Australia - Katherine Gorge

Trip Start Dec 05, 2005
Trip End Ongoing

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Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Day 1

An early wake up call was necessary for our boat trip through Katherine Gorge; so at 6:30am we crawled out of bed and made our way from Katherine town centre to the Nitmiluk National Park, otherwise known as Katherine Gorge.

Arriving at the visitors centre we had a short walk to the riverside, where we spotted a couple of wild roos searching for some breakfast (PIC), and then a wait while the rest of the passengers gathered. Shortly after 9am we were on the water, surrounded by a boat mostly filled with German tourists. The upside to us being there early was that we got on the boat before most of the Germans had a chance to 'throw their towels on the seats' - the downside was that the entire boat trip would be commentated in both English and then the dulcet tones of a German tour-guide - not the smoothest of accents to be greeted with first thing in the morning!

There are 3 boat trips that you can go on in the Katherine Gorge, a 2 hour quickie, a 4 hour leisurely and an 8 hour marathon. The high water levels caused by the recent wet season meant that only the 2 hour trip was possible; the 4 and 8 hour ones go to further sections of the gorge that were unreachable while we were there. Just a week earlier the riverside hut that we had waited at (18 metres above the water) had been fully submerged!

The gorge has 13 different sections, the 2 hour trip visiting the first and second of these sections. Luckily the second section is considered to be one of the more impressive so we were not disappointed. It took about 40 minutes to cruise up through the first gorge (PICS), passing a crocodile trap (PIC) that was set to catch saltwater crocs in an effort to make the waters safe for swimming - not that you would catch us in their even if they said it was safe! The sides of the gorge became steeper and more impressive as we neared the second section and as the gorge opened up into a vast area with a secluded sand bank we were moved off the first boat and walked through the gorge to the second section and the second boat to take us through it.

The second section was definitely more remarkable with awe-inspiring views down through the towering walls either side of us (PICS). We even spotted a freshwater crocodile hiding in the cracks of one of the rocky outcrops, fortunately it wasn't a large 'salty' as that would have been a bit more scary.

Finishing the boat trip at 11am we returned to the centre of Katherine, passing the railway bridge which features a river height marker (PIC). The top measurement is 18 metres and this was reached only a few days before we were in Katherine the first time. It was mind-blowing to think that not only could the water manage to get so high above its current level, but also that it could disappear so quickly with no apparent damage to the surrounding area.

After a quick lunch and a diesel refill we headed south towards Alice Springs. It was over 1200 km to Alice so we knew we would not get there in one day, we just drove as far as the light would take us and camped at the next available campsite, which we had hoped would be at Tennants Creek. Unfortunately the journey took slightly longer and the sunset happened slightly earlier than we had expected and we therefore had to stop at a little place called Banka Banka instead, 100km from Tennants Creek. The upside to this was that the campsite only cost $6 each.

We set up camp (made the bed) and had an early night in anticipation of an early start.
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