Darwin via the Dirt (Part 6 Darwin and Environs)

Wednesday, Jan 26, 2011 at 04:41

Member - Michael John T (VIC)

Having completed the trip out of East Arnhem Land and back onto the Stuart Hwy we were anxious to reach Edith Falls, but first a necessary stop in Katherine to restock on supplies of all sorts. Edith Falls is very popular these days and difficult to get a camping spot in the well organised NP camp ground especially if you arrive their late in the afternoon (as we did). There is a telephone set up just off the hwy for you to check on spaces before you drive the few kms into the park. We bush camped that night and drove in next morning.
It is a lovely spot with a popular swimming hole, and several good walks, some a little taxing up the escarpment to lovely water pools. We stayed for two nights and walked extensively including out to Sweet Water Pool, about 8 kms. The sunsets from the escarpment were enhanced by the presence of smoke, something you get used to in the NT.

Darwin at last. Here we had arranged for our daughter and her two young boys to fly in and travel with us for the next two weeks. The highlights of Darwin included :-
Fanny Bay foreshore and sunsets whilst enjoying a wine and nibbles. The rock ledges at low tide, myself and the boys enthralled with the magnificent shapes and colours as well as the ellusive crabs.
The air force was in town exercising with screaming F11s, F16s and a couple of the new F18s (?) taking off and landing in formations of threes. Right above our heads, the boys loved it for the first day or so, then it became part of the .. well of Darwin.
Barra and Chips on Stokes Wharf.
Those magnificent gardens and parkland that dominate the edge of the city.
A must see museum, especially the section on Tracey.
The best water park in Australia, I reckon, with exciting (for grandma and granddad at least) water slides, and all totally free. Just right for those really hot days.
And you can't miss Mindel Beach Market Thursday evening and Sundays.
On our return to Darwin we attended the Darwin Cup, a very good day. There were the races themselves and there were the people, all shapes and sizes and interesting dress ups.

From there out to Kakadu and something to experience again. Brenda and I enjoy this place and I don't think I will ever tire of it. First however a look at Frog Dam and the impressive bird life and then down to Shady Camp on the Mary River hoping to show all, the many large crocs. Last time we were there we counted 22 of them on the banks within about 100 meters, this time there were only 6 visible ... oh well. Still, as with last time, there were people with kids fishing off the causeway, one of these days we will hear about an attack. Point Stuart camp ground looked a better spot to camp, it has a pool and boy was it hot and sticky, but we didn't count on the mossies, they were there in their 1000s and very hungry. In fact no matter where you went in northern section of Kakadu the big buggers were there to meet you.
The highlights of Kakadu of course included Ubir Rock with it's impressive Art work and fantastic views over the wetlands at dusk, highlighted by a black necked stork (Jabiru) nesting on top of one of the tall rock stacks. The impressive escarpments as you drive to and from Border Store and Cahill's Crossing just highlight how ancient this land is and just why it is World Heritage listed. The Yellow Waters cruise is another experience you can't miss especially if you take it on dusk or early morning. The bird and animal life is just there and in your face. At one stage we had old Mr Croc lying in the water on one side of the boat and two Jabirus within three meters of us on the other, and we just sat there and contemplated for a short while ... it was magic .

Nourlangi Rock, several lookouts and billabongs, Jim Jim and Twin Falls gave us all plenty to do and take in. As I said earlier in Kakadu you experience the place. We took a half hour flight at sunset from Jabiru over the Ranger Mine, the South Alligator River, the impressive escarpments and back over the extensive wet lands. What you see from the ground level is less than 1% of the total area of Kakadu. On our third day there we stopped at Jabiru township and enjoyed a whole day at the magnificent pool with bar facilities (from 4 pm on) a very relaxing day it was.

Moving south in the park we stopped off at Warradjan Cultural Centre where we spent a good hour taking in the displays and audio presentations, the kids enjoyed this and were able to absorb (at age 4 and 5 yrs) much of the information on the people and fauna. Stopping off on our move south at Bak Baklak lookout for lunch with it's steep climb, and then the 37 kms of dirt road into Gumlom (Waterfall Creek). This was another highlight of Kakadu, not because the mossies had disappeared, it was just one of those lovely places. An excellent NP camp ground with cold showers and a kiosk. Our first job as we drove into the car park area was to jump start the car of four very grateful young European tourists. Having set up camp the large plunge pool at the base of a rapidly diminishing water fall made for a very refreshing end to the day. Sitting under a near full moon with a now cool breeze allowed us time to contemplate the area. Gumlom is close to the old Coronation Hill uranium mine, in fact the camp ground was the site of the mining camp. Uranium mining ceased here in 1964 with the world glut of uranium and of course not reopened with the introduction of the "two uranium mines" policy in the mid 1980s. There were in fact 13 mines in the area, uranium and gold.

The next morning an early walk up the very steep escarpment with spectacular views out over the "sickness country" of the South Alligator River plains.. The small creek at the top provided several small pools gorgeous with the early morning reflections and interesting rock formations. My daughter Gayle is a geologist and was able to give me a lesson in the sandstone layers, this was just before we decided that a swim was essential before descending for a morning cuppa. This will be our last full day in Kakadu before heading out to Pine Creek and then on to Litchfield NP.
We had heard a number of reports about Litchfield from various travelers. It was very crowded
and camping spots scarce, and yes being school holidays it was crowded. There was supposed to be a croc or two still in the plunge pool at Wangi Falls and it was closed for swimming. By the time we got there it had been re opened, however some time after this we heard on the radio that it had been closed again, yep another croc had been reported.
On reaching Litchfield we stopped off at the Magnetic Termite Mounds site. We had seen them last time we were here but it was interesting to find out the reasoning for their North South alignment, all to do with temperature control for the termites. The more common mounds that you come across are the flood plain mounds, very much smaller in size, there are those that are built in and around tree trunks which cause so much destruction of tree vegetation in the north and finally the often very large and impressive cathedral termite mounds. Lesson over, we moved onto the Buley Water Holes where we set up camp for the next couple of days. This is a great spot to cool off in with the quite swiftly running fresh water creek, dotted with several larger pools but many shallow rock pools and rocky areas in which to enjoy the invigorating water (suitable for all ages). A 4 1/2 km walk or a short drive down to the 'specky' Florence Falls where you can descend a steep set of steps to swim in the plunge pool is another must, but best to go early before the tourist buses arrive. A few kms to the 4wd trek (easy) into the Lost City is an easy way to fill in another couple of hours, before returning to the swimming holes of Buley for yet another dip.

Our next destination was the popular Wangi Falls where it is often difficult to obtain a camping spot. It's large plunge pool has a sandy bank in it's center, in places knee deep, but you need to swim or wade chest high to get to it. A pretty spot with a couple of walks to do and good facilities, apart from the Kiosk which was burnt down a couple of years ago. On our way out of the park and heading back to Darwin via the Finnis River road we called in on Bamboo Creek Tin Mine ruins with it's interesting self guided walk through the remaining ruins of what must have been one of those very harsh endeavours.

The road returned via Berry Springs where Brenda, Gayle and the boys visited the Wild Life park while the rest of us continued into Darwin to find accommodation. We missed a real treat with close up encounters with all types of birds of prey. Never mind we got to experience the jets landing almost on top of us.
Another two days in Darwin before the family flew home and we headed out to other places. Before we left though we spent a great day at the Darwin Cup. I'm not a betting man and just as well as I didn't pick even one place getter.

We retired to travell
It's time to go again...
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