Monday, January 1, 2018

INDEX

THAILAND

Post-sunset shot at Ko Adang National Park headquarters beach.

INTRODUCTION - WHICH ISLAND OR BEACH?

ADANG

BU BU
BULON LAE

CHANG (big Chang eastern Gulf)
Little Ko CHANG, Andaman side
CORAL ISLAND

JUM

KANCHANABURI
KRADAN
KRABI, RAILAY, TON SAI
KHAO LAK
KHAO SOK NATIONAL PARK
KHO KHAO
KUT (KOOD, KUD)

LANTA
LAO LIANG
LIBONG, HAT YAO
LIPE

MAK (MAC, MAAK)
MAYA BAY/THE BEACH/PHI PHI LEY
MUK (MOOK)

NANGYUAN
NGAI (HAI)

PANYEE/PANYI
PATTAYA
PHANGAN
PHANGAN PART 2
PHANG NGA BAY
PHAYAM
PHRA THONG
PHUKET
PHI PHI
PHI PHI NEWSPAPER ARTICLE BY TEZZA

RAILAY, TON SAI AND KRABI TOWN
RAYA/RACHA
ROK

SAMET
SAMUI
SIBOYA
SIMILAN ISLANDS
SIMILAN ISLANDS LIVE-ABOARD
SUKORN
SURINS ISLANDS

TAO
TARUTAO

WAI (WHAI)

YAO NOI
YAO YAI



General Thailand Information

SOME TIPS ON NOT DROWNING

WET WEATHER INFORMATION

SNORKELLING IN THAILAND

THAILAND'S BEST BEACHES



INDONESIA
Spoiling visitor on Seraya Island - West Flores

BALI
BALI'S BEST BEACHES - incl THE BUKIT PENINSULA
BALI - AMED
BALI - BEDUGUL AND LAKE BRATAN
BALI - CANGGU
BALI - JATILUWHIH RICE TERRACES
BALI - JIMBARAN
BALI - NUSA LEMBONGAN
BALI - NUSA DUA, TANJUNG BENOA AND GEGER BEACH
BALI - MEDEWI
BALI - MUNDUK
BALI - LOVINA
EAST BALI - PADANGBAI AND CANDIDASA
BALI- PEMUTERAN AND MANJANGAN ISLAND
BALI RICE TERRACES EAST - SIDEMAN
BALI RICE TERRACES CENTRAL - TEGALLALANG
BALI RICE TERRACES WEST - KEBUN VILLAS
BALI RICE TERRACES TIRTA GANGGA + WATER PALACE


BINTAN

LOMBOK - THE GILI ISLANDS
LOMBOK - THE KUTA LOMBOK AREA

PERAMA SLOW BOAT - FLORES/KOMODO/LOMBOK

SERAYA & KANAWA ISLANDS + LABUANBJO - FLORES



MALAYSIA
Salang beach on Tioman

GORGEOUS TIOMAN ISLAND

CHERATING BEACH

KAPAS ISLAND

LANGKAWI

LANG TENGAH

PERHENTIAN ISLANDS

REDANG ISLAND

SIBU ISLAND



AUSTRALIA
Bound for Hook Island on Oetella

CRUISING TROPICAL ISLANDS ON A BUDGET

BUDGET RESORTING ON THE WHITSUNDAY ISLANDS - NTH QLD

SPENDING TIME AT AIRLIE BEACH - NTH QLD

CAPE TRIBULATION - NTH QLD

DUNK ISLAND - NTH QLD

FITZROY ISLAND - CAIRNS - NTH QLD

CRUISING THE SOUTH WEST PACIFIC ON LINERS

BYRON BAY - BEACH PARADISE

NOOSA HEADS - MY ALL TIME FAVOURITE

MANETIC ISLAND - NTH QLD

TOP END - DARWIN

TOP END - DARWIN BEACHES

TOP END - KAKADU NATIONAL PARK

TOP END - KATHERINE (NITMILUK) GORGE and KATHERERINE TOWN.

TOP END - LITCHFIELD NATIONAL PARK

TOP END - MANDORAH and WAGAIT BEACH

TOP END - MATARANKA THERMAL POOLS

TOP END - THE TIWI ISLANDS


GREECE
Paradise Beach - Kos

GREEK ISLAND HOPPING



TURKEY
Paragliding Mount Babadag to Oludeniz Beach

BUDGET CRUISING AND PARAGLIDING THE TURQUOISE COAST
THE NORTH AEGEAN COAST
THE SOUTH AEGEAN COAST




SPAIN
Bay just south of Portas Vells, south east Mallorca

INTRODUCTION
BARCELONA
IBIZA
L'HOSPITALET DE L'INFANT
MALLORCA/MAJORCA
MONTSERRAT
PYRENEES
SAN SEBASTIAN
SITGES
TOSSA DE MAR



USA - SOUTH WEST

THE BEACHES

THE GOOD THE BAD AND THE UGLY

GRAND CANYON TREKKING

YOSEMITE TREKKING



USA - HAWAII

OAHU'S BEST BEACHES



READERS' TRIP REPORTS
Trip reporter Cocodrilo at Similan's viewpoint
Read the trip reports or submit your own


THE FORUM
Yon Cassia has a lean and hungry look (image Deco Dermots)

Questions, comments, shoot the bull.



GENERAL
Kwak joins the Worry Collective - image BEDARD

JUST FOR LARFS - PART 1
JUST FOR LARFS - PART 2: STONES FROM THE JOKER IN THE GLASS HOUSE (1 thru 11)

JUST FOR LARFS - PART 3: THE WORRY COLLECTIVE

ABOUT THIS SITE


LADY TEZZA'S TRAVELLING JAPAN
Fashions for sale in Takeshita dori - Tokyo

The basics - Osaka - Kyoto - Hiroshima&Himeji - Takayama - Tokyo - Kyushu - Daytrip to Mt Fuji National Park - Accessing your money - Other helpul stuff

-----------------------------------------
If you have questions, please don't post them below - I seldom get to scroll down this far. Put them in THE FORUM which I try to check most days when not travelling.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

MATARANKA THERMAL POOLS

visited NOV 2016



WHY MATARANKA?
I thought it a bit of a waste of resources and effort to haul my tent stuff thousands of kms to DARWIN and then hundreds of kms south just for 3 nights at NITMILUK GORGE. So I did some research for another good camping spot at some nearby touristy attraction . MATARANKA HOMESTEAD TOURIST RESORT and its adjacent THERMAL POOL seemed to fit the ticket nicely.


WHERE THE HELL IS MATARANKA?
MATARANKA TOWN is 105km south of KATHERINE on the STUART Hwy, the main road to ALICE SPRINGS (another 1075km south). 


MATARANKA HOMESTEAD RESORT and MATARANKA THERMAL POOL are a further  9km. To get to the homestead you need to turn right off Hwy1 2km south of town and go 7 km east. Fortunately the GREYHOUND BUS will go in to the resort if needed.
The "WRONG" place-mark is where both GOOGLE MAPS and GOOGLE EARTH reckon MATARANKA HOMESTEAD TOURIST RESORT is - in fact there is nothing there but a straight bit of tarmac - you need continue another 3.5km to the end of the sealed road to reach the resort and pool.

ELSEY NATIONAL PARK
The MATARANKA THERMAL POOLS are within ELSEY NATIONAL PARK above. But note how the MATARANKA HOMESTEAD TOURIST RESORT (yellow X) and of course MATARANKA township (blue X) are not. I've got an idea the original founder of HOMESTEAD RESORT got in before the state decided to declare a NP in the area.
The dark brown cross represents BITTER SPRINGS THERMAL POOL just within the NP - more down page.
ELSEY NP is obviously much smaller than those at LITCHFIELD and NITMILUK - let alone the giant KAKADU.
Once again, this image should expand if clicked on a PC.




MATERANKA HOMESTEAD TOURIST RESORT
This place has the best resort pool I've seen - simply because it is right next to the THERMAL POOL. A neat set-up: no upkeep costs (NT NATIONAL PARKS looks after this) but has a beautiful pool for guest use not to mention to attract guests and passers-by - the resort gains from the many day-trippers and locals attracted by the pool - a lot of these people are drawn into the excellent bar/restaurant area after a dip. Jeez, all of this is enough to make an accountant smile. And I gotta tell you, tezza's accountant friend, FASTCASH KEYNES, doesn't smile all that often.

The resort's location is no stroke of luck - the original developer was a WW2 soldier stationed at the nearby army camp - he saw how popular the pool was with his buddies, locals and passers-by, so after the war bought some land right next to it (I think this was before the NP was established) and built his resort.


LOTSA ACCOMMODATION OPTIONS
This place is not small and has many accommodation alternatives - motel rooms, self serivice cabins, powered sites for vans and campers + un-powered areas for same . Note the backpackers' section has been closed down. The campgrounds are huge, extending to the top and right borders of the image - there's 100 powered sites and way more un-powered, and yet you are advised to book ahead in the high season. This place is real popular.
It is literally next to the THERMAL POOL - abt 250m from the PARKING AREA, less from the RESTAURANT/BAR/BISTRO.
The parking area is for both the restaurant/bar/bistro area and the thermal pool - there is no closer parking.
The dirt area on the southern side of the CABINS is an airstrip which runs for about 1km to the south-east.
The dirt road you can see running south east out of the image abt 1/3rd the way up the right margin runs for 1km - more or less parallel with the river (mostly about 150m to its south) and then turns south inland, turning again to the east to link up with the end of the airstrip. I'm not sure of this road's function: there is no settlement down there - however during WW2 there was an army camp somewhere in the area.  The road does at times become a substitute for the walking track along the river.
I forgot to add a linear scale - it is 360m in a straight line between CABINS and LITTLE ROPER R place markers.
MISTAKE! - I incorrectly labeled the river - it is actually the WATERHOUSE which joins the LITTLE ROPER abt 2km south east to become the ROPER R.

NOT EXACTLY CROWDED
Part pf the northern camping ground. I think the busiest of my 3 nights had 2 small campervans, a large one, a car with tent and a motorcycle with tent - plus me. The eastern camping ground which is maybe 3 times the size, had fewer occupants. It is less flat and most parts are further from the RESTAURANT/BAR.
Both campgrounds were spacious, had plenty of shade trees but a lot of bare dirt - I was wondering how dusty they get in thebusy dry season. As said, campers are advised to book ahead in peak season. Very little lighitng at night.

TEZZA'S TENT UNDERCOVER
It was dark by the time I started to erect my tent and I couldn't locate my torch in the depths of my bag. There was also the rumbling of thunder. So I set up chez tezza under this permanent shelter which had lights - manager STEVE later told me it is for visiting school groups with swags and sleeping bags:he was not expecting any groups until next high season.
Behind to the right is the amenities block - reasonable clean, had great hot water - was fairly big but I'm not sure how it would cope at peak times (this section of the camp grounds is not small). The block is also used by THERMAL POOL visitors and some people from the RESTAURANT/BAR which is just across the road.
The huge eastern camping ground had 2 amenities blocks, one with a functioning laundry. The other block was shut down for the low season.


CAMP GROUND PROBLEMS
There were NO CLOTHES LINES, and the amenities block had NO LAUNDRY - I hand-washed my stuff in the wash basins and strung my portable line up around the my tent shelter. The open laundry in the other campground had hand-wash basins, coin washers + driers and clothes lines.
There was NO CAMP KITCHEN - I came in by bus: had no room for pots and pans, cookers etc etc in my bag. At first I thought this was a cynical ploy to have me buying meals from the resort bistro but STEVE, the affable and helpful manager said the cookers still worked in the closed backpackers' kitchen which also had some pots and pans. I cooked up a storm there.

THE BAR/RESTAURANT/BISTRO
This is an okay place to spend time. Lotsa undercover seating/tables and plenty of fans. MATILDA'S BAR has a good selection of brews: normal prices not too bad and happy hour tariffs seemed quite reasonable to this longtime cheapskate. JEANIE'S KITCHEN/BISTRO at right had similarly priced grub - despite my addiction to the backpackers' kitchen I couldn't resist one of their meals: verdict - pretty good. 
Service quick and efficient - had the world's nicest backpacker babes behind the counter. 
There is a big TV on wall to right of image shows all the current sports action - other times: news and popular shows. Simple grocery and other camping/resort needs can be purchased.
There is a RECEPTION OFFICE at the far end but in low season this was closed - bar staff was doing reception.
My camera started to act temperamental at MATARANKA so I had to get this shot from ExploreOz Traveller

BAR AREA ENTERTAINMENT
 There is a sizable outdoor seating area behind the covered section shown up page with a band stand in back - a repeat camper told me most afternoons and evenings in high season sees a band playing; he said it is quite a "scene" and popular with locals from surrounding properties and town - not to mention resort guests (image - Mataranka Homestead homepage)

I noticed this sign high on the wall - the 1998 flood was the same deluge which left a huge croc in the bakery of Woolworth's in KATHERINE to the north.
Just out of sight to the top side of the open door below is another flood mark from the 2002 downpour.

I've always thought peacocks were pretty shy, but these dudes came into the bar/restaurant area every 1000 to do a bit of scavenging.

THE REPLICA HOMESTEAD
Across the other side of the CARPARK is this replica of the OLD MATARANKA HOMESTEAD. The original, which was situated a few kms south west of the resort, was the setting for the classic book "WE OF THE NEVER NEVER". When a  movie was made of the book in the 70s a replica homestead was built - since moved to adjacent the present resort. The TV in the bar shows replays of the movie each afternoon. 
The replica is open for inspection - what struch me was the simplicity of design and the big shaded area on the surrounding verandah - perfect for relaxing after a hard day's mustering of cattle.(image- Katherine Visitor Information Centre)

THE MATARANKA THERMAL POOL
This is a neat area. The pool is fairly compact: I'm thinking abt 30/40m X 10. There are 2 sets of stairs with rail-assist. Depth varies from slightly above head height at the near-resort end to standing height at the far end. Keep an eye on your kids - they can get into trouble so quickly. Local kids, good swimmers, were having a ball leaping into the pool from slightly higher surrounds.
The pool looks very natural but when I donned my diving mask I saw the sides were concrete-reinforced. Note the pool is safe from dangerous salt water muggers (crocs) - not so the nearby WATERHOUSE RIVER.
There's a concrete bench at sitting height around much of the perimeter. 
Despite the paucity of people in early wet season, I'm surprised there are no dippers in this shot (although it shows less than half the pool) - no matter what time I called by there were usually at least a half dozen people in the water. The biggest crowd was one early afternoon - maybe a dozen. The place seems very popular with both locals and passers-by who have diverted in off the highway. 
I'm not too sure how easy it would be to take a dip in the peak of high season - I reckon more than 30/40 people might make a bit of a squeeze.
Water very nice by the way - around 32C which is very refreshing on a 40C day. And crystal clear with a slight turquoise tint after all that filtering thru the subterraneam aquifers. 

Pretty attractive at night too - image Mataranka Homestead homepage

THE BRUTUS CONNECTION
I noticed no sulphurous smell - makes sense, sulphur dioxide is associated with seismic activity like at New Zealand's ROTORUA, whereas this water gets its heat from the natural warmth of underground areas (go down a coal mine and you'll know what I mean). The water itself is part of the great EAST AUSTRALIAN BASIN and fell as rain maybe in central or northern Queensland back in the days BRUTUS was a boy - it has been slowly moving westward through the subterranean aquifers since.

The path leading to the pool (bottom left) starts here, less than 150m from resort reception. The pool is reached after only 100m or so - hot pavers and some sharp gravel sections make it a bit tough on bare feet.

Schematic at path entrance gives some idea of pool layout. This image should click-expand nicely.

The combination of tropical heat and plenty of water sees a palm jungle surrounding the pool - tall Livistonia Palms with Pandanus at lower levels. This attracts tens of thousands of bats in the early wet season, they take off around dusk to raid area fruit growers - however I did not notice excessive bat droppings in the pool area or at the campground. No mozzies however.


WHY BRUCE WAYNE DOESN'T HOLIDAY AT MATARANKA
A local farmer told me that some bats fancy a sip of water from the WATERHOUSE R after take-off. The area's crocs love this and pick them off as they swoop in for a drink.
Leaping lizards, Robin, a Mataranka mugger!
Maybe Peter Parker should swing clear of the Waterhouse R too.


RAINBOW SPRING
If you turn right just before the pool and walk 30m you come to the spot where the underground water is bubbling to the surface - RAINBOW SPRING.


RIVERSIDE WALKING TRACKS
By continuing past RAINBOW STRING it is possible to walk along beside the river for some distance. The track soon leaves the palm forest and passes into more of a savanna woodland - further along it becomes a bit indistinct and it is actually easier to move a bit inland and walk on the old dirt road that also parallels the river. When this heads further inland a side track angles back towards the river - there are several  swimming holes along here according to travel guides but it looks like National Parks have given up clearing them of crocs because there were lots of NO SWIMMING - CROCODILES signs up.
After about 2 km the WATERHOUSE R joins the LITTLE ROPER R to become the ROPER R proper (um, they say rivers, but in early wet season they were more like creeks) - I turned around at this point on account it was very hot and dry, but keen trekkers can keep going for several more kms to MATARANKA FALLS.


MATARANKA FALLS (um, rapids?) look sweet, but at something like 16km from MATARANKA HOMESTEAD RESORT, the walk is maybe best suited to keen trekkers. (image [and some other good ones]  OUR TERRITORY). 

BITTER SPRINGS
I'd read about MATARANKAS other hot springs - BITTER SPRINGS, abt 3km due east of MATARANKA town - and decided to check them out. The only problem is they are 11km from MATARANKA HOMESTEAD RESORT and I had no car, so on a Sunday morning I decided to walk/hitch there and back. I walked 2 hours and got a ride for 5 minutes to arrive at BITTER around 11am.

BITTER SPRINGS

IS BITTER BETTER?
I thought so - it is more natural being a normal section of stream - the only "improvements" are a couple of handrails for entry-exit and a sitting platform. 
And longer - it is possible to drift with the current for maybe 150m (the current was pretty benign - I could swim easily against it:but then despite being 71 I'm a pretty strong swimmer). It's comparative size means it can handle a bigger high season crowd than the THERMAL POOL.
I took a diving mask - the slightly creepy underwater fallen logs and other vegetation plus the crystal clear water reminded me of all those docos on the FLORIDA EVERGLADES. I saw a few turtles but no harmless fresh water crocs - this area is free of dangerous salties.
For passers-by it is also less of a detour in off the highway which probably accounted for a backpacker DARWIN to ALICE tour bus calling in for a dip.

DOWNSIDES?
It is deeper than the thermal pool which is a downside for parents with kids. The surrounding palm forest is not as lush. There is a circular walking track which can be knocked over in 10 minutes but no extended walks like from the THERMAL POOL.
There is no bar/restaurant/bistro immediately adjacent although BITTER SPRINGS CARAVAN AND CAMPING is only 10 minute's back along the access road.
GREYHOUND doesn't come in here which is not great for blokes like me.

OTHER FACTS
Turn at the first left (when driving south) onto MARTIN RD in tiny MATARANKA. Go 3km to the end of the rather good road (might be cut in the wettest of wet season) to the sizable car park (no parking or entrance fees) which has toilets, picnic facilities and BBQs. The track to the pool takes less than 5 minutes. 


IS BITTER BITTER?
To tell the truth, I forgot to taste the water. But this is the same stuff as further south and the bore water in my camp-area was pretty nice.

TWO RIVERS.
Lotsa people think both pools are on the same river. No so. BITTER feeds into the LITTLE ROPER RIVER which joins the WATERHOUSE R about 2km PAST the MATARANKA THERMAL SPRINGS. So same river SYSTEM but different rivers.

I managed to find an underwater shot - not as creepy and luxuriant as I remembered.
(image- Katherine Visitor Information Centre)


IF YOU SEE MISTAKES OR HAVE EXTRA INFO - PLEASE POST BELOW.
BUT IF YOU HAVE A QUESTION, PLEASE ASK IT IN THE FORUM WHICH I CHECK MOST DAYS WHEN NOT TRAVELING - WHEREAS I SELDOM REVISIT INDIVIDUAL LOCATION PAGES LIKE THIS ONE.









Sunday, February 5, 2017

NITMILUK (KATHERINE) GORGE and KATHERINE town.

Visited November 2016



Apart from DARWIN itself, I consider there are 4 SHOULD SEES** in the TOP END - KAKADU, LITCHFIELD, the TIWI ISLANDS and KATHERINE (NITMILUK) GORGE. You can find pages on the others elsewhere on this blog.

**When in holiday mode I don't believe in MUST SEES - nothing is a MUST: you don't HAVE to go anywhere, do anything. But sure, some places you SHOULD pencil onto yer dance card. KATHERINE GORGE is one.


tezza's multi-functional image (um, well it's actually a GOOGLE EARTH image modified by yers truly). It not only shows the BIG 5 "SHOULD SEES" but the location of KATHERINE TOWN/ NITMILUK GORGE: for KATHREINE we are looking at 320km south of DARWIN on Hwy 1 and 1180km north of ALICE SPRINGS. The GORGE is another 28km out of town. 

DAY1 - KATHERINE TOWN
My plan was simple - hop on a GREYHOUND in DARWIN, bail out in KATHERINE, spend the remainder of the day looking around town, stay overnight and then head on out to NITMILUK GORGE to camp/explore for 3 days.

Plan went well until the "looking around town" bit. I'd researched a bunch of things to check out but when I got to the TOURIST INFORMATION OFFFICE they told me those were not open on account it was Sunday afternoon. DUH! Trouble with being a big-city fringe dweller is being used to things being open 7/365. So I spent the afternoon checking things not affected by Sunday closure, like....


....this vintage steam train in a nice park area down near the bypassed railway bridge across the KATHERINE RIVER (the new rail line is some 7km west of the town center - the above was maybe 400m north).


The Riverside Park (unimproved from nature) which runs several km along the banks each side of the main road bridge. It averages about 150m wide. There is a walking track up top but I went for about an hour in an easterly direction on part-paths lower down. There's a suprising drop from town level to the river - makes you appreciate the scale of the 1998 flood which inundated the main street. Woolworths supermart was flooded - when the water dropped they found a big croc in the bakery section.
btw - thats a ROAD TRAIN (3 trailer truck) going across the bridge - very common in the NT.

After my above jaunt in 40c temps, I felt a bit bushed so retired to the local pub for a cool beer or 3. Had some lady doing country-rock. Great voice.

PALM COURT BUDGET MOTEL
I'd reserved a dorm bed in the adjacent backpackers' but a mix up in the reservation (my fault) saw the nice lady running the joint offer me a room in the motel for not a lot of extra money. I was a bit over backpackers' and jumped at the chance for some solitude and extra comfort. 
This was an okay place - looked 60s/70s unimproved, but it was clean, had a great aircon, comfy bed, all the other motel room inclusions and plenty of space. Compared to other motels in town its normal price (not my discounted tariff) was way cheaper . Only 3 blocks from the center of town (pub, supermart, GREYHOUND depot, Tourist Info Center).


Nice little pool area shared with backpacker section.


Associated backpackers' - I had a look: seemed to have all the expectations. Lady in charge a gem - friendly, helpful, lots of local info.


KATHERINE and surrounds - note other out of town attractions: CUTTA CUTTA CAVES 29km south-east on Hwy 1 - EDITH FALLS 62km north-east (42km on Hwy 1 then 20km on a side road to right) - KATHERINE HOT SPRINGS 3km along the river road south of town. 
Without transport I didn't get to these although I should have trekked down to the HOT SPRINGS (it was 40c - I opted for a cool beer in the airconned pub).
Details of map may be clearer if you click-expand.
(image http://outbacktrax.com/katherine_region.htm}



DAYS 2 3 and 4 NITMILUK GORGE
NITMILUK GORGE HQ is 28km from KATHERNINE on a good road unlikely to be cut too often in the wet. A problem - no public transport into the place: the tourist shuttle stopped running several years ago. I hitched both ways.
The place-marker only denotes the HQ area - the gorges (there are at least 9 - arguably more: some say 13!) run out of the image along that river branch to the RIGHT (just above the word "NITMILUK").
I forgot to include a linear scale - it is 22km in a straight line between the two place markers.

The Gorge is near the south-western corner of NITMILUK NATIONAL PARK


NITMILUK NATIONAL PARK
Note how NITMILUK NP (bottom of image) is joined to the south of KAKADU NP (it seems to have been expanded in its north-west at some time - I have coloured the area of expansion on this older image)
Note too the relative sizes of the parks. (original image Brookes Australian Tours)


More detailed map of NITMILUK NP. The path+notes heading north and then wst of GORGE HQ refer to the epic 66km/5 day JATBULA trail to EDITH FALLS.(image Australian Geographical)



Gorge map (image Ingrids Welt). I notice Ingrids has 9 gorges depicked and also shows most south bank trekking trails. In early wet season, park authorities had already closed most of the cenral and far eastern ones. It had not rained a lot, but already there were big sections of sheet water on the upper plateau making progress difficult in places.

NITMILUK GORGE HQ AREA
The HQ area is approx where the KATHERINE RIVER enters GORGE 1. The reception area, camping zone and cabins/resort rooms are located on the last bit of river floodplain. Further east (top-right in image) the escarpment borders the river - the south bank trekking trails lead up there - a good viewpoint is very close. 
The above image came from a notice board outside the VISITORS' INFORMATION CENTRE.
Google Earth image of roughly the same area. The stars demote the cliff line (escarpment). Too crowded to do a linear scale - it is 880m from the "from Katherine" place marker at bottom to that of "boat landing" at top.
The VISITORS' CENTRE (Yanks should not be offended at Brit/Aus spelling) is first port of call on arrival. Reception for the various accommodation options is here plus booking for gorge cruises, trekking informatin/maps, lots of general interest brochures and a good cafe with yummy food options at reasonable prices. The whole area is run by the local indigenous people - staff friendly and efficient.


A highlight is a free mini-museum with very professional displays on the geology, flora, fauna and human history of the area. I spent over an hour in this area.


The interior had delicious aircon. - nevertheless the big outside shaded deck with vegetation-filtered river views was a good place to spend time with a coffee or snack. I noticed day-tour coach drivers tended to hang out here while their charges went on a gorges cruise or viewpoint trek.

THE CAMPING AREA
At check in the efficient ladies gave me a map and explained the route to the camping area abt 250m away. No site allocation - there were so few campers I could take my pick.



First view - not exactly crowded. Closest camera we have one of several powered sites for vans etc - never more than 4 vans the 3 nights I stayed. In background is the the un-powered area - my spot. $11 for an un-powered single pretty reasonable seeing there was no low season discount. Also very uncrowded - I think our busiest night saw 4 tents and 3 small campers over a very big area.
Here's the thing - the above was shot in early low (wet) season (Nov), but you are advised to book ahead in high (dry) season. This is one BIG camping/van park, but NITMILUK GORGE sure is popular. 


Amenities block sizable (although I'm not sure how it copes at peak) and kept clean by 2 hard-working but skylarking local women - laundry in back: plenty of clothes lines both sides.


Sweet pool area - not small, nicely landscaped. plenty of sun-lounges and shelter. Has an attached bistro/snack bar which was not open low season. Reception told me the free CAMPERS WIFI worked best in pool area - I can confirm this.


COOKING UP KERMIT
  This is the best pic I have of the CAMP KITCHEN. Actually there were 2 (in the camping area - I think the permanent tents and cabins areas would each have their own camp kitchen): the second was closer the pool, smaller, newer and seemed to be used by tour buses doing luncheon/afternoon tea etc.
The above shelter was sizable - had a big refrig' and a freezer, a microwave and kettle but lacked basics like a cooker (there were gas BBQs scattered around the camp ground), tea towels, cutlery and crockery (fortunately I had my basic camping set). Cleanliness was a bit of a mystery - I watched a local fastitiiously cleaning the bench tops one morning and yet the refrig' has a container of left over meat looked/smelt like it had been there a month. Maybe a local's yabbie trap bait.
Got better - the second day a German backpacker showed me the interior of the jug - there was the carcass of a sizable frog: looked like poor Kermit had crawled in there and couldn't get back out. Explains how I had been kinda loose over the past 30 hours. Memo to self - always check inside of camping kitchen jugs etc


IT DON'T RAIN - IT POURS!
This is my trusty $29 K-MART tent - fits into my medium case with an inflatable mattress, small camp pillow and a sheet leaving plenty of room for my normal traveling stuff.
I think the killer WIND STORM on DUNK ISLAND the previous July must have sprung the seams because first night at NITMILUK an intense low pressure trough went thru and it rained. No, it POURED + flash/bang for maybe 7 hours starting 2200. And my tent started leaking. Abt 0300 I moved the whole caboodle over under the CAMP KITCHEN SHELTER - strung up a clothes line and had the interior stuff drying.
In the morning the rain had stopped so I moved back to my original location. I fashioned a cover for the tent top using my emergency poncho - but never got to test this because it didn't rain for my remaining 5 TOP END tent nights. This is the thing abt early wet season - it doesn't rain much at all according to locals: the above episode was the only prolonged heavy rain on my trip - there were shorter versions maybe 8 of my DARWIN nights (thankfully in backpacker joints) and similar short stuff on abt 3 of my 20+ days.


Google Earth image of accommodation area. No linear scale - straight line distance between CHALETS symbol at bottom and PARKING P top is 340m.


EXPLORING THE GORGE
GORGE CRUISES
More people see the gorge this way than any other - even in low season there were 4 or 5 big coaches each morning around 0930 in the near ramp car park that had bought people in from outside to do a cruise. And reception told me that although low season, I should check the night before to ensure my desired cruise was not booked out by a tour group.
Gorge guests who have not booked online are required to book their cruise at the VISITORS' CENTRE reception desk.

In HIGH SEASON there is a whole bunch of cruises to select from: 1, 2 and MORE GORGES, a CROSS GORGE HOP hop (mainly for hikers wanting to do the NORTHERN TREKS including the incredible 5 day JATBULA TRAIL to EDITH FALLS - plus those going to the closer NORTHENR ROCKHOLE), one to the SOUTHERN ROCKHOLE, an aboriginal CULTURAL CRUISE including ROCK ART and a couple of SUNSET CRUISES, one of which morphs into a DINNER CRUISE. 
LOW SEASON sees a big rationalisation - I had the choice of 2, both 2 gorges - either with or without a swimming option. Could be worse - in TIMES OF FLOODING there are NO CRUISES.


Cruises launch from a platform on GORGE 1 a nice 700m walk from the VISITORS' CENTRE. The cruise area CAR PARK is much closer.
All "boats" on the 0930 tour had been filled by tour bus people, but our 1100 boat had few people as you can see. This later boat suited me - it was the cruise with swimming. Although a 71 you geezer, I'm a keen swimmer. 
The tour took about 2.5 hours - there was no morning tea or lunch stop, but the boat had a good supply of water.

The RENTAL KAYAKS also leave from the above platform - however GORGE 1 is open to the dangerous SALTWATER CROCS so kayakering is restricted to GORGE 2 and above. I have an idea kayakers are transported up to GORGE 2 by boat: otherwise if they fall off.....
I've read kayaking is the single best way to see the gorges - but if you have only done a bit of kayaking you will know long distances are not great for the inexperienced. Note too that you have to haul the kayaks over rock divides between most of the gorges.
Looks good to me (image StarTravel)


CAP'N DAN our tour leader. Very informaive, had great sense of humour (brit/Aus spelling Yanks - dont tut tut me), very careful.


We ain't talking GRAND CANYON (tezza's GRAND CANYON) but GORGE 1 (and the following GORGE 2) was pretty impressive - easily the best I've seen in Australia.



At the end of Gorge 1 the boats tie up and you trek across to pick up another to do GORGE 2. There is a section of NATIVE ROCK ART to the right/above image which cap'n DAN left us to inspect while he went ahead to prepare our second boat.
The other craft above are waiting to take people back from the earlier 0930 cruise, who.....


....we passed on the 5 minute walk between gorges (track well surfaced, a bit undulating but gradients never above gentle).


This is the rocks area between GORGES 1 and 2. 
GORGE 2 starts at that higher level in background. 
It's instructive that this whole area is covered with water during peak of wet season flows - CAP'N DAN said this is when they renew various gorges' boats: tow them thru behind a powerful speedboat - he said it's kind of exciting when a tow-line snaps.


GORGE 2 - soon after the start we passed JEDDA's LEAP, where in the 60s hit movie the star crossed lovers made the BIG JUMP. Later in my stay I trekked to the top - see down page.


Pretty soon after we nosed into a cliff-side crevice - those are hundreds of small bats catching some zzzzs in the shade.



DAN pointed out these nearby caves - said the normal annual flood fills the gorge to top of the large cave but in the flood of '98 the smaller higher one was covered. Height can be judged by sapplings on cliff top. 
'98 flood saw WOOLWORTHS supermart in the main st of KATHRERINE inundated - when the water went down they found a large croc in the bakery - a killer salty, not a harmless fresh water croc.


Not much further along the gorge (I reckon we were only 30% along GORGE 2) we came to this nice little beach which CAP'N DAN said was our swim spot de jour.


We tied up down gorge and trekked 30m to the beach.

I'm a sucker fer a swim - do laps most days, so......
.....tezza takes the big cruise across and back - only abt 70m each way. Water deliciously cool.


DAN pointed out these gorge beaches are where the harmless fresh water crocs lay their eggs - pointed out these smashed shells: probably a result of Goanna foraging.

After our swim, we turned back towards base, did the transfer between GORGES 1 and 2. But DAN pointed out we had some time to spare, so.....
....we docked at the start of the <10 a="" as="" bit="" but="" can="" gradients="" hole.="" i="" is="" minute="" okay.="" rock-hop="" rock="" rough="" see="" southern="" the="" to="" trail="" underfoot="" up="" were="" you="">


Sweet spot.
DAN had heard the previous night's inundation (see up page) had the falls flowing for the first time this wet season (I think if you arrived early dry season things would still be okay). DAN suggested the water which wasn't too clean would be okay next day - didn't stop dude in shot taking a swim.
Next day, I trekked to above the falls - see down page.


Back down GORGE 1....close to the landing point we passes the above section of cliff, where the BEST VIEWPOINT (on its particular trekking track - not in the whole area) is located (under that yellow line - you may have worked out I'm not too familair with PAINT). This is the first and best viewpoint on the BARUWEI LOOP TRACK and I urge all visitors to get up there - have some pix down page.


Cruise venues - will be clearer if you click-expand. Note we are only abt 50% along GORGE 2 at right. 
Water course leading north out of image adjacent boat ramp at left is SEVENTEEN MILE CREEK. This lead up to the NORTHERN ROCKHOLE (650m) and is the start of the multi-day JATBULA TRAIL to EDITH FALLS. I would have liked to see the NORTHERN ROCKHOLE, but the cross gorge boat was not running low season. 


THE TREKS
To gain a fuller perspective of the GORGES I did a few treks. Gotta point out this is the TIME SURPLUS way to see NITMILUK - for instance to trek to the top of the SOUTHERN ROCKHOLE would take the average person around 3.5 hrs whereas the boat/short trek from river maybe only t25 mins total.
Nevertheless I'm a keen amateur trekker and enjoyed my wander around the upper plateau, despite the 40c temps (park guides tell us it can be 10c hotter up there). Sweet.
Also must repeat what I said up page - in early low season park authorities had already closed the CENTRAL and WESTERN trails - just as well: my nearer HQ treks day 3 took nearly 7 hours - at the end I was feeling a bit used up. Forget about the more distant trails.

THE BARUWEI LOOP TRAIL.
This is a nice one - I did it several times on account it starts/ends at HQ/camping area, takes little time and has a some neat viewpoints.


The BARUWEI LOOP is 4.8km long, takes about 2 hours. Most visitors do all or part of this one - it's short, well surfaced and has some nice outlooks from up top on. One caution: slopes in a few places are a bit steep - from near the BOAT LANDING up to BEST VIEWPOINT there are some very steep sections - onward to WATER TANKS is moderate, across the top is fairly flat and then you start heading downhill on the sections I've labelled MODERATELY STEEP and STEEP. At the base of the cliffs you soon turn north again - it's FLAT all the way back to HQ (there is a side track into the camping area) and then a gentle downhill stroll back to near the BOAT LANDING. 
I'd suggest unfit people who want to do the full loop should go in the reverse direction - ANTI CLOCKWISE. There are no killer ascents this way. However a lot of people do a small section from the BOAT LANDING/nearby PARKING LOT to BEST VIEWPOINT - unfit types will find this manageable if they take a few rest stops on the stairs. Very unfit people should give it a miss.


GORGE 1 from BEST LOOKOUT. At this stage my camera's battery went flat so I pinched this shot from WILILOC via GOOGLE IMAGES.


This is the outlook a little further on near the WATER TANKS - it shows the BOAT LANDING PARKING AREA at bottom, the transition of the KATHERINE RIVER into GORGE 1 behind, and part of the VISITORS' CENTRE far left - these images usually click-expand nicely. GOOGLE got this one from mapio/net.

The WATER TANKS are interesting. Water is pumped up from the river and purified in the tanks, then fed by gravity back down to HQ and CAMPGROUND areas.
Great for trekkers is a signposted tap on a tank beside the track - the water is not only delicious but somehow CHILLED - just the thing on a 40C day.


The moderately steep section of the loop near the walk up from the river flat if going anti-clockwise. I shot this next day with recharged batteries.

DAY 3 - FURTHER EAST
I was pretty keen to trek further into the Gorges so set off on day 3 to do the PAT'S LOOKOUT/SOUTHERN ROCKHOLE track and the next one east - BUTTERFLY GORGE via JEDDA'S LEAP.
As I have already explained, NATIONAL PARKS had unfortunately already closed the trails further east of these - maybe fortunately, because I would have run short of time.

TREK 1 - TO PAT'S LOOKOUT
You need to use part of the BARUWEI LOOP to the top of the plateau (1.8km from HQ) and then taked the well signposted branch to the right for another 2.4km - total 4.2km. I suggest you take the anti-clockwise route on the BARUWEI - a bit shorter and slopes are easier.
Once on the new track things are fairly easy - there is one juncion close to the start but it is clearly signposted - the track is flat, not to roughly surfaced with a lot of sand and anti-erosion barriers. There was a bit of standing water - the one creek crossing was a dry shoe rock-hop (maybe not after heavy rain).

PAT'S LOOKOUT
When you arrive gorge-side it's worth the hike. Great outlook back down GORGE 1 for abt 650m to hard left from where it is a pretty straight shot to the CRUISE LANDING spot. 
In the other direction you can part-see the rocks area junction of GORGES 1 and 2.

The great advantage of the PAT'S LOOKOUT trail is not only does it lead to arguably the BEST VIEWPOINT in the Gorges area - but also there are 2 great attractions each side: SOUTHERN ROCK HOLE to the left (west) and JEDDA'S LEAP/ROCK to the right (east).


Good sign-posting almost everywhere.

SOUTHERN ROCK HOLE
Okay, I know we have already visited the venue on this page - check the GORGE CRUISE section above. But it is also possible to walk into this neat place from above.


Turning left from the pic immediately above, we have the side gorge leading down to the SOUTHERN ROCKHOLE. I worked my way down that gorge on the following route....



....the 500m blue route (will be clearer if you click expand) shows the way down from the plateau top to the SOUTHERN ROCK HOLE - which is not all that much higher than Gorge 1 water level so it's no small drop. 
The yellow side trek shows my rock-hopping exercise to get above the falls.


The first half of the descent into the SOUTHERN ROCKHOLE side gorge involved several sets of stairs as above. My notes tell me 2 mins only but less fit people will not be whelmed.


Further on I had to make my way down the creek bed. Pretty uneven underfoot. I HATE ROCK-HOPPING, was less than impressed. 
And I got to thinking - this is EARLY wet season:not very wet. Could you come down here in the peak of the "WET"? 


FINAL DESTINATION: the track eventually led to this terrace slightly above the pool which gave me a good outlook of the SOUTHERN ROCKHOLE falls in one direction....


....and the pool in the other. Although there was no track down, I could have worked out a pretty simple descent to pool level, but since I'd been there the day before, I felt no need.

THE SIDE TREK
Here's the thing - although there are no defined walking trails alongside the last section of the creek above the falls, there is plenty of bare rock where you ccan scramble along for a better outlook.


Working my way down. That black void top of immage is the SOUTHERN ROCK HOLE.


This is the closest I got to the top of the falls and the SOUTHERN ROCK HOLE pool. If I were a rock-climber I might have gone further....but you gotta remember I'm a 71 geezer.


Plenty of nice smaller pools at the top before the falls if you fancy a dip.


JEDDA'S LEAP/ROCK
Back to PAT'S LOOKOUT and then moving east is JEDDA'S LEAP/ROCK abt 800m on.


This short section was a bit undulating but nothing difficult slope-wise. Lots of broken rock underfoot. I was hoping it would skirt the GORGE RIM so that I would get a good overview of the transition stage between gorges, but no luck.


This is where JEDDA and her bloke tried to fly in the movie.


View east along GORGE 2 from 30m further on from the previous pic. 
btw - that's our swimming beach from the previous day's cruise far background.


BUTTERFLY GORGE
BUTTERFLY GORGE meets GORGE 2 only 620m away as the crow flies from JEDDA'S ROCK but to get there I had to hike back inland 1700m to pick up the BUTTERFLY GORGE TRACK and then walk down the gorge another 1500m.

2 stages on the trek from JEDDA'S ROCK into BUTTERFLY GORGE - the 1700m "Shortcut" blue route back south and then the 1500m lime-green route down BG to MAIN GORGE 2.

THE SHORTCUT
This is a short cut because it beats backtracking all the way on the yellow and white tracks and then finding the southern link across to the start of the BUTTERFLY GORGE TRACK. 
I found THE SHORTCUT the most difficult of all legs - not so much the terrain (undulating but no killer slopes) or surface (some sections of broken rock but not too bad) but because of the heat on this open section of plateau and the fact that the track was a bit hard to follow - most trails were well sign-posted and had plenty of permanent colour-coded markers. Not so this one - I got the idea that not many trekkers come across here and NATIONAL PARKS had dropped its standards. 
But I had an excellent map from the VISITORS' CENTRE and knew if I kept heading roughly south I couldn't miss either BUTTERFLY GORGE or one of the tracks. Worked a charm - picked up the latter quite quickly.

BUTTERFLY GORGE TRAIL - this is a nice stroll down the gorge. It gradually deepens and the walls give good shelter resulting in a sort of wetter micro-climate. The result is a more of a sub-tropical rainforest instead of the plateau's open savanna woodland. The trail is not excessively rough or rocky but there are lots of fallen logs, sandy patches and leaf litter. In parts the trail divides but it doesn't matter which you take - the progressively higher walls ensure you will stay within the gorge. Tip - stick hard to the upper left when you sense you are close to NITMILUK GORGE 2.


There is a nice mid size pool about half-way along. 


The end of the trail. Above is the start of the second half of NITMILUK GORGE 2 - the rock barrier between it and GORGE 3 is abt 1400m distant. 
We didn't get as far as the camera on the previous day's CRUISE - the swim-beach is abt 450m around that immediate corner left - the base of JEDDA'S ROCK another 400m zig-zag.


THE RETURN TREK
It's possible to do a more direct return to the BAREWEI LOOP than the kinda wandering route so far....see SHORCUTS 2 below.


2 stages on the return trip: 1-back up the BUTTERFLY GORGE trail.....2-across the SHORTCUTS 2 trail.

BACK UP BUTTERFLY GORGE
Most people will be concerned with SLOPES here. The good news is slopes are mostly gentle to moderate - only the last 3 minutes got to fairly steep, which is below my ratings of steep, very steep and don't send flowers (killer steep - like in rope assist.).

SHORTCUTS 2 TRAIL
My trail map tells me it's 2.1km across here although it doesn't look it above or on the official trekking map. But it certainly seemed that distance - you gotta remember I'd already been trudging 6+ hours and at 71 years of age was starting to feel a bit used up.
This trail was a bit of a mixture - a lot of it seemed to be a vehicle access track for NATIONAL PARK use: wider then a walking track with sand/gravel base. But in some areas it narrowed right down and had VERY rough broken stones underfoot. There were several sections covered with sheet water - I managed to detour at the side but I'm thinking later in the wet this may not be possible. Could be why NATIONAL PARKS had already closed trails further east. Slopes on the fairly flat plateau top were never more than moderate.

BACK ON THE BARUWEI LOOP
When I finally arrive at the junction, I turned right (the long way back to my camp ground) rather than left: thing is I fancied a loooong drink of that chilled water a bit higher at the WATER PURIFYING TANKS (there is tank water at most trail junctions: but it is not as pure and sun-warmed) - not to mention more views from the lookouts that way.

An interesting observation - in over 6 hours east of the BARUWEI I passed NO ONE - yet there were at least a half dozen people doing a late afternoon BARUWEI circuit on my few hundred meters stroll to the WATER TANKS



I finally got back to the campground maybe 7 hours after departure - that sweet pool went down real well.

BACK TO KATHERINE TOWN
Next morning I got a lift back into town with a mother and daughter duo from COCOS ISLAND doing a camping holiday from DARWIN to HOBART (jeez that's a biggy). 
A short time later my GREYHOUND bus to MATARANKA HOMESTEAD pulled in.


MATARANKA bound.

NITMILUK HELICOPTER TOURS
For almost the full duration of my treks there was always the noise and often the sighting of one of the helicopters taking people on a gorge inspection. Seems they are popular even in tourist paucity low season. These tours are above my geezers' pension grade, but I figure for those who can afford, they are a great way.....
....to see the gorges from a different perspectiove, particularly....

....the more eastern ones which are too distant for boat cruises, most kayakers and non-hard core trekkers (both images from TripAdivor's NITMILUK DAY TOUR page via Google Images)

BTW - the 'choppers take off from a site adjacent the road to KATHERINE TOWN some kms from the gorges, so there is no racket of taking off/landing helicopters around the HQ area.
'Copter tours are booked at the VISITORS' CENTRE or ONLINE. No doubt places in KATHERNINE TOWN like the excellent VISITORS' INFORMATION CENTRE and TRAVEL NORTH can do the same.
-----------------------------------------------

IF YOU SEE MISTAKES OR HAVE EXTRA INFORMATION, PLEASE POST BELOW. BUT IF YOU HAVE A QUESTION, PLEASE POST IT ON THE FORUM - WHICH I CHECK MOST DAYS WHEN NOT TRAVELING - WHEREAS I DON'T REVISIT INDIVIDUAL DESTINATION PAGES LIKE THIS ONE VERY OFTEN.