We had an early start this morning, as we were going on a boat tour of Nitmiluk Gorge (Katherine Gorge) leaving at 7 o’clock and we had a 20 minute drive to get there. It was certainly worth it. The pre dawn glow of the sun was a bit eerie.
When we were at the gorge yesterday morning there was a lot of smoke in the are from hazard reduction burning and you could see the wind fairly howling up the river. This morning was quite different, being clear and calm. The reflections on the water were beautiful.
We headed off in our boat to the first gorge. There are actually 13 separate gorges along the length of the river. They are all connected during the wet season, but in the dry there are rock barriers between them. The moon was still showing, which was nice to see.
We noticed a metal contraption in the water. It is a crocodile trap for salties, Very few have ever been trapped in them. A survey is done at the start of the dry season to remove any salties. Freshwater crocs live here, but you don’t see them, as they are timid.
There are a few sandy beaches where they have laid their eggs.
The vegetation along the banks are interesting. The river pandanas (like around the crocodile trap) was used in multiple ways by the local aboriginals, known as the Jawoyn (rhymes with Darwin) people. The fruit are eaten and the leaves used for weaving baskets. The stems have a porous centre, so were lit and the smouldering stems used as a fire stick to take fire with them when they moved to a different area to camp, rather than having to start a fire from scratch, using two sticks.
The bark of then silver leafed paperbark is used when cooking fish, much like we would use alfoil. The leaves are used in bush medicine and the bark is actually waterproof. Therefore, water bags were made from it.
Once we reached the end of the first gorge we had to walk to the second before boarding a second boat. During our walk, we saw a few rock art sites.
They are about 10,000 years old. They are made from ochre, fat and blood. The pigment penetrates the porous sandstone, which has enabled the art to last so long. The paintings are used to pass on knowledge.
Once on the second gorge we saw the Jedda Rock, which featured in the movie Jedda in the early 1950s. This was rather a ground breaking movie, being the first shot in colour in Australia and the first featuring aboriginal stars. Sadly, I’ve never seen it. Sometimes they have it available on the ABC iview, but not at the moment. I checked. There were actually two people standing up on top as we went past.
Further along, this corner of the gorge is the deepest in the system, being 27 metres deep. The aboriginal explanation for the gorge is that the serpent Bolung came through the area, which was flat at the time and he carved the gorge. The horizontal markings on the rocks being gouges from his horns. After creating the gorge, he needed somewhere to rest and chose this corner. The Jawoyn people will not touch the water in the second gorge, nor fish in it, as it is sacred and they don’t want to disturb Bolung. If he was to be disturbed he would bring disaster.
In a few spots there were remnants of ferns from when this area would have been rain forest.
The boat was nosed into a cave where bottle nest swallows live. They migrate from southern Australia.
It is so beautiful early in the morning.
See these two caves. In a “normal” wet season the water will go half way up the bottom cave. In 1998 there was a huge flood where a metre of rain was received in a couple of days. The water went above the top cave. The town of Katherine had 2 metres of water through some of it and over 200 houses were condemned. The military came to assist with the clean up and a crocodile was found in Woolies!
As we were returning the canoe tours were just starting. It would be a lovely way to experience the gorge.
Finally, look at the top of this cliff. That is the lookout we were at yesterday, looking down on the boat.
Once we had disembarked we hightailed it back to the caravan park to hook up and be on our way.
We were now on our way west to new places. The road was decidedly quieter.
We stopped for lunch at a roadside rest area and discovered we are on part of the Savannah Way. Further east it turns to dirt, despite being part of Highway number 1.
We were joined briefly by a road train fuel tanker.
After having driven through a lot of relatively uninteresting countryside (I’ll never say boring) we started to notice a few hills…..and a few more.
Before long we found ourselves in the Judbarra/Gregory National Park.
We crossed the Victoria River, which was larger than we expected.
For the next little while there were stunning rock formations beside the road.
Eventually, they petered out and were replaced with hills featuring a layer of really hard rock running horizontally-ish.
By early afternoon we had arrived our destination for the day - Timber Creek Hotel. It was first in, best dressed for powered sites, but there were heaps available. We have a nice spot under a huge shady tree.
And a nice outlook behind us.
There is a big boab in the park too.
Behind the park there is a creek with a nice bridge across it. Apparently, a couple of times a week they feed the fresh water crocs from here, but not on the day we were here.
We went for a walk along the Heritage Trail, but it ended up just being a bush bash. On our way back we saw a lady in a motor home call us over. She was pointing to a feral cane toad on the side of the road and was wondering what to do about it. I was going to take a photo, as I do, but before I had time, Mick had got a decent sized rock and thrown it at it. Score - Mick 1 - Cane Toad 0. The lady and I were both impressed with his accuracy.
So this is our last night in the Northern Territory. We have definitely had a wonderful time visiting so many interesting places and just relaxing in between. Next we have to turn our clocks back another hour and a half and venture over the border into Western Australia to start the next leg of your journey.
The highlight of the day for me was the gorge and for Mick it was suddenly starting to see the stunning landscape around the Victoria River.