Not so gorgeous Katherine
With trepidation, we drove onwards to Katherine in the blistering heat. The temperature is soaring by the minute. Most days now average a comfortable 35 degrees Celsius, with a low of 27 degrees at night. The doona is useless, (as are our turtle fur ski parkas).
“Trepidation” was our cautionary approach because we’d heard the town was a tad rough, the gorge, a tad dry, and our tempers in the heat a tad stretched to their outer limits.
What was Katherine like?
We parked in the centre of town and embarked on our reprovisioning spree
Dusty, dry, dreary- people leering and lounging in the streets, unfriendly shop owners very unpleasant. There was an undercurrent of conflict. The town seemed new and fairly wealthy, obviously benefiting from the increased tourism, thanks to the gorge, but below this, there was still this undeniable feeling of unrest and discontent-almost a smouldering uneasiness. We grabbed some lures from “Rod’s and Rifles” we decided to split.
“Get us out of here”, we silently thought. We slapped on our swimmers and headed out to the gorge.
We unpacked our inflatable canoe from the roof, and in the fifteen minutes it took to set it up, watched at least 150 people make their way onto the water in one form of transport or another. This was not going to be another Lawn Hill Gorge. We finished setting up and paddled out.
Katherine Gorge is beautiful. Deep in the Gorge, you find yourself encased by rock escarpment, ancient trees, twisted, damp and pungent. Roots, trunks and branches mingle into the rock. A young man had pulled up opposite an imposing rock formation and was playing his guitar the haunting song echoed about the walls of the gorge in the heat of the day giving the whole place a dreamlike quality. We sat quietly and listened for a long while our thoughts rising and falling with the rhythm of his gentle tune. Finally, the heat drove us into the water “IF YOU LOOK TO YOUR LEFT YOU WILL SEE EVIDENCE OF ABORIGINAL HABITATION”
Snapback to reality as a huge 400 horse-powered powered boat pushes upstream towards us with 80 people aboard-heading over to the disembarkation jetty to look at some scratches in the rock.
Much larger than Lawn Hill, Katherine Gorge is, in fact, a string of 14 separate gorges. There are more portaging and greater distances to paddle. There was however an undeniable intimacy missing from Katherine that tainted our perception of it. Our Lawn Hill legacy!
It would once have been a true oasis during the dry- however thanks to large scale tourism, the natural balance is somewhat disturbed.
Helicopters now patrol the skies above the gorge offering sophisticated scenic flights, dozens of motorboats power along the waterways with hundreds of tourists, canoeists paddle deliriously all over the place, and swimmers splash in every direction.
You can’t help the feeling of guilt for contributing to the demise of the very thing that made the area so beautiful. An area where people existed as part of nature for thousands of years. These halcyons days are gone forever.
Now it seems that the whole gorge is just a bit of tourist attraction, like so many of the natural wonders of the Northern Territory- great for a canoe and explore for an afternoon, preferably for a week to do it justice, and explore all hidden nooks and crannies, But that is about it.
Unfortunately, our camera batteries ran out and we were unable to capture any photos of the Gorge for you guys. Our gravest apologies. You will, however, be happy to know that NOW, we have some new Duracell batteries in the digicam, and she’s working just fine!!!!!!
Katherine museum proved to be a really cute and informative pit-stop. The museum building was the original aerodrome and radio station of the 1920s. Full of ancient photos and bits and pieces that conjured up acute images of how tough life would have been, we all thoroughly enjoyed our dose of local history.
The highlight in Josh’s eyes was Dr Fenton’s plane used during World War 2 to service the surrounding stations.
Destination “night spot” was Timber Creek. A little caravan park off the highway that lay beside the Victoria River- rumour has it it is full of Gargantuan barramundi and even bigger Crocs, how could we drive by without a peek!
P.S. We did stop in at Springvale Homestead- touted to be the oldest cattle station in the Northern Territory. Josh revelled in his first game ever of horseshoes. The homestead though somewhat neglected was a wonderfully rustic stone building. The centrepiece in OUR eyes was a magnificent raintree. Native to South America, this tree has the most deliciously sweet smell you could ever imagine. We’ve collected some seeds and will try to grow some on the farm when we return home.
Over and out More tomorrow