Bitter Springs, Mataranka

“You will never, never know, if you never, never go.” It was a catch phrase from an old add campaign for Northern Territory. I now know what NT is like. The catch phrase comes from the story by Jeannie Gunn. She wrote “We of the Never, Never” which is about her arrival into the area of Mataranka. The book was published in 1907.

What does Mataranka have to offer? Thermal springs, about 330 c. Ok they are not really thermal springs as they are not heated thermally but they are hot springs. The water travels underground form the Barkly Tablelands to pop up at Mataranka to then flow into the Roper River then into the Gulf of Carpentaria.

We chose a van park, which was a short walk for the springs, (we then took the car.) The springs were amazing. It surprised me with how clear the water was. Although not hot, they were warm when you first get in. There was a gentle current that you drift down stream on. We had hunted round for some noodles. (If you are not sure what a noodle is it in this context it is a long thin floating aid.) Everything we had read or heard about the hot springs was you have to have a noodle. So with noodle in hand we made our way into the water. We played around with it trying to find the best way to use them. For Adrian it was between his legs like riding a horse, for me it was around my back, I felt like I was sitting in a lounge suite. For the first section the current was slow. We weaved ourselves between the people mingling around the entry steps and we were on our way. After the halfway point the current picked up. Not by much just enough to notice. The river seemed to shrink to almost nothing at the end. We jumped out and walked to the start for another go. So relaxing. The little trip takes about 10 to 15 minutes.

On the second day we drove out to Mataranka Homestead, which is a caravan park. We had been told this is where all the old people go for the hot springs. The side of the springs has been cemented with seats so all the old folks can sit and talk. The spring didn’t look very inviting as they were doing work to increase the size of the pool. We didn’t go for a swim and I am sure I am too young for this spot ha ha.

A movie was made from the story “We of the Never, Never.” It is shown every day at midday in the bar. The homestead, which was built for the movie, is part of the van park. I had thought it would be better looked after and made into a small museum but it seemed to have been forgotten. Jeannie arrive in 1902 to live and work on Elsey Station with her husband Aeneas (the locals called him Maluka.) Aeneas died a year later from malaria so Jeannie returned south. The book is of her experiences in the wilderness of Australia, her time in the country of the ‘Never Never’ and the hardship she endued as one of a very few white women in the area. mad-2

On the second night we were in Mataranka we had a visitor to our van. I very carefully came out of the van with my camera thinking I may frighten him away. I had cut an apple up for him but he wasn’t very interested. He stayed around for about half an hour, he didn’t seem to be frightened of us. So cute.

We drove out to where Maluka is buried along with some of the other station people in a cemetery not far from where the homestead originally stood. (The original homestead was destroyed by road works in 1942.) Jeannie died in Melbourne in 1961 but a memorial to her lies with her Maluka. A plaque also sits on the original site of the house.

One of the caravan parks offered Barramundi feeding. Sounded good to us so off we went to have a look. Unfortunately the young girl who tried to feed them told us the water was too cold. When it gets cold the fish don’t eat. I didn’t know that.

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