Day 24: Bye bye Kakadu!

All good things must come to an end, and our visit to Australia’s most famous National Park is not different. We actually have nothing planned for today, and decided to totally wing it. We’ll make up stuff along the way, we know we need to be at the airport at a certain time to hand in the car and catch a flight to Cairns, but that is all.

We received a good tip from another couple to visit Berry Springs, and that was an awesome tip! The springs actually have warm water, which makes the three pools nicely warm as well. The upper pool has its own (miniature) waterfall, the main pool is of course the largest, and the lower pool is nice and quiet. We have had a luscious swim in the pools, and enjoyed watching the fish. They were Archer Fish, and just ignored the swimmers as they went on to do the things fish generally do. There are not Estuarine Cricodiles here, just some Freshwater ones, but they generally do not attack humans. 🙂

The Arnhem Highway crosses the Adelaide River, and on this river, there are multiple companies offering “Jumping Crocodile Tours”. They are also quite cheap! But as these crocodiles have learned to just feed on the stuff the boats hang out for them, all natural behaviours on them have vanished. And this is in a country where nearly all animals have their own sign saying not to feed the wildlife! The cruises hang a large piece of meat over the water, and entice the croc to ‘catch’ is by yanking it higher the moment the croc wants to take a bite. Even though it is their natural capability to jump out of the water like that, it feels odd. And so, we moved on.

The last stop for today was a place called Howard Springs, which is really close to Darwin. Due to the saltwater crocodiles there was no swimming allowed, so we just relaxed a bit and learned something about the history of the place and its role in WWII. (Recreational, as it was being used as a retreat for the soldiers on duty in the Darwin Area)

Handing in the car was a sad moment for us, as it is really new still. We drove around 1350kms in it, and it even smells new! The flight to Cairns was about 2 and a half hours, and was very quiet. The transfer to the hotel was swift, and the weather over here is nice as well. Tomorrow, we have no plans, but we heard there’s a place where you can lie on a beach!

Day 23: More Kakadu

This morning, we’ll have a do-over for yesterday afternoon, but without the sunset. Oh yeah, we are about to embark on a boat again to watch wildlife. Yesterday evening, there were a large amount of waterbirds and only a few crocodiles, today it is the complete opposite. Loads and loads of crocodiles, but the birds are a little bit more camera shy.

Even though they are harder to see, we still have found a great number of species, and even some others than yesterday. Among those are for example the Crested Jacana (with a very young chick!), the Brolga and the Willy Wagtail. Great!

We only have a short drive on the menu for us today, as we stay inside the National Park but move to the only village inside the park, Jabiru. Along the way, there are quite a few places we’d like to visit, which means our day is already planned. And at 36 degrees, it is also promising to be a hot one!

This part of the park has a lot of sites where Aboriginal Rock Art can be found, some of which is dating back to about 20.000 years ago. Yes, that is twenty thousand, almost all of which is continuous. This means these parts of the country are the longest continually inhabited places in the world. This also shows in the art itself, as scientists are able to see the art itself progress in intricacy and beauty over time. The best sites are Nourlangie (Burrunggui) and Ubirr. The first one is situated about 35 km South of Jabiru, while the other is about 40 km North of the town. The latter is even a World Heritage Site, and one of the reasons the park is a National Park. They are great, and well worth a visit.

We have spent the rest of the afternoon in the (sun heated) swimming pool, which was a welcome way of escaping from the relentless sun. And tomorrow, it’ll be even hotter! We will be driving back to Darwin, and will catch a flight to Cairns late in the evening. Also, we have to give the Toyota Prado back. I’ll be sad to see it go!

Day 22: Off to Kakadu!

After a good night of sleep and a huge breakfast at the Gorge information centre, we found some time to admire the resident Wallabiesat this place, even though we are still unsure what kind they were. They were still enjoying the morning coolness as we left, on a day which promised to be hotter than yesterday. We eventually hit 34 degrees!

Along the way to Katherine, you’ll find Pine Creek, a typical Gold Mining Town, along the railroad from Darwin all the way down to Adelaide. We paused in the town for a while, overlooked their now defunct open pit gold mine, and found ourselves right in the middle of a huge flock of Flying Foxes! As it was nearing midday, they were also hot and flapping one wing to stay cool. We estimate there were several hundred animals roosting in the trees surrounding us! 

Pine Creek sits on the intersection between the Stuart Highway and the Kakadu Highway, and we took a right turn onto the Kakadu Highway, which leads to the Kakadu National Park. We drove along it to find a place called Cooinda, which our GPS knew nothing about. It turns out it is not a place after all, but a single resort big enough to get its own signage. As we are very close to the wet season over here, not all roads are accessible yet, and a few have very deep wading points where the river crosses the road and you have to drive through the river to get on the other side on the road. We wanted, for instance, to visit a few falls, but found ourselves having to cross 75 cm deep water. Even though we drive a big 4×4 rental, we decided this was not for us and backed away.

As this threw our schedule for today, we arrived at the resort a little early. But, as the resort offers one of our favorite things to do, not all was lost. We booked a boat tour to view wildlife. What else? 🙂 It was to be the sunset tour, where you not only got to see hordes of aquatic birds, but also a magnificent sunset where the sun sets behind the floodplains of Yellow Water, or the Jim Jim Billabong as they know it over here. During the tour, we have seen three sizes of Egret (Little, Intermediate and Great), at least three varieties of Heron, Whistling Ducks, Jabiru (Black-necked Stork), a White Headed Sea Eagle, White Bellied Eagle, a good bunch of Estuarine Crocodiles (Salties) and even some pretty rare feral horses nowadays know as magnificent Brumbies. All in all, an afternoon really well spent!

There is one downside though: the airpnditioning in our cabin is way too underpowered to be of any use, as it cannot keep it cool below 28 degrees. With the high humidity over here, that’ll be fun tonight! We are only staying here one night, and will move s few kilometres north tomorrow to a place called Jabiru.

Day 21: To Katherine Gorge

Quite early into the drive from Batchelor to Katherine, we found ourselves in the middle of a huge flock of Red-Tailed Cockatoos. As we were on a highway, we had to pull over and put the car in the dirt right next to the road. From here, we had excellent views of this flock of birds, which was about 200 birds large as they were moving along and crossing the road.

About 40 Km’s from Katherine is a site called Edith Falls, and we were by several people informed about it. It supposedly is very nice, and there would also be a small café where nourisments could be bought. They were all true. The site is home to Edith Falls, where you can swim in both the top pool and the plunge pool, as these are patrolled for Salties (Estuarine or Salt Water Crocodiles). There only are some Fresh Water Crocodiles in the pools though, but they generally don’t attack swimmers. We have had a really refreshing dip there, and dried up in the sun. As temperatures have risen to a very comfy 34 degrees, that was a welcome swim! The food at the café is really good, and everything is home cooked by the patrons of the campsite. Great!

Nearing Katherine Gorge, we found a Black-Necked Stork or Jabiru, the largest stork over here. It grows to about 1.4 metres tall, which is pretty large. The one we found was decently sized, and it dwarfed the other storks around it. Despite its size, the stork was quite unsure what to make of us though, as it nervously walked around trying to keep the distance between it and us the largest. It still looked awesome though!

We spent the rest of the afternoon and evening on a boat tour of the gorges which make up Katherine Gorge. Right now, it is not one but 13 connected pools, of which the first three can be visited by boat. We toured the first two (the best ones of course) and even had dinner on a boat. How lovely. The other gorges by the way can only be visited on foot (numbers 4 through 11) while the last two can only be viewed from the air.

Tomorrow, we’ll drive to Kakadu National Park, the biggest and best known NP in Australia.