Wednesday, 14 May 2014


Same same same same same same same. Maybe just a little different. Then same same same same same.

Mataranka Thermal Springs through the palms.
That's how I'd describe the drive pretty much anywhere along the Barkly and Stuart Highways. Of course there are subtle differences- there might be a few cows here and there and dead kangaroos with flocks of whistling kites hanging around above them... But really. Just same same same same.. you get the idea.

The Elsy Homestead as recreated for the "We of the Never Never" film.
So when signs for the Mataranka thermal springs, the Homestead and a food store start appearing on the road, you get a little excited. Especially if you've just finished "We of the Never Never", Jeannie Gunn's evocative early 1900s autobiographical about life for a woman in the Northern Territory on a male dominated cattle station. She lived on the Elsey, a 'small' (over 5000 square kilometres or 2000 square miles) station, encompassing the Roper River and some beautiful thermal pools and creeks. We stayed at the Mataranka Homestead which is located right next to some of the springs. This was the first time we felt like we'd hit the backpacker circuit; whilst there were lots of grey nomads and families about, everything had a fairly dilapidated (and honestly, dirty) feel to it. But we found a shady site in the dust and shuffled off with everyone else to the springs.
The thermal pools at Mataranka Homestead. Marguerite has become quite the water baby. After an incident at Adel's Grove (where a frantic onlooker had pulled Miss M out of the water literally by her hair) she has been instructed Number 1 to WAIT for Fiela or I to get to the pool/falls/swimming hole before getting in and Number 2 tell anyone nearby that she can swim by herself for long distances- at least 100 metres. Very well actually.
What a beautiful place. In a shady forest of cabbage tree palms lies the Mataranka thermal pools: 30.5 million litres of the clearest, bluest water I've ever seen pumping through a deep pool complete with benches all around so you don't have to do that pesky swimming thing while you sit and relax. Truly, it was lovely. The temperature of the water is supposed to be a steady 34 degrees, but whether it was the outside temp of 37 degrees or whether the springs were feeling a bit down, the water didn't feel hot, just absolutely amazing. Aaaaaahhh. All the grey nomads and little kids with their dubious bladders could never possibly dampen my enthusiasm for this place.
Like Eli Creek on Fraser Island but with bluer, warmer water.
We even met some crazies doing the same trip with similar aged children. Finally!! We weren't as alone as we felt in our attempt to make a circumnavigation of this country just that little bit more challenging with two under the age of four in tow. Michelle and Cameron seem quite normal, and we spent the most lovely evening swapping travel tips with the occasional "Caesar/ Logan/ Marguerite Stop That!!!" and not feeling the least twinge of 'oh my children are feral'.

Mataranka Thermal Pools.
Walking the walk... Look out biatches!

The next day we walked the 1.5kms up to Stevies Hole. a quieter alternative to the thermal springs.

Stevies Swimming Hole.

The walk was flat and full of termite hills to harass. cockatoos to marvel at and finally, hot and bothered we
reached the swimming hole full of cool water anticipation. But it was a bit murky and the banks a bit tree rooty, and like a true Main/Strand Beach local affronted by a slight onshore breeze, we turned our backs and walked the return route to the clear blue waters of the springs. So spoilt.
What we thought of the swimming hole. Note Not-Impressed-Arms.

Meanwhile back at the main pools... Note Need-to-Get-There-Before-Sibling-Arms.
Fiela spent the afternoon cruising the Roper River by car, hassling fish (or crocodiles/ logs/ locals/ who knows???) and yet remaining bagless in the barramundi stakes.

More springs goodness.

Marguerite had made lots of friends, and whilst I had revelled in the less exorbitant prices and far greater variety of the Foodstore in Mataranka itself, Katherine, its Woolworths and $33 boxed nappies awaited us. Good bye backpacker grime, hello Big 4 sterility. Yay!!!!

Hauling out. Not so clean anymore.

Bitter Springs, a beautiful spot like the Mataranka Springs, less 'manmade' and with more spiders.

Bitter Springs

"It's too cloudy." Marguerite's excuse for not swimming at Bitter Springs. SPOILT!!!

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