The Devil’s Marbles, a UFO Centre and a Friendly Dingo
Tennant Creek – Barrow Creek
Tennant Creek had a strange feel to it, with its barred windows, closed-down shops and most shockingly a street cafe that was encased in a cage. The insightful Nyinkka Nyunyu arts centre with its tranquil garden and attached café felt like a ray of light in contrast to the town. We had an interesting encounter with the Aboriginal man running the gallery who also teaches youngsters horse riding skills to help them get work on farms.||
Three days of eating, resting, blogging and meeting interesting fellow travellers at the well-equipped campsite passed by quickly. To our relief, the wind also became weaker while we were there. Apparently the last week had been exceptionally windy, so we were hopeful that the headwinds might be a little kinder to us for the next 500km to Alice Springs.
After our recent experience running out of food, we left town with all the food we could carry and camped after 90km at a rest area. Overnight camping is allowed at most rest areas in the Northern Territory, though many are not really suitable for tents. At this rest area we were lucky to have a spot to pitch the tent, complete with a picnic table and water tank. We shared the area with five groups of grey nomads in caravans, as well as a local guy sleeping in a swag in the back of his pickup.
The following morning we cycled to the Devils Marbles. These amazing granite formations have been rounded over a billion years of harsh desert weather and hang precariously at all angles giving the impression that even the slightest touch could send them rolling.
Aboriginals believe that the stones are the eggs of the rainbow serpent, and the Devils Marbles are a powerful Dreaming place associated with the Dreamtime creation story.
After a stroll around we were about to move on when we spotted our first dingo. Many Australians feel apprehensive about these wild dogs who sometimes attack flocks of sheep and have been known to attack small children in isolated incidents. We had heard dingoes howling near our campsites on some nights but hadn’t actually seen one yet. This dingo was not shy at all and almost seemed keen to pose for our photos as he warmed himself in the morning sun.
Our next stop after lunch was the UFO centre at Wycliffe Wells. This roadhouse lies on an intersection of ley lines (energy lines) so that apparently any UFOs in the area will pass directly overhead. Indeed there had been an unusually high number of UFO sightings in this area. We wondered if it had anything to do with the funny taste of the bore drinking water. The bar was covered in newspaper clippings about UFO sightings. However, we did not linger long. Freddie decided to have a quick shower, and then we moved on to find a bush camp site.
On the way, Guy spotted a guitar lying in grass near the road. It was in pretty good shape, only a couple of strings had snapped. Guy attempted to ride with it but it was proving too difficult so he left it balanced upright on the side of the road. A few 100 meters down the road we noticed a car stopped, no doubt a little baffled then a passenger got out to pick up the guitar.
We found a bush camp spot near the turnoff to Ali Curung, the Aboriginal village Ruth (who we stayed with in Darwin) grew up in. When we woke up in the morning, something was missing: the wind! For the first time since we arrived in Australia, it was very quiet with only a weak headwind in the afternoon.
We knew we were coming up to the spot where the English backpacker Peter Falconio was tragically murdered in 2001. He and his girlfriend had been stopped by a man who pretended to have car troubles and proceeded to shoot Peter while his girlfriend escaped unscathed.
It felt a little creepy as we approached the place of the murder. Just then, we noticed a pickup slowing down behind us and following us for a little while. In our rear view mirrors, we could see it pulling level with us. It was the first time a car had slowed down next to us in Australia. Too scared to turn our heads and look at the driver, we heard a cheerful voice spurring us on: “Keep pushing, you’re almost at the top!” Relief swept over us when we realised it was just a fellow tourist and no murderer after all 🙂