Around Australia Week 21 – Daly Waters and Mataranka

Everyone says “You have to check out the pub at Daly Waters!” So that’s what we did. Apparently the pub is unique and has won AHA Best Wayside Inn in 2010, 2007, 2006, and 2005. We decided to stay at the Daly Waters Township caravan park down the road a bit, though, rather than at the park behind the pub itself: we’d heard that it could get a bit squeezy & the amenities could be stretched if large numbers of people decided to stay at the same time. The turn-off to the pub is about 4 kms up the road from the township.

As it happened, we ended up going to the pub with Ray and Jill, who pulled into the caravan park soon after we did. We booked ahead of time: this is a system we hadn’t encountered before. You have a choice of barra or beef, with a simple salad bar… and you have to book ahead and pay when you book. We actually ordered barra and beef; you get a smaller serving of each. It actually works very well – the blokes behind the counter stand there cooking vast amounts of beef and barra, and that’s it: your meal is ready right on time.

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The entertainment was provided by ‘Chook Man’, whose point of difference is that he has a chook sitting on a perch nearby as he runs through his repertoire of songs, and calls various members of the audience (kids & adults) up on stage to contribute their bit to his act. They all seemed to be having a great time.

Then the grand finale: Chook Man dons a hat that is in the shape of a house, with a ridge pole that serves as the chook’s perch. He then sings with the chook on his head. We waited with bated breath to see the chook perform. We assumed that it would join in with a rousing chorus, or sqwark on demand… but not. The chook actually did nothing but sit on the house-hat on Chook Man’s head. Hmmm. Only in Daly Waters…. Go there for the experience and to check out the amazing décor in the pub itself.

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After a night at Daly Waters, it was off to Mataranka to try the famous hot springs: another ‘don’t miss’. (We seem to heard that phrase a lot!) We tossed up whether to stay at Mataranka itself, or a little down the road at Territory Manor. The verdict from other travellers seemed to be that Mataranka was more convenient to the springs themselves, but Territory Manor park had nicer (greener) sites. Since we weren’t planning to wander back and forth all day long to visit the springs, but just pay one visit, we thought a nicer site would be the best choice. This turned out to be a nice park… and Rob showed up for the regular fish feeding: he thought he’d try feeding fish rather than catching them (higher success rate, he thought). As it turned out, they were having a lazy day and weren’t even too keen on being fed! What is it with Rob and fish???

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Anyway, back to the springs… One couple we talked to said that they much preferred Bitter Springs, where you could just relax and let yourself be carried downstream by the current while you lazily enjoyed the warm water. What could we do but try them both?

We started with Mataranka Springs, where we again encountered Chris and Jan (we first met them at Banka Banka Station). I liked Mataranka Springs: the access is easy with steps built in around the springs and a nice little (very little!) waterfall at one end. Well, actually, I guess you’d call it more of a bubbling spring that spills over the edge rather than a waterfall. There was plenty of room to move around and it is well shaded. Then, when you’ve finished your therapeutic dip, you can mooch on up to the restaurant and enjoy coffee and a snack.

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Then it was time for Bitter Springs. This was quite different: access is still easy, but the springs themselves are quite different. Bitter Springs is a narrow winding body of water with a fast flow, and lots of people were hanging on to pool noodles and letting themselves be borne downstream. Rob and I swam with the flow (no noodles) and I discovered the disadvantage to Bitter Springs: every so often the banks came close together, which meant the ever-present algae on the sides SLIMED me.

Aaarrghhh!

Not a fan of being slimed, I chose to get out at the steps downstream and walk back, as many others were doing. Unfortunately I had no thongs or crocs with me (those in the know kept their crocs on in the stream) and the path was gravel.

Aaarrggh!

And to add insult to injury, when I had a shower back at the park later I found little slimy bits of algae inside my swimsuit.

AAARRGHHH!!!!!

I also thought that there was a stronger whiff of rotten egg gas at Bitter Springs. So, folks… for me, Mataranka was the winner.

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Now it’s time to mosey on along the highway to Katherine… and I’ve heard that the Gorge Sunset Dinner Cruise is something to put on your list, so that’s just what we plan to do!


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