To Katherine

The next day was spent mainly in the Lodge area, or Resort. We didn’t make it to either of the open air pools, despite assurances that there are no crocodiles lurking there.

A late afternoon walk saw me heading towards the river.

Road to the river

As I walked further along the road, I realised that if I kept going, I’d be able to walk right into trouble. This was the boat launch road. I scrambled up the rocks to reach the path supposed to be used by pedestrians such as myself. I couldn’t walk onto the jetty at the end as the gate was locked.

No boats

Interestingly, this sign tells us we can’t use boats in this protected part of the South Alligator River. So instead, I just took some photos of all the interesting wildlife I could find. Which amounted to some green ants.

Ants

Nothing else was stirring apart from a few remote birds. And the crew unloading some scaffolding from a lorry.

Another day on the road and some of the dead straight highway was a bit monotonous. Yes, we were looking out for wildlife all the time, but it was the trees that attracted most of our attention.

We did see some galahs on the road, but they didn’t want to come and say hello. Galahs? Well, we think so, but darker pink and darker grey than we usually see.

Bobo, galah in flight

A dingo also disappeared as soon as we slowed down and showed interest in it. This one wasn’t as well fed as the one we saw a couple of days ago.

Bobo, dingo in retreat

There were plenty of sea eagles and kites flying by too.

Kite

The landscape is fascinating: we both regret not pursuing geology more assiduously in the past. Liesel took a unit as her science at school, and I didn’t follow up on the Open University course all those years ago. Btw, this fabulous institution has just celebrated its 50th anniversary, so, happy birthday to you, OU.

Looking up, behind the trees and the birds, the clouds are a constantly changing, ever entertaining white-on-blue Rorschach test.

Strange clouds

Down below, blackened leaf and plant litter hinted at recent fires. There were miles of ashes, some still smouldering. In places, very small, presumably new, termite mounds were under construction.

Smouldering and blackened

We assume that if the authorities aren’t concerned about us driving by such hot spots, then we shouldn’t be, either. Some trees were singed, but most seemed to be totally unharmed.

There were piles of boulders here and there too, and the road seemed to wind between them. Maybe they are part of the Aboriginal story: they certainly do use rocks to mark the passing of a loved one.

We witnessed a kite playing chicken.

Why did the kite cross the road?

We won: it flew off into the safety of the canopy, well above the smoke and soot.

More fire damage

We missed out on a couple of diversions because the roads were closed. The termite mounds still astound us and they seem to be a darker colour here, south of Cooinda, approaching Pine Creek.

More termite mounds

The marsh grass is unusually high: normally, during the ‘knock ’em down’ monsoon season, it’s flattened. The tree density varied a lot too. Sometimes, the trees were very densely packed on one side of the road while on the other, they each had a lot more space. We couldn’t work out why that should be, there was no evidence of logging in this area. We were still, just, inside Kakadu National Park.

Thud! A stone thrown up by a passing campervan made us jump but, thank goodness, it didn’t crack the windscreen.

Termites aren’t the only makers of mounds. We saw other mounds on the road itself. Big, big mounds. We decided it could only be buffalo scat. And so much of it.

Rental car eclipsed by a buffalo turd

And so we drove out of the National Park. Bobo, Kakadu: this strange word means ‘see ya later’ in the local Jawoyn language. And yes, we do hope to come back.

A quick pit-stop at Mary River Roadhouse for coffee and bickies. I was headed for the dunny outside when the man cleaning the windows said I should use the nice one inside, this one’s for bus parties.

Shut the door!

Yes, I made sure the door was closed when I’d finished. I was tempted to buy some new protective footwear but they didn’t have my size.

Territory safety boots

Soon after this roadhouse, we saw signs for a golf course. In the middle of nowhere. I would have played a round but the irons were too hot to handle and the woods had been nibbled by termites.

We followed the mile markers most of the way to Pine Creek. PC 90. PC 80 etc. I was hoping to see the one with 31 km to go, because then I could take a photo and sing “PC 31 said ‘we’ve caught a dirty one'”, but they only counted down in tens. And now of course I can’t get Maxwell’s Silver Hammer out of my head, do-doo do-doo do.

I tried to help this butterfly off the hot road surface, but it really didn’t want to leave.

Why did the butterfly keep returning to the road?

We drove parallel to the Ghan railway line for a long time and we talked about it, one of the great train journeys of the world. We’d not booked tickets on the grounds of cost, but again we wondered if that was the right decision?

I’d ridden on The Ghan from Alice Springs to Adelaide over 16 years ago and it was OK, but I’d gone cheap, no sleeper compartment for me. So I slept in my seat and I still remember the disappointment at sunrise when the landscape looked exactly the same as it had before sunset the night before.That, plus they didn’t have any proper food on offer. I believe the service is much better now, but you pay a lot for it too.

We pulled off the road into a ‘picnic area’. We watched galahs and a couple of other, magpie-like birds but mainly, we had just parked on a ginormous anthill.

I walked around for a while and saw evidence of large animals having walked through the long grass. When I realised I was just a few feet away from the creek, I made a hasty retreat.

Flattened, bent grass
The perfect spot for crocodiles to lie in wait for a buffalo

And still no kangaroos or wallabies! But at least the trees aren’t going anywhere and some of them really are archetypal Northern Territory and beautiful.

NT tree not an ent

Today, we did see our first road-train. And the second close behind. By the end of our trip today, we’d seen several. Three trailers is impressive enough, but the drivers with three tankers in tow are amazing.

Just before Katherine, The Ghan train passed us by on the left and then crossed under our road.

The Ghan overtaking us

There was no way we could catch it up, but I thought we could go to the railway station and look at it there.

It’s a weekly service from Darwin to Adelaide, the journey takes 54 hours with a long break in Alice Springs. Weekly. So how lucky were we to see this train? It almost made up for the fact that we’d seen no marsupials on the road!

The Ghan at the station

We caught up with it at the station just as it was departing, so we had no opportunity for a proper close-up look.

Katherine Information Centre provided us with some information. Woolworths provided us with some food. We drove to our new Airbnb, settled in and Liesel did some laundry while I caught up with online stuff because, yippee, we have 4G and wifi as well. Well, partly yippee, but partly, what a pity!

We call it Highway 1 but some signs name it A1.

A1 sign

And it’s just like the A1 at home except… it’s totally different,

We have a microwave so we had a delicious warm meal, thanks, Liesel.

Our host, Toni, is a photographer and a writer. I’ve downloaded her first book, A Sunburnt Childhood, onto my Kindle. She was raised on Killarney Station, which is bigger than Luxembourg. Almost a year ago, we were in Ireland, visiting the original Killarney. That seems a long time ago now!

It’s been a while since the last music update, in which we share the music we’ve been listening to on the road. If you’re not interested in the soundtrack to our travels, then you’ll miss nothing if you stop reading… now.

Connecting my phone to the Bluetooth in the hire car from Darwin was so much more straightforward than in a couple of other vehicles we’ve had. To recap, we’re playing all the tracks on my phone, in alphabetical order by song title. This is beacuse the so-called random shuffle isn’t random: it has its favourites and it refuses to ever play some songs or indeed any songs by some artistes.

We picked up from where we left off: Shine On You Crazy Diamond by Pink Floyd, the full 18 minute version.

It took a week to reach the end of songs beginning with S, but there were some wonderful juxtapositions on the way.

There are a couple of albums where many of the tracks were yet to appear, even this late in the alphabet. 5 out of the 6 tracks on “Station to Station” by David Bowie for instance. 5 out of the 11 tracks on “Great Expectations” by Tasmin Archer are still further along the alphabet. (Hello, Tasmin!)

We heard three versions of Sound and Vision by David Bowie, all different. There are two versions of Space Oddity, neither by David Bowie, in this, the song’s 50th anniversary year. Space Oddity is the same age as the Open University: wow!

We heard seven songs with ‘Song’ as the first word of the title.

Sleeping in Paris by Rosanne Cash was followed by Tasmin’s Sleeping Satellite.

Something Awesome, Something Good and Something Good to Show You were a fascinating trilogy.

In general, we noticed just how many of David Bowie’s songs start with an S. I think we had four in a row at one point, not necessarily all performed by him.

Neil Diamond and Ian Dury are an unlikely pairing, but where else would you hear Sweet Caroline followed by Sweet Gene Vincent, except on my phone?

And if that’s not enough sweetness, how about Sweet Memories by Rosanne then Sweet Sweet Memories by Paul McCartney?

A big cheer was cheered as the Ts, finally, began, a whole week after we’d picked up the car. Take me Home, Country Roads and Take my Hand, Precious Lord are totally different songs even if the titles have the same rhythm. That’s Israel Kamakawiwo’ole and Ladysmith Black Mambazo respectively.

The Bloke Who Serves the Beer followed The Bewlay Brothers: Slim Dusty followed David Bowie.

And there are many more songs whose title begins with the definite article. I hope you’ve been taking notes because I may ask questions later. That’s all for now, folks!

Author: mickandlieselsantics

We are a married couple, married to each other, one American, one Brit, one male, one female, neither of us as fit as we would like to be, over 109 years old altogether.

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