After our first night of sleeping in the Might Maui, we woke up to the chilled air of Mataranka. It seemed kind of silly putting on swim trunks (togs – the Aussie slang) and a bikini to go for an early-morning swim. Luckily, we had thrown our swimsuits in the bag just in case we found some water in the desert. Lou, Ryan and I walked quickly, wrapped up in our towels to enjoy the warmth of the natural springs.
The scenery here was absolutely gorgeous. Trails guided us through the rainforest to this little fresh-water sauna. These hot springs were peppered throughout this small region; unfortunately, we only had time for this one morning swim. It was such a great, refreshing start to the day. Especially after sleeping in an airport the night before and waking up with bruised hips and a 45-minute walk lugging our bags and hopping we were going the right way.
We got in the spring joining Matt who had already soaked up enough water to wrinkle up like a dried grape. The water was so crystal clear that you could see everything beneath your feet. The moss and other fauna growing underneath the water blended together to make such exquisite turquoise, blues, greens, and teals pop like a watercolor painting.
To the right of where we are floating, the spring flowed down to another small pool narrowing between like a corridor through bush. However, there was one small (or huge) obstacle for us, me especially, to overcome: spiders. We had read about them previously in the Darwin airport, and I had wished, hoped, prayed that they wouldn’t be there. That maybe we were going to one that didn’t have them, or maybe the season wasn’t right for them. My wishes, hopes, and prayers were unanswered. The spiders were there with their webs strewn across the bush corridor so low to the water that you couldn’t miss them.
Luckily, Lou and Ryan believed, understood, and took my fear of spiders seriously. Lou warned me about these guys and had assured me that I could swim down the narrow stream to the other end with my head above water while not touching the spider or the web. So, I gave it a go. Lou swam first and would call back to me warning me when she was going under one. She would tell me how low it was and where it was in relation to the middle of the narrow waterway. She would say something like “okay, Nic. I’m swimming under one now. It’s pretty high and to the right, so stay to your left,” or “Nic, stay far to your right, there are two above me. One is on the left side and one is right in the middle.” Her soft English accent made it sound easier somehow. Ryan stayed behind me. I guess I wanted him back there in case one started to lower itself.
When we first started floating with the current through the forest as soon as I heard Lou’s voice, I would tense up, look straight ahead, put my nose under the water and swim quickly. By the end, I did look at a few, and I had become a little bit more comfortable. My body was still tensing up though. But hey, I did it! I have to say without Lou (and Ryan), I doubt I would’ve swum that bit.
After our adventurous morning swimming underneath spiders, we cooked our breakfast and got on the road. We only had about a 5 1/2-hour drive until we reached The Devils Marbles where we made it in time for the sunset. This was one of my favorite places we stopped. The camping site was just a clear, gravel area amongst the boulders that make up The Devils Marbles. Very cheap, no electricity, and right in the middle of what we had come to see. Because of this, the night sky was absolutely stunning.
We were able to look up into hundreds of thousands of bright stars lighting up the desert. Comically, a camper near ours of an elderly couple was the entertainment. The man had travelled with his keyboard, so he was playing what sounded like 50s doo-wop music. We enjoyed it and loved the spirit of the couple. But, like with everything, not everyone felt the same energy from it. The couple right beside the one-man band despised the sound. As we were walking to the toilet, the man made comments about feeling as if he was in an “alternate universe.” We weren’t sure if he meant it in a good way or not until on our way back from the toilet he mimed shooting himself in the head. A bit extreme, I’d say, but a little old-fashioned music being played on the keyboard by an aged man in the middle of the desert isn’t for everyone.
While I have your attention on the toilet, I feel it’s a good time to talk about the condition of this facility. I lived in China for a long time and traveled through Southeast Asia, so I’ve seen grotesque toilets. After living here in Australia for about 6 months now, I didn’t think I would find anything that even compared to Asian toilets…then I travelled to the Red Center. This outhouse reminds me of some horror movie. I made sure to use it right before going to bed because who knows what you’d find creeping around here at night. Okay, so I may be exaggerating a bit - this really isn’t the worst considering there isn’t anything, I mean anything, around here for god knows how many miles, but I guess gross toilets just bring me back to a place in China. It didn’t bring back only the horrid memories of gagging while trying to use the hole in the ground, it brought back the wonderful times I had there with great friends and family.
Matt had warned us about walking to the toilets at night, in the desert, alone, with no lit facilities...there would be snakes, scorpions, spiders, and whatever else you could think of that could severely hurt you. So, we used late at night in pairs, and early in the morning in pairs. Problem solved. However, for the record, we didn't see one snake or scorpion. I guess the chilled, winter nights kept them away.
Sleeping tight in the desert.