Beating About the Bush – 60 Days in Northern Australia (Part 5 – Katherine)

Beyonce has returned!! Our vehicle which suffered a cracked brake line has been returned to us but with no guarantees. The mechanic believes the repair will last for our trip, at least, but someone, somewhere in the future, will suffer the same fate. It appears that the original modifications to the vehicle were not carried out to spec and this has led to the brake problem.

Roger wants to see Katherine Gorge so we decide on a two night stay in town. We book into the Katherine River Lodge. It is clean but cat-swinging is prohibited. The motel has a large resident population some of whom appear not to like each other much. Our neighbour has pasted a large sign on the pole outside his door “Don’t touch my laundry you bitch”. The next room is occupied by a young Chinese woman. We approve of her ability to adopt Australian practice but we wonder, since she is stealing male underwear, if she is into cross-dressing.

photoThe first night brings another major decision. Will we stay at the motel and partake of the $15 pasta night or get takeaways. Kaylee vetoes the pasta night. She has seen a picture of one dish which she describes as looking like excreted tape-worms covered by a dollop of pasta sauce. We want Thai but the nearest Thai restaurant is at the Border Store. Chinese takeaway it is.

We use Katherine to finish numerous jobs. Roger has a job application to write. Among other jobs I have to my tax return to complete so that I have something to live on for the next few weeks. Kaylee has to change her phone over from Optus to Telstra Pre-paid so that she can get reception. For Kaylee, dealing with Telstra is as desirable as an Abbott Government or walking on hot coals. Katherine is the start of the Telstra saga.

With numerous jobs to do that require internet we become permanent members of the Coffee Club which provides free internet, half-decent coffee and air-conditioning. By the time we leave town we are on first name terms with most of the staff. Jill and Roger are unaware that I have invited all of them to stay with Roger and Jill at Bundagen. Surprises are good things in life.

A key task for Kaylee is to get her Telstra sim card working so that she can occasionally have phone and internet access on this trip but, more particularly, on her 1000 km bushwalk along the Bibulman track through south-west Western Australia. The phone is working but she cannot get data.

There are no Telstra shops in Katherine, so Kaylee is on the phone to Telstra. Telstra advises Kaylee that it is not their problem but Optus since the phone must be locked to Optus. Kaylee calls Optus who advise that it is not their problem as it is not locked to Optus. By this time there are a long stream of expletives emitting from the vicinity of Kaylee. She abandons the issue for now as it is time for her, Roger and Jill to decamp to Nitmiluk, where Roger and Jill are kayaking up the gorge. I am left to the pleasures of tax returns and similar tasks.

Kaylee calls Telstra. After an hour on phone to Telstra most fragile objects within metres of Kaylee are at risk of imminent destruction. But apparently the problem has been resolved. Fat chance.

Roger, Jill and Kaylee return from Nitmiluk. Kaylee has multi-tasked by calling responding to a call from Energy Australia from the lookout at Nitmiluk. This is another of her favourite tasks. Two months late, Energy Australia advises her that they have been unable to activate her solar panels because Adam Cartwright, her electrician, failed to tick box six on the form which he submitted two months ago. But in keeping with the extraordinary level of customer service in Australia, rather than ringing and advising Kaylee of the issue, they decided the customer should use their omniscience to automatically know that there was a problem.

Kaylee has suggested that one of their helpful staff could perhaps ring the electrician and not to call her for two months since she wouldn’t be answering her phone.20140708_144600

And my parcel is still lost. Abandoning all hope I have concentrated on other tasks. A tour of Katherine’s op shops has delivered me a long sleeve shirt and a mossie-proof pair of long trousers. With my exceptional packing skills I have ended up with 6 pairs of jocks, 6 cords to charge my phone, 8 pens, a tube of punctured rectal cream which leaks through everything, enough warm clothes for Antarctica but no long trousers or long-sleeved shirt or coffee maker. My walking boots which gave me blisters walking 200 metres down Ann St in Brisbane have, however been replaced. My consumer blitz also delivers me a new espresso maker and a head torch (another useful omission during my packing frenzy).

Post Katherine Gorge kayak we meet back at the Coffee Club. We are now life members. Jill and Roger report, they covered the Katherine Gorge sprint of 3.2 kms in the unparalled time of 30 minutes. Since the Olympic record for the K1 2000 metres is about 30 seconds, some Olympic training is still required but I don’t mention this.

During their absence I have discovered the Katherine library which has also set a world record for a public library internet charge of $6 per hour. A good book burning is deserved for unrivalled public exploitation.

We have some final tasks before we leave. Woolworths is calling, as is shopping for a few car spares. We head for Repco to buy hoses and belts among other things but in keeping with all things mechanical leave empty handed. Katherine’s biggest car spares place has no spares for Australia’s second most popular four-wheel drive.

Our time in Katherine is almost at an end. Time for a barbie at the hot springs and a moonlight swim. We head out to the springs for dinner. It’s the last supper in Katherine.

4 thoughts on “Beating About the Bush – 60 Days in Northern Australia (Part 5 – Katherine)

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  1. very entertaining Christophe. In a former life I worked for 6 weeks on Scott Creek station which is 70 ks west of Katherine (I was a volunteer in the Children’s Education scheme, but also did cooking for the family). I have also stayed at Birrjmba station 300 ks south of Katherine with Pat Elliot and her six children. Once the top end gets into your blood you never forget that country. Have you encountered anyone who can talk about Howard’s Intervention and whether it resulted in a reduction of child abuse cases which you remember was touted as his reason for the initiative? cheers Jo

    1. Hey Jo,
      Yes I agree with you. Like you I was here for some years (back in the 80’s) and there is something about the place that gets to you. It’s a very spiritual landscape and there is something about the people both black and white which is different from the south – despite the issues with overt white racism. As for the intervention very few people have anything good to say about it, so far as I can tell. It isn’t really doing anything substantial for the overall situation of which child abuse is a symptom. You can’t solve that problem unless you address the underlying causes. I’m not saying there is a simple solution but like everything at the heart of it is self-determination and self-worth (which in my view are more than simple cliches). So long as people feel powerless and helpless. If you get a chance go and see Charlie’s Country (David Gulpilil). We saw it last night. It expresses that powerfully.
      Chris

  2. This is simply hilarious. Please continue to send more updates. I wouldn’t miss them for the world.

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