Katherine Gorge

Bridget’s engine is not well. Having arrived in Darwin my first priority was to ascertain how serious Bridget’s engine problem is. I called Barry Fowler, the bloke I met on Sunday around a hundred miles south of here.

We arranged for me to take Bridget over around midday to check the engine’s compression. On arrival we conducted a vacuum test which together with the compression test confirmed that there is a problem with cylinder 3. Either a piston ring is broken or the valves could be worn. Either way it will need to wait until Bridget and I return to Perth. I have put an oil additive in the engine that should help reduce any damage and also changed the spark plugs, checked the points and timing.

Meanwhile the news is that the road from Darwin to Broome is closed to traffic by flood water at Victoria River. The level is 3 metres above the bridge. It means that we are likely to have to stay at Darwin for several more days.

Temperatures in this part of Australia are normally higher than almost all other State capitals but today a new record was almost set with Darwin actually having the one of the lowest temperatures of them all. At 30ºC it wasn’t actually be cold but there is a low over the area that is expected to deliver more rain. Sydney was the city to spoil the record by staying at 29ºC just one degree lower, meanwhile the rest of Australia is currently sweltering with some of the highest temperatures since 1908!

Today’s Darwin is a clean, modern and well designed city with plenty of green park areas and community facilities. The city was devastated in 1974 by Cyclone Tracy giving the local authority the opportunity to rebuild.

Although the area is naturally beautiful with long warm sunny periods for much of the year and with a temptingly cool looking bright blue sea, the attraction of plunging into the surf has to be resisted. In addition to all the usual dangers around the coast, up here the waters are infested with salt water crocodiles and box jelly-fish, both of which can be fatal.

I finally left Darwin on the 2nd February even though the Victoria Highway is still closed. I drove Bridget down to Katherine some 200 miles south and that much closer to the Victoria River crossing which means as soon as the road opens we can get straight across. Meanwhile I intend to explore the Katherine Gorge.

Bridget’s engine hasn’t improved and continues to leak petrol from one of the carburettors much of the time.

There are thirteen gorges that the Katherine River passes through some 20 miles from town. I took a trip down the first three of them whilst the river was still in flood. Just after I had arrived I went for a coffee in the visitor centre and looking down from the veranda into the water spied a crocodile. It was close to the bank resting against a tree. Some of the centre rangers came over to confirm the sighting and check that it was a fresh water crocodile and not a ‘salti’. The salt water crocs are able to swim up the river during floods and are trapped and returned to the estuaries. This was a fresh water breed and about three metres long. The rangers said that unlike ‘salties’ they rarely bothered humans and I just took their word for it.

More rain and floods have occurred on the Queensland coast and the north-east of the state including Charters Towers. Typhoon Ellie came ashore at Ingham and monsoon rains followed throughout the area causing the worst floods for many years. I am just hoping that the rain doesn’t come over this way and cause the Victoria to rise again. The latest report is that the road ahead is still closed to all traffic.

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