In Luck and Out-of-luck - Katherine to Darwin

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

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What I did
Adelaide River War Cemetery
Leliyn (Edith Falls)
Walk through Time Footpath - Pine Creek
Godinymayin Yijard Rivers Arts and Culture Centre (GYRACC)
Railway Station Museum - Pine Creek

Flag of Australia  , Northern Territory,
Wednesday, March 20, 2013

I intended to get an early start this morning so I could get back to Darwin before dark.  As it turned out, by the time I sorted out what was to be mailed back to US and did the dishes and had my breakfast and packed up and loaded the car, it was after 9:30 am, but that actually turned out to be OK, since I wanted to do a few things in Katherine and things don't always open so early here in Australia.

I went to see the photo landscape exhibit at the Cultural Center that I missed when it was closed on Monday.  A nice young woman let me in at 9:50 am even thought they don't officially open until 10.  She turned on the lights and the TV to play a short video.  Actually it was quite long, but fantastic for a view of life in and around Katherine.  The video was a series of interviews with people living in the area - a mixture of white and Aboriginal people.  There was a successful rancher in cowboy hat and boots - but with an Aussie accent, of course - who said his philosophy on life was that 'there is today' and then, 'there is too late.'  The video showed him working hard - supervising men handling bucking bulls and branding animals.  Another interview was with a man who must have been part Aboriginal who talked about growing up in the bush when Katherine had 2 cafes and 2 pubs and the school had 2 pupils - white kids.  He talked about seeing Katherine grow and change.  Then he spoke of how the cultural center took a long time to become an actuality because of lack of money, but how glad he was that it was finally built.  An aboriginal woman talked about growing up in the bush, eating bush tucker and going on walks through the bush and how now she lives in a house with a toilet and she intimated that she wasn't so happy about this change in her life.  Between each of the interviewees, there would be a long pause with a blank screen and I would walk away and then I would hear voices again and go back and watch.  At first I had a lot of trouble hearing the sound because the screen was right next to the sliding doors that would open and close as people came in and out.  And it was across from the staff room where a few women were yukking it up big time. 

The final interviewee was a middle-aged or older woman who I think came from Ireland to be with her husband at his homestead.  When she arrived at his place, all she found were some rocks forming a fire pit - that was his homestead.  She asked where the toilet was and he said up the river, up the river.  It took a bit for her to realize there was none.  She scrubbed her clothes on a washboard and hung them to dry on the bushes.  She had two funny anecdotes.  The first involved the preachers who would come and give slide slow sermons - one slide would say "God is Love" and another "Trust in the Lord."  One time she took a photo of some man without a stitch of clothes and put the slide in with the preacher's.  Some friend of theirs laughed for three days when the slide came up with the nude man, full frontal.  The other anecdote involved her son's 21st birthday.  She was not known for being a good cook.  She found some cow patty that had the perfect shape of a cake.  She decided to ice it for her son's party.  He walked by and saw the cake out of the corner of his eye and she saw that he looked pleased.  A friend of his saw the cake and managed to take a bite out of it, before exclaiming in disgust.  Funny lady.  She said she wouldn't change her life for anything and that she is very glad to have known several Aboriginal people during her life in Katherine.  This video showcases the mission of the museum - which is to foster understanding and communications between Katherine's inhabitants from different cultures.

The landscape photography exhibit was small but the photos were stunning.  Lots of them had special angles or special lighting that the artists talked about on the cards next to their works.  There was also a small exhibit of various media from local artists and a small gift shop.  All and all, definitely worth waiting for.

From here, I did a quick tour of downtown Katherine.  I had hoped to see more galleries with Aboriginal art work,  I ended up finding only one and there wasn't anything that I liked enough or that was portable enough.  Downtown Katherine may have grown but there didn't seem to be a lot for us tourist types.  I hadn't realized before I came to Australia on this trip just how much of a frontier character Australia still has.  After leaving Darwin and its suburbs, there haven't been any big towns.  Some of the dots on the map for towns are just a few houses with maybe an all-purpose general store.  The major highways are mostly two lanes with passing lanes added every so often.  Then there are the big semis with three trailers called road trains.  I ended up passing at least one today, but I waited for the passing lane.  Heather had warned me that I would see quite a few Aboriginal people on the street in Katherine and that not all Aboriginal people are like this.  I have the impression that for many of them, the old life of meeting their needs by living in the bush is gone, and there isn't anything much to replace it so they hang out in shady places.  And apparently some succumb to alcohol problems.

After my quick tour of downtown Katherine, I re-parked the Yaris near the post office - unfortunately no shade here.  Always look for shade when parking a car - it is a requirement here.  I had checked earlier and thought I would have to send several packages to minimize cost but different people were at the counter and I was now advised to use a big mailer and put it all together.  It was costly but it could have been more.  It probably would have been more if I had put in everything that I had intended.  I forgot a few things:  a package of Tasmanian socks and my sand/pebbles for Jane.  Might have to send a second package or see if I can squeeze it into my bag once I get rid of all the food and heavy Australian coins.  It was a few minutes past noon - I was mostly on schedule.

My next planned stop was Edith Falls - still in the Nitmiluk National Park (home of Katherine Gorge as well).   I passed a road called Edith Falls Road, or maybe Edith Road, and worried that I went past the turn off to the falls, but I kept going anyway.  Then, after a while, I came to the turn off for the Falls.  It was 20 km down the road and off I went.  I saw some interesting huge boulders just sitting along the roadside - definitely photo ops.  I got to the falls, braved the flies and the heat for a mere 100 m walk to the shore across from the falls.  It was a pretty sight in the landscaped park area there.  I could have walked to the top and then bottom of the falls but the distance precluded it since I did need to get back before dark.  I managed to get a few photos of one set of rocks along the road back to the highway, but missed the other somehow.

Then I planned to stop back in Pine Creek for the tile time line that I had read about after my first stop there on my way to Katherine.  I parked near the train museum and a man who was vacuuming the parking lot said, oh, yes, he knew what I was talking about - it was just on the other side of the Lazy Lizard Cafe.  He had an accent similar to that of the young woman who made my frothless cappuccino on my last visit.  I wonder, father and daughter??  I would have guessed they might be Polish for some reason.  I should have asked.  

Anyway, the tiles were charming - done by local people I think.  The absolute best one was mutilated - half of it had been ripped out and there were some other desecrations.  Sad.  Some of the old buildings and train memorabilia were there and worth a look as well.  Then I heard some birds and checked them out - I think it was some sort of parrot - green with other colors - no good pic - and then a white cockatoo came along squawking and I did get a photo of it - too far away though.  I got my gas at the Lazy Lizard and went over to Ah Toy's General Store to see what it was like.  Different.  There was a young woman buying some groceries with what looked like government vouchers.  The store was quite old-timey in appearance:  original fixtures, flooring, dusty windows...

I hadn't planned on stopping again but I was curious about Adelaide River - it seemed as if it might be similar to Pine Creek and Pine Creek turned out to be such a fascinating town that I wished I had had more time to explore it.  So as I was driving through Adelaide River, I saw a sign for the War Cemetery.  The Northern Territories has a major WW II history.  I hadn't realized that it was bombed.  There was at least one major airfield in the area - probably more.  So I checked out the cemetery - with its big cross and crosses on the matching headstones.  It was extremely tidy and well-maintained with lovely flowering trees and shrubs on the edges and plants in between the graves.  As I looked at the headstones, I was struck by the Englishness of the names - not so many immigrants from other countries by that time, I guess.  I also wondered if there were any non-Christian soldiers/sailors buried here.  I then found a side section separated by a hedge that had some unknown sailors, people with no ranks or information besides their names and dates of death.  Here there were Chinese names and other names I thought might be those of Aboriginal peoples - these were the civilian war casualties. 

As I was leaving the cemetery on a gorgeous park drive (Oh, this tropical weather can be very pleasant when you are in the midst of big, shady trees!), I must have caught some movement out of the corner of my eye.  All of a sudden, I was aware of being in the midst of a herd, pack, whatever of wallabies or kangaroos.  I think, wallabies, since they seemed smaller than the black kangaroo-like animal that I saw on the road to Katherine.  The marsupials scattered quickly, but a few stood around at a distance looking in my direction.... Long enough for me to get my zoom lens out of the trunk, but the zoom wasn't long enough to get good photos.  This sighting brings up an observation:  I have seen hardly any roadkill here in the Northern Territory.  I did see something on the road after Adelaide River and I saw a large bird with a black wing lying on the road between Katherine and Pine Creek somewhere.  The lack of roadkill is a wonderful surprise!!   I suppose it could just be that there are more scavengers here whereas the decline of the Tasmanian Devils has led to more roadkill left on the roads in Tasmania. 

One last observation - there are lots of places named after women here:  Adelaide River, Edith Falls, Katherine Gorge, Harriet River, et al.  It seems as if many of the English names either have a second Aboriginal name attached, or are being replaced by Aboriginal names.  As I stumble over the pronunciation of the Aboriginal names, it made me realize that we have a lot of Native American place names, e.g., Schenectady, that I have somehow learned to pronounce.

After Adelaide River, I saw a sign for Litchfield National Park and it dawned on me that I am kind of doing this touristing a bit out-of-order but you can't always get what you want exactly how you might want it, if at all, so be glad for what you can get...  I am so lucky that Heather is going into Darwin tomorrow and has offered to give me a tour.  I have to see, but I do think I want to get to Litchfield even if it means I go over my mileage limit for the car and have to pay a surcharge.

When I arrived at the Best Western in good time - still daylight despite my thinking I might have been lost since it seemed I went a different way to get to the airport - I found that I didn't have a reservation.  Somehow my on-line reservation never got finalized.  I didn't print anything out because I didn't have a printer.  And I couldn't expect a confirmation because it would have been sent to my road runner account  - the email address of which is on my Best Western rewards account.  I have no idea what happened except that my computer internet history shows one of the Best Western pages timed out.  They had vacancies, but the price was higher.  Odd thing is that the special price that I supposedly got doesn't really exist.  I suppose I should check my credit card usage now to be sure I didn't get scammed.

I went next door and got some supplements to my dinner, but unfortunately I got carried away and it ended up being dinner and the supplements ((my existing food stores) are still in the frig here in my room to be eaten in the future.  I checked for an email from Heather and we are on for tomorrow.  Now to the photo uploading.

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