Mataranka, in the Northern Territory, is famous for it’s hot springs. Bitter Springs is just down the road at the north east end of Mataranka township, and much less commercial and therefore more appealing to people like us. The headwaters of the Roper River inside Elsey National Park (where crocodiles are managed) are popular for bushwalking, birdwatching, canoeing, swimming and fishing. These pools flow at a constant 32 degrees C. and are still very much in their natural state. Swimmers can glide with the current downstream to view the beautiful riparian vegetation and birdlife along the way. With a mask and snorkel, small fish and turtles can be seen as the water is fantastically clear. I don’t have too many photos from Bitter Springs, as we were too busy swimming and enjoying the warm waters while we were there.
The first glimpse of the stream as you approach Bitter Springs doesn’t give away the secrets awaiting when you arrive at the swimming area of the springs.
The warm, crystal clear blue tinted waters are ideal for a relaxing swim…or just float down the stream and enjoy the weightless sensation of floating in warm gently flowing water.
Native growing tall palm trees add a tropical touch.
It is easy to spend hours relaxing in the warm, clear water.
Mataranka thermal springs are definitely not to be missed if you are travelling in the Northern Territory. In fact, we visited twice on this trip, both on our way up to Katherine and when we began our trip back down south. It is a very special place and not a crocodile in sight!
It would be east to drive straight through Halls Creek and keep going. That would be a pity, because there are lots of things to do and see in the area. Plus a couple of delightful free camps tucked away just down the road.
China Wall is only 6km from Halls Creek. It is a naturally formed 6 metre high quartz ‘wall’ that is believed to be part of the longest formation of its type in the world.
Old Halls Creek (yes, the town was moved at some stage) has vestiges of some of the original buildings, and the original cemetery which has some sad stories to tell.
There are a couple of nice free camps down Duncan Road, such as Palm Spring and Sawpit Gorge.
We chose to camp at Palm Springs, which was like a little oasis in the desert and yes, it did have palm trees!
Unfortunately for us, it rained most of the day we were there which meant sitting around the fire under umbrellas. Although it was wet, it wasn’t really cold and luckily we had enough wood to keep the fire going.
This old truck at an abandoned house would have an interesting story to tell.
I think these are Black Kites. There were many of them circling above the street in Halls Creek.
This egret and cormorants were at Sawpit Gorge, which was another popular free camping spot down Duncan Road.
Grass at Sawpit Gorge
Kites over Halls Creek.
There is definitely more to Halls Creek than meets the eye!
After traveling more than a thousand kilometres along the dirt road that is the Gibb River Road, today we turned off into Leopold Downs Road and headed towards the famous Windjana Gorge and Tunnel Creek.
We arrived late in the afternoon, just as the light was getting interesting. It was too late in the day to go into the gorge itself, so we walked along the outside which is very interesting as well.
The moon was rising over the gorge, and peeped through the branches of this tree.
Shortly the colours of the rocks changed to a deep rich orange. It is a privilege to be able to visit such a lovely spot.
Early the following morning, we began our walk into the gorge. I quite liked the sun shining through the dust stirred up by the walkers’ shoes.
Once you enter the gorge through a narrow rock opening, it opens up into a wide sandy area with the river running between the rocks walls. There are abundant fresh water crocodiles living in and around the river, and they are quite easy to spot as you walk along the gorge.
This big white rock is a sacred aboriginal place, so visitors are not permitted on it.
I loved the reflection of the gorge walls in the still waters of the river.
This magnificent boab is set against the gorge wall. It is huge and must be very old.
My final photo for the day is another bower bird who was busily building his bower within about six feet of our tent. He didn’t seem at all perturbed that we were so close.
Windjana Gorge is a very special place, and is well deserving of its reputation. Tomorrow we will visit Tunnel Creek and explore that area. It is amazing that all the gorges we have visited are unique and have their own special features.
Lennard River Gorge is yet another nice place to visit from the Gibb River Road.
It was quite warm the day we visited, and unfortunately you can’t swim there as you don’t get right down to the water. It would be spectacular in the wet with water cascading over the rock walls.
This remarkable rock formation is at the Napier Range. I thought it looked like a dragon with folded wings, but found out later it is meant to look like Queen Victoria!
Perhaps I was on the wrong angle, but that doesn’t seem very complimentary to Queen Victoria!
The Napier Range, where the Gibb River Road crosses it, is quite rocky and spectacular with lots of wonderful boab trees.
There is something about boab trees that I really love. They lose their leaves in the dry, and the shape of the trunk with the twisted branches look amazing. Often they will still have their hard brown furry nuts still clinging to the branches.
Bells Gorge is another gorgeous gorge.
You need to cross the water if you want to climb down to swim below the falls.
The people sitting along the rocks at the top of the waterfall show the scale of this gorge.
It is a steep and rocky climb down, but the bottom pool is great for a swim.
Unfortunately by the time you climb back up the cliff and trek back to the car, you are hot again!
From Bells Gorge we moved on to yet another free camp, March Fly Glen. Happily there were no march flies, and it was quite a lovely spot with water lilies, pandanus and a crystal clear creek.
Nev cooking his toast on the morning camp fire, waiting for the billy to boil.
Kay departing March Fly Glen free camp. Kay is a very interesting person we met several times at various places along the Gibb River road.
As a very special birthday present to herself, for a very special birthday, she is undertaking a solo bicycle trip from Katherine, to Kununurra, then right along almost the entire Gibb River Road, then down Leopold Downs Road to the Great Northern Highway. From there she will ride to Halls Creek, and turn into Duncan Road (also a dirt road) for its full length, and from there return to Katherine. What a marathon effort. She carries everything she needs on her bike or single-wheeled trailer.
We have been to some very remote places on this trip, and often the GPS doesn’t even know where we are.
This is what the middle of nowhere looks like on the GPS.
And this is what it looks like through the windscreen.
One particularly beautiful place we visited was Galvans Gorge, which is not far from the Mt. Barnett Roadhouse.
It is lovely to swim in, and quite easy to climb up and sit below the waterfall.
We all enjoyed a cooling swim in the clean waters.
The walk in to Galvans Gorge runs alongside this water lily filled creek.
This water monitor was unperturbed by people passing his rock perch.
Later in the afternoon, we also visited Adcock gorge, but didn’t swim there as the water was in shadow and quite cold.
There are so many gorgeous gorges on the Gibb River Road, and we are doing our best to visit most of them.
Still loving the Free camps. We stayed another night on the banks of the Gibb River when we reached the end of the Kalumbaru Road. The boys decided to check out a problem with the rear wheel on the car, and learned the hard way why you don’t jack up a car on the sand…
This was not as bad as it looks! With a bit of help, all was soon back together.
While all that was going on, I was waiting for this Bower bird to come back to his bower. He has been very busy making it all pretty for the girls.
The next morning saw us back on the road, and our next stop was Mt. Barnett Station to stock up on food and fuel. We decided on the free camp option yet again, and travelled on to Barnett River Gorge where we found a lovely shady spot next to the creek.
Barnett River camp. Not much water in the creek here, but it was still very clean and clear.
There is a rocky walk in to view the gorge. You need to follow the stone cairns to find your way.
Once we climbed down the steep rocks to the river, there were lots of shallow places to cool off in the clear water.
We spied this euro kangaroo on our way back to camp.
Later in the afternoon we discovered this lovely pool quite close to where we were camping. Not as spectacular as the gorge, but much easier to get to!