(written by Dave)
We reluctantly left the Edith Falls campground this morning after saying goodbye to Sue and Ken. We had great luck getting such good neighbours – would be great if we run into them again along the road somewhere.
The ride back out to the Stuart Hwy was much easier than going into Edith Falls two days ago. It was a little lumpy, but the wind was at our back and that made all the difference. I would highly recommend a stop at Edith Falls to any folks reading this and looking for tips.
Today and two days ago, we passed by several trees that looked almost dead – no leaves but blooming with yellow flowers. I looked it up after we got to camp. We think it is a Kapok tree (Sue told me the name last night but I forgot to write it down). The flowers come out after the leaves fall out and are apparently high in vitamin C. The seed-pods release a puffy centre that was used in pillows during WWII. They are highly flammable though – yet another reason not to smoke in bed!
We also passed the “top secret Mt Todd Gold mine”. We say secret because all the road signs had tape over the name of the mine. It was a pretty poor tape job as most of the signs were still readable if you stopped and looked closely (as one tends to do on a bicycle) – and once we knew the name, we easily found the mine and full details of it on the Internet. The mine operated from 1956 until 1997, closing in 1997 because gold fell below $300 USD per once. Now at almost $1,500 per once, it is viable again. Not sure what all the secrecy is about. You’d think if it was so secret, they’d do more than just tape over the name – duh.
Back on the Stuart Highway, we had a lot more traffic than we remembered from two days ago. Perhaps it was Friday and everyone was looking to be somewhere for the weekend. Whatever the cause we felt a little on edge and rode more carefully – pulling off to the shoulder a few times when road trains approached and it didn’t seem safe. Still, we made good time to Pine Creek with the nice tailwind. Just at Pine Creek there were a number of roadside signs advertising a mango farm for sale. One actually pointed out that it would be the ideal purchase for “2 retired couples”. I’m not sure that buying a farm is really a retirement gig but I do like mangos. Anyone out there looking for a career change? Partnership perhaps, Northern Territory Mango farm?
There are three caravan parks in Pine Creek (and not much else really). We were kind of wondering how to pick the one to stay at when we spotted Nikki’s van. She was not far off and had already done all the research. Not only was the Lazy Lizard the best place to stay, but in honour of it being Territory Day here in the NT there was a sausage sizzle and fireworks show just next to the park in the early evening. And as a special bonus, karaoke in the attached pub after the fireworks. We didn’t need to be asked twice, this was home for the night.
We got the tent set up, had an egg and bacon roll from Mayse’s and did some laundry. We hung out at the only picnic table and chatted with various folks in the park. Late in the afternoon another cyclist rolled in, Jan, a dual citizen of Holland and Australia. He has ridden here from Holland (in about two years to date). What luck for us as he had some great route/visa and general travel information.
The sausage sizzle was about as expected. White bread, onions, snags and sauce. Each time you went through the queue, you donated a gold coin ($1 or $2) and got one serve. Good value if you don’t think too much about the quality of the ingredients and of course it is all for a good cause helping the council fund the fireworks show. And what a show it turned out to be. There was a crowd of about 200 folks, 30ish staying at the park and the rest from town. The show went on for more than 20 minutes (longer than the Sydney harbour shows usually do) and was quite good. Only one firework went off at ground level (not far from where we were sitting) and no operators appeared to be injured – a good outcome for any fire works show. We watched the show with Jan – each of us peppering the other with questions about the road ahead.
After the fireworks, a large part of the crowd moved into the pub for the karaoke We chatted more with Jan and were generally entertained by a group of oldies that were belting songs out. It made it hard to talk at times and now as we sit here in the tent there seems to be no end to the energy – it could be a long night.
Oh yeah, 1/July being Territory Day, it is the only day of the year you can purchase fireworks in the NT. To quote young lad heard outside Mayse’s today as he carried a couple cases of explosives, “I’m gonna blow some **** up tonight”. Interspersed now between lovely karaoke ballads we are getting lots of bangs and booms. Again, it could be a long night.