Day 27 – 31 July 2012 – At Jabiru

The Weatherheads and the Thomas’ have gone their different ways for a few days. Bruce and Linda are really keen on doing bush walks etc. whereas Ian and I are keen on the wetlands – cruises etc. so we will do our own thing in Kakadu and meet somewhere in Darwin in a few days time.

We started off together this morning though and at the first Tourist Info. Centre (Goymarr Interpretative Centre) we paid $25 each for a 14 day permit to enter Kakadu, and to get brochures and advice of ‘what to do in Kakadu’. The lady behind the counter was  most helpful but most of the places in Kakadu are changing to only aboriginal names and when she used these names we felt a little lost for a while, but in the end found that the maps were fairly easy to follow. Once again we are amazed with the efficiency and organisation of touristy-type venues and centres. Of course, the economy needs the tourist dollar, and they certainly go out of their way to make things accessible. This Kakadu Road is in perfect condition like all the others we have been on so far.

Our first stop together was a small place called ‘The Rock Hole’ – a short walk into a little area with a waterhole and waterfall. Very pretty. This is the first time (and certainly will not be the last for a quite a few weeks now) when we saw a WARNING – CROCODILES! sign.

We then drove on while Bruce and Linda stopped for morning tea. They were hoping to stop at Mardugal – a small camping/caravan area just before Cooinda which was where Ian and I were heading next. As neither of their phones work outside of major towns and cities (Optus!) we are trusting we can use email to communicate with each other as they have a Telstra Broadband facility for their laptop.

We arrived at Cooinda around 12.45, just in time to buy tickets to go on a cruise along the Yellow Water Wetlands which was to start around 1.15pm. It meant we had to miss lunch, but we didn’t mind. There were only six of us on the bus to the venue and the same six on the small boat (a large bus group of Italian tourists came, but because they needed an interpreter our guide decided they should go on another boat). It was ideal as we had the run of the boat and could talk freely with the guide. We had a fabulous time. It was what I hoped it would be and MORE.

Jabiru on nest high in a tree

We saw crocodiles (of course) all forms of ducks and water birds, sea eagles, brolgas, Jabirus (two adults sitting on a nest high in a tree and a juvenile walking amongst the reeds), an azure kingfisher, water lillies in profusion, and just amazing scenery. The guide said only a couple of months ago the water level was at least 2 to 3 metres higher than what it was today. Hard to imagine. The sight of crocodiles sunning on banks, or swimming, are great but it makes you realise just how dangerous these waters are. The guide said only last week an injured bird landed on the water and in less than the blink of an eye there were 8 crocs heading its way – none of which had been visible prior to the bird falling. Scary!

There were some chaps fishing (no licence is required – only rule is no bait/only lures). Our guide said he was fishing yesterday and caught 126 barramundi (kept only 2). At the moment the barramundi are the main food source for the crocs.

Crocodile sunning himself

An hour and half later, just as our boat arrived at the dock, we were all informed that an aboriginal smoking ceremony was to take place in respect of the death of an esteemed female elder who had died a few days ago. It was interesting to watch as a smoking container was carried around all the 4 boats moored while 2 fellows played the message sticks and didgeridoo, with the chap with the sticks chanting all the time.

Part of the smoking ceremony

We were a little amused when they struggled to get the leaves and bark to smoke and had to borrow a cigarette lighter to get it started! All this land is owned by the aboriginal people and they do a great job staffing these venues. We were then driven back to Cooinda to pick up our car and caravan.

The tourist visitor info. centre at Cooinda was unbelievable. Out in the middle of nowhere was this top quality  huge restaurant/lodge/bistro/caravan and camping park with a very picturesque swimming pool. There would have been well over 100 people eating lunch in the dining area which was very flash. Is there no-one left working in Australia? Is everyone travelling like us? Certainly seems like it!

It was 3pm before we left there and drove straight to Jabiru. Again a real surprise. Top quality caravan park with over 200 powered sites as well as cabins and motel rooms. There is also a large area for unpowered camping. The cost tonight was $34.90. Kakadu is certainly a very popular area. The most common accent we hear amongst fellow travellers is german, and the most popular form of  transport for these overseas tourists seem to be the Britz or Apollo Campervan (or other brand names). Tonight at this Park there was an entertainer at the large recreation/pool/bar area. He was a singer, playing his guitar. He sang for over 3 hours and he was very good. He sang most of the songs we have on I-Pod!! There are people here of all ages from older retired couples to families with young children. All ages are catered for that’s for sure.

For many days now we have passed ‘control burns’ (apart from yesterday when a fire bug lit them), some have been from weeks ago and some are still burning quite actively, and we found out today that, just like in Victoria, it is a very controversial subject. Many of the locals (within the indigenous and academic community) differ on its value. The ones who have the opposing view say that that they are doing too much and too late. However, like in Victoria, there are those who say it is good. There were many fires still roaring today along the Kakadu Road.

We took the opportunity tonight to SKYPE Andrew, Lisa and Will in Geelong. It was lovely to be able to see them again. That is the one drawback of a long trip – missing family and friends.

Today’s temp was around 30C – for the first time, for who knows how long, Ian never had a jumper on all day!

Love to all, Janese and Ian

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