Day 57 Katherine Gorge to Day 63 Barkly Homestead Roadhouse
Day 57 - Monday 27th May 2013 (Travelled 52.8 kms)
So we have discovered that the bats aren't squabbling but chattering, nevertheless, they are hard to take at 4.50 am in the morning. The boat cruise on the beautiful Katherine River has our attention. A most informative general commentary with a good touch of humour by two of our young indigenous cruise directors. At the end of the first gorge and walk we viewed some of the indigenous artwork before boarding our second boat and heading up the second gorge. This gorge had both shallow sections and at one corner the depth of the water here is 40 metres deep caused as the rocks tumble they have a screwing action that digs deep into the bottom of the gorge. A very short walk to the next gorge and a short boat ride to reach the end of gorge three and this is as far as we can go; the water level here doesn't allow to further explore upstream. A steep but short walk up to our stop at Lilly Ponds, a beautiful waterhole below a waterfall where swimming here is safe. Currently the Katherine River is closed to canoeing and swimming whilst rangers still believe there are salties in the water after the wet season.
A look at the visitor centre to view the informative displays outlining the history and landscape of the area. The first people in the area were the Jawoyn and Dagomen people and the Katherine River was a foundation to much of their culture.
After lunch a visit to Katherine Museum which is located at the original aerodrome. The displays are seen in the original terminal building and another newer building, giving a time line of events in Katherine, and an exceptionally good insight into the early days of pastoral activities, World War 11 involvement and communication, with the old telegraph building on site also. We all hadn't realised the involvement Katherine had in WWII operations and the significance of this.
Roast lamb dinner tonight - thanks Anne, as always a delightful meal.
Day 58 - Tuesday 28th May 2013 (Travelled 314.7 kms)
More of the chattering bats to wake us early. Left at 9.00 am, a last minute shop at Katherine, and we reached Mataranka at 11.30 am, too late for a homemade pie, sold out, so just a cuppa at the Stockyard Gallery ( a shady little garden to look out on and on display some local paintings and aboriginal arts. Mataranka known as the Capital of the Never Never. The park is adorned with characters from the famous novel "We of the Never Never" written by Jeanie Gunn about Elsey Station and is now part of Australian folklore. Just out of town is the Bitter Springs thermal pool which was certainly worth the trip, a delightful swim in amazing clear and warm water. A tropical paradise! Stopped for a beer at the Larrimah Pub, which used to be a WWII Officer's mess. The collection at the pub was interesting and the owner was into snakes and birds. Here we see the Pink Panther and the 15 foot stubby.
The Larrimah Museum is the old telegraph building and displays more information about WW11, the telegraph and the railway. The Gorrie Airfield is nearby and was a secretive RAAF base used to provide maintenance and repair shops to allied forces during the war.
Arrived at Daly Waters and camped in the overflow car park. Daly Waters for almost 30 years between 1930s and 1950s was Australia's first international airfield. It was initially used for flying mail between NT and QLD. It then became a refuelling point for Qantas international flights flying through Darwin and onto Singapore as well as other domestic flights.
The Daly Waters Historical Pub is a highlight in our stay. It is an award winning pub and was first established in 1930 and licenced in 1938. The Australian and American Airforces set up headquarters here in 1942. The pub is adorned with memorabilia, a most amazing collection and we enjoyed one of their renowned Beef and Barra Meals whilst listened to many hours of music by regular nomads to the area. Daly Waters is on a 2 million acre private property known at Kalala Station.
Day 59 - Wednesday 29th May 2013 ( Travelled 272.5 kms)
Woke this morning to the Daly Waters regular road train arrival for supplies, three big trailers of supplies that stopped outside the pub, blocking any movements. We visited the museum and took another look at the enormous collection of bits and pieces within the pub itself.
At Goanna Creek rest area (stopped for lunch) we happened upon finches (long tailed finches) and honeyeaters as they frolicked around in a bowl of water below the tap of the tank. We continued on to reach the banks of the Little River which is 10 kms west of Cape Crawford. Many birds here and the afternoon was spent watching and identifying them. A game of cards before dinner and a wonderful sunset, reflections on river and the birdlife was again prolific. A Jabiru (Black Necked Stork) with its glossy black stripe on his wings and long red trailing legs was so elegant and white Egrets are fishing in this billabong.
Day 60 -Thursday 30th May 2013 (Travelled 180 kms)
Another beautiful sunrise and more birds to watch. The Jabiru is back, egrets, a duck, black cockatoos, spotted harriers, Apostle birds, a flock of budgies in flight and the inevitable black crow. We left camp at 8.45am on the road to Borroloola stopping briefly at Cape Crawford (and its famous Heartbreak Hotel) for fuel. On the road we travelled alongside the McArthur River and passed the McArthur River Zinc Mine (one of the largest in the world). A quick stop and cuppa in Borroloola and 40 kms further on is the Borroloola Fishing Club campground were we have set up home for a couple of nights. We are now on par with Cairns and sitting just below the waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria.
Day 61 - Friday 31st May 2013
This morning's entertainment is viewing more of the Territory's amazing birdlife, another jabiru, flock of pelicans, egrets, two lonesome ducks making a wake as they travel down the river but our attentions are held by this huge crocodile (5 metres in length) on the opposite bank of the river (which luckily is very wide and our side has a steep bank). He has landed the most extraordinary catch, what looks to be a mid sized cow.
We have watched him defend his catch from interlopers. Nature at it's finest (perhaps not for the cow!). He has performed the crocodile roll, tearing at it and the crocs massive body with its huge head and set of jaws has been splashing and thrashing in and out of the water. Binoculars are wonderful things and Anne has captured some of the thrashing and splashing on camera. Bloody hell it's a huge croc!
A relaxed afternoon, Anne and Ralph had their dinner at the Fishing Club, whilst Ken ad Fi ate in (well outside anyway).
Day 62 - Saturday 1st June 2013 (officially the first day of winter, not that you would think it here!) (Travelled 226.2 kms)
Ralph was up early this morning watching this huge croc swim by on our side of the river, they are so pre-historic, it sends shivers up the spine. No wonder the cow had little chance of survival.
After pack up we headed north for a short way to Bing Bong and the waters of the Gulf of Carpentaria. Nothing much to see, a loading dock for the McArthur Mine and plenty of marsh areas that one wouldn't want to venture into. A trip back to Borroloola for fuel and then back to Cape Crawford where we spend the night at the Heartbreak Hotel campground. An evening spent listening to Rod Dowsett (Country singer performing mostly his own music).
Day 63 - Sunday 2nd June 2013 (Travelled 377 kms)
This morning we are on the journey south along the Tablelands Highway to Barkly Homestead Roadhouse . A long road with plenty of the same scenery, outback NT style. Passing through numerous stations and along here the cattle are busy chopping away on grasses and occasionally trying to cross the road in front of moving cars. A BBQ dinner and a sit around the campfire before retiring for the night. It's cooler tonight, the first taste of some cooler nights to come we are thinking, the jumpers are on.