Tuesday, June 03, 2008

DAY 219: Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge to Pine Creek

120 km @ 20.0 km/hr
Fri 30th May 2008
Sunny, 30 deg C
Elevation of destination 209m
Distance to date 13432 km (8395 miles)

The ‘roos were grazing very close to my tent again last night, and I kept hearing the tearing sound as they ripped out the grass in my dreams, or in reality. I was awake at first light, 0640 at the moment, and decided to get up and get an early start to a longish day. Not that long in distance, but I had internet and shopping to do in Katherine that would probably take 2 hours. Before that I was luckily treated to the Bowerbird actually doing his courtship dance just a few feet away; a watching bird, which I assumed to be a female, wasn’t very interested though, and after a little while flew off after another (male?) bird, the hussy. Maybe he needs to practice more. I also took a pic of the bower itself.
It was very cold at that time, the sun not having climbed over the valley side, and I wished I hadn’t given Lyn my fleece hat to take back, I could actually do with it now. Once underway I started to warm up once moving, and especially when after 20 minutes when the sunshine hit me. Such a difference between early morning and afternoon temperatures at the moment. Thing is, it is still fairly warm when it’s sleep time, and it’s probably around 3 or 4 that it gets cold, and I then snuggle right under the sleeping bag flap, totally cocooned.
It took just over half the time to Katherine than the outward journey, today being wind-assisted. The SE wind was pretty fresh. In Katherine I tried another internet place that was a bit dearer ($8/hr) but at least twice as fast, and I was done much more quickly having replied to several e-mails. One was from the John O’Groat Journal asking for an update on the trip, which I will write up soon. I then topped up my food bag at Woolworth’s - a little nervous as usual about leaving the fully-laden bike on it’s own. At least in the internet cafe I could keep an eye on it, but in the supermarket it’s not as easy. I do push it inside the shopping mall, although a sign says no bicycles no-one has ever stopped me - maybe one day it will be taken outside and blown up...anyway despite some ‘characters’ hanging about I’ve lost nothing yet. I’m pretty sure there are CCTV cameras near where I leave it, which must help. After Woolies it was over to Subway for ‘elevenses’ which today was a 12” Tandoori on toasted wholewheat with tomato, lettuce, black olives, salt and pepper with Raita sauce please. I thought I’d save half for later but as it happened wolfed the lot down - very nice too with Paul’s (NT) iced coffee.
I filled up my 4 litre water bag in anticipation of a bush camp and hit the road again at 1230. There is twice the traffic north of Katherine compared to south, and I had to veer off a few times when vehicles were coming both ways. I decided to stop waving at caravanners and motorhomers now since I was at it every few seconds, and it was spoiling my concentration - I did wave when waved to, but often I can’t see whether folk are waving or not due to the bright sunshine. The road started flat, then started undulating almost to hilliness; finishing up gently undulating. There is nothing at all on this leg, not even a building, but I’m used to that. NT is incredibly sparse of population.
The SE-er was right behind me again, and the 90km from Katherine to Pine Creek was very easy. During the last 10km I tried and tried to find a bush camping site to no avail. I tried 4 places - 2 were too open and dusty, and in the case of the other 2, although they were well down side roads a vehicle was coming the other way both times, and I never like camping when I’ve been seen like that. Probably paranoid but there you are.
There are several caravan parks in Pine Creek so I chose the one with a bar so I could have a beer, and wasn’t pleased to hear it was $15 (Lazy Lizard) but I paid up and didn’t look pleasant at all. That’s the dearest for ages. As I was setting up some firemen were setting fires in the field next door - this happens all over NT at this time of the year, and is done to get rid of the old, dead vegetation and encourage new growth. Just now the ground is still pretty damp after the Wet and so this limits the extent of the fires. The burning trees looked quite spectacular with the setting sun right behind them.
I could smell fish cooking over in the restaurant and so the idea of pasta again was outvoted in favour of Barra and chips and salad - and it was very good. I bust my budget again this month, but hey, live a little! For the second or third time I’ve noticed indigenous men coming into a bar for alcohol, and the barperson asks them for their ID - wonder what that’s about? Must ask someone and find out. They always look so nervous and out of place in such places.

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