Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Daly Waters to Katherine

After a night partying at the Daly Waters pub we were pleased that the ride to the Mataranka Hot Springs was only a short one. With the promise of a homemade pie at the Pink Panther pub in Larrimah, we made haste to the little outback town, only to be told “it’s too early in the season and we haven’t started making pies yet.” The cafe on the highway was also closed, they had gone shopping. The folks up here call it Territory Time and it’s something you have to get used to. Smiling all the while, we joined the other travellers in the town lay-by and brewed our own cuppa.

Mataranka Hot Springs.
By lunch time we were setting up the big tent on a dusty camp site at Mataranka Homestead. When we were last at Mataranka, way back in 1985, the camp sites at this park were grassy. Now the seasons have changed and the continuous flooding has washed all the grass away. The hot spring was just as wonderful as we remembered and we lazed around in the 34°C shady pool for hours. Millions of litres of water flush through this pool every day and to swim in fresh water, without the smell of chlorine, is wonderful.

I should report, on the day we left Mataranka, the town’s roadhouse had sold out of the famous Mataranka pies by 11am and the cafe, which allegedly makes awesome fruit scones, had run out of scones and run out of flour too; Territory Time!

Jane and Arnold.
We made the town of Katherine home for a few days so we could wash and shop after over two thousand kilometres on the road. At the town markets I met Arnold Jalapala from Barlib Aboriginal Arts and Craft. I spent a long time choosing a set of Arnold’s music sticks. When I’d found my set of sticks Arnold played a tune with me on the didgeridoo. Sometimes magic moments just happen and this was one of them.

It takes a while before you realise how hot it is up here in the Top End. On the day we went walking in Nitmiluk National Park, we lazed around our campsite drinking tea and it was 10:30am before we headed off on the 8km Windolf Walk at the gorge. There are warning signs everywhere about heat stress and carrying enough water. I know when I’m beaten and I bailed out of the walk after the 4km Baruwei Loop, by now it was well over 30 degrees and we were walking in full sun. Steve took our last two litres of water and an apple and continued on to Pat’s Lookout. I waited for Steve at the visitors centre for two and a half hours before he turned up sweating and bedraggled and with not a drop of water left. After half an hour Steve still hadn’t cooled down so and he rode the 30km back to Katherine in shorts and a T-shirt.

Katherine Gorge from Pat's Lookout.
There is nothing like a swim and a few beers to wash away the cares of the day. We had learnt that we need to set out early, in the cooler hours of the day, to enjoy walking in the Top End.

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