Have you ever wondered whether there really are oases in the world? Wonder no longer.
A short turn off the Stuart Highway, about an hour and a half south of Katherine in the Northern Territory, is Elsey National Park. A popular place to stop, here, is Mataranka Thermal Springs and it is an oasis.
The water is ‘thick’, almost gelatinous. It has a greenish hue, while being crystal clear. I believe it comes from a natural spring at a constant temperature of 34C and is said to be medicinal. Perhaps it is Australia’s ‘Bath’. We arrived there on a 40C day and found the water refreshing and relaxing, gliding under the canopy of trees, sharing stories with other travellers.
The area is quite clearly a great place for flying foxes, who hang languidly by day and might be a little rowdy at night. One of the things that deterred me from staying there overnight was the stench of flying fox waste product, but I DO have a rather pronounced olfaction. I would stay another time, as the delight of an oozy morning dip is very tempting.
For a piece of history and literary link, the Elsey Station homestead has been reconstructed on the site and is very good for providing the background to pioneering tales such as We of the Never Never, written by Jeannie Gunn, who lived there for a year with her husband in 1902 – 1903, until he died of malarial fever.
The waters are shallow and suitable for children, with rails and steps for those who need it. The path from the car park takes you past an information centre and pub and beyond the springs to the Roper River, full of fish and maybe crocs. There are two campsites in the National Park and fellow travellers reported they were good in facilities and price.
I didn’t meet anyone, but have read blogs from people who say that Bitter Springs is much deeper and longer, with a variety of activities in the area to warrant staying a couple of days. So if that is to your liking, head further north in the park.
Travel Safe. Hat and water and bring the bathers/togs/swimmers.