The Dingo Ate My Baby!
Again, it had to be done. Sorry.
So on my first trip to Australia, I did Cairns, Brisbane, and Sydney. My second trip to Australia (after I got out of the Navy), I did Sydney, Adelaide, Ayers Rock, Perth, Melbourne, Hobart (Tasmania), and then back to Sydney. So the only state I hadn't been to in Australia was the Northern Territory (and no I haven't been to Canberra, but like DC it's not a state!). And the Top End is famous for Kakadu National Park, Litchfield National Park, and Katherine Gorges. There are tons of tours that go to these places, but not a lot of them in the rainy season. Yep, bad timing on my part. So that's why I ended up on a tour bus this AM at 0615. Yes, a tour bus full of mainly retired people. I've never felt so young or thin!
Now as I've previously mentioned, I suffer from Tour Bus Narcolepsy, so not 20 minutes into the drive and I'm falling asleep. I'm sure the cold medicine isn't helping. But I do manage to catch a some of the interesting facts as I nod off. Darwin's population is around 150k, but the whole population of the Northern Territory is only 220K. So it's pretty sparse once you leave Darwin. As we leave Darwin, we're head into the bush. The upside of coming in the rainy season is that it's all green and lush as we head towards Kakadu NP. Kakadu is enormous. It's covers 20,000 square kilometers. It starts at the mangrove fringed coastal area and blends into expansive flood plains and lowland hills flanked by sweeping sandstone escarpments. As we head into the park, there's a sign that shows which roads are already closed due to the rain. It's so flat here that when the rain comes, it really changes the whole look of the countryside. And the countryside if gorgeous. And as we were driving down the road we did see a dingo! And some wallabies!
But we're in a tour bus. So the scenery isn't all that. And so when they mention there is an option for a scenic flight, I jump at it. Yes it costs extra (what budget?) but I did the helicopter ride with John in Kauai and it was awesome. This was sort of like that. It was on a small 8 seat prop plane. And since I was by myself, I got to sit in the co-pilot's seat. That's a score for good photos. We took off and headed across the NP. And again, it's huge, flat and so green. And so pretty from above. We pass over the flood plains and then head towards the gigantic sandstone escarpments that run for over 300 km. According to our guide, these escarpments were part of the coast of Gondwana before the supercontinent broke up and the ocean levels receded. On top of the escarpments are these plateaus with amazing crevices where grass, shrubs, and even small trees grow. It was really quite beautiful. As we flew along, we went by a couple of famous waterfalls including Twin Falls and Jim Jim Falls. My pics are only okay as they are taken through the window of the plane. But still pretty spectacular. After about 40 minutes we landed on a dirt runway (I'm not kidding) in the middle of no where. But somehow we made it back to our bus and then it was time for the boat cruise.
You know me and boats! It was a cruise on the Yellow River Billabong. Now, Billabong isn't just a clothing line. It's a pond (or lake really) that's left over when a river dries up and is usually a fresh water pond. And with the rainy season, it's a pretty big lake with all sorts of canals and channels. We boarded the flat bottom boat and headed out looking for birds and crocodiles. The water level has risen approximately 2 meters already during the season, so at one point we're sailing down a channel that used to be a nature hike. The scenery is amazing and we see all sorts of birds, including a white belly sea gull and a paperback fly shatter? Sure, like I know what those are. We did see a crocodile very briefly. Apparently she laid some eggs in a nest nearby but it got swept away in the rains last week, so she's hanging around the area where the nest used to be just grieving. Which I thought was kind of sad. The boat cruise was good, but the flies were killing me and it was hot!
After lunch, we headed to Nourlangie which is famous for its rock art galleries. Apparently the aboriginal name for this area is Arbangbang. Even though the tribe who used to live here is gone (dead I think), the tribe that's the caretaker for this part of the park asks everyone to use the native name. Sure, I'm I can barely pronounce the English name of the place. It's 39 degrees at this point. 103! And did I mention humid? Ugh. So lots of water and lots of sun screen. Thankfully it's not a long walk to the first gallery. Aboriginal rock art was done in four colors from ochre. Red, yellow, white, and black. Red's the most common these days because the haematite ochre actually is absorbed into the sandstone so when it rains or the rock is eroded, the black, yellow, and white colors fade more quickly. So kind of interesting. Unlike rock art in central Australia where the aboriginals used blood as part of the paint mix, they can't carbon date these paintings, so they are broken down to time segments. Contact art: which is art done when the aboriginals interacted with the white man. Fresh water art: which is when the mangroves helped reduced the coastal flooding. And Sea water art: really early before the mangroves were on the coast.
After the rock galleries, it was back on the bus. I got dropped off at Jabiru since I'm doing Kakadu part 2 tomorrow. But the rest of the bus was heading back to Darwin. Yikes that's a long day. So Jabiru is a company town. It was specifically built to support the miners working the uranium mines in the park. So it's only 1500 people. But of course they have built a hotel for the tourists. And it's shaped like a crocodile. And no I'm not kidding. It's a little bit fun and a little bit tragic. No sunset cocktail tonight as more thunderstorms are rolling overhead. Oh well.