On Monday I outlined Part One of our Epic 11 Night Road Trip around the Northern Territory, which took us from Darwin to Kakadu National Park and which will be covered over 3 parts, this week.
THIS IS PART 2 OF A SERIES – Kakadu National Park to Katherine
Rising early this morning at 05.30 am, we were up and showered and awaiting our pick-up at 06.25 am from reception for our yellow water cruise.
Sunrise Yellow Water Cruise
From the car park it was a short walk to the edge of the billabong and the starting point of our cruise along the inland lagoon of Yellow Water. What better way to view the freshwater mangroves which line the banks, beautiful pink and white waterlillies, wildlife and stunning scenery , that epitomises the wetlands of kakadu, than on a cruise.
Our knowledgeabe guide and driver, led the boat smoothly through this alluring and remarkable setting all the while pointing out colourful birds and wildlife.
We were part of a small party and were able to bag the front seats on the right hand side, although all seats would have given great views. As we watched sunrise and the early morning mist rose, it felt unsurprisingly ethereal and i was filled with a sense of calm which was quickly joined by awe.
I have written a separate post about our cruise here, but it was fantastic and the scenery incredible. Richard was worried that I was turning into a “bird spotter” due to the number of photos I took, but the light was continually changing and bringing with it a new perspective of the scenery.
The cruise finished with a ride back to the Lodge and a complimentary full breakfast, our first cooked breakfast since arriving in Australia which i was pretty impressed with!
After checking out of the site, we drove about 5 minutes away and stopped to visit the a cultural centre.
Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre
While we had learnt about the landscape and wildlife of Kakadu at the Bowali Visitor Centre yesterday, the purpose here, is to share the culture of kakadu’s people.
The concept for the centre came directly from the Bininj/Mungguy traditional owners of Kakadu, who wanted to tell their story, to give visitors a better understanding of the relationship they hold with their families and their land. The theme is “Our land is our life”.
The shape of the building reflects the fact that at gatherings, people sit in circles, hence it’s round shape and the feeling that you are all sitting together, sharing.
The shape also represents a Warradjan or pig-nosed turtle and hence the design developed into the centre it is today.
Bininj/Mungguy recognise six seasons of Kakadu, which is fundamental to the way they have lived their lives with the changing landscapes for tens of thousands of years.
The plaque at the entrance of the centre outlines the different seasons and you can get a real sense of how the people adapt and use the land for food, shelter and well-being throughout the year.
You are asked not to take any photographs inside the centre but the visual displays are imformative and well laid out. You are invited to move through the displays as a rainbow serpent creation ancestor moves through the country, first travelling through the lowlands in the dry season, and then into the stone country during the wet season.
Displays include how food is hunted, gathered and eaten, and all artifacts such as paintings, baskets and dilly bags (traditional aboriginal bags) are made by Bininj/Mungguy people.
There is a delightful gift shop and we thoroughly enjoyed our visit, once again coming away with a little more knowledge of kakadu and it’s people.
Continuing south along the Kakadu Highway for about 200 kms we reached, that should read FINALLY reached Pine Creek because I was starving hungry.
What a quaint and charming little town this turned out to be, and we only wished we had manged to find time to stay overnight so that we could have gone exploring.
As the Top End’s only original mining town remaining from the 1870’s, it is a town filled with treasures of the gold rush era, with many of its original buildings still standing and ripe for discovery.
With time restraints come choices and I admit the choice I made with the time we had was all geared towards food and eating! What a great discovery the Pine Creek Railway Resort turned out to be for our lunch stop.
Joining the Stuart Highway and leaving Kakadu National Park we continued our journey towards the small town of Katherine. We turned off at the sign for Leliyn (Edith Falls) which was at the end of a 20 km sealed road and parked up in the car park. We were now in Nitmiluk National Park.
The Lower Falls and pool was a quick walk from the car park, and swimming can be enjoyed here most of the year between November and April. We could see why it was so popular and the water looked incredibly inviting in the heat of the early afternoon.
Instead, we joined the Leliyn Trail, a moderate 2.6 km loop which was easy to navigate and climbed into escarpment country through grevillea flowering shrubs and spinifex grasses, past scenic lookouts to the Upper Pool. The trail was steep and rocky in places but the main problem was the heat!
Stupidly I had not worn a hat, although in my defence I did have loads of factor 50 on all exposed limbs, and a large water supply. However in 34 degree heat, by the time we returned to the bottom of the trail we were practically running to the kiosk for more water and shade. My arms and legs felt as though they were literally on fire with the heat emanating from them. The lady serving us was not impressed when she discovered that we had no plans to swim in the lower falls, despite us citing the fact we had just walked 2.6 kms and didn’t fancy being privy to any crocs that had managed to find their way into the pool.
Back in the confines of our motorhome, I drenched a flannel with water and laid it onto my burning legs to get the heat out of my skin, whilst feeling decidedly icky!
Feeling much better after a rest, we drove the remaining distance into Katherine and our site for the night at Shady Lane Tourist Park.
Shady Lane Tourist Park
Situated on the main road just out of Katherine, this is a smaller site than previous nights and we were booked into space 48, quite close (actually, opposite) to the office. It was quiet though and as it turned out, an ideal spot as we had a bathroom block next to the office and a laundry next in line.
The toilets and showers looked new and I managed to wash all our dirty laundry and peg it all out on the empty communal lines – knickers and all.
Waving a cheery goodbye to Shady Lane Tourist Park and with clean dry clothes in tow, we headed back into Katherine to have a stroll around.
The visitor centre is well stocked with leaflets about the Top End, accommodation, tours etc.
Essentially a one street town, namely Katherine Terrace, when the Katherine River rose to 22 m breaking its banks in January 1998, the street was under water, 2 metres of the stuff to be exact, and locals swear that a crocodile was spotted making its way past the semi-submerged Woolworths Supermarket.
We stopped in the Woolworths to buy a new adaptor, which we discovered was needed this morning, when my hairdryer packed in halfway through drying my hair. The result of this action was a fluffy new hairstyle which was not complimentary to my look in the slightest. To make matters worse, I obviously couldn’t utilise my hotbrush for a repair job! Oh the joy that having straight hair must be, or indeed long hair that can be worn off your forehead and tied back!!
That explains why Woolworths was our first port of call, although a stop for coffee and cake at Coffee Club came a very close second. I even managed to get an hour of free wifi access so was extremely happy with my lot.
Walking along the main street were most of the shops and cafes are located including some Aboriginal craft and art galleries, we passed a group of Aboriginal women sitting together on a pavement. A young mother with a child in the seat of a trolley was making her way along the pavement towards them. Interested to see how the situation was going to pan out, I stood watching the scene unfold. Basically the women stayed put, not even looking up, while the mother had to dismount the pavement, push the trolley in the road until she was clear to mount the pavement again and continue on her way.
I would have enjoyed sitting and chatting with the group of women and finding out about their lives and culture, however any Aboriginals we passed did not make eye contact with us, so starting a conversation would not really work.
For background history and stories of days gone by, this is an excellent museum.
Walking through the front door of the main building, you have the distinct feeling of having strolled into someone’s house. Each room is filled with interpretive boards, displays and artifacts bringing to life Katherine’s past history and empowering the visitor with knowledge of the local area.
Making use of every available space, you can browse through old books, newspapers and clippings which adorn the walls and fill glass cabinets.
Starting off by watching a 30 minute video on the 1998 Flood, you gain a real sense of understanding for the affect the disaster had on residents of the town. From the shock and disbelief through the early stages of the flood right through to the bitter end and the aftermath and clean up. The lady serving in the museum witnessed the flood and gave her own account of that time and the story of a crocodile having been seen cruising through the half submerged Woolworths store.
Poignant collections of trench art from WWII trenches, show pieces of jewellery/objects hand crafted by soldiers and passed to their loved ones.
Other displays include early Indigenous Artifacts from the local area and text books, photographs and objects indicating the struggles that early outback towns suffered due to their remoteness.
The scale and size of the museum is just right in terms of information and displayed in easy to follow ways and immensely interesting.
Having been the only sole visitors inside, we move outside for the rest of our visit. First things first, an obligatory cheesy photo had to be taken!
Large amounts of rusting machinery is on display in the parking area at the front, including early farming equipment.
One of the museum’s newest displays, the Overland Telegraph Display, highlights the immense struggle and risk that men suffered in order to ensure that Australia was connected to the outside world. An inspiring and interesting part of Australia’s history.
Thankfully the Aviation Display is undercover as it was starting to feel extremely hot outside. There are 6 interpretive boards with photos explaining the early history of aviation in Katherine.
Moving on into a separate hanger is the piece de resistence and the Museums icon, the Clyde Fenton Gypsy Moth flown by Doctor Clyde Fenton, Northern Territory’s first flying doctor.
The Wallie Christie Shed, named after a local identity in town who helped nurture the museum, holds the Planetarium which was made by a local Peanut Farmer and some great colourful handcrafted mobiles made out of sardine tins.
Also of great interest is the history of the Russian Peanut Farmers, many of whom worked on the construction of the first bridge over Katherine River back in 1926. Struggling with cultural differences and the hardships of farming, they were each given a portion of land on the river to farm peanuts.
The beautifully tended community gardens are a vision for a place of tranquility for the community to come and spend time in restful surroundings and we saw some jumping hopping wildlife to finish our tour, and they sure looked restful.
After our successful and thoroughly enjoyable visit to Katherine Museum, we drove a further 30 kms to the centrepiece and jewel of Nitmiluk National Park, Nitmiluk Gorge.
Owned by the Jawoyn people and jointly managed with the Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory, this 292,008 national Park is an absolute treasure.
The Katherine River has carved a series of sandstone gorges over millions of years, leaving rugged cliffs, dramatic waterfalls and rainforest in its wake.
Nitmiluk Caravan Park
Within a short walk of the visitor centre the park is in a picturesque setting with shady, well grassed sites and excellent facilities including complimentary wifi, laundry facilities and a resort style swimming pool.
The peaceful setting is home to wandering wallabies, some of whom were resting under the welcome shade of a tree.
After picking an ideal spot, we wandered to the visitor centre in search of lunch.
Nitmiluk Visitor Centre
With an ideal location at the entrance to Nitmiluk Gorge, the centre is manned by extremely knowledgeable staff who can help with any of your queries regarding tours, walking trails, camping, canoeing etc. and there is a great shop selling unusual souvenirs and handmade artifacts.
First and foremost though was a visit to the Sugarbag Café for a sandwich and cold drink sitting on the outdoor deck and admiring the spectacular views over the Gorge.
Display Centre And Heritage Museum
Although small in size, this perfectly formed display includes large scale topographical models illustrating the fauna, flora and rock formations of the park. There are graphic displays, audio visual displays presenting a living record of Nitmiluk together with Aboriginal artifacts and historical European photographs.
It was definitely worth a stroll around and helped shape our knowledge of the gorge before seeing it first hand.
The remaining part of the early afternoon was spent sitting outside the motorhome relaxing and watching the prolific birdlife flying around. The noise they made was incredibly loud and non-stop but relaxing at the same time. This is a beautiful spot for the next 2 nights of our stay.
At 4 pm after getting washed and changed, we strolled down to the boat ramp and boarded a small boat for our eagerly awaited 3.5 hour Sunset Cruise along Nitmiluk Gorge.
Sunset River Cruise
There were only 16 of us in total which meant a quiet gathering and the scenery was stunning. I have written a separate post on our cruise along the gorges, but it is definitely worth the cost and we had a fabulous time.
We enjoyed the caravan parks we stayed at, finding them both well-laid out, with excellent facilities and friendly helpful staff. It would have been nice to have had some time to spare to enjoy exploring Pine Creek, but otherwise everything about the journey worked well.
There are several cruise options for the Yellow River and times/prices can be checked on the official website.
This post gives you a full insight into the Sunrise Cruise along the Yellow Water Billabong.
Spend at least an hour at the free Warradjan Aboriginal Centre.
Pine Creek has plenty of attractions to warrant a stop-over if you have time.
The official Northern Territory website has a great video showing Leliyn (Edith) Falls.
Bookings at Shady Lane Tourist Park can be completed online.
For events, accommodation, bookings and tours, details can be found at Katherine Visitor Centre.
Read more about Katherine at the official website of Katherine Museum.
For full details of activities within Nitmiluk National Park, visit the official website.
COMING UP ….
Tomorrow, in Part 3, I will be continuing our Road Trip around the NT, driving from Katherine back to Darwin, with a fantastic trip to stunning Litchfield National Park, so make sure to join me for the last segment of this Epic 11 Night Road Trip around the Top End.
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