May 18 brought us to Nitmiluk Natinal Park (formerly Katherine Gorge N.P.), another jointly managed Aboriginal/Australian Parks Service park in a method similar to what is happening at Uluru. We toured the information center to find out what we could about the Aboriginal history of the area, said no to the tours on offer (ranging from the $60/4 hour canoe rental to the $500 helicopter flights) then took off on a (free) 5.5 hour hike to Butterfly Gorge. Like every other national park or recreation area we’ve been to (aside from Uluru) this one was free to visit. FREE. FREE. Did I mention that it was free? What are we, in America, doing so wrong that Australia is getting so right?
Lookout from above the boat launching site:
The hike was rough; for half of it the path followed a 4WD road covered in loose rocks of the ankle-twisting variety, then was followed by a narrow path that cut through a rainforest (called monsoon forest here) and finally dumped us out in a gorgeous, empty section of the gorge. We had a lovely lunch and swam with the turtles and fish (no crocs here!) and laughed with much glee as a huge blackbird came in and stole the lunch of the couple who have been following us everywhere (and showed up at the end of the path in the gorge just after us). They had abandoned their food to swim to the other side the river – no sooner did the bird hear the splash of them jumping off of the cliff then he was all feathers and beak over their apples. Hah! Australia 1: Annoying couple 0!
A dragonfly just like this landed on my nose while I was swimming!
We got a nice taste of Darwin’s world-famous sunsets as we drove towards the evening’s free rest stop accomodation (annoying couple in tow. We saw them pass us later as we were eating our own apples. We wonder if they think that it was us that stole their lunch now :D):