Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Katherine - the First Time Around

Leaving Renner Springs, our target destination was Katherine. But on the way there were some fascinating stops. The first being a relic of the Overland Telegraph, in fact one of the posts with a cross tree and insulators. The 3,200 mile single cable was completed in 1872. The 'OT' as is it is known was a major event, as it gave communication to Adelaide from Darwin and from thence via submarine cable to Indonesia and the rest of the world.
Just a short distance north lies the township of Daly Waters; once a real centre of attention in the country. James Mc Douall Stuart had passed through on his epic journey of 1862 which established a route from Adelaide to Darwin. He left his mark on a tree which has been preserved (although we couldn't find the 'S')
however it was marked with an information board which filled in all the details.
Nearby is the Daly Waters Aerodrome. Built in 1930 it was Australia's first international airport as well as being of strategic importance to Australia itself in the days when aircraft could not traverse the continent with out refuelling stops.
We were able to see the original QANTAS hangar brought here and erected in 1930. QANTAS has particular significance here as the mnemonic implies (Queensland and Northern Territories Aerial Services) having been conceived in Winton QLD and operated in and out of this airfield.
A short drive into 'town' and we are faced with a whacky assembly of buildings and memorabilia, some serious and some definitely not! The pub itself has a picturesque setting...
...but the building opposite is 'unusual' to say the least.

Originally a staging camp for more than 3,000 servicemen during the Second World War, Larrimah is one of the Territory’s most historic towns with a memorabilia display at the old Police Station. We thought the approach to the pub was amusing too!

Last stop before Katherine, Mataranka boasts the largest termite mound in Australia, but reading the small print, it is actually man-made!
And so to Katherine which has a population of 9,000 and lies 320 kilometres (200m) southeast of Darwin in the 'Top End' of the Northern Territory. It is the fourth largest settlement in the territory after the capital Darwin, Palmerston and Alice Springs. Big enough for a Woolworths which is most important.
Prominent in the main street is a statue dedicated to all Stockmen, but featuring the locally famous Sabu Singh, A man who came from indigenous stock and rose to legendary fame as a stockman and horse rider.
Our camp site was the Shady Lane resort which offered pleasant little individual sites screened with trees, bushes and kookaburras!
We stayed a couple of days, just long enough to stock up, and to visit the hot springs which has a lovely stream that is safe to bathe in. Safe here means no crocodiles.
Katherine's local museum was filled with good stuff, but just a few items we felt just had to rate a mention. The first was a collection of memorabilia relating to Dr Clive Fenton, billed as the 'Larrikin Flying Doctor' (larrikin is an Oz expression - we might use 'rascal' or 'laddish' - said with affection). He managed to crash land several aircraft and walked away from each incident. He provided a popular and essential medical service to outlying stations, paying for the airborne facility from his own funds.
Actually, we admired his sartorial elegance really. Does Monty Python spring to mind?

This shot just comes from another age.
Peanut farming was tried in 'the Top End' and man's ingenuity shows through here as scratch materials have been used to fabricate a machine to automate peanut harvesting.

No comments: