27 August 2007

Northern Territory Escape Day 4

Day 4:

We were up at 6.00 am again, breakfasted, packed and onto the coach by 8.00am...destination Katherine. We had planned to go to the Warradjin Culture Centre but we were obviously too early...the gates were closed and no-one was home. So, on to our next destination, Pine River. If you have ever heard of the book “We of the Never Never” by Jeannie “Mrs Aeneas” Gunn, it was set in the area we were travelling through at a place called Elsey Station, 200 km east of Katherine. It’s a wonderful true story of a 20th century woman in a 19th century environment and how she coped and eventually found love.

We had a refreshment stop somewhere in the middle of the Outback that was obviously a truckstop. Val, our coach driver, who had a passionate interest in the environment, took those of us who were interested to see where a bower bird had built his nest. It was an arch shaped structure fashioned from grasses and decorated with white objects in front of it. White stones, shells, pieces of cardboard, pieces of polystyrene cups, etc were all arranged to impress his lady love. If she was not interested he rearranged everything to see if it would work the next time.

This would carry on until the lady in question decided she would mate with him after all. Rather exhausting, I think. But the most amazing thing was that several male bower birds would use this shelter, all taking turns. Could it be the avian version of the footy dressing room…or something more base?

The bower bird's display in front of his nest...with a lovely pair of legs in the background.

Our next stop was called Pine Creek Townhouse, a truckstop for the enormous road trains that travel all over Australia. It was not too hot and there was a lovely breeze. I was taken by the beautiful spectacle of two bougainvilleas intertwined to make one giant structure covered in pink and white flowers.

A spectacular example of a bougainvillea in full bloom.

Another sight that caught my eye was a stretch station wagon, one of the Variety Club Bash vehicles, with all sorts of commercial graffiti written all over it and topped with a large Akubra (the Aussie Outback hat). Every year the Variety Club organises a driving “bash” through the Outback, usually taking a couple of weeks, to raise money for the Kids’ Starlight Foundation. Celebrities join in this convoy of outlandishly decorated vehicles, which would have been sponsored by businesses, collecting money for this charity. It’s very popular and raises heaps of money for terminally ill kids each year.

How would you like to drive around town in this?

For those brave enough, the next stop was at Edith River Falls for a swim. It wasn’t hot enough for me, I don't get into the water until the temperature is at least 35 degrees Celsius. We had a picnic lunch at the tables outside and saw a number of the bower birds described above. They are a brown speckled bird with the thick beaks of the carnivore and they have a rather predatory look, I didn’t like the look of them very much. A couple of people went for a swim and, as I thought, said it was rather fresh! After all, this was the Northern Territory’s winter...30 degrees Celsius but no humidity.

After lunch we drove on and stopped just outside of Katherine at the natural thermal pools, which were tepid rather than warm and very nice to soak one’s feet in, which Mum and I both did. Walking back to the coach we belatedly noticed a sign warning that estuarine (saltwater) crocodiles could get into the pool undetected and although the authorities kept an eye out, sometimes they missed one. That was really a good time to find that out...after we'd soaked our feet...crocodile bait.

Mum soaking her tootsies and others off the coach having a swim in the thermal stream (sans crocodile...thank goodness).

We arrived at our motel (Frontier Katherine) at about 4.00 pm after doing a bit of shopping in Katherine. I bought some things for my grandchildren but when I wanted to EFTPOS them, was told they didn’t have that facility. They could take credit cards but would have to ring through to my bank for authorisation. No electronic transactions here. I also bought a Tatts lotto ticket for the $15 million super draw on the Saturday night. If we won, we'd have had to go back to the Northern Territory to collect our winnings...what a hardship that would have been.

Val took us down to the Katherine River where we could see the height of the Australia Day floods the year before...20 metres plus in height. There was a chair caught way up high in one of the trees, but the river looked just like a pretty stream when we were there. I remember hearing on the news about a crocodile caught...he was swimming down the main street, probably going window shopping.

The flood waters from the year before would have covered the coach and been up to the second fork of the left leaning branch.

Our motel room was large and comfortable in attractive surroundings – palm trees. Mum was rather nervous about the spiders and snakes which, Val informed us, liked living in the vegetation.

Dinner was at 7.00 pm but the bar opened at 4.45 pm. The airconditioning was going full blast in the restaurant and it felt like the Antarctic, so I suggested we sit outside where it was warmer. As I only had on a light sleeveless dress, I froze throughout dinner and was glad to get outside and thaw out! Mum and Harold, being from New Zealand were not used to the heat...even the dry heat...and tired fairly quickly but a cool shower and a rest would revive them. It was an early night though because we had to be up and on the coach at 6.45 am for a boat ride in the Katherine Gorge.

I'll post some of the photos through Picasa so you can enlarge them for more detail.

(370 km)


wazza said...

Gidday Robyn,

Thanks for dropping by my blog and viewing the drop bear video.
Nope, we had nothing to drink, and as you would of read in my post it doesn't take much for one of these critters to leap onto you.
Great posts on the Northern Territory Escape. I did a bus trip in 1971. 23 days from Brisbane up to Darwin and Katherine, thru' to the Alice and the Rock, down to Adelaide and finished in Sydney.
Loved the boat trip at Katherine Gorge. Looking forward to reading abot this part of your journey.

Gypsy said...

You write a great commentary, I almost feel like I'm right there with you. Must've been fairly tiring though as they pack in a lot in one day. Loved the story about the bower birds, that's dedication for you to go to all that trouble to get a mate.

T*mmy said...

the bougainvillea is sooooooo pretty...I don't believe I've ever seen one!

Walker said...

Great post and tour.
The bougainvillea tree is spectacular.

What the male bird goes through to get ummmm lucky was great.

When i first saw that stationwagon the first thing that came to my mind was The GhostBusters Vehicle lol

Remiman said...

It sounds like quite an adventure! Crocodile bait? No thanks .

meeyauw said...

the bower birds!! HA
aren't they like human men??

I loved that story the best. But the photo of the place where you soaked your feet. that water was so clear! beautiful.