08.09.2010 - 21.09.2010
Kakadu National Park
For those that haven't been to Kakadu it is one of those places in Australia that you feel you really should go to - so we did. It is well and truly into the dry season so the rivers, creeks and waterholes are drying out and the birds are starting to congregate at the remaining billabongs. We had two bases while were where there. The first at Cooinda and the second at Jabiru.
From Cooinda we explored Yellow Waters lagoon and saw our first Kakadu croc, some lovely Jacanas, whistling ducks, magpie geese, egrets etc etc all living in a beautiful lily pond. Before we set out for Jim Jim and Twin Falls Len tried to put his boots on - he hadn't worn them since we had our only rainy day back at Katherine Gorge. He couldn't get his foot in so looked in and saw roo poo and "paper". He shook the poo out but the paper stayed. After much banging and bashing, out jumped a cane toad. He broke his walking stick bashing it over the head. Poor thing - it didn't know what a pest it was! For our overeas readers if you want some more information into the environmental disaster that the cane toad is go to: http://www.derm.qld.gov.au/wildlife-ecosystems/wildlife/threats_to_wildlife/cane_toad.html or just google them. Guess it was a cane toad we heard in the middle of the night at Katherine Gorge!
As we scrambled through the gorge towards Jim Jim Falls we thought of Mum and Dad who had come here many years ago. It was a hot and hard walk, scrambling over the rocks and boulders for 900 metres but at the end there is a beautiful waterhole that was cool and refreshing and surrounded on 3 sides by 150 metre cliffs. As it is the dry most of the falls have stopped and we once again wondered how amazing it would be to see this area in the wet when the rivers and creeks are full and the falls in full flow.
Further on from Jim Jim falls the road deteriorates as you drive the extra 10km to Twin Falls carpark. To get to Twin Falls you have to catch the barge up the creek and then there is a nice walk to the falls, spoilt only by the fact you can't swim here - the estuarine croc's are left to their own devices, unlike Jim Jim falls where they are "managed".
On the way from Cooinda to Jabiru we stopped at Nourlangie rock and Anbangbang waterhole. Nourlangie rock has some fabulous Aboriginal rock art sites and great views from the top of the plateau. We spotted our first ever Black Wallaroo (chocolate brown actually). We had a lovely if somewhat hot and fly bothering walk around Anbangbang billabong where there were once again lots of magpie geese, corellas, egrets and jabirus and we saw our very first spoonbill. The damage to the lily ponds caused by feral buffalo and pigs is really noticeable but the area is still full of birdlife.
Our first and the main area of exploration from Jabiru was Ubirr, an area located near the East Alligator River area(misnamed by early exlorers). We had a fabulous day! We spent the morning following one of the rangers and listening and learning about the history and social aspects of the traditional owners of the area and learning some interpretation of the rock art sites that depict ancestors as well as animals such as wallabies, barramundi, catfish, mullett, goannas, turtles and even a thylacine! One piece of art depicted a Black wallaroo which was pretty special as we had only seen one of these elusive critters the other day.
The scenery from the lookout was what we had expected to see in Kakadu, escarpments with flood plains and billabongs filled with magpie geese, jabiru's etc. Breathtakingly stunning. Just as we thought we had seen it all we decided to have lunch by the river. A 3 metre croc surfaced just below us so we grabbed our cameras only to have another one surface further out in the river, then another! All told there were 5 different crocs - one 5 metre (we assume male) and the others all about 3 metres. One of the smaller ones would float around with her front claws sticking out of the water. It was great to watch. They floated down the river with the tide then gently swam back up against the flow with mouths open catching lunch. We sat and watched this for ages!!
To top the day of there was a festival on that afternoon/evening at Jabiru lake. Bush food, spear throwing and didgeridoo competitions, painting and weaving demonstrations, bands and general fun and all alcohol free. What a day!
We spent the rest of the time in Kakadu exploring other walks and waterholes - we are starting to find the constant 38 degrees a little tiring and trying to decide where to go next!
Stuart's Point and Mary River National Park
A little way west of Kakadu is Mary River National Park which protects part of the Mary River catchment area. We went there because of Len's interest in the early explorers and the hardships that they endured. Port Stuart in the north of the park marks the point where the explorer John McDouall Stuart completed the first European crossing of Australia from Adelaide to the Van Diemen Gulf in 1862. The park also has some beautiful billabongs, paperbark and monsoon forests, lots of dense scrub and to our dismay, swamps that we had to wade through to reach Point Stuart. We didn't see anyone else as we traipsed through the sand and swamps to reach the marker (the tree he carved his initials in burnt down), not surprising really, it wasn't much of a walk and we had to drive 40km on a dirt road to reach the 6km return walk! We were rewarded by seeing a Rufous Owl, a couple of stunning Emerald Doves and the gorgeous Pied Imperial Pigeon. There is so much wildlife when you get away from the crowds but it also made us realise just how hard it must of been for the early explorers to cross this vast land in those days.
We stayed at the Point Stuart Wilderness Lodge for the night and decided to head to Darwin in the morning.
Before setting off for Darwin we went for a short walk in the National Park and spotted the largest orange footed scrub fowl's nest that you are likely to see. It was enormous and you wonder how such a little bird can scrape the leaves and debris up that far. Nature is remarkable! Next a stop at the Mary River ato watch some more wildlife; big crocs, lots of finches, wallabies etc and still no humans!
We drove to Darwin that afternoon and booked into a motel in town to get some respite from the tent, heat and flies.