Saturday, September 22, 2012

Across Australia 4 Katherine to Lake Argyle

After 2 nights at Kakadu National Park, we began generally heading in a south west direction.  We drove 265 km to Katherine where I had spent a few hours on the train trip north.  On the way we stopped in Pine Creek where there was a museum in the old station. The new line bypasses the town.

We were in Katherine (population 10,000) for lunch and then restocked our van.  I find the town depressing as there is a very large Aboriginal population, many sitting on the pavements especially outside the government welfare agency, and I had to get out of the way of one woman, obviously off her brain with alcohol.  In the Northern Territory your driving licence is scanned before you can buy alcohol in bottle shops.   One man told me the Aborigines call the welfare payment "sit down money" but then another said why shouldn't they sit in the shopping centre just as much as in the parks.  While some work in national parks, they do not like being guides, very few are seen working in stores. I do not know what the answer is.
We went to the Katherine Gorge but both of us had been there before, even if 30 years ago, so just took a walk around rather than a boat trip.  I climbed to one lookout and took some photos.

Then we headed west to the Victoria River 190km.  There is no town there, just a Roadhouse with camping ground.  There are no allocated sites so, having found a flat space under a tree, we decided to stay there for a lazy afternoon rather than drive a few km north for a walk up the escarpment.  I was glad I left this till the following morning as it would have been a very hot climb.  You cannot take a dip in the river unless you want to be a meal for a saltwater crocodile however the escarpments around were very spectacular especially as the sun struck them at dawn.
The next morning  I took the 3km return Escarpment walk which was quite steep and rocky in places.

My sister did about half of it. Here is the view of the river from the top

Then we drove a further 319 km to our next night stop. There was only one "town" on the way. (pop 230).  This and the Victoria River Roadhouse are the only settlements in the 519 km between Katherine and Kununurra.  We bought petrol there and fortunately saw the sign that it was cheaper at the supermarket than the hotel (20 cents per litre cheaper). No service, you put your credit card in a machine which was heavily barred and prepaid the amount required.
We did however drive up to a scenic lookout over the town and found a memorial to the Nackeroos.  In formal army language they were the North Australia Observation Unit, a rough and tumble, bush-hardened bunch of soldiers who patrolled the north of Australia during WWII.  They were also know as Curtin's Cowboys.  Curtin was Australia's wartime prime minister.

I loved this plaque as it states well my feelings about this area of Australia.

Somewhere in Australia, where the sun is a curse,
And each day is followed by another slightly
And the brick red dust blows thicker, than the
shifting desert sand;
And the men dream, and wish for, a fairer, greener

Somewhere in Australia, where the mail is always late,
And a Christmas card in April, is considered up to
Where we never have a payday, and we never pay the rent
But we never miss the money, cause we never get
it spent.

Somewhere in Australia, where the ants and lizards
And a hundred fresh mosquitoes reinforce the ones
you slay,
So take me back to good old Sydney where I can hear the tramway bell.
For this god-forsaken place is just a substitute for hell!

Just after lunch we crossed the border into Western Australia and turned south for Lake Argyle.

Lake Argyle is Australia's largest artificial lake by volume.  It normally has a surface area of about 1,000 square kilometres and the dam was built in 1971.  The irrigation scheme has been controversial as there were many problems with tropical diseases and the native birds fed well on the rice crops.  However more successful crops have been found recently and the irrigation area is being extended.
The next morning we visited the old homestead, which has been moved from its original site now well underwater and also a went to a lookout then in the afternoon we took a sunset cruise seeing freshwater crocodiles. These are harmless to humans but I would not like to meet one in the water.

1 comment:

Fran said...

As usual, I am loving these posts, showing me places that I never heard of, for the most part, places that I am unlikely to ever see.

Thank you!