Stopping in Katherine, the Northern Territory's fourth largest town, for a refuel we where startled at the dozens of Aboriginal people hanging around on the streets. Many had health and social issues; they were visibly very drunk or high on something and fights broke out amongst them (upsettingly including a man hitting a woman) in the time it took us to savour a cup of tea. As tourists passing through we couldn't understand the background to this social situation. Had these people left their communities, been ousted from them, or been displaced by whites some decades ago? What was apparent was that these weren't young folks, most we thought were in their fifties. We were aware how badly the aboriginal communities had been treated by white settlers even up to relatively recently but to see that there is still a significant social divide up in the Northern Territory was a real eye opener.
Driving further south down the Stuart Highway we headed for Daly Waters, a short 270km leg of our journey. It’s called a town but it's really a pub, motel, gas station, post box and redundant WWII rear guard airfield. There was signage for a cafe but we couldn't tell if it was closed for the season, or closed for good. Driving into this hamlet we felt very much like strangers from out of town riding into a Wild West frontier high street, we just had to work out which of us was John Wayne and which was the horse.
Heading straight for amber refreshment we found the Daly Waters pub to be somewhat of a treasure chest of memorabilia. The pub itself dated back to 1930. Initialled poker brands, metal jaw animal traps, cracked leather saddles, hand tools and other rural items harked backed to those days when the pub was a supply point for cattle drovers.
In more recent years the passing clientele have left their own weird and wonderful footprint. The walls host a collection of garment name badges, signed sports caps, flags and foreign currency, and rows of bras and knickers that would put M&S to shame. My description can not do this grotto justice so here's a video....
We were told by the Irish barmaid that Daly Waters has a permanent population of 8. As we nursed our schooners of Victoria Bitter (a lager) at the bar we met one of them coming in for his evening tucker. He was a cheery chap. A chew nails, spit rust type of guy, with the obligatory leather hat, open neck short sleeved shirt, shorts and boots. All his clothing had been bleached by the sun and dyed by the dust into the same shade of faded camel. He was stick thin, clean shaven and his short wavy silver hair looked like it had been dipped in nicotine, but he didn't smoke. It was difficult to age him as his skin was so weathered and shrivelled. I think if you had cut him with a knife he wouldn't have bled.
We also met a group of 30 enthusiasts on an organised cycling tour holiday. Their route had started at Medan in Sumatra and over four months they were pedalling to Sydney. They packed up camp and were on the road each day at 5am. They then covered about 120km and stopped for the day about 1pm. Many were French guys riding hybrids. They commented that the Stuart Highway scenery had been quite monotonous and progress was slow and painful. It didn't appeal to me but you had to admire their conviction to forge forward under the relentless sun.
We persuaded ourselves to have a meal there and Chris rather fancied trying the Kangaroo. It was a piece of loin and came medium rare (the best way we were advised). It’s a meat with a tasty gamey flavour, but not overpowering - I guess most similar to unhung venison. On our East Alligator River cruise our aboriginal guide had stated that the tail was the most delicious part of a Roo. Traditionally the hunter would have received this choice cut. A few days later we stopped for fuel and spotted a tail in the freezer. It was quite a sight - whole and unskinned. I'm an adventurous cook and considered the challenge of concocting a scrummy tail on the campervan gas stove. A kanga tail might perhaps fit in the frying pan if whirled like a Cumberland sausage?
Sarah couldn't remember where she'd parked the chopper
Hardly changed since 1930
In the middle of nowhere!
Rustic yet different!