Wednesday, 27 July 2011

NT - Gorges and Kakadu

20/07/11 Thermal Pool – beautiful clear warm water – had a lovely soak. Mataranka original homestead (a copy thereof, including the gowns worn in the film), then on to Bitter Springs. Very interesting place, almost swampy, but deep clear blue pools full of rainbow fish, flanked by Cabbage-tree palms and pandanus. 

Blew the front driver's tyre 80km south of Katharine...of course not in a really good spot to be changing a tyre, and in the middle of the day, but at least near a major place to get a replacement. Left the tyre and continued on to Katharine Gorge. A lovely spot, but a colony of flying-foxes bickered all night, so didn't sleep particularly well. There colony along the gorge is supposed to be a million of them.

21/07/11 An earlyish start on the 12 km (return) walk to Butterfly Gorge. Well named with hundreds of the black and white, yellow and monarch butterflies, moths, as well as lots of dragonflies (the excellent photo is by Darryl – who has longer arms and patience than me). Yellow flowering kapok trees, and palms and pandanus palm everywhere, along with at least 3 varieties of Grevillea, one with orange flowers and 2 types with red flowers. Many other wildflowers. Once down to Katharine Gorge, saw the spot which was pointed out on our cruise in 2007 where the freshwater crocs nest, and a few boatloads of tourists went past along with many helicopters. 

We became one of the talking points for the boat tour-guide after someone noticed us on the bank. After the long, hot walk, a dip in the park swimming pool cooled us off (although we were a bit worried about the 'treats' that may have been dropped in by the flying-fox colony). Don't know if it was the long walk, the lack of sleep the night before, or that the flying-foxes were quieter, but slept much better.

22/07/11 Picked up our new tyre in Katharine. Just before Pine Creek is the turnoff to Coppermine Dam, where we lunched (nothing remarkable), and further along the road is a georgeous little nature park – Umbrawarra Gorge. Got out of the car to see 2 tawny frogmouth owls in the tree beside us (photo by Darryl). Only 8 of us camping here. A short walk to a pretty gorge with sandy-sided deep pools. Saw rainbow fish, eel-tailed catfish, small barramundi, a stripey fish, a fish that looked like a bream, and were enthralled by the water-spiders which seemed to have red backs, but it turned out to be egg sacs carried on their backs. Before dusk a flock of about 40 red-tailed black cockatoos flew over.

 It is the show holiday in Darwin, and a lot of the campers are from there. We invited a late-arriving couple (Leroy and Geraldine – a midwife from Darwin), over to share our fire, as Darryl was only using it to bake bread. A very peaceful and tranquil night.

23/07/11 In the morning we went on a delightful rock-hop down the gorge (my knees and ankles held up amazingly well). Water was bubbling the whole way, and there were orchids draped down the red rocks (unfortunately, not in flower), butterflies and the strong sweet smell of the orange grevillea flowers. After about 1 ½ hours we got to a point where the only way further was a crawl along a rock ledge about 4m up, so I stopped to have a coffee and enjoy the ambience, while Darryl forged on until he could go no further without swimming. 

Along the road from Pine Creek to Kakadu we were looking for a spot to pull off and camp when we stumbled on Moline Creek Golf Club. There were a lot of campers so we pulled in, only to find that they were the working bee setting up for the annual tournament next weekend, but they welcomed us in to stay the night. A lovely bunch of people (amazingly many of them born in Qld), and a very nice little spot.

Moline Rock Hole
24/07/11 $25 each to enter Kakadu. John, the President of the Golf Club told us about a rock-hole just in the park, which turned out to be Moline Rock-hole. A very rough, but short drive in, to a deep rock-hole with a waterfall at one end. 

Further along was Ikoymawarra Lookout (not quite as interesting in the morning – last time we saw it at sunset, which was spectacular), then Bukbukluk lookout – hmmm – then another lookout – Gungural - which had a camping spot. 

Maguk (Barramundi Gorge) has a bit of a walk in, but you are rewarded with a huge swimming hole, with a waterfall at the end, and fish everywhere. There were small Barra (so the Gorge is well named), but lots of much larger dark fish (maybe perch), along with eel-tailed catfish, gar and the striped fish. Just as we were about to go in, Darryl spotted a large snake underwater with the fish (who just ignored it). We had a lovely swim, and then set up at the shady campground. Darryl found a hitch-hiker – a large yellow huntsman spider at the top of our bed. Were able to have baked potatoes in the fire, which was a delicious change. It was all quiet and peaceful until a tour turned up, and they talked loudly 'till all hours.

25/07/11 Cooinda has a caravan park, but this was where we had to book our Yellow Waters Cruise. The cruise was lovely, along Yellow Water Billabong and then into the South Alligator River. We saw lots of birds, fish, and crocodiles. 

A highlight was a big male croc swimming along beside the boat, as the water was very clear. He had his legs and feet tucked in tight beside him, and was just using his powerful tail to propel himself. 

We looked at Jim Jim Billabong, which didn't have a good feel to camp, and decided to head up to Jim Jim Campground. Lovely views of the orange escarpment as the sun set, and hot water showers.

26/07/11 Jim Jim Falls is a double falls dropping over the orange escarpment into a deep clear pool, and just further down is a sandy pool. To get to these pools you have to climb over some quite big rocks. We didn't swim (although there were no crocs in these pools), as it was a bit early). The Jim Jim Day area is a lovely shady spot for lunch, and we waited here while debating whether to risk the crossing – still 0.7m – still debating we went up Budjmi walk, to rock pile which gave fantastic views of the whole escarpment. 

Budjmi walk

Budjmi walk

Jim Jim Falls
After watching a petrol Hilux cross the creek without a snorkel, we decided to risk it to see Twin Falls and Jim Jim Falls. A few cementers of water entered the cab of the Hilux but we made it safely.

 It is possible to walk there over the escarpment........

Twin Falls

 Back at camp had a wine with Monica, who is driving around by herself.

27/07/11 Mirrai Lookout was quite a disappointment (especially as it was a steep 1.6km walk uphill), as, although it was a 360o view, trees all around blocked what would have been quite a good view.

Next stop was Nourlangie, first to Angbangbang billabong, which was quite a nice one surrounded by paperbarks, edged with waterlillies, and warning signs for the resident crocodile. The rock art at Anbangbang is quite impressive. We had visited this site last time, but being in the morning, the light was much better for viewing the art. Apparently one of the elders had repainted these images in 1964.

Nanguluwurr art site around the back of Nourlangie Rock. This entailed a 2km walk in really hot conditions, but was definitely worth it, as there was a lot more art, including a sailing ship. 

It really was a hot walk back to the car, but we then headed back to Sandy Billabong (which Darryl had heard was good), and sat, at a circumspect distance, from the edge to have afternoon tea admiring the birds among the greenery, and enjoying the cool breeze. On sunset we were spectacularly unimpressed by the lack of birdlife on the billabong.

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