Friday, May 29, 2015

Banka Banka to Edith Falls via Mataranka: monuments and weird signs 23 May

We left Banka Banka heading north into the warmth of northern Australia. And into more quirky small places. Elliot has a nice row of trees on entering, and apparently holds a gay mardi gras, although I’m not sure about that. Nice Sara Lea muffins though. 
Elliott promised much but delivered little

Next stop was Daly Waters for lunch. The caravan park was almost full of people ready to stop for the night at midday. I haven’t come to terms with this phenomenon yet. It seems a bit weird. Daly Waters has a pub with a stage for performers, a bough shed decorated with thongs, and other memorabilia. There is a souvenir shop with a difference, and a WWII helicopter on the roof of the servo. There are lots of WWII relics in northern Australia, but they weren’t on our agenda this time, so we didn’t stop to check them out.

The next quirky place was Larrimah, which had the Pink Panther Inn and caravan park, a number of unusual signs, several of beautiful caged birds, a recently acquired Johnstone River crocodile, and a much bigger saltie out the back and out of harm’s way.

This part of the road has a number of monuments. The first and largest was for John Flynn, the founder of the Flying Doctor Service. Charles Todd who was the brains and energy behind the Overland Telegraph had a very elaborate and informative monument. Alexander Forrest who explored from WA to NT had an unusual but unprepossessing monument. The least stimulating was the dead tree near Daly Waters which is presumed to have been engraved with an “S” in 1861-2.
Charles Todd Monument
Alexander Forrest monument

McDouall Stuart S Tree

We also detoured via Elsey Station Cemetery just south of Mataranka. I grew up with stories of “We of the Never Never” and “Little Black Princess” written by Jeannie Gunn, the wife of Charles Gunn who managed Elsey Station in the early years of the 20th Century. The cemetery has many graves of the real people who became characters in her stories.

Dolly Bonson the Little Black Princess died in Darwin in 1988, aged 95

Charles Gunn's Grave with a memorial to his wife Jeannie

We had been told that Bitter Springs at Mataranka was preferable to the other springs there so we booked into Bitter Springs Caravan Park thinking that the springs were on site. Not so. The manager’s description of about 500m down the road turned out to be much further on. However the springs were lovely. The water was clear and warm – 32 degrees. We stayed there for quite a while relaxing after a long day’s travel, over 450 kms. The following morning we also met up with Gail and Richard Allen from Urunga who, coincidentally, were also staying at Mataranka. 
Gail and Richard Allen with David

A friendly local

Above and below, the beautiful Bitter Springs

Our intention was to reach Litchfield National Park, but beautiful Edith Falls, north of Katherine, turned into a much more desirable option.
Above and below, views of Edith Falls

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