Before arriving at Mataranka, we stayed the night at the King River Rest Area, about 4km south of the King River bridge. There was plenty of space, clean drop toilets and we weren’t bothered by too many flies or mozzies – SCORE!
As we were getting settled in, an old guy in a 1967 Chev Impala rocked up. Dave had a chat with him and found out that he’s running a two speed auto behind a 327 V8 engine. He’s owned the car for 25 years and it’s done over a million miles! They talked about travelling around Australia – yes, the old dude was travelling in his ’67 Chev – about where we’re going and where we’ve been. He’s travelling in the opposite direction to us so we gave him some tips on where to go.
Later on, two Belgian ladies settled in next door and asked to borrow our can opener. We couldn’t help ourselves and wanted to know more about them as well. They’ve been friends since they were 14 and they go on a holiday together every year – they’ve already travelled much of Europe and central Asia. We showed each other photos of our travels and our pets back home before they went back to their camp to make their dinner.
The next day, we arrived in Mataranka, a small town with a small supermarket and about four service stations. After checking out the biggest ‘man-made’ termite mound and the We of the Never Never statues, we made for the springs!
The water was incredibly clear and just the right temperature– especially on such a cool morning. We were the only people there so we got to have the area to ourselves. Juz put her goggles on and as soon as she was under the water, she was transported to another world of eerie blue and green.
These springs are next to the Mataranka Homestead. The water is a few degrees cooler and shallower than at Bitter Springs, and way more popular. The edges of the pool are lined with concrete and a platform, so you have somewhere to sit as you soak yourself. We preferred the Bitter Springs because they seemed a little more natural.
We continued along the path from the Thermal Springs to the Rainbow Spring – a constantly bubbling pool of perfectly clear water with a blue tinge. We learnt that these springs feed into the Roper River and spit out 30.5 million litres of water every day from reservoirs up to 100m below ground. The deeper the source of the water, the hotter it is.
After a dip in the springs, we had a look around and decided that the Mataranka Homestead would be a pretty cool place to stay at. Because Mataranka is the place where the 1908 book We of the Never Never is based, they have a replica hut from the movie version, as well as other various reminders of their claim to fame.
The fish feeding happens twice a day at the Territory Manor – 9:30am and 1pm. When the time is right, everyone heads down past the peacocks and the fattest duck we’ve ever seen, to a lovely pond topped with pink water lilies. A guy climbs into the pool and stands on a platform as the barramundi surround him. He demonstrated how to feed them before inviting the audience to come in and have a go.
Juz was the first to volunteer. She took a piece of fish from the bucket, presented it at the surface of the water and SPLASH! It was gone… The barramundi are so fast and it’s so suspenseful waiting for the moment when they strike. Juz asked if they went to the restaurant after a certain time and the guy was quick to respond with a no – they only use saltwater barra in the restaurant and these freshies were just pets.
Dave also had a go and after we had our fun feeding the fish and watching others do so as well, it was time to move on.
Before leaving Mataranka, we thought we’d check out the Mataranka Falls walk – an 8km return track along the Roper River. It would have been an easy walk if the track wasn’t sandy, and we figured that the council might be resurfacing the track.
When we finally got to the falls, they were only half a meter high and we could hardly see them – not particularly the greatest reward after a 4km walk in the hot sun.