Travelling Oz…Mataranka, Katherine and turning west

Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 23-24-25 August 2022

We arrived at Mataranka in the early afternoon. I wanted to have a swim in the thermal springs and had chosen Bitter Springs Caravan Park for our stay based on reviews in Wikicamps. First of all I went to the supermarket in the town. Wow! This was not your basic outback supermarket. It was really nice with much of the variety of a normal supermarket. Maybe because this is a tourist spot, but perhaps also because it is quite close to Katherine and even Darwin. How nice for the locals to have this in their little dusty town.

At the caravan park we were able to get a powered site and were shown to our spot by a man on a little cart. He would have offered more choices, but we were happy with the first one, though had to use a leveller under one wheel. A difference I found was that when we used levellers with our vans there would be an adjustment after I put on the handbrake and took my foot off the brake that we had to allow for, a bit of a falling back. With the Hilux it just stayed exactly where it was.

After a cup of tea (and using the air conditioner for comfort) we changed and walked out to the springs. Normally I would not swim in a creek, with scum at the edges and branches, etc. However, as this was the thing to do and the water really did look clear, blue and fresh, I ventured to join the other people. They mostly had pool noodles and I discovered why when I tried to swim. The current was actually quite strong and the water seemed to have even less buoyancy than a swimming pool, so I was really struggling. Stephen was still getting himself ready when I went in so I didn’t wait for him, but tried swimming with the current down to the next clump of people. It was such a struggle that I gave up half way and climbed out. Fortunately, there were steps along the way as well as at the ends.

The pathway wasn’t paved where I got out, so on my soft feet I had to pick my way to the end where the pathway was paved and there was a little bridge across the water. As I walked back I met Stephen walking down. He gave up much more quickly than me, fortunately. I had worried about him because if I was struggling, how much worse for him without the plumpness that at least gives me some buoyancy. There were lots of people to rescue him if he got into trouble so I wasn’t too worried.

We were glad we tried, but wished we had gone to the pools that have been built for the wimps like us who don’t like swimming in creeks. However, I wasn’t sure where they were, there was surprisingly little practical information in the tourist brochures, they are just for selling tours, not giving information it seems.

Anyway, we were glad we gave it a go and very grateful for the wonderfull showers when we got back to camp. How they keep them so clean when every other place sort of gives up against the dust I guess is due to good design and constant work. There were washing machines and clotheslines, so we did a load of washing including our bathers. There was also an excellent campers kitchen, which was handy for washing dishes as we were close to all of the facilities.

We still have too much stuff with us, so packing up our chairs, outdoor table, plus the leveller was a bit of a task in the morning. We went to the dump point on the way out, but it was being pumped out, very smelly. On the way to Katherine there was a lot of burning off happening, with no warnings about the loss of visibility, etc. I can understand the need for it as the grass is very dry at this stage of winter.

Katherine was good to us. We found parking and walked to a really nice outdoor cafe where we had hot drinks and a scone with jam and cream each, then did our shopping in Woollies. There was a good dump point there, clean and easy to use. As we had our shopping voucher we went to the Woollies service station for fuel. 

Still no leaks on the fuel line, thank goodness. We have advanced our knowledge a bit, we have a non-stock ARB fuel tank and Suncamper said we should go to a 4WD mechanic to have it repaired. We phoned a place in Kununurra and they said that they take a normal fuel line and adapt it, but they couldn’t see us until September, so we will have to plow on. We are covered by RAC if we actually can’t drive any further due to too much fuel leaking. But, we will keep our fingers crossed. We have driven with a leaking fuel tank from Young in NSW all the way home in the Winnie, so we at least know that diesel is not highly flammable. In the case of the Winnie we had to keep the tank under 3/4 full. It does seem that it’s impossible to travel long distances without something happening. Last year in the Adria it was that our house batteries died. Fortunately we were able to find a place in Broome to have them replaced.

After all the business in Katherine we were able to find a nice park near the river where we had lunch and a rest.

It was late by the time we were heading off, but there was a cool breeze and it felt like it was time for a free camp. It is very busy here, rather like a caravan park. Two cars with rooftop tents parked just in front of us. I could see one of them last night, but there seemed to be more than one couple, I only discovered why this morning when I went out. No wonder. At least they didn’t seem to be drinking heavily and didn’t play music. People can get very loud when under the influence.

The caravan park at Mataranka was very reasonable $40 per night for a tourist area, especially as it has such nice facilities. It was a vehicle and caravan wash down area as well. I would recommend it if you are going there. If staying for several nights they offer a discount and our next door neighbour had stayed for a few weeks. In weather that is warm, fairly dry, with cool overnight temperatures it is quite a lovely place to be. Just don’t forget your pool noodles!

If you are wondering about crocodiles, there are freshies. I think at the springs they are scared away by all the people, there are signs about not swimming except in the designated areas. At our lunch spot on the Katherine River there was a warning sign saying that crocodiles there could cause injury or death, but a young woman was playing with her dog at the edge, with the dog actually in the water, and near the bridge there were people paddling, including a child. So, it appears that people don’t take the risk seriously. I do, and stayed well back from the water.

We had a signal in Katherine, but I hadn’t written anything and our overnight spot doesn’t have a signal. I write the blog in Apple Pages, then bring it into the blog, with some iPhone photos, when we have internet. Pages works a bit better offline than Word, which always seems to want to connect to the internet at times when we don’t have a signal.

Today we travelled through mostly grassy savanah, but nearing the Victoria River the landscape became much more interesting. We stopped at the roadhouse and had lunch of bacon and egg rolls, then spent some time walking around with camera and binoculars (me camera and he binoculars, of course). I followed some people down to the river where there was an old bridge right next to the newer bridge we had driven across. My photos just don’t do this area justice at all, it was really lovely and with the temperature at around 27 degrees it was just nice to explore. The landscape is similar to that around Karijini, so except that we are passing through anyway we wouldn’t drive this far just to see it.

Eventually we drove on to Timber Creek where we had a signal and could stock up on Minties, very necessary for driving in the bush. It was busy there and we were glad to drive out again and find a spot to camp. There were a couple of campers here when we arrived and others have since joined. Thanks Wikicamps! We prefer to have some company, perhaps not as many as last night, with people very close to us.

We cross into Western Australia tomorrow and are cooking up the vegetables we bought in Katherine and will try to eat all of our fruit as well. I’m not sure if we will have to surrender our honey, it is just the commercial sort that is sold in supermarkets all over Australia. We can ask. Otherwise, these days there are no quarantine requirements for humans, though there is a message on the Kununurra Tourist number about it, they obviously haven’t updated lately.