R&R on SS Nitmiluk

Trip Start Jan 30, 2010
Trip End Dec 01, 2010

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Flag of Australia  , Northern Territory,
Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Golly – long time no blog.

I didn't realise that it has been this long since our last posting. Usual excuses – no signal, no power, no time, because we are doing so many things and having far too much fun for one family. Ha, ha, ha [in a deviously happy and cheeky way!]

Last post was 'waterfall wonderland’, a.k.a. Litchfield. After Litchfield, we returned to SS Nitmiluk. We really enjoyed the luxury of down time. It gave us all time to recharge our own physical batteries (as well as all the electrical stuff we have), read another of our precious supply of books, repair inevitable damage to mind, body and camper and do the last bit of sightseeing in Katherine.

Finally the weather decided to behave itself, and we were able to take a cruise into the Katherine Gorge system. It is truly spectacular, stretching over 13 separate gorges, with extensive rapids barriers between them. The half-day cruise visited the first three gorges, and we were privileged to experience beautiful weather, spot freshwater crocodiles, various snakes, herons and ghost bats (roosting in a cave), take a refreshing dip in a croc-free, lily-pad-covered, waterfall refreshed plunge pool before heading back down the system.

The cruise was a bit strange in that it was necessary to change boats at the end of each gorge (because of the rocky barriers). It hadn’t occurred to me that we would need to do this, but of course it made sense. It was amusing to see some of our more elderly companions pushing themselves on the walk between gorges (and walking with elbows out), so that they could be the first people in the boat and get the front seats. It became our giggle challenge to see if the girls could get past them and ‘give them a spook’ [worried that they made not get ‘their’ seats].

A major bonus of this tour was that we made friends with a family from northern NSW, and spent the next few hours enjoying each others’ company over cold beers, refreshing wines and delicious food. We also (joy of joys!) exchanged books – a red letter day for the literature-depleted McDs.

But our Katherine second-stay experience was tarnished when it came to packing up in order to move on. A light-fingered individual had lifted our bike rack and padded mat from the camper. This presented us with the challenge of moving our two bikes without a rack to attached them to. Fortunately we could cobble together a make-shift system, tying them onto the back of the camper, above the bumper bar. Not perfect but doable.

We approached the camp office, explaining our loss. In a departure from normal NT experience, they actually had their finger on the pulse (albeit weakly) and someone knew something about it. A bike rack had been handed in (with our number-plate plaque on it) and was currently sitting in their workshed. NT behaviour returned to normal at this point, when it became apparent that no-one had a key to said workshop, except one guy ‘out on the boats’. Cutting to the end: reunited with bike rack (damaged by usable), delayed departure, but able to head west with bikes stored more securely. Also a change in our behaviour – from now on a lot more security conscious.

We also used our visit to Katherine to get a few minor camper issues fixed – mainly to damaged screws that had bent or snapped when we'd travelled on rough roads. While the camper was 'at the doctors' we visited the Katherine School of the Air to see how the isolated kids do it. And it turned out they do it pretty much like Immi and Briggie, but they get some face-to-face time with a teacher (unlike our two). It was then to the Red Cross book exchange to stock up on even more books and back to collect the refreshed camper.

So "bye bye" Katherine and off we set (saying an additional "good bye" to the Stuart Highway) in a westward direction. Next stop? Somewhere towards Western Australia, all depending on what was dry and open.
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