We joined the daily exodus from Daly Waters with plans to cover a short distance once again - only about 150 km to Mataranka where we'd heard lots of great reports about the thermal springs.
Being a fairly cruisy sort of day, we allowed ourselves to be distracted by the signs as we approached the small town of Larrimah, for the Pink Panther Pub, which advertise a free zoo! Well sure enough, there's quite a collection of animals. You start off a little skeptical, thinking there's just the small crocodile and few birds you can see around the front, but as you follow along the trail, it's almost as though more and more keeps unfolding before you until you're feeding kangaroos and walking past emus, heaps of different birds, lizards, snakes, a larger saltwater crocodile, and other Australian animals.
After our enjoyable wayside adventure, we pushed on to Mataranka and chose to stay in the campsite in Elsey National Park rather than the caravan parks on offer. We've been really impressed with the N.P. campsites in the Territory; Devil's Marbles in such a spectacular setting is only $7.70 per family per night, and now Elsey, in beautiful leafy surrounds, by a river, with flushing toilets and hot showers(!) is only $15.40. What a bargain!
The plan was to stay for a night so we made the most of the afternoon, heading first to the closer thermal pool beside the Mataranka Homestead 'resort' (caravan park), and then on to the Bitter Springs on the other side of town. Both were really great. The kids unanimously liked the first one better - it's had various alterations to make it a little more like a swimming pool with no observable current, although the water is constantly moving through the pool and so it is lovely and clear. Sal and I lean more to the Bitter Springs - a little less busy (which is an immediate plus) and more of a stream with a gentle current where your can float down among the gums for a way, hop out, walk up the path to the start, get in and do it all again. Both are beautifully warm and at this time of year at least, you feel like you never really need to get out.
The following morning we were intending to pack up camp and move on, mindful that the weekend coming is a long weekend in the Territory. We're planning to spend four nights at the next stop (near Katherine Gorge) and we figure we might have more chance getting into the campsite if we arrive on Thursday than Friday at the start of a long weekend. However, the kids pleaded to stay another day and visit the hot springs again and we didn't mind the idea either so we spent another whole day soaking in warm water - the morning in the thermal pool, and the afternoon at the Bitter springs. This time we also tracked down the water noodles form the nearby caravan park ($1 to hire) which made floating down the stream even more relaxing!