I remember the look of the car park, I remember the smell of the forest and I remember walking straight past all the tourists bobbing around in the main thermal springs pool and hiking until we ended up all alone in a quiet swimming hole further up river.
I remember stripping our clothes off and spending hours alternating between swimming in the spring water and laying on the banks watching the turtles and the little fishies swimming below.
It was calm, we were at peace.
I remember being completely mesmerised by the turtles. They would swim around in the water and then paddle up for gulps of air.
It was like our own private oasis.
On Tuesday we returned to Mataranka. This time with three children, grown up sized bathers and high hopes for wondrous experiences swimming in the springs and admiring the wild life.
Friends had told us that our entire trip would make sense when we got to Mataranka. After a few weeks in the red, dusty desert we could hardly wait.
This time we saw the tourists in the first hole and made a quick decision to hike to the second. One and a half hot kilometers later we arrived at the second.
This time the pool was full and the current moving in and out of it was fast. This time we were terrified of crocs and the sludginess of the bank made peering into the water almost impossible. This time there was a couple fishing off the bank despite the fact that the sign said not to. This time we dipped our feet in, splashed water on our faces and headed back to the first.
This time, all grown up with a family of our own, the first touristy pool was/is perfect. Warm and safe and fun. This time we've spent hours in there swimming and chatting and bobbing around with the other couples and families and kids.
This time the family of seven in matching speedos, the couple who have been here 13 times in the last 23 years, the woman with the pearl encrusted head band, the teachers from Ballarat, the couple with the birthday three year old, the girls with M names and all the other people we've met have all added to our experience. We've shared memories, travel stories and tips, birthday celebrations and a good laugh.
Last night, a bit after bed time, Indi and Jazzy and I turned on our torches and went into the bush to find the river. We were absolutely terrified and squeezed each other tightly, threatening to go turn back right until the end. But then we shone our torches on the water just below us and had the best show we've ever seen. Families of turtles of all shapes and sizes swimming around, paddling up for air and performing.
It was incredible. And we were all alone.
We all agreed, turtles are our favourite animal.
We are loving it here. It is hot, there are kangaroos and peacocks roaming around and there is a heated spring fed pool at the edge of the park. Every time we tell a story about last time the girls laugh and ask if we were naked. We've just booked for another two nights.
Mataranka is different this time, but then so are we.