Saturday, 15th September

Our last red dawn of the Overland trail. Did the camp seem unusually quiet? I think so. Everyone was going their different ways. There may be an opportunity to meet some in Sydney before we leave.

We left our upmarket campsite, with their ants and our bites, early as our days are getting even hotter.

We were camped about 30 Km’s outside of Katherine. The Katherine Gorge runs through the Nitmiluk National Park. Katherine was originally a telegraph station. It is home to the school of the air, started in 1958, which now covers a 1.3 million kilometre area with schooling, much aided these days by on line facilities.

It was also the place where the Flying Doctor Service started. This was initiated by a Rev John Flynn following an accident in the Bungle Bungles circa 1920. The local postmaster radioed a doctor in Perth for help and the doctor told him to operate under his instructions. The postmaster proceeded to carry out the operation with his pen knife. The doctor himself headed out from Perth – he travelled by sea, then car up the Gibb River Road, 50 Km’s outside Hawks Creek his car died and he rode the rest of the way on horseback arriving to find that the patent had died 5 hours before. !😳! The Rev Flynn was working with the Government on medical care around Alice Springs. He built up telephone connections to doctors and subsequently a Cessna aircraft was donated to them. The Royal Flying Doctor Service was born. Every big cattle station has an air strip to allow a doctor to land if necessary. It is not Government funded, but relies on public donations.

We drove to the park and walked up to a lookout point, giving an amazing view down to the river below.

Keith and I had, in fact, been on a boat trip along the Katherine Gorge on our first trip to Australia as an outing from the Ghan train when we travelled from Darwin to Alice Springs. We were to see the single track railway line frequently as we travelled north towards Darwin during the day

Our next stop was Edith Falls, still within the National Park. Keith and I decided not to take the big walk, but to take just the short walk to the small pools near a small cafe. It was a delight, skirted by lush grasses and trees. It was still early but very hot and we sauntered back to the cafe and bought a cool drink and sipped it in the shade. We might have been on holiday!!

There was some interesting art work on some of the outbuildings……..

We lunched early nearby, all fighting for shade. We were up to 40 degrees again.

It was then time to take to the road to Darwin. The last leg of our trip. Passing the Ghan line again. We followed the Stewart Highway (which more or less follows the same route as the Ghan, north to south). Gone is the red earth and dust. Back are the sand colours. Broad swathes of grassland scattered with trees. Sand coloured ant hills standing up like stalagmites. Everywhere there are rocky outcrops. Now and again telegraph poles appeared, marching across the landscape. And then they are gone. The debris of dead trees clutter the ground – a constant round of death and renewal.

As we covered the miles, how we appreciated the metalled roads after the untamed roads of the Kimberley.

The last road house was a much more commercial enterprise with a stuffed bull in the corner. Apparently an old favourite that apparently was somehow involved in the Crocodile Dundee film which they could not part with…….

Eventually we crossed the Adelaide River (what is that doing up here?) and gradually there was more and more signs of urbanisation. Houses appeared amongst the trees. The low spread buildings indicative of a country land rich

Arriving at the centre we were dropped off at our hotel (we had opted for a bit of luxury) the others were scattered around the hostels of Darwin. It felt a bit wimpish but we felt it was well deserved! We were to meet up later for our celebratory meal at Monsoon, a pub on the main cruising road in Darwin.

We arrived in our room at the hotel to find white sheets. Luckily we have shaken off most of our red dust, but I was still terrified that we were going to make it dirty. We certainly could not out our ruck sacks down on anywhere but the dark floor……..

Our shoulders seemed to drop as we walked in the door. We had survived the Overland trick and what’s more – enjoyed it! The view from the room was out over the ocean. We were back to civilisation.

After a brief rest and thorough cleanse it was time to hit the Main Street and Monsoon. It was of course dark by the time we left the hotel, but it was not far before we had found the night life of Darwin. Apparently Monsoon is the go to pub. Certainly everybody who was anybody was there. The whole group had turned up and had brushed up well in their finery!! Jodie was almost unrecognisable. We had a good evening, including a good hour or so with Jo Wightman (Tony Wightman’s oldest daughter) and her partner Josh who we had not met before. We thoroughly enjoyed their company and Josh was given the seal of approval, Keith describing him as a ‘keeper’!

After they left we went back to our crowd. There things had gathered momentum. Large goldfish bowls full of cocktails were being consumed. I tried one or two of them but could not be persuaded to have a goldfish bowl in my own right…….

This is my ‘sorry I’m simple’ pose of the holiday!

It was getting late and long past my bedtime, so we left them to it. Big hugs all round – they were a great crowd and it had been a great time. I would love to know what life has in store for them…….but for us it is on to the next stage of our holiday in this extraordinary country.

3 thoughts on “Saturday, 15th September”

  1. What a truly marvellous adventure. I’m sure I would have struggled with the heat and the walks up and along gorge cliffs would have been beyond me but the wild land, the wildlife and the exploration would have been my idea of heaven. Thank you so much Pauline for sharing the journey with us.

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