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Kakadu

The Kakadu National Park – Day 3

by on Jul.18, 2011, under Kakadu

July 18, 2011

We packed up camp at Sandy Billabong and said goodbye to the Melbourne team.

On our way south through the Kakadu we stopped at the famous Yellow Water Billabong at Cooinda. We successfully sneaked into the campground showers, well needed after two days. 😉

Walking down to the Old Home Jetty we found the Mardugal Billabong:

Panorama of Mardugal Billabong

Panorama of Mardugal Billabong

We declined to go on a boat cruise on the billabong, too expensive if you consider it’s winter and not too much wildlife around. Instead we did the boardwalk which offers a few nice views as well:

At noon we arrived at Maguk, also known as Barramundi Gorge. At the end of the walk we found the gorge and waterfall to look exactly as in our travel guide:

A nice bath later we were almost on our way out of the Kakadu ..

On the way to Gunlom Falls and out of Kakadu NP

On the way to Gunlom Falls and out of Kakadu NP

.. and stopped for a last time at the Gunlom Falls. Tired and exhausted from the previous days, we dragged ourselves up the walk to the Upper Rock Pools right above the Gunlom Falls.

Panorama view on the walk to Upper Rock Pools at Gunlom Falls

Panorama view on the walk to Upper Rock Pools at Gunlom Falls

At the Upper Rock Pools we explored the area a bit:

Returning from the pools we made a last few shots of the Gunlom Falls:

A final panorama of Gunlom Falls:

Panorama of Gunlom Falls

Panorama of Gunlom Falls

That was our Kakadu trip already. We headed out of the park straight to Pine Creek and then to Katherine to refuel and resupply. Another 100 kilometers later we camped for the night at the Sterling Mill rest area 12 kilometers before Mataranka on the Stuart Highway.

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The Kakadu National Park – Day 2

by on Jul.17, 2011, under Kakadu

July 17, 2011

Luckily the night was not too cold, and our tent protected us from the hundreds of mosquitoes that may have evolved in the billabong („waterhole“) nearby.

Campsite at Malabanjbanjdju

Campsite at Malabanjbanjdju

It was still quite early in the morning, good for some hiking! We quickly headed to Nourlangie Rock and proceeded to the circular walk leading around the area and to the Gun-warddehwardde Lookout before busloads of other tourists arrived. Already amazed about the rock art from Ubirr the day before, we expected not much, but Nourlangie offered a number of varying Aboriginal rock art as if the indigenous locals had engaged primarily in painting, not hunting or collecting food!

Nourlangie Rock has been a hideout and ancient shelter from the hot sun or monsoon-like rains for the local Aboriginals for at least 10.000 years, probably the reason why so many paintings can be found here. Have a look at a few examples as well as impressions from the area itself:

Especially the last painting features a number of important mythical beings: Namarrgon the Lightning Man, his wife Barrginj, Namarndjalong and his sister and Gulubirr the saratoga fish. The dreamings related to these beings would take up too much space to be recited here.

Along the circular walk we found this as well:

Cane toads how they're supposed to be - dead.

Cane toads how they're supposed to be - dead.

Cane toads are a real pest. Brought into the ecosystem of Queensland in the 1930’s they refused to do what they where intended for: eat bugs in the sugar cane fields. Instead they slowly and steadily spread all over Queensland, the Northern Territory and reportedly with the last and hard wet season even into Western Australia. Their imminent danger lies in their poisonous skin: being eaten by local wildlife they not only kill those who ate them with certainty, but indirectly even those animals who feed off the remains of the poisoned, now dead animals. The worst thing is that they have no natural enemies in Australia and it is hard to stop their spreading. You might ask why Australians hadn’t learned from their previous mistakes (rabbits, foxes, camels, …) when introducing this obviously sinister species into Queensland. We couldn’t find a reasonable and logical answer to that. 🙁

After Nourlangie Rock we continued to two billabongs, of which the Kakadu has so many to offer: the Angbangbang Billabong and the Sandy Billabong. Let’s begin with the former:

Enjoy this panorama:

Anbangbang Billabong

Anbangbang Billabong

And here’s another one:

Anbangbang Billabong

Anbangbang Billabong

Afterwards we walked the steep ascent up to the Nawurlandja Lookout:

Panorama view from Nawurlandja Lookout

Panorama view from Nawurlandja Lookout

Quite idyllic, eh? The Sandy Billabong is not too shabby either:

And yes, we do have a panorama here as well:

Panorama of Sandy Billabong

Panorama of Sandy Billabong

Next thing was a quick stop at the Mirraj Lookout. And what a coincidence – there we met our CouchSurfing host from Melbourne, with whom we had stayed for a couple of weeks, went camping etc in October 2010. We had planned to meet on our way, but could not establish communication in time. And right now and here at this very spot in this giant park we met each other – great! 🙂 We quickly decided to spend the day together and camp later at Sandy Billabong.

Our next destination were the Jim Jim Falls. After 50km of corrugated dirt road we made the last 10 km’s of 4WD track which were more of a challenge, but ok. After the walk into the Jim Jim Falls gorge we arrived at the falls and jumped into the water.

The water was pretty cold, but that didn’t stop me from making my way straight to the end of the gorge and right underneath the falls. The water was pounding heavily on my head and skin, leaving a tingling and almost hurting sensation. I could not keep my eyes open as the water from above, in spume and spray, was too powerful and fast.

An awesome bath! 🙂 Last picture from this spot – a panorama from Jim Jim Falls Gorge:

Panorama of Jim Jim Falls Gorge

Panorama of Jim Jim Falls Gorge

The last point on our itinerary for today was a visit to Twin Falls. The 9 km 4WD track was a bit rough, but fairly harmless in comparison to the major obstacle on the way: a river crossing of almost 70 cm. Our LandCruiser has a snorkel, so we decided to take that vessel through the crossing. We prepared carefully, joining two snatch straps together and attaching them to the recovery point on the back before entering the water. If one of us had to get out in the middle of the crossing it might have become quite dangerous: crocodiles roam around in the river… 🙁

River crossing on the way to Twin Falls

River crossing on the way to Twin Falls

See how it went:

We made it without a problem. Our deepest river crossing ever! 🙂 Not much time left until sunset, and we literally ran onto the walk to the escarpment of the Twin Falls Gorge after finally arriving there. The last boat into the gorge had already left an hour ago, therefore we could not get into the gorge directly in front of the falls.

On our way back we did the river crossing again – without a problem. We needed more than two hours to get back to our camp at Sandy Billabong, where we concluded the day with a few cold beers and some nice lentils.

 

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The Kakadu National Park – Day 1

by on Jul.16, 2011, under Kakadu

July 16, 2011

Having left Darwin on the same day we arrived at the entry of the Kakadu National Park in the early afternoon:

The Kakadu NP covers roughly 20.000 square kilometers, distances here are vast. Driving through from top west to bottom south will last about a day on a 500 kilometer journey. It’s listed as a World Heritage site both for cultural and natural values. At the time of our visit it was right in the middle of winter; that equals to hot days and cold to mild nights as Kakadu is still located in the Tropics.

Being famous for its wildlife and especially birdlife we stopped at Mamukala first as there is a bird hide. In high season up to 120.000 magpie geese are roaming around the area. However, as these are migratory birds and it was winter not a single magpie goose could be seen. There were a few ducks, cranes etc. but surely nothing compared to the teeming birdlife at other times.

Here’s an overview of the area, it’s a huge wetland:

Panorama of Mamukala - where are the 100.000 magpie geese?

Panorama of Mamukala - where are the 100.000 magpie geese?

On our way out we stumbled upon something we had seen before, but now had the chance to observe from very close: a tribe of Green Ants.

Following that we drove to the Bowali Visitor Center, walked around a bit, admired the Aboriginal paintings and the wildlife exhibition, but didn’t stay longer than necessary:

Aboriginal painting in the Bowali Visitor Center

Aboriginal painting in the Bowali Visitor Center

Our next destination was Ubirr at the top of the Kakadu NP, a culturally important site with lots of rock arts and an impressive view over the wetlands. On the way we encountered this furry fellow:

A beautiful dingo, probably considering where to get diner today. When we arrived at Ubirr, we found the place massively crowded. Probably 150-200 other visitors wanted to see not only the rock art as well, but were also here to enjoy the famous sunset view.

Let’s begin with a few examples of the stunning rock art. We had seen interesting examples of Aboriginal rock art before, but where not overwhelmed by it. Here, though, the number and quality of it was nothing but stunning:

Typically a lot of the local food („bush tucker“) which has been part of the Aboriginal diet for tens of thousands of years is depicted in the rock paintings as well as dreaming stories and mythical creatures. But really incredible was a painting of a Thylacine, better known as the Tasmanian Tiger. Here in the Top End of Australia, in the Northern Territory. The last known living animal died in the 1930’s, since then the species has been declared extinct. Meaning: this rock painting originates from a time when these animals where present not only on Tasmania, but here on the Australian mainland, in the far north!

After strolling along a few sites with rich and numerous rock paintings we settled for the sunset on the hills at Ubirr and enjoyed a beautiful landscape made of wetlands and mountain ranges:

We shot two nice panoramas to give you a better impression, here’s the first one:

Panorama of Ubirr wetlands no. 1

Panorama of Ubirr wetlands no. 1

This is where the sunset can be observed. The second one shows the hinterland:

Panorama at Ubirr hinterland no. 2

Panorama at Ubirr hinterland no. 2

The day concluded with the mentioned sunset. We weren’t disappointed:

Sunset at Ubirr

Sunset at Ubirr

After a short stop in Jabiru, one of the few little communities in the park, we camped at the Malabanjbanjdju campground. Who invents these tongue twisting names? 🙂

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