We left Judburra /Gregory NP (and their wild marauding cattle herd) behind and headed towards Katherine. The drive across through Victoria River has the most amazing scenery – the sheer cliffs and colours are really spectacular. We drove off the highway for a quick detour down to the old river crossing just before Victoria River – a good campsite probably if you were happening to pass by. We had a look around and a quick fish. Nothing was too interested in our lures and we were nervous about crocs so we were careful how close to the bank we got.
On to Katherine and our first stop was the hot springs in town for a dip – very nice. Busy as always but we soaked and then went to the top pool which was pretty hot and floated our way down the creek. Lachie was talking to another kid and it seemed they knew each other – as it turned out Lach and Ashley were in the same class at Kororo Public School and Ashley and his family were on a lap of oz too (once we’d chatted to his parents we realised that we all knew that the other was travelling but didn’t expect our different timeframes and itineraries to intersect).
We shopped in Katherine and decided to push on up the highway and look for camping options – not much jumped out and so much was on fire – we ended up at Pine Creek and thought we’d check out the local race track – known as “Pussy Cat Flats” where wikicamps suggested relatively cheap camping was available. We pulled in and a man waiting near the entrance came over to the car – we said we just needed a bit of grass to put the tent up – he looked us up and down and said “five bucks”. “What each?” asked the bean counter even though $20 was less than half the price of any of the nearby caravan parks that offered the same facilities as here. The man shook his head “there’s not much here – five bucks for all of you – just find a spot wherever – you’ll find the showers and toilets”. So we put the tent up overlooking the race course finish line – and overlooking the large termite mounds that made the track so unique.
The last horse race was a long time ago but the track was still slashed and, in the not too distant past, the bar had operated and even some meals sold – largely for the grey nomads and other travellers who pulled in here for a night or a week or a fortnight. Anyway, it was perfect for us for a night. There was an absolutely massive inferno of a bushfire on the outskirts of Pine Creek tonight and the glowing in the night sky and the loud crackling as the grass was consumed by flames was quite remarkable. The next morning we found the ash had rained down all over the tent and car but the damp dewy night air must have finally subdued the flames.