Darwin’s wonderful Harbour certainly didn’t look like this in 1942 when it absorbed more bombs than Pearl Harbour,
as seen in the movie Australia, but or during Cyclone Tracey.
This peaceful view of tourist boats going out for an evening cruise is what you see while having barra and chips on the wharf.
For those not aware, this is not our first epic camping trip. Thirty one years ago, Julie and I, accompanied by Daniel and Stuart, then 4 and 2 years respectively did a 12000 km trip through Central Australia. We were tenting then of course and travelled north to Rockhampton, West through Mount Isa, North again to Darwin, South through Alice Springs, Uluru and the Oodnadatta Track to Adelaide and then home to Sydney. On this trip we have stayed in some of the same places as then – same caravan parks in Mount Isa and Darwin even.
On of the places we remembered very fondly was Katherine. Last time we actually stayed at the Gorge, which is more than 30 km from the township itself. This time we have stayed about 7 km out West of town at Low level on the bank of a river.
Our trip out to the Gorge reminds me of what changes and what doesn’t. The scenery here is timeless, in human terms, I am sure that rivers do change paths and some rocks have been dragged further down by gravity, but to our eye the scenery along the Katherine river is the same with flat plains suddenly disappearing into these river canyons, lush with green vegetation and amazing turquoise water.
What has changed are the human features. Thirty years ago we found the township of Katherine very scary with drunken people all over the footpaths at any hour of the day. That aspect of all towns in the Nt has been cleaned up with prohibition on public drinking being enforced in all towns we hae seen. We also see prominently displayed notices prohibting pornography, which might be harder to enforce but they are trying.
The other thing much “improved” are the facilities for tourists. Thirty years ago we were pioneers – now we are part of an “industry”. There are now wonderful caravan parks in places like Kakadu – thirty years ago it had just opened and there was no such thing as a toilet block, let alone a place for a shower. And remember the temperature is mostly high thirties with very high humidity!
The downside to this is accessibility. We camped next to rivers and right in the shadow of Uluru. The number of people now touring makes this environmentally impossible.
A highlight of the Katherine River in the Gorge system was swimming in the river. It was so hot! Every day I would walk down to the river with the boys who would be wearing “floaties” and I would swim with them. It is a deep but slow river, probably 50 metres across.
Close to the spot where 31 years ago the three Lawrence “men” used to escape the heat with a swim across the Katherine River.
A saltie has put a stop to using these canoes or going for a nostalgic swim
When we visited this time, a big saltie had been spotted and all swimming and canoeing had been banned until they can catch it. No chance of a swim this time and I don’t think I would be swimming the river with Daniel or Stuart on my back any more – more likely the reverse.