25 August 2007

Northern Territory Escape, Day 2.

Day 2:

I woke at 5.00 am and it was pitch black...a bit like Brisbane, really, at this time of the year. I made a cup of coffee and read until Mum and Harold made an appearance. I was absolutely amazed that it wasn't light until 7.00 am seeing as it was the end of August, I couldn’t believe it. But, as Darwin is pretty close to the Equator, the days aren't much different in length year round and when it does get light or dark, it's as if someone's switched a light on or off...no such thing as twilight.

Anyway, we repacked our bags and put them outside the door before 7.00 am for collection and loading onto the coach and went down for breakfast. Fresh tropical fruit, bacon and eggs and coffee, much, much better than the airport breakfast back in Brisbane. We were on the coach by 8.00 am and made our way to the overseas shipping terminal to collect four people off the Norwegian Star which had docked earlier. That done, we se off to Kakadu National Park. Our stay for the next two nights would be at the Gadjugu Hotel, which had been built in a crocodile shape. Very effective when seen from the air.

However, before we reached Kakadu we had some places to go and see. The first stop was approximately an hour’s drive from Darwin, on the only hill in a very flat surrealistic landscape (see below) , at an information centre called “Window on the Wetlands”. This was most interesting and showed the flora and fauna of the area and gave a description of the seasons...two, according to the Europeans, wet and dry. We were there towards the end of the dry season.

However, the Aboriginal people have six seasons to their year. On the coach, Val played a video called “The Big Wet” which told how the year was divided into the six seasons by the indigenes. Absolutely fascinating.

I didn't have one of those cameras that took wide scenes, but you can see what I mean by the surrealistic landscape - "Window on the Wetlands"

However, back to the information centre. Outside of the centre to the right of the path leading up to the steps, was a rather pretty bush called an arsenic bush and as toxic as its name suggested. Also, there was a huge spider city, the local orb weavers’ construction company had built the most enormous web which they seemed to share in harmony as there were an awful lot of them, plus lots of egg sacs. It was the biggest spider web I had ever seen. Industrious lot, these spiders.

The next stop was the Darwin Crocodile Farm which I had seen on TV documentaries. One of their residents was a rather nasty looking specimen erroneously named “Handsome”. However, Handsome was something of a celebrity with the locals as he was the crocodile who lunged at Linda Kowalski in the movie “Crocodile Dundee”. He just sat there in his enclosure seemingly asleep, but in reality just waiting for one of us to stick a curious finger through the wire mesh. Dream on, Handsome!

We stopped for lunch at a place called the Wildman River Wilderness Lodge which was a $10 per head buffet of cold meats, salads, fresh fruit, coffee or tea. Very tasty. Outside, there were heaps of little brightly coloured birds called rainbow bee-eaters. We were to see lots of these beautiful little green and orange birds in the coming days.
Back on to the coach and we backtracked about 15 km to the Mary River where we were taken on a cruise of a large billabong in a flat-bottomed boat. I felt this was one of the highlights of the trip.

If you look closely, in the centre of this photograph, on the bank, is an enormous crocodile.

Not sure of what to expect, I had my eyes peeled and swivelling in all directions – and saw my first crocodile in the wild. A big bugger, the tour operator estimated it to be about 4.5 metres in length (see photo above). It watched us with its reptilian eyes then slithered off the bank and came slowly towards us with just its snout and eyes showing. It came closer then suddenly sank, leaving no trace but a few ripples in the water. I was rather nervous as one could never tell where these reptiles will surface and the boat was rather low in the water to my way of thinking. The operator obviously had the same idea because we started moving again.

My next sight was of a Jabiru, Australia’s only stork, striding amongst the lotus leaves by the bank of the billabong. It was absolutely wonderful to see this majestic bird in the wild and I felt so privileged to be part of it all. We then headed towards a large growth of bamboo on the opposite side of the billabong which looked as if it had thousands of peculiar looking seed pods. However, as we drew closer we could see the “seed pods” moving and hear them squeaking. It was a large colony of flying foxes hanging upside down and trying to nap in readiness for their nightly forays into the surrounding outback.

The "seed pods" in the bamboo, in reality...bats.

Further on, there were huge numbers of whistling ducks on the banks – noisy critters they were, too. A nondescript brown in colour, they sounded almost like a flock of lorikeets. The birdlife was wonderfully plentiful. Overhead flew whistling kites; we saw magpie geese, sea eagles (ospreys), egrets (small, medium and large!) and a Jacana, also known as a Jesus Christ bird, skittering across the lotus leaves. There were rufous night herons, blue herons, ibis, darter birds and more HUGE crocodiles. It was an amazing two hours.

Have you ever seen so many waterlilies and lotus?

We boarded our coach again and headed into Kakadu National Park (entry $15 per head) and on to the small township of Jabiru. This little town was built to service the Ranger uranium mine, but the workforce was halved as the mine wound down. Instead, the Jabiluka mine took over the uranium output.

This caused great outrage and protests throughout Australia as Kakadu is a National Heritage listed park and people were worried but the off-run from the mine into the East Alligator River, and other conservation issues. However Kakadu also came under Native Title and the Aboriginal people could give permission for the mining to ahead, which they did.
Jabiru township is a tiny place but very picturesque. The only employment is at the hotel and at the few shops which serviced the area. Because the village is situated right in the national park, no domestic pets are allowed so the wildlife is very abundant.

Oor suite was quite nice, smaller than at the Atrium back in Darwin, but we were only sleeping there so it didn’t matter. We unpacked, had a refreshing shower and went down to the bar for a couple of drinks before dinner (this became routine every evening). Dinner was barramundi, prawns, crab and steamed vegetables. Chocolate mudcake for dessert, very rich but yummy. We went back to the bar after dinner to where an entertainer was singing and had coffee. I had a special with Fra Angelico. Slept well that night.

Mum freaked out the next morning when she clapped eyes on a notice in our suite that warned of uninvited guests – geckos, skinks and spiders!

(385 km)

PS: I've uploaded a couple of photos on a separate post so you can enlarge them...just to get an idea of things...


Lee said...

I followed your lead, Robyn...made myself a coffee and settled in for a good read...and I wasn't disappointed. Great pics, too. Thanks for taking me along with you. :)

Sometimes Saintly Nick said...

Thanks (again), Robyn, for allowing me to vicariously join your vacation. I find it marvelous and informative.

I really don’t think I’d mind sharing a room with a gecko; they seem to be cute creatures—at least the one in GEICO TV ads here in the States is.

Jeanette said...

Hi Robyn.Great pics and commentry, Im reliving my 1st holiday in Darwin,We booked a 2 day trip to Kakadu first stop was windows to wetlands just full of birdlife then then a few termite hills the on to Wilderness lodge. and then the Mary river there were a lot of bloody big Crocs then back to Wilderness were we stayed the night the next day was Kakadu . and Adelaide river, not as good as Mary river ( my Opinion)then back to town...
BTW. No Rain Today was 22c.so we need some of your rain.. Take care (((HUGS)))

Gypsy said...

They sure pack a lot into one day on these tours don't they? Your dinner got me salivating. I LOVE seafood and chocolate mudcake is one of my all time faves.

I think I would like to be in a boat that's at least a couple of metres from the water line if there are crocs in the area. That would've made me very nervous.

Peter said...

Hi Robyn, it's always a pleasure to read someones account of a trip or holiday they have really enjoyed, their excitement is tangabile.

T*mmy said...

~~~shivers~~~ on the croc!!

meeyauw said...

I've heard that about the sun near the equator. I can't imagine that. the birds, the animals.

The Bats!!! That photograph is the most amazing photo.