Beautiful North

Funny that after living in Australia for 25 years, I have never managed to go to the Northern Territory (NT), one of two Australian territories and among six states. Until now. And the North totally delivered. It was so very beautiful.

I travelled from Darwin to Katherine by the long Stuart highway (more than 3000 km), which goes from Adelaide to Darwin. It was named after the Scottish explorer John McDouall Stuart who travelled here in the 1850s and 1860s. People remember his input in developing this area and it was dutifully acknowledged. The proof is in the photo below.

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This road is so remote and deserted, that it’s possible to travel for 10-15 minutes totally alone. This is a great feeling.  The road condition is very good. And the speed limit is 130 km/hour. It’s legal to drive that fast only in NT, anywhere else in Australia I would pay an enormous fine and probably even lose my licence for 6 months.

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Very picturesque landscape along the way. I can’t remember how many times I stopped to take photos. Because of this I spent about one hour more on the road, otherwise the distance of 315km takes less than 3 hours.
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I was quite disappointed when I saw this sign. My road trip was over too soon. It’s funny how quickly I got used to the new speed limit. And being me I had to watch the speedometer very carefully, as the speed was slowly creeping up, and up, and up.

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This is a sunrise on Katherine river. This region has a lot of woman’s names. The story behind is that Stuart the explorer managed to secure a sponsorship for his travels of the rich merchant from Adelaide. The prospects were to find gold, minerals or new pastoral land. Unfortunately for the sponsor Stuart did not fulfil the expectations. But in gratitude to the merchant he named rivers, waterfalls and the townships by the names of the merchant’s daughters. Catherine Chambers was one of them. What an honour!

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I was lucky to book a dawn cruise on the river. At the moment there are a lot of tourists in the region, a majority of them are grey nomads or family with kids (school holiday time). And the very expensive tickets for helicopter flights were sold out.

This is the very beginning of the Katherine Gorge – the Jewel of the North.

 

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The sandy banks are used by fresh water crocodiles for nesting. I know this photo is really bad, but I wanted to show the fresh crocodile nest, and the boat was a bit rocky.

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The “naughty” crocs are captured using these traps. In vicinity of Katherine about 100 fresh and salt water crocodiles are caught every year.

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First rays of the sunlight just kissing the mountain tops.

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That’s how they look a bit later. Who cannot argue that they are golden?

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Even later.

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The First Gorge. There are 13 Gorges overall. To the first three it’s easy to get by boat.  The other ones are accessible by helicopter or a seven day hiking trip. I would love to hike there, but didn’t have enough time.
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The scenery is getting better and better with every turn.

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The very famous Smitts rock in the Second Gorge. It has a lot of meaning for indigenous people.

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Our guide used a very interesting way to describe the ridges of these mountains. He compared it to cutting a mango cheek in criss-cross pattern and pushing it outwards. The walls are about 70 m high.

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On the top of this rock there is a small natural water reservoir, something like a bog. Water is constantly seeping through. Lots of plants found this rock surface very hospitable and decided to grow here. Locals call this place the “Hanging Gardens of Katherine”.

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Looking from the boat towards the Second Gorge.

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The sun is out and the rocks glow like gold.

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Finally I am here!

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Lots of wildlife lives near the river. This kookaburra with calm interest was watching the tourists while they were running under the tree looking for good light and angle.

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And the bats could not be quiet for a second. The millions of bats here made so much noise.

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This is a very rare black cockatoo.

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Guess which toilet is for boys and which one for girls? This is  “a la aboriginal” art,  I suppose.

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On the way to Edith Falls I found this beautiful balancing rock. I am sure it could give the Indian counterpart a run for its money.

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Edith Falls were named in the honour of another daughter of the Stuart’s sponsor. The falls are about 40 km from Katherine. The easy 2 km walk uphill took me to this beautiful waterfall.

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People come there to swim and just to enjoy the scenery. Two shallow basins provide perfect conditions for those activities. While taking the photos there, I accidently dropped my car keys. I can’t describe the next twenty minutes of my life when I realised that. It’s also impossible to describe my feelings when by some miracle I found them in between the rocks. So lucky!

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Sunbathing girl on the rocks.

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Such a beautiful blue sky! What bliss!

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This is Katherine river near Knotts Crossing. It’s very calm and shallow at this place. Lots of people come here for a swim.

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This local indigenous girl didn’t like my company and decided to leave.

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In a car park I found this sign. It was about 50 metres from the place where the girl was splashing in the river. I can hardly believe that she did not know or didn’t care. Just two weeks ago one woman was taken by a crocodile not far from Katherine.

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And this is my dinner – Territory Crocodile Spring Rolls served on Peanut and Fresh Herb Salad.

Not bad. Can anybody else see the irony of life here?

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Music: Aborigines – Music & Arts

.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T20Twjiu9Y4

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