We crossed into the Northern Territory at last this morning and the speed limit rose to 130 kph (80 mph) on the same two lane highways without much shoulder. No worries mate! Fireman told me how there used to be no limit at all in the NT, and they used to hold a road race like the Cannonball Run. I felt I'd come to a different country.
Fireman drove well and not too fast and we crossed the empty spaces for hours until we reached the Barkly Homestead, a roadhouse where nearly everyone has to stop for fuel. Their prices reflect that, so we bought just enough to get to the next servo. Behind the counter was a girl from Texas, one of the many foreigners working hospitality jobs along this route to get an Australian visa.
At last we reached the Stuart Highway, the paved line that bisects the continent down the middle from top to bottom, and we turned right, northbound, into the sun, feeling its warmth. Although now Fireman was like the proverbial horse that smells the stable, Darwin was still nearly a thousand kilometers away so we pulled up, as the sun got low, into Daly Waters.
There is a historic pub here that has become very popular. Caravans were packed like sardines on the red dust. Inside the pub were years of memorabilia stuck up on the walls and throngs of tourists. Fireman was shocked at how the place had changed. It had lost all authenticity and become just a tourist trap.
Since it was late we decided to stay and made the best of it by having drinks and dinner and a good banter with the folks seated around us. An Irish country music act was up on a stage. The stars and planets came out blazing above.