Burton's Perth to Cape York Lorella Springs to Mataranka 2-4 June 2011 Day 64-66

Tuesday, Jun 19, 2012 at 13:46

Mike & Amanda


The kids had a morning swim with Will and Lucy in the hot springs, surrounded by ferns, lush palms and a well kept grassed lawn. The water was crystal clear first thing in the morning and steaming with the warmth. Another goodbye to the Youmans and hoping we will catch up once again down the track. Bumped into the old well set up WA farmers at the reception and yarned a short while, not realising that we'd be bumping into each other all the way to Mataranka. The 30 click dirt track to the main Roper 'Highway' seemed much shorter as it always does on the way out. The main road was still a light, smoke and flames right at the road's edge. At one point we entered a water crossing with flames licking very close, the road ahead obscured. Without question the road would have been closed if this was WA! It was only a short way into the Southern Lost City, typical gravel loop, small camping bays, bollards and steel plate fire boxes. We walked right around the rock formations and were awed. Everywhere you travel there is always a 'lost city', however this was the real deal. Stunning red ochre spires, weird formations, dark, cool, mysterious valleys swarming with butterflies. Very impressive, and well worth a visit. The walk around took about an hour and next time we may even consider an overnight stop especially as the place was conspicuously empty of tourists..just our sort of stop..LOL!

Another short drive led us to Butterfly Springs, a place our research indicated was very special. Unfortunately it has recently been back burned and the area was smouldering and blackened. The camp sites were again gravel loops, spots tucked in under trees and bushes. There were only three other campers so we found a spot close to the Springs and set up. Immediately we noticed the mossies even in the middle of the day! We lit a fire, burnt some coils and they lessened as the day went on and virtually disappeared by nightfall. The short walk into the Springs led to a large pool surrounded by tall gorge like cliffs, paperbarks and gums. Much of the water was stagnant, the obvious breeding ground for the mossies. The main pool was cold and flowing with some algae present. We spent quite a bit of time swimming or more like dunking to get clean. Only a few butterflies revealed themselves and overall the place was OK but not spectacular. It ended up being a quiet overnight spot, but not one we'd want to spend longer time at.

We made a beeline for Mataranka, the road all gravel and interesting until the turn off for Roper Bar. We were getting low on fuel so headed for the General Store which was unfortunately closed for lunch and we were too impatient to wait around. A quick calculation suggested we had enough fuel to make it. On the bitumen for the first time in ages we cranked it up to 100 kph when we noticed a rough backwards and forwards surging. At first we thought it was perhaps the unbaffled water in the Oddy's tanks, then maybe a sticking wheel bearing. A stop revealed no issues, an unfortunately the problem worsened until the Cruiser refused to accelerate past 3000 RPM. We limped into Mataranka over 200km way, only able to reach 100kph when the gearbox erratically changed down and the tachometer dropped to 2000. If I was too harsh on the throttle and the tachometer hit 3000 the engine refused to accelerate, grating with speed dropping.

On the Roper Highway we noticed a large number of caravan camps sighted along the Roper River. We later learned that this is where a large number of nomads camp for several months. They park wall to wall and the Council is having a real problem with rubbish and sanitation. Vegetation is being stripped and all in all it is a case of caravanners behaving badly. It looked disgusting.

We refilled with premium ULP in town and were amazed to find at after a short stop, the engine problem seemed to have disappeared, the engine behaving normally all the way to our pre-booked camp site at Mataranka Cabins and Camping, backing right on to Bitter Springs. This proved to be an average grassed camp ground with some sites tucked right in on the creek and springs, however most seemed to be stagnant and infested with mossies. We were better off right up near the main driveway on a grassed area and virtually insect free. It was strange camping back in civilisation again, surrounded by clean sedans and caravans - we even spotted an old guy wiping the morning dew off his Territory as he looked disapprovingly at our filthy Cruiser...mate, we earned it and I'm not cleaning it for a fourth time! Jim and Pat were camped here as well, we even went halves in a carton of some disgusting local beer that cost about $10 for a thousand cans. It advertised as being a crisp lager, however we were to find wherever we went, we couldn't give it away! When I'd asked for Corona or Heineken they just looked blankly at me with a gap toothed grin....Bitter Springs was a short walk down a bitumen road and proved to be very touristy, full of Winnebagos and Britzes. Oldies floated down a warmish creek on hired noodles for five minutes before climbing out at a bridge structure. The water temperature seemed only to be about 26 degrees and nothing like Lorella or Dalhousie which were in the balmy thirties to forties. The oldies raved about it probably not having experienced anything else. The other springs required a drive to the National Park and were even more touristy, concreted and small. The carpark was filled with caravan and backpackers, very few outback travellers around. The water temperature was no different so we didn't hang around too long. We noticed a reversed sign at the entrance warning of closure due to high bacteria levels! We spent a little time at the Elsey Homestead replica, noticing apparent differences to the book before heading out to the old cemetery and original homestead location. It was pleasant to visit these places and reconcile with the characters and places recounted in the audiobook. The homestead billabong next to the old homestead provided added realism and dimensions, prompting me to want to read the story again. At the fantastic Stockman Cafe in town we spotted a bigger than life statue of the 'Fizzer', the famous and intrepid tough mailman from the book. The food and coffee was tasty, fresh and great value. I phoned ahead to Katherine Toyota, them giving me the OK to come in and they'd 'have a look' at my mysterious problem. I let em know that I was monitoring the engine codes via the iPad and a 'lean fuel Bank 2' had appeared although was now 'pending'. I was convinced at this stage that it was related to dirty fuel or overcooked old Opal fuel from the jerries, although the intermittent aspect was confusing.
Mike & Amanda
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