We woke up just before the alarm went off at 8:00am and left the caravan park at 9:15am with the temperature already sitting at 19 degrees.
Before we pulled out, I took some more bird seed out to the Apostle Birds and thought they would probably fly away from me and then come back. How wrong I was. They flew towards me and squabbled all the way until they landed.
We sat in line and waited to get to the fuel bowser behind a caravan. I counted eleven caravans, eight cars and several trucks pulled in line from the Darwin end of the roadhouse, waiting for their turns to get fuel.
While we were waiting in our car Russ chatted with a couple sipping coffee on the verandah of the roadhouse who said they had planned on going to Larramah today (it is the next roadhouse on the highway) but when they rang this morning at 8:30am they were told there was already a line of vans waiting to get in, so they decided on another day at DW and a very early start tomorrow morning to beat the crowd.
We paid $2.30 a litre for diesel and finally drove out of the Roadhouse area and onto the highway at 9:37am.
We drove on a newly tarred surface but some of the bumps hadn’t been removed first so it was a bit bumpy.
We passed the Alexander Forrest Monument at 10:16 am. This monument was created by a joint effort of the WA Historical Society and the Katherine Historical Society on 31 August 1979 to commemorate reaching the Overland Telegraph Line on 31 August 1879, after an epic journey from De Grey on the WA coast.
His expedition party had a lot of trouble with the local Indigenous people, and they ran out of water 320 kilometres west of the telegraph line. They were travelling in the dry season and few people at that time knew that it could last for 8-9 months.
Forrest, and another member of the expedition, volunteered to go and find suppliues. After many days they came across the Telegraph Line, which they then followed for 40 miles to Daly Waters.
Men were sent out from Daly Waters with supplies and water to bring in the sick men of the expedition, and they were cared for until they were able to continue the search for Leichardt’s remains. I have been unable to find out if they were successful in that search.
Without the outpost at Daly Waters the expedition would have perished. Present day mining magnate, Andrew Forrest, is the great, great nephew of Alexander Forrest.
As we proceeded on our way towards Katherine, we saw that many of the white gums beside the highway were flowering.
At one point we were passed by a very loud Toyota Prado and van and it sounded like he was pushing the capacity of the engine bu using high revs.
A short time later we passed them pulled off onto the roadside verge and there was a very acrid, burning smell that stayed with us for quite a while. As they weren’t flagging anyone to stop, we continued on our way.
Just before Katherine we passed the well-lighted, well signed turn off for the Tindal RAAF Base, and the temperature was 32 degrees.
We turned off the Stuart Highway shortly after this onto Bicentennial Road, and seventeen kms later turned onto Murnburlu Road to the Manbulloo Homestead Caravan Park.
It is a very large park with over 100 sites (not counting the camping area or cabins) and is set among lots of shady trees with the Katherine River just over the back of us – no swimming, big crocodiles!
We paid for our week’s stay and proceeded to find our site and had set up in next to no time. We then finished our lunch before taking a well-earned rest.
Later in the afternoon we printed out the diary (one copy only as the printer ran out of toner) for mum. We discovered it was a lot cheaper to buy a new printer (ours was a good five years old) than it was to buy more toner.
We ordered the new printer from Officeworks in Stuart Park (Darwin) and can pick it up when we get there.
In the meantime, Stef very kindly agreed to print out another copy and send it off to Trish, so she doesn’t get left behind.
After all that drama we headed into Katherine and went to order a takeaway tea from the Chinese Restaurant (finally!). We ordered fried rice and Russ ordered honey chicken, while I ordered seafood combination. Russ said his honey chicken was scrumptious but somehow, I ended up with a seafood combination soup instead of with noodles. Thank heavens for fried rice!
We posted mum’s letter on our way back to the van before I had discovered the soup situation. By the time tea was finished it had started to cool down which was good.
Did you Know?
The Finke River is considered ancient and one of the oldest natural watercourses in the world.
Airbags in cars go off with enough force to break your legs if your feet are on the dashboard.
Crocodiles: have a lifespan of 35 – 75 years and replace up to 4,000 teeth in their lifetime. Their top swimming speed is 35 kph and they can grow between 1.5 and 7 metres although there are records of a few who were longer.
Cicadas: only the male cicada sings, and their song can reach 120 decibels. The females can lay up to 600 eggs, and in the nymph stage, they can live up to 17 years.
Barramundi: most are born male and then turn into female at 3-4 years of age. They have been recorded over 1.2 metres long and weighing over 40 kgs. Incredibly, they can produce upwards of 32 million eggs in one season!!!!
Katherine is situated on the Katherine River and is 320kms southeast of Darwin. It is known as the place where “the outback meets the tropics” and is the bottom end of the Top End.
It is the central hub of the Savannah Way which stretches from Cairns in Qld, right across to Broome WA. The traditional lands of the Jawoyn, Dagoman and Wardaman Aboriginal people for thousands of years where ancient art and sacred sites abound.
The town of Katherine, originally an 1870 settlement on the south bank of the river for which it was named (the present Knott’s Crossing) moved 3 kms downstream to the north bank. This location was named Emungalan (the indigenous name for “Place of Stone”), and a railhead for the North Australian Railway operated here from 1917 to 1926. This township quickly grew to 22 people, 90% of whom were male.
The construction of the high-level railway bridge in 1926 established the final location of Katherine town, back on the south bank. Very little remains of Emungalan other than a small cemetery and a few building relics.
The final settlement included a new railway station, and the town became an important transportation link. The Great Depression followed, bringing many challenges, which continued through until WW2.
John McDouall Stuart passed through the region in 1862. Within 10 years the Katherine Telegraph Station was built. The completed Overland Telegraph Line bisected Australia and laid the groundwork for the railway from Adelaide to Darwin which commenced in 1878 and was completed in 2004!
Katherine Railway works were intended to link Darwin (then known as Palmerston) with Port Augusta in the south. The line made it to Pine Creek in 1889, Katherine in 1926, and 8 kms south of Larramah in 1929, but work ceased, and the line then closed in 1976.
The dream of the north-south line languished until that final section was finished through to Alice Springs in 2004, enabling passengers to travel all the way through from Adelaide to Darwin the famous Ghan.
Word War 2 saw a significant military presence in the NT, to protect Australia’s northern shore from the outbreak of war in the Pacific Ocean. Katherine became the southern most point of bombing by Japanese aircraft, resulting in the largest bomb crater in Australia!
The high-level bridge was constructed in 1976, at the cost of one million dollars. Finally, there was a reliable means of vehicles crossing the Katherine River.
The bridge was the highest road bridge built anywhere in the NT and still provides reliable crossing to larger vehicles and road trains to this day. The bridge was named the Eugene Betti bridge in 1991 after one of the construction foremen.
The Katherine River was named by John McDouall Stuart on 4 July 1862, after the second daughter of pastoralist James Chambers, one of his expedition’s sponsors. Its headwaters are in the Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge is here) and follows through the town, also a major tributary of the Daly River. It drops from 384 metres over its total length of 328 kms.
Floods have been recorded throughout the years, the major ones in 1957, and another in the main street in 1974.
In late January 1998, after heavy rain associated with Cyclone Les, producing 400ml of rainfall in a 48-hour period, the level of the river was raised by more than 21 metres, and flooded a large part of town. This caused the evacuation of two thirds of the community along with major devastation.
In April 2006 a state of emergency was declared with the river peaking at 19 metres at the Katherine Bridge on the Stuart Highway.