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Published: June 25th 2017
Geo: -13.8245, 131.835
Yeah, we did it. The alarm went off at exactly the right time this morning. Joined the mob in Galloping Jacks for breakfast...our first formal one of the trip (we have been sticking to an apple and juice.)
Not sure if we are water nymphs or water rats but it was back to the 'cruise' again this morning. This time in the impressive Nitmiluk National Park and Katherine Gorge.
Katherine is the fourth largest town in the Northern Territory and is often referred to as the "cross roads of the north" and it is a short 29 kms from the gorge. The Katherine Region has an area the equivalent of Victoria and welcomes some 300000 tourist a year.
This group of tourists's first stop was to the Nitmiluk Visitor Centre and this is one with a view. The back balcony looks out over the gorge and feels like it is perched on the edge of the cliff. We were to learn later, that during flood, this balcony becomes the mooring station for the boats. Now that's a lot of water!
Each of the visitor centres have been so different. All interesting and carefully and thoughtfully presented. This centre focuses on the the
geological history of the area and traces the formation of this distinctive landscape over 2000 million years.
Home to the Jawoyn People, Nitmiluk is a series of 13 gorges and pools which are linked in the wet season, but gradually become isolated pools as the water level drops through the dry season. We traversed waterways today that ranged in depth from 1 metre to the deepest point in the second gorge at 80 metres. At this deep bend, the water flow in the wet season becomes a whirlpool of scouring rocks and can rise another 20 metres. Estimates of the volume of water flowing through this bend in the gorge in flood are astronomical. Dan, the guide, indicated that the equivalent volume of the Sydney Harbour flows through this bend every 90 hours in the wet season. And yep, again, same thought.....that's a lot of water.
The two hour cruise was broken into two legs and a swap of boats. There was a 400 metre walk along a pathway to get from one gorge level to the next. And this walk featured rock art sprawled up the sandstone cliff faces.
Although it was another "float in a boat" the landscape was totally different
from anything we have seen so far. The sheer cliff faces were split and "calved", and were orange, yellow, brown, white, purple and steel grey. There were trees and shrubs holding on precariously to the side of the cliffs. The stories here were not about the flora and fauna, they were about the water, its volume and its strength.
And of course, always relentlessly hot. Noticed today lots of ladies with handkerchiefs dabbing their faces in an attempt to stem the flow of sweat. Nothing works, the sweat is a constant - so we figure it is easier just to embrace it. But when the boat turned around and we were head-on into the wind in the front seat, the natural air conditioning of the breeze brought audible gulps of relief from the passengers.
The afternoon session was broken up with a few mini stops. Back to Katherine and the Visitor Centre to pick up some reading materials and then on to Pine Creek for lunch at Mayse's. The trip back along the Stuart Highway hugs close to the Ghan line and we see it often but to date have not seen any train on the line.
Lunch at Mayse's was a
casual affair and our sandwich and burger was washed down by the famous mango smoothie...and yep, it was delicious. And we have seen plenty of mango orchards in this neck of the woods with the trees tamed in neat rows and pruned off in careful cubed box shapes to make it easy for harvesting the fruit.
Back in the coach to head for the last stop of the day at The Adelaide River War Cemetery where we were greeted on the long driveway in by mobs of very skittish wallabies. But our European visitors really enjoyed the show the 'hoppies' put on as they bounded effortlessly back into the nearby bush.
A total of 434 war graves marked by bronze plaques are contained in the Adelaide War Cemetery. The burials are made up of service men and women lost in the north of Australia during the 63 bombing raids of Australia as well the civilians who lost their lives inside the Post Office during the first raid on 19 February 1942.
The youngest buried in the Cemetery was Robert H. Stobo who was killed in Darwin Harbour during the first raid. He was a deck cadet with the Merchant Navy and was 16
years of age.
The return trip to Darwin retraced some of our earlier travels. Ray had to put the windscreen wipers on this afternoon as we criss crossed several showers along the way.
And right on schedule at 5.30. pm we were back at the DoubleTree in Darwin and unexpectedly in a new room. But all our gear found its way to the right spot and we were happily spreading out for two consecutive nights in the same place!
We were dare devils for dinner and left our Hilton to cross the driveway to the other Hilton and enjoyed more barra and a chicken satay nasi goreng washed down with the usual rum and cider. Dinner was followed by a determined foray to the in-house laundry to end the day with some mundane essential housekeeping.
It's only Monday of week one. There is so much more ahead, although, we are in a little replay loop as the plan tomorrow is to set out once again on the Stuart Highway and head south to Litchfield National Park.
@AuntyGail: glad you are enjoying the trip. Hope the read is accompanied by either a cuppa or a glass of wine. As always, we are having fun. Admitting
there is an undercurrent of pride because this is "our country." Feeling lucky....and privileged. xoxo
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