Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Nitmiluk National Park

(7/10-12/11) Our last Australian adventure was a backpack along Katherine Gorge in the Northern Territories Nitmiluk National Park. While the daytime temperatures were similar to the Alice Springs area we had visited five weeks before, the nights were balmy warm and swimming was delightful ... if nerve wracking; inconsistent warning signs and ranger directives made me wonder: Was the area really free of man-eating, salt-water crocodiles? Anyway, if present, they failed to eat any of our family. 
The wide trail traversed exotic eucalyptus drylands separating stunning cliffside oasis, where creeks joined into Katherine Gorge. 
Shortly into the hike, we encountered pygmy flying foxes...

...lots of them!

Termites mounds ate trees.
An occasional stream fed the parched wilderness.

Just above the river lay the serene Lily Ponds, which is annually replenished by a torrential waterfall in The Wet.

The afternoon light bathes trees in the Dunlap Swamp. 

The landscape glowed with the falling sunlight as we approached our camp.

Moonlight illuminates the white sand around our Smitt Rock campsite.
The sunrise slowly filled the gorge... 
...it was stunning!

Galen surveys the narrows bordering Smitt Rock.

Swallows darted in and out of the distant caves.
Adam and Galen on day 2.
Palms and eucalyptus make strange companions.

This pool drained thru a waterfall into Eighth Gorge, where we spent our second night.

Margaret and I explored upstream to Tenth Gorge; bushwalking offtrail felt good, and it just kept getting prettier.

Looking back towards Ninth Gorge.

The high dive into Ninth Gorge.

On our return, we discovered what should have been called Lily Pond, a remote billabong, formed from an old oxbow.

Wild Kapok grew on the cliffs. 

It reminded me so much of Utah!
Sunrise from Eighth Gorge.

Sunrise at Smitt Rock.