Out on the wastes of the Never Never
That’s where the dead men lie!
There where the heat-waves dance forever –
That’s where the dead men lie! – Where the dead men lie by Barcroft Boake
The Never Never is used to describe a vast remote area of the Australian outback. I spent 3 months living and working in my never never. A very small place called Mataranka in the Northern Territory. It is 6 hours drive south of Darwin and is on the Stuart Highway, which runs right down the middle of Australia, from Darwin via Alice Springs and all the way down to Port Augusta in South Australia, because of this many people only end up stopping in Mataranka for fuel, a bathroom break and to grab some food so they never really experience it in all its outback beauty.
There is one thing Mataranka is famous for, a book called We Of The Never Never by Jeannie Gunn. Which I have never actually gotten round to reading.
It has become part of Australian Folklore and details the journey of Jeannie, who was the first white woman to settle in the Mataranka area accompanying her husband who was the station manager at Elsey cattle station.
The town is really into milking this book for everything, The towns sign says “Mataranka – Capital Of The Never Never”. If you are entering the town from the north on the Stuart Highway you will pass a park on the left filled with statues of all the main characters from the book.
In the 80’s they made a film about the book and they built a replica of the homestead Jeannie lived in and it still stands to this day near the thermal pools.
That’s another thing Mataranka is famous for, it’s two hot springs. There are the Thermal Pools and Bitter Springs.
One weekend my housemate Lucy and I walked the 6km from our house to go for a swim in the bitter springs. It was incredible, the water was so blue and so clear. You start at one end of the springs and using a pool noodle to float you allow the current to carry you to the other end. A little azure oasis in this red dusty place, well it was until about 40 school children showed up.
I didn’t manage to get to the Thermal Springs as they are up by the homestead and as we didnt have a car that would of been about an 11km walk each way, which isn’t particularly doable or sensible in 35 degree heat. I do know that the Thermal Springs are a lot more of a man made structure, a little bit like a heated swimming pool, surrounded by lush greenery.
Other things of interest in this tiny town that I think people should see if they are ever in this part of the world are the worlds largest man made termite mound! There’s a button on it and it’s suppose to tell you all about the town but when ever I went there is wasn’t working.
The stockyard gallery and garden cafe is a quaint little place, complete with another statue of a character from We Of The Never Never. Caricatures of aboriginal people line the wall above the counter and the gallery is filled with books, aboriginal art work and souvenirs, you can enjoy a good BLT for $8 while sitting in a tropical garden, be careful though as the locals birds that fill the trees may come and pester you for some of your lunch, they did when I was there!
And finally I think everyone who comes to Mataranka should pop into the Mataranka Store and Service Station and it’s not just because that’s where I worked!
The owner Judy has owned the business for 40 years and the store contains everything you could ever want! It’s really like an aladdins cave! It always amused me when British tourists would come into the store because they always ask me how exactly I ended up here! It’s like they can’t image how anyone from back home would find a job in such a small place in the middle of the outback. The Aussies are funny as well so many have said to me “you British really do get everywhere!”