Saturday, June 27, 2009

week 17 at Kakadu

more photos!!
We had a great time at Kakadu!!
We had wanted to go to a Jumping Croc cruise on the way out (the Hunter Safari one) but we got away from town so late that we did not have time. We arrived at Jabiru with just enough time to unpack and get a BBQ dinner on before the mozzies came out and the sun set.

We stayed at Lakeview which is owned by the local indigenous community instead of some multi-million dollar overseas consortium. I had been talking to a couple at Litchfield Café the week before and they had stayed there. They mentioned that the accommodation was in nice permanent safari style tents so I was not expecting anything anywhere near as flash as what they were. Tents, sure, but made out of a fine metal mesh with timber floors and high ceilings with a fan and fridge and sink. Really nice. I had wanted to take a nice photo but we trashed the place with our piles of pillows and blankets and bags and books and cooler bags within ten seconds.

Only downside of the rooms was that the metal mesh is totally not soundproof and the kids are noise machines and Darcy is in a horrible squealing phase so I imagine we gave the neighbours the shits. The kids had napped too long during the day and were crazy full of beans until far too late. So I did not get a chance to make any phone calls like I had wanted to and no time to get online. I just figured I’d call people the next night…

We were awake ridiculously early the next day. We had debated doing a 9am cruise but were not sure if we would be able to be ready in time. No problem. We were out of there super early and on the road. But we did not book the cruise and instead just turned up. Don’t do that! LOL! No room on the boat so we headed out to Ubirr instead. I had wanted to do sunset at Ubirr but because we were so late to the park we missed it. We already know we will need to come back to Kakadu so that is one thing that we will plan around next time. Sunset from the top of the rocks would be just magical!

The whole area at Ubirr was great. The rock art is just incredible to see. The community and history and culture that the aboriginals had is just staggering and so beautiful. If you were not already saddened by what was stolen from them in the past than seeing the artwork here I think would be a huge awakening. There is one section that we call the Menu Wall and it is a big area of rock that is painted with all the different food sources in the area. The animals are coloured according to fat deposits on their body, the cheeky mullet is painted with his neck broken or head removed as a way to remind the next generation that that particular fish needs to be killed as soon as he is caught (as opposed to leaving the fish until leaves to stay fresh for a couple of days) because the cheeky mullet is cheeky! And will wait until noone is around and then flip-flop back to the water. We were lucky enough to catch one of the free ranger talks and learnt a lot. We will certainly plan our next trip around the talk times at a few different places because it really adds a whole other dimension to the history and animal life in the area and the changes in the landscape with changing ocean levels and floods etc.

Jordy was rapt and listened to the ranger and wandered all over the rocks and at the end she spoke to Jordy about the crocodiles (one of Jordy’s favourite subjects) and so he chattered away. And then she bought out a big crocodile skull that was part of the information for her next talk at another section of art. Darcy was not so interested and just kept trying to run and throw himself off the ledge of rock perhaps hoping he could fly or maybe keen to see how big a thud he would make at the bottom….
After that we wandered past several other smaller art sites and climbed to the top of the rock escarpment. It was a bit of a climb and Jordy always insists on doing it himself (he enjoys the bushwalks that we do). Half way up he had a decent fall backwards into a crevice. A few tears and a hug and I asked him if he wanted me to carry him… he sniffed, took a breath, and say “No, I want to walk.“ and off he went back up the hill. Tough little nugget.
I would love to see this area just after the wet season. The whole area floods and becomes a massive billabong and wetland. I’d like to see it half and half when there is more water than what we saw but not quite fully flooded (too fussy?!?!) but it was beautiful. The green grass just stretching out for miles. It would be nice at sunrise too with the birdlife around.

Back down the road to the Border Store for some morning tea and to get tickets for the 11am cruise. The ranger that we had spoken to mentioned that some indigenous artists from Injalak would be at Merl Campground at 10:30 showing people how they make paint with ochre and doing some paintings. Merl was just near the boat ramp… so we decided to take our snack to Merl and see if we could catch a bit of the painting…. I am really glad we did because now we know what is there we can plan our next trip around that too! LOL! After the artists demonstrate how they paint and make brushes the tourists can have a go at making a brush and doing their own painting which Jordy would have loved (and to be honest I would have enjoyed it too!)

A quick throw everyone in the car and off to the boat ramp. We had chosen to do the Guluyambi Cruise, another company owned by the local community, which offered more than performing crocodiles. I am so glad we did because we wanted the boys to see a croc up close but were not keen on them being lured to perform for food. When the cruise first started our guide mentioned how the crocs were all mostly sleeping during the middle of the day and so I thought, bummer, we won’t get to see any… wrong!! Apparently come sunset you don’t want to be anywhere near the banks and I can see why if most of the crocs were off sleeping cos we certainly saw our fair share. The Guluyambi cruise went for just under 2hours and I lost count of the number of crocs we saw. We were also shown areas where it was (and is) safer for the local aboriginals to live by the river where the crocs can’t climb the rocks but where there was a good ledge and overhang for shelter and where yams and other bushfood grows. We saw more rock art and were told a few stories about Namarrgon, who brings the lightening.

We got out at a section in Arnhem Land (we did not need separate permit because the company is owned by the indigenous community and so the cruise price covers the permit) that is near a spring that their stories say was created by the women’s digging stick. There was a great view up the length of the East Alligator river from the rock ledge. We also saw how the tropical monsoon rainforest that used to cover the banks has all been destroyed by the two cyclones that went though the area over recent years.
It was a really good cruise that I would highly reccommend. I was surprised by how much the boys enjoyed it seeing as it went for so long but they both liked just floating down the river and both loved the crocs. Actually, Darcy has now learnt the sign for crocodile and goes looking for pictures of crocs to show me almost as much as he looks for kangaroos. :)

From there we drove the 70 odd kms down to the Nourlangie Rock. Actually, we call it Nourlangie but that was a mistake that earlier white people made and it should be called Anbangbang… By this stage both the boys were asleep and we were really low on water.
I stuck Darcy in the egro (sound asleep) and Jordy in the pram (also sound asleep) and we headed off to see how pram-friendly the path was. Not too bad really for the lower section but there was no chance of climbing up to the lookout (another stop for next time!). But we wandered around a few of the art sites which were different to those at Ubirr. There was one section that had a drawing of a family group and they painted the breast-feeding women with flecks on their breasts indicating the milk which i thought was rather cool. I called this photo Namarrgon but then i reaslised it's not... It's the other dude but i can't remember his name!
There is a lot more in the area to see including some impressive rock painting at Nawurlandja that we did not have time for (a much bigger walk to Nawurlandja that the kids were far too tired to attempt) but we would like to hear the ranger talks here too so another one to plan around next time.
Back in the car all dying for a cold drink and off to Cooinda Lodge. I had wanted two nights at Lakeview but we booked so late that we could only get one night, so I ended up having to book the second night at Cooinda. Which actually worked out well as there are a good variety of things to do both north and south of the park and different areas that are worth seeing for sunrise/sunset that would be too far to travel too from just one place so next time we will stay two nights north and two nights south. But Cooinda was a heck of a lot more expensive than Lakeview. And I even got a local’s discount at Cooinda so without that the price would have been crazy. The room was nice, and they had a bistro, and pool (and cold water in the fridge!) but still, the full price would have been a bit over the top.

There was a 90min ranger guided walk along Yellow River (right near the Cooinda Lodge) that we had intended to do but once we sat down we decided a beer sounded nicer than another walk so we went for a swim and then a relax at the bistro.

Too late for the walk and too early for sunset but we headed down to Yellow River anyway. It’s a beautiful piece of river and if you’re into fishing it would be a fantastic place to throw a line in. The grass is all floating on about half a metre of water and there are lots of birds… and apparently the sun sets right over the water and is something to see.
Instead we saw a crocodile hiding amongst the plants and inching closer, closer, closer to a tasty looking bird on the water’s edge. A small crowd gathered to watch and we all waited waited waited for him to get close enough to launch his attack but the bird was too smart and flew off before the croc was close enough. Here he is creeping creeping... and fly away bird!

That evening the rangers did a slide show outside in the bistro that we caught most of over dinner before the kids decided it was bed time. A big day for two little boys. There was no phone reception out at Cooinda so I missed my only chance at Jabiru to make any calls. We had internet access though so I got a chance to update the blog and catch up on emails.

We called into the Warradjan Cultural Centre on the way out the next morning- they have a great display on bush foods, and the moiety kin system and seasons and stories. That was really interesting and well worth a stop although perhaps best done when Darcy was not so full of energy and into everything and ready to destroy the place! Then a big four and a half hour drive back home via Pine Creek.

Having done our speedy glimpse at Kakadu we have a better idea about how to plan our next trip in. I think you could easily spend a week in the park. And the national parks camp areas look great too if you have a caravan. We found a great full day tour that we will do next time and a few other things. I am tempted to do a sunrise cruise along the Yellow River too but it’s rather pricey so I’ll have to wait and see.

oh, and if you need fuel coming in or out... we did not fill up at Cooinda Lodge cos it was a little pricey, but it was even more expensive at the roadhouse on the way south and not much different at Pine Creek- so there you go!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Week 17 around Litchfield Café

Had a couple of fun afternoons at the café. I’ve gone up around 3pm each afternoon (after the lunch rush) and the kids and I have hung around and chatted to people. We had a lovely couple from Melbourne staying in the tents for a couple of nights and they were great to talk to (I think Mum and Dad even had dinner with them one night!) and then a young family from Lismore (who cloth nappy and AP no less! Wow!) so Jordy and Darcy played with their son and I had a lovely natter and a few other really friendly groups through that were up for a chat.

There were a few evenings where were still up at the café talking until far too late and there was a big rush to feed the kids and shower before the sun set (it gets cold out there in our outdoor shower once the sun is gone!).

Just a km down the road from Litchfield Café there is a Winter Solstice celebration party weekend festival sort of thing on at the moment. Heaps of DJs from Darwin and Adelaide and around the place are there. It officially started on Saturday but on Friday night they must have had something going on cos we could hear the doof doof music from the café (and from our caravan!) We are so used to the peace and quiet of an evening that I have to say I kind of resented the noise even though it was no louder than you’d hear in town if the people down the street had a party (and much much quieter than the teenager next door at Port ever was!)
We were all given free tickets so Mum and I took the boys for a look on Saturday afternoon. A heap of people camping out there but not entirely what I expected. Seemed like a bunch of backpackers trying too hard to be hippies and just smoking and drinking and missing the whole point of the beauty of the area. But they seemed to be having a fun time so it was all good. We just had a bit of a look around and then sat and listened to the music and watched the boys dance and chase around the place for an hour and then came home. Apparently some of the kids from the local Woolaning community danced at sundown and that would have been nice to see but we did not head back for it. The music did not stop all night! But they had a groovy didgeridoo or synthesized didgeridoo track playing from sunrise for about an hour and that was nice to wake up to. It reminded me of the guy and his band that play the Mindil Markets with a great combo of hip hop sort of music and the didgeridoo and clapping sticks etc. It may even have been him??

Getting cooler here of a night! Down to 6’C outside and 13’C in the van. We have all the blankets out! But the days are just glorious. We've been for a few nice early morning walks just close by camp for no reason other than to wander and it's been lovely. The kids love LOVE the wallabies and kangaroos around the place. Darcy in particular!

Week 16

I’ve been doing a lot of bird watching this week. There are just so many birds out here and they are such a challenge to photograph that I have become a bit addicted. There are a few billabong and wetlands areas around but I have not bothered to go that far afield. And these are all taken right around Litchfield Café. Actually, they are mostly all taken within about 5metres of our caravan! The Honeyeater ones I walked a whole 30-40metres from the van and sat out in the yard out the back.

The boys even come and sit with me while I try to catch them mid-flight. But Darcy wants to touch them and so keeps walking up to where they perch and scares them away. Or he stands up and yells and signs bird, bird, BIRD! Which the birds don’t seem to enjoy and they bugger off and perch in the bush and just watch until we go away. But I won’t give up until I get a good in-focus wing shot of them! I took the boys for a drive to Florence Falls earlier in the week. Actually, we had been expecting a friend to call in to the Café for a couple of days because we knew should would be in Litchfield but when the week rolled on and we had not seen her we figured things must have gotten busy and she did not have time to call out…. So for the first time all week I took the kids out and about to go for a walk and as Murphy could have predicted about half an hour after we drove out Helen turned up. Tim showed her around the place hoping we’d get back in time but half an hour after she left I got back home with the kids. Bugger!

But Florence Falls was nice- an easy stroll down to the swimming hole and back up again. Lots of rock wallabies out. I carried Darcy in the sling so I did not take the camera but I’ll have to go back cos the wallabies (who are normally quite shy) must be more used to people and we saw them hiding amongst the rocks in a few spots. There was a tiny one (smaller than a possum) that was sitting along a small track off the main walkway and even Jordy was able to get about a metre away from him and he just sat and watched us and moved about through the little rock hole he had. Both the boys thought that was pretty amazing and Jordy moved really slowly and spoke in a whisper the whole time we were watching him.

We did not go for a swim (there are easier spots in the park to take little kids!) but the water was really nice and the falls looked beautiful. We have to get back to Wangi! But have not had a chance this week. Oh, we did go there last weekend. There was a tree planting thing on and you could go down and plant a tree in the park grounds and we thought that would be really cool. We know the people from Greening Australia that were organizing it and it was supposed to go from 1pm to 5pm so we thought we’d have time after work. We turned up a little after 4pm and they had run out of trees!! How rude. Jordy was a bit disappointed but the bloke gave him a soccer ball. LOL! And I think that made it all better.