Monday, 18 June 2007

Northern Territory Holiday - Part 2 - Kakadu Dreams

We had to get up pretty early on Tuesday morning, so that we could get our gear sorted. We had decided to take what we couldn’t take on the tour to the Central Hotel, where we were staying once we returned. One of the bags was very heavy and although it wasn’t all that far (a few blocks), it was going to be pretty tedious for us to carry it all there. Luckily, just outside the hostel was a shopping trolley! I had breakfast while Darryl delivered our bags using the trolley.
Quite a few people had assembled outside Kakadu Dreams, as they had a few tours leaving that morning.
We first headed out to the jumping croc cruise, passing a few waterholes on the way. First up was a close-up encounter with a friendly olive python. It was a great photo opportunity, especially for those who had never touched a snake before, but as time was short, I didn’t partake (for those of you who don’t know, this was definitely not due to any squeamishness in my part – I used to keep snakes and lizards before I was married, so it really was due to the shortness of time).

It was quite funny as we headed down to the cruise – the jetty led to a really nice looking, double-story boat, and I thought ‘wow’ – but then we walked right through that one to a much smaller boat moored on the side of it! It really didn’t matter, that boat was sufficient in size and it meant we were much closer to the beasties! The cruise itself was really interesting. The crew made sure that the crocs really worked for their meat, and made them jump quite a few times before letting them take the snack.
They obviously know the sound of the motor of the boat, as

they headed straight for it as we cruised past. Some of them had lost limbs by diving under boats in the past, and hitting the propellers. When a sea eagle was spotted sitting in some trees on the bank, it was also fed.

This was pretty amazing, with the eagle taking the food in mid flight. There were also black and brown kites which were fed by throwing the food into the air for them to catch. The one thing is that there is a lot of driving between the various attractions in this part of the world, and when Paul stopped at Aurora Kakadu Resort for us to have a swim in their beautiful rock swimming pool, it was much appreciated by everyone.

Rock art seems to be plentiful in Kakadu, although there are many sites which are not open to the public.

The art at Angbangbang – Nourlangie Rock was quite spectacular. The red ochre seems to last the longest, as it binds with the sandstone chemically, and so the oldest paintings tend to be what looks like quite primitive shapes in red – of course one can only imagine what other ornate patterns decorated the top of those shapes with the other ochres of white and yellow, and black charcoal.

Fairly near Nourlangie, was Nawulardja Lookout. We parked and climbed up the very interesting rock formations until we were able to take in the spectacular view. More driving brought us to Ikoymarrwa Lookout just in time for sunset. The rocks at the cutting were a rich red colour, and other tours also turned up. Everyone, except the drivers and myself climbed up to the top of the cutting to watch, and we had a bit of a scary moment when some people from another tour nearly walked right off the edge!

After the sunset was over, it was back in the troopie and off to the campground at Kambolgie Creek, where we set up our tents (only the inside mosquito screen part of them – so no tent-fly) and set about cooking dinner over the campfire. It sure tasted great! Most of us were pretty knackered , and after a few drinks everyone headed off to bed. In the middle of the night, Darryl and I both heard what sounded like someone at another campsite trying to imitate the sound of a dingo.

First stop on Wednesday was a hike into Motor Car Falls, where Darryl and Andreas entertained us all with their attempts at climbing the rocks to dive into the waterhole. Although it was quite a large pool, there was plenty of room for us and the other groups who were there. On the hike back, there was also a lovely, but small, pool to swim in, with a fern-covered dripping wall towering over it. I am not completely sure, but somewhere in this area I think I lost my sarong.

Gunlom Falls flows into a huge pool, which was full of fish, and fantastic for swimming. I saw my first long-tom in the clear deep waters here. I made my way around the edge of the pool to near where the waterfall was, but others in the group swam straight across. Darryl climbed the rocks again, and up on a sloping rock found lots of little frogs. In the afternoon, the group climbed up a path to the right of the escarpment to further pools and waterfalls, with the plan of having a beer and watching the sunset, but I wasn’t feeling the best, so stayed at the lower pool, and managed to have a nap. Unfortunately, I woke up with a headache, which soon developed into a full-blown migraine. I couldn’t even look at dinner, and spent much of the evening away from the others, caught between the desire to throw-up and the knowledge that it was cause me much more pain. After dinner, Darryl walked me down to the creek, and we lay on the concrete crossing watching the stars. I felt a little better and so we turned in for the night.

Warradjan Cultural Centre was very well set up, with lots of displays and explanations of their meaning. It was requested that we didn’t take photographs inside, but I took one of the rock at the front which had an explanation of the seasons in the Northern Territory.

Yellow Waters Billabong has a renowned reputation for the birdlife there. I must admit I was slightly disappointed with it. We didn’t go on a cruise, where I would expect that you would see a lot more, especially if it was at dawn or dusk, but walked along the boardwalk out over the swampy areas. Even a shag drying his wings didn’t seem too bothered. The closest encounter was with a ibis which rested for a few moments on the boardwalk handrail as we were heading back.

Lunch was beside a crossing of the Alligator River. The water sure looked inviting, but Paul warned us even about going too close to the edge. The quiet seclusion was destroyed by a helicopter circling and then landing nearby.

To sate our desire for a swim, Paul too us to Berry Springs. He tantalised us with “this will exceed all your expectations”…and I must admit it was fantastic. The top pool had beautiful clear water, with plenty of fish. There was a small (low but wide) waterfall of warmer water entering a stream of cooler water. It was possible to get behind the waterfall, and a fantastic massage by standing below it with the tepid water pounding on your shoulders and back. But this was just the beginning. It was possible to make your way down the creek to the next big pool. At this pool there were two entry points for swimmers. All entry points were done really well, with steps, ladders and hand-rails. This pool was quite deep and long. I amazed myself by swimming almost the whole length of it. Then there was more shallowish creek to traverse. Down this section, the pandanus fronds hung close and low over the water, so we had to be careful not to get scratched. This wasn’t so easy, as the water was reasonably shallow and so flowing quite fast, and pulling you through. This opened into another huge, deep pool, where, on one bank the Pandanus stems were through the water, so it was possible to use them for support. Paul was right – this was fantastic! After getting thoroughly relaxed, it was time to head off, and the beautiful afternoon was spoiled slightly by our return to the Troopie to find that it had a flat tyre. Once this was changed, we were on our way back to Darwin.

We stopped at Fannie Bay to watch the sunset (although it was no-where near as spectacular as when we had seen it with Judy).

Being Thursday evening, the markets were on at Mindle Beach, and most of us wanted to have a look. Paul dropped us off, and headed back to town with Darryl who wasn’t that interested (and had to take the bags back to town). These markets are famous, and I have honestly never seen markets so huge, busy, varied…..just amazing! We decided to split up, and meet back in an hour. Initially, I thought that would be plenty of time, but with all the people everywhere, it was almost impossible to actually move. I bought a new sarong – a beautiful blue silk-painted one for only $20. It was at one of the first places I checked out, but I still looked at other stalls and didn’t get it until I returned at the end of the hour. One other experience that I wanted, was to try eating crocodile, and a stall called ‘Road Kill’ was able to provide me with a skewer kebab of crocodile and I also tried possum. The crocodile was nice, and much as I had imagined, a bit similar to chicken in texture and closer to fish in taste, but very mild. The possum was like lamb in texture and similar to chicken in taste, but a bit stronger. Back where we had all decided to meet, I was intrigued by an Asian artist who was creating his paintings using spray cans, and seemed almost to be working in a trance…or maybe it was a drugged state…..
A maxi-taxi dropped us all off at our destinations. We were booked into the quite flashy Central Hotel, and Darryl had already shifted our bags into our room. Despite how enjoyable the last few days had been, it was wonderful to be pampered and have a lovely hot shower! We had all arranged to meet up at the Vic Pub on the mall for dinner….encouraged by the fact that Paul had vouchers for a free meal each. The pub soon filled up, and we were suitably entertained by the ensuing drinking, and other competitions. Some of our group took part, and even won prizes. Darryl and I headed off reasonably early, leaving the others to enjoy the evening.

Inside the Troopie

Northern Territory Holiday - Part 1 - Darwin

Sunday 3 JuneOur flight to Brisbane arrived at 7.30am. On our plane was Lenny (from work) and his family. My original plan had been to spend the day at State Library doing family history research, but unfortunately, the whole Cultural Centre Complex was closed for fail-over power testing! Wow, what bad luck! The only day in the whole year! So, we decided to spend the day just mooching around the city. It was lovely to just spend some time wandering around the city, with no time pressures…..

We took the air-train into town, and firstly went down to wander through the Riverside Markets. Darryl had ridden his bike through last year, but this time got to see things he hadn’t seen before. We took some photos of buildings and sculptures and then headed up through the Queen Street Mall…which seemed a little quiet (although it was pretty early in the morning). I decided that I wanted breakfast at Cerebos CafĂ© on George Street, so that was the destination, and Darryl joined me in a delicious meal. As we were going back to town, I thought we might check up on the new location for Brisbane City Library. The new building looks very garish, but I must admit that the interior is well set up. 

I headed for the internet computer while Darryl checked out some books about Darwin and Kakadu. We were

only allowed half an hour on the net, so then I was able to go and do some research on on the census records. Wow! I found some great stuff. Next we headed over to Southbank to see another lot of markets. These were lifestyle markets and had lots of interesting stalls. We then headed for Roma Street Gardens, but on the way saw that there was a steam train on the State platform. ‘The Baby Blue’ was built in 1952 and it seems that once a month there are trips held. I am still wondering if this was the steam train I saw run through Central Station last year….. We were hoping to catch up with Shane, but he hadn’t got the SMS messages and we ended up heading back to the airport to wait for our plane which left just after 9pm.

Our first major stop was the Northern Territory Parliament Building. This is quite a modern-looking impressive building. It was possible to do a tour of the inside, but was subject to a security scanner, which caused Darryl a little consternation when his pocket knife was detected and had to be confiscated for the duration of our tour! He realised too late that he had it on him. 
We then wandered down to the harbour precinct, checking out the Governor’s House, the
WWII Oil Storage Tunnels (although, we didn’t do the tour of these), and the Administrator’s Office (which was the old Court House and Police Station) – this was a lovely stone building.
We were intrigued by the Christ Church Cathedral – the remains from Cyclone Tracey in 1974 were incorporated into a new building. A walk through the park took us past the City Council buildings and a huge historic Banyan tree. We had a bit of fun at the Information Centre, when I happened to mention that we were booked on a ‘Kakadu Dreams’ tour. He asked if we had booked it ourselves or it had been booked for us.

When I said we booked it ourselves he seemed concerned and told us to wait while he raced off. I started to think that there was something quite wrong, when he returned with a glossy pamphlet featuring a big group of young people. It turns out that he was concerned both for us and 
for the tour company – due to our age! He said that often older people booked the tour (as it was pretty cheap), not realising that it was rough camping, travelling in the back of a troop carrier, and that the ‘young’ people partied late into the night! We gave him a bit of ‘stick’ about us not being prejudiced! We then headed straight out to buy wine for the evening festivities!

Next stop was the old Darwin Telegraph Station – this was Lyons Cottage, B.A.T. house, which had been built in 1925. In an amazing bit of luck for us, it was the annual reunion of the retired PMG officers and they were offering us the opportunity to send a telegram via the old telegraph system, using morse code via Adelaide. Darryl sent one to Eileen and George and I sent mine to my parents. The telegrams were received in Adelaide and then sent in the mail.

Along the bay was the Cenotaph and war memorial in a lovely park. One path led down to a beach, and while there we got chatting to a couple from Adelaide, who were travelling in their Hilux around Australia. We saw a very curious bird along the path – which turned out to be a
Red-footed scrub fowl. Although these seem to exist around the tropical coast down to Ingham, neither Darryl nor I have ever seen them before.
After 5pm, Judy, Darryl’s second cousin, picked us up and took us to Mindil Beach to watch the absolutely brilliant sunset, and we then ate at the nearby motor-boat club. Judy’s children were there, and her husband, George, turned up later. It was really lovely to meet them. Eventually we headed back to YHA and slept soundly.

Sunday, 17 June 2007

Northern Territory - June 2007

Darryl and I travel to the Northern Territory in June 2007 - click on the photo to see the whole photobook. For the best effect look at it fullscreen.