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Katherine to Daly Waters

Our aim is to show you some of what's available outside the larger centres, but if you need a starting point to find some information about Katherine and the surrounding area, click here. It's a great site, and regularly updated; these people have travelled extensively throughout the entire region and have compiled a wealth of information about Katherine and surrounds.

Just out of town, as you travel south from Katherine, you'll pass the Tindal Air Base. It's hard to believe that just to the west of the highway is an airstrip long enough for civilian aircraft to be based at one end and one of Australia's frontline air bases at the other end. Click here if you'd like an unusual example of what causes the loud noise that can often be heard as you drive by (especially if there happens to be an exercise on). With a top speed (details classified) of well over 2000km/hr and a ceiling in excess of 50,000ft, this screen is about as close as you'll get! For a few details on this aircraft (and many others) click here; check out the photo gallery alongside the spec sheet!

Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park
A little further down the "Track" (30km south of Katherine) is this delightful stopover. Click here for some photos of the fascinating rock formations to be seen in the caves. The second site also contains lots of useful info and photos about Katherine and surrounds on the index page; click here.

About 50km south of Katherine is the turn-off for the Central Arnhem Highway. Although it's necessary to arrange permits to travel along this road past Mainoru or Wongalara, there are a couple of places well worth the detour for which you won't need a permit.

If you have the time and a genuine desire to gain some understanding of aboriginal life and culture, don't miss this world class experience. The site will give you brief details of what's available or ring them direct on +61(08) 8975 4727. Manyallaluk is about 50km off the Stuart Highway (15km of bitumen east along the Central Arnhem Highway, towards Barunga and Beswick, then north on 35km of good gravel road into the station; quite suitable for conventional vehicles). Click here for a very descriptive and well illustrated review by a British travel writer.

It's well worth the drive, 5km further east past the turn-off to Manyallaluk, to see this area. Even as you look at the old buildings and abandoned machinery, it's hard to believe that Maranboy was once a flourishing town, with a population that peaked, as did the price of tin, at about 100 in the late 1920's. Tin was first discovered in 1913 by Jim Sharber and Tom Richardson and for 36 years Maranboy was the Territory's principle producer; finally closing in 1962. They had a resident mine manager, a large mill, a hospital and their own train, all to support a major tin mining industry. The police station, first opened in the late 1800's, is still in operation, albeit in a new building since1980! Click here and enter the search term "Maranboy" to view some intriguing photos from the past and the present. The mine was a focal point for the whole region for many years, and for many aboriginal people this was their first contact with white people. Several prominent aboriginal painters from the area used to work at the mine; click here or here for further info.

Although the local people lived happily in their environment, click here and spare a thought for the long suffering mine manager's wife. Like so many women who came to the Territory in the early days, it was she who faced the daily hardships of creating a home in such an alien environment! Many of these women relied to a great extent on the help cheerfully given by the local women, and many life long friendships were forged.

Travelling south again, it's only another 50km to Mataranka, nestled in the headwaters of the mighty Roper River. While the hot springs at the "Homestead" (click here), flowing at the rate of 22.5 million litres a day and a constant 34 - 35C, are perhaps the best known attraction of the town, this is far from the whole story. Mataranka township is a wonderful stop over with plenty of accommodation available.

Elsey National Park
This park, just out of Mataranka towards the "Homestead", is a treat and a worthy alternative to the Thermal Pool at the "Homestead, which can get very crowded at times. Once you open the web page, scroll down to the "Fact Sheet" to download a PDF map, or just click here; then you'll have no trouble finding your way around. The park is a water lover's paradise and there's a great camping ground at the end of John Hauser Drive. An early morning stroll to Mataranka Falls (about 4km from the camping ground one way) rewarded by a swim is a perfect way to start the day! Click here here for a sneak preview.

Bitter Springs
These spectacular, secluded springs are only about 2km directly east of the township and, if you don't fancy camping out, the cabins close by offer yet another accommodation alterative; just click on" the cabins" link.

For one last look around the main street and outside the pub, click here. If you've got hours to spare, wander through the various selections above the VR scene; for example, select "Photo Gallery" and browse away!

Travelling on south about 7km, you'll soon pass a road heading east, the Roper Highway; more on this in the Mataranka to Borroloola via Roper Highway and Nathan River Road section of our site.

Not much further down the Stuart Highway is the turn-off to Old Elsey Station; the short drive in is well worth the effort. This section of road is one of the remnant portions of the old Stuart Highway; as you drive in, imagine a couple of road trains passing each other (now you can see how it came to be called the "Track").

Elsey Memorial Cemetery
This site will remind you of some of the truly memorable outback characters who are buried here. Much has already been said about Jeannie Gunn's book "We of the Never Never"; suffice to say, the fact that the book, written in 1908 by a woman who spent about a year here, has never never been out of print in almost 100 years, is amazing.

The exact location of the old station is, in fact, a short drive past the cemetery. If you're towing a caravan, make sure you pull up when you first see the old bridge over Warloch Ponds because there's a locked gate at the bridge. There's plenty of room to turn around, and the shady trees on the banks of this beautiful wetland are in fact the site of the original homestead. There is a small stone cairn marking the location and, as the rest of the world roars over the new crossing on the main highway, there's no indication of this tranquil oasis so nearby. During the wet season and for months afterwards, a stroll out onto the old bridge will reward you with a panoramic view of the areas abundant bird life.

For a somewhat different, and we suspect more accurate, perspective of the events that unfolded in this isolated place, click here. This is an archived transcript of an ABC interview with the descendents of many of the main players in the events of so long ago; it's lively to say the least!

After you get back on the "Track" it's not far to Larrimah, but 10 km before you get there, it's well worth driving just 3 km west into the huge WW2 airbase at Gorrie. The turnoff is well signposted and the road, although gravel, is quite suitable for caravans, with a bit of common sense. The road opens straight out onto the airstrip and the sight of this bitumen runway approx 2km long is astounding. All the associated taxiways and dispersal bays are still very evident (although care should be taken if you're towing a caravan right around the taxiway). It's difficult to believe that this place was once home to over 6,500 personnel but all the evidence is still there. At one stage it represented Australia's frontline defense; the concrete foundations and slabs of the admin facilities and repair workshops that went to support this massive effort lie scattered all along the still sealed access roads! Click here, then search "Gorrie" (and select half or full size) for a photo of the impressive rec hall that once stood proudly in this slowly disappearing military outpost.( If you would like to research some more about the Territory's, or Australia's, military history, click here to reach the airfields section of an absorbing site; the depth of this man's research is acknowledged world wide. Don't be scared to click a few links; it's a huge site!) As you step back into your air-conditioned vehicle, spare a thought for those long gone diggers trying to repair and maintain battle weary aircraft in the sweltering tropical heat of the wet season!

The pub at Larrimah gives a clue as to how some members of the armed forces coped; it's the old officer's mess! When the railhead was moved from Birdum to Larrimah in the early 50's, the extra trade was handled by the simple and rather obvious method of taking the Birdum hotel down and adding it on to the Larrimah one!

If you click here, the link will take you to another great Centenary of Federation site that will let you to check out the pub and the main street in Larrimah. If you pan to the left of the pub and zoom in a bit you will spot a small train and a few carriages. This is the only train running on the old NAR (North Australian Railway). It was installed by a fine group of lads, who I'm reasonably certain (having assisted them on occasions) hatched the scheme over the odd beer in this very same hotel! We're indebted to Terry from Alice Springs for the following info.

"The last Scheduled Train on the NAR hauled by NT's 69 & 74 arrived in Darwin from Larrimah on June 30th 1976, ending a chapter in Australian Narrow Gauge Railway History which was unique. From its early beginnings in 1889 when the Northern Territory was a part of South Australia, to its final glory days of Triple headed NT class Loco's hauling up to 80 Iron Ore wagons, the NAR truly was the "Never-Never Line" as Railway Historian J.Y. Harvey called it in his concise history published some years ago. The first section of Line from Palmerston (now Darwin) to Pine Creek was constructed with spade, wheel barrow and blasting powder by Chinese Coolie labour. It was Australia's "Front Line" Railway during WW2 and was bombed in the first of many Air Raids along with the rest of Darwin by Japanese Bombers on the 19th February 1942 with Steam Loco NF 6 blown from the Wharf into the Harbour where its remains still lay today. It was to be part of the proposed Great North South Transcontinental Railway, that "National Act of Faith" that many are still waiting for."

As most people now know, the long held dream has finally been realised, with tickets eagerly sought by railway buffs and the travelling public alike; for booking enquiries click here. If you want a really in depth history of the NAR (North Australian Railway) during the war years, click here.

Back on the "Track" and heading for Daly Waters, keep an eye out about half way to Daly Waters for a sign marking the Alexander Forrest Memorial Cairn. Like so many others scattered throughout our vast continent, this modest memorial commemorates a truly epic journey.

Alexander Forrest Memorial Cairn
Born in 1849, Alexander Forrest was the younger brother of John Forrest. Both were accomplished explorers with John going on to become Lord Forrest, the first Premier of Western Australia in 1890 and (co-incidence!), Alexander becoming Mayor of Perth about the same time.

In 1879 the West Australian government commissioned Alexander to explore the north-western part of WA with a view to it's suitability for agriculture. Forrest and his party put ashore at Collier Bay, some 100+km as the crow flies north of present day Derby. Setting off for the Fitzroy River, they followed it right up into it's headwaters until the mountainous Kimberly county made any further progress impossible. They then backtracked and headed east, opening up what is now the famed cattle producing area of VRD (Victoria River Downs). Heading further east the arid country, around present day Timber Creek and the infamous Murranji Stock Route, was nearly their undoing. They had a hard time of it before finally reaching the Overland Telegraph Line, which is just to the west of this simple memorial. What a relief it must have been to simply follow the telephone wires north to Darwin and set sail for Perth! Click here to access a site about most Australian explorers, which has hours of fascinating reading and a great map published in 1893 showing all their treks. The map is slow to load, depending on the speed of your connection, but very comprehensive and well worth the time.

Driving on into Daly Waters, raise a glass or two to these adventurous souls, who often set off with little more than cheers and good wishes.

Clicking here will take you to the section of our Travel Guide about Daly Waters, and the drive to Borroloola via the Carpentaria Highway and Heartbreak Hotel.

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