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Roper Bar to Katherine

After leaving Roper Bar, we headed west on the Roper Highway to Katherine, keen for Rod to visit the hospital to get medical attention for his infected leg, which, by this time, was giving him a fair amount of grief.

Consulting the map, we noted that only 63 km of dirt remained until we hit the blacktop once again...but this time it was a bit of a relief having just put in three days and a thousand or so kilometres of rough dirt roads and several river crossings.

However, it took us by surprise when we found this small stretch of unsealed road to be rougher and with almost more corrugations packed into its length than the previous 500 or so kilometres.

Roper Highway


Part of Roper Highway...with corrugations by the centimetre


The Roper Highway meets the Northern Territory's main north-south highway at Mataranka and so we stopped briefly to inspect Mataranka Thermal Springs, located in Elsey National Park, before heading north the remaining 112km to Katherine; Rod limping along the path like an old man with gout.

The walk to the Springs, less than half a kilometre winds through a lush Cabbage Palm forest; often home to flying foxes in plague proportions. Fortunately, when we visited they were all out to lunch and we didn't need an umbrella to deflect the aerial bombardment of natural fertiliser.

The Spring is associated with an extensive formation of limestone that extends from Mataranka, north to Katherine and east to the Queensland border and results from wet season rainfall seeping into and being absorbed by the porous limestone, which is heated by the earth to a warm 34 degrees centigrade.

The resulting water released by the Springs is crystal clear and almost turquoise blue.

During WWII, soldiers stationed at Mataranka dammed the Spring ( Rainbow Spring), turning it into a small swimming pool.

Today, Mataranka Hot Springs attracts a steady volume of tourists and whilst we were visiting, several coaches and and assortment of caravans and motor homes choked the carpark.

Elsey River, Mataranka


Elsey River, Mataranka, with Pandanus palms bordering its edges.

Mataranka Hot Springs


Rod surrounded by Cabbage Palms, standing on boardwalk at Mataranka Hot Springs


We arrived in Katherine early on a Thursday afternoon, and after unhitching the van at the Riverview Caravan Park, promptly trotted off to the Katherine Hospital so a doctor could look over Rod's leg.

After sitting around Casualty for three and a half hours, Rod's leg was duly inspected and he was given the news that the orgininal source of infection, some sort of bite from a tropical nasty, had caused a rather severe abcess to form and it needed to be lanced.

After having 12mm incision made in his leg, having it squeezed by a sadistic doctor and a metre or so of gauze stuffed into the gaping wound to assist drainage and healing, Rod was given a course of potent oral antibiotics and we were told to stick around Katherine for at least a couple of days and to report to the hospital daily to have the dressing changed and the progress of the infection monitored.

Not what we wanted to hear.

But he worst news was that if there was no appreciable difference over a couple of days a stay in hospital would be required to facilitate the administration of a more powerful dose of antibiotics by intraveinous injection.

After returning to the hospital on Friday and Saturday for the removal and replacement of the gauze by gleeful sadists in nurses uniforms, Rod was told there was no appreciable healing and it would be necessary to be admitted for at least three days. there is a God afterall !!

...I got to spend the next three days on my own...wandering around the town, visiting the shops, the internet cafe and just sponging around...something I'm quite fond of...and particularly good at!

...Rod, on the otherhand, was installed in airconditioned comfort, waited on by a succession of nurses, recieved three cooked meals a day and got to put his feet up too.







Although Katherine has several notable attractions, Rod's hospital stay put a damper on sightseeing.

Katherine Hot Springs was located only 250 metres of the Riverview Caravan Park, but I felt a little awkward about wandering down there on my own. When Rod was discharged from Hospital, however, we both wandered down and captured a few shots with the camera. Cruelly, swimming was out of the question for Rod for a couple of weeks.

After six days in Katherine, and despite Katherine Gorge being well worth a visit too, we chose to head off to Kakadu National Park for a change of scenery.

Katherine Hot Springs

Katherine Hot Springs, located just above the Katherine River at the foot of the Riverview Caravan Park.