KATHERINE-A TOWN, A RIVER, A GORGE
Trip Start Oct 05, 2009
325Trip End Oct 31, 2013
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JOURNEY: MATARANKA, BITTER SPRINGS, KATHERINE
WEATHER: 25 degrees at 10.30am, cloudy
OVERNIGHT: Katherine Low Level Caravan Park $29pn, np.
As we were driving to Katherine, we were tuned into local ABC and heard an interview with a local tourist operator telling that all caravan parks were full and that grey nomads had taken to checking into motels and parking their vans in the car park. This made us a little nervous because we needed to be in SBS TV range for the soccer match tomorrow morning at 4am and had chosen to stay in town for that reason.
Kath had been doing some research and picked a holiday park because it was described as being a sprawling site and it was right next to Low Level Nature Park on the Katherine River and also on a bike path, so off we went to Low Level CP and sure enough the FULLY BOOKED sign was displayed at the entrance but in tiny letters we were informed that they had unpowered sites and that was our requirement. We asked the receptionist if we could tune into SBS here and she was vague so we asked could we drive in and check it out and with grudging reluctance she did agree!
When we were confident of our TV reception we established ourselves, prepared coffee and food and filled 2 washing machines with laundry; we were happy with our site in the unpowered grounds because we were uncrowded and had as much space as we wanted to spread out.
Our nearest neighbour a couple from Redbank Plains in QLD were ensconced in a huge motorhome with everything you have at home including washing machine, dryer and a SMART car that they parked in the rear of the motorhome which was a pretty well equipped shed/garage. It was a huge thing and they were happy.
Katherine has a population of 10,000, the third largest town in the Northern Territory and seems to have everything that you might need; we visited the excellent information centre to pick up details of Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) National Park 50 kms from Katherine. Once again there were a lot of aboriginal people just hanging around, noisy but keeping to themselves. The information centre had an external sitting area that you could only reach from inside the centre on the first floor and you sat there above the aboriginal crowd below and it did not feel right!
It is quite special to come across a permanent river after the arid conditions further south and the Katherine River sometimes floods the town in the wet season and did so in 1998, reaching 2 metres up the town's buildings. Every wet season the river swells with the huge rainfal,l but at the moment the areas seem quite dry and Katherine is on high fire alert.
Oddly for us there is no thought of saving water in camps or buildings up here in the north; we have been in areas where water is so scarce and precious that every precaution is taken to minimize water usage. This part of Australia has only 2 seasons- the Wet and the Dry. And the Wet is very wet! Pity you can’t move the water down south.
KATH'S ENCOUNTER WITH A BOXER & A HEELER:
Sadly Kath came off worse after an encounter with a local red heeler and boxer on her morning walk on Thursday. She thought she could get by the barking boxer who was facing her and seemed to be backing off, when from behind a very sleek and speedy red heeler "heeled" her. The dog bit into the well padded heel of the Asics pulling up Kath’s leg and causing her to crash to the ground. The ground was very rough bitumen and she lay there wounded for a few minutes, yelling “bugger” and then calling for help. The two dogs by this time having accomplished their mission returned to the house and Kath noticed a heap of recently discarded beer cans all over the front yard and decided better to get out and go back to the holiday park with one knee pouring blood, the other badly grazed and both hands bloody and impregnated with tiny sones. After a thorough scrub with disinfectant and a recovery time to settle the nerves anxiety levels returned to calm and it was time to pack and go.
It could have been much worse and requiring a visit to the doctor if the bite had gone through to the skin or if the dogs had decided to attack further. The wound on the worst knee took over a week to dry up, perhaps made worse by the very helpful nurse Fiona who advised a day later to wrap the wound to keep the flies off and she kindly invited us to her camp site to treat the wound with medicated gauze from her First Aid Box and with instructions to keep the knee wrapped for 48 hours; well this seemed to make the recently formed scabs mushy and weepy when we unwrapped the knee 48 hours later. The chemist at Katherine had prescribed Betadine ointment which also seemed to keep the wound moist and thriving. We discovered some antibacterial powder in our First Aid Box later and this seemed to be the answer because it had a drying effect; the humidity and heat was not an ally.
We arrived in Nitmiluk National park campground early afternoon but thought it too hot to adventure onto the walking tracks so we visited the very busy information centre which was nicely air conditioned. We walked down to the Katherine River swimming area and generally lolled about hoping for a cooler evening. Sheila discovered that there was no charge for the washing machines so she washed the winter bedding and it was dry quickly and packed away. The camp ground did not have designated sites so people were squeezing in where they could and we felt that this was not enjoyable camping. The river cruises to the gorges were all booked out so we decided to do an early morning walk and head back to Katherine the next day, and we would visit the National Park on our return to Katherine after the school holidays.
The Lookout Loop of 4 km provided great views over the beautiful Katherine river; we had thought we were doing the longer Windolf trek but missed the turn off and decided to call it a day!
Back to Katherine and the Sprinvale Homestead Camp ground which was a little further out than Low Level and we thought cooler and prettier with a billabong mid camp and the Katherine River flowing below; oh and lets not forget cheaper at $20 pn.
History lesson: Alfred Giles drove 2000 cattle and 12000 sheep from Adelaide to this spot in 1879; the journey took a year and a half and the homestead still stands today. Of course the trials and tribulations of these early pioneers is riveting reading but their ignorance of the environment and the aboriginal heritage is sad!
This was a lovely peaceful camp ground but we decided to stick to our plans of reaching Darwin in time for the soccer final which was Sunday night/Monday morning.