Mataranka is a very small town 104 kilometres south of Katherine. Small is probably the wrong word. With a population of just 250 it is minuscule. It seems that most traffic doesn’t even stop there.
The town would probably remain as unknown as most tiny Australian towns except for the fact that a well known book ‘We of the Never Never’ and the film version of the book were both written and filmed there.
It’s the story of the first white pioneering family to move into the region, and of the trials and tribulations they faced.
When you visit the area today, over a century since the book was written, you realise what tough, brave and inspirational people those pioneers really were.
The country has a true rugged beauty. Deeply red soil is covered with scrubby, gnarled bush that is interspersed by thousands of termite mounds. It is not attractive in the normal sense, but its harshness does grow on you, and the astounding bird life is proof that the country is actually rich with life.
One thing that the region does have is water, and there are some mighty rivers here that are reduced to a dribble in the dry, but which flood each wet season.
There are several hot springs in the area. One of these, Bitter Springs, is located about 2.5 kilometres from the town centre.
It’s possible that the name could turn people off from visiting, but that would be a mistake.
The temperature of the water at Bitter Springs is a constant 32 Celcius, making it lukewarm rather than hot, but at that temperature it is also very comfortable. The creek at Bitter Springs flows at about 300 litres per second. Fast enough for you to notice the current, but not string enough to make swimming difficult.
There is a section of the creek which allows you to float with the current for a distance of 200 metres, where there are steps from which you can alight from the water and walk back up a short track to do it all over again.
The water is crystal clear, yet the minerals within the water give it an attractive bluefish tinge.
My time spent at Bitter Springs was just brilliant, and to experience such a welcoming stream that is set amid a grove of palms with water lillies adding colour to the scene was truly memorable.