There's nowhere like Umbrawarra Gorge
About eighteen months ago I was chatting to a very experienced bush walker, the owner of a specialist camping and trekking shop in Darwin.
I was telling her where I had been over the weekend, and I asked her if she knew any other spots like it. She smiled at me, slowly shaking her head, "There's nowhere like Umbrawarra Gorge" she said.
I have to agree. For a spot not far off the track, with easy access in the dry season, it is a relatively unknown gem. It is small and insignificant compared to nearby Katherine Gorge, and yet the Baltimore Aquarium in the US has built an indoor 12 story replica of it, to try and replicate the unique eco-system that is at Umbrawarra Gorge.
Resting in the shade of one of the rock faces to have a lunch break, I found it hard to find a dry patch to lean against. It slowly came to me that if this rock face still had moisture and trickles of water running down it this late in the dry season, then it was obvious that it would have permanent water all year round.
The variety of delicate ferns and other small plants clinging to the rocks and thriving in the nooks and crannies also made me think that many of these shaded rock walls didn't see much sunlight at all.
After a while my eyes adjusted to the deep shade that I was sat in and I noticed a black butterfly fluttering close by. Then I saw another, and with dawning pleasure saw more until I realized that the whole face of the shadowed wall had hundreds of them silently moving over it.
So when next you are travelling south of Darwin, resist the urge to press on and make miles, and instead spend a few hours at this magic spot.
A couple of kilometres south of Pine Creek on the Stuart Highway there is a turn off to the right. Sign posted. A 22 km drive on a fairly good dirt road gets you there. I was in a standard ute with my bike in the back, but the road was good. Earlier in the dry there are a couple of creek crossings that would maybe need 4WD.
The camp site is basic and very small, but there was only a couple of people there on my trip.
Take good walking shoes, there's a lot of rock hopping, as this walk is in the bottom of the gorge.
Most of all take your swimming gear and something to keep your camera etc. dry. I had to wade across a couple of spots with my pack held over my head and earlier in the season I would would have had to swim.
(By Bill from www.builderbill-diy-help.com)
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