Located across a small park from the excellent Katherine Visitors centre is an equestrian mounted statue of Sabu Peter Sing. There is a panel in the visitors centre that reads:
“This magnificent one and a half times life-sized bronze statue, a project of the Northern Territory Cattlemans Association for 2002 – the Year of the Outback, was commissioned as an acknowledgment of our forebears, a salute to those who currently work on the land and encourages others to cherish the challenges of the future.
The role model is Sabu Peter Sing (1940 – 1993), a member of the Wardaman Tribe, skilled bushman, horseman and stockman, who represents our courageous pioneers and all who follow the trails they blazed”
Fine words that unfortunately only tell part of the story. Perhaps the other parts should also be told – the Aboriginal people mostly were not paid for their years of toil, but were ‘paid,’ if that is the word, with rations for themselves and their tribal members – I would prefer to use the word ‘exploited’ rather than ‘paid.’
In many ways we as a nation have made many mistakes and “SORRY” as expressed in Federal Parliament only went some of the way for a true apology. Then again maybe we as a predominantly European community have given too much recently and maybe we are now the exploited people while some sit under trees and really don’t do anything except line up every second week at the local Centrelink office – see photo 3
The west end of the Low Level Nature Park is the less developed and less crowded part of the Park. There was a shallow place near the shore of the Katherine River that would be good for kids to swim. However, there were quite a few flying-foxes on the other side of the river. They were a little noisy at midday. Who knows what it would be like in the evening?
Zig (1+1) and I stopped at the Low Level Nature Park in Katherine on our way back to Darwin on 26 Aug 2010. It was lunchtime and the Park is a nice place for a picnic. We were still trying to finish the leftovers from the 2010 VT Meet in Alice Springs. Actually Rosie's bean salad, some cheese, and chips & salsa made a tasty lunch. We were there during the dry season but the Katherine Times has pictures from the wet season. There are shady picnic areas, gas BBQ facilities, bicycle paths, a children's playground, and public toilets. The Park is monitored for crocodiles, so it should be safe to swim there. You may also fish for barramundi and black bream in the river.
The Northern Territory Natural Resources, Environment, The Arts, and Sports (NRETAS) website has an excellent article about flying-foxes in Katherine. The little red flying-fox and the black flying-fox are protected species. They may be interesting to see and hear as a visitor but they are not that convenient to have around for the locals. Their loud screeching is very noisy (see a videoclip), they stink, and they will strip fruit trees bare. You should not try to handle flying-foxes. The Australian Bat Lyssavirus (ABL) has been identified in several species of flying-fox including the little red flying-fox and the black flying-fox.
Guessing the Katherine Gorge is the reason why probably 90% of visitors stay in the town located along the main north-south Stuart Highway. The famous gorge is actually some 30 kilometres from town along a very well maintained road that traverses a rural landscape that is watered in part by the Katherine River.
After some 20 + kilometres the road enters the Nitmiluk National Park, which borders the southern section of the UNESCO World Heritage Listed Kakadu National Park. The Nitmiluk Park also contains the same ‘stone country’ as Kakadu – the heavily eroded sandstone area that has uplifted from the seas over millions of years. The Katherine River has created the spectacular gorges of the region by cutting through the sandstone – the excellent Nitmiluk Visitors centre has interpretive panels explaining the geology of the area for those interested.
We pre-booked and paid the Timeless Land 3 Gorges Cruise, which is the only one of the cruises operated by Nitmiluk Tours that offers a seniors discount – NOT shown on their excellent web site and perhaps it should be.
As directed on the booking sheet, we arrived some 20 minutes before our scheduled 11am departure from the boat ramp. When we got to the area it was almost impossible to see which of the queues we should line up at – the signs were hidden by people and perhaps should be placed higher. After discovering where we should queue up, we and others had to line up in the direct sun that was starting to ‘bite’ – perhaps more shade cloth ‘sails’ should be installed for those waiting.
A bit late we were sort of herded like cattle onto a ramp for boarding the boat and off we went with commentary from a member of the Jawoyn people – who are the traditional owners of the area. I must say that I was really impressed with the way the young man went about looking after our group, telling stories, pointing out features and wildlife along the way, explaining some of the legends handed down since the Jawoyn people first set foot on the land, driving not one but three water craft including docking and so much more. He (photo above) is a credit to himself and his people – I just wished we’d met more like him.
Along the way we saw fresh water crocodiles basking on the banks of the river and it was explained that us humans were not on the menu for ‘freshies’ – just hope the crocs were listening to that part as they seemed big enough to make a mess of us people. We were shown the famous ‘Jedda Rock,’ from which an Aboriginal woman leapt to her death in the film Jedda – the first Australian feature film shot in colour and featuring Aboriginal actors in leading roles. Lady Gaw and I well remembered being taken to see that film in the mid 1950’s – shows our age as was commentated on by our guide - LOL
It was a fascinating almost 4 hours of listening to stories while wending our way along the spectacular gorges. During one stop between gorges (there is about 1.2 km of walking to do in total) we were able to swim in the river and have a break in the shade of the cliffs. We were then treated to some of the stories of the rock art on the walls of the cliffs. One story concerned a high up rock painting and obviously quite old. It was explained that the dreamtime spirits ‘bent the cliffs over’ to allow the artists to get to work and when all completed the same spirits bent them back. I wondered if this was a b/s story and asked if Bunnings (very large handyman chain of stores) had a special on very long ladders that week – not sure if my version is quite correct – LOL
We were returned in good health to the boat ramp, thanked our guide and made our way to the visitors centre – first stop the toilets!
The visitors centre has an excellent series of explanatory panels on the geology, fauna, flora or the area and some of the ‘troubles’ that existed between Aboriginal and Europeans right up to the 1970’s. The centre also has a reasonable on site café with plenty of shady seating as well as clean well maintained toilet/wash room facilities, information counter and the all-important for some gift shop. There was a ‘artist in residence’ creating works of art for sale.
In addition to the above there are walking trails available – and a warning, take water, a wide brimmed hat, insect repellant (tropical strength), sun screen and it is best to completely cover up against the suns powerful rays.
About the photos:
1. The amazing gorge and one of the cruise boats that ply the waters.
2. Hope this was a 'freshie' but maybe consider where you swim - LOL
3. A snake bird looking for a meal.
4. Oblivious to humans, this roo just kept on looking for hie meal too.
5. Earlier times all of the above would have been fair game - now he's doing a great job as a guide and THANK YOU.
The Katherine Museum gives us some Low Level Bridge history: "As an urgent war task, the North – South road (renamed Stuart Highway in 1943) was upgraded and sealed. Work around Katherine was undertaken by the NSW DMR. In 1941 they constructed the Katherine – Adelaide River section and in June/July 1942 the Low Level Bridge/weir, a concrete bridge on concrete piers consisting of 9×11m spans, was built to carry the re-routed highway. At this time, planking on the railway bridge was renewed to continue providing a high level crossing in the Wet."
The plaque says:
"Historic Engineering Marker - Stuart Highway North. The 1500 km highway connecting Alice Springs and Darwin began as the dirt track servicing the 1870s Overland Telegraph construction. Part of that dry-weather track served to link the railheads until the Second World War. Civil and military road agencies then combined to construct an all-weather sealed highway vital for the defence of Australia. Major upgrades between 1970 and 1992 created a National Highway, a monument to the achievements of engineers, surveyors and workers in a remote region."
The statue by Archie St. Clair for the Memorial to the Men and Women of the Outback is on the east side of Katherine just off the Stuart Highway. The Katherine Visitor Information Center is nearby across the bridge over the creek (see the first picture). The plaque on the Memorial says:
"Dedicated to men and women of the Outback in appreciation for what they have done for us. Mayor James B Forscutt on behalf of the community of Katherine 2002. Sabu Peter Sing, 1940 - 1993, husband of Dorothy, father of Samantha, Gregory, Lionel, Damien, member of the Wardaman tribe, skilled bushman, horseman and stockman, represents our courageous pioneers and all who faithfully follow the trails they blazed. In epitomising different cultures, Sabu effectively bridged them. None of us would be here today without the tenacity and endurance of the Overlanders, Pioneers, Drovers, Stockmen and Stockwomen. This cattle industry project for 2002 - Australia's Year of the Outback acknowledges our forebears, salutes those who currently work the land and encourages others to cherish the challenges of tomorrow. The spirit of the Outback remains undiminished."
Zig (1+1) and I arrived in Katherine around 12:35 on 26 Aug 2010 on our way back to Darwin. While he was fueling up, I walked around the area by the Katherine Visitor Information Center. I did not have time to go inside but the Center looked really nice on the outside. There are some impressive Aboriginal sculptures and an informative signboard on the Savannah Way. The Memorial to the Men and Women of the Outback is nearby across a small bridge over the creek. For the record, a Target store, a Woolworths, and a CALTEX filling station are just across the street.
Before my trip to the 2010 VT Meet and Survivor Camp in 2010, I decided to fly into Darwin and use the Greyhound Croc Stopover Package to get from Darwin to Alice Springs. At 269 AUD, it was reasonably priced and included coach travel between Darwin and Alice Springs with 2 stops. One stop was optional and the other was an all inclusive stay at the Nitmiluk Katherine Gorge tent village for one night, including the shuttle to and from the Katherine bus station, linen, bedding, pillow, dinner at the poolside kiosk or bistro, and a pancake breakfast. You have up to 14 days to complete the trip but I planned to do it in 4 days. Besides Katherine Gorge, I picked the Mataranka Homestead Tourist Resort as my other overnight stop.
Everything would have been fine except that the bus departed Darwin at 13:40 instead of noon on 5 Aug 2010 because it was stuck behind another bus with mechanical problems at the maintenance facility. When I asked Clare, the Greyhound lady in Darwin, she thought that the Nitmiluk shuttle would wait for me. We arrived in Katherine at 17:40 instead of 16:10. The station was closed and no one was there from Nitmiluk Tours to pick me up. When I called them, they refused to pick me up in Katherine since the bus arrived 40 minutes after my scheduled pick up time, which was 17:00. The Nitmiluk Tours lady said that the late bus was a Greyhound problem and would have to be fixed by them. This was even after I had called Nitmiluk Tours from the USA before I left on my trip to confirm my stay with them. When I asked the bus driver, Wayne, what to do, he said to call the Brisbane Greyhound office. That was no help, so I decided to stay on the bus and go to the Mataranka Homestead Tourist Resort a day early. Fortunately they had plenty of vacancies and I got a room with no problem. All is well that ends well. The Mataranka Homestead Tourist Resort turned out to be a very nice place to visit. I was glad to have an extra day there.
The Katherine Low Level Bridge was built across the Katherine River during World War II when it was part of the Stuart Highway. Zig (1+1) and I were there on 26 Aug 2010, which is during the dry season. Then, the bridge was about six feet above the water level; however, it is under water during the most of the wet season (December- April) when the water comes through the Katherine Gorge and can raise the river's level in town by up to 40 feet. The large horizontal log up in the tree in the last picture gives an idea of how high the water can get.
En route to Sweetwater there's an even better swimming hole called Long Hole. Here you can even dive in a some points but, as always, check the depth first.
This is an excellent water hole and I sampled it on the way back to Edith Falls. There's even a little beach where you can rest and sunbake awhile.
Because the waterfall drop is a little further than Sweetwater it has created a larger and more extensive hole to swim in and is a good spot to break your journey back to Edith before you get the crowds.
The main walking trail between what most people know as Katherine Gorge to Edith Falls covers about 66 kms and is suited to experienced walkers who have the 4 - 5 days available.
It's all part of Nitmiluk National Park.
In the suburban area of Katherine there is an interesting display for those who are oriented towards gardens.
It's the Cycad Gardens and it takes you to a world of plants you may not be familiar with. The walkway leads you past many weird and wonderful shapes and types of foliage that you may not have seen before and may never see again.
Though they aren't huge gardens they certainly are interesting and there's also a cafe where you can ponder what you've just seen and buy some souvenirs.
Katherine Gorge is located in Nitmiluk National Park and is one of the most spectacular areas in this country.
The river winds it way through gorgeous gorges for 12km with sheer walls more than 70m high.
Access to Katherine Gorge is restricted during the wet season when strong currents and floods may occur.
The Aboriginal people of the Northern Territory have left a great legacy of their culture in the form of fascinating art works that can be found in caves and rock overhangs where they are protected from the harsh tropical elements.
Most paintings depict figures from their ancient mythologies and their age varies over many thousands of years.
This museum is located not far out of town at the original Kathrein airport site. Needles to say a plane is the major display. Not just any plane, but an original Flying Doctors plane, flown by the the first Flying Doctor. The Flying Doctor still works all around this area so it's an interesting piece to see.
There are lots of aboriginal artifacts and many displays of early Katherine pastoral activities.
Don't know what it is about this town but here at the museum are more grounds where you could enjoy a picnic lunch. There are wallabies hopping around and some great birds to be seen too.