A Travellerspoint blog

July 2019

Katherine to Kununurra

...and we leave the NT to return to our second home of WA

sunny 33 °C
View Sam Smart in World War II & Return to complete the Lap on SteveJD's travel map.

I omitted to give any information about Katherine in the last blog, so here goes - the town probably should be called Catherine. As mentioned in earlier blogs, "...John McDouall Stuart was backed by James Chambers and named a string of features after him or his family. On his third expedition, in 1862, Stuart came across the river which he called Katherine and said that he had named it after Chambers' second daughter. However, the daughter was named Catherine but her mother was Katherine. The question is, did Stuart make a mistake with the person or the name?" (Aussie Towns, edited)

There were hot springs a short walk from our cabin

There were hot springs a short walk from our cabin

Today Katherine is a very pleasant medium-sized town with all the amenities one would hope to find, luckily including computer shops as our technology woes continued. My mouse died, so we had to spend some time finding a replacement. Having done this we still had enough time to revisit Edith Falls. It really is a lovely area but again we could not take full advantage as I was still feeling a bit unwell, although considerably improved.

Swimmers in the pool below Edith Falls

Swimmers in the pool below Edith Falls

Edith River fringed by dense vegetation

Edith River fringed by dense vegetation

Flower of the Kapok tree

Flower of the Kapok tree

A skink of the ctenotus species, I think

A skink of the ctenotus species, I think

Flower bud of the Rosella - an introduced species

Flower bud of the Rosella - an introduced species

Edith Falls (Leliyn in the Jawoyn Aboriginal language) are on the Edith River which was named, in 1871, by W. McMinn during the construction of the Overland Telegraph, in honour of Lady Edith Christian Fergusson, the wife of the South Australian governor, Sir James Fergusson. In the last blog, I assumed that Edith Falls were on the Katherine, so sorry for providing duff information!

The following day we had booked a dinner cruise in Katherine Gorge and in the late afternoon we drove to the boarding area. Our boat was comfortable with a good mix of people on board and a good guide who pointed out items of interest as we cruised along. The first gorge then came to an end and we had to disembark and walk through to another gorge where a different boat and guide awaited us. On this part of the journey, we saw the nests of Fairy Martins and also some Aboriginal paintings on a cliff face. This I found surprising as they seemed quite exposed and yet retained their colour. The sun began to duck behind the gorge cliffs and we had some beautiful light coming through gaps. We returned to our first boat which was now set up for dinner and we shared a table with a Ranger (working on crocodile surveys) and his partner. Food and company were excellent and we had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon and evening.

Black Flying Fox

Black Flying Fox

Cruising into the gorges

Cruising into the gorges

Many of the gorge walls were covered in vegetation, from ferns to trees

Many of the gorge walls were covered in vegetation, from ferns to trees

A Freshwater Crocodile seen from the boat

A Freshwater Crocodile seen from the boat

Trap used to capture the occasional Saltwater Crocodile which may come in during high waters

Trap used to capture the occasional Saltwater Crocodile which may come in during high waters

An Australiasian Darter - drying its wings or showing how big its catch was?!

An Australiasian Darter - drying its wings or showing how big its catch was?!

Heading into our mooring point at the end of the first gorge

Heading into our mooring point at the end of the first gorge

Cliff faces with sparser vegetation in the second gorge

Cliff faces with sparser vegetation in the second gorge

A palm reaching high to catch the light

A palm reaching high to catch the light

Fairy Martin nests

Fairy Martin nests

Ferns growing quite densely on one wall

Ferns growing quite densely on one wall

Gorge reflections

Gorge reflections

The gannets descend!

The gannets descend!

This is the life!

This is the life!

This brought our stay in Katherine to an end and we set off on the Victoria Highway (now back on the Savannah Way, part of which we traversed on our last trip) - a 510km trip to Kununurra, including side trips. The countryside was quite varied with more undulations than we had been used to and different vegetation.

A bit of elevation was nice after hundreds of miles of very flat landscape

A bit of elevation was nice after hundreds of miles of very flat landscape

And the road just ran on westwards

And the road just ran on westwards

Nice to see a few more trees with green leaves!

Nice to see a few more trees with green leaves!

We stopped for a light lunch at the Victoria Roadhouse, where a young French girl from the Loire Valley served us - we enjoy meeting and chatting with these young folk working their way through Australia.

Little Corella outside the roadhouse (one of many!)

Little Corella outside the roadhouse (one of many!)

A little further on we passed through Timber Creek and turned off to a viewpoint. Here we found not only sweeping views over the Victoria River and the cliffs in the area but a memorial to early pastoralists, in particular the Durack family and, a little further up this side road, a memorial to 'The Nackeroos'. We had never heard of this unit but, as it happens, I had just come across mention of them in Book 9 of The Frontier series by Peter Watt (highly recommended). The Nackeroos was a nickname for the 2/1st North Australia Observer Unit which was a light horse mounted unit whose task was to provide early warning of any Japanese incursions (in the book, they rescued an American airman lost in the bush after crashing his plane).

On the way up to the viewpoint

On the way up to the viewpoint

An interesting mix of trees below the escarpment

An interesting mix of trees below the escarpment

Replica Bronco Panel as a memorial to the early pastoralists

Replica Bronco Panel as a memorial to the early pastoralists

Memorial to the 'Nackeroos'

Memorial to the 'Nackeroos'

Poem by a soldier who apparently served with the Nackeroos (name unknown)

Poem by a soldier who apparently served with the Nackeroos (name unknown)

20190525_IMG_5115.jpgViews from the 'Nackeroos' memorial to the Victoria River and over the township of Timber Creek

Views from the 'Nackeroos' memorial to the Victoria River and over the township of Timber Creek

The Victoria River owes its name to the first European to explore it in 1839. He was Captain J.C. Wickham and he reached the mouth of the river in the HMS Beagle and duly named the river after his sovereign, Queen Victoria (Aussietowns; edited).

As we neared the WA border, we started to see boabs which are trees that we are familiar with through their Africans cousins, baobabs. They are wonderful trees which take on a variety of, mostly rotund, appearances and provide homes and sustenance to birds and animals, including humans!

A solitary boab - advance guard to the many!

A solitary boab - advance guard to the many!

More boabs

More boabs

Fruit of the boab nearly 20cm long

Fruit of the boab nearly 20cm long

On crossing the WA border we had to go through quarantine and were a bit disgruntled to have a sealed jar of honey (a commercial brand from Queensland) confiscated. We were particularly affronted to find exactly the same honey on sale in Kununurra!

Kununurra is the eastern entrance to the Kimberley region (3,337km from Perth via Broome). The town takes its name from the Miriwoong Aboriginal word meaning 'big water' - accurate but probably not an 'original' aboriginal name for the place but co-opted after Lake Argyle was created (various sources). In Kununurra, we found Ivanhoe Village Caravan Park where we had another very comfortable cabin for our accommodation.

Our cabin and Hilux behind boab in the grounds (Steve looking for dragon!)

Our cabin and Hilux behind boab in the grounds (Steve looking for dragon!)

Dragon - not sure which type

Dragon - not sure which type

After a restful night, we were ready for an early morning pick up for Argyle Boat Tours to drive us out to Lake Argyle. We stopped at the Argyle Homestead Museum where the main feature is the Durack homestead which was rescued from the rising waters of Lake Argyle. It was built in 1895 as the home of the pioneering Durack family but in 1969 it was proposed that their building should be rescued, before Lake Argyle filled, and preserved for posterity. The homestead was dismantled and each brick was coded. The bricks were put into store but by the time the reconstruction was to take place, it was found that many of the codes had been affected by some very wet weather and by the time the building was completed, it was estimated to be around 85% true to the original.

Great Bowerbird's bower - a bit less colourful than some

Great Bowerbird's bower - a bit less colourful than some

The Durack Homestead

The Durack Homestead

Frangipani flower

Frangipani flower

Argyle Homestead Museum sign

Argyle Homestead Museum sign

We had a rest stop at the lovely Argyle Resort with its superbly positioned infinity pool before boarding our boat for a cruise on the lake.

View over Lake Argyle from Argyle Village

View over Lake Argyle from Argyle Village

Infinity pool at Argyle Village

Infinity pool at Argyle Village

Once aboard, we were regaled with stories of the past and had much information provided about the geology of the area and the creatures that inhabit the waters, islands and surrounds of the lake. We stopped at a 'beach' around midday, giving time for a swim before a barbecued fish lunch - delicious!

Dam wall and part of the hydro-electricity plant

Dam wall and part of the hydro-electricity plant

Map of the lake - it is huge and our cruise covered only an area in the top left corner!

Map of the lake - it is huge and our cruise covered only an area in the top left corner!

Two immature White-bellied Sea-eagles

Two immature White-bellied Sea-eagles

Typical view along the lake's edge

Typical view along the lake's edge

Some of the interesting geology on view around the lake

Some of the interesting geology on view around the lake

Dead trees pose a navigation hazard as many are submerged but almost fossilised

Dead trees pose a navigation hazard as many are submerged but almost fossilised

Short-eared Rock Wallaby

Short-eared Rock Wallaby

20190526_IMG_5135.jpgTwo views of a Jabiru on its nest on an island

Two views of a Jabiru on its nest on an island

Where we beached for lunch - the shore was smothered with snail shells and small chunks of ochre

Where we beached for lunch - the shore was smothered with snail shells and small chunks of ochre

A quick swim before BBQ fish lunch

A quick swim before BBQ fish lunch

Many of the people aboard returned by coach but we had booked to travel with Triple J Tours on the Ord River. The coach dropped us off below the dam wall where we boarded our boat with its most informative and entertaining guide/skipper, Grant. About mid-afternoon, we pulled in to a sheltered area and were surprised to find benches and tables all under sails so that we could enjoy Grant's scones and tea without getting sunburned. We enjoyed seeing the sunset from the boat and eventually made our home in the twilight hours - two very happy bunnies!

Our coach crossing the dam wall - from the Ord River cruise boat

Our coach crossing the dam wall - from the Ord River cruise boat

Part of the hydro-electricity plant

Part of the hydro-electricity plant

Freshwater Crocodile

Freshwater Crocodile

Sun shafting through smoke

Sun shafting through smoke

Baby Freshwater Crocodile - about 45cm long

Baby Freshwater Crocodile - about 45cm long

Coot family

Coot family

Short-eared Rock Wallaby in cave

Short-eared Rock Wallaby in cave

The angle of this formation shows the tilting that took place aeons ago

The angle of this formation shows the tilting that took place aeons ago

From our afternoon tea spot, we could see this rock shaped like a Digger

From our afternoon tea spot, we could see this rock shaped like a Digger

Our skipper making sure our afternoon tea area was clear

Our skipper making sure our afternoon tea area was clear

Steve bending to board the boat after tea

Steve bending to board the boat after tea

Grant - our skipper and guide

Grant - our skipper and guide

Colony of Black Flying Foxes

Colony of Black Flying Foxes

Reflections in the river

Reflections in the river

More reflections

More reflections

Sunset over the Ord River

Sunset over the Ord River

Elephant Rock near Kununurra

Elephant Rock near Kununurra

Posted by SteveJD 08:00 Archived in Australia Tagged western_australia memorials katherine northern_territory boabs timber_creek nackeroos Comments (0)

Darwin to Katherine

...via Litchfield National Park, Adelaide River and Pine Creek

sunny 39 °C
View Sam Smart in World War II & Return to complete the Lap on SteveJD's travel map.

After and all too short stay in Darwin, we had a drive of about 168km to a very comfortable cabin in Litchfield Tourist Park. On the way down, we stopped at Manton Dam Reserve. The dam was created in 1942 as Darwin's first water supply reservoir. After the war it was opened for recreational use by swimmers, boat folk and fishermen. It also has a lovely forested area which is home to a host of fauna and flora.

View through paperbarks

View through paperbarks

Forest Kingfisher

Forest Kingfisher

Blue waterlily

Blue waterlily

Red-collared Lorikeet

Red-collared Lorikeet

We continued to Batchelor where we visited an interesting, if somewhat quirky, butterfly farm - it's worth a visit if you happen to be in the area but personally I would rather have extra time in Litchfield!

22a93d80-9bea-11e9-a735-19592adfeea3.jpgSome of the beautiful butterflies to be seen

Some of the beautiful butterflies to be seen

Restaurant area with massive tables made by the owner from mahogany logs

Restaurant area with massive tables made by the owner from mahogany logs

Previously, the area had been cattle country but the Townsend family negotiated with the NT Government and in 1986, part of their property was proclaimed a national park and was subsequently enlarged with the addition of other stations. The national park was named after Frederick Henry Litchfield, a Territory pioneer, who explored from Escape Cliffs on the Timor Sea (about 6km NE of Darwin) to the Daly River (222km from Darwin) in 1864 (Wikipedia).

I was still feeling unwell while we were at Litchfield which was a pity as it was one of the loveliest places we have visited on this trip. As the drive down was short, we had time in the afternoon to drive out to a field of magnetic termite mounds - the mounds are aligned north-south, minimising exposure to the sun. Nearby were some huge cathedral termite mounds and clearly these little creatures cope with heat in a different way. Ideally, we needed to be there in the morning for the best light but as things turned out, this just didn't happen.

Parked up by our cabin

Parked up by our cabin

Red-tailed Black-cockatoo just by the cabin

Red-tailed Black-cockatoo just by the cabin

Field of magnetic termite mounds

Field of magnetic termite mounds

bc727120-9bea-11e9-9a0a-1158e1c3bbc6.jpgTwo examples of cathedral termite mounds

Two examples of cathedral termite mounds

Pandanus Palm showing why it is also known as Screw Palm

Pandanus Palm showing why it is also known as Screw Palm

A group of pandanus palms near the termite mounds

A group of pandanus palms near the termite mounds

From the mounds we drove a short way further to Florence Falls, a really impressive set of cascades in a deep valley, strictly a 'segmented waterfall'. It would have been good to get down to the foot of the falls but I was in no fit condition to attempt this at the time.

Florence Falls

Florence Falls

This large rock face to the side of the falls is a safe haven for some cypress pines

This large rock face to the side of the falls is a safe haven for some cypress pines

We then lost a day as I was feeling really ropey and the following day had to go to Batchelor for medical treatment. The medical centre in this little town was very impressive and they apparently benefit from being 'remote' - certainly they are financed better than many urban medical centres we have seen.

Having been dosed up, I was then fit to travel back into the national park where we visited Tabletop Swamp. This doesn't sound appealing but it is a large depression on top of the Tabletop Range which, unlike other areas of the park, relies on rainfall to fill up and usually dries out by the end of the dry season, This is another fascinating area from a geological perspective as well as the beauty of the fauna and flora.

View across part of the 'swamp'

View across part of the 'swamp'

Reflections of paperbark trees

Reflections of paperbark trees

Our last visit in the park was Tolmer Falls where I left Judith to do the walk to the falls as I was really too feeble at that stage to walk more than a few hundred yards. Thankfully, this did clear fairly quickly but what a pity I had to miss out on so much the very special place that is Litchfield National Park.

St Andrew's Cross spider - the things you find on a walk!

St Andrew's Cross spider - the things you find on a walk!

Tolmer Falls

Tolmer Falls

The smallest foothold and trees will grow

The smallest foothold and trees will grow

According to an information board at Tolmer Falls, the falls "...along with many features in this park, was shaped in the 'Dreamtime' when spirit beings in the form of humans, animals and plants created features of the landscape where they remain today." I am probably terribly politically incorrect but, while I enjoy and appreciate many of the myths and legends associated with Aboriginal culture, I find the assertion of some of these stories as fact misleading and irritating. This is only one of many such instances we have come across.

The next stage of our journey was a 314km drive to Katherine. On the way down we stopped at Adelaide River. The first Europeans to explore the Adelaide River were Lieutenant John Lort Stokes and Master's Mate L.R. Fitzmaurice in 1839 while surveying the coast of the Northern Territory on HMS Beagle. They named the river after Queen Adelaide, then the Queen Dowager and widow of King William IV who had died in 1837.

Apart from having a leg stretch, the only reason for stopping at Adelaide River was to visit the impressive War Cemetery. We had heard about this in Darwin as, in one of the Japanese raids, the Post Office was hit and the workers were killed. Their bodies were removed from the danger area and interred in a separate section of the Adelaide River War Cemetery.

Entrance to the cemetery

Entrance to the cemetery

Digger on guard at the entrance

Digger on guard at the entrance

Brass plaques are used instead of crosses, in a lovely garden setting

Brass plaques are used instead of crosses, in a lovely garden setting

We then drove on to Pine Creek for a lunch break. Pine Creek was named in 1870 by the workers on the Overland Telegraph Line who were struck by the number of pines growing along the creek. In 1889, the South Australian government renamed it Playford but the locals continued to call it Pine Creek. Finally, the town was officially gazetted as Pine Creek in 1973!

We ate our lunch in a pleasant little park and noticed some large nests in the trees around us. On checking out, we found these were green tree ant nests, constructed of leaves which are woven together with the silk form larvae. Apparently, although a tree may contain many nests, there is only one queen. I gather they have a nasty bite but am glad to say that they left us in peace!

Green tree ant nest

Green tree ant nest

Green tree ants starting a new nest

Green tree ants starting a new nest

View from our picnic table

View from our picnic table

I had been surprised to find Salmon Gums in the Top End as I thought they were confined to the south-west of WA!

20190522_IMG_5071.jpgSalmon gums in burnt out area and more natural bush

Salmon gums in burnt out area and more natural bush

About 22km before reaching Katherine, we turned off to Edith Falls but did not have much time to explore as we had to press on to check in at Riverview Village, another comfortable cabin accommodation, although nothing flash and not as well treed as Litchfield had been. The falls are actually a cascading series of falls and I suspect that we only saw the last set of falls from our viewpoint in the tourist area, looking across a huge pool, fringed by paperbark trees and pandanus palms.

View of the falls across the large pool

View of the falls across the large pool

The pool flows into the Katherine River and into gorges

The pool flows into the Katherine River and into gorges

Posted by SteveJD 05:46 Archived in Australia Tagged waterfalls trees katherine adelaide_river litchfield_national_park pine_creek manton_dam Comments (2)

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