Ramblings of a much published New Zealand author

11 September 2009

From Jabiru to Katherine

28 March

We escaped from Kakadu, our Twin Falls and Jim Jim Falls pictures now on film. We drove to Katherine, 372 kilometres south of Jabiru. It was sunny with photogenic clouds at first but deteriorated as we got closer to Katherine.

The first 200-odd kilometres was on the Kakadu Highway crossing the north-flowing rivers that contribute to the Kakadu ‘delta’ until we reached higher land and the watershed where westward flows eventually start to discharge into the Timor Sea north of Joseph Bonaparte Gulf.

Kakadu Highway joins the Stuart Highway at Pine Creek. North lies Darwin; to the south, Katherine, Alice Springs and faraway Adelaide. Pine Creek is an old gold mining town, the only one left in the Top End from the 1870 gold rush. They found gold there while the great overland telegraph line that connected Adelaide to London via Darwin and all points Oriental, Asiatic and European. The town, as all gold towns do, flared like a matchhead to gain a brief importance sufficient for a railway line to connect it to Palmerston (Darwin). It’s quite an attractive little hamlet fussily preserving and serving up to tourists its museum, railway station (which closed in 1976), a large corrugated iron shed called The Old Bakery, some water gardens and a Miners Park scattered with rusting boilers and stampers from the gold era.

We had lunch at the local pub which I described in a fax I sent to Pat later that day as ‘…rough as old boots but we talked the Italian-looking “chef” into grilling barramundi in olive oil with salad.’ I don’t think he’d ever cooked it that way before. It was very good, especially as it cost us only $5.00 each. The bar was full of locals who by their ingenuous appraisal made us feel like foreign objects - which we were - so we went out the back and sat with some aborigines in a room that resembled a large, paint-chipped prison cell. It might once have been a stables. They had a pretty little girl with them who looked bored and not too healthy. I asked her what her name was. I thought she said ‘Melissa’ but her mother - I presumed it was her mother - grinned with some teeth missing and said, ‘Priscilla’.

‘This is “Priscilla, Queen of the Desert”?’

The woman grinned gaply again and nodded her head. The little girl hopped on one leg shyly; such a beautiful girl spending Sunday in the pub with the grown-ups smoking and quietly sinking towards the sleeptime.

On our way to Katherine we made a detour to Edith Falls in the north-west corner of Nitmiluk National Park. It was a venue for Sunday afternoon outings where people were picnicking, swimming and boating on the lake, part of the Edith River, fed by the falls which were really a modest cataract on the lake’s far side. We took no photographs.

We stayed the night at Knotts Crossing Resort motel, Katherine, and I cooked us a simple penne é pomodori which we ate with yet another of Robin’s fine choices of wine while we watched the nightly disaster taking place in Kosovo.

© DON DONOVAN From diary notes: ‘Kakadu and Beyond’


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By Don Donovan