We both loved Katherine, in the NT. It is beautiful, interesting and has hot springs where, in the afternoon when we visited, workers in their high-viz gear strolled down to the water’s edge, stripped off and immersed themselves in the warm, soothing waters.
Nitmiluk Gorge, once called Katherine Gorge, in Nitmiluk National Park is breathtaking. We went in the dry season, where the boat did not travel so deep into the Gorge, but it was amazing. The colours, stories and culture were worth it. The park is managed by the Jawoyn Aboriginal people and the Northern Territory Government and the tour was led by a Jawoyn man, who shared cultural tales and understandings. Nitmiluk means land of the cicada dreaming.
One of the stories he told was of how his people used to fish: they would pick a plant that grew on the side of the river and throw it in the water. It de-oxygenated the water, causing the fish to float to the surface, where the Jawoyn people scooped up what they needed and then sent the children in to jump and splash about, thus oxygenating the water once more, so the rest of the fish were revitalised and swam off. Now that’s sustainability!
Another story was of a very old film, one of the first in which Aboriginal actors were used and spoke in their own language. It was called Jedda, was from 1955, and was partly filmed in the Gorge. As we passed a particularly beautiful and high cliff face, the guide said that it was there the final scene was filmed. I don’t want to spoil it, even though being so old you would probably find it appalling, but apparently they really jumped! The story was based on some accurate beliefs about inter-marriage (being forbidden) and typical tribal punishment (spearing in the thigh).
This cruise is a must. We went at the end of the dry, which means it is cut short but it was beautiful, interesting and the swim in the middle is amazing – even if you are all looking over your shoulder for any signs of floating ‘sticks with eyes’. The crocodiles, we were assured, were not present at that time of the year, but we’ve all read about those tourists who found one …
Katherine is a big town with everything you need. The river is massive and when you visit the empty bed, it is hard to imagine that it frequently fills and floods the town in the wet season. Well, hard for someone who never sees that amount of rain.
The caravan park where we stayed was perfect. Pretty, wide, grassy, a great restaurant and pool, clean and spacious facilities, helpful staff – I’d recommend BIG4 Katherine Holiday Park. Loads of kookaburras.
Take water, your hat and a camera.