17 May—18 May 2002
It is only a short distance from Katherine to Edith Falls – or Leliyn by its Aboriginal name. The campsites there were level and immaculately maintained, and they had water taps and a modern ablutions block. They were also intelligently laid out for different kinds of rigs. As soon as we arrived, we had some lunch and then went down to the water for a swim.
The swimming hole is impressive. It is a deep pool, 150m across, fed by a gushing waterfall. We immediately swam over to the falls and played around. I found an anklet under the falls which I gave to Susie. The water was clear and slightly beer-bottle coloured. It was also deep: you couldn’t see the bottom.
The next day we did the loop walk to the upper pool. This was perhaps the nicest swimming spot we’ve been to so far on the trip, and that’s saying something. There was a waterfall that fed a small network of clear pools. The first was unfathomably deep, and the last pool shallower as it approached another spectacular fall.
We frolicked in the waterfalls and swam behind the curtain of water into a small, cool cave where three people could crowd together out of the sun. Poor Clare didn’t like the idea of diving behind the noisy torrent, and burst into tears after inhaling some of the bubbly water. We reassured her that we had no intention of making her go where she didn’t want to go, and she cheered up and enjoyed a natural spa immediately to one side of the falls.
Later I took Clare to investigate an unusual rock formation which turned out to be a small waterfall that had carved out a perfect little basin into the pink granite. Inside this tiny oasis there was a cane toad and a small snake about 80 cm long.
We had a picnic lunch with some flaky white bread, and continued swimming. It was a joy to simply scan the shallow pools and hollows which were filled with beautiful stones and what Ruby and I called ‘ghosts’. These were large patches of green slime suspended in the water, through which your hand could easily pass.
That evening, Susan cooked pasta with a puttanesca sauce in the camp oven and we stayed up watching the fire glow underneath the stars. A German woman who was camped in the next bay came over and complained that the smoke was exacerbating her asthma, so we scattered the coals and went to bed.
The next day I went down to the edge of the river with Ruby and chose a lovely spot to do some clarinet practice. The spot we chose was the nicest place you could imagine for a music lesson. Right next to us was a grassy bank where you could jump into the river when you got too hot. Roo and I did this several times. We saw a large freshwater turtle, and a large barramundi.
Susan and Clare spent the afternoon doing tapestry. I went through most of Ruby’s maths for the week with her. After this we returned to the falls for a swim in the late afternoon. We swam across the 150m pool to the waterfall and then back again using the snorkelling goggles and flippers. We picked up “treasures” from the riverbed (i.e. rubbish left by other tourists) until the sun began to set.
When we got ashore, I found that my T-shirt had vanished. As it turned out, a group of youth were making merry by the kiosk, and I spotted one of them holding it up to examine the design, so I went over and politely reclaimed it. On arriving back at the campsite, I released that my sandals were missing too, so I went back and enquired about them, and they were kindly returned by a young man who was wearing them. This was an exercise in quiet diplomacy. Ruby found the experience uncomfortable but edifying.
Our German neighbours had moved camp, so we were able to enjoy the campfire that night.