Crocodile Dundee Country - Darwin....10-13 April

Trip Start Sep 09, 2010
Trip End May 28, 2011

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Where I stayed
Baynan View hostal

Flag of Australia  , Northern Territory,
Sunday, April 10, 2011

Sunday 10th April

Early start as needed to be at the airport for around 7ish, so we were out the door for 6.30am. Flying with Qantas from the domestic airport to Darwin. I had checked in online the night before, but a first for me I also checked in my own luggage. It was the first time that I had seen or used this service. We printed off the baggage labels from a kiosk, put them on my backpack and then there were these machines where you loaded on your luggage pressed a few buttons and off it went on the conveyor belt - very nifty. We had a coffee with Chris and the twins and then I went through security. The flight was very good, actually more impressed with this Qantas flight than the international one I had. We had a breakfast meal and snack and plenty of water. There was also a film, even though it was only a 3 1/2 hour flight.

I got to Darwin around 1.30pm and my luggage came out promptly. I’d heard about this shuttle service into the city and for $18 return I was able to get a ride direct to my hostal the Banyan View Hostal. Like many of these places it always looks better on the net. But hey the room is clean, the toilet and showers facilities are ok and there is a lounge area with TV and free internet.

I’ve booked 2 day tours. I’m going to Kakadu tomorrow and then Litchfield Park Tuesday. That has set me back $320 - got $20 discount as booked the tours with the same company. I’m going with Pinnacle Tours and they will pick me up for the hostal at 6 and 7am respectively. Once I’d booked the  tours I headed off into Darwin town centre but there really is not much to see, it‘s pretty small. I think some attractions are a bus or taxi ride away but I didn’t have time to see them, as the girl at reception suggested I didn’t walk around at night by myself, so I didn’t stay out for long.

The Hostal is located on one of the main roads in Darwin, Mitchell Street. We are at the far end but as you walk into town so there are banks, bars, restaurants and touristy shops littered along the street. I walked up to Bicentennial Park and wandered around for an hour or so and then stopped at a restaurant to have a late lunch. I then found a Coles supermarket to stock up on fruit for tomorrow’s journey lunch before heading back to the hostal.

As soon as I got back I had a lovely and refreshing cold shower. The weather here is pretty hot around 30 degrees 24/7 and 90% humidity much like Bali and how I imagine Thailand will be. So I’m feeling very sticky. Early start tomorrow…

Monday 11th April

Well of course I had a rubbish night’s sleep as I kept waking up every few hours to check I hadn’t overslept. Got up at 5.15am and tried to make as little noise as I could, very difficult though as the room is tiny and no room to swing a cat. Anyway quickly got dressed in the dark and was picked up at 6. We travelled in a big luxury coach with air-conditioning and only 8 passengers! I’m travelling with Pinnacle Tours our driver is Justin - a well informed host who knows his stuff about Kakadu and the surrounding area. As it's the rainy season - the worst on record - the Arnhem Highway is closed for most vehicles and as a result we have to enter Kakadu by the southern entrance a 1,000 km round trip. I never realised it was so far away - pretty long way to go for a day trip!

It took nearly 5 hours to get to Kakadu, although we had many stops along the way so it didn’t feel that long. Our first stop was a cruise on the Yellow River. This was an hour and a half and we sailed through the over flowing marsh lands, spotting wildlife along the way including eagles, kingfishers and kites…but no crocodiles! The river was very high for this time of year and we actually spotted walkways, paths, campsites and car parks which were totally submerged under a metre or so of water. But the dry season is on its way - we know it’s on it’s way partly because it is April but also there are swarms of dragons flies everywhere and that is a nature’s sure tail sign that the dry weather is on coming. Conditions should be better for Dad, Bron and Betty when they come up this neck of the woods in May. This trip did involve a lot of driving. Ideally if you had time you would be better to do 2 or even 3 days at Kakadu and not have to rush everything.

We had a nice buffet lunch included on the tour and I got talking to a couple of guys, one was a doctor from Coventry the other I guessed was his partner from Denmark. They were nice and friendly, I also realised it wasn’t just me who thought Australia was really expensive. The English guy too said he thought the same, and he’s been out here several times before. After lunch we then visited some aboriginal rock paintings at Nourlangie Rock, some of which date back 20,000 years, it really does amaze me how they can date things like this, I mean to me it looks like it could have been painted yesterday. But some really interesting insight into the stories behind the artwork. One of the paintings was of stick men with their heads painted downwards towards the grown and it also depicted them with swollen joints. Apparently when an aboriginal dies they believe the spirit goes back to mother earth. This particular area was called the ‘Illness Country’ or ‘Death Country’ something like that because people got sick from swollen joints. And do you know why - well this is a common symptom of radiation poisoning, and in the surrounding rock formations in Kakadu you will find one of the largest deposits of uranium anywhere in the world. So back then thousands of years ago, the aboriginal people knew this to be a dangerous place.

We also see some very rare wannaroos…related to the kangeroo family but the male is black in colour and the female has a black tail and black paws. We only saw a couple of females but they are very rare there are only around 300 in the country. The day really consisted of admiring the landscape and views of Kakadu and not much else. Not sure what I expected - but I think I expected more if you know what I mean, however I don’t think you can really do justice to it in one day. The park covers something like 20,000 square miles apparently you can fit the whole of Tasmania in it. Eventually got home at 9.30pm. And the poor driver Justin had to drive every mile himself. Here in Australia, well perhaps it is the Northern Territory they have obviously never heard of the working time directive. So Justin drove for 16 hours and 1,000 km and he is doing the Litchfield Park tour with me tomorrow. Let’s hope he can keep awake!

Tuesday 12th April

A bit of a lie in this time as not up so till 6.15am as leaving at 7am. There was only 2 other people on the trip. Instead of the luxury coach we used yesterday Justin brought a more adventure type of 4-wheel drive vehicle. Looked good to me, but 4 Japanese tourists who had booked onto the trip refused to come because it wasn’t a coach and didn’t have a toilet on board! Anyway luckily the trip still went ahead but it was just me and Marnie from Sydney with her 5 year old son Sean. Actually it was really nice just having the 3 of us. We needed the 4-wheel drive vehicle as we were travelling down the Arnhem Highway this time, which was closed to coaches so that we could do the Jumping Crocodile cruise on the Adelaide River. I was quite excited about this. Marnie had been to Darwin several times and done a number of different tours, she did the Litchfield trip a couple of years ago before the kids and said it the best one. Marnie was interesting she was just a couple of years old than me with two young kids but had been a sex therapist in the past. She was telling me all about her hedonistic lifestyle in her 20s which involved having 6 boyfriends at the same time…a long way from the mother or two she is now…you never would have guess - she looked very conservative - it’s always the quiet ones!!

We get to Adelaide River and the Jumping Croc Cruise. The visitor centre was flooded in February and has only just re-opened. All their woodwork - decking - bar area- had to be replaced as the water had reached their bar tops. It was an hour long boat ride and along the way we hoped to see saltwater crocodiles up close. The guides dangled pieces of meat over the side of the boat to entice the crocs to jump up and have a grab for it, and so they did. God they are pretty scary creatures and huge, the ones we saw were 2 to 3 metres - with huge heads and menacing, scary eyes. I’m glad there was a piece of thick glass between us and them. I really would hate to get up too close to one of those in the wild. We saw about 5 in total but they are amazing looking creatures.

After a lunch of buffalo meat balls we then headed to a series of waterfalls via some Cathedral and Magnetic Termite mounds. Some the Cathedral mounds can grow up to 6 metres high - the magnetic mounds literally grow up directly on the north/south magnetic pole....We saw a series of 3 waterfalls. The double waterfall of Florence Falls, which is set amid a monsoon rainforest. Tolmer Falls cascades over two high escarpments into a distant plunge pool and is home to colonies of rare bats. The Wangi Falls flows into a large swimming hole surrounded by rainforest. The falls were flowing to the max and actually this is probably one of the best times of the year to view them I.e. end of the rainy season. At the end we had a dip in Buley Falls - the water was pretty overpowering at times - so strong it nearly pulled you under, but it was still lovely and relaxing and a great way to cool off after a day in the humidity. So all in all I would have to say that I enjoyed the Litchfield National Park tour the best and a bargain at $109 but actually the combination of the two complimented each other and really glad that I came to Darwin.

Another early night as my flight tomorrow is at 6.55am and I need to be at the airport at least an hour before. I get reception to ring up the airport shuttle service to pick up me and I’m told they will be there at 5.05am. So back to the hostal for a shower to freshen up, re-pack all my stuff and go to sleep.

Wednesday 13th April

Ooh another very early start 4.15am this time. I’m desperate for some quality sleep. All ready and downstairs waiting at reception before 5am. I saw the airport shuttle bus at the end of the street and expected it to turn up a few minutes later but by ten past it still wasn’t here. So I called the office…surprise surprise I wasn’t on their pick up list. I mean I was actually there when the woman at the hostal rang up and booked it. Good job I rang and wasn’t just being paranoid that it was late. Anyway they picked me up at the end of the run and we got to the airport just before 6. I’d checked in online last night so all very quick through departures. And here I am on the plane actually writing my blog. Should be arriving in Cairns in an hour or so.
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