An alternate route to the Stuart Highway between Barkly Homestead and Cape Crawford is The Tablelands Highway.
Sometimes we can’t explain why we love somewhere so much, I’m not 100% certain why this route has dug itself so firmly under my skin. The single-lane throughfare stretches out through seemingly featureless cattle plains for 400km and services along the way are non-existent.
From the south, Barkly Homestead is a cowboy roadhouse with minimal supplies but with decent meals. The flat land reaches wide and seems to be begging for water. Set your UHF to scan and you will hear fragments from farmers working their way through the day.
The expanse of country and road opens up a world not many of us know and thoughts begin to form and tick through your head of what life here would be like all the way to Cape Crawford (another roadhouse less charming and more basic than its southern partner).
As you head further north, the landscape changes before your eyes. At certain times of the year like the build-up of the wet season, storms will loom in front of you, and taunt the parched farmers behind you.
It’s a place where the burdens of drought can be instantly replaced with the challenges of flood. Almost suddenly, the land takes shape, it rises to hills, trees spring from the ground. A creek at first, then a river flows at mountain foot. The thirsty dry land is behind you, you are at Cape Crawford, you are at the foot of the tropics.
I hear you wonder ‘Why no mention of Litchfield or Kakadu?’ Well, they’ll be covered elsewhere in the issue and this is just a snapshot of a few places that have been in their famous shadow too long.
Of course, we have kept some gems quiet for only the keenest 4WDers to uncover for themselves.