Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Darwin, Litchfield and Kakadu

Well we hit the road early from Kununurra to make it to Darwin in time to meet Dave's folks - Albert and Sylvia - who were joining us for about 10 days around Darwin, Litchfield, Kakadu and (almost) Katherine (but more about that later). Luckily it was only (!) 834km away, rather than the 1000 plus we originally thought.

WA / NT Border:

(Love the WA slogan: "WA: A Great Place" - wonder how much money was spent coming up with that one!)

One of the things that also helped us get to Darwin a bit faster was the new NT speed limit:

We pushed the little pig up to 130 for about half of the journey but it sure chewed up the petrol.

And just to prove she can do it:

We stopped at Timber Creek for a loo stop and then on to Victoria River to fill up.

We then drove into Darwin and checked into the Leprechaun Caravan Park for 3 nights - a little dodgy but the closest to town where Albert and Sylvia were staying. We then met A & S at the airport at about 5pm and drove to their accommodation by the Botanic Gardens.

we went to the "Buff Club" for dinner ($9 schnitzel night - bargain!) which was, incidentally, next to "Sexy World" store. There are obviously different laws in the NT as there were lots of people smoking inside and at the bar which wasn't so nice.

The next morning Dave was able to fix our back lock with the new part Albert had got us from Sydney - YAY. After stocking up at the supermarket we headed out to the Museum & Art Gallery in town. We spent a bit of time there - some great exhibits including a fantastic display on Cyclone Tracy which pretty much wiped out Darwin on Christmas Eve 1974.

We also saw Sweetheart - the croc that was trapped after attacking many dinghies and the outboard motors. Unfortunately when he was captured he accidentally drowned so he was placed in the Darwin Museum:

After lunch we headed to Crocosaurus Cove but decided to go there the following day at feeding time. We went for a drive down to Stokes Hill Wharf and also a short wander along the Esplanade.

We went back to the hotel, had a swim and a BBQ dinner by the pool.

The next morning we drove to Doctor's Cove to check out the fish feeding but decided it was way too expensive for $11pp (maybe if we had kiddies as i'm sure they would enjoy it).

Next stop was the WWII tunnels that were built to store oil underground away from enemy fire. A HUGE amount of money was poured into these but they were never actually used.

We then headed back to Crocosaurus Cove for feeding time. This is located right in the middle of the city. First feeding was the fish feeding where Dave was able to feed a couple of pig-nosed turtles:

We then saw the other fish being fed including huge barramundi, sawfish, Sooty Grunters and whip-rays:

Next we saw some big crocs being fed and then had our photos taken with a baby croc, about 18 months old. They were charging $25 for an A3 copy of these photos but we just got someone to take some with our digital camera - cost: nothing!

Lastly we watched the younger crocs (about a couple of years old) being fed using fishing rods and then we were able to have a go ourselves. These younger crocs were much more active, pushing themselves out of the water to grab onto the meat:

Baby hatchlings that climb on top of each other for safety:

In the later afternoon we walked from the hotel, through the Botanical Gardens, to the Thursday night Mindel Sunset Markets by Mindel Beach. These markets were great - lots of things to look at and heaps of food from various nationalities. We even tried some Croc, camel, emu and possum from the Roadkill Cafe:

We then headed to the beach for dinner and the sunset:

This was farewell to Darwin for us - we will most definately be heading back here at some stage, its a gerat little city with a good vibe. Hopefully we can come back with Ads and Caroline sometime!
We drove out of Darwin the next morning, heading for Litchfield National Park. This is lesser known than Kakadu but we had heard it was well worth it. We stopped at Batchelor for lunch which was a nice little town.
Just outside of the National Park we stopped at a Caravan Park to check out their cabins. They gave us keys to look at two different cabins. The first one was o.k but the second one had people already in it when we turned up trying to let ourselves in! We went back to reception and the lady realised she had looked at the wrong day and in actual fact, they had nothing available at all. So we drove back a few kms to Pandanus Park. We got a cabin for Albert and Sylvia and put our tent up next to them (for only $12 - not bad). We pretty much relaxed for the afternoon, swam in the pool and had dinner.
Unfortunately it was not the best night for us as we had unknowingly pitched the tent right next to a huge spotlight and also near the cabin's airconditioner. Oops - we made sure we moved the tent for our second night.
We drove into Litchfield National Park the next morning - free entry which is a great thing about most NT National Parks. We stopped at the magnetic termite mounds which were really interesting:

The above photo is of a cathedral termite mound but the ones below are magnetic ones:

There are many grey, wedge-shaped mounds with some rising several metres high. These mounds are built by termites and are a mysterious natural phenomena because they all seem to have the flat sides with a North-South orientation. Very interesting!

We then drove to the Buley Rockholes for a swim. These were fantastic - a series of small to medium pools of varying depths:

Next we went to Florence Falls - two waterfalls cascading into a deep pool. You got a great view from the top:

.. and then we walked 135 steps to the bottom where we had a swim and then walked 1km around the back which was a longer but not so steep climb.
We called past a swamp area for a quick bird-watch, using the binoculars Albert had bought for us to use (thank you!) and also visited Tolmer Falls which we couldn't swim in but went for a short walk to the lookout.
After this we went to Wangi Falls:

This was very full as it is obviously a favourite swimming hole for the locals and it was a Saturday. It has a huge swimming area and is easily accessible with proper steps into the pool.
After lunch we went for a short walk around an old Tin Mining Area from the 1950's:

Then it was back to camp for a swim, food, TV and bed!
The next day it was time to head towards Kakadu. We stopped at "Humpty Doo" supermarket (what a great place name - another favourite was "Rum Jungle") We drove to the Windows Over the Wetlands which was great and then we did a 1hr "Jumping Crocodile" Cruise on the Adelaide River. There are a number of these tours and the boats go up and down their allocated part of the river where huge crocs swim up (knowing they can get a feed) and then meat is hung down and the crocs use their tails to jump up and get it. Pretty cool stuff!

Making the leap:
At the end they also threw out some food for the Birds of Prey:

We had lunch, drove to Kakadu and checked into accomodation before pretty much relaxing for the evening.
Dave and I woke up at 6am and went for a walk by ourselves around the 3.5km Gungarre Walk which left from the edge of camp. We saw a billabong with a Jabiru and plenty of other birdlife. We also came across a wild boar which was a little scary.
After the walk we headed to the Visitor Centre with Albert and Sylvia. This was great with HEAPS of info and a very helpful ranger.
We went to an area called Nourlangie and walked around a 1.5km loop track with heaps of amazing rock art - some of the best we've seen so far, although it was of varying ages - some being older and some quite recent (as recent as the 60's).

I liked this one:

Close up:

Narbulwinjbulwinj (left) and the Lightening Man:

We went for a bit of a wander up to a lookout and it was pretty hot (over 40 degrees).

We went to Anbangbang Billabong for lunch where we saw heaps of wildlife:

After lunch, Dave, Albert and I walked up Nawurlandja Lookout for a view over the Billabong, wetlands and over to Arnhem Land Rocks:

After this we drove 80km to Cahill's Crossing which we had heard a lot about:

We saw heaps of big crocs and silly people ignoring the warnings and either walking across the crossing or fishing from it. We had heard this is a great place to catch barra when the tide turns (especially in a big change of tide of a few metres or more) where the river actually changes directions and flows upstream and the crocs come to the crossing for a feed of fish who come over the crossing. Unfortunately Dave didn't bring his rod but he knew he'd be back to give it a go.
We spent a couple of hours here just people and croc watching and then headed to Ubirr. We saw some more rock art:

And listened to some great free ranger talks by Ranger Annie, hearing about some dreamtime stories, skin names, bush-tucker, and the floodplains:

Top of lookout for sunset:

After sunset we drove back to our accommodation. Along the way there was a massive BANG and we realised Albert had somehow blown the tyre. We all piled out and Dave and Albert set about changing the tyre in the dark while Sylvia and I looked on, trying not to giggle (cause what else can you do?!)

Then we discovered what had caused the puncture - an enormous cup-head bolt:

Now thats what I call a blow out!! We knew this would require a new tyre and had a feeling our plans to head to Katherine the next day or two may be put on hold.
The next day, Dave and I had decided to do an organised full-day tour of Jim-Jim Falls and Twin Falls as these were only accessible by 4WD. Albert and Sylvia were going to do a Yellowater Cruise (and most probably run around doing tyre related things too!) Dave and I woke at 6am so we could make the drive to Cooinda where we were getting picked up at 7:30am. We drove in a small 13-seater 4WD truck for about 60kms of pretty flat road before we locked into 4WD for 10kms of BUMPY driving - especially worse for those in the back-seat which, of course, was us two.
We arrived at the start of the walk to Jim-Jim Falls. This was only 900m but involved a lot of boulder-hopping. It was a lovely walk:

and we arrived at the falls - no water flowing but it was still mightily impressive with a huge pool surrounded by 220m cliff walls (those little dots are people swimming):

We went for a lovely swim amongst the many fish and then had some morning tea of milo and biscuits that the poor guide had lugged down with him. We then drove out to Twin Falls where we had a short walk to a boat which took us up the gorge:

We then had another short walk over some rocky ledges to a platform over the water (with showers, if you were so inclined):

Before arriving at Twin Falls. Again this was a great walk with superb scenery. There was a bit of water trickling down at this one.
We weren't able to swim here as it was too hard an area to monitor apparently. The "Crocodile Control Zones" such as Jim-Jim Falls and other pools are checked at the end of every wet season as when it floods the crocs are able to swim into these pools. They do pretty rigorous checks over a certain period of time and once any crocs have been removed they are opened to the public and croc traps set up just in case any do get in. So most control zones say "Swim at your own risk" but are fairly safe. Twin Falls was not one of these areas and if you are caught swimming in here you get a $5000 fine (which you probably couldn't pay if you got eaten up I suppose!)

After a nice picnic lunch we headed back to the truck which then dropped us back at Cooinda where we met up with A & S and where we were staying for the night. We had a swim and dinner and hung out in the air-conditioned room and watched "Run Fat Boy Run" on TV.
In the ladies loos I spotted a snake up above the basins:

I told Dave and he let reception know who got the "snake man" who came and took it away - only a harmless Carpet Python.

The next day we went to the Cultural Centre to look at the Pandanus weaving. Lizzie, an aboriginal lady was showing people how to weave bracelets and Sylvia and I joined in:

The beginning:

Lizzie showing us how it should be done:

The panadanus was dyed using traditional methods. A pod was broken open (sorry can't remember what this was called) and the seeds crushed up to make the yellow paste.

Then the panadanus (a flax-like plant) was boiled up with this:

..and the finished product hung from the tree to dry:

Our finished products:

Close up:

It took me about an hour to make my bracelet and looked pretty shoddy compared to the ones Lizzie was creating in about 5 minutes!

We called past yellow water to have a look at the Billabong:

Albert and Sylvia had to pick up the new tyre at 4pm so we decided it wouldn't be worth it to head to Katherine. Instead we checked into Lakeview Caravan Park in Jabiru for 2 nights - Albert and Sylvia had a nice bush bungalow and Dave and I had an ensuite tent site.
We had lunch and I spent some time catching up on blogging while Dave and Albert went to Cahill's crossing for a hand a fishing. Unfortunately only a catfish was caught!

The following day was a bit of a rest and relax for all of us - more blogging and fishing.
The next morning we packed up and said goodbye to Albert and Sylvia who were driving back to Darwin and flying out early the next morning.
Dave and I headed back to Cahill's Crossing for one last fish. We were there at tide change and it was a hive of activitiy. We saw lots of crocs:

And we even saw a few crossing over the crossing. This one had to move off to make way for a car that wanted to cross:

We saw about 10 crocs at one time, many of them swam right up to the crossing and waited with their mouths open just waiting for fish to jump in - talk about an easy catch! The crocs had more luck than us so we headed for Maguk which had been recommended to us as a great place to go. The sign said it was best for 4WD but the pig handled it no probs.
We walked to Maguk Pool which was quite busy but a great place to swim. We didn't stay too long as it was getting late so we headed back to the Maguk campsite where spent the night. The next morning we headed in again earlier and were lucky enough to have it all to ourselves:

Although I must say it is easier to get into a pool like this when there are others around to test the water for crocs before you! We were both a bit nervy even though we knew there was no way a croc could have got in over night - you just can't help feeling a little wary!
Our next stop was Katherine - You can see what you missed out on in the next blog Albert and Sylvia!