Tuesday, August 11

A mid-winter swim


After relaxing much of yesterday at Yellow Waters, today was officially designated as a heavy driving day. We left Cooinda shortly before 10am. Ahead lay more than 260kms of remote highway as we made our way south to the township of Katherine. I’ve always dreamed of seeing nearby Katherine Gorge, possibly one of the Top End’s most iconic beauty spots. We plan to spend two days based in Katherine before heading north to Litchfield National Park, then back into Darwin.


We broke up today’s journey with a short (by North Territory standards) 40km detour to Leilyn, also known as Edith Falls. This picturesque water hole sits on the western fringe of Nitmiluk National Park. The same park is home Katherine Gorge on its southern flank. Our journey was broken twice by an enormous freight train making its way south. As we waited for it to pass by our level crossing, Garry counted no fewer than 95 wagons of all shapes and sizes. Some were even loaded with a double stake of 40-foot containers.


We reached Leilyn shortly after 1pm, just in time for a leisurely lunch as the heat of the day hit its mid-30⁰C peak. It proved to be the perfect panacea for the heat. Leilyn sits on the banks of the Edith River, whose cool waters have cascaded down from the Arnhem Plateau towards the Katherine River. This section of the river contains no fewer than five idyllic plunge pools, each carved over several millennia by a trio of postcard-perfect waterfalls.


It took little prompting to swap our driving rags for swimmers and trek up to the most scenic stretch of water, known simply as the upper pool. As we crested the hill we were greeted by the most divine sight of a white, plunging waterfall and a series of shimmering rock pools. Only three other people were in view as we reached the water’s edge and carefully eased ourselves in. The icy waters were heavenly. The 1.5 km trek back to the van took past more plunge pools and waterfalls, as well as a spectacular view of the entire falls zone at Bemang Lookout. All too soon it was time to go, as we were keen to reach Katherine before sunset.


Tonight we’re camping on the banks of the Katherine River under the shade of scented gum trees. Naturally we felt duty bound to enjoy a quick dip in the local hot springs (well, warm springs actually), located just 400 metres from our campsite. The springs are free to enter, having been discretely landscaped into channels adjoining the river bank. The result is a semi-natural, tree-shaded swimming hole, supplemented by modern access stairs and facilities. I’ve already promised myself a pre-breakfast dip tomorrow morning. Two refreshing swims in one day! I’ll do winter in the Top End any time.

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