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Nitmiluk, a National Park?

AUSTRALIA | Monday, 21 April 2008 | Views [796]

Nitmiluk is the Jawoyn name for Katherine Gorge. The surrounding land was given back to the traditional caretakers in 1989. The information center highlights the European impact upon the Jawoyn.

First of all, its true. The gorge (actually 13 gorges carved through sandstone over twenty million years) with its deep ochre face, shadowy trees, and snaking river is spectacular country. But we were not expecting the high level touristy feel when we arrived.

The camping fees are some of the highest we’ve come across for a National park. $25 for two adults and a child for an unpowered site. (We’ve paid, usually $5 a person in other areas of QLD, and NT) They do have better amenities than other national parks we’ve been to (including hot and cold showers, a camp fridge and freezer, telephone, microwave, available petrol), and the additional pool (about to be built at the time of writing) will add to the tourist park feel. We enjoyed breakfast to the sound of helicopters taking tourists on their early morning joy ride.

The camp ground is well kept and spacious. And what we see here, is just the half. They open up the other side in May. The rangeresque people running it are helpful and friendly. But they deal with 300 000 people a year coming through, mostly in the ‘dry’. (The ‘dry’ referring to the dry season May through to October where the air is still and dry and gives people that perpetual Clint Eastwood squint) They say its mostly ‘southerners’ coming through to escape the winter. But then there’s the coaches to deal with as well.

After Kakadu and Litchfield, we’re a little overwhelmed with the high maintenance feel. We paid $10 a night in Litchfield in a ‘good will’ system (put the money in an envelope with relevant details and put it in the box), camped quietly and hiked at our leisure. As an aside, we noticed a distinct drop in insects and wildlife in the Katherine area, as compared to Kakadu. Here in Katherine, we’ve slept without the constant buzz of mosquitoes outside the van, and instead woke to the sound of helicopters.

Here we were inundated with ‘joy ride’ tour offers, a busy front desk with ‘important’ receptionists taking details of boat cruises and scenic flights. This is all well and good, but at a National Park information desk?

Well, you get what you pay for here.

I decided to sit here and write a little, in the shade of the excellent amenities shelter beside the microwave and freezer, while Jett is drawing in the Ambassador Van and Albert, big brave Dirty Bertie, has chosen to go on the second shortest walk (4 and a half hours) through the Butterfly Gorge.

We wanted to hire a canoe, but the waterhole and canoeing is closed because we’re still, by a couple of weeks, still in the wet. Which reminds me, if you are not familiar with this type of area, then double check all dates and times because the roads flood, access is denied because of storm damage, and half of the things in the guides is restricted because of the season. If there’s something special you want to do, get local advice about the best time.

I just notices that the rangeresque 4WD’s (all Toyotas) have ‘Nitmiluk Tours’ printed across them. Not Nitmiluk National Park.

The place is big and beautiful. Its for serious campers and hikers too. You can go on overnight trails, with or with out a canoe (if it’s the right season) and there are beautiful plants, animals, birds, insects, spiders and rock art to experience.

I’d be happy with everything, but the name fooled me. Instead of National Park, we should name it Nitmiluk Tourist Camp and Tours, complete with ‘fit but don’t you know it’ staff ready to help with flight and cruise enquiries.

Did I say we were a trifled miffed at the steep camping prices? And to put the post in honest perspective, I think it’s only fair to add I’m teetering on pre-menstrual nerves. Hence Albert’s readiness to hike on his own, at my diplomatic and thoughtful suggestion.

Tags: allwelcome, ambassador van, complaining, t a j

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