Driving Day: Jabiru to Katherine

Trip Start Feb 26, 2013
Trip End Apr 15, 2013

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Where I stayed
Shady Lane Tourist Park Katherine
Read my review - 5/5 stars
What I did
Katherine River
Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Center - Kakadu National Park

Flag of Australia  , Northern Territory,
Monday, March 18, 2013

Oh, no, more neighbors.  I thought I was all by myself in my neat little studio on stilts here at Shady Lane Tourist Park on the Katherine River.  Then someone pulled a car into #1 and now there is someone in #3.  But maybe it won't be as creepy as last night in my see-through tent in Jabiru with no one around me at all compared to the previous night when there were people partying on all sides and a rock band somewhere not far away.  So I am out on my spacious front balcony overlooking a large treed front yard with some ibis that refuse to be photographed.  But I won't be able to stay out here very long because it is getting too dark to type and, if I put on the outside light, too many bugs will congregate.

I had a leisurely start this am but managed to check out by 8:50 am.  I had to pack up all my stuff for the cooler and empty the ice cubes into my faux-tupperware container.  Oh, oh, time to go in.  Mosquitoes!  And I washed my repellent off to go in the pool.  Now I am back inside - I turned off the A/C.  This is one of the few times in my life when I sometimes actually want to have the A/C on....it doesn't feel right though.  So I am turning it off and seeing if I can stand it.

So after I left Jabiru, I headed back toward Cooinda to the Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre ....the one I missed yesterday.  I wasn't sure it was a good idea but it was on the way.  As I re-drove the 50 km to Cooinda, I thought about whether it would have been better to have done the morning Yellow Waters cruise and avoided 100 km of driving - and the car rental surcharge if I go over 100 kms per day.  It is what it is, or was what it was... it worked out better this way, so I am content.  Today's 50 km seemed to take a lot longer.  I reached the center and checked out the museum.  There is a very odd noise outside - a cheeping, trilling, whistling sound - I assume it is a bird.  I wonder if it is the ibises?   The museum was interesting - a bit dark to read all the signage.  There were lots of quotes from the local people on their culture.  I liked the fishing nets, the rock paintings, the baskets woven from the pandanus, the references to respecting and preserving the land.  However, I didn't really like the description of how to eat the flying foxes...

I stopped at the gift shop and found lots of appealing things.  This time I was ready to make some purchases.  I think I took longer deciding what I should buy...considering my space limitations and need to send stuff home before I leave Australia...than I spent in the museum.  The woman running the shop was extremely nice and showed me special things that she liked.  I was persuaded a bit.  By the time I left the shop, it was around 11 am.  So much for my early start for the long drive to Katherine.

Kakadu National Park is very large and it seemed as if most of it looked pretty similar.  I know that there are 6 or 7 different landscapes - the wetlands, savannah, et al.  Most of what I saw on my drive was the same:  spear grass on the side of the road, then scrubby trees - not too tall - some were paperbark, but there might have been a different variety by the time I got to Katherine though.  In between the trees were more grasses, plants and small shrubs.  I figured this was why the countryside is called "bush."  It is not nearly the barren landscape I had envisioned.  I thought it would be rock outcroppings in between parched, almost desert land.  After seeing the museum, I was struck by the thought that the Aboriginal peoples could live in this land quite well.  They could find food, shelter, medicines, most (or all) of what they needed.  And there obviously was enough water.  Lots of it in the wet season - as I can see - but apparently springs that provided water in the dry season as well...and the rivers - although I did see some that looked quite dry, or as if they would be dry in a dry season.  The Aboriginal people tolerated the heat ... and the flies, I guess, too.  Lots of cultures have adapted to living in their environments - I saw something similar in Ethiopia, in the Omo Valley.  Yet, with modern life, we no longer live off our immediate environment - it affects us in some ways but we can be quite removed from it.  We have gained on one front, but lost on another.  Enough philosophizing....

It was another 170 km to Pine Creek.  From the original landscape, there was a slight change about halfway there.  The flatness changed to rolling hills.  The spear grass turned greener and some rounded rocks and boulders began to appear along the side of the road.  I also began to see some termite mounds.  Traffic was light.  Along the Kakadu Highway to Pine Creek, I saw 15 vehicles and 1 kangaroo-like animal.  I wish it were the opposite but I am not so good at spotting wildlife.  I saw what looked like a black metal silhouette of a sitting kangaroo on the right at a bend in the road on a rise.  Then it turned and I saw a big, fat tail as it leaped into the bush.  It was probably a wallaby.  I was very excited by this sighting!! 

I wasn't sure what I would find when I got to Pine Creek.  Not too much.  I hadn't stopped at any tourist attraction along the way.  I passed some high points of Kakadu NP that were closed - or so I thought - for the wet season.  Perhaps I should have given more thought to when to visit the Northern Territories.  When I reached Pine Creek, it was around 1 pm.  It was time for a coffee.  I stopped at a tourist info/resort/restaurant/gas station/convenience store.  I got my gas.  I went to the restaurant part for a coffee and asked for a latte.  The waitress asked if I wanted a cappuccino or a flat white.  I said cappuccino but I think I got a flat white with less froth than usual for a....flat white.  I looked for the restrooms and was thrilled to find sinks carved out of tree trunks and one of them had a turtle head and feet.  I went to get my camera to take a photo for John. 

Once I joined the Stuart Highway going from Pine Creek to Katherine, I saw over 60 vehicles in 90 km.  Some of the vehicles I probably should count as more, since there were several of the road trains - trucks pulling 3 trailers, .or whatever you call them.  I pulled into Katherine around 2:30 pm.  I think it is much bigger than any of the towns I have visited since leaving Darwin.  Once I turned toward the town center, I followed the signs for the tourist information.  It was farther than I thought but it was worth waiting for.  I booked my Katherine Gorge cruise and got a map with recommendations for a couple of places to stay - both on the road to the Gorge.  I opted for the earlier cruise of the two that were available to me ... in the off season.  I will have to leave here by 8 am tomorrow.

Since it was so early, I asked for recommendations on things to do this afternoon and the tourist info person told me about a photo exhibit at the cultural center.  I drove there, parked in an empty lot, took some photos of the building and a sculpture of a kangaroo in front and then went to the ..closed....door.  It isn't open on mondays.  At this point, I decided to go and look for my lodging.  I passed by the first option since it looked too much like a motel and the rooms didn't face the river - although it was across the street and neither place is actually on the river.  I kept driving and saw a sign for a cycad garden.  Maybe I could come back and see it after booking my room.  I kept driving and finally saw the sign for the Shady Lane Tourist Park....  There were lots of trees - a whole row of palms...this looked more promising.  The woman at reception was extremely pleasant and I got my studio on stilts for 2 nights.  It is modern..with a full kitchen - stove too - and roomy and light. 

I made myself a bit of lunch, read a little of Convict Lives - my book on the women sent to the Tasmanian "female factory," or jail, then did some hand washing that I took to the laundry clothesline here.  I may have read more, then I tried to find the path to the river that the owner told me about.  It took awhile but I found a gate, let myself out and followed the road in back of the park, then a track that looked as if it headed in the direction of the river.  I saw a truck turn down there and went down the track, saw the empty truck, then continued on the track - now partially washed away - down to the river.  The owner had warned me about swimming in the river because of the crocodiles.  I wondered - if they are swimming in the water, couldn't they come out and get a person on the shore?   I carefully walked to the river bank, took a few photos, scanned the water for snouts or things looking like logs, listened attentively for sounds...I don't think the crocs make a lot of sound while they are swimming though - only when they are thrashing their victims and dragging them into the water, crunching their bones...  

Having survived my expedition to the Katherine River, I swam a few laps in the pool and then started today's blog.   Quite a relaxing day.
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