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

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