Wonders of Australia – Day Eight

Wonders of Australia – Day Eight – Friday 16 October 2015

Weather: Sunny, 38 plus humidity.

I was up and stuffed the parts of my breakfast that I wanted into my bag and went downstairs to wait for the transfer. It was still dark out and I walked outside the main entrance, took a breath of the super-heated humid air, turned around and went back inside to wait.

The bus showed up and was empty. I had been talking to a couple and we took the front seats to keep the conversation going. Another couple put luggage under the bus. Apparently, they get dropped at a hotel in Kakadu at the end of the day.

By that time, I wished I was joining them.

The day tour is run by AAT Kings and is called the Kakadu Park Explorer. We did our grand hotel tour of Darwin and the bit I saw of the town as the sun rose is all I saw of Darwin in the daylight.

Though Darwin was originally named Palmerston after a British Prime Minister, the name was changed in 1911 to honour Charles Darwin. The first ship to visit the area in 1839 was, in fact, the Beagle and a settlement was founded in 1869. The discovery of gold in 1871 ensured that the new town thrived.

The town was subjected to numerous air raids during the Second World War. The first air raid in February 1942 killed 243 people and was conducted by the same fleet that had bombed Pearl Harbour. The planes actually dropped more ordinance on Darwin than it did Pearl Harbour.

Darwin officially became a city in 1959. It was devastated by Cyclone Tracy in 1974 which killed sixty-six people and destroyed a number of structures in the city. Today, Darwin is home to one hundred and twenty seven thousand people.

And they’re all asleep right now cause there’s no traffic on the roads at all.Once we have everyone aboard, we head out on the Stuart Highway. It is named after John McDouall Stuart, the Scottish explorer who was the first European to cross Australia from south to north. The highway is almost three thousand kilometres long and goes from Darwin, through Alice Springs and ends at Port Augusta in South Australia. The highway has sections that are designated as an emergency landing strip for the Royal Flying Doctor Service and it was the site of the only Cannonball Run held in Australia. The race resulted in the tragic death of four people when one of the cars went off the road, killing those in the car as well as bystanders. There used to be no speed limit on the road here but in 2007, the Northern Territory established 130 kph as maximum speed.

And there are some long trucks on it too.

DSC00847d

Want to come face to face with that at 130 kph?

Yeah. Not a spot to forget which side of the road you should be driving on..

The Kakadu National Park is located 171 km southeast of Darwin and is just under twenty thousand square kilometres in size – about the size of Slovenia. Kakadu is named for an Aboriginal language spoken in the northern area of the park but the name was actually the result of a mispronunciation of the word Gaagudju. The area was first occupied by the Aboriginal people some forty thousand years ago and it contains more than five thousand art sites that span thousands of years of Aboriginal culture.

Both its natural beauty and cultural history were noted when the park was named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1992. About half the park is owned by the Aboriginals and this land is leased to the Director of National Parks to be managed as a national park. The rest of the land is under claim by the Aboriginals and is managed by the Director of National Parks. The park is home to the Ranger Uranium Mind, one of the most productive uranium mines in the world.

We make our first stop at the Bark Hut for a bathroom break in the “outback.”

DSC00851hI found another brand of sarsaparilla by Schweppes. Not as nice as the others.

DSC00858nAnd the selection of snacks is interesting.

DSC00850gWhile we waited, we could visit the water buffalo next door.

DSC00855lAnd watch as the guys tried to figure out how the pigs got out of the enclosures (they had crawled under a loose section of fence to get at a bin of food on our side).

DSC00857mWe continued on our way, dropping off a woman who started walking down this trail in the middle of nowhere. The couple next to me were concerned that she was being dropped off in the middle of nowhere in this heat…but they couldn’t see the sign that said it was two kilometres away.

DSC00863sOur driver told us he was doing to the stops out of order from the brochure. He said it’s best to go to the farthest stop first and work our way back. We started with the Warradjan Cultural Centre.

DSC00868xPictures were not permitted inside. The Centre is an interesting look at Aboriginal history and culture as told by the Aborigines. It’s very well designed and has a great gift shop. We didn’t get near enough time but that’s not unexpected on this tour.

DSC00869yFrom here, we headed to the Yellow River for a ninety minute safari cruise.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis reminded me a lot of the Zambezi and Chobe River cruises except that there were no elephants, hippos or giraffes.

DSC00913bqThere were a lot of birds.

DSC00976dzAnd crocodiles.

DSC00917buThis warning was at the wharf.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAJust to reinforce this, our guide showed us a crocodile tooth that he removed from a boat.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYeah, keep your arms inside the boat!

Our guide was pointing out a crocodile and then told us to look to the left  where another crocodile was approaching the first one.

DSC00920bxI switched to video.

 

This cruise is a birdwatchers delight.

DSC00895ayIf you know what any of these birds are, let me know.

DSC00884anDSC00915bsDSC00875aeDSC00960afpAfter the cruise, we were getting hungry and there were a few cheers when we pulled in for lunch at a local restaurant set up to deal with the tour groups. It was a buffet with a decent selection of salad, chicken, rice and other mains and sides. The chocolate brownie kept running out for dessert.

DSC00989agjFrom here, we headed to Nourlangie, an escarpment that has been used as a shelter for more than twenty-thousand years and is the site of the Anbangbang Shelter drawings.

DSC01047gsArcheologists have uncovered artifacts in the area that were preserved as the shelter protected them from the wet northern climate.

DSC01024fvThe drawings apparently span the twenty thousand years of habitation and were repainted by Barramundi Charlie in 1964 in order to preserve them.

DSC01012fjWe walked part of a trail that goes around the base of the escarpment while our driver described the meaning behind the paintings.

DSC01034gfI think one was straight out of the X-Files.

DSC01029gaWhen we were done, he headed back to Jabiru and dropped some people off to their hotel and then stopped at a shop for a break where we picked up people to take back to Darwin. They were likely the group dropped off the day before. Since more got on than got off, the bus filled to capacity.

While at the stop, I noticed some people looking up at a tree. I went around the corner and this tree was just full of parrots! (I’m assuming they’re parrots)

DSC01056hbWell, I don’t know about you, but I don’t see that everyday.

It was another two hours back to Darwin and there’s nothing better after a long day than seeing that the first hotel drop off is your hotel. With an early pickup for the airport, I ordered room service and was out cold by nine.

To note, having been on river safaris in Africa, this one really didn’t offer enough for me to make it worth the four hour drive out and four hour drive back on the same day. To do Kakadu you really need to go for at least the two days. Given my time back, even though I did enjoy what I did see, I should have stayed in Darwin and seen the city.

 

Go to Day Nine

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