Travelling along at 60 – 90 km per hour in a vehicle with air-conditioning, I cannot help but admire the early explorers and pioneers who opened up this route.  Leichhardt, Burke and Wills, King … and others. We are merely travelling the next several hundreds of km’s in pursuit of an icy-pole at the Roper Bar store!

The Roper River is one of Australia’ truly great rivers. it here that Leichardt’s expedition of 1845 crossed the Roper River (named for John Roper, a member of the party).

There were no icy-poles to mark the occasion.

Nowadays pilgrims heads to Roper Bar for the barra fishing, or the one stop-shop Roper bar Store to be served a pizza, get fitted for a pair of pants or buy fly spray. Three purchases being rung on the till by the Norwegian backpacker serving behind the counter.

We asked a stunned looking Scottish backpacker how far to the river. “Err, I haven’t been there yet, I’ve only been here two weeks,” she responds.

The employment incentive to backpackers (to take up seasonal employment in far-flung outback places in exchange for extended visas) is working a treat for the owners of the Roper Bar store. According to the bloke we chat to waiting for his pizza, the toppings never tasted so good.

I suspect though that that stunned Scottish lass, instead of counting out the portion of tinned pineapple on the Hawaiin order, is instead counting her days till she is out of here again.

Unlike her, we’re out of there.

Bathing beauties at Bitter Springs

We’re in need of a shower – or at least a thermal spring to bathe in – as the highway towns of  Mataranka and Bitter Springs with their thermal pools are about to deliver.

It’s also the town featured in Jeannie Gunn’s classic Australian novel “We of the Never Never” (1908) which documents a pioneer womans life. If you skipped the novel, but watched the movie you may also recall Angela Punch McGregor wearing a collection of lace and cotton Victorian outfits that would make any period costume designer swoon. I can’t believe I’m looking at a couple of them hanging in a dusty presentation box in the replica of the Elsey Homestead.

The locks broken, the dresses are gathering cobwebs – but they’re still here.

I love that every movie memorabilia doesn’t have to be shipped off to big city museums.

The Skipper and the Squids are getting antsy – I’m only allowed a brief literary homage before it’s time to get wet. We’re bypassing busy Mataranka Springs for the more kid-friendly Bitter Springs.

The tropical spring-fed pool is just 3km out of Mataranka, and we’re happy that it seems to be bypassed by the coach groups who are lining up out at the Mataranka Springs.

Set amongst palms and tropical woodland, we hire some noodles from our caravan park hosts and float down the springs with some new-found friends.

It’s a rather odd feeling to be floating down a crystal clear stream, dodging spider webs draped across the creek and chatting amiably to other floating travellers about our itinerary, before we all walk back to the beginning and do it all again.

All very hard to get out of the water and leave.

Back at the campsite however we are just as entertained by an orphaned pretty-face wallaby who invites himself into the camper trailer, and props in the Squids sleeping bags. Bitter Springs and springy critters … now that’s something to write home about.

Check back in later, I’m way out yonder and there’s not enough juice to upload photos! Or pop over to our Instagram page and see what we’re up to.

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