We’re very much enjoying this caravan park, we have an ensuite site… No walking to the communal bathrooms really is a nice change and at no extra cost – unheard of! Tonight is our third and last night here in Katherine and we have enjoyed lovely cooler evenings without the mosquitos that bothered us a bit while we were in Kakadu.
Anyway onto the good stuff.
Mataranka. – visited Bitter Springs first, Greg and Di had stopped here on their way to Darwin. Still just as nice. The water is 32 degrees, it is deep and flowing enough to carry you downstream. There is a bit of phenomenon of grey nomads with pool noodles with footwear on each end (to walk back up stream after floating down to the get out bridge) plunging in from the entry steps… They come prepared, though I did see one lady who improvised with a piece of foam matting… Doubled over it kept her afloat. Amy managed well with the kick board and Oliver had a ‘bubble’ on his back, Greg and I managed without floatation devices, we are trying not to become grey nomads just yet.
Some of them are hilarious. Greg says they remind him of the pure blonde beer commercials. Big fat blokes with beards and hairy backs, looking like they could belch at any moment, floating down stream on their colorful noodles in this serene environment. Mataranka is definitely a place more pure than from wherever they are from. Note no offense intended to any grey or potentially grey nomads out there who may be reading this.. (Greg typed that last bit).
A short drive through town past Australia’s largest ‘manmade’ termite mound (why?!) and we found the Mataranka thermal pool. It was much more formed, in that it had concreted edges and steps. It was here Oliver remembered he could swim underwater, and his confidence grew and grew. Of course neither child wanted to get out! We saw the house from the movie ‘We of the never never’, but none of really knew the story.
Nitmuluk: line up two by two, right you lot welcome to the live tourist trade! Nitmuluk really is a very efficient tourist system. Book on a 1300 number, hand over your dosh, show up and line up at the appointed time, wait for the oversize tinnie to disgorge the previous round of camera toting tourists and march yourself down the ramp to replace them for your very own two hour cruise. Our guide did her best to sound like she hadn’t already delivered her spiel 300 times that morning, but I wasn’t buying it.
Still for all that, I have to concede it was worth the effort. Sparkling waters, towering cliffs, friendly (by comparison) fresh water crocagators or ‘diles’ as the kids now refer to them, and a culture stretching back through the ages. I even learned that Paul Kelly’s song ‘from little things big things grow’ was written about the Jaowyn people and this particular block of land.
After the cruise we witnessed the next round of tourists lined up for their turn, but felt a bit better about it knowing what they were in for. We decided to tackle the 1 km return trip to the lookout, which was great. Emma was sure it wasn’t too far to complete the full circuit across the plateau above the river. 2.8 km later, and with all concerned hot, hungry and tired we got back to the main road. I jogged the last km to get the car and return for the others with air-conditioned luxury. Yes I am a good husband, son and father. In Emma’s defence the walk definitely added to our Nitmuluk experience and all was well.
We also encountered large numbers of flying foxes in the trees at the Nitmuluk visitor centre. The kids thought they were great, almost the highlight. It seems that the tourist experience is quite different when you’re 4 & 6 years old. Other examples of their different perspective today were when walking between the boat rides up the gorge, their favorite things were finding patches of sand to play in and throw into the water and climbing/swinging on the handrails. Oliver’s worst thing today was walking up the big hill, but his best thing today was finding crystals on the big hill… He collected rocks, brought them home, crushed them and added water, then painted a picture… Just like the aboriginals do. That is his idea of a good day!
On to Edith Falls tomorrow – our first non powered site for this trip! Everything is charging tonight!