Day 166: Way Outback… meeting the wildlife

After watching the sunset at Katherine Gorge we had headed back to the camp.

Jack had given us a choice – swag under the stars, sleep in the tents or put the fans on in the kitchen and take a couple of mattresses from the tents.

No brainer. It was so muggy we were using the kitchen and hoping for more success with the mosquitos.

After saying hello to the tree frog in the end toilet of the ladies’ loos, and the locusts and the grasshoppers, we settled down for dinner preparation and putting the world to rights over a few beers.

This morning we got up and assessed the mosquito damage.

Nella hadn’t been bitten but one of the buggers had marched down my nose biting as it went.

My nose had at least eight bites while my left check had four and my forehead three.

These joined the fifteen on my back.


I use lots of repellant. Presumably, I had sweated it off in the night.

Bites tended to, we headed into the town of Katherine, after checking that no further belongings had been donated to this campsite, to refuel.

We passed a house whose garden was bombed by the Japanese in World War Two as the planes had flown inland from attacking Darwin.

How could we tell where the bomb crater was? The fence around the hole and the sign saying ‘Bomb Crater’ were clues.

Every roadhouse and every settlement has a gimmick.

Darwin was the only Australian city to be attacked by the Japanese and for several months it was kept a secret for fear of causing panic across the country.

The Katherine Gorge stretches back to the town of Katherine and one of the bridges spanning the gap is marked with metre intervals to show the depth of the river.

The official markings each 16m.

Above this, some brave soul has drawn teo additional markers 17m and 18m. In 1998, the river reached 19m and the town was underwater, by a metre, for one week.

We continued to our morning stop which was Edith Falls… where the entire morning was spent swimming.

The upper fall…

Rod the Ranger also introduced himself to us and told us about his work. He was surprised that we were able to swim this late in the season as rising river levels usually mean the Park is shut in December because of the arrival of saltwater crocs.

…and the lower fall

While the river and the waterfalls were flowing freely, the delayed arrival of the wet season (despite the rain) meant we were able to swim.

There’s a barrier beneath a footbridge and a lengthy aluminium fence which stops the crocodiles getting into the pools during the dry season but when the waters rise during the wet season, they remove the barriers.

It’s not an area that you can afford to be careless in.

Two years ago, a 67 year old man went missing after probably stepping off the trails. He has never been found.

An eight day search party had no luck and Rod had also spent three of his days off combing the area for him.

Some of his tracking brings up more pleasant surprises.

He recently found a set of Indigenous People’s cave paintings that hadn’t previously been recorded. The telltale sign would have been an aluminium tag left in the cave, so it’s a new rediscovery.

Paintings often deteriorate over time – cattle are a problem when they rub their bodies against cave walls.

After chatting with Rod, we took an early lunch and headed along the road for the final leg of this part of the tour – to Darwin.

A brief stop at the former Pine Creek Gold Mine raised another one of Jack’s gory stories.

The now flooded Pine Creek Gold Mine

Chinese miners were key to the success of the mine but once their contracts ended, they had to leave Australia.

There’s a rather large spider hiding down this mine shaft.

They returned with picks and took more gold out of the ground. Around the same time, people were becoming sick and dying. Their bodies were returned to China… inside each were several ounces of gold.

I don’t believe foul play was suspected in the deaths.

We drove back down the hill to Pine Creek itself. After scaring some fruit bats…

…and saying hello to Mike the Python, we headed off to see some termite mounds.

Termite mounds had lined the Highway all the way up from Alice Springs, growing progressively taller as we headed North.

The mounds are a model of temperature regulation.

No matter where the sun is in the sky, there will always be a part of the nest that is cool.

One of the termites’ problems is the ants.

They don’t build. They find a good termite cathedral and invade. The termites do resist – they expel a hormone that makes the attacking ants smell like termites so their comrades turn on them.

Success doesn’t usually last and once the ants set out to colonise, they will be successful

We were travelling through the greenest countryside we had seen and Jack said that this was after two of the driest wet seasons the area had had. After an actual wet wet season, the land supply be greener still.

For the last stretch, we were driving alongside the tracks of the Ghan which we had crossed several times over the last three days.

Travelling up the Stuart Highway was a tremendous way to see the Northern Territory. The three day tour was one of the quirkiest tours I’ve been on – probably helped by the nature of life in the Northern Territory and the fact that I have a twisted sense of humour.

This was an off beat way to experience this part of Australia and incredible fun.

A vital part of this trip was the fact that there were only three of us on the tour and all four of us got on very well. So, if you’re reading this, Nella, Simon and of course, Jack, thanks for a superb three day experience. It has been a blast.

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