Katherine Gorge

It has been a little while since I shared an excerpt from the book (the page building is coming along nicely, by the way), so I thought I’d return to the narrative briefly—until I have a little free time to scan some more slides to share with you.

After the camping trip in Kakadu, I returned to Darwin for a couple of days, and then caught a bus down to Springvale Homestead near Katherine. Visits to tropical caves, a fabulous thermal spring, and the Elsey Station, plus a chance to participate in an aboriginal corroboree, made this a solidly worthwhile stop. My last day in the area, before heading west, I visited Katherine Gorge. This is actually not a single gorge but a series of gorges. Most people can make it through the first two, but it takes a bit of work, and most of the day, to make it as far as the sixth gorge. However, if you have the time, it’s wonderful.

The fourth gorge is one of the longest, so it took us a while to reach the top. By the time we arrived at the barrier separating the fourth and fifth gorges, the day was warming up, so it was time for a swim while the billy boiled for tea. The water here is clean and pure, as it has been everywhere I’ve ventured in the Top End, so Peter filled our billy right from the river.

After tea, we headed for the fifth gorge. It was a spectacular climb, taking us high up one of the gorge walls for more breathtaking views than we had previously experienced. As we scrambled among outcrops of stone and along narrow ledges, we came to a spot where wild passionfruit was growing in abundance. As I clambered up and down that magnificent, shattered, chaotic landscape—towering, water-sculpted rock walls, fascinating plants, the sparkling river, dazzling scenery on all sides—munching on warm, tangy-sweet wild passionfruit, soaking up the gloriously brilliant sunlight, I could not help but think to myself, “I don’t know what the rest of the world is doing right now, but it couldn’t be this good.”

About half way up the fifth gorge, Peter slowed the engine and pointed out a huge cave in the rock wall beside us. The ceiling of the cave was covered with the wonderful, bottle-shaped mud nests of the fairy martin, just one of the many birds I’ve seen in my wanderings.

The climb to the sixth gorge was the most difficult, over an absolute chaos of tumbled boulders. The rocks were worn smooth and into fantastic, weird shapes by the action of the water. We swam for about half an hour in this gorge, some people even heading to the top of the section to see if they could make it to the seventh gorge. I swam along the cliff walls, examining some of the caves, trying to spot some of the area’s wildlife. Then it was time to head back.

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