Tuesday, May 27, 2008

DAY 215: Mataranka to Katherine

Mon 26th May 2008
105 km @ 20.0 km/hr
Sunny, scattered cloud, 29 deg C
Elevation of destination 112m
Distance to date 13282 km (8301 miles)

Backpackers Anonymous prevented me getting to sleep last night by playing mainly the same music track from 2100 to at least 0130 when I must have finally got to sleep. Drink? Drugs? Who knows? I tried to block out the music with foam ear plugs and padding between ears and my Assos balaclava, but the bass still came through loudly - it’s impossible to eliminate. So I slept in a little until 0745 but still got away for 0830 via a stop at the Servo (filling station) for stove fuel (petrol), my fuel (Double Shot Paul’s of NT Iced Coffee) and overpriced Buttercrunch biscuits (double usual price).
The first 10km were a bit draggy but thereafter the SE wind resumed control over yesterday’s rebellious NE-er, and as I was heading due NW I had the perfect tailwind - right in the small of the back lol - bliss! The road was a bit busier than lately, more cars and lorries and many caravans and campervans. No shoulder, so had to jump off and watch the mirror more for dodgy situations - the mirror is a blessing as you can see hazards before you eventually hear them, when it can be too late.
The road is pretty flat with the odd draggy uphill, but average speed kept on increasing all day. Sometimes I was soft-pedalling at 30 km/hr which is probably a first on this trip, what with a 30kg wind-dragging pannier load. Scenery as in pics - larger trees, more standing water, greener than lately and a lot more birds. I saw a magnificent Brahmini Kite coverting it’s roadkill feast until I got the camera out, whereupon it flew off, camera shy. Lots of Apostlebirds everywhere.
I passed lots of WWII ‘Historical Sites’ which usually amounted to nothing at all really unless you're an old soldier - old field hospitals or airfields - and in many cases there’s nothing to see since the vegetation has taken over the cleared sites again. Many of these sites don’t even have a track access and look no different from the rest of the bush. The Aussies, bless ‘em, haven’t got much history, so tend to clutch at straws. A historical site in Britain could be a 12th century building whereas here it could be a 1900’s building - I think they try too hard to have history - perhaps more emphasis on the amazing natural assets that Australia has would be more appropriate, an area where Oz could score very highly on a world-scale basis. I don’t think everyone’s twigged this yet.
After 60km (or 56km depending which sign you read because they all read differently as does the map also!) there’s a nice rest area with tank rainwater, and I used some of this in preference to the ghastly-tasting Mataranka bore water to make 2 mugs of tea, which went down a treat with the costly Buttercrunch biscuits. It was actually brunch with the Apostles, since a flock of 12 were in close attendance as I ate, squawking and squabbling over dropped morsels, and drinking from the small puddle created under the tankwater tap. Birds are great to watch at close quarters; there’s all sorts of little dramas going on between themselves, and a definite ‘pecking order’ (pun not intended).
The strong tailwind continued afterwards and faithfully blew me to Katherine and, I expect, a day of rest or two for me after the 787 km / 6 day ride from Tennant Creek. First stop was the VIC where I picked up a few brochures and asked about caravan parks, the nearest of which is Red Gum (1km from town, $10 pppn), which I chose. I wanted to do a day’s canoeing on the Katherine River, but when I phoned they weren’t able to do this as they were fairly booked up with 3-day trips, and I’ll have to ring them back again to see if this can be done when I pass through Katherine again in 2 weeks time before heading west (I’m heading first to Kakadu, Darwin, Litchfield NP and then Katherine again).
After setting up the tent I went into town to check e-mails (38 after a week; worse than working) and get something for dinner. Woolworth’s supermarket was like Alladin’s Cave after all the expensive and limited-choice country groceries, and it took a lot of willpower to resist buying too much. Before I leave Katherine for Kakadu NP I will stock up, but for the meantime I bought fresh crusty rolls for tuna and onion sarnies, plus Greek-style mango and Passion Fruit yoghurt and fresh fruit for desert. Oh, and a bottle of Cab Sav to wash it down lol. Not to mention the local rag the NT News.
Katherine is, like Tennant Creek, home to many indigenous people, and this again made this place feel instantly more ‘real’ to me on arrival. They’re very noisy and loudly argumentative with each other, shout using bad language habitually, and don’t worry about doing all this in the centre of town, yet this seems somehow fascinating to me and I can’t explain why - maybe I’ll be able to explain this eventually. As I say it kind of feels ‘real’ to me in what seems sometimes to me to be an artificial and sanitised society.
Well, dinner was delicious, tempered only by awareness, after her e-mail I read this afternoon, that Lyn is feeling somewhat overwhelmed by work at the moment; working long hours as a gardener as well as many more hours with Mary in setting up a new house-sitting business. I hope she gets through this OK and I feel frustrated that I can’t help at all - telepathic hug anyhow!

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