Katherine to Katherine Gorge, Australia

Distance: 18 miles
Time on bikes: 0.5 hours

We manage to get away from the backpackers hostel at about 10 am and take the road east out of town which takes us to Nitmiluk National Park, home to the start of the Katherine Gorge.

The weather is really nice today, just above thirty degrees and quite pleasant. It’s less than twenty miles to the end of the road where we find the Nitmiluk visitors centre and park the bikes in the car park to see what the score is with accommodation and being able to see the gorge. We’re hoping to be able to camp and hire a canoe for a trip up the river to explore the gorge.

In the visitors centre we’re quickly able to sort out the camping for £20 for the night, but unfortunately the canoe hire is suspended as there are salt water crocodiles present in the river at the moment. Also, only one of the walks along the gorge is open, again because of the risk of crocodiles being present in the swimming holes along the footpaths.

We can still take a boat tour up the gorge, but this costs £40 each. The next trip is scheduled for 9 am tomorrow morning, but will only run if they get a minimum of six people to go on the boat.

We head into the campsite which is nicely set out and park the bikes up in a shady spot under a tree. The temperature is now about 30 degrees and we decide to leave pitching the tent until later in the day as it could otherwise turn into an oven by this evening. For the rest of the day we relax around the really nice pool and plan what we can see over the next couple of days on the journey down the Stuart Highway. After getting chatting to an Australian couple on a weekend break from Darwin, we take their advice and decide to plan our walk to see the entrance to the gorge at sunset when the view is apparently very good.

There’s a nice surprise in the afternoon as we’re joined on the campsite by a group of wild wallabies. It’s the first time either of us have seen these (apart from the dead ones lining the roads) and they’re amazingly tame. Just like very big rabbits and intriguing for us to see them nibbling leaves and hopping around. There’s a bit of a torrential downpour while we’re in the pool, but is just makes the air nice and cool and it’s quite refreshing to have such a nice shower while in the warm water of the pool.

We have an early dinner and head out for a walk at about 6.45 pm to see the lookout point at the entrance to the Katherine Gorge. There’s a great view at the top and we manage to get there and watch the sunset over ten minutes which gave a really spectacular effect on the clouds, giving them a fiery red edge. When at the top, Béné managed to spot a big saltwater crocodile in the river below and it must have been about 2.5 metres in length, judging by the moored up boat it was swimming near. So just as well we didn’t do any canoeing.

After the sun has set, we decide it’s now a good idea to set off to complete the remainder of the two mile loop walk through the surround bush near to the gorge. It’s not long before it’s very dark and we wonder what wildlife is around us as we walk along. Thankfully the track is good and in about forty minutes we’re back in the campsite.

We find there’s a problem with the electrics in the shower block, so instead take a late dip in the pool to cool off before retiring to our tent for the evening.

Jour 273 – Dimanche 16 Janvier 2011. De Katherine a Nitmiluk, Australie.

Distance: 29 km – Temps à moto: 0.5 heures

Après petit déjeuner et ranger nos affaires, on va faire un tour au supermarché pour y acheter de quoi pique-niquer. On prend la route vers 10 heures et il fait déjà bien chaud, le temps de faire les 29 kilomètres jusqu’au camping et il fait bien trop chaud, on ne monte pas la tente, et on va directement a la piscine. On se renseigne pour savoir si il est possible de faire un tour en bateau ou de louer un kayak pour aller sur la rivière, mais le bateau est assez cher et il n’est pas possible de louer de kayak en ce moment du au risque de crocodiles et aux eaux trop puissantes, il y a des balades à faire, mais la plupart sont fermées du au niveau des eaux. Bref, on retourne à la piscine et on ira faire un tour plus tard, quand il fera moins chaud, le long de la rivière.

On passe l’après-midi dans la piscine, et une grosse averse passe, on a bien fait de ne pas planter la tente, il y a plein d’endroits innondés dans le camping. Une fois que l’averse est passée, je vais voir ou on peut planter la tente et c’est la surprise : il y a des wallibis dans le camping, ce sont de petits kangorous. Ils sont très mignons et pas peureux, et ils grigottent des feuilles et herbes un peu partout. On fini par planter la tente comme il fait un peu moins chaud, on mange tot puis on va faire la ballade a pieds vers la gorge. On part vers 6h45, et la montée est raide, mais la vue sur la vallée et la rivière est superbe, on appercoit même un grand crocodile dans la rivière, on est un peu haut et on ne le voit par très bien, mais comparé au bateau qui est juste a coté, il doit faire plus de 2,5 mètres de long, mieux vaut ne pas nager dans le coin !

On profite d’un superbe coucher de soleil du sommet avant de redescendre au camping  dans la nuit tombante. Il fait assez lourd et on est bien contents de nous plonger dans la piscine au camping avant d’aller nous coucher, il y a encore des Wallabies dans le camping, ils sont vraiment mignons.