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Daly Waters to Borroloola

Although it's home to probably the most widely known and most popular Territory pub in the whole world, the Daly Waters of today is a mere shadow of its former self. From its heyday as a droving centre to the dark days of WW2, Daly Waters was arguably at it's finest, when the cream of the world's air travelers stepped down from their international flights at Daly Waters Airport.

Overland Telegraph Line
No one thing did more to cement Daly Waters into the fabric of Australian history than the installation of the "singing wire".

As we have shamelessly linked to many of the fantastic Centenary of Federation sites to bring you this guide, it's only fitting than we choose Daly Waters to link you to it for its original purpose. The links across the top of the page will take you to every repeater station on the line, Port Augusta to Darwin. Be sure to visit the photo gallery for a terrific collection of photos about all aspects of Daly Waters' history.

There's even a couple of photos of one Sir Dominick Daly after whom Daly Waters is named. Born in 1798, he was acting Chief Secretary of Canada for 26 years, and in 1851 was appointed Governor of Tobago! He was the 7th Governor of South Australia from 1862 until he died in 1868. Despite the fact that they're hundreds of kilometers apart, Daly Waters (John McDouall Stuart - 1862) and Daly River (Boyle Travis Finniss - 1865) are both named after him, albeit by different people.

Daly Waters Pub
This Centenary of Federation site is hard to beat for getting a feel for this quintessential outback Aussie pub! These VR sites take a short time to load but are well worth the wait; check them all out! Plug-ins are available at the bottom of their page if you don't have them already.

Daly Waters Air Strip
This site will give you a brief summary of an impressive reminder of our aviation history. Scroll down to the link page for the flying fox and envision yourself hanging over a raging torrent in that iron cage, just to get back to town (not to mention - the pub)! Clicking here will allow you to pan around the building and the tarmac area.

This interesting link (click here) will tell you, first hand, a little of the early days of MMA, and its Territory connections, in what feels like a long gone era! Click here and you can read a little of the man, who built his own aircraft, and beat Qantas at their own game on the Cloncurry to Daly Waters route. If you have the time, use this link to read about the early, and modern, days of Qantas. The link is an excellent reference about the places, planes and aviators who have made Qantas probably the world's leading long distance airline, and in the process made our world a more accessible place.

Droving Days
The poems here will bring back memories of those dusty tracks outback; as well as solve a lot of arguments about the words! Visitors to the annual rodeo at Daly Waters during September can relive those simpler times, in the days before diesel droving. Click here to read all about a young man from the area who has the drive and skills to make it right to the top on the worldwide rodeo circuit. To get a feel for what he's up against, click here for some great scenes from the Isa Rodeo (held each year in early August).

Carpentaria Highway
Now we're off on the longest driveway in the world, nearly 400km to "the 'Loo". Please drive carefully on this road, other people do and that's why it has a good safety record. Click hereENTER PAGE to see some of the hazards and don't become one yourself!

This road was constructed as part of the Commonwealth's "Beef Roads Programme" during the "60's that was crucial to the opening up of northern Australia. These roads laid the foundations for our current live export industry, which, without a doubt, has led to the resurgence of this country's cattle stations. If you click here and enter the search term "Carpentaria Highway" you will find a number of photos taken when the road was opened in 1969.

The site will also enable you to search for whatever else may take your fancy about the Territory, e.g. "Camooweal", "Brunette Downs", "McArthur River", whatever, just click on "new search". Select "thumbnails" then click to enlarge is the way to go!

It's a long but pleasant drive if you don't push too hard; there are parking bays every 30 or 40km and several rest areas, suitable for camping, along the way to "Heartbreak" and on to" the "Loo". There are lots of just natural things to take your interest; the jump up - or down in this direction - at around the 250km mark is spectacular, especially if you're there at sunrise, and we intend to prepare a strip map from Burketown to Daly Waters in the near future.

Tanumbirini
This link will help you appreciate the air conditioning as you cruise comfortably towards Cape Crawford. Tanumbirini Station lies in the headwaters of Lagoon Creek far from it's outfall in barramundi heaven, the Limmen Bight. You'll pass the turn off about 150km east of the Stuart Highway. This is a tale of hardship and suffering, the daily lot of settlers in this area not even a hundred years ago! Check out the letter for "Tuesday 31 October 1916- Tanumbirini" and pine no more for "the good old days"! The index will take you to many more such stories; an inspiration to us all as we battle the stumbling blocks in our lives.

Cape Crawford
The roadhouse, known to all and sundry as "Heartbreak", is located at the junction of the Carpentaria with the Tablelands Highway. There's plenty of room for caravans and camping, but accommodation is limited, so give them a call on (08) 8975 9928 to check availability; it'll break your heart if you have to sit in the bar all night!

Cape Crawford Tourism
Sandra runs very popular helicopter tours into the Lost City and to the hot springs at Bauhinia from near here. They might at first seem expensive but overall it's a cost effective way to see view/photograph these spectacular places; it's not a cheap place to park a helicopter on the off-chance. Ground tours can also be arranged into both locations during the dry season. All the details are on their website or just phone Sandra Schleter on (08) 8975 9611.

After leaving "Heartbreak", it's a captivating drive to Borroloola, vastly different country from the Barkly Tableland! There are many interesting things to know even about this short 110km section of the trip.

Driving along looking at the towering escarpments after Heartbreak, there is little to suggest that, not far off the road is a gas pipeline that supplies the powerhouse at McArthur River Mine, unlocking the vast mineral riches of the area. Laid close by is the latest in fibre optic cable, which enables the bush to be just a click away from the city in many ways. Although Flynn's pedal radio led to great steps forward in rural health, computers have revolutionised life in the outback.

As you pass McArthur River Station, with its beautiful Bessie Spring spilling through the escarpment all year round, you'll cross what are normally the dry channels of Leila Creek. Imagine the volume of water when even road trains can't make the journey!

A little further on is the turn off to Merlin Mine. This road is open to public access as far as the mine gate, some 60+km; don't even think about entry, it's a diamond mine! The road crosses through the McArthur River and then traverses some spectacular rocky ranges along the way. It's not for the casual traveller and certainly not caravans, but if you love the bush and the solitude as we do, it's a beautiful area!

Merlin Mine
As you can imagine there's not all that much publicity about this mine, but it's yet another example of the vast, largely untapped, mineral resources of this area that have tantalized people for so long. Clicking here will access an archived News Ltd article to give you some ideas for your next ring!

Not much further on, about 65km before Borroloola, you will come onto dual lane bitumen. From here on you need to be aware that you are sharing the highway with the largest, road-registered trucks in Australia! The drivers are extremely courteous and safety conscious and if you can't get past them, rest assured there will be a very good reason why. Please extend them the same courtesy but remember; they can't save you from yourself!

McArthur River Mine
Also called the HYC Mine, this site will take you to MIM's site relating to McArthur River Mining; scroll down the page to read about its operations and interesting beginnings. It also has a section about Bing Bong, the port facility north of Borroloola (more on this later). The mine, nowadays owned and operated by Xstrata, ceased underground mining towards the end of 2005, and a trial open cut operation is proposed in 2006; click here for more information.

Caranbirini Reserve
One of the many places of interest, and a good spot for a picnic after strolling through the fascinating rock formations, is Caranbirini Waterhole. This Conservation Reserve is managed by the NT Parks and Wildlife Commission and purposely has a minimum of infrastructure; camping is strictly prohibited. Click here for some beautiful photos (click on photos to enlarge), or here to download a PDF "Fact Sheet" and map.

About 21km west of Borroloola you will pass a well sign posted gravel road going north; this is the turn off to Nathan River, Roper Bar, etc (more on this later). As you wind through the creeks and ranges, think of the people who have lived here for a long time. Click here to read a little about one of them, our friend Gordon Landsen; you may well recognize the landscape as you drive past one of his favorite spots. Along with others, this is his area, and he seeks to instill in his children a respect for themselves and the land, that can be readily traced back into the mists of time. His brother Harry is the elder with the responsibility of looking after the lands and beautiful hot springs at Balbirini (cf Cape Crawford).

As you crest the last jump up (down), you will see spread before you the ancient alluvial flats of the McArthur flood plains. The extent of those prehistoric floods becomes obvious when you realize that you are still 60km inland from the shallow waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria. The road is in fact named after the Gulf, which in turn is named after the Dutchman Pieter de Carpentier. In case you wanted to know, and I'm sure you do, he was the Governor-General of Batavia in 1623. When Captain Jan Carstensz sailed his good ship, the Pera, past what we now call Cape York, and into the Gulf, he named it in honor of the "good", but mostly long forgotten, Governor!

Just off to the north of the road you will see, below the escarpment, a large black rock in the shape of a crouching frog; it's only really obvious when you look from the West. Look all you like, or click here, but please don't go over there. He is Ngangkunani, a guardian for the local people and he's watching out in case any spirit men come from the flat toped hill to the south where they performed ceremonies.

The grass plains that you'll soon pass through were created by brolga's, long ago in the Dreamtime. The brolga's, that still dance there to this very day, are no doubt thankful to their ancient relatives who flattened all the trees with their energetic dancing.

Don't forget to follow the signs and turn off the main concentrate-haulage road that you're on, to get into Borroloola. Many's the local even, that's sailed blissfully past the turn-off; the road used to be straight through and there's only been a bend since 1994!!

Welcome to Borroloola, where "The bitumen stops and the adventure starts"

If you click here you will go to the section of our Travel Guide about getting to Borroloola via Mataranka and the Roper Highway/Nathan River Road.



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