MATARANKA TO KATHERINE | THE TROPICAL NORTH | TRAVEL AUSTRALIA IN 3 MONTHS

‘We’ll all get high and walk off into the country, the ridiculous country, where the blue sky will smother us’ The National

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I kicked my arse into gear this morning. The amazing Bernadette Benson had been all over my Facebook news feed for setting a new Guiness World Record for the 'most kilometres run by a woman on a treadmill in twelve hours' the night before. I had a couple of big running events when I got back in August/September and needed to start getting more miles in the legs. I am walking/hiking fit and on my feet most of the day, but I need to get the fast twitch fibres working again! I curled out of the still-hot tent this morning to do a run before it got blisteringly hot and humid, and set off along the road from Mataranka Roadhouse. You do forget how good a run feels. I’ve been so busy, both with work and then this trip, to focus on training, and it was a pleasure to get back into stride. My morning was made even better with all the birds flying around. A wedge tailed eagle flew down from a nearby tree to have a look at me, hovering above. It probably thought I was fair game, waiting to see if I would collapse. At only a few metres above, I could see all of his underside, what a beauty. 

I did about 6.5km out and back, nothing too major but I had to build it up again. I got back to the kids. It was quite sweet really (they will hate me for saying that) as they were curled up together in my tent 'relaxing'.  We went straight to the thermal pool and lazed around all morning. A long breakfast, a bit of journal writing and a slow pack up of the tent in the heat. The film 'We of the Never Never', based on the book by Jeannie Gunn about her life in Mataranka and the Elsey National Park area, is shown at noon every day. A bunch of us sat in the shade outside 'Jeannie's Kitchen' watching the film in between journal writing for the three of us.

It was only a wee short drive to Katherine today. I had an open mind to staying here. If we didn’t like it, we would push on somewhere else. We stopped in town to pick up some groceries and it was bigger than I thought. Fast food restaurants had even infiltrated here. I wasn’t keen on staying in town so we drove out on Gorge Road. Unfortunately the croc surveys were still being done out here because of recent rains, so no canoeing or swimming in the gorge was allowed. I knew the only way to see it was to book a boat cruise. Best for wildlife, birds and photography, I chose the sunrise cruise the following morning and I was really looking forward to seeing the gorge in the early light.

We booked a site at the campground at Nitmiluk (the Jawoyn name for the region - the place of the cicada) and took the kids straight into the excellent pool. This is one of the best campsites, along with Mataranka, that we have stayed in. No squishing in like sardines, just pick your own spot amongst the trees. I also liked that the powered caravan sites were on gravel and slab whilst the unpowered tent sites got the grass. It’s nice to reward the people roughing it a bit in tents or soft floor campers with a touch of grass. The pool area was so amazing, I can’t get over it. After a walk up to the Burawei lookout just before sunset, we came back and sat around the pool area most of the evening. The kids wore themselves out and I got to relax. We ate dinner here from the little bar/bistro set up at the pool. A fantastic idea and great food. I had the vegetarian buffet (I am craving salad, fruit and veggies!) and gorged myself on four different types of salad as well as a pile of cooked vegetables.

Another hot night ensued, but I slept so well. No generators allowed here and the camp was full of peace and tranquility. How can you go wrong surrounded by a beautiful part of the NT: tree frogs in the shower, flying foxes down near the river, wallabies hopping around the campsite and even a bush stone curlew wandering around after dark saying hello. They call them the ‘murder bird’ because the sound they make is like a woman screaming at high pitch. We had already learnt this at the bird show at the Desert Park, so we quickly made the discovery! I love that Charlie is picking up on all of this and each new place compounds on the knowledge he has already gained along the way. 

Toby's photos below: