25.08.2014 35 °C
KATHERINE, NORTHERN TERRITORY
23 – 27 August 2014
A big little town, one of only four towns of any size up here in the Territory. With an indigenous population of around 25%, the rest is made up of Grey Nomads (yea!!), backpackers, and Darwinians heading down the track by road. That's where we've been for a few days, taking it all in and there is much to see and do here.
The Ghan railway – originally named The Afghan Express back in the early days – now runs regularly between Adelaide, Alice Springs to Darwin. The word is that it’s a great service, carrying cargo, some mail and travellers. The 2979km journey takes around 54 hours with a stopover in Alice and costs around the $1500 one way per person – not bad considering the distance.
The newer line going north is built much further west to accommodate the unloading and loading of cargo and passengers. Katherine in a road junction too where the Stuart Highway (north-south) meets the Victoria Highway coming from Western Australia and this takes the traveller to within reach of El Questro, the well known resort in the Outback – and Victoria River Downs, once the biggest cattle station in the world at nearly 2 million acres. That’s a lot of cows …
Tourist Information Centres are worth their weight in gold we think and we have stopped at every one at the town we stop at. Helpful, friendly, up to date with information and services of the town, useful links to caravan spare parts etc and where to stay.
There is a Woollies here and we went in on Sunday morning for a stock up. This actually needs a mention here – it’s a big store with plenty on the shelves. However, it was the 10 checkouts that had us gaping in wonder. Each checkout was open, each checkout had at least 7 or 8 people in the queue, and each trolley was piled high. We have never seen so much shopping taken out of any supermarket so we suspect all kinds of travellers were stocking up. To our surprise, the efficiency rate was excellent and although we suspected we’d be there for ages and ages, in fact we got through remarkably quickly. Must write and mention it to Buderim Woollies … !!
We did go into Target to get a swimsuit for me and it is policed very carefully – knock first and then unlock just the one fitting room door; all toilets in the town (not the shopping centre) were locked, and yet the indigenous folk went quietly about their shopping, barefoot and very dusty, then joined their folk under the trees and enjoyed some time to relax. But there's a lot of crime, abuse and drunkenness here - from all sorts of people!
No alcohol is allowed in the streets anywhere here – but both the Police Station and Court House are very impressive buildings! Even Katherine Hospital isn’t too bad but quite likely deals mainly with some accidents, every kind of abuse known to humankind, social issues, mental health, dialysis and some operating theatres. Serious cases would go to Darwin, 300 km north, or flown out by the RFDS
Charles Darwin University is an interesting campus spread over a wide area – why not, there’s plenty of room out here!
We spent time yesterday at Edith Falls and managed a swim – no that’s not right – more of a dip. It was FREEZING cold despite the 34 degree temperature, flowing quite well but after recent news stories, we were not keen to stay there too long. Many many tourists marvelling at the gorge, the scenery and the birdlife. The Falls are in Nitmiluk National Park and so, too, is Katherine Gorge and tonight we are going on a sunset dinner cruise into the gorge – not sure about the jumping crocodiles though .. ?
There are many aerodromes up here and we have quite possibly passed at least seven of them. Most but not all, are disused today, but played a key role in WWII as bases out of Darwin.
…. On that note, crikey – ANOTHER jet fighter just flew overhead – that makes 6 in the last hour. We suspect it is something to do with the joint military operation started last weekend with US and Australian military (all three services) doing combined exercises – off Darwin so they tell us – it’s called Operation Kokoda!
Had a phone call from Hil today – my they’ve done so well. Mark and his team of 10 are presently on the Kokoda Track itself and will be out of any kind of contact for 9 days.
We leave here tomorrow (Wed – I think it is, although we did lose 2 days last week) and heading to Adelaide River – so bye for now xxxx