After being goggled-eyed at the remarkable expanse of the Kimberley region, Katherine heralded my arrival into the Northern Territory on an AAT Kings tour.

This sun-baked ancient land exudes a spiritual pull with its burnished earth tones set against a canvas of endless blue skies, interspersed with a smattering of ghost-white tree trunks, rugged ranges and spinifex grass.

As we neared the town, Salmon Gums started to stamp their mark on the landscape — beautiful in the dry season, as the salmon-hued bark strips away from the trunk.

The terrain change is one of Katherine's most distinctive attributes, as it marks the junction between the ochre-hued earth of the outback and the lush broad-leaf furnishings of the tropical north.


Straddling the red of the outback and the green of the Top End, Katherine is vividly blessed with natural beauty, but even if you're short on time, the most unmissable experience of all is to take a jaunt into Nitmiluk National Park.

Surrendering to the tranquillity of a cruise along Nitmiluk's (Katherine Gorge) waterways is awe-inspiring . After being greeted by tens of thousands of docile fruit-bats, squawking and flapping their vampire-like wings, in the riverside trees, we boarded our first boat.

Bookended on both sides by the mighty Katherine River, the 12km-long gorge experience actually incorporates three distinct gorges, inter-linked by boardwalks, strung around the base of those imperious 70-metre high vertical rock faces.

Our gorge jaunt was expertly led by Tom, a delightfully engaging indigenous guide, from the Jawoyn people, Nitmiluk's traditional owners. His insights accentuated the deep sense of reverence Nitmiluk projects, hauntingly tranquil and steeped in mythology.

We gazed in awe at the majestic rock art, painted on the sides of sandstone cliffs. The Jawoyn people will not journey through the third gorge, as they believe it is the domain of a revered serpent.

A non-Aboriginal guide skippered us through that section, with its brooding waters and extra intense shadows. The rising sun played wonders with the sandstone walls, spanning a wide palette of hues, from dark mud brown to butter yellow.

On the return leg of the gorge cruise, I gazed up at a mighty fortress-like sandstone cliff which is called Barumei Lookout. Tom remarked that another lofty cliff, nicknamed Jedda's Leap, is steeped in Australian film history. It featured in the 1955 movie, Jedda.

The production was the first full length Australian movie shot in colour and was also the first movie to feature Aboriginal actors. Many Aussies consider Jedda as their version of Romeo and Juliet, as it climaxes with two young lovers hurling themselves off Barumei Lookout to their deaths because the elders won't let them marry.

Katherine Outback Experience Tour at Riverboyne Horsebreaking and Training gets rave reviews.
Katherine Outback Experience Tour at Riverboyne Horsebreaking and Training gets rave reviews.

Horsebreaking a captivating show

Horse breaking in the Northern Territory is hard yakka and even though Tom Curtain is more a horse whisperer than a breaker, it's still brutally tough on the body.

Tom is the owner and headline act in the Katherine Outback Experience Tour at Riverboyne Horsebreaking and Training.

The captivating show receives rave reviews, underpinned not just by Tom's masterful affinity with horses, but also by the fact he's had several chart-topping hits on the country music scene.

He's a Tamworth legend and he'll have you, not just the horses, eating out of his hand, with his most enchanting fusion of his horse breaking finesse and entertainment flair.

Tom's wife Annabel is an integral part of the engaging demonstration, which is proudly unscripted, free-form and spontaneous, given they're working with animals. Anything can happen!

The 90 minute demonstration is utterly engrossing as Tom sets about breaking in horses, performing a multitude of tricks, and revealing the tell-tale signs of when the horse is making progress or about to bite him!

Sun bronzed and dressed in blue jeans, a blue cowboy shirt, boots, spurs and a hat, Tom acclimatises the horse to a range of movements and noises it will experience on a cattle station.

There are many features to the show including Tim singing his hit songs, while standing on horseback or performing the Mataranka Swag Roll. The farm dogs are equally thrilling, as they interact with Tom and the horses.

I've never seen anything quite like it.