Kakadu National Park and Katherine

Trip Start Aug 15, 2006
Trip End May 27, 2008

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Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Last Saturday I killed the day in Darwin going for a run and walking to the museum and Botanical Gardens.  I'd decided that if nothing came up for Kakadu I would head to Katherine to try my luck with a trip to the Kimberleys.  That night Alan introduced me to some Canadians (Isaac, Jess and Myles) and the next morning they asked if I'd be a driver if they hired a 4WD vehicle for Kakadu.  As I wanted to leave town it seemed the perfect opportunity and they needed someone over 25 to hire a 4WD so I agreed.  However, it turned out we'd left it too late for a 4WD so ended up with a Nissan X-Trail which meant we couldn't get to the best part of the park but nevermind. We spent the day at the out of town mall shopping for camping stuff and that night I took them to the Mindil market where we ran into Alan again suprisingly.  Later we all ended up at the local nightclub, Discovery, courtesy of some free drinks vouchers Alan had been given.  We thought we'd see if we could use more than one and low and behold, it worked and I even managed to get a drink well after 11 o'clock when the vouchers supposedly expired!  After we were all quite drunk we headed back to Isaac's dorm for more drinks and banter - I stupidly drank beer again and felt a bit worse for wear the next day although that's probably dehydration and lack of sleep! 
Monday morning was a bit of a nightmare as we had to buy food and pack the car-after over an hour we realised we had no room for food and had to leave a lot of our belongings back at the hostel.  The car was jammed full with just 4 of us and we eventually made it to the campsite at Ubir rocks in Kakadu.  The Canadians are used to eating in style when they camp so we had burgers with the works that night.

Breakfast was also luxurious - scrambled egg, cheese and bacon sandwich with the works. We headed off to Ubir rocks to see some aborigional rockart and a great view from the top, apparently used in Crocodile Dundee.  We drove down a corrogated dirt road to Sandy Billabong (very bumpy in our X-Trail!) but couldn't find any crocs.  We did a nice walk up a steep hill to a lookout point and ended up at Yellow Water caravan park - more like a resort with it's fancy pool and waterfall which of course we dived straight into.  That night was more good food and we saw a dingo which was cool.

The next morning we drove to Yellow Water Billabong andspotted a baby croc floating next to the boat ramp and saw the local croc in charge of the joint, Pluto.  We then decided to try and drive to Jim Jim Falls - a tough dirt road for 4WD vehicles.  Needless to say we got stuck and decided to turn around and give it a miss unless we wanted to lose lots of money on the car.  We took a walk around Anabang billabong which was surrounded by lots of beautiful (and noisy) birds, red tailed cockatoos I think maybe and walked up to the lookout point there.  Considering it's the end of dry season it was still pretty green so it must be amazing to see it at the end of the wet. That night I walked from the campsite back down to Yellow Water Billabong and saw a few crocs, however if I'd been a couple of minutes earlier I would have seen a huge croc jump out and eat a big Barramundi - I saw an amazing photo on someone's camera and was so jealous!  I did see a croc trying to attack a bird but I think it escaped. I managed to get a lift back to the campsite courtesy of a friendly tour bus driver and watched an amazing slide show presented by a funny guy.  I saw some stunning photos of birds and reptiles and images of Kakadu in the wet season - the roads we've driven on are 2m underwater during that period which is hard to imagine!

Thursday we hatched a plan and decided to finish our week in Katherine as I'd heard you can canoe and camp overnight down the gorge there.  So we made a quick swimming stop at Maguk Falls which was very pretty and I saw a huge Garfish underwater then we drove to Gunlom Falls campsite and hiked up to the top for the sunset and a quick swim - I have some amazing photos from that evening but they will have to wait until I find broadband!  That evening we could hear dingoes howling in the distance which was amazing - all the campsites had been really quiet apart from Yellow Water so it was good to be out with nature, although the flies and mosquitoes were not too friendly! 

Friday morning I headed off on a short hike and saw some huge red kangaroos then headed to the top of Gunlom again for more exploring of the pools up there.  That afternoon we drove to Katherine Gorge but were told we couldn't take a canoe overnight so we were gutted!  The only thing we could do was canoe for the day then drive to Edith Falls for the following night to swim there.  The campsite at Katherine Gorge was pretty busy but still quiet and I saw some beautiful birds including a blue winged Kookaburra.  I also chatted to a local guy who told me about Edith Falls and mentioned that the pool at the top was worth checking out - it's always good to get tips that way.

Saturday we canoed down Katherine Gorge which was stunning.  We took lunch with us and had a swim and made it to the end of the 4th Gorge - as it's dry season the water level is low and rock bars form, meaning you have to carry the canoe over these sections.  At the end of the 3rd section it was a few hundred metres of rocks so we dumped the canoes and swam 500m to the end of the next section which was tiring as we then had to swim back and canoe back down the gorge!  Saw a few birds, bats and found some snakeskin but still no crocs.  That night we drove to Edith Falls and yesterday morning we took a hike up to the furthest point, Sweetwater pools, although the area we saw didn't look too great and the guys found leeches in the water so we decided to head to the top pools, as the local guy had recommended to me.  It was a lovely spot, but busy due to a tour group being there, which funnily enough included my friend Alan!  He's stopped there on his way to the Kimberleys.

Last night we drove to the Adelaide River pub and camped there as I'd one the week before - unfortunately they'd taken the crocodile away for rennovations!  It was pretty quiet except for a school group taking part in the solar car challenge (building a car and driving it 320km from Darwin to Adelaide) and I got chatting to them this morning.  They were from Perth and hadn't made the check-in time at the last check-point but were determined to finish the distance.

Arrived back in Darwin today and I've spent the whole afternoon trying to get out of town.  I'd been told I couldn't get to the Kimberleys myself and all the tours had either finished for the season or didn't leave for another week.  There's no way I'm spending a week in Darwin with nothing to do so I've been looking at my options.  I decided to take a Kimberleys tour as they have me $390 off the price and a free night a their hostel and have said I can work for my bed for the week, however I'm looking into voluntering out of Darwin in exchange for food and a bed as I can't get work for just one week anywhere and I don't want to be in Darwin.  I've a few phone calls to make in the morning so fingers crossed I can sort something!
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