Our next main destination was Katherine where we needed to restock our supplies, get a new regulator for the large solar panel and other odds and ends, we also wanted to be here for Deb’s birthday so we could celebrate with a night out. To break up the long drive we decided to camp at Big Horse Creek for two nights, however our plans changed once we arrived there. We arrived at 11:30am and the camp was almost full and we were lucky to find a space in a very narrow site on a slope, there aren’t many flat sites here. The pit toilets were full and in a disgusting condition, the sites were red dust, the tiny ants invaded our camper trailer kitchen and bit you as you sat around camp, and we were surrounded by inconsiderate people who drank too much and shouted at each other until very late at night. Needless to say we didn’t stay for a second night and would rate this the worst campsite we have experienced on our trip so far.
From Big Horse Creek we rang all the caravan parks in Katherine and all the ones in town were full except the Big 4 so we had no choice but to stay there as we needed power because our dead solar panel. Despite being expensive at $48 a night it was a very nice park with great amenities and a nice pool which proved indispensable in the hot humid conditions we experienced here. For the first time on our trip we encountered cloud and high humidity which was very unusual for this time of year, the locals saying it was like the build up to the wet season. The pool was the only escape from the constant sweating and very uncomfortable conditions which continued at night and had us resort to a 12v fan we had purchased before the trip and only used once before. As I write this sitting in the shade at the Edith Falls campground the hot humid conditions are still with us after six consecutive days and nights, which make bush walking very uncomfortable and debilitating.
Our three nights in Katherine were an eye opening experience, the crime rate here is obviously very high with businesses and houses protected by high fences and barred windows and the police have their own car parks and outstation in the Woolworths car park, which seems to be where lots of trouble occurs. When we shopped here there was an altercation in the car park with three police cars in attendance and then while in Woolworths we left our trolley with a gold coin in the slot for a few seconds while we were bagging up some fruit, only to turn around and find the trolley gone and obviously returned to the trolley rack to get the coin. Apparently we weren’t the only victims as when we were going through the checkout the woman serving called over the security guard telling him to keep an eye out for the kids who were doing this to lots of customers.
We had intended to visit the hot springs just down the road from the caravan park but couldn’t bring ourselves to bathe in warm water in the hot humid conditions but we did drive 30km south down the Stuart Highway to the Cutta Cutta Cave to do the guided tour. You have to fork out $23 each to do the tour with a ranger which runs every hour if you want to see the cave. The cave was interesting to see with lots of unusual features and critters inside including a snake and various types of bats. As the third largest town in the NT Katherine had a surprising lack of decent shops, I needed a new pair of hiking boots but there is no shoe shop in town, we need new gas struts for the camper but there none available, we need a new solar panel regulator but there were none of those available either, so it looks like we will be busy in Darwin. Needless to say Katherine did not impress us at all.
However Katherine Gorge was completely the opposite, it was sensational. We had booked a dinner cruise up the gorge so left Katherine and drove the 30km out to Nitmiluk Caravan Park to set up camp and do the 4.8km Baruwei Loop Walk. The walk takes you along the river and then up to a couple of lookouts and back to the campground. At the start of the walk were thousands of fruit bats hanging upside down in the trees along the river fanning themselves with their wings in the heat. The smell was terrible as we walked along, dodging a snake on the path before climbing a rocky path to the first lookout overlooking the river. The second lookout gave you views back towards the campground and visitor centre. The humid heat was stifling but with lots of water to drink along the way we made it back to the campground and straight into the nice refreshing pool.
The afternoon was spent beside the pool reading and swimming before our dinner cruise which left the boat ramp at 4:30pm. The cruise passed through the first two of the thirteen gorges, disembarking at the rock bar at the end of the first gorge we walked about 400 metres passing some aboriginal rock art on the gorge wall to board a second boat which took us to the end of the second gorge. The scenery along the way to the end of the first two gorges was absolutely stunning, high gorge walls with each bend in the river revealing more amazing scenery. At the end of the second gorge we turned around and made our way back to the rock bar at the end of the first gorge to board the dinner boat where were greeted with a glass of bubbly and seated at the dinner tables.
With the sun setting we enjoyed a lovely three course dinner and a few drinks while swapping stories with fellow travellers around the dinner table. The boat docked around 8pm and we walked back to camp after a thoroughly enjoyable experience to find a fairly busy campground. The campground is nice with good facilities and a nice pool but is quite noisy as even at night the bird noise is quite loud, and when the bats fly over at dawn to return to roost in the trees at the river after feeding all night the noise ramps up even more. The thousands of bats flying overhead in the pre-dawn light is an amazing sight though, just watch out for the aerial bombardment if under their flight path.