The Top End...Nitmiluk National Park
Trip Start Apr 05, 2011
79Trip End Nov 15, 2012
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Leaving Jabiru we drove along the Kakadu Highway absorbing the stunning landscape filling our vision. The tranquil essence of this land not escaping us as the sunlight bled through the dense foliage, the blue sky winning dominance over a few fluffy white clouds.
We were keen to stay at a unique campground close to the junction of the Kakadu and Stuart Highways near Pine Creek, however it was still early so we opted to make up some ground as we had a country race meeting picked out down the track that we didn’t want to miss. We will keep Pussy Cat Flats on our 'to do’ list for next visit; set in the middle of the Pine Creek Racecourse we have heard so many glowing reports it was hard to drive past
We passed through Katherine opting to continue out to Nitmiluk National Park and stay in the camp ground at the gorge itself. We were so pleased that we did, surveying the setting, it looked to be more like a resort than a national park camp ground. In saying that, it still retained the rustic charm of camping in the bush, just with the added luxury of a beautifully landscaped pool. Our site was set amidst tall gum trees filled with birds and wallabies happily grazing between sites.
It didn’t take us long to plunge into the pool, not only was it so visually inviting, with the temperature close to forty we needed to cool off. The water temperature was perfect; we could just walk straight in without the tortuous adjustment to cold water…
We were sitting outside enjoying the tranquility of our native setting when our neighbours saw a snake slither up and under the van on the other side of them. Damn… I was so enjoying this! The snake was coaxed down and moved along, toward us then eventually across a few campsites and away… Needless to say I sat with my feet off the ground whilst outside!
Nitmiluk Gorge is actually made up of thirteen separate gorges divided by rock walls which range from rapids and waterfalls to tall clumps of rocks, ever changing with the seasons as the water depth varies. These gorges stretch along twelve kilometers and the sheer walls can reach up to seventy metres high, making for an awesome sight.
After a couple of months strapped to the roof our kayaks could finally hit the water again
Talk about thrown in the deep end… having traversed crocodile territory and been tortured by all these gorgeous locations where we could not kayak, we were finally on the water again and we had a strong headwind! Out of practice it was hard work, but brilliant all the same. To be able to propel our kayaks through the water, stroke by stroke, gliding along was just magic. The red sandstone walls towering above us made for a dramatic backdrop as Pandanus palms lined the river banks along with mangrove and gum trees. This awesome scene negating the ache we could feel building in our arms.
Having paddled just over three kilometers we were at the end of the first gorge. Here we had to lift our kayaks from the water and carry them up stairs, along a path, over rocks and down to a sandy little beach to continue on in the second gorge. It was hot and thirsty work so we took the opportunity to have a swim to cool off before paddling through the second gorge
The second gorge is the more photographed and therefore recognized of the gorges, and we can see the attraction. Here the gorge narrowed and the walls closed in around us, green ferns hanging from the rocks contrasting so beautifully against the sheer red rock faces. Experiencing this from the kayaks was just magical, we were dwarfed by these massive escarpments and our eyes were continually scanning the differing textures of the rock faces in awe of the millions of years it has taken to carve out this haven.
The second gorge was about two and a half kilometers and included a couple of bends so we were relieved not to be paddling into the wind all the time. At the end we were greeted with a set of rapids and no path around, just a bank of slippery, uneven rocks. A cooling swim bought us enough time to watch a couple of people negotiate their way through with their kayaks and decide on the best course to take.
Rod did a great job of staying on his feet whilst he gingerly dragged the kayaks one by one up through the rapids over slippery rocks and into the third gorge. We paddled for a further kilometer before coming to a wall of rocks marking the end of gorge three
We so enjoyed this natural pristine setting, the only audible sound was the cascading water, we had fish at our feet intrigued by our presence, happy to stay with us as we swam and once again cooled off. Unfortunately this was the end of the gorges for us, as to continue we would have had to carry the kayaks over rocks for forty minutes to reach gorge four.
We took our time admiring the scenery on the way back, scouring the gorge walls for wildlife to no avail. With the wind behind us for the most part of our return journey we were able to absorb the tranquil essence of this magical natural wonder as we drifted, swept along by the breeze. We relished the chance to stop for a refreshing swim at every opportunity.
We had both thoroughly enjoyed the day and after checking back in with the ranger (we had to file flight plans prior to departure and leave a deposit!) we went straight back to our camp and over to the pool.
Whilst we had been planning to stay in Katherine for a couple of nights, we so loved where we were that we couldn’t bear to move a day earlier than we had to
After dinner each night when the pool area was shrouded in darkness, we would venture over for one last swim. We would float on our backs gazing up into the dark night sky which was awash with shining stars. We were mesmerized by their clarity and brilliance; this was the ultimate in relaxation and such a wonderful way to finish the day.
Another awesome experience, another great stay… we felt so refreshed after our stay at Nitmiluk and having the opportunity to kayak through the gorges was so incredibly special and something that will stay with us as yet another highlight of our journey.
Highlights of Nitmiluk National Park:
- Kayaking the gorges
- Having wallabies at our door
- Our campsite setting – pool
- Floating at night gazing up at the starlit sky