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