Thursday, September 29, 2011

Elsley National Park

Elsley National Park

The national parks camp called Jalmurark, set within the Elsley National Park was all but deserted when we arrived late afternoon. Only one other couple.  We tried to find a spot some way away, to give both them and us some privacy, but when Peter went to check the closest toilet block to us, he was startled to find a four foot snake enjoying the cool cement floor.  We decided that toilet block was not for us!  So moved closer to the only other toilet block.  We could only just see the other couple's camp.  

Having tried so hard to keep our spaces so far apart, we were then dismayed when two lots of backpackers decided to camp right next door to us!  They could have chosen any number of sites further away!  We decided they were probably a little scared. 

The park was enormous and very well laid out, with fireplaces, cut wood, solar hot water and large separated camps sites.  It is located on the Roper River.  The whole area is famous for its hot springs.  These occur where there is a break in the basalt rock layer which lies over the top of an aqueous limestone artisan water system.  Rain falls in the these Barkly Ranges and soaks down into the limestone, flowing underground to this area.  It eventually makes its way to the Gulf of Carpentaria and also east to the coast.

The dusk fell and with it came clouds of mosquitoes.  So although it was hot, we had to don long sleeves and long trousers with legs tucked into socks.  The mozzie repellent being next to useless! Soon very loud hee-hawing began, reverberating right across the park as the feral male donkeys competed for domination over their harems of females!  The males would bray themselves hoarse, stop for a minute or two and then begin again!
Apparently we struck a quiet night!

In the morning we took a walk down to the Roper River.  Here we saw several swimming pontoons moored in the river.  Despite the notices declaring that there were probably no crocs in the river, we decided that the water didn't look too inviting! It was not crystal clear, quite murky in fact and had a scum on the surface. We walked along the river bank back towards the campsite, find heaps of donkey poo everywhere!  

We are very surprised and disappointed that the National Parks seem to do nothing about keeping the feral animals out of these special areas.  Needless to say the impact of hard hooves and huge grazing capacity of the donkeys is destroying the river bank edges and reducing the flora habitats. 

The famous Mataranka Homestead, of "We of The Never Never", lies within the Elsley National Park,  so we drove there to visit the hot springs.  This is a fascinating area, densely grouped palms surround the springs, which gush up out of the ground in some places and ooze out in others.  Obviously very fertile, because of the vast amounts of fresh water.  

Unfortunately there is a huge Red Fruit Bat population residing in the tree canopy above. So the stench is nauseating. In an attempt to keep the bats at manageable levels, the parks people have had high pressure tower sprinklers installed, which turn on ingintermittently. We decided we didn't want to swim here either!

A relocated replica of the Elsley Homestead, built for the filming of "We Of The Never Never", is located nearby. It has the original costumes designed and sewn for the film, hanging up inside, as well as other memorabilia from bygone eras.

The previous evening we had noticed the local people making their way down to Bitter Springs.  So with this in mind we turned back up the highway to investigate.  Again these are hot springs, located within the Elsley National Park. More palms, but not as densely packed as the ones at Mataranka. Not a bat to be seen and no dreadful stench!

It's name, Bitter Springs, belies it's reality. It is spotless with beautiful clean clear water that gushes out of a spring at 900 litres per minute.  The water flows down a narrow creek, within which you can swim.  This was a perfect place to enjoy the waters!

The creek is home to many invertebrates including small very friendly fish and insects.  Birdlife abounds alongside the water's edge and in the tree canopy above.  Water plants are everywhere including some beautiful purple flowering waterlilies.

After a great swim, we were on the road again.

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