We arrived safe and sound in Mataranka, after an 11.5 hour drive from Nhulunbuy. Everyone was extremely tired (weary & teary), but we managed to keep it all together and get the tent up ready for bed. Fortunately, Karen was forward thinking enough to prepare dinner in the Dreampot before we left, so dinner was relatively easy. Then off to bed for everyone, and an extended sleep-in the next day.
After breakfast, we walked about 600m down the road to visit Bitter Springs. Originally this whole area was named “Bitter Springs” as it was discovered by a surveyor working on getting the telegraph line though. The name came from the taste of the water, which is basically running from a natural artesian bore. The mineral rich water is 32 deg celcius and crystal clear. When a pastoral company moved into the area and wanted to sell the land as an agricultural area, he renamed it Mataranka. What an amazing place for a swim! The biggest warm bath I’ve ever had! We all went for a float (3 of the kids on noodles…the rest of us swimming). You could hop in at one place and float with the current around to 2 more swimming places, then hop out and walk back to the beginning and do it all again. A lot of people miss this place when they pass through town opting to go to the better known Mataranka Thermal Pools instead. But Bitter Springs is definitely worth a visit!
Back in the car, we decided to head for Roper Bar, and then onto Butterfly Springs, nearer the Gulf of Carpentaria. We found a small rock formation with a picnic table and stopped for lunch. During grace, Daniel prayed that we would go where God wants us to go today. About 20km further down the road, the car stuck in 5th gear and refused to come out.
Precariously stopped on the side of the road, about 90kms out of town, facing uphill, unable to go forwards, nowhere to go backwards (we were on a hill where the road went through a cutting), no phone reception, we were not in a great position. It was hot and there was loose shale on the edges of the deep culverts which prohibited moving the car and the trailer too far back…Daniel managed to roll the car backwards and park it right on the edge using the clutch, he is so good at reversing a trailer, thank goodness! Wayne (a local) was the first to stop and he had the idea that the gearbox might have some water in it from all the river crossings we have done, but Daniel was unable to get the required bung out of the gearbox to check. Wayne was on his way to Mataranka to vote, and had to keep going.
The next people to stop were a group from the Military Vehicle Enthusiasts Club on their way to Alice Springs for a reunion and show. They had some mechanical knowledge and we managed to remove the boot around the gear lever to inspect the linkages. But the linkages are all inside the gearbox. So now we had two gears, low range fifth and high range fifth. We tried moving the vehicle in low range, but it couldn’t pull the trailer up the hill. Mark had only put a swag into his V8 Landcruiser and offered to hitch up the trailer and tow it back to Mataranka for us. Without the trailer, the car was able to move, we just had to shift from low range to high range on the move. Without the boot covering the gear levers, the heat that came into the cabin from the engine, gearbox and road was unbelievable. It made driving very uncomfortable. Our difficulties didn’t finish there…when we swapped over the hitches and backed the other vehicle back, the shaft that drives the winding mechanism in the Jockey Wheel broke. Grrrrrreat! The fellas managed to drop the trailer right onto the hitch…a slightly stressful experience… and we were on the road again!
So we find ourselves camped in the Mataranka Homestead (that’s where the military guys were headed with our trailer…so we dutifully followed). We are working on “how to” fix the gearbox and get back on the road. For some reason, presently unknown to us, God wants us here. We must have left Mataranka (and the NT possibly as we’re headed across The Gulf in to North Queensland) before we should have.
It has been a tricky day….so many things have not really gone the way we intended. Yet we have much to be grateful for. God definitely took care of the details, sent HELP and spared us from something much worse….I mean it could have happened on any one of the water crossings on The Central Arnhem Road yesterday, or even one of the many on the road across the Gulf in the middle of nowhere with absolutely no help nearby for days!!! God sent Angels (aka military vehicle enthusiasts) to assist us, we were on the side of the road for about 1 1/2 hours! Amazing to think that in such a remote area we were only stranded for a short time really. Karen woke up this morning with Romans 8:28 running through her head over and over….“In all things God works for the good of those who love Him and are called according to His purpose.”
So here we are….in Mataranka, camped 400m from a beautiful swimming spot….awaiting further instructions…