Thursday, 21 July 2016

Kakadu Adventures

Well we had 4 days planned in Kakadu and while we we know it wasn't enough, it certainly gave us a good taste for the place.  Apologies for the long post in advance, there is so much to do even in our short visit. 

We started off with a drive from Darwin to Jabiru. Stopping off to pick up the park pass at a gas station along the way. The park cost was talked about by people on the forums as an issue. When we saw where the money went and experienced some of the talks/walks you get, it was money well spent. 

Park entry

The first day was a full schedule with, pack up and a tour planned. The drive to Jabiru was ok, the heart starter was realising that we didn't have
45km to go but 4.5km past Jabiru to get to the airport, it made catching a 1pm flight a little easier. We took a short scenic flight over Arnhem Land, the rock country as its described, there were endless plains, rock features such as the archway and some amazing floodplains. Just stunning scenery in areas that you can't drive or tour through. 

The biggest challenge was deciding who gets the front seat next to the pilot!  Griffin gracefully said Andi could have it. Very big decision for a little guy and he took a little time to get over it. 

Our chariot for the scenic flight

Waterfall off the escarpment. 

The landscape changes depending on the valley, hill and incline. Or maybe it was the 200km/h we were travelling!

South alligator river

Escarpment fault

Mandula floodplain

After the flight we went to setup camp at the Kakadu Lodge caravan park. Nice open space and an awesome covered pool. The boys, all three, of course had a swim. 

We were due to go to one of the open  air talks that evening but some rare weather in form of rain meant this was cancelled. Turns out that when there has been a poor wet then there is more chance of a few falls happening throughout the dry season to top up. In total that evening/overnight we have 22mm. The record is 47mm for the month so pretty wet. The rain eased but  the wind hung around for a few days after that which meant even jumpers came out on occasion! Cripes how are going to handle the cold down south!

By morning the puddles had all but soaked in, clearly a country that knows how to drink!  We were off to Ubirr, a transitional art site for a walking tour.  It meant a bit of a drive to start the day. But we would be used to that by the end of it. 

Being ahead of the 9:30 start time we dashed down to Cahills crossing, a somewhat famous river crossing between the NP and Arnhem Land. It also is a place to view big crocs at the change of the tide feeding on the fish coming in from the salt water. We didn't time it for that, needed to be there at 5am or pm for that but we saw a croc none the less. No photos of him this time though. 

Cahills crossing

We returned to the tour site and a crowd had gathered by this stage. This is where we met Annie our guide and what an individual. She has spent around 17 years in the role and is just a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm. This tour was the highlight for both Katie and me, the boys were interested but needed a bit more time for all to sink in. She told such lovely dream time stories, explained the rock art but also many concepts that are the core of aboriginal culture such as family structures and it stuck us as to how different a lifestyle they lead. It is really amazing to see how the western ways have torn many cultures apart bringing in very different ways of thinking and not always for the positive. The connection to country is a statement I have struggled to comprehend to date. This tour gave me a little bit more of the an in sight into what it truely means to aboriginal peoples. Much of this is in part the tour guide Annie's ability to captivate an audience for nearly two hours from young kids to adults. Amazing. 

Annie our tour guide with her audience. 

After the tour we got an opportunity to climb the rock for the most amazing  view off the surrounding country.  Annie describes the land as speaking to you in this special place and you can see why, with a few quite moments to take it all in, the gentle breeze through the grasses and it gives you an amazing calm feeling. Can't explain it, but was certainly a special place. 

We returned to camp for a mid day relax (aka the boys swim time) before we made our way to Coolinda where we doing the yellow water cruise at sunset. 

Our experience with Annie in morning probably influenced our experience with our guide, not quite having the same spark and felt somewhat scripted. The cruise itself was fine, the wildlife were a little put off by the sudden weather change. So the birds were down on usual numbers, but the crocs were out and about with a stop every 30 metres to spot another one.  Even with the bird numbers down we were able to tick off 10 or so new species in Ernie's bird book!

One of the many crocs we saw. 

The sunset itself was spectacular as they the usually are up here. 

Sunset 1, we have a few of these now!

We returned home some 60km away in pitch black, cooked a quick sausage in bread dinner and retired early after a somewhat hectic but fantastic day!

We woke the next morning to the thought of moving day! Yip we were on our way to our next two night stay at Gunlom falls in the south of the park. Not a big travel day so it wasn't too hectic to get moving.  Only a quick stop to chat to a fellow camper about their hybrid "robust camper". We dreaming about a post kid camper already!  

After leaving at our usual time of 9am we made our way to Maguk, a set of falls recommended to us by some campers. They certainly didn't disappoint.  After a brief walk we arrived to a lovely warm pool and clear deep water. The boys couldn't resist and were in there in a flash. We even tempted mum in as well. We must be getting persuasive in our ability to sell how good it is. 

I couldn't convince the others to do the top walk though, people have raved about it being spectacular. One for the to do list next time. 

We arrived at Gunlom falls, a place that has been etched on the to do list for down time. It has an horizon pool at the top of the falls that has to be seen to be believed. We did a coupe walks up the top, the first to explore and the second for a sunset photo and swim opportunity. 

It's only a stream at the moment but the water in the wet covers the really dark black bit in the first photo. 

View of the plunge pool from below

Plunge pool and beach from the top

Added benefit since February
is the arrival of a sandy beach. It was brought down in the last wet and makes an awesome place to sunbathe in the afternoon

The horizon pool was as imagined. Stunning view both in day and in the evening. 

Andi in the horizon pool at sunset

The rock is just as pretty as the view as well with striking colours. The boys wee proudly calling out which ones was sedimentary or metamorphic etc. Either way, they were amazing.

We attended a couple of talks while we there hosted by the campsite manager Mike. He does this job for 6 months in the dry before being an ambulance driver in Jabiru in the wet. Gunlom is completely cut off during the wet season with water up to the toilet block roof in a good one. He ran through what they do to prepare and recover from the wet to open just this area, a mammoth effort that involves Croc surveys, debris removal, signage, BBQ and bridge installations just to start. It's amazing what happens to make it as safe as possible for people to visit Kakadu. 

Another fun little fact was that there were two fresh water crocs in the plunge pool at the bottom of the falls. Didn't stop us swimming but we forgot to get the torches to check them out at night.

Some sad news was also received whilst we were in Kakadu. Roger Rose, our long time neighbour passed away after a battle with cancer. It was really sad news to hear, he was a dear friend to all the family and would love to spend time with the boys mucking about. He will be sorely missed. We are looking forward to catching up with Margaret when we back to see if there is anything we can help out with.