Sunday, 30 June 2013

Kakadu National Park

Yellow Water.
The road from Pine Creek to Jabiru showed a few squiggles on the map and Devil (F650GS Twin) and Dwarf (R1200GS) really enjoyed themselves. We bought our national park passes at the Mary River Roadhouse and then we were into the park. As we rode along I tried to identify the creek crossing where in 1985, when the road was still gravel, Steve and I had “walked through” first to test the depth of the water. The road is sealed now, and all the creek crossings have little bridges.

By lunch time, we were both feeling the heat and we decided to treat ourselves to lunch at Cooinda Lodge. This idea lasted until Steve saw the $28 price tag on a hamburger. After that, we parked the bikes at Yellow Water and had a cup of tea and an apple instead. It is wonderful to gaze upon the wetlands at Yellow Water and we were fortunate that the flood waters had receded and the boardwalk had just opened. Near the boat ramp, a 4.5m croc was showing off in the water. He seemed to be having fun parading his full length and strength to the punters on the cruise boats.

We picked Kakadu Lodge, in Jabiru, for our Kakadu experience and by mid afternoon we had checked in for four nights. By now we were so hot that we decided to swim first and put the tent up later. While we were cooling off in the pool, Steve counted the number of times we had put the tent up on this trip and he came up with 42.

Ubirr rock art.
The following morning we joined in our first ranger presentation at Nourlangie. Kakadu National Park employs six rangers during the dry season to provide interpretive presentations at various cultural and geological sites around the park. These presentations are free and provide an interesting way of learning about the park. Most national parks have information boards for you to read. Kakadu has these too, but to join in a ranger presentation takes the learning experience to a whole new level. The rangers bring along artefacts, like a crocodile skull and ancient Aboriginal tools and you have the opportunity to ask questions. I was really taken by the lessons on Aboriginal kinship and law. We enjoyed our day at Nourlangie so much, that during our stay in Kakadu we joined in presentations at Mamukala Wetlands, Ubirr, and a slide presentation on Estuarine Crocodiles. While we were enjoying the rock art in the main gallery at Ubirr, ranger Joel pointed out the intricate detail in the paintings. We couldn’t see this detail with our naked eyes, but through the binoculars the level of detail was amazing. Through the ranger presentations, our visit to Kakadu was transformed into an enlightening experience and has left us wanting to learn more about Aboriginal culture.
The bird observatory at Mamukala Wetlands is a bird watchers paradise. We spent hours watching the little Jacana’s walking on the water lilies. Timing is everything and if you happen to be at Cahills Crossing, the border to Arnhem Land, towards high tide, you can watch the crocodiles feeding on mullet and barramundi as the fish are swept upstream in the swirling water. From the safety of the lookout the crocodiles came so close to us that you could see the colour of their eyes. I am still amazed that they only have a brain the size of a walnut.

When we rode away from Jabiru, I peered into each little billabong and looked in wonder at the beautiful Pandanas trees. This is the first place we have visited that I didn’t want to leave. I feel a strong connection with Kakadu and I know one day I will return.

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