We drove a few kms back down the road to the Bowali Visitor Centre to get see what time we needed to get tickets to go on a boat cruise on the East Alligator River. We had just over an hour to go 40kms to a place called Border Store where we could buy the tickets They were $61 each. It was then just a short drive to the upstream boat ramp where we waited for the cruise to begin. We had time to do a small 400m walk through the bush to Cahill’s Crossing. This is a low-level ford across the river which separates Kakadu from Arnhem Land. There was quite a steady stream of water flowing over the bridge and there were a few people standing on the bridge fishing – a bit brave when there are signs everywhere to tell people to keep away from the water’s edge. Even if the bridge was not covered with water, it was not able to be crossed as it is illegal to enter Arnhem land without a permit. While we were waiting for our cruise to start Ian was talking to a woman waiting also and would you believe it – she came from Drysdale (near Geelong) where one of Ian’s workmates from his banking days 40 years ago also lives. When he mentioned her name, this woman knew her! Uncanny.
We then boarded a little craft and it was not long before we saw our first of many crocodiles. Some were on the bank, some were swimming. They varied in sizes too. It was great to be able to see them. Our boat first went a little way upstream backk to Cahill’s Crossing and there was a crocodile quite close to the edge – actually not far from the same fishermen we had been watching a few minutes before, but this did not seem to worry them and they did not move away from the edge. Brave people.
This is the barramundi season and just as we neared this ford a man caught a huge barramundi. He needed help to land it. It took some time for it to be landed and when he finally did land it, and held it aloft, everyone on board the boat and on the bank clapped. It took about 5 minutes or so. We wondered if a crocodile might have been cheeky enough to steal it in the time it took to land it. We have no idea just how heavy the fish was, but it was magnificent. We did not have time to wait to see if he threw it back. By regulation people are only allowed 5 barramundi in their possession at any one time and we had previously seen him catch a smaller one so he was getting close to his catch limit anyway. He was on the bank and Ian reckons all the ones on the bridge probably moved over to where he was after he was so successful.
We then turned downstream and during the ‘cruise’ the young aboriginal lads who led our group stopped occasionally to explain the different uses of various trees, plant, roots etc. in their culture. They were rather quiet spoken and you really had to listen, but they did a good job. At one stage we stopped on a beach area (obviously well away from crocodile attack otherwise they would not let us do it, although there were crocodiles not far away ) and they told us that were were actually on Arnhem Land. Very special. We were allowed a short walk to a billabong and to climb a large rocky area and look back along the river where we had come from.
About 15 minutes later the aboriginal lads and one older man gave a demonstration of the distance they were able to reach with a spear – with and without a woomera. All the spears landed close to the bank on the other side. They were made of a reed not unlike bamboo and started flowing in the water. Once we were all on board again these spears were collected, one by one, as our boat passed them.It actually sounds as though I knew which direction we were heading in when I mention ‘upstream’ and ‘downstream’, but because the river was tidal we could not really tell.The East Alligator is a tidal river and was part salt/part fresh. This river flows for another 50kms or so and flows out to sea into Van Diemen’s Gulf. It was a very good, informative cruise and well worth the cost.
Ian and I then sat at the boat ramp (while the next tour group went out) and had our lunch before driving just a few kms. down the road to a place called Ubirr (pronounced OO-BEERR) Rocks where there are 5,000 year old rock paintings. They were amazingly clear. By this time it was getting rather warm, although we were walking in amongst trees so at least there was shade. Ian climbed to the top to take photos of the view of the floodplains. This is an unusual land – the scenery changes every turn in the road. Truly lovely country.
We then drove back to the Border Store and bought an icy-pole and just sat and relaxed. On our way back to our Caravan we drove into the town of Jabiru itself just to have a look. It is a small town, but very well set out and very tidy looking. We returned to our Van and for the first time for a long time both had a short afternoon sleep. I think the warm weather is having an effect on us. Just as I was typing tonight’s blog, we could hear a curlew quite close. Their call is not unlike the sound of someone screaming and fortunately we did not get a fright, because we have heard them many times before. I feel sorry for overseas tourists hearing them for the first time. It then walked right past our door. Too dark to get a photo, but lovely to see it just the same. They are quite a big bird and often wander around through the night. Love to all, Janese and Ian