A day in Katherine

Here’s another one of those days that took a while to get us moving. The Sun rose on time, I’m sure, and the birds welcomed it with their song. But that was hours in the past by the time Liesel and I stirred our stumps. Tea and toast for breakfast followed by a drive to Cutta-Cutta Caves.

Welcome to Cutta-Cutta Cave

The first European to discover this cave was a stockman, Mr Smith, so for a while, it was known as Smith’s Cave. He’d noticed some of his cattle had gone missing, and he found them by the cave. They’d probably smelt the water.

There are five species of bats living here, and we saw a couple fly by very quickly: probably too early in the day for them, too.

It’s full of stars

Some of the calcium carbonate glistens giving the impression of stars, which gives the cave its name Cutta-Cutta. At sunset, the bats take these star out of the cave and place them in the sky so thay can more easily find their food. Then, as the Sun rises, they take the stars back into the cave. A lovely Dreamtime story from our guide.

We saw stalactites and stalagmites, columns and other formations.

Stalactites and column

During World War 2, many local servicemen came into the cave and shot up the structures that had taken millions of years to grow. The guns were so loud, they deafened themselves, thus qualifying for medical discharge. Some of the newer stalactites have only been growing for about 70 years so they’re very delicate right now.

Baby 70-year old ‘tites

Along with the whole of the Katherine region, this cave was flooded in 1998. The water caused a lot of damage but most of the formations survived. This structure on the ground, ‘oyster shell’, is very delicate and is likely to be destroyed the next time water comes flooding through.

Very delicate structure

A couple of people told us that the recent Wet season was relatively dry: a cyclone took all the water away, so the story goes.

There are tree snakes in the cave too, although we saw only a clutch of recently laid eggs. We saw spiders’ webs and some of the other guests saw spiders, but we didn’t.

A rock wallaby lives in the entrance to the cave, and it’s a sub-species with feet specially adapted to be able to cope with the slippery limestone floor. Hmmm, another mistruth for the visitor?

Tree roots can be seen hanging from the roof – even roots of trees that have been burned above ground level. These roots will eventually petrify, become calcified, and be the starting point for new stalactites, perhaps.

Tree root absorbing moisture

It was a much shorter walk in the cave than some of the others we’ve visited, but, being a Tropical Cave, it was much warmer inside too. No sheltering from the heat here.

Afterwards, Liesel and I went on a short bush walk, admiring the trees and the rocks and the gravel and the termite mound with some twigs sticking out. And for a few minutes, we watched an ant struggling with a piece of grass five times its own length, trying to carry up the sheer cliff face of a step. An ant friend tried to help, but without success.

Hard-working ant defeated by a sheer wall

From ants to termites. I stopped to take a picture of a big termite mound city. Instead on one enormous mound, there are scores of smaller ones, but maybe in years to come, each one will be a magnificent eight-footer.

Termite City, NT

Katherine Museum closed at 4pm so we only had about 90 minutes left to explore it.

Nice buns, Mick

The town has a fascinating history and it seems a shame, in retrospect, that we spent a third of the 90 minutes watching an old TV programme about the infamous floods of 1998. Everybody lost just about everything as the Katherine River flooded up to a record-breaking twenty metres.

Dr Clyde Fenton was the local flying doctor, and his plane, Gypsy Moth, is on display at the Museum.

Gypsy Moth with ‘security detail’

We read about the ‘stolen generations’, the ‘half-caste’ children taken form their parents and brought up mainly by churches, Catholic, Methodist, they all had a hand in this travesty.

Ironically, one of the oldest-looking artefacts at this venue was the sign outside.

The battered Katherine Museum sign

Liesel drove back home while I walked along a path that took me pretty much to our front door. Not that Google Maps knew that, of course, it kept telling me to re-join and walk along the main road.

The community gardens were pleasant and I saw some ibises there doing whatever they like to do with their long, curved bills. I do like the Australian sense of humour, it doesn’t even stop at the gates of a cemetery.

Of course I love you. Now get me a beer.

I thought it important to make a pilgrimage to the actual river, thinking I’d be safe, there are no crocodiles in this neck of the woods.

Another croc warning

Was I wrong! Not one but two kinds of crocodile live in this area. I tiptoed back and up the steps to what I hoped was a safe distance.

From the old railway bridge, I could see the river in all its glory. It looked peaceful enough from this height.

Katherine River

There were some other passers-by on the path too, some very colourful specimens.

Purple hair burning rubber

The old steam engine was well decorated, not sure how official this artwork is. Still, better than boring old tags.

A 100-year old steam engine

Can you imagine what it must be like if you live with a stutter and you’re trying to tell a taxi driver that this is where you live?

Stutterd St

I arrived back at base literally dripping with sweat, from the heat and the exertion. But people of a squeamish nature should look away now because here comes today’s…

“Things I Didn’t Want Or Need To See, Thank You Very Much”

On the walk back from the museum, I passed a playing field which was fenced in all round. That’s not unusual, but the barbed wire along the top was, maybe. From a distance, I thought: oh no, even here, people hang their little black bags of dog mess on other people’s fences, that’s disgusting. But as I approached, the awful truth revealed itself.

Bats.

Dead bats.

Dead bats in various stages of decomposition. One corpse had a zillion flies buzzing round. At the other extreme, there was just the bare skeleton of what I think was a fruit bat, since the middle corpse still had some reddish fur. My guess is that they landed on the fence, got stuck in the barbs, and couldn’t get away.

Yucky bats. The sky’s pretty, though.

Good night. Sleep well. Don’t have nightmares.

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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