Today we had to leave awesome Mataranka hot springs and head down to Katherine. On the way, we planned to visit Cutta Cutta caves and in Katherine to see the other hot springs and visit the majestic Katherine Gorge.
Cutta Cutta Caves
On the way to Katherine, we visited Cutta Cutta Caves. On our previous trip, we saw many caves but this cave was quite different from the others. It is a limestone formation of stalactites and stalagmites. It is home to five species of bats, including the rare ghost and horseshoe bats.
The harmless brown tree snake also inhabits the caves and can often be seen coiled upon cave ledges. Our guide said that one day after the rain season they saw a 6 metres python sitting along the rocks at the bottom of the cave.
The name “Cutta Cutta” means “many of”, “lots of” and it relates to many little stones glittering on the cave ceiling. The ceiling itself is very high in some spots. The cave length is about 650 metres, but we visited only the first 200.
It was different from what we have seen before. The rock is made of limestone which formed beautiful shapes, but it was certainly interesting. When you shine a light onto the limestone it illuminates the dazzling rocks. The Aborigines consider them sacred because they believe that the star constellations are locked safely away.
Katherine – the Crossroads of the North
Katherine is often called the “Crossroads of the North” because of its location. It is the fourth largest town in the Northern Territory and is located 312 km southeast of Darwin on the Katherine River. With a population of over 6700 people, Katherine is a modern thriving regional centre that offers a wide range of services and tourists attractions.
Katherine was the first town after Port Augusta where fuel and diesel were at a reasonable price (currently $1.55). Normally I was paying from $1.75 (Alice Springs) to $1.95 (Burrow Creek) per litre. Our first feeling was that it is a tourist town. There is a very big Information Centre with a big car park to support all incoming tourists.
Katherine, similarly to Mataranka, has hot springs that are located very close to the town centre but the most amazing attraction is Nitmiluk National Park with Katherine Gorge that can be visited in one day.
Katherine Hot Springs
After spending a good hour in the caves we drove directly to Katherine. Luckily, our campsite was a 500-meter walk downhill to the hot springs, but unfortunately, the way back was more tiring when we walked up the hill.
The picturesque Katherine hot springs are a lot larger than the ones in Mataranka and also because they are located in more public areas there were many more people. The springs are surrounded by lush green vegetation that spreads all around the springs. Simply beautiful.
We spent there a good hour mostly sitting and splashing with Nell in the shallows and after that, we dried off and headed back to the campsite.
The walk uphill turned out to be unpleasant as Nell wouldn’t stop complaining. Our legs hurt and we had no strength, Nell wouldn’t calm down, so we had to pull her up the hill. Lucky us!
Katherine Gorge – the majestic sandstone country
Katherine Gorge is located 30 km northeast of Katherine. Actually, it is part of Nitmiluk National Park that has 13 impressive gorges in total. On the other side of the park, there is Edith Falls, another beautiful spot to go for a short walk and stay overnight. Obviously, only a small percentage of the park is available for tourists.
Katherine Gorge has also a huge caravan park with a lot of places available. This time we were staying in Katherine caravan park and we only visited the gorge to go for the cruise.
Thus, the next day in the morning we headed to Katherine Gorge and we went on a boat cruise.
The cruise lasted two hours and everyone had their mouths open with amazement. We took hundreds of pictures and we were (and still are) incredibly impressed with two red huge masses of rocks, on the sides and in the middle. Indeed, we were cruising between 30 meters high rocks walls – it was simply awesome.
There are no words to describe the beauty of Katherine Gorge (see pictures). What is interesting, this place was used in a famous “Rogue” movie about a big crocodile killer. It is very nice to travel and pass places that we saw in movies, television and other sources. We always say “WE ARE HERE NOW”.
During the cruise, the temperature reached 32 degrees and we really wanted to take a dip. However, there could be saltwater crocodiles so we abandoned that idea. Every time before the season the rangers take all crocodiles from the river and relocate them so the area is safe for tourists, but what if they forgot one? Only in Australia…
After the cruise, we had a quick barbecue. The lunch was tasty and after we went for a short walk to the lookout. The walk was well prepared with some safety railing and once you go to the top you can view the beginning of the gorge from above. The view was spectacular!
Also, we noticed there is a long walk around Katherine Gorge that, you can take to 17 Miles Falls through Northern Rockhole, Biddlecombe Cascaded and Crystal Falls. This walk, however, is a 20 km trail one way, so we could not do it now when Nell is so young. It even goes further for another 15 km, via Sweetwater campground to Edith Falls. That would be an adventure! Maybe one day in the future.
Entering the best tropics attractions in Australia
Leaving Katherine and heading north to Darwin we were entering the best tourist region in Australia, obviously, if you like the tropics. In this part of Australia, you can see the following attractions: Litchfield National Park, Kakadu, National Park, Darwin and its numerous attractions and few other things. We were planning to stay in the region for one to two months as we really need time to fully explore it.
On the way, behind Katherine, we were planning to stop at Edith Falls. As I mentioned Edith Falls is part of Nitmiluk National Park and offers a camping ground, short walks around the falls and a few plunge pools where you can swim. We will see how we go …
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4WD Equipment Checklist
Tire Repair Kit – to fix the tire by yourself when you don’t have access to the tire shop (we use Oztrail)
UHF Radio – for communication with your mates and in emergency
Full Recovery Kit (with Dampener Blanket) – must-have if you are going on real off-road
High Lift Jack – useful if you do serious 4WD tracks
Shovel – useful if you get bogged, also good for campfire cooking
Fuel funnel with water filter – additional protection when fueling up in dodgy places