A Hot Day in Kakadu National Park

Trip Start Feb 26, 2013
Trip End Apr 15, 2013

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What I did
Yellow Waters Cruise
Nawurlandja Lookout

Flag of Australia  , Northern Territory,
Sunday, March 17, 2013

Oh, no, I completely forgot it was St Patrick's Day and I could have worn green, too!  I didn't hear anyone talking about St Paddy's Day even though there are a lot of Australians with Irish ancestry.  Since I am now in Aboriginal lands, there may be much less Irish influence.

The plan for today, absent St Patrick's Day celebration, was rock art and a Yellow Waters cruise.  I managed to accomplish my goals but didn't get to the other Visitor Center - which I had thought I would be able to do.  Since I wasn't willing to risk getting the rental car stuck in the water, I opted for the rock art at Nourlangie Rock.  Up fairly early, I was out on the Kakadu Highway around 8 am.  The first turnoff was to Nawurlandja Lookout next to a billabong.  I got a little confused since there was a sign that the Billabong was closed due to the wet season and danger from crocs.  The walk to the lookout starts from the same parking area but says "service area - walkers only" so I didn't know if it was the path for the lookout.  I scrapped the walk and went on to Nourlangie Rock. 

The walk to Nourlangie combines several different features - there is an ancient rock shelter used by Aboriginal peoples.  The rocks themselves are pretty unusual - being a conglomerate rock with huge chunks of what looks like quartzite and probably other kinds of rocks as well.  Huge and small - some rocks have big chunks and other rocks have a pebbly consistency.  The shelter is composed mostly of overhanging rocks and some big boulders - it is a shelter without human-made structures I think.  To get to the rock formation, you walk on a path bordered by spear grass and paperbark eucalyptus trees - not very tall, especially compared to the giant Tasmanian trees.  On the rear wall are some of the best of the rock paintings.  A series of boardwalks and paths takes you around the features. 

Next was the outlook:   Gun-warddehwardde.  From there you could look back at Nourlangie and also the Kakadu escarpment.  Now I have to figure out what was what. 

I don't know if I have said anything about the flies here.  There have been other days where I have felt tortured by the flies.  Thank goodness that they don't bite, but they are supremely annoying - so annoying you could easily start screaming.  They buzz around you head, fly into your eyes and climb around on your face.  They attack you as soon as you step outside.  The mosquitoes aren't even so bad - of course, I did spray myself with plenty of repellent.  Too bad there is no repellent for these flies.  I find I am constantly waving my hands around my head, blowing the flies out of my mouth, and trying to get them off my face.  I hate them!!

It took me a fair while to do the 1.5 km circuit.  I was very hot and red-faced by the time I finished.  I head some birds when I walked out to the car and a man was standing watching them.  He pointed out a kingfisher  - I think - and said if he had his 10x zoom, he could take a photo of it.  I showed him my Lumix and he took a photo of the bird for me.  That was nice.  Then he went off to get onto his tour bus and I took a long drink and got into my Yaris rental. 

I went back to the turnoff for Nawurlandja Lookout and decided to try the service road.  A 4x4 was now parked in the parking area so that gave me more confidence.  I am trying to remember this path - 600 m to a lookout.  The final section of the path was up a rock.  The rock was eroded in an interesting way with little knobbies sticking out on the rock.   Some steps got you up on top of the rock and then there was a slope formed of bare rock and pebbly little rocks.  There was more conglomerate here as well.  I saw a sign with  <lookout> but wasn't quite sure what it meant since it seemed to run parallel beneath the final bit of rock.  As I was trying to decide what to do next, a young man came down from higher ground.  I asked him if he had come from the lookout, but he said he thought the lookout was here below the next level of rock.  I decided to get up on the rocks - he was going in search of shade.  I found my way up and checked out the views - nice - got to take some photos of some great yellow blossoms on one tree common to the area.  Not sure what it is though.  Then I discovered some sink holes.  Maybe they weren't actually sink holes, but they were round depressions eroded into the rocks. 

As I was coming down, I had to go farther around and began to worry I would not find the steps and path down the rocks, but I did manage and then I saw the young man sitting under an overhang - keeping cool.  By the time I got to the bottom, it was around 1 pm and, again, I was extremely hot.  I drank more water, had a granola bar, and gave some thought to what was next.  I had planned to do the visitor center in the hottest part of the day, but then there was one more walk in this section that I could do.  It was a 3.4 km walk to more rock art.  Maybe I should have quit while I was ahead. 

But no, I started on the path to Nanguluwar.  It seemed pretty flat through more bush.  Here there had been a fire - not sure whether intentional or not, but at times it felt as if maybe the smoke kept the flies down.  Not sure at all, maybe it did, but the flies were still horrid.  The walk was very hot as well.  I searched for shade to walk in.  The last stretch was uphill.  This path is not as well maintained as the others, so sometimes I was a bit uncertain about where the path was going.  In one or two places, there were wet areas on the sides of the path so I kept a sharp eye out for crocs.  I wasn't sure what I would do if I saw one.  I know I would try to avoid it, but not exactly sure how to accomplish that.  On the boat, the guide said if you jump into the river on one side, a croc is very sensitive to pressure and will pick up that something has entered the water and it will go in pursuit of it.  And crocs are extremely fast movers - the ultimate predator.  Luckily, no crocs encountered on this walk.  The rock art at this site was interesting - with some more modern bits, but not as spectacular as Nourlangie.  By the time I got to the car, it was 3 pm.

I drove in the direction of Cooinda where I could book my Yellow Waters cruise for the late afternoon.  On the way was the visitor center.  I think it was 50 km to drive from the turnoff where I saw the sign to Cooinda, so I wasn't sure if I would have any time for the visitor's center.  I got to Cooinda about 3:45 pm and eventually found a place where I could book.  I didn't know that Cooinda is home to a resort run by Aboriginal people.  I think.  I bought an ice cream bar - an expensive ice cream bar - ate it in the car to escape the flies - and drove over to the dock.

The Yellow Waters cruise was half empty since it is the wet season.  Luckily it didn't rain this afternoon - I was really expecting it to do so.  Sheldon was our tour guide and Michelle piloted the boat.  There were 2 sisters with their mother from Nebraska - one sister was on sabbatical and had spent 6 months in Perth.  Her family was joining her for a holiday before she returned.  We went through at least one Alligator River and some billabongs.  There were a lot of flooded wetlands that we saw, including a flooded parking lot.  There were water lilies and lotus leaves and flowers.  We saw two crocodiles.  Someone saw a pig-nosed turtle, some fish.  And of course, we saw a number of birds.  I was hopeless in my organization for this trip.  I had to go back to the car once to get my ticket that I left in my purse.  Once I got back to the boat, I wasn't going to go back for my zoom lens.  Too bad since I missed opportunities to get shots closer up to the birds.  Let me see - there was a sea eagle, some cormorants, a darter (anhinga), several sizes of egrets, a night heron, a tern, a kingfisher, a bee-eater that I never saw, a jacana with a red head and 3 baby chicks - there used to be four we were told by Sheldon.  I think there were some geese too.  It was a fun cruise - I liked the scenery.  Sheldon kept telling us that the light would be great and the water calm toward the end and we would get great shots, but there wasn't so much of interest by then.

Sheldon did give a bit of information on what the local people did.  They caught lots of fish for celebrations by poisoning the fish with the mangrove plant or by throwing in bunches of pandanus seeds - those big knobby things - and then spearing the fish.  They use the lotus leaves for lots of things:  bowls, cups, hmmm - he gave a whole list of things.  All in all, it was quite pleasant - a nice temperature on the water with a breeze... except the sun was still hot and the flies still attacked you.  But even with the heat and flies, it was great.

By the time the cruise finished, it was getting late and I was anxious to get back before dark.  I hear a bird banging around outside my tent-bungalow and making noise.  A bit scary.  In the parking area, I chatted to an Australian woman who was one month short of a 2 year trip - I think it was 2 years - in any case it was a very long holiday - just around Australia.  I think she said they spent 3 months in Tasmania.  She liked Cradle Mountain about the best.  She also likes Kakadu a lot - she felt that the Aboriginal people were happier here - in their own land.  I didn't talk too long and then I was on my way. 

It was 50 km back so it shouldn't have taken much over 30 minutes.  It was definitely dusk as I was driving.  I was so glad that I didn't see any wallabies or hit any wallabies.  I had seen two this morning in different places.  Finally I got back to Jabiru and it was already dark.  I didn't think it would get dark until 7:30 pm.  I managed to make the turns to get to the gas station and I knew which turn to take from there.  Then I began to fail.  I drove down the road by the gas station but couldn't find the turn-off.  I went back and inquired at the gas station -- the girl got a little snippy -- I tried to follow her directions but ended up in some weird truck place.  I worked my way back to the gas station and tried to follow her directions again and this time it worked.  Once I made it into the Caravan Park, I had to try to remember the road to my bungalow AND I did. 

The sickle moon was very bright in the sky and so was Orion.  I admired the stars as I tried to bring in all my stuff.  It was hard to walk in the dark to my door and open it with the key in the dark.  Then I had to go back and forth to the car a few more times - the last time to find my reading glasses.  I was so afraid that I had lost them.  I think I just heard a dog run by...or something.  It could be the overhead fan that sounds like a panting animal.  I was quite hungry so I fixed my cracker and cheese repast and tried to cool my beer in the freezer after it sat in the car trunk all day.  It's OK, but it has warmed up since I forget to keep drinking it.

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