I spent three months wokring and living in Mataranka in the Northern Territory and as that’s something not a lot of people do, I thought I should share a little bit more about my experience’s of living there and who doesn’t love a list post?
1 – If you don’t drive/have a car you are quite screwed. It is very difficult to explore the place by foot, there is no public transport and everyone will think you are crazy for walking everywhere, it was a half hour walk from our house to the town and people would always stop and offer us lifts home which we would usually turn down wanting the extra exercise. My housemate and I even walking to the bitter springs, everyone was shocked when we told them we walked 11km in 34+ degrees heat, but if we hadn’t done it I would never of got to see the springs.
2 – People in the outback love a drink. However it can sometimes be difficult to get alcohol in the Northern Territory because of the alcohol restrictions they have in place. No alcohol can be served before 2pm on a weekday or 12pm on a Saturday and if you want to buy a box of goon (cask wine – very popular with backpackers and aboriginals because it’s cheap and gets you very pissed) you are limited to one per person per day and you have to show valid ID, in the supermarket we had to write everyone’s names down on a piece of paper to make sure everyone just got one.
3 – Aboriginals are very angry drunks. It is difficult to explain what the aboriginals in Mataranka were like without coming across as racist. I am not racist, I just feel sorry for them. This is just my experience of them so far. The majority of them in the town don’t work, they get all their money from the government for land rights and they just sit around waiting for the bottle shop to open at 2pm then they proceed to get horribly drunk. You would see one run past the store carrying a crate of beer and there would be about 7 people following them in to the bush to drink it as quickly as possible as it was illegal to drink within 5 km of a bottle shop. Working in the supermarket meant I had quite a few run ins with them when they were angry. You refuse to serve them alcohol because they have already had too much and they get angry, one had been banned for trying to attack one of the girls because she refused to serve him and yet he kept coming in trying to get alcohol and he would kick off every time when asked to leave.
4 – There’s not much to do so big community events are everything. If you don’t go you really will be missing out on what is for us backpackers anyway a once in a lifetime event. While I was in Mataranka, I went to the Katherine Show, the Territory Day fireworks show and the Mataranka rodeo.
5 – You will never be truly clean in the outback. The intense heat means you are constantly sweating and the vast amount of dust mean that even when you have showered it’s not long until you feeling dirty again.
6 – The Bugs! Fuck me I have never seen or even imagined so many bugs in my whole life. Flies, mozzies, moths, grasshoppers, beetles, spiders, the lot. Having to walk outside to go to the bathroom at night was always a thrilling adventure, will you be attacked by a grasshopper? Will there be a spider in the toilet? Who knows?
7 – You will embrace other types of wildlife. We had wallabies begging for food, bright coloured parrots and huge Hawks in the bush, our family of geckos that lived in the kitchen, massive cane toads sneaking up on you in the dark, the herds of Guinea fowl that when they run away from you as you get near them it reminded me so much of the stampede scene in Jurassic Park! We also adopted various neighbour dogs, we had Missy from the neighbours on one side who spent the night during a storm, Alan (who I named Sam before finding out his real name) who would come and join me and Lucy for our work outs, and then there was the heavily pregnant dog that appeared at my door when I was in the house alone, it wouldn’t leave and I was panicking it would give birth there and then. It eventually went home and its owner informed me that it gave birth to 7 puppies the next day.
9 – Fishing is actually cool! During the dryer cooler months, people will spend as much of their free time fishing in the rivers as possible, catching some massive and very tasty barramundi.
10 – There is no better place to get fit than the outback. You have nothing else to do with your evenings and you don’t need fancy gyms and equipment to get fit. All you need is some outside space, a few tyres and a friend to push you.
11 – When it rains it pours! And trying to sleep while there is torrential rain battering the roof of the tin house you are in and the humidity is rising because there is no air con as the rain has made the power go off isn’t something I want to experience again any time soon.
12 – You will meet some real characters that you will never forget. They will share some fantastic stories with you. There was one elderly aboriginal gentleman that I will never forget, he was called Eric or Gang gang, he often worked with my bosses partner Geoff (who was a character in himself! He had two dogs that would follow him everywhere), he would come into the store to get some cigarettes, I would usually greet him with a “hello trouble” and he would just go “smoke” to me or Emma, our response would usually be “smoke please?”. He was a very funny guy, once telling us in a hushed voice how he saw that the police were out in the town taking away the alcohol they were drinking so Eric decided to climb a tree and hide it up there!
13 – The outback isn’t for everyone. But if you take a chance and are willing to embrace it for what it is it will change you in a way you could never have imagined.