So Captain Cook has disappeared. And the story is now that of the explorers, and the Aborigines – who have been here a fair bit longer than us white fellas, so fair enough. It’s all their story really. We’re just the bad ending that nobody expected. A Directors’ Cut that made it to general release. And for all you can say about the Northern Territory folks, they seem to have embraced Aboriginal Culture more than anywhere else I’ve been so far.
After we managed to extract ourselves from Bitter Springs, it was only an hour along the road to Katherine, and then twenty minutes to Nitmiluk National Park where we set up camp. Nitmiluk is a place I’d never heard of before, but Katherine Gorge on the other hand, yes – I’ve heard of that for sure.
It’s actually a series of thirteen gorges that cut their way through the ancient sandstone landscape, and it’s pretty amazing. They filmed the movie ‘Rogue’ here, about a massive salt water crocodile that terrorises people in a raft. I’d like to see it, but once the trip is over thank you very much.
Katherine Gorge was given its name by a diminutive, yet doughty, Scotsman called John McDougal Stuart who emigrated to Australia in 1838, at the age of 23. He led six expeditions across the uncharted continent, and was the first person to fill the gap in the middle of the map.
Many expeditions in those days were co-sponsored, by the state and private individuals, and in Stuart’s case it was John Chambers who was the wealthy investor. So when Stuart came across an amazing Gorge he named it after John’s second daughter, Katherine. Likewise, when he stumbled across a beautiful series of waterfalls, he called it Edith Falls, after another daughter of his benefactor.
In the early 70’s the land was given back to the Aborigines, and now it’s the Aboriginal names that adorn the sites. Nitmiluk and Leylin aren’t as well-known as Kathrine and Edith however, so you see both names used around the place. Anyway it’s good to see that they’ve been returned to their rightful owners. The rangers and everyone I spoke to were extremely respectful of the traditions of the Aboriginies in the local area.
We took a boat trip down two of the thirteen gorges, which was enough with Skye in tow. It was amazing. A lot bigger than I was expecting. Very impressive. We saw a freshwater Crocodile not long into the tour and the ranger told us that there used to be thousands of them in the Gorge, but now there’s only a couple of hundred because of Cane Toads.
Introduced in Queensland to stop the Cane Beetle from eating sugar cane, which didn’t work because the beetles simply crawled up the stalks, the Cane Toad had now spread all over the place. And it just happens to be poisonous. So anything that eats it, dies. Which happens to be a hell of a lot of Australian animals.
So the Cane Toads are not exactly welcome up here, but there’s nothing much that can be done about it. Not that they’ve figured out yet anyway. We finished our boat trip, walked underneath a colony of bats to the visitor centre, and plopped ourselves down on the comfy seats for a coffee, and a bit of cake. Ahhh…
I might have mentioned about the growing confidence of the kids, given this unusual and outgoing lifestyle we seem to have adopted for the time being. Well, I’m not exactly sure Skye needs any more encouragement in the ‘outgoing’ stakes. We finished our cake, and she wanders over to this older lady sitting across from us, and flat out asks if she can have some of her cake! Jesus this little lady is unbelievable!
The next morning we turned up at the ‘School of the Air’ for the 9am tour, but when we go there it was shut, and we suddenly realised it was Saturday! Oh well, off to Edith Falls. About 40 minutes down the road, to another fantastic and lovely campsite.
Edith Falls turned out to be a great few days of swimming, hiking and socialising. Three nights in a row we had people over for a few drinks, which was very nice, but exhausting.
And our first excursion into the lower pool resulted in the statement “Watch out Katie, stay away from the teenager with the snake!”
Well done the NT. Very happy with it all so far 🙂