Day 101. Elsey National Park to Daly Waters

Where we were staying at the Territory Manor Caravan Park, they hand feed the barramundi in their pond. The three boys had a go feeding them. A couple of Barra facts, rather than bite they actually suck their food in along with the water, also they start their life as males and when they get to about 60-80cm long they change into females. That means a barra lady always has a toy boy.

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We then went to Mataranka Springs, which had even more people in it than Bitter Springs, and although the soak was nice it is not that picturesque with concreted steps and walls to the pool.101 Mataranka Springs smallWe did find a spot that when you stepped on released bubbles of the spring water which felt like you were in a glass of soft drink which was fun. Such an effervescent feeling. Leaving the boys in the pool Tom and I went for a little walk around where we discovered Rainbow Spring, which is the source spring; this was very serene as no one is allowed to swim here. Continue reading

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Day 100. Nitmiluk National Park to Elsey National Park

100 Springvale smallJust west of Katherine we visited Springvale Homestead, the oldest original homestead in the Territory. Alfred Giles, a former Overland Telegraph linesman, built it in 1879. He drove 2,000 cattle and horses, and 12,000 head of sheep here from Adelaide taking 19 months.

 

Just off the Stuart Highway, heading south is the Cutta Cutta Caves Nature Park. Cutta Cutta is a Jawoyn name meaning man stars; they believed this was where the stars were kept during the day. The cave is a series of limestone caverns dating back 500 million years featuring sparkling columns, pillars and flowstones of calcite crystal. A local stockman found the main cave in about 1900 and named it Smith’s Cave, then during World War II servicemen visiting the area called it 16 Mile Cave. I much prefer the current name.

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Day 99. Nitmiluk National Park

99 Katherine gorge pano smallThe star attraction at Nitmiluk National Park is Katherine Gorge. The park changed its name in 1989 when the land was returned to the Jawoyn people. There are actually 13 gorges that make up Katherine Gorge. In the morning, we went on a 4-hour boat tour that took us up three of the gorges.

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Day 98. Kakadu to Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) National Park

98 Pine Creek windmill smallWe left Kakadu via the south road, the Kakadu highway. This took us via Pine Creek, the site of a gold rush in the late 1800s, an Overland Telegraph Station and the terminus of the North Australian Railway. There is a railway museum there now, and as far as we were concerned not much else, except a windmill.

 

The next stop on the way to Katherine Gorge was Leliyn or Edith Falls. This is at the northern end of Nitmiluk National Park, which also contains Katherine Gorge. After the late night last night there was no way we were going to convince Patrick that going for a walk was a good idea so we bypassed the 2½km circuit walk that would have taken us around the top of the falls. Instead, we swam out to the base of the falls, the water was pretty cool  so convincing him to swim back was an effort and I think everyone there could hear that he was not pleased. There was no other option but to swim he was told to suck it up and get going, which he loudly did.

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Day 97. Kakadu

SAM’S 8th BIRTHDAY.

We started Sam’s birthday bright and early with a dawn cruise on Yellow Water wetland. It is called Yellow Water because of the colour the water is where the fresh water mixes with the brackish water of the estuaries. Because of the mix of fresh and salt water, there is a diverse range of waterways and a wide range of wildlife especially birds. It was just so peaceful and gorgeous.

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Day 96. Kakadu

In the morning, we drove southwest along the Kakadu Highway to the turn off to Gunlom Falls. From there it was another 46km on a fairly rough 4WD track to the falls. Once there a short but very steep walk (or scramble) got us to the top of the falls. At the top, there are a series of rock pools, happily there are enough to share with everybody who had made the trek up, and the views were magical. Ben and I swam and rock pool hopped to the top most pool. There was a smallish waterfall that feed this and we couldn’t go any further up.

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Day 95. Kakadu

Today was our day for Kakadu rock art; we visited three of the five sites that are accessible to the public. There are reported to be over 5000 known sites through Kakadu, the oldest being more than 20,000 years old. The ones we visited are all on the Arnhem Land escarpment or what the local indigenous people know as the stone country. In the past, this is where they would have moved to during the wet, as a refuge from the thunderstorms and flooding.

Nourlangie Rock is home to the best known rock art. At the Anbangbang Gallery here, a ranger explained some of the creation stories that had been painted on the rocks. One story is about Namondjok who broke traditional kinship law by having a relationship with one of his clan sisters, and as punishment was turned into a crocodile. Another character is Namarrgon, the lightening man who is shown here surrounded by an arc of lightening. Both are in the bottom right picture.

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Day 94. Darwin to Kakadu

We left Darwin today for the third and final time but not before a visit to the doctors to get Ben and Sam on antibiotics for a few wounds that will not heal, no exciting ones just scratches and bites.

The destination was Cooinda in Kakadu National Park. We decided rather than driving on the sealed Arnhem and Kakadu Highways we would go cross-country on the unsealed Jim Jim Road, all we knew was it was 4WD only. Pleasantly it was a good road, what we didn’t realise until we were on it was that it ran through the Mount Bunday Training Facility and these signs kept us amused, and moving! Yes, that is a red flag being displayed. Happily, we neither saw nor heard any signs of firing.

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After setting up at the Cooinda campground, we went to look at the Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre. Warradjan is the aboriginal name for the pig-nosed turtle; these turtles actually do have piggy noses. It had excellent displays about the traditional owners of Kakadu, moiety (kinship system) and creation stories. We have discovered everywhere we have been the aborigines refer to it as creation stories, and do not really like the term dreamtime.

94 Aboriginal seasons smallThis shows the six seasons recognised by the aboriginals of Kakadu, it is based on climate cycles rather than dates so may vary slightly each year. The seasons are marked by weather changes, and the effect on plant growth and animal behaviour. An example we were told about this is the relationship between the kapok tree and the freshwater crocodile. When the buds are out the crocodiles are mating, when the kapok fruits the crocs are laying their eggs and when the kapok seed crack open the eggs are hatching. Even though the kapok and the crocs are not directly related, the timing of their cycle is dictated by the climate.

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Day 93. Darwin

Off this morning to see the Jumping Crocs on the Adelaide River. The wetlands around there are full of saltwater crocodiles and there are a few tours on the river that do jumping crocs thing. Essentially it is hanging a bit of meat off a pole and the crocs jump to grab it. It sounds a bit ordinary but it was amazing to see these crocs jump so high. They go from being perfectly still in the water to being almost entirely out of the water. They use their tails to propel themselves up; they do this when hunting to catch birds or animals sitting in overhanging branches.

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Fishing

Not only was I given a leave pass but Emma also organised flights to get Kane up here for a 3 day/3 night fishing trip. We went out on a 52 foot boat with 7 other passengers and 4 crew. Kane and I got on the boat and decided rather than going to sleep at 8pm while the boat motored through the night to our first fishing destination we would stay up and have a very important business meeting whilst at the same time consuming 60% of our supplies for the trip. Needless to say many great ideas were had. Up early the next morning for bacon and egg muffins and straight into the fishing.

The boat was constantly moving to different secret fishing spots, sometimes in search of specific fish and sometimes because it was time to move. The boys on the boat from the company Ara Fura were fantastic and the fishing was awesome. Some of what we caught over the three days were giant trevally, coral trout, cod, Spanish mackerel, red emperor, snapper, tuna, stripy and tricky emperors.

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