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Katherine, NT

S 14°29'05" E 132°15'21

Wed 19 - Sun 23 Jun 2002

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Wednesday 19th

We went to Mataranka and shopped for some supplies. We drove to the Elsey National park camping area to check it out. It wasn't worth an overnight stay so we had lunch and moved on. A quick visit to Mataranka Thermal pools to find that access was through a commercial resort called Mataranka Homestead. Not wanting to accept that a commercial enterprise should exercise control over access to a National Park, we left and drove on to Katherine where we booked in to a caravan park for two nights.

We parked next to a motorhome with two itinerant workers with whom we happy houred. They told us that the cafe in the caravan park served the most delicious and most enormous barra and chips so we bought one between the two of us and even then we couldn't eat all of it.

Thursday 20th

We went to town to pick up the mail. The package from Landbase had arrived but the one from Brisbane hadn't. The fellow said it takes four or five days as it comes by bus! We'll wait around here till it arrives.

We also did the shopping and spent a lazy afternoon doing nothing in particular.

Friday 21st

We booked a boat tour up the Katherine Gorges. We arrived at Nitmiluk national park early (because the clock in the Little Motley was still set to Queensland time) and spent some time in the interpretive centre.

This land has belonged to the Jawoyn (pronounced jar won) people since the resolution of their Aboriginal land rights claim in 1989 and the park is run by a board which has a majority of Jawoyn people on it.

The river tour is very well done with tour guides/boatmen who are, for the most part, aboriginal. Our guide was an aboriginal but not a member of the Jawoyn nation. He was very expert both as a boatman and as a guide, giving us lots of information in a very entertaining way.

The tour is in two parts as one must walk 800 m (1/2 mile) over the rocks between the first gorge and the second. During this walk one can see very ancient aboriginal rock art on the walls of the gorge.

photo of the second gorge

The second gorge is the Katherine Canyon, a very impressive 20 m (65 ft) deep, narrow, and sheer walled gorge. The dry season flow in the river is quite low but it increases many times during the wet with river levels in the gorges 6 - 10 m (20 - 33 ft) above the dry season level.

On Australia Day in 1998 the river rose a further 3 - 5 m (10 -15 ft) above the normal peak level. This resulted in Katherine, which is pretty flat but a long way above the river bed, being inundated with 3 m (10 ft) of water in the main street. Previous floods had only just reached the gutters in the town so nobody was prepared for a full on flood.

We both enjoyed the tour very much but were glad to get back to the Motley and take our shoes off.

Saturday 22nd

Laundry day. The laundry in the caravan park were full and queueing by 7.30 am so we went to a laundromat in town.

On the way back to the Motley we took a diversion to the Low Level Crossing which is a local picnic area by a natural wier in the river.

We went on to Springvale Homestead, one of the local points of interest, and on the way passed the work site of the new Alice Springs to Darwin railway.

Work on the line started in April this year at both katherine and Tennant Creek.

Sunday 23rd

After shopping in town for milk and for the weekend papers, we went out to visit with the Reeds and the Dawsons at their camp site. They are both heading north tomorrow, the Reeds are planning to go via Kakadu and the Dawsons are planning to go to Daly River on the way. We'll decide which way we are going tomorrow after breakfast.

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Created by Robin Chalmers on - 18.06.2002 and last revised 23.06.2002