Friday, August 13, 2010

Stuart Highway: The real attractions

In the middle of the great Nothingness there are some real attractions. They are few and far between, but that makes them even more attractive.

Devil's Marbles
Devil's marbles: This is a rock formation that looks like huge marbles piled on top of the other.For me they were mostly memorable because of two events: 3 Italian guys had climbed the rocks (which is forbidden), were flashing their willies around on top of the marbles (which is weird) showing them amongst other people to the local ranger who had happened to come by (which is just plain stupid). The ranger got terribly upset, made them come done and gave them a lengthy lecture about being disrespectful - all of which was a great evening entertainment for me. But when I was looking for a campsite (after the ranger had left, of course) I got another companion: a wild dingo kept following. He did not attack me and always kept his distance, but still it was sort of weird. Also, what would the dingo do at my dinner time? I decided to stay at the official camp ground which made the dingo leave me. But as soon as I left camp the next morning, the dingo was on my heels again... Seems I have made a friend there.

Fantastic hot springs
The towns: Between Alice and Darwin there are just 2 towns that are worth being called town: Tennant Creek and Katherine. There is not really much to see there but after cycling for 5 days with no shower and only packaged noodle soup these little towns with swimming pools and a supermarket can be a real attraction. I already started having hallucinations about showers and fresh fruit! In Tennant Creek I ran into 2 Mormon missionaries - these guys are everywhere! I decided to be nice and told them that I had recently been to Salt Lake City and how much I had been impressed by it. We talked for about an hour and I learnt a lot about the hard life of a missionary. And when I cycled out of Tennant Creek a car stopped for me. To my big surprise my 2 missionary friends came out and gave me tons of food - thank you so much! In both towns I stayed at a commercial campground - and that is pretty luxurious after camping in the bush for a week. There usually is a swimming pool, barbecues and a camp kitchen - and I ate lots of kangaroo steak and lamb sausages...

Katherine gorge National Park
Tropical Australia: Around Katherine the area becomes tropical. It does not look like that from the road - there you just realize that there are bigger and bigger trees and sometimes even palm trees. But Katherine has the first permanent river and around the water the vegetation is quite lush. And to my big joy there are hot springs! And to my even bigger joy they are free! So no more dust and grime - I was going to bed clean! There are also some famous National Parks like Katherine Gorge and Litchfield. All this means that you can go swimming amidst the most beautiful tropical setting: Waterfalls, palm trees, kakadus! Just beware of the crocodiles!

I with a Japanese cyclist
What else happened? I met about 7 other cyclist going the other way fighting a headwind. All of them were male and most of them Asian. I could even impress two Japanese guys with my little Japanese vocabulary. I always stayed on the Stuart Highway except for Litchfield National Park where I cycled on 42 km of dirt road in order to avoid backtracking. What can I say? I am not made for dirt roads..... Still, no bike problems whatsoever. No puncture, no broken spoke, no nothing. I love my bike.

But now I will go hiking again. I am in Darwin right now and will fly to Adelaide this weekend to tackle the Great South West Walk (250 km) and the Heysen Trail (1.200 km).

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