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We're relaxing in the cool breeze blowing through our room at the Dunmarra Wayside Inn - a place similar to the Wauchope Hotel with just a petrol station, bar with counter meals, a handful of tired old motel rooms, and space for caravans to park.
The breeze is the remnant of a howling gale that blew in over Wauchope overnight, rattling our room and blowing up a haze of red dust into the desert air. The wind also kept things cooler than yesterday, making our choice to switch to warmer weather clothes a day too early.
We had some bread rolls for breakfast, then filled up the car for the day's haul - the longest driving day of the trip. The petrol at $93 cost more than the room at $80. I also took some more photos of the beautifully decaying and rusty old trucks out the front of the Hotel.
The first stop was back to the Devil's Marbles to get some shots with the sun on the other side. In the morning light they looked different, an impression enhanced by the addition of streaky white clouds apparently radiating from a point behind them to the south-west. This time we stopped not only at the main carpark area, but also a few other places along the access road, to get views of different boulders. We found a pair of tall egg-shaped boulders standing on their ends next to each other - close enough to stand between them and touch both at once.
From there, it was the long stretch of bitumen north to the town of Tennant Creek. This is a small town which was very run-down and dust-blown, with boarded up shops on the main street and basically not much to see or do. We popped into a local Aboriginal arts store to look at the paintings. We were both drawn to a painting of Honey Ant Dreaming, rendered in a range of brown tones. We decided to support the local artist who had painted it, and bought the canvas. The woman who sold it to us chatted about the various artists and how she was going to Sydney in January for an exhibition of them. She asked us about Sydney and what the weather would be like then - she was afraid it would be cold!
We went to the post office quickly to get a tube to store the rolled canvas on the rest of our travels, then stopped in at a takeaway to buy a quick pepper steak pie off an old Italian guy as a filler for me, since we didn't have much food for lunch today.
Rolling out of Tennant Creek, we stopped off briefly at the old historic Telegraph Station to look around the well-kept buildings - one of only four of the original eleven telegraph stations of the Overland Telegraph still standing. (We saw another at Barrow Creek yesterday.)
From there it was basically driving - stopping briefly at Renner Springs and Elliott to stretch our legs and have some food. At Elliott, there were several peafowl wandering around the petrol station where we pulled up in the shade - a rather unexpected sight. A male and female pair came right up to us as we ate a bread roll - obviously expecting a free handout of food.
Leaving there, we passed Newcastle Waters. It's an interesting fact that pretty much every place name around here is something Creek, Springs, or Waters - yet none of them actually have any water anywhere in sight!
The drive was moderately monotonous, with the landscape varying only slowly as the road ran straight through it like an arrow. A lot of it was like some surveyors had gathered around a map, said, "Right, we need to put a road in from here to here," then grabbed a ruler, ruled a straight line between those points, and said, "That'll do."
At times, the road passed over gentle undulations and at one point there were some exposed rocks to break up the endless vista of scrubby trees and yellow grass in all directions. The wind had also whipped up a haze of pink dust in the air, making the horizon a pale orange colour in all directions, fading slowly up to blue sky above, punctuated by some thin wispy clouds.
We pulled into Dunmarra mid-afternoon and checked into room 1. There's really nothing to do here except look at the live reptile displays inside in the dining area of the roadhouse. We haven't had a close look yet - we're saving that up for when we have dinner - but it looks like a bunch of nasty, deadly brown-coloured snakes.
We've just returned from dinner in the roadhouse. The menu was limited to start with, and half of the more exotic options - such as the grilled fish, the rissoles, the freshly baked bread and scones, and so on - were not available. Fortunately, the vege burger was, so M. had that, and I had a seafood platter consisting of a bunch of battered and crumbed seafood items with chips and salad. It was okay, but uninspiring. They did, however, have a most magnificent chocolate mudcake sitting in a display on the counter. When I asked for a slice for dessert, the woman at the bar said conspiratorially, "Do you know what I do with it? I warm it up until the chocolate just melts, and then put cream on top. It's wonderful." So I agreed wholeheartedly and it was made so, and it was good.
On the way out, we grabbed cartons of chocolate milk for me and iced coffee milk fro M. for a hasty liquid breakfast in the morning. We stopped outside in the darkness after returning briefly to our room to let our eyes adjust and see the stars. It's even darker here than at Wauchope and the sky is beautiful and full of stars.
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