A whole lot of nothing and a little bit of something: that pretty much sums up the road from Litchfield to Katherine National Park… A special thanks to the wallabies and road kill for pepping things up along the way!
To outwit the sun, we start the day way before she does, enjoy an undisturbed and cool ‘brekkie’ and a quick jump in Surprise Falls. Quick indeed, because the flies are back. They’re numerous and more annoying than ever! Even if we have nothing but our nose above the water, there are six tiny legs on it. Our next destination is Katherine National Park, about 280 km southeast of Litchfield National Park.
On the final few kilometers of the Reynolds River 4WD track there is so much to see (wildlife, woodlands, floodplains dotted with termite mounds, creek crossings and cool safari scenery), that it feels like we’re in a drive-through zoo. At one point we even diverge from the path, we park the car in front of a tree-lined creek, turn off the engine and wait… We see emu’s drinking just a few meters away and other big birds that we can’t identify and uninspiredly call ‘waterbirds’. Alone in the wild… this is what it’s all about!
Waking up at the Surprise Creek Falls Caravan Park. Just nature and us:
Short bird movie:
Another road movie, just because it’s such a cool track:
After Reynolds the 4WD fun is over: the Daly River Road and Stuart Highway take us back to the world of concrete and straight roads. Nothing to get excited about, unless you find carcasses of wallabies, birds, cows and oxes along the road exciting. It definitely makes sense that the insurance company won’t let us drive at night: it’s amazing how much animals are hit by cars and road trains on a nightly basis.
The monotonous road to Katherine:
Hot, hotter, catastrophic
There’s so much of nothing on the Stuart Highway, that any change in the landscape attracts our attention. Any change at all, like a jeep – not a car wreck, but an actual intact jeep – parked along the road. We push the brakes and turn back to see what the fuss is all about. A man (in my memory he’s wearing dirty boots and a shotgun) approaches us. “Did you see a dog on your way over here?” Stijn and I both nod no. “I took my dog out hunting the other night, but he never returned. I came back to look for him.” We try to look encouraging, but in our minds, the dog is either a bird meal, a croc meal or a snake meal by now, ‘meal’ being the key word here. And then, finally, we reach the city of Katherine. Even though it’s bloody hot, a big ‘Fire Danger Rating’ sign tells us that there’s ‘only’ a very high fire danger. Yes only, because there’s three more ratings worse than the current one! It makes you wonder what a ‘catastrophic’ day would be like in this area… As an Aussie would say: “It must be as hot as a tin roof in the middle of summer in Marble Bar!” (Marble Bar is the village that holds the record as the hottest place in Australia). I know I’m deviating from the story now, but here’s an interesting read on Aussie slang: www.helium.com/items/943908-Australia-South-Pacific.
From what we’ve seen, Katherine basically consists of two major crossroads where all the shops, supermarkets, liquor stores and gass stations are planted down. Fine by us, because all we need is food supply for the next two days. Close to our parking spot there’s a supermarket with Aboriginals sitting, lying or standing against the walls. Inside the store though, there are no customers. While we’re shopping for the usual rice and pasta, the cashier leaves the cash register and comes our way with a big broom. She’s pretending to be wiping the floor when in fact she’s unsubtly keeping an eye on us. It’s high time we got a decent shower: we’re starting to look like criminals!
From Katherine, it’s a 30 km drive to Nitmiluk National Park, our destination for the day. The scenery starts to change from a whole lot of flat, sandy and burnt tufts of forrest to an up-and-down, greenish landscape. Plenty of farmers and fishmongers reside here and they all have ‘lots’ instead of house numbers. The lot numbers are carved on big, iron gates, leading to nothing but seemingly non-stop driveways. ‘Lots’ of room indeed….
Wallabies versus kangaroos
At Nitmuluk, the camping is packed with people. Where did everybody come from?! We pay for a powered site at the visitor’s centre, accompanied by a handful of wallabies, curiously looking for some tasty treats. It’s funny how nobody here can tell us exactly what the difference is between a kangaroo and a wallaby. Both are super cute, both stand on there hind legs and both bounce around on their tail. So how can you tell them apart? This is how the conversation generally goes if we ask someone:
– What’s the difference between a wallaby and a kangaroo?
– Wallabies are much smaller than kangaroos.
– So, a wallaby is like a small kangaroo?
– Not always, there are big wallabies and small kangaroos, so some wallabies are bigger than some kangaroos.
– But what’s the difference then?
– Their size, mainly.
As we will later find out, there is no distinct difference between the two. Some type of kangaroos are sometimes called wallabies, but there are no strict rules for when to call a kangaroo a wallaby. A few websites mention you can tell them apart by their teeth and coloring of their coat, but the difference is mainly based on their height and the area the animals live in. So if everyone calls them wallabies in Katherine, they are wallabies and no doubt about it!
Encounter between a wallaby and a crow:
Baby wallaby peeping out of the pouch: