The walls of the Gorge towered above us as we cruised up-stream. You can see the layers of sandstone really clearly.
There were also many interesting rock formations, particularly along the cliff-tops – the product of some major weathering. Well, it does rain an average of 1,040mm per year here – much of it between January and March!
By mid-afternoon, we arrived in Katherine, 317km south-east of Darwin. It was time to get off the train and explore.
We chose to go to Nitmiluk (formerly Katherine) Gorge, which was a good 30 minutes coach ride away from the train station.
It was a very hot 37C in Katherine (with humidity!) and we were glad to get on to the boat and under cover.
Boats are practically the only means of seeing the Gorge in March as the water levels were still high, and so was the chance of seeing a salt-water crocodile!
And we were off on our north-south crossing of the continent! One thing I was looking forward to was to be able to watch the landscape change from my cabin window. Out of Darwin, it was a Savannah landscape common to a lot of Northern Australia, from Broome to Townsville.
It wasn’t long before we made our first trip to the restaurant, about 3 carriages away.
Lunch was in several sittings – we had an early sitting and the dining room was still quiet. It filled up pretty soon though.
The food in general was of a very high standard. A sample of some of the dishes we had…
Salmon mousse sushi for entree.
Chicken galantine as a main.
There was some emphasis on native Australian ingredients, so we had our share of crocodile, buffalo and kangaroo along with some native herbs, spices and fruits.
A sample of our breakfast menu shows that we never went hungry!
Darwin wasn’t the end of the trip but the mid-way point. Next, we were off on the Ghan – the famous train service that runs from Darwin through the centre of Australia to Adelaide – a route that is 2,979km long. The train is named after the Afghan cameleers that used to transport goods and services in Australia’s centre before the advent of the train or motor car.
We started off at the Darwin end at their railway station. Surprisingly, it’s a good 30 minutes from the city, but that’s because the Ghan required a mighty long platform – the train was almost a kilometre long with around 30 carriages. First task was to find our carriage. Luckily it was close by.
Inside our Gold Class carriage, it was pretty swish.
Our cabins were in day mode and were comfy and snug. Hint – any luggage larger than a backpack will get you in trouble. I saw people hauling large suitcases and wondered where they put them.
The bathroom was a bit of wonder for me. Shower, toilet and basin all in a 1.5m squared room. That’s tiny living!
Aside from the bombings, Darwin also experienced destruction in 1974, when it was razed to the ground by Cyclone Stacey. The old town hall was one building heavily hit. It was a very historic building before.
But after it was only a shell, though a well-preserved one.
The Anglican church also had a long history with the town and was razed to the ground by the cyclone.
But in this case, the city found an innovative way to integrate the old with the new.