RT2022: Mataranka and Litchfield

Mataranka Falls

Our planned departure from Mataranka to Litchfield National Park on Tuesday morning was to be a quick visit to the mechanics to re-grease and re-fit the cup on the wheel. However, things did not end up as planned (this seems to be the story of this trip).


But first, I need to bring you up to date with our stay at Mataranka. It is actually quite straightforward as we had a very relaxing time during our six night stay at Jalmurark campground. We stayed there last year and really enjoyed it – our return visit did not disappoint.

During the five days we visited the hot springs almost every day, once to Bitter Springs and the remainder to Mataranka Springs next to the homestead (because they were closer and had a shallow end).

We also managed a few walks. On our first full day we walked the 5 km to Mataranka Falls and around the corner to one of the Roper River tributaries. Leaving early to avoid the worst of the heat of the day, the 10 km return walk took us just over 4 hours, but that included stops for refreshments, photographs and bird spotting.

A Billabong on one of our walks

On another day we discovered the Botanic Walk, a very pleasant walk through some lush green vegetation. On that occasion, we kept walking to Stevie’s Pool and on to the Homestead for a planned coffee before the return journey, except the coffee machine was broken!

Other entertainment was, like last year, watching the Bower Birds, one of which had built a bower in the central area next to where we camped.

Bower Bird

Apart from that, we managed to catch up with washing clothes, doing a few odd jobs and reading.

We left on Tuesday morning feeling very relaxed and looking forward to getting to Litchfield, but that soon changed.

The Mechanics

From what I thought would be a quick job, 90 minutes max, our day changed totally. The mechanic who was looking after us discovered that one of the wheel bearings was starting to disintegrate. Unfortunately, they did not have the correct size in stock. The nearest source of car parts was Katherine, 105 km to the north. So, off we went to Katherine where fortunately we managed to buy the correct parts. By the time we got back to Mataranka (thanks for the 130 km/hr speed limit in NT) and the mechanic had fitted the bearings (to both wheels), we did not get back on the road until 15:30, too late to reach Litchfield. In view of this we aimed for Pine Creek and a campground called Pussy Cat Flat

Pine Creek

About 9 times out of 10, when we have had to change our plans or take a small diversion, we have been rewarded with something special, such as a great view, an interesting location or an amazing campground. Our unplanned stop at Pine Creek was no exception.

The campground was a disused race course, as you can see from the termite mound in this early morning photo, it has been a good few years since the yard was used for its intended purpose.

However, for $15 for an unpowered site for the night, it has: toilets, showers, a laundry and a bar that opens from 17:00 to about 19:00.

Our route to the campground didn’t take us through Pine Creek, since the Stuart Highway bypasses the township. So, when we set off the next day, we took time to visit the town, which, previously unknown to us, was central to gold mining in the area during the first half of last century. Lying on the main railway line that the Ghan uses, it also has a rich railway history. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to explore much of the town, but we have noted it for a potential future return visit of more than one night.

Litchfield National Park

Arriving a day later than planned, we managed to set up the trailer by early afternoon and to tackle one of the more local walks before dark. But more of that in the next edition.


In the meantime, I forgot to include the following drone photograph of the campground and race track at Boulia for the camel racing – our trailer is in there, somewhere.

I am not sure when this will be published due to lack of internet coverage, but for reference it is now Friday29 July.

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