Monday, July 6, 2009

Farewell to Kakadu

After a couple of nights of caravan park action in Jabiru we pushed on to explore the southern part of Kakadu.

The park itself is about a third of the size of Tasmania and the main attractions are a lot more spread out than in your typical world heritage area. Not a great place to come to if you're into instant gratification and it would be fair to say that we've warmed to Kakadu over the whole time we've been here rather than being instantly hooked.

First stop was the art sites around Nourlangie rock (or more precisely, and much more fun to say loudly, Anbangbang). A series of rock shelters have provided escape from rain and sun for thousands of years, and there is heaps of beautiful rock art on show.

These dudes are dancing Mimih spirits. Don't chase Mimih skirt into their caves as they'll roll stones across the entrance and you might never come out again. A lesson for us all there.

This one is the complicated story of Namondjok.

For some, he is a Creation Ancestor who now lives in the sky and can be seen as a dark spot in the Milky Way, and for others he is a Creation Ancestor who broke the kinship laws (a slightly more complicated form of incest).

After Anbangbang we set up camp at Cooinda resort at Yellow Water. School holidays are on again (the NT have summer holidays during the dry season) and it was absolutely packed. No powered sites left and we were fleeced $26 per night for an unpowered site several hundred meters away from the dunnies.

Under normal circumstances we would probably have pushed on to find something else but we were booked on the dawn Yellow Water boat trip.

The boat trip proved to be the highlight of our Kakadu adventure.

After the mossie mauling we'd received at Red Lily we were a bit nervous to get back close to the water. Luckily the 40% DEET Bushmans we picked up in Jabiru fixed us up beautifully and we enjoyed two hours of (almost) bite free cruising. Chuck out the rest people - only one repellent seems to have any effect whatsoever up here.

Pick up was at 6.25am for the transfer to the boat, which set sail just before sunrise.

We were treated to some great photo opportunities of grazing brumbies (wild horses) in the mist. None of them got close enough to the edge to trigger a crocodile attack unfortunately. There are heaps of brumbies wandering around Kakadu, let loose (rather than shot) by the crocodile and buffalo hunters when that lucrative trade came to a stop.

These are whistling ducks. They spend the majority of their time out of the water because of the crocodiles. They're a noisy bunch.

Shortly after departure we were treated to a sensational Kakadu wetlands sunrise. Photos can't do it justice, but you'll get the idea.

This is a Azure Kingfisher on a pandanus branch looking for an early morning snack.

The Yellow Water cruise provided a great opportunity to see some crocs in the wetland environment in fairly normal circumstances. No feeding going on this time unless someone fell overboard.

Apparently crocs are so efficient that they can live for a week on only a kilo of fish so don't need to eat that often. Most of this efficiency comes from not burning calories to generate heat - they have to bake in the sun instead. They tend to stay in the water at night time as it's warmer than being out of it.

This unfortunately is as close as we could get to this Jabiru (Asian Black-necked stork as opposed to the type found in the Americas. nerd!) nest. They are huge birds and it would have been awesome to see one try and make a landing.

More crocodile action. The armoured ridges on their backs have thin blood vessels just under the surface which provides very efficient solar powered central heating.

Some wetland shots. Hard to believe that at the height of a big wet season the trees are mostly underwater. An incredible volume of run off water each year which maybe should be diverted to the south eastern states.

This fast moving little fella is a comb crested Jacana, or Jesus bird due to it's seeming ability to walk on water.

After Cooinda we moved on to spend our last two Kakadu nights at Gunlom campground.

The infinity pool at the top of the climb up Gunlom falls.

Except for some noisy campers, Gunlom was a delightful spot. There were almost no bugs whatsoever but I'm sure this had something to do with the amount of smoke around. Not backburning this time, rather it was coming from the fire spots in the campground.

Territorians love a campfire as much they love Paul's Iced Coffee and they'll keep it going all day and all night and don't mind throwing a bit of plastic on from time to time.

The stop at Gunlom also gave us the opportunity to plan out the next few weeks and also fix some dates for Fraser Island.

From here we head quickly across the Gulf to Cairns and then have three weeks tackling Cape York before we have to be back in Cairns for me to fly back to Sydney for a few days of work.

I gave up ciggies on the weekend and so far so good (although Ness is taking the brunt of my withdrawals I'd say). Smoking and camping go so well together but all good things must come to an end, and far far better to give it away now while I'm away from the temptations of the big smoke.

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