Nitmiluk National Park got its name from the Aboriginal Dreamtime story about Nabilil, a creation being. Nabilil was travelling across the land and camped at the entrance of Katherine Gorge and all he could hear was the song of the cicadas, “nit nit nit nit”. Nabilil was compelled to name the area Nitmiluk.
We took the trail for the Windolf walk early morning. It doesn’t take long for things to heat up, here in Central Australia. An 8.4km return walk taking around 3 1/2 hours, provided us with views of the lower gorge. Here from Pats Lookout we could see what it would be like paddling through the first Gorge. The views are amazing and we are excited, for tomorrow we set out on our overnight adventure up to the 9th Gorge in Katherine Gorge.
In my opinion Katherine Gorge is one of the most spectacular areas in Australia. A deep gorge through ancient sandstone that winds 12 km with walls climbing more than 70 metres high. Walking up on the rim is one thing, but tackling the gorge and its many rock portages is quite another experience.
We set off early and decided to make some ground on the first three gorges. Settling into our canoe, we took a couple of minutes to gain our rhythm of synchronised oars. Left, right, left, right the rhythm became hypnotic and therapeutic as we glided along the calm waters of the first gorge, soaking in the sights. The first gorge is quite wide. Tour boats do cruises both in the first and second gorges. Our sights were set on making it to the 9th gorge. The further you go into the gorge the more remote and the more beautiful. Doing an overnight trip, you need a reasonable amount of fitness as the rock portages can be quite demanding. Lugging a canoe and its contents is not easy, especially when faced with uneven ground and large boulders at some of the portages. For us tackling all the obstacles made this experience a real adventure . Along the way you may see some of the locals. Freshwater crocodiles are in these waters, although shy, they can be seen.
The prettiest spots are at the end of the 4th Gorge, Smitts Rock in the 5th Gorge and around the 6th and 7th Gorge. Depending on the level of water the 8th and 9th Gorge open up a little more with a lot more portages. The scenery and solitude is reward enough when venturing into this beautiful region.
The colours of the gorges forever change with the mood of the day. From brilliant ochre to softer tones towards the evening. For us we made our way back to the 6th Gorge to spend the night. We slept fairly primitively, our one luxury was blow up head rests, our mattress was the sandy banks and we were covered in a blanket of stars throughout the night. We woke early morning after a fairly restless sleep. We were surprised to see all the footprints of critters that had visited us throughout the night!!! Unbeknown to us we had been quite the attraction.
In this country it doesn’t take long to warm up, and our early morning start was enjoyable. Not a person to be found on the pristine waters of the gorge. Only the sounds of birds enjoying the brilliant morning glory as our oars sliced through the still waters. In the early morning stillness we were accompanied by early morning chatter from birds flitting among the cliff shrubbery, along with the odd plop from a disappearing turtle into the depths of the water.
We made it back to civilisation, at around 2pm, sad that this part of our journey was over but feeling a sense of achievement from our wonderful adventure.
To complete our Gorge experience we enjoyed a candlelit dinner cruise on the gorge. Fruit bats filled the skies as the sun began to set. A lovely meal, nice wine and wonderful company in a magical location. All in all a brilliant 2 days on the gorge. One of the many treasures of Central Australia.