After our beautiful visit to the gorge, we made our way to the western side of Nitmiluk National Park to Leliyn/Edith Falls. We set out early from Katherine to make sure we arrived early enough to secure a campsite. The Northern Territory have great camping facilities in their national parks, but it is on a first come, first served basis, so in the height of the dry season you are competing for sites. Luckily for us we were coming out of the peak season and into the shoulder season, so we were able to secure a ripper of a campsite. It had been a while since the kids had so much green grass on which to play, so if was lovely to see them building tent cities and playing so nicely together.
This was also when we first bought out ‘Finska’ and had our first family games afternoon. It was a little fractious if I’m honest, however there were some valuable teaching moments!!
After settling in, it was time to hit the falls. At Edith Falls you can access both the lower plunge pool and the upper pool. We decided we would swim in the lower pool first and explore the upper pool the next day. Having now visited a few waterfalls (as you will see in the coming posts there is a recurrent theme) it has become a bit of a custom for Tom and the kids to swim out to the falls. This was first instituted at Edith Falls. The kids have become so much more confident in their swimming and have loved exploring all the waterholes and pools.
The next day we headed out to explore the upper pool. It is starting to heat up and by mid morning it is in the mid 30’s. Not the best time to be heading out on a walk but we are just not very good at getting going some mornings!!
Anyway, as we have done on a few occasions now and I am sure we will do again, we underestimate how strenuous a walk this is. While the older kids bound up effortlessly, it takes a lot of coxing to get Tobias up to the top pool. We eventually get there and we are all glad we have made the effort, including Tobias who is keen to jump into the water. It really is a beautiful part of the world!!
Katherine Gorge has been on my bucket list for years. I don’t know why really, but it has always been this place that I have heard of and one day hoped I would visit. I can now tick it off my list, although as with many things on this trip, there is so much I didn’t get to see.
It is the sheer size of Nitmiluk Gorge that is so overwhelming. In fact it is not one gorge but 13 gorges. I quickly realised that we were not going to see much if we relied solely on our feet for walking so we decided that we would splurge a little and take out one of the cruises. I am so glad we did. The cruise has been one of the highlights of our trip so far. The kids were all very excited too. One day in the future I would love to canoe down the gorges and camp in one of the camp sites situated throughout the park only accessible by canoe. How cool would that be? There is one gorge aptly named ‘Butterfly Gorge’ that provides shelter for thousands of common crow butterflies. Hopefully in the future…
One of our favourite places so far would have to be the four nights we spent in Mataranka. We rocked up to The Little Roper Stock Camp and straight away felt at home. This was the ideal spot for a family to hang out and and explore the area. More than just a place to park the van, this camping experience was a little more unique. Our hosts Des, Telka and little Darcy, would light a nightly campfire where people would gather to chat and share their travel stories. The fire would again be stoked in the morning where johnny cakes and freshly brewed billy tea would be on offer. The kids would be off feeding the animals, holding the resident snake or exploring with one of the many other kids who were also spending extended time on the road. In fact the family parked next to us were on their way back to WA after having spent 4 years living in their caravan!!!
Just another morning at The Little Roper Stock Camp.
Mataranka is a small town just south of Katherine and is famous for it’s thermal pools which keep a constant temperature of about 33 degrees. It is also the setting for the Australian novel ‘We of the Never, Never’ by Jeannie Gunn, a book written about life on Elsey Station at the turn of last century. I started reading this book while in Mataranka and I really got a sense of how isolated and harsh this land is and definitely would have been in early pastoralist days. Jeannie Gunn only ever spent a year in Mataranka, but she was changed because of it. The area had somehow captured her heart.
There are two main thermal pools in which to swim when you come to Mataranka. The first is accessed via the grounds of Mataranka Homestead. This pool is little more ‘manicured’ than the other pool, ‘Bittern Springs’ which is found on the other side of the town. The kids loved Bittern Springs because they got to use their pool noodles and float down the springs with the current.
We have been busy over the last little while, but with little internet coverage we have not spent much time writing this blog, so we thought we better update our page and share some of the amazing things we have been up to.
After spending some time relaxing and regrouping in Alice Springs we headed for the West MacDonnell Ranges. One thing we have really noticed on our trip is while you think you have all the time in the world, you really don’t!! When initially planning our trip I had all these plans for our time in the MacDonnell Ranges, but unfortunately we only got the chance to explore such a small part of this amazing landscape.
The West MacDonnell National Park stretches for 161 kms to the west of Alice Springs. We were able spend time exploring Glen Helen Gorge, Redbank Gorge and Simpsons Gap, not far out of Alice itself.
We located ourselves at Glen Helen Gorge and explored from there.
One of the kids’ favourite adventures so far is our walk into Redbank Gorge. The walk was only about 2 kms but took us about 2.5 hours to complete. The walk required lots of ‘rambling’ over rocks and time spent convincing Tobias to keep going. The walk followed the creek bed and eventually came to a waterhole. The big kids loved all the rock climbing and kept looking for the biggest rocks to scale. We were lucky to stumble across quite a few rock wallabies as we walked (or Wobblies as Tobias calls them).
“I can see why people call this the heart of Australia,” resounded Isaac as Uluru loomed in the distance. Isaac in particular has surprised us both during our trip with his fascination and interest in all the new places we have visited. His curiosity and his inquisitive nature has given us a new perspective. He has made us marvell at things through the eyes of a child. Both Tom and I have had the pleasure of visiting Uluru before when we were both much younger and perhaps a little less receptive to just how amazing a place Uluru is. Neither of us remembered being as moved as we were on revisiting Uluru. There really is something special about this land, about this place that speaks to the heart. Let’s be honest – its a giant, red, rock in the middle of nowhere, and yet for some reason it draws upwards of 250 000 visitors a year from all over the world. Like Kings Canyon, Uluru humbled me and made me acutely aware of my humanity. There is a rich story being told and now we have become a part of that story. A story that will be told (God willing) for another 600 million years.
The kids were able to ‘back up’ the Kings Canyon Rim Walk with a ten kilometre ride the following day around ‘the rock’. Matisse has just mastered the art of riding with no training wheels, so her effort was awesome. Tobias wasn’t so keen. We got a few hundred metres in to the walk and I called it!! So unfortunately I was left to drive around the base while Tom walked. While we have had our challenges (be assured our trip has not been all sunshine and roses) the kids continue to exceed our expectations when it comes to their endurance and tenacity. They have been real little troopers.
One thing I have not gotten use to is the ‘red dirt’. This is the overflow campground – just red dirt!! I’m channelling my mother and reliving my childhood in Karratha. I have so much more appreciation for her. I don’t know how she managed!! I’ve given up trying to keep things clean. As Amelia said to me the other day, “You’re the only one that cares mum!”
Uluru is sacred to the Anangu people, the traditional owners of the land. Uluru, while originally sitting at the bottom of the sea, now stands about 348 metres high and in fact continues for a number of kilometres underground. Geologists estimate that it’s formation began around 550 million years ago.
Fun Fact – There are shrimps living in Uluru. After heavy rain, tadpole like shrimps hatch in temporary water holes and rock pools.
Australia’s rugged beauty often takes my breath away. The vastness of the landscape, the intricate and luminous shapes of the earth, the graduation, variety and depth of colour that gives this land it’s distinction and it’s beauty make me truly believe that I am encountering the Divine. It makes me stand in awe of a loving and generous Creator who infinitely loves us and desires to draw near to us. As our family embarked upon the Kings Canyon Rim walk, I was humbled. I was humbled by the majestic beauty of the canyon. I was humbled by the resilience and tenacity of my children. I was humbled by the age old indigenous culture that imbued this sacred place.
I wasn’t sure if our kids were going to manage the 6km rim walk. Tom and I however were being optimistic and weren’t going to give up easily. We had attempted a few walks earlier on in the trip with Tobias that ended up being disastrous but we were determined that ‘The Wandering Wursthorns’ were in fact going to ‘wander’.
We set our alarm for 5.30am. Sunrise is the time to begin the rim walk. Not only to avoid the heat of the day but also because this is when the canyon is at its most ‘picture perfect’. Amazingly we managed to get there before the sun greeted us. We also arrived in time to be greeted by 3 heavily laden tourist buses. It would seem we all had the same idea about an early start.
The most challenging part of the walk is the start, with about a half hour ascent up a steep cliff. Our kids nailed it. Including Tobias. If you know anything about children, particularly Tobias, it would seem the more challenging the physical activity the more determined they become. Using ‘Spiderman’ and ‘Batman’ as inspiration we all clambored to the top overawed by the magical views and the sun rising over the horizon .
We continued on. Amelia, Isaac and Matisse never faltered. Their determination and high energy urged them on. Tobias, although tired and weary after his little sojourn, made it!! His little 3 year old legs managing to walk the 6 kms with only a few ‘piggy backs’ along the way and a few ‘this is boring’ punctuating the conversation. Tom and I were so proud of what our kids managed to achieve. It has been an absolute highlight of our trip so far.