Matthew Fishes for Bara - at Mataranka?

Trip Start Jul 07, 2011
Trip End Oct 10, 2011

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Explore Darwin

Flag of Australia  , Northern Territory,
Sunday, July 24, 2011

Of course there's no mobile phone coverage in Mataranka – except with Tel$tra, who charge like wounded bulls – so I had to improvise. After realising that this may happen back in Adelaide, I’d bought a Telstra pocket WiFi modem for internet connectivity while in the middle of nowhere (which is where we seem to have been quite often).  Even Telstra don’t offer any coverage more than 30 km from a major population – Mataranka counts – so the utility of the modem and Telstra is limited.  Like pretty much anything else with Telstra…  (Guess what: I’m not a shareholder).

Anyhow, I managed to rig up the iPod with Skype to the WiFi modem and made a call from Mataranka to Darwin – probably via Brussles!  Where there’s a will, there’s a way.  Ingenuity 1: Telstra 0.

We needed to cancel the Jabiru booking (luckily no deposit paid) and find 4 nights in Darwin to fill the void between now and our existing booking at Howard Springs (Big4).  I think Jabiru must have had a raft of cancellations, because there wasn’t the blink of an eyelid when I called.  (Note to self: Check credit card statement to see they didn’t sneak $50 onto the tab…)  Again, we just went with the flow and booked into where Bruce, Kate and their girls were staying: Free Spirit

Last powered spot – great.  And without any help from Bruce, the "Double Boo King"!

Here fishy, fishy, fishy

Twice a day, the folk at the Mataranka Territory Manner feed the Barra in the lake they have out the front of the reception/restaurant.  We were all packed by 9am and were RTG, so Megan and I went and spent the accommodation discount at their coffee shop – for the slowest Cappuccino in the world.  (Perhaps these folk have relatives in Coober Pedy who make Pizza?)

The kids, adults and grey nomads (they’re at a different stage of evolution and deserve a genus all of their own) all crowded round the fence as Rick walked on water to tell the crowd about the barramundi.  He didn’t really walk on water, just the submerged platform that was built out from the edge into the pond.

They’ve trained the barra to come up to the surface for feeding and to also be picked out of the water.  In my book, anyone who’s got the patience and can train a fish deserves a medal and should walk on water!

Rick got a couple of massive thumps as the various barra took it in turns to strike at the morsels he dangled for them.  The thumping/whooshing sound is created by the fish taking in not only the food, but a huge gob full of air at the same time.  It has to go somewhere and out through the gills is the only way: woosh-thump!

Me please

As much as an o-fishy-onado (sic) as he is, Rick is also a bit of a showman and he entertains the crown with not only his knowledge but also humour.  Just the previous week though, he’d been accused of being unfair by one little girl.  How am I unfair?  Well, she said, you’ve chosen all boys to feed the barra, not one girl.  So now it’s G-B-G-B.

OK, who wants a go?

Of course, all the kid’s hands go up and second in is Matthew.  “Don’t get your shorts wet” says Dad, “otherwise you can’t get into the car”.  Quick as a flash, Rick splashes Matthew’s shorts and tells him that it looks like he’s walking home!  Have a look at the short video clip that Megan took of him having a fish for the barra, it shows things much better than I can relate them…

Road 'Kill’

Megan drove to Katherine – the junction of the Stuart and Victoria highways and we hopped into Subway for a lunchtime bite.  We stopped only to refuel because we’ll be staying in Katherine on the way back through to see the gorge and surrounds – including Manbulloo (a long and torrid legal mess that happened some time ago, but is still fresh in Megan’s memory).

The land changes markedly immediately north of Katherine.  Again, neither of us were really sure what the countryside would look like, but we’d not anticipated the ruggedness and hilliness of terrain.  The amount of traffic immediately doubled as well and the single lane Stuart turned into various sections of dual carriageway to cater for the increase. 

Chris managed to ‘kill’ his first road train – a triple trailer tanker doing a mere 90 in the 130 zone.  We rocketed past it at 95!

The termite mounds got bigger!  Matthew called out from the back to say that he’d seen one the size of a house.  Rubbish, they don’t get that big.  Stop telling tales.  We’re concentrating on driving.

He was right!  Round the corner, on the side of the road was this enormous pillar the size of a bus on a launch pad.  We found out later that these are called Cathedral Mounds, can take up to a century for the inhabitants to construct and are as hard as concrete.  Incredible, but a roadside hazard!  We didn’t stop to take a photo, but will have time to do that on the way back down.

No right for us

And so we drove straight on at Pine Creek – the point at which we should have veered right onto the Kakadu Highway to “Kaka Don’t”.  Perhaps some other time when we jet back to Darwin and hire one of the seemingly endless Thrifty 4WD’s that I wouldn’t want to buy second hand having seen what renters do to them.

Through Hayes Creek, Adelaide River and the turn off to Litchfield National Park – all destinations that we’ll see again and ‘do’ after Darwin.

The phone jumped back into life – announcing 30 new e-mails – and we arrived at free Spirit to start exploring Darwin.
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