Monday, 22 June 2015

Katherine and Nitmiluk National Park, Australia - The Ghan Adventure continued

A few hours out of Darwin we came to The Ghan's first stop, the small town of Katherine. With a population of about 10,000 Katherine is centred around mining, tourism and servicing the large Tindal  Air force base. Before heading to the Nitmiluk Gorge, about a half an hour out of town, our coach driver took us for a short drive through the town centre.  He was very proud of the fact that Katherine had a McDonalds, a Coffee Club and a Subway as if keen to prove that this was a buzzing, go ahead, place, nevertheless, it still seemed to be quiet and sleepy,
                                                                                 although a pleasant enough town.  

Arriving at Nitmiluk we alighted the coach under trees thick with squawking bats.  Urggh!  I am not a fan. Fortunately the bats only perch in a couple of trees so it was a great incentive for us to move away pretty quickly and down to the jetty to board boats for a cruise. 

The Nitmiluk (meaning 'place of the cicada dreaming') National Park is home to the indigenous Jaowyn people who are custodians of the park.  The  flowing Katherine River has carved a network of 13 gorges out of the sandstone rock over a period of 23 million years. Our cruise through these high, golden rock cliffs, was awesome in the true sense of the word. The clean, clear water is home to fresh water crocodiles, which we spotted basking on rocks as sea eagles soared high above us over the cliffs.  Here and there we noticed small sandy beaches specially conserved as crocodile breeding grounds. Fresh water crocodiles live on fish and do not attack people unless they walk on their breeding grounds. From time to time salt water crocodiles, or salties as they are locally known, that do attack people, are found in the river and are captured and taken back to sea. 
Ancient Aboriginal rock art
In the beautiful Katherine Gorge

At the end of the first gorge we left our boat and walked a short distance  to board another boat to cruise the second gorge, stopping on the way to look at aboriginal rock art, dating back 40,000 years. If we had thought the scenery in the first gorge was wonderful we were absolutely blown away by the spectacular scenery in the second gorge.  Ancient, timeless, and stunningly  beautiful. A famous Australian film, Jedda, was filmed there in the 1950s.  It is places like the Nitmiluk Gorge that make you feel insignificant in the world.

The second gorge which is spectacular with cliffs much higher than a photograph can convey
We retraced both cruises to board the bus back and head back to the train.  I had read about Katherine Gorge about 30 years ago in a travel book and since then had  wanted to visit.  So...another thing ticked off my "to do" list and, even better, it had surpassed my expectations.

This you tube clip:   is of the cruises we took, although we did them in the reverse order to this film.  The film does not quite convey the majesty and awesomeness of these gorges but it does give an indication.  If you watch carefully you will see the small sandy beaches kept exclusively for the fresh water crocodiles breeding grounds.

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