Over the last long weekend in the Northern Territory, some of our Lajamanu students were rewarded with a fun-filled trip to Nitmiluk National Park, Katherine Gorge for a two day kayaking adventure.
On the Friday night, we began the seven-hour journey from Lajamanu, stopping for dinner on the way and when we arrived, we found ourselves setting up our tents in the dark – so we were straight to bed – as we had a big day ahead!
On Saturday morning, we were up early. We quickly packed our bags for the day and headed to the Nitmiluk visitor center for breakfast and our multi-day kayaking briefing. One of the things we learnt was that during the drier seasons in Nitmiluk, combined with the downhill flowing water; the rocks are exposed between gorges and the kayakers need to learn to portage their boats over the rocks to the next body of deep water.
After the briefing, it was onto the ferry to transport everyone up to the second gorge, where we got our double kayaks, lifejackets and paddles. We fit our supplies into the boats and off we went.
The first suitable campsite for us was going to be the sixth gorge, so this meant lots of portaging and teamwork from the Lajamanu staff and students to get all the boats and gear up to the next gorge. We took our time getting there, having plenty of snacks on the way, stopping for swimming and rock jumping (after we checked the water depth of course!) as well as having a big healthy lunch in the shade on a rock slab river bank.
The journey upstream was stunning, Nitmiluk is a very beautiful part of the world and we were very happy to be on water with the ‘warm’ day time temperatures! Paddling on the shaded side of the river made a big difference too.
We arrived at the sixth gorge mid-afternoon, set up our tents and even mustered the energy to carry one of the canoes up the sand bank to use as a table for dinner preparation.
After our camp was set up, we had some quiet time; swimming and playing in the kayaks.
As the sun set on Saturday night, the gorge changed colour as we enjoyed our dinner and cake. There was lots of talking and stories before everyone slowly crawled into their sleeping bags for the night.
On Sunday morning, everyone enjoyed a little sleep in until the sun warmed the camped site. We slowly got up and enjoyed our healthy breakfast of muesli, fruits and natural yoghurt.
Once again we waterproofed all of our gear into our bags, cleaned up camp and we were back into the kayaks for the journey back to the ferry at second gorge. The way back was a little easier as the trickling water at the rock bars were working in our favour. We again stopped for lots of snacks, more rock jumping and swimming. Luckily the wind was behind us and we took advantage of this and rafted all the kayaks together. The staff and students held on tight, raising a spinnaker using a tarp, ropes and two of the paddles; so we could enjoy a nice cruise down one of the gorges using the power of the wind.
When we arrived back at the second gorge, we had time to check out some old indigenous rock art, have a few more snacks and then we were onto the ferry back to the visitor centre.
The Lajamanu students were by now pretty experienced at putting up the tents, so they were quick to set up camp, shower and then we headed to the Katherine Golf Club for dinner followed by a movie at the cinema in Katherine. It was a jam-packed day!
On Sunday morning, we had time for a swim at the hot springs in Katherine before the long drive back to Lajamanu.
All of the students we took can be very, very proud of their attitude and teamwork on the adventure. It was not an easy drive, but well worth it to spend the weekend in the Gorge!
Written by Simon Blake, Director Wanta Sports Academy, Lajamanu.