Another classic day at the top end. We are big fans of Kakadu. Saw it yesterday from the air and today we joined a cruise of the Alligator River to get up close and personal with the wetlands before heading off to Katherine. Not a bad pair of book ends to celebrate Mother's Day.
It was a 7.45 muster at the bus and agedMac had trouble with the time again and we only just made it by the skin of our teeth. But make it we did and our 17 fellow travellers were seated and ready to go for our first stop at Nourlangie Rock for a look at the second collection of Aboriginal art in the rock gallery. There are only three viewing sites open to the public in Kakadu and we have visited two of them.
The rock canvas this time was under the over hanging cliffs and again the Mimis had left their mark and taught the people how to paint. The x-Ray outlines covered the walls in the shape of hunters and fish and dancers celebrating birth and death and Ray shared the accompanying lessons of the stories. The Dangerous Man and the Lightning Man were graphically depicted and were threatening and ominous central characters in stories shared with the children of the clan to help them understand the dangers of the bush. Estimates indicate that the paintings have been here from between 5000 and 25000 years although the porous nature of the rock surfaces makes precise dating of individual artwork difficult. The figures and the subject matter give additional clues to the age including "contact" art that features Europeans, muskets and ships.
All this was accompanied by big flying mosquitoes who for once avoided Mac and instead chomped on my ankles and elbows. Have scratched the day away.
The morning activities included a visit the Warradjan Cultural Centre to view the informative displays depicting the traditions of the Aboriginal people in Kakadu. The shape of the building represents a Warradjan which is the Gungjeihmi name for the pig-nosed turtle. This Centre is on the land owned by the Murrumbur clan and the displays helped to deepen our understanding of the connection that the people have with their families and their land.
Was so tempted by a hat in the gift shop. But walked on by! If I see it again on our travels I might be tempted.
Next stop was a combination of Don and Tom. Tom was the open air vessel that ferried us along the Yellow Water Billabong and into the upper reaches of the Alligator River. Don was our indigenous guide.
Don was our personal wildlife spotter and gave early warnings for the crocodile spotting. But the main attraction was the abundant bird life. At every twist of the river there was a new species waiting. Some 280 different species have been identified in the wetlands of Kakadu and of course in our 90 minute cruise we only saw a handful. There were brolgas, magpie geese, lily pad hoppers, cormorants, sea eagles and whistling kite. There were endless families of geese and ducks and the shore was dotted with the statue-still egrets. This was served up on a background of flowering lilies and lotus blossoms, pandanas palms, paperbarks and grasslands all reflected in the glassy surface of the water.
Don shared stories about the life of the aboriginal people, their customs and traditions and their use of the land over time.
The national parks team is serious about the environment. The fine for a dropped cigarette butt is $1000 and for a broken branch is $1100. Crossing into Arnhem Land without the necessary permits is $20000 and 12 months jail! Everything is protected in this 20000 square km UNESCO World Heritage listed park.The Community and the National Park Rangers are working to eradicate the recent impact of the buffalo, the cane toad, cats, pigs and introduced plants to ensure this country continues to be a pristine sanctuary.
So beautiful and as I said, we are Kakadu fans.
Lunch was in an OUTDOOR venue at Cooinda! The buffet food was in an air conditioned room but the tables were outside under awnings under huge fans. Mac stuck to the soft drink but with the combination of heat and humidity I was into a cider! We did enjoy the fresh air and were very surprised when lunch somehow did not attract a single fly. And it was topped off perfectly with a platter of fresh fruit.
The afternoon was devoted to travel time. The landscape has changed so quickly and we are now passing through drier country. Still small shrubs but dotted with frequent rocky outcrops and there are fences and gates and cattle signs. The bus had to slow down to avoid wild horses on the road. There was a lot of controlled burning along the way especially around Pine Creek and the p**** Cat Race Track (yep, that was its name.)
There was a long haul in the afternoon to get to Edith Falls. This is the first place we have visited that offers swimming. But Mac did spot the sign that warned that the freshwater crocs feed in the evening and no swimming was allowed after 7 pm. Amazing that the wild animals have such a predictable and tight schedule for eating. Understandably, no swimming for us - just in case the crocs were planning on an appetiser.
Our overnight stay was in Katherine. Mac was reading the preview of the Ibis on the way in and it was rated as the 7th out of 8 hotels in Katherine and the last guest who had reviewed commented on the problem with frogs in the toilet and shower! I am happy to say that that was not our experience. Not flash, but comfortable and we were able to round out the night with a Mother's Day dinner at Galloping Jacks. I was primed to try the kangaroo, but there was none available so it was back to the barramundi grill and prawn fettuccine washed down with a nice big bowl of pavlova.
Too tired to think really, but am desperately hoping that agedMac has mastered the alarm. Early start tomorrow as we circle back to Darwin.
PS Mac is really getting into this blogging thing. He made a note today that he saw a "murder of crows." But that's all I got. Think it is impressive improvement though. There is potential.