Wednesday, August 12

Katherine Gorge

Katherine Gorge, or Nitmiluk Gorge as the Aborigines know it, is one of the Northern Territory’s most iconic sights. Here the Katherine River, swelled by millennia of Summer rain storms, has carved a series of dramatic rock canyons. Tourist literature describes 13 individual gorges; yet every map shows a just single river flowing through the area. I was left confused until the day we finally visited.

As each map shows, the river has indeed carved just one gorge through Nitmiluk National Park. However, at numerous locations along the gorge, natural rock shelves dam the river, thus separating it into 13 gorge sections. Only the first five are accessible by boat. The remainder progressively start to resemble a gently cascading series of rocky river gullies.

After a lazy morning in Katherine (read: sleeping in until 10am) we booked ourselves on a relaxing four-hour river cruise. This took us through the first three gorges. However, transferring to the next gorge meant disembarking, walking a short distance and boarding another boat. By far the most spectacular gorge was the second one. Here the river narrows and passes through a canyon of towering rock walls. It’s the stuff of postcards and brochures everywhere.

The third gorge was relatively dull by comparison as the river began to flatten out into a more genteel gully. At its far end a short walk over rocks carved into all manner of flowing shapes offered a view of the fourth gorge which in all honesty looked more like a traditional rocky, river bed than a gorge.

On our return journey down the river we stopped at a series of plunge pools. The location was another postcard-perfect scene. Our guide encouraged us to pause for a swim. In the afternoon heat we needed little coercing. We spent 45 minutes enjoying the cool, fresh waters. As I remarked to Garry later, this was probably the first river I’d ever swam in where I’d moment earlier taken photos of swimming crocodiles. Our guide assured us these were freshwater crocodiles; timid creatures that prefer to keep well away from humans.

However, two young children in the tour group soon discovered a brown snake gliding through rocks on the edge of our swimming hole. Our guide identified it as a freshwater-loving Rough-scaled Snake. He confirmed that it was poisonous and that we best keep our distance. I can now boldly calm to have swum in a river filled with crocodiles and poisonous snakes. Not a feat I plan to repeat any time soon.

1 comment:

Danny said...

You blog is rubbish.

Danny :-)