Thursday, 20 June 2013

Katherine and the Top End

After a week spend in Alice Springs, it is time to hop back on the train and head over to the next town north called Katherine. About 1000km north of Alice springs and 400km south of Darwin, Katherine is famous for the gorges formations nearby. The rain season having just come to an end, we should be just in time for the opening.

The plan

When everything is in sync, it is supposedly possible to do some kayaking in the gorges. This is probably also the best way to go around them and spend a day paddling around the impressive rock formations. Sadly, when we arrive, we get told that the canoe is not yet open for a full day and two-day rental period (but only 4 hour shifts). The gorges being quite long, there isn't much you can see in just for hours, so we decide to walk instead.

The reason give to us for this closure is the fact that the water level is still a bit high in some parts of the gorges, and also that there is a strong possibility that a few crocodiles remain in these waters .. which makes it not the most secure place on earth to paddle in ... trust me!


So ... this is probably the first time that we have to pay for a camping. There is no camping spot near the Katherine gorges where it is allowed to camp (for free). Since there is only one tour company allowed to operate in the area, they "of course" make sure that you spend all your money on them.
The price is quite expensive. $18 per person per night, for just a piece of grass to pitch your tent. No electricity available, but free washing machines and swimming pool.

Aside of that heavy price, the camping is infested by fox-bats. These huge bats are all over the trees in the camping, the don't really sleep at day and eat fruits a night on the nearby plantations. The whole place is smelling bat shit and it is probably the worse camping experience that we had so far since the beginning ...
Lets try to have a sleep and recharge for tomorrow's hike.

Hike in the gorges

Since the start, we are trying to get as much information as possible to prepare this hike. One does not go just like that hiking in the gorges. You need to apply for a permit that allows you to camp at about 10km from the entrance of the park and it is important to know where you are going so a "rescue" mission can find you in case your are not back in time.

There are 13 gorges in total. Only the first three are usually visited by tourists or day-hikers. Since we plan to have a two day hike, we aim towards the 5th gorge (Smith Rock), sleep there overnight and come back on the next day.

The hike is quite intense, the track is in a very bad conditions with big rocks, small rocks and sand all mixed together. There is also only one water filling tank on the way (about 5km from arrival), so we had to be very careful on our water supply and save as much water as we could ... hard when it is 35+ degrees and under a beating sun. And there is a small swamp to cross and a bit of climbing to do as well ... only do this if you are in a great physical condition .... or you will just not make it alive.

Arrived in the gorges, we immediately climb down, and stay down in the shade of these for the whole afternoon to avoid the heat until the evening comes.  In the evening, we head to the campsite (on top of the cliffs), watch the sunset and quickly hide in the tent as a cloud of hungry mosies comes to eat us.

On the next day, we wake up as early as possible and hike all the way back to the camp ground for a last night of noisy-sleep and head back to the train.
Crazy and really intense three days!

More pictures!

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