Bye NT

Top 5 Things about the Northern Territory

Adelaide River Croc Cruise

 

We spent over a year in the Northern Territory; not out of choice but out of obligation.  We had to work in Darwin for nearly a year to replenish the bank account and we got stuck in Alice Springs for three months with Troopy troubles.  In that time, we have learnt a lot about the culture of the Territory and have even grown fond of it.  Despite the unbearable humidity of the Top End during the summer months, the relaxed and almost negligent attitude towards hospitality and business, and the worst television advertisements we have seen since we left Melbourne, the NT has its perks.

 

It was great to be surrounded by so much wildlife and aboriginal culture, and the locals are always up for a drink… or seven!  In Darwin, the lightning shows during the Wet Season are incredible, and it was wonderful to feel cold during the winter months in Alice Springs.  On top of all that, we made a bunch of great friends who we’ll miss until we get to see again.

 

Oodnadatta Track

 

There is a big contrast between the Top End and Centralia.  The weather in Darwin and the Top End is hot and moist most of the time, while it is dry and dusty in Alice Springs.  While Alice is a quiet town, placid and laid back, Darwin is a little more promiscuous and is a backpacker haven.  Alice was also considerably cheaper than Darwin in terms of beer and meals when out on the town.

 

Trying to put together a list of only five things that are great about the Northern Territory was tough, but we did it and we think this list is pretty good.

 

Indigenous Presence

As Melbournians, it was unfamiliar to us to have so much aboriginal culture around us.  Whether it’s the colourful bags and wallets in the souvenir shops, the aboriginal art galleries that are probably more common than McDonald’s restaurants, or the groups that wander around the city almost aimlessly, waiting for the bottle shop to open, you can’t ignore the indigenous presence.

 

Our most enriching experiences were down near Alice Springs.  We learnt a little about the local language and their creation stories, but what really stood out was having to ask an elder for permission to stay on the side of the road overnight when our radiator split.

 

Learning about the Anangu culture when we were at Uluru was also eye-opening, and it makes us sad that European settlers interfered with that magical lifestyle with their trampling cattle and introduction of foreign plants, animals and diseases, amongst other things.

 

Uluru-Kata Tjuta

 

Paradise

The Top End has pockets of paradise everywhere.  Hot springs, waterfalls, pools lined with lush vegetation – places that are easy to get lost in.  We found a few of these pockets all over the Top End

 

Lorella Springs Wilderness Park near Borroloola is definitely one of our favourites.  With beautiful waterfalls, cool pools and balmy springs, it was very difficult to pull ourselves away.  The Douglas Hot Springs was another location with a hot spring that fed into a creek, and with a campground nearby, it’s the perfect place for a week-long getaway.

 

Lorella Springs

 

Other great pockets of paradise include Robin Falls, Edith Falls and Gubara in Kakadu National Park.

 

Rock Formations

If you’re keen on rock formations, you can’t go past the NT Trifecta – Uluru, Kata Tjuta and Kings Canyon.  It will take approximately three days to explore all three, and if you can catch a sunrise or sunset, then you’re in for a treat.

 

Other rock formations to check out in the Northern Territory are Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve just south of Alice Springs, Chambers Pillar along the Old Ghan Railway Heritage Trail, and the various Lost Cities dotted around the state.

 

 

Crocodile Craze

As we headed north along the western coast, the first warnings we received about crocodiles was in Derby.  We didn’t believe it at first, but after seeing heaps of freshwater crocodiles in the Kimberley and even witnessed a suspicious splash at the Fitzroy River crossing, by the time we got to Darwin, we were well aware of the presence of these prehistoric predators.

 

Darwin uses the croc craze to promote tourism, with great attractions like Crocosaurus Cove and the Adelaide River Jumping Croc Cruises, where you can see dangerous saltwater crocodiles snap for a piece of meat within metres of the boat.

 

Don’t take crocodiles for granted.  While some businesses use crocodiles to give tourists a unique experience, it’s certainly not all just for show.  Crocodiles are frequently spotted surfing waves at the beach and crocodile attacks happen frequently, to pets and lifestock, as well as to tourists and even locals (who have no excuse to not know better).

 

Adelaide River Croc Cruise

 

Markets

The NT is market central, and we took advantage of ever market we could find!

 

In Darwin, there are so many dry season markets you’re spoilt for choice.  Our favourites were Mindil Beach Night Market, Palmerston Market, and the Nightcliff and Rapid Creek Markets, both of which run through the wet season as well.  These markets are the go to places for a great atmosphere, energetic performances, cool shopping and delicious food at fantastic prices.

 

Mindil Markets

 

Goodbye NT!  It’s been fun; it’s been swell, but after more than 15 months, the swelling has gone down and it’s time to move forward.

 

Bye NT

 

Mataranka

Natural Wonders : Mataranka Springs

Mataranka

 

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.

 

Mataranka

 

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!

 

Bitter 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.

 

Mataranka

 

Thermal Springs

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.

 

Barramundi Feeding

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.

 

Mataranka Falls

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.

 

Mataranka

 

Robin Falls

Experience : Robin Falls

Robin Falls

 

You’ll find Robin Falls if you take Dorat Road from Adelaide River.  It’s a beautiful little spot that offers free camping with lush surroundings.  It’s a short walk to the cascading waterfall, which falls into a little pool before continuing down a little stream alongside the track.  The water is chilly and refreshing and if you’re game, you can climb up to the top.  The camp spots do fill up quickly though, so make sure you get there early!

 

 

Adelaide River

Adelaide River is a small town 200km north of Katherine and 115km south east of Darwin.  It was first settled by workers who were working on the Overland Telegraph Line, and the discovery of gold at Pine Creek assisted with its establishment.  It was officially proclaimed a town in 1962.

 

These days, Adelaide River only has a population of about 240 and is an important stop for travellers along the Stuart Highway.  There’s a petrol station and mechanic workshop, accommodation, a roadhouse and a general store.

 

Adelaide River
War Cemetery

The main thing to check out in town is the War Cemetery, which was established in 1942.  The landscaped gardens are a suitable resting place for the 63 civilians and 434 Aussie, British and Canadian service men and women who died in the NT during World War II, but whose remains were never found.

Butterfly Gorge & Douglas Hot Springs

The gorge is located within Butterfly Gorge National Park and there are two walks available – over the rim or in the gorge.  We decided to go into the gorge and it turned out to be quite an adventure.  Check out our post here.

 

Juz exploring Butterfly Gorge

 

If you’ve spent a long time on the road, Douglas Hot Springs is a wonderful place to stop and refresh yourself.  The piping hot water springs from a crack in the rock and flows down the river, but because of the direction that the water moves, you can have a cool dip on one side of the bank and a hot spa on the other.

 

Douglas Hot Springs

Juz exploring Butterfly Gorge

Experience : Butterfly Gorge

Butterfly Gorge

South of Adelaide River, just off Oolloo Road is a turn off for Butterfly Gorge National Park.  The park protects a portion of the Douglas River and it’s well worth the trip, but make sure you stop off at Douglas Hot Springs on your way there.

 

Tjuwaliyn (Douglas) Hot Springs

Located on the Douglas River, the Douglas Hot Springs is a great spot for camping at only $6.60 a night per adult.  The campground is right next to the Douglas River, which has a rocky spring that pumps out scorching hot water into the river.  Depending on where you sit, you can have a refreshingly cool swim, a warm bath or a hot, swirling spa.

 

The crystal clear waters of the springs are surrounded by coarse golden sand and palms, with a few little fishies swimming around.

 

 

Butterfly Gorge

Once you get to the car park, there are two walks that you can do – 2km to a lookout or 600m into the gorge.  To get to the main pool, you will have to climb over a small, rocky cliff or alternatively you can wade through the (potentially) croc infested water.  We decided to climb over the rocks – just for fun!

 Caveman

The main pool is surrounded by high rugged cliffs, lush plants and rock figs with curtains of roots.  There were lots of crow butterflies fluttering about – that’s probably where the gorge got its name from.  While you can swim across the pool and check out the other side to get a closer look at the gorge, we got a little freaked by little air bubbles and swirling water.  We chose not to take any risks – we were in the Territory now and have to be super cautious about crocodiles.

 

Juz exploring Butterfly Gorge