There were only two options to get to the Northern Territory from Mount Isa. Go back up past Lawn Hill, hit the Savannah Way after eight hours and the head West on the dirt. Or, take the highway West for a couple of days and turn right at Three Ways.
The second option was more boring, but it was highway the whole way and Erin had kind of had enough of the gravel and corrugations for a while. It would also mean we could get to the NT quicker, and spend more time seeing everything we wanted to up there.
Erin’s sister was coming to join us for a week, and she was flying into Darwin so we now had a bit of a schedule to keep to. So, highway it was.
Six hours took us to the Barkly Roadhouse, which was a lot nicer than the roadhouses we had been to up the Cape. We stayed the night, saw a beautiful sunset, and were on the road by 8:30am the following morning.
We’d tweaked the process and managed to shave half an hour off our departure time. Yippee! Now the game is on, let’s see how early we can manage it. An early departure is so important when we have these long days. It makes such a difference to the kids. Well. To everyone really.
Not far after the Barkly Roadhouse we crossed into the Northern Territory, stopped for a photo then got moving again. A minute later there was a road a sign saying the speed limit had jumped up from 110, to 130km an hour! Jesus! Welcome to the NT indeed.
The Northern Territory has a reputation, and I think deservedly so, of being a bit like the wild west. The speed limit certainly seems to support that, as does the fact that you’re allowed to feed crocodiles in the wild.
A few years ago, there was a national advertising campaign for the Northern Territory that showed beautiful landscapes, with the headline “CU in the NT” sitting over the top. The campaign was pulled when the rest of the country saw it and almost choked on their decaf lattes, but the fact that it even made it out there in the first place, is conclusive in my book. These guys really don’t give a shit.
Our next stop was in Daly Waters, and we’d been advised to stay at the old pub as opposed to the modern campsite on the main road. This we did. And it was brilliant. Unbeknownst to us the Daly Waters Pub is actually a bit of an institution. It was full of character, and characters, and the live country and western singer got the girls up dancing in front of the entire campsite!
I was sitting outside the tent writing when the pub finally closed, and this drunk fella stumbled over to me. I pointed him in the right direction, shone a torch and guided him to his camp. No worries mate, been there myself.
Time to go I thought, and five minutes later the drunk fella started snoring, loudly. Then he started swearing, hilariously. It sounded as if he’d been dumped recently, and his drunken ramblings were all directed at some ‘fuckin’ bitch! “Leave me alone. No! Arrrgghhh. Hmmm you fucking BITCH! NO NO NO! Fuck!”
Fortunately the kids didn’t hear anything, and it didn’t go on for that long, but there were a few funny looks cast his way the next morning from his surrounding campers. CU in the NT buddy 😀
A quick pack up, and we had another long day, finally arriving at Mataranka where we reversed our trailer into one of the nicest camp spots we’ve had so far, Bitter Springs. Ahhh… what a treat.
Settled in, we wandered along the riverside towards the hot springs. Swimsuits on, floaty noodles in hand, not quite sure what to expect.
The track left the riverside and wound its way through a shady forest for a few minutes. We heard laughter, and then we were there. The vegetation cleared to reveal a creek of the most sparkling cerulean blue, with about ten people bobbing around, having a chat and enjoying themselves.
The ten became eight as two smiling faces drifted by, vanishing behind an overhanging Panadus tree.
Little blue dragonflies darted past, furtively avoiding the golden orb spider webs suspended over the edges. Yellow butterflies twirled, and a long neck turtle disappeared into a hole at the edge of the blue as we clambered into the scene.
It looked like the kind of place fairies would live in. Having watched a number of Tinkerbell movies in my day, believe me – I know a thing or two about this.
You could see the bottom clearly, and it was only about five feet deep so you could stand if you wanted to. But it was much nicer just to hang onto your noodle and drift downstream. Now and again there was a protruding log to hang onto, wait for the family to catch up, or not as the case may be 😀
And the temperature was just perfect. The water isn’t heated by volcanic activity, it’s just the fact that it’s been underground for a while that slowly warms it up – so when it returns to the surface it’s a balmy, and comforting 35 degrees.
It was unbelievably relaxing. Even with the kids, as they could just hang onto their noodles and float down on their own. The route meandered through the forest for about 10 minutes, delivering you to a set of ladders where you could climb out, walk back to the start and begin again. Which we did, about 15 times in total over the four days we stayed there.
It was idyllic.
Mataranka itself was a small town, but very well known for two reasons – the hot springs, and the novel ‘We of the Never Never’. Written in the early 1900’s, this Australian classic tells Jeannie Gunn’s story of living on a cattle station in the Australian outback, and it took place right here in Mataranka. The ‘Elsey Homestead’ was recreated for a movie which was filmed in the ‘80’s, and it now sits next to the Mataranka Hot Springs.
We visited both, but I preferred the Bitter Springs I must admit. Anyway, we were now fully ensconsed in the Northern Territory, and as if to underline the fact I bought a whip from the multiple world record holder, Nathan Griggs.
CU in the NT mate.
CU in the F’ ing NT.