Oasis in the Outback

Top springs, postcode 0852, consists of one establishment: the Wanda Inn roadhouse. But the petrol station–pub–motel, 300 km southwest of Katherine, has the feel of a small town. Within its tidy sprawl of accommodation blocks, trailers, caravans and tents - powered by a shed-sized generator and watered by an artesian well - manager Terry Jones and her seven staff (plus Spike the dog, Pickles the wallaroo and a resident python) host a shifting population of local cattlemen and Aborigines, road workers, tourists and truckers. Isolated the place may be, says Jones, a former hairdresser, but it's never lonely: "We're all friends....

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