From Tropics to Desert to Coast

We had arranged to sell our beloved XV to a family member in Queensland, however this then meant that I needed to get the car from Darwin to their place. Rather than try and freight it down on a train (in which case it would need to be completely empty), as I hadn’t done a very good job of organising the move and still had a lot of stuff to drop off to people before leaving the country I decided I would drive it from Darwin across.

The drive is approximately 3,000km so Dad offered to fly up to Darwin to keep me company and help out on the drive. Once I finished work there was no need for me to stay around in Darwin so we arranged to drive out first thing on the Saturday after I finished.

Day 1 – Darwin – Tennant Creek – 989km
Both Dad and I had done this run before, Dad when he was sent out for work nearly 10 years ago and me when Jared and I did our Central Australia road trip at the start of last year. We knew what to expect and thankfully had a good run. We stopped at Katherine for a quick break and fuel then pressed on to the Daly Waters. We stopped in at the shed that was Australia’s first international Airport. It’s now overgrown and sounds like the roof will come off at any moment. Round the corner we stopped at the Daly Waters Pub, which is set up as a traditional Aussie Pub. From there we pressed on to Tennant Creek where I had booked us accommodation for the night.

The only minor hiccup that we had was just as we were nearing the Three Way intersection (approximately 30 minutes from Tennant Creek). I was driving and had come up behind a road train carrying cattle. As the speed limit was 130 I was looking to overtake and checking what was coming in the other direction. As I did this a cow came gallopping from the left-hand side of the road (as most of the highway is unfenced and there’s wandering stock) and shot ot in front of the road train. The road train slammed on his brakes and I did not expect to see the animal make it to the otherside of the road. Amazingly it did and the driver fo the road train did an amazing job of avoiding the cow and keeping his train under control. After that I decided that I would just hang in behind him and go at 110km/h into Tennant Creek.

We ate at the restaurant at the hotel that night, which was very empty for a Saturday night. However, speaking with the staff it sounds like their main business happens during the week with workers travelling up into the town and then returning home for the weekend.

Day 2 – Tennant Creek – Mt Isa – 661km
This day wasn’t going to be as long in terms of kilometres to travel but there’s a long stretch between the Barkly Homestead and Camooweal which takes approximately 3 hours where there is nothing but road. We decided to get an early start and leave just after the sun was up so that should anything go wrong we had maximum light to try and deal with the situation.

As we were checking out of the motel we saw that they had been broken into overnight and they had smashed in the glass door to the check-in and restaurant area. Thankfully they said nothing had been stolen, but still doesn’t make it any less of a pain for them.

We had fuelled up the previous afternoon so we headed straight back up the highway towards Three Ways, this time we headed right and made for the Northern Territory/Queensland border.It took us around 2.5 hours to get to the Barkly Homestead where we fuelled up to make sure we would have enough to get us across the border. It was a good thing that we did, because as we rejoined the highway there was a sign saying that due to strong crosswinds fuel consumption could increase greatly and there was no fuel until Camooweal.

The drive was fairly uneventful just lots of caravans (most with boats) travelling in the opposite direction. We stopped in at the truck stop at Camooweal (just across the Queensland boarder) to have lunch and take a short break. It was a couple of hours from Camooweal through to Mt Isa and we arrived at our motel early in the afternoon. We decided to take in the sights of Mt Isa including the airport and the look out before grabbing a mildly early dinner from Subway.

Farewelling the NT after nearly three years
Mt Isa

Day 3 – Mt Isa – Barcaldine – 755km
Another early start this morning as it was a bit of a longer drive again as rather than driving to Longreach I had booked accommodation in Barcaldine to cut around 1 hour off tomorrow’s drive.

The first stop this morning was at McKinley for a pit stop and quick stretch of the legs, we decided to aim for Winton for lunch. We didn’t bother fuelling the car in McKinley as we had started the day on a full tank. This would prove to be a risky decision.

We got in to Winton just before the lunchtime rush and picked out the exceptional looking bakery. For a small town it was a huge bakery with amazing food. We then headed to the truck stop for fuel as it was on the main road heading out of town. However, when we pulled up to the bowsers all the unleaded bowsers read out of order. This could have been a disaster had we not found fuel out the front of the caravan park and topped up. According to the lady there the truck stop had been without unleaded fuel for six weeks! Not sure how they can run a business like that but there you go.

The drive through to Longreach was quite isolated again, with lots of caravans out on the roads still. We had debated stopping at Longreach time permitting to check out the Qantas Founders Museum, but as we lost time in Winton we pushed straight through to Barcaldine. We had a quick walk around the small town of Barcaldine to try and find somewhere for dinner and grabbed a few groceries, we decided on dinner at the motel restaurant.

Unbeknownst to me Barcaldine was where the Labor Party was formed under the Tree of Knowledge, they’ve now turned this into a bit of a spectical out the front of the train station and have boards detailing the history of the Great Shearers Strike.


Tree of Knowledge


We had a lovely meal at the motel restaurant and even got free entertainment courtesy of a fuel spill at the service station on the corner, so watched all of the activities to clean the spill.

Day 4 – Barcaldine – Rockhampton – 579km
We didn’t get away quite as early as we had hoped but today was going to be one of the shorter drives of our trip. Today we really struggled with our average speed as we lost the 110km/h limits that we had enjoyed so far in Queensland. We got to Emerald for lunch and had a quick stop before pushing on to Rockhampton, it was plain sailing right the way through.

We checked in to our apartment in Rockhampton and when Mum arrived with their car from Gladstone we transferred everything from the XV to the Magna, thanfully it all fit and with room for me to sit in the back seat for the drive down to Gladstone. Once the tetris packing had finished we had a quick break before heading out to a car wash to try and clean the car inside and out ready for it’s sale in the morning. We managed to get the outside washed but decided to come back later to vacuum it out. We walked across the road for dinner and after dinner Mum and I headed out to vacuum the interior and scrub off some of the stubborn bugs we’d collected on the drive down from Darwin.

Day 5 – Rockhampton – Gladstone – 130km
This morning we met J’s aunt and uncle at the Department of Transport and due to their weekly meeting they didn’t open until an hour after they usually do. Thankfully we had all of the paperwork sorted to be able to sell the car and for his aunt and uncle to transfer the registration to Queensland.

I said goodbye to our dream car that we spent so long working and saving for. I never thought I’d get emotional about selling a car, but that was something we worked so hard to buy it was sad to see it go.

Goodbye XV

We then headed down to Mum and Dad’s place where I stayed for a day and then continued on to Brisbane.

It would have been amazing to spend more time exploring the various towns we drove through on the roadtrip, but as I had so much to do in terms of sorting out all of our gear in Brisbane and the various fiddly details it was necessary to make the trip as quick as possible. Maybe one day we will get back to Australia and do a similar road trip together.

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