D is for dallying in Daly Waters and the Devil’s Marbles

a-to-z-letters-dToday we’re going to head off down the Stuart Highway, the road that bisects the Northern Territory, north to south. You’ll hear about it a bit more later in the series, but suffice to say the distances are vast. Although there’s a tendency to have one’s motoring head down and notch up the kilometres, there are a couple of breaks worth taking along the way.


Around the 600km mark you can take a short right hand detour to Daly Waters. The historic Daly Waters pub is the sort you see in old movies of Australia….timber with a metal roof to flex in the heat and bougainvillea growing up to the roof. Inside, like every bush bar in the Territory, you’ll find quirky displays: in some it’s number plates, in one it’s cop’s badges, others have hats, caps or buffalo horns not to mention undies or foreign currency notes, and some like the Daly Waters pub include all of them!  There’s a great website hosted by the pub so I suggest you go for a short journey over there. I was very interested to learn of the role of the Daly Waters airstrip in early international flying from Australia to the UK.

Bush Pub Daly Waters

Fans of Bill Bryson’s books may have already encountered today’s D places in his book Down Under. Chapters 15 and 16 nicely account for Darwin, Daly Waters and the Devil’s Marbles. I love Bryson’s irreverent sense of humour and his search for a hotel in Darwin was truly (and aptly) hilarious, as is his story of an evening spent boozing in the Daly Waters pub.

If walls could indeed talk then the pub’s bar would have amazing stories to tell of travellers and tourists, soldiers and drovers. Standing at the entry to the treacherous Murranji Track, one of the fierce cross-country droving tracks, there’d have been many hard-bitten drinkers knock “a few” back at the bar before setting forth (always assuming the boss drover let them near the pub I suppose). Ted Egan, former Administrator of the Territory and a bush balladeer sings a song called “Old Paraway” which talks of these hardy cattle men.

Why visit: To get a taste of outback life, see a quirky pub and have a cold drink.

FYI: There’s are a couple of maps on my A to Z planning post which will help you to pinpoint where today’s tourist spots are situated.

A road train near the Daly Waters highway stop. This one is carrying petrol but cattle are moved in equally long road trains. Droving over vast distances is no longer economical.
A road train near the Daly Waters highway stop. This one is carrying petrol but cattle are moved in equally long road trains. Droving over vast distances is no longer economical.


If you don’t have your mind set on getting to Queensland, you might choose to have a stop-over in the Three Ways or Tennant Creek and from there visit the Devil’s Marbles, now known as Karlu Karlu National Park. I think it’s the contrast between the ochre of the rocks against a clear blue Territory sky that impresses visitors but for Indigenous people it has a broader meaning over centuries of journeying.

From the Devil’s Marbles you’re a mere “stone’s throw” to Alice Springs with under 400kms to drive.

Why Visit: To see a natural wonder.

FYI: There are a couple of maps on my A to Z planning post which will help you to pinpoint where today’s tourist spots are situated.

Devil's Marbles© Pauleen Cass 1994
Devil’s Marbles
© Pauleen Cass 1994


First horse out of the gate today just has to be drover given their importance to this country.

Drover: a person (previously mostly men) who moves big mobs of cattle across vast areas of land either to take up new settlement or to take the mob to the saleyards. Other places may call them cowboys but we don’t!! You can read about them more here. These days the drover is a dying profession as road trains transport live cattle to export.

Dunny: toilet, particularly an outdoor long-drop toilet complete with spiders. These used to be in back yards prior to the installation of sewerage systems. Old Aussie “curse”….”May your chooks turn into emus and kick your dunny down!”

Dump: a multi-purpose word. A house might be a “dump” (not worth living in), a teenager’s bedroom might be a dump (stuff flung everywhere) or you might “dump on” someone (mock or mildly insult them or give them too much to do). For example, the teenager cleared up his dump of a bedroom then dumped all his clothes on mum to have them washed.

Desert pee: our family’s name for a facilities-free toilet break. When you do all these bush drives, there’s not always a toilet around when you need one, especially if you’ve been drinking lots of coffee to stay alert. Named after the flower Desert Pea.

Done like a dog’s dinner: Completely destroyed/ demolished or wiped out. Or perhaps just taken out of action by someone else’s behaviour.

 Drongo*: a stupid or silly person. While judgemental it’s not meant as a particularly nasty insult, rather in a “you’re hopeless” tone.

 Dinkum: True Blue/Ridgey Didge or Fair Dinkum all mean much the same thing: a person who is the genuine article and reliable. Sometimes used as a patriotic term.

 Dead as a dodo: the issue is finished, there’s no hope for it to be resuscitated in the future eg a person’s plans.

Tomorrow we’re back in Darwin, looking at some of its historic military history and a relaxing spot for a barbie.

41 thoughts on “D is for dallying in Daly Waters and the Devil’s Marbles

  1. You are visiting all my favourite places in the NT in the past few days (although I love all if it, especially the contrast between the dryness of the ‘red interior’ and the lush greeness of the north). By the way, I think you may have missed a very important ‘dump’, as in ‘Johnny will be back in a minute, he’s just in the dunny taking a dump’, although maybe you omitted this in favour of not being rude?? Looking forward to reading the rest of this particular series.

    1. hi Robyn, I’m sure you’ll recognise almost all the places I’ll be visiting given your round-Oz tour. Still missing it? Surely Qld is good enough? No I hadn’t thought of that but then again, even if I had, I might have been cautious not to frighten the overseas visitors -they mightn’t ever come to Oz if they know just how blunt we can be!

  2. You could add one more description of “dump” – related to the “dunny”!!

    As I read your comment about Bill Bryson I remembered reading his book Down Under. I grew up in Broken Hill and found his chapter on it spot on – he certainly has a great way of capturing Australia in his book!

    Thoroughly enjoying these posts, I’ll be back tomorrow 🙂

    1. hi Kellie, As you’ll see my friend Robyn also came up with this -and it hadn’t even occurred to me, honest, even though there are other Aussie-isms I’ve not included for tactful reasons. Yes I think Bryson hits the nail on the head.. I think he’s an hilarious writer. Glad you’re enjoying them 🙂

      1. I enjoyed reading Bill Bryson’s A Walk in the Woods. I’ll have to look for Down Under the next time I go to the library.

  3. This post could easily become a published travel article. Thanks for sharing 🙂

    Damyanti, Co-host, A to Z Challenge 2013

    Twitter: @AprilA2Z

  4. I Definitely want to visit the Devils Marbles at some stage in the future. Another really enjoyable post.
    I look forward in anticipation to your future posts.

    1. Hi, thanks for visiting again…we do have some classic expressions even if they’re sometimes rather vulgar (if evocative). I’ll certainly be dropping by your blog again.

  5. I’ve seen a fair bit of Australia, but most of it was when I was a kid, so my memories are mostly confined to photographs. I think, at least. It’s hard to tell where photography ends and memory begins. 🙂

    Love that you are doing Aussie-isms. Corrupting the world with our ocker ways. hehe

    1. Thanks for visiting Trisha! I know exactly what you mean about the blurred line between memory and photographs -or do the latter keep the memory alive? I reckon a bit of reverse linguistic corruption is in order 🙂

  6. Love your post and Aussie-isms! I’ve tried sharing Saffer-isms (South African) with fellow New Yorkers but for some strange reason they don’t really get it!

    1. hi Enid, I think you should share some Saffer-isms with the wider world…for all our rugby conflict perhaps we’d understand each other’s weird expressions?

    1. You’re right the butterfly bush is buddleia (sp?). No, that dump isn’t an expression I personally use, but certainly is a regular (!!) usage here.

  7. Very entertaining. would love to visit NT. Have been to S west, queensland, red centre and sydney but saving the top end for next time. your blog posts will remind me why I want to return for another visit

    1. Thanks for visiting MPax and pleased you liked the Devil’s Marbles. No, dunnies can be rather gross especially if after dark when there’s a bush walk to it 😉

  8. Down Under by Bill Bryson is a favourite, a close one to Neville Shute!

    I think that it is so easy to under estimate the vastness of Australia, and for me this post emphasis’ that. The pub reminds me of the Etamogh Pub that was located on the NSW/Victorian border – sadly we visited on the way back from Beechworth to Wagga and found it had closed.

    The toilets at the Etamogh were amazing – you could sit on the loo and the walls were designed to almost come in on you!

    1. I haven’t been to the Etamogah pub but I guess now I never will. Interesting though because they have a knock-off version on the Sunshine Coast…haven’t been there either 😉

  9. I saw a fascinating documentary on the ABC some years ago about the rock on John Flynn’s grave near Alice Springs. It was one of the Devil’s Marbles and had been taken without permission of the Aboriginal people. The doco dealt with replacing it with a round rock close the the site of the grave and the return of the marble to its rightful home. As it had been graffitied in the 1960s it was cleaned so is not the characteristic red colour of the other marbles. I identified it when I last visited although it is not marked in any way.

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