We arrived in Mt Isa a few hours later - by some incredible stroke of luck, about 60km on the minor road from Gregory Downs to the Barkly Hwy had recently been sealed, so it took a lot less time than I thought it would. This made me happy.
Now, the Barkly Hwy is basically the only road from most of eastern Australia that will take you to Darwin and Perth. There are all of two major east-west routes in the country, one going (roughly) from Melbourne to Adelaide to Perth and the other going (roughly) from Brisbane to Mt Isa to Darwin. That's of course a gross oversimplification but it'll just have to do. And guess what? It's paved, sure, but not in the way you'd think - it's just a thin strip of bitumen down the middle of a not particularly wide gravel road. At least that's what it looks like west of Mt Isa. Around Longreach it looked like a proper highway, but here? Well, it was built in 1941 as a wartime project to move materiel up to Darwin to combat the possible Japanese invasion, and it looks like not a lot of it has been upgraded since then. But, then again, how surprised should I be? It's not exactly a critical highway - it gets the job done in any case.
Anyhow, here in Mt Isa Dan found a fabulous little two bedroom apartment with a lounge, kitchen, and even cable TV. We popped down to town to find a replacement tent pole (success!) and a few groceries, and would you believe it, we chanced on the weekly marking-down of old foods. So, I got a huge package of fresh fruit for only $1.50. It's the most delicious thing I've had in weeks. Well, the coconut Dan found at Somerset and which we cracked and ate last night came pretty close, but it was a real thrill to be back in civilization and have a fancy supermarket meal, let me tell you.
At this point we're camping nearly every night - there isn't much out here, and what there is is often badly overpriced (eg a hotel in Mt Isa will set you back at least $119, and judging by the looks of the hotel, it's nothing fancy). Luckily all the camping gear is going great, and I've grown accustomed to the routine. We should be saving up enough money to splurge on a couple of big deal trips, eg a trip out to the Tiwi Islands and maybe even time at an Arnhem Land bush camp. Who knows?
But for now it's waiting for the sun to go down so that I can have a big green salad, some spaghetti, and fresh sweet potato purée. Yay!