterday had been Firecracker Day in Alice, and we were surprised at the magnitude of the individual crackers that streaked high up into the sky accompanied by extremely loud bangs; the Northern Territory is the only state in Australia that allows individuals to purchase and set off fireworks and obviously there are no time limits. Today, Friday was a public holiday in Alice for the Alice Springs Show day and the town was quiet as we drove out back onto the Stuart Highway.
Our first stop was at the road rest stop for "The Tropic of Capricorn" which had a world globe and signs about the outback and the start of the wet, tropical north, which did not really start for many kilometres north of here; should we wish for the humid warm conditions or will we be regretting our wishes when we reach the new weather zone. We have not really had hot weather for almost a year and expect to need some time to acclimatise.
We prepared a late breakfast here and then it was back on the highway, long, flat, straight and monotonous! We pulled over at Aileron, 138 kms north of Alice for leg stretching and took a picture of the fine tall 12 metre high sculpture of Johnny Quartpot an Ammatyerre man; we didn't get his story because a large group of aboriginal people attracted our attention with their sad wailing and tears; they were sweeping the ground and structures with branches of gum leaves and we were told that last night one of the family had died in a single car accident 20 kms up the highway and 5 others were in critical condition in hospital. The dead man’s sister responded to Sheila’s expression of condolence with an explanation that the sweeping got rid of the bad spirits around where they all lived. One man moaned “this was my brother’s favourite pub” It was a moving ritual to witness and all the passing travellers showed reverence and understanding of the tragedy. This highway is littered with over turned cars and you can only guess at the terrible stories behind some of the rusting cars sitting on their rusty rooves.
We had to stop at the Shatto Mango, on the Red Centre Farm, a few kms south of Ti-Tree, famous for mango icecream and were surprised to see a vinyard; the little store sold wines, pickles etc but we just bought an icecream, found it too sweet and never finished it.
Not far from this place at Barrow Creek, the myth and rumour that surrounds the death and disappearance of the back packer Peter Falconio in 2001 and the trauma experienced by his girl friend Joanne Lees haunts the surrounding road where the murder was supposed to have happened and we all know that a man is in gaol for the crime. The facts are embellished with traveller’s versions and interpretations; bit like the Lindy Chamberlain case where the dingo got the baby Azaria in Uluru.
We heard a police report on the radio as we left Alice that a woman had pulled over, just near Ti-Tree just 60 kms north of here yesterday evening, when her car played up; a car of aboriginal men witnessed the incident and were able to get into the car and rifle through her possessions and drive off with a laptop and money. The police tell it was not an ambush but an opportune grab.
This road without mobile phone coverage and huge distances between communication points demands care and safety measures and when we pulled into Barrow Springs early afternoon to settle for the night, we both felt the place was dirty, poorly maintained and young aboriginal men were already drinking heavily. There were no other campers around so with a wink and a nod it was back in the van to check out the road side rest stop “Taylor Creek” There was a caravan just pulled in there checking out the site for an overnight stop, so we introduced ourselves and agreed that “if you stay we will”. Later on other 10 or so travellers pulled in and as always it is safety in numbers.
Another thing to note are the huge 50+metre road trains speeding by and at a road side stop you have a front seat view of them and in the darkness of the night they look like Christmas trees with their many lights spread over the “carriages” and the piercing brightness of their headlights are visible well before you hear them. Some of the drivers wave and beep as they pass us and in general they are very safe and efficient road users; the odd one will disturb your sleep late into the night with unnecessary honking and once one even drove through the road side rest stop fast and furious but did no harm.
We have enjoyed the eagles and raptors that dart onto the road with the crows to clean up the road kill; although we notice that road kill is minimal along the highway, perhaps because of the season or rich pickings further into the scrub after rain.
Today was a significant road event for us: 20,000 kms and also July 1 was month 9 on the road and all is good!
The night was extremely windy and the bicycle cover whipped up by the wind smacked into the van with a loud noise and disturbed our sleep once again. It was a cool night under a wonderful starry sky.