Thursday, 17 August 1995

Mataranka Return

Pine Creek, Katherine (Kakadu & Stuart Highways) 365 kms

Our accomplished routine in packing up the full tent and all of the paraphernalia continued, with a 90
minute effort and we were pulling away from Muirella Park after final farewells with the Campground Manager (Graham) and the friendly retired couple (lan & Elizabeth), at 8:30 am.

We had a reasonable leg ahead of us, as we were making for Mataranka and a return visit to Elsey Park and the Thermal Pool. The route would take us through the southern entrance to Kakadu and on to join me Stuart Highway at Pine Creek.

The roadside scenery was definitely different in this area of the park, with rolling hills through open
woodland. The surface of this road - the Kakadu Highway - was excellent, with the exception of twenty-odd kms of unsealed road.

Hearts were heavy as we passed by the entrance station and then through the gates of the southern
entrance. However, we left enriched by the seven nights we had stayed in this World Heritage listed park.

Our first stop was at Katherine for the basic necessities of fuel, food and money. In the process of completing the shopping and returning to the car, we happened upon an aboriginal art shop. Wandering in, we discovered the shop was owned and run by local artists as a means of providing a commercial avenue for their work. Large panels of marvelous paintings made of thousands of coloured points, adorned the walls and the shelves held decorated boomerangs, beads, smaller paintings and rhythm or clapping sticks. However, it was the rows of didjeridoos on racks which drew our attention. I had wanted to purchase something of the indigenous art work whilst in the top end and given Chris's musical talent and my interest, it was towards these incredible instruments I had a leaning.

In different places we had seen obvious fakes and highly priced originals. Here we found beautifully
decorated didjeridoos which were of reasonable price and we also watched as one of the artists sat, cross-legged on the floor, decorating one such instrument with the most intricate lines of naturally ground paint. His application was of the finest detail, which belied his application tool: a piece of stringy, chewed grass ! Time and again he dipped that long string of grass into the paint mixture and wrapped it around the didjeridoo as he turned it with his other hand and feet.

Before long, we had our purchase, complete with beeswax mouth piece and following a test playing by the shop manager. With it safely wrapped In bubble plastic, the task of finding a place for it in our transport was fore-stalled until the evening.

We reached Mataranka by late afternoon and had the dome tent up infifteen minutes. Ten minutes later, we were all lazing in the warm water and wondering if "Monty" would make an appearance. Updates on his well-being had reached us during our travels in the Top End, with the latest information indicating he had not been well. Our neighbours at Muirella Park had told us of assisting a fellow tourist - who happened to be a zoologist - remove ticks and treat lesions on it's skin. By the time we were wrinkly, no sign of Monty was to be had.

Bedtime came early for the children, Sue went to the bar and listened to the live music and I caught up on my writing. An uneventful, boring but necessary driving day.

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