Tuesday 26 October 2021

Darwin - Day 4 - Yellow Waters Sunrise cruise, Maguk Falls, Kakadu scenic flight & Signs

Joining Tom for the SIGNS meme.

At 6am a shuttle bus picked up our group at the entry to Cooinda Lodge, and ferried us down the road to Yellow Waters Billabong for the sunrise cruise.

Panoramic view of the river and one of the boats while we were waiting to depart

The moon was still shining just before we departed on the cruise

Kakadu was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage List in  1992,  in recognition of its cultural and natural value. It is home to an incredible 2,000 plant species, 280 types of birds (around one-third of all Australian bird species) and about one-fifth of all Australian mammals.

The landlocked Yellow Water Billabong flows into the South Alligator River, which is made up of swamps, floodplains and river channels. Yellow Water Cruises, is an Indigenous owned Company with exclusive use of the billabong and they run 6 cruises a day from sunrise to sunset, all year long.

Once passengers filled the 2 boats we departed. Soon we spotted the first salt-water crocodile in the water. During 2 hours, we drifted slowly along the still waters, while our very humorous half-Aboriginal tour guide pointed out crocs, various birds, wild animals and local flora.  I have never been into bird spotting, but I really enjoyed seeing so many different species in their habitat

Hope I got their names right!

Crocs in and out of the water

Buffalo, Plumed Whistling-duck, Egret, Cormorant


Nakeen Night Heron, Comb-crested Jacana?, Great blue heron?,  Brolga

Black necked stork (jabiru), White bellied Sea Eagle, Azure kingfisher, Magpie goose

Dozens of ducks everywhere on river or land

The sun rising and the golden hues and spectacular reflections on the water were just breathtaking!
The Yellow Water Billabong was certainly the highlight of my trip.

On or return to Cooinda Lodge we had our Continental breakfast.

This cute Jabiru was a regular in the breakfast area, jumping onto tables to pick on leftovers as soon as guests departed - they usually eat fish, molluscs and amphibians, so not sure what appealed to him in eggs, toast, pancakes?

At around 9am the group got on the tour bus on the way to Maguk or Barramundi Gorge Falls, 14km away.

The road includes 12km of unsealed corrugated road, more suitable for 4wd.  To reach the beautiful crystal clear pool fed by a waterfall and surrounded by steep gorge walls, you have to walk 1km through monsoon forest, a low river, small sandy beaches and jagged rocks marked with arrows to show you the way.  The older couple in our group decided to stay at the Lodge, as the walk and climbs of the day would be too strenuous for them, and one other lady with bad knees stayed at one of the small "beaches" just before we started our rock climb.

The pool surrounded by vegatation, the rocks and boulders on our 1km walk/climb to the pool and one of the small "beaches" along the way

But it was all worthwhile, as when you reached the pool, the scenery was breathtaking. We had our bathers under our shorts and t-shirts and were given about 1 hour to enjoy the cool waters. Swimming along the rocks on the right I managed to almost reach the hole in the rock just before the waterfall, but decided to get back to base and just enjoy sitting on a rock with my feet in the water.

Panorama view of Maguk

The falls and huge hole in the  rocks

Before departing to Nourlangie Rock, about 1h away, we used the toilets to change into dry clothes and had a snack.

About 36km from the town of Jabiru (where we stopped the day before), Nourlangie Rock (Burrungguy)  was a place known for providing shelter to the Aboriginal people during the wet season. The rock paintings document life in the region from 20,000 years ago to the first contact with European explorers.  There is a 1,5km circuit walk to see rock art.

Nourlangie Rock from the car park

Our next stop was at the Bowali Visitor Centre in the town of Jabiru. With a  library, small theatre and interpretative displays, this visitor centre wil tell you everything about Kakadu. Park passes can also be bought here if you haven't got one online or haven't bought one in one of the 10 other venues that sell them (our tour guide had arranged these before our trip).

After our tour, came our last adventure for the day! A sunset flight over Kakadu.At the Jabiru Aerodrome we joined a couple of people already there, we were weighed, given a short talk about our flight over Kakadu and distributed between 2 small Cessna planes. 

The Mercure Crocodile Hotel, Jabiru town, the Uranium mine and me and travelling companions 
Rocks and Rivers of Kakadu

As would be expected the sunset seen from the plane was beautiful...

Our tour guide Paul was waiting for us on the ground when we landed, and we were driven to Cooinda Lodge where we arrived about 40min later at around 7,30pm. 

After a shower I put laundry in the washing machine in the communal laundry (a free guest perk). Joined the others, ordered dinner and while waiting for dinner  popped back into the laundry to change the clothes from the washer to the drier and I went back a while later to collect the clothes after they dried. All ready to be packed up later on!

I ordered fish and chips for dinner, and the group sat around the table with the older couple who hadn't gone with us, relaying our adventures of the day.

We were leaving Cooinda Lodge the following day to go to Katherine, so before going to bed I called Jose from the free phone cabin, to tell him about our very exciting day! 

Map of our itinerary from Coinda Lodge and back:
We covered about 366km from 6am to 7,30pm.

Monday 25 October 2021

Monday Mural - Sturt Desert Rose

I love murals and street art. If you like murals or have a mural you'd like to post, this meme is for you.  Just follow the Linky steps below.  Once you start looking you will find murals everywhere.  The "Monday Mural" meme goes live on Monday at 12,01AM, Perth,Western Australian time. Be sure to link back to this blog and visit your fellow posters. Looking forward to your mural finds this week.  Thanks, Sami.

Painted by Miss Polly for the Darwin Street Art Festival of 2020, in Shadforth Lane, on the walls of the Rydges Darwin Central Hotel.

The mural represents the Sturt Desert Rose (Gossypium Sturtianum), the Northern Territory's floral emblem. It is an extremely resilient plant with a high tolerance to draught and other extreme conditions, which also applies to the people of the Northern Territory.

Wednesday 20 October 2021

Darwin - Day 3 - Fogg Dam and Kakadu National Park & Signs

Joining Tom for the Signs meme

21 Sept 2021 - Had breakfast, then checked out of the hotel, as we would only be returning 3 days later. The tour guide picked up the group of 7 at 7am.

Our first stop was at Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve, about 70km from Darwin. We drove along the dam wall and stopped at a couple of lookouts to sight local birds. A beautiful and quiet spot, lots of waterlilies and a we saw mainly a lot of ducks. At one of the lookouts we were told by people there they had spotted a crocodile but we didn't see it while we were there.

The Humpty Doo Rice trail - was an experiment in the 1950's by a joint Australian-American company - Territory Rice Ltd - to irrigate the plain of the Adelaide River to produce a commercial crop of rice to supply to Asia!

Fogg Dam was then built by the Royal Air Force Airfield constructions squad to provide water for the Humpty Doo rice project. By 1959, the project which was a disaster was abandoned and Fogg Dam became a bird protection reserve, and the land was given back to the Northern Territory government.

Murals with local birds at Fogg Dam- birds of Lilied shallows and birds of grassed shallows

Next we stopped for coffee at the quirky Corroboree Park Tavern, and we also bought something to have for lunch later on. The tavern on the Arnhem Highway is halfway between Darwin and Kakadu National Park. 

They also have accommodation, and they are know for keeping 2 crocodiles - Brutus the salty (salt water crocodile), famous for an encounter with a chain saw in 2016, and Fred the freshy (the not so dangerous fresh water crocodile), a couple of buffaloes (introduced from Asia) as well as a huge pig!

The signs for Fred and Brutus the crocodiles and a tour bus for the over 50's 😆 

Inside the bar area, a crocodile skin on the wall, white cockatoos, buffaloes and one fo the crocs

About 1,20h later we arrived at the Mamukala Wetlands, considered to be one of the best birdwatching areas in the Kakadu National Park. (Time to start planning your next trip David 😉).

The park has an area of 20,000 sq kms (7722 sq mi), and is home to one third of Australia’s bird species, many of them not found anywhere else in the world.

The observation platform has murals illustrating the seasonal changes through the year. The area has a large number of magpie geese (usually at the end of August), jacanas, cormorants, purple swamp hens, finches and kingfishers that congregate in this billabong.

We learned about the 6 Aboriginal seasons

Plumed whistling ducks, pied heron, cormorant, black necked stork (jabiru)

After a 20min drive we reached Jabiru - a small mining town within the Kakadu National Park, with about 1000 inhabitants, originally built for the staff of the Ranger Uranium Mine, which was operated by Energy Resources of Australia. Uranium was discovered here in 1969 and the mine opened in 1980. Mining operation have officially ceased in January 2021 and the area is undergoing a recovery to eventually be converted into an Indigenous run tourist town.

The town has a lot of services - eating places, pool, sports oval, golf course, tourist accommodation (the Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel is famous for its crocodile shape), and an aerodrome from where the scenic flights over Kakadu depart.

Jabiru sign, Mercure Crocodile Hotel, jabirus in the park

We stopped for lunch at the man-made lake by the park which had been planned to be used for water sports by the residents/mine workers, but apparently a few months after its opening a salt water crocodile moved in.... so no more water sports!

Park and lake in Jabiru, where we sat down for lunch

After lunch we visited the Aboriginal-run Marrawuddi Gallery, that sells artworks created by Aboriginal artists living in Kakadu and surrounding region. They had books, clothing, bags, souvenirs, wall art... lots of beautiful things, but quite expensive (for me anyway!). The only souvenir I bought were two fridge magnets.  There was a huge Aboriginal mural at the back of the gallery, which I'll post sometime. No photos were permitted inside.

 Next stop about 30min later is Ubirr - one of Kakadu’s most visited spots.            

Stories about law and behaviour are told via paintings, and some are from the time the Indigenous people first encountered Europeans in the 17th century.   

Aboriginal Rock Art

A 1 km circular track takes visitors past Aboriginal rock art sites, until you reach a steep 250mt climb to a rocky but stunning lookout with 360 degree views of Arnhem Land and the Nadab floodplain.    
Quite a strenuous climb for the unfit, and a couple of people in our group opted to stay below.
When we reached the top, we spent a short while sitting in silence, feeling at peace observing the natural wonders around us...
It would have been amazing to see the sunset from there, but we had to carry on. 
 I think the photos don't do it justice, it's just a phenomenal place!

At the top of Ubirr mountain

A few minutes drive away was Cahills Crossing - on the East alligator river, a notorious and the only car river crossing into Arnhem Land, where about 16 thousand people live, about 12 thousand of them Aboriginal. There is a viewing platform from where people can watch crocodiles, best seen at high tide. There have been 5 fatalities at this spot, and it's an extremely dangerous spot to drive across, because even though it's 50km from the river mouth, the high tide can reach over 6mt high. On one side is a barrier made with stone boulders to stop cars being washed away... On the other side of the river a lone young fisherman was throwing rocks at a crocodile and our guide was getting quite upset and shouted at him to stop it.

Signs at Cahills Crossing

The Alligator River crossing with boulders on one side and fishermen

The Alligator River, was named by Captain Phillip Parker King in the 1800's as he believed the crocodiles infesting the swampy river were alligators. There is an East/West and South Alligator river.

It was time to get going as we still  had an hour's drive ahead to our accommodation for the following two nights - Cooinda Lodge (meaning: happy place), where we arrived at 7pm. 

Just before reaching our accommodation we crossed a barrier of fire in the fields, which was a bit scary for all except the guide who seemed unruffled by it! The controlled fires are part of the park's management and a traditional practice by the Aboriginal, done in cooler weather to prevent wildfires during the hot summers, and to encourage biodiversity to recover.  Our guide told us these fires rarely get out of hand.

Upon arrival and check-in,  dropped our bags at the cabin, and I just had time to make a quick call to Jose from Jenny's phone (the only one who had Telstra coverage) to announce our arrival in Kakadu, and then we went to dinner as the kitchen closed at 8,30pm.

Cooinda Lodge

The bedroom of the cabins

The outdoor eating area by the restaurants, my dinner - fried calarmari, and a friendly dingo that lives at the lodge

I later discovered two Telstra phone booths near the restaurant (since August 2021 all calls to local and national fixed or mobile phones have become free), so after dinner I called Jose with an update of our day, and I did the same the following day.

It was an early night for us as we would have to be ready at the entry of the lodge at 6am for a sunrise cruise...

Map of our itinerary from Darwin to Kakadu National Park:

It was a long day, but exciting day, we covered about 412km , in a 12 hour period with the various stops.