(written by Dave)
The bats at Katherine Gorge were not as bad overnight, at least it seemed that way. I remember waking up at 2, 3 and 4, listening for them to wake me up, then going back to sleep. The thought of them waking me up was actually worse than they were. Funny, after their expected 6AM raucous activity they also were pretty quiet again by 7AM. We missed this the day before because by that time we were on the cruise.
We ate a sports bar for brekkie because we knew pancakes at Maccas (McDonald’s) was only 30ks down the road. Pretty uneventful 30k as it was the same route we took into the park two days ago. We were both pretty hungry by the time we reached Katherine. So hungry that we ended up getting a third order of pancakes and splitting it (Nancy was pretty shifty here, I think she ate more than me when I wasn’t looking (editor’s note – no I didn’t)). From Maccas we went to Woolworths for a few supplies. It was starting to warm up and we debated staying in Katherine rather than ride the 60k to Edith Falls. Somehow, we managed to push off, back onto the Stuart Highway.
There was a lot of traffic in Katherine so we thought the highway would be busy. Turned out that it was not very busy at all. On the edge of town we crossed the Katherine River- a nice car driver held up traffic for us as the bridge was quite narrow (we would later learn that this was our neighbours and new friends at the Edith Falls camp ground).
We had our usual Stuart Highway tailwind but the road became quite undulating. Or at least it seemed to us after 1000’s of ks of completely flat roads. At times you could see a good distance north where it almost appears that there are mountains.
The town after Edith Falls is Pine Creek. As is the tradition in Australia, they start counting down the distance to the next town, putting initials of the town and major milestone k’s on little green signs. At the PC 70 sign, I got an idea about a special birthday greeting for my life long friend Peter Costa. No prizes for guessing how old Pete is turning in a few weeks time. Happy Birthday Norm!
We made good time to the turn off to Edith Falls. Until then we had a tailwind. At the turn, we had to backtrack and ride right into the wind. Both of us thought of suggesting skipping the falls and going right to Pine Creek – but neither of us said it out loud. The road was scenic with lots of nice rock formations but it was a hard ride. We slogged out that 18k to the falls in increasing heat with a warm outback headwind slowing us noticeably. Both of us were hoping it was not a dive for all the effort it took to get here – and we were not disappointed.
Edith Falls is the little sister of Katherine Gorge. This means smaller and less facilities than Katherine Gorge – and for us, probably better. Few folks come here so it’s not as overrun feeling. There is actually a lot of grass and shade in the camp ground. We had a bit of a negotiation with the two German guys running registration. They charged us for two people (as they should have), but then told us to camp anywhere but not to disturb any of the sites. We were paying as much as all the people who got sites, but since we didn’t have a car, we didn’t get one. Sites came with platform/tables which are really useful to us since we are on bikes. Not as useful to the folks in caravans as they often have chairs and tables. Anyway, after some discussion with a couple of folks at a site, I went back in and told the staff that we were taking site 3, end of story. They relented…
The best part of the site story was still to come as the folks in site 2, being entertained by our site negotiations, befriended us. Meet Sue and Ken. They are retired educators from Victoria. They have travelled the world and are currently on an extended trip up to Broome. They are cyclists and knew how tired we were. They were actually the drivers in the car that held up traffic for us on the bridge back in Katherine. Before long we were sitting round chatting over fresh brewed coffee and biscuits. Later, again being well aware of our primitive facilities, they offered us each a cold beer. Wow, what a treat. They claimed that they were just returning the many favours they have received on their travels, but to us it was quite special. Thanks guys.
Sue is an avid birder, she pointed out three stone curler (thick knee) birds sitting in the bush behind our camp. They were sitting there plain as day, if you knew what you were looking for – we would never have seen them on our own.
We decided to stay here another day. There is no mobile service and limited food options but we have enough to eat and want to have a look at the falls/pools.