Katherine was a bit of a surprise. It holds great historical significance to local Aborigines (who make up 60% of the population) as it is where the lands of three tribes – the Dagoman, Jawoyn and Wardaman people – meet and has been an important meeting place for thousands of years. Sadly the Cultural Centre was closed as it was the weekend but we learned a lot from the guide on the Gorge Tour.
Katherine Gorge – now known as Nitmiluk Gorge is absolutely beautiful. Apparently “Luk” means “Place” and “nit” means “Cicada” thus the whole area is the place of cicadas. I have to admit I didn’t hear any but legends abound.
We had a very informative tour for two hours through two of the thirteen gorges which are of immense significance to the traditional owners, the Jawoyn people as home to the spirits of creation. Quietly motoring through the first gorge leaves one with a sense of peace and belonging.
Then we reached a crossing point where we had to change boats as the water level was low. Here more surprises awaited – ancient rock art.
Some of the paintings were hard to find until they were pointed out and unlike many sites, these were not in caves but under overhanging rocks so they were sheltered over the years. The estimate is that they are more than 10,000 years old but that may well change to be older.
One painting depicted circles which told the people that bush potatoes were growing in the area. Another showed a figure upside down – apparently he was a sinner who had done very bad things in his life and would be forever remembered this way!
Huge sandstone cliffs line the river and in places there are sandy beaches and a lot of vegetation. Mostly freshwater crocodiles live here but in the wet season huge salties come in and have to be removed by the Park Rangers under a special program which relocates them mostly to Darwin to farms.
This is Jedda’s Rock – made famous by the 1950’s film and is about 62 metres in height.
Close to Katherine on the road to Pine Creek is the beautiful Edith Falls – we called in and found the most delightful little park with a large waterhole and a special swimming area – away from the crocodiles!
Notices are everywhere up here but one thing I have learned over the years is that Freshwater crocodiles are more afraid of us than we are of them and I have swam in waterholes with them – albeit keeping well out of their way!
There are lots of walks around Edith Falls and they are well marked and very well maintained. In fact the Park is a credit to the caretakers.
The road to Jabiru is excellent with lush country all around – there has been a massive amount of rain in recent days and so the creeks and billabongs are full. The road was devoid of traffic and at times we felt we were the only beings on the planet – wide open spaces, beautiful waterholes, no wildlife except the odd young dingo and a huge silence.
Then we came across “Termite Country” – these have to be seen to be believed. As they say – everything is larger than life and twice as vivid in the Territory!
Now we are about to explore Kakadu – or what we can due to the amount of water everywhere. I think perhaps a flight would be the best way ……..