Australia, Expeditions and Travels, Travel

Australia Road Trip Katherine Gorge All to Ourselves 2007

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Nourlangie, a outlier of the Arnhem Land escarpment of red sandstone, in Kakadu National Park, NT

After a short ride from Kakadu National Park, we pulled into the town of Katherine and, after a quick re-supply, took the paved road to Katherine Gorge National Park. The Northern Territory (an Australian state) manages the park even though it is the province of the national government. In the US, it would be like the State of NJ running Gateway National Park, or Forsythe National Wildlife Refuge. Although a consequence of the relatively recent confederation of Australian States into a national federation in the early 20th century, the arrangement has some merit.

First gorge at Katherine Gorge National Park

 

A Blue-faced Honeyeater and . . . . . . .

 

Rainbow Lorikeets in Katherine Gorge National Park

Giant termite mounds along roadside between Kakadu National Park to Katherine Gorge National Park

In the US all national parks, refuges and forest lands are managed to a nationwide standard by the federal government. The consistently high standard of our national parks and refuges results from this uniform federal management. It also leads to the imposition of a style of management or governance that sometimes conflicts with local custom often leading to confrontation. An alternative, presented in Australia, is the creation of a national standard that is implemented by state governments but monitored by federal authorities. After a quick tour of the park we set up camp in the well-kept campground run by a concession in the park.

Mandy shooing a Wallaby, a bit too habituated to humans, out of our campsite in Katherine Gorge National Park

We intended to take the river cruise but chose instead to rent kayaks (at a lower fare and for a longer period). We spent most of the day wandering the gorge, rich with birds like the Rainbow Lorikeet and the Blue-faced Honeyeater, At the end of the first Gorge (there are 13) we came to a cliff with aboriginal paintings over a thousand years old.

Kayaking in Katherine Gorge

 

Cliff paintings by an Aboriginal artist made over a thousand years ago

 

Dragonfly in Katherine Gorge

 

We stayed the last night of our journey across Australia at Fitzroy Crossing in Western Australia. Coming in late, we decided to have a celebratory dinner; the next day we would be in Broome after traveling 6,600 km from the southeast corner of the continent to the northwest. Fitzroy Crossing Lodge is the first thing you will see coming in to the town and it’s beautiful buildings and lush grounds would make you wonder what more lies in this very isolated town. The next day we found the town offered little else than the normal road house towns that dot the bush landscape.

Two large Boab trees on the road to Fitzroy Crossing

After a brief late morning visit to Gieke Gorge under a sun that made the sand unbearably hot, we jumped into the river vigilant for freshwater crocodiles (although they are not dangerous to humans). The final leg to Broome was through one of the most remote sections of our trip — through the Western Australia Kimberley Region. It was ravaged by fires and as hot as an oven. Over one stretch of 400 km (more than the length of NJ) we came across just one road house (= glorified gas station!).

A threatening rainstorm over a smoldering fire. The rains marked the beginning of the wet season in northern Australia

Gieke Gorge National Park

 

Smoky woodland on the road to Broome

We first saw the turquoise waters of Roebuck Bay near the Broome Bird Observatory at about 5:00 p.m. — we promised Clive we would be at there at 4:00 — after a 6,600 km journey of ten days, we were only 1 hour late!