Sunday, 30 July 1995

AUS 1995 - Nitmiluk NP

Nitmiluk NP (NT)
Katherine {Stuart Highway) 105 kms

We were quickly on the road and on the way to what was anticipated as being one of the highlights of the trip... Katherine Gorge.

Our only stop was at the township of Mataranka, for a breakfast of Kelly's Pies, which had been
recommended by a fellow traveller on the way north. The pies look like many of the hoax UFO creations which can be seen in any doctored film or video footage that pretends to show the existence of little green men (and presumably women, to be completely politically correct in the 90's). They are the basic pie shape, but the central section, inside the rim of the pie, is raised about 40 mm and full of vegies and meat. Normally two pies don't fill me, but one was enough to make lunch appear unnecessary !

Arriving at Katherine, we caught some quick highlights, but basically headed straight for the Gorge. The Katherine Gorge or Nitmiluk NP occupies quite a large area, encompassing the gorge system in the south and including Edith Falls in the north. Katherine Gorge is, in fact, one small section of one gorge in a thirteen gorge system through which the Katherine River flows after rising in head waters in the southern part of Arnhem Land. The river leaves the last gorge - named the first gorge because of the direction in which the gorges are accessed - and splits into three streams. It returns to one watercourse and flows in a tree lined state through the town of Katherine. It eventually empties into the Daly River, one of the major rivers of the Northern Territory which flow north west into the Timor Sea.

The gorge system is a series of gorges which have cut into the sandstone parent rock and created narrow, steep sided crevices, through which the eroding agent - the Katherine - travels all year long.
During the wet season, the river gains an additional seven metres in depth and an enormous amount in velocity and ferocity. It is only through the wet season the gorges are all connected by a free flow of water, because the fall in height of the dry season exposes rockfalls which act as physical barriers.
The water is spring and rainfall fed and is a clear, deep blue. The deepest water in any gorge is the 27
metres where Butterfly Gorge enters at the side of Gorge Two.

Settling into our campsite at Nitmiluk NP
During the dry season, tours are conducted through up to and including the first five we gorges, by the use of shallow-hulled punts which are towed into the gorges near the end of the "wet" and moored ready for use. The rockfall divisions are traversed on Shank's Pony.

In the wet season, tours are conducted by jet boat through the entire gorge system. A "dry" tour of the first five gorges takes eight hours : the jet boat tour of all of the joined gorges, takes 45 minutes !

Armed with all this preamble, we can't wait for tomorrow.

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