Friday, August 16, 2013

Ubirr, Bowali and Mamaluka

There is a lot to be seen in Kakadu, so we did a second tour. This time it was with Victor Cooper, an Aboriginal tour guide with his own company, Ayal Tours.. We had Victor to ourselves as the others had not turned up. That was fine by us. At this stage we didn't know whether we would duplicate anything we did the day before, but as it turned out, we didn't. This trip was quite different.

We went to Border Crossing, as yesterday, but from there we turned off to Ubirr, a rock art gallery. There was another tour group there, but most of the time we had it to ourselves. Victor and I climbed quite a steep hill and there were 360 degree views to be had. Photos don't really give much of an impression, but here is one of Victor looking out.

We climbed down again, and went to the rock art gallery which I had all to myself for a while. I took photos, listened to the birds, and felt awestruck as I imagined the people those thousands of years ago. These are immensely old paintings, and there is one, very high up, of a thylacine. These have been extinct on the mainland for a very long time. I asked Victor how the artist got up so high, and he said the belief was that the Mimi spirits could turn the rock so the artist could reach.

There were wonderfully detailed X-ray style paintings of fish, turtles, and much more.

We encountered a woman sitting at the base of the big c.imb, waiting for her younger companions to return. She was reading a brochure which she proudly announced was 27 years old, and she had kept it in a drawer all those years after her last visit. Victor looked at it, and pointed to a picture of a fuzzy haired youth. "That's me, twenty seven years ago!"

We returned to Border Crossing, and looked at the river's edge. Victor took our photo, and yes, there are crocodiles behind us.

We then drove to Bowali Visitor Centre where we bought lunch to take away, and looked at the exhibits. Then to the lunch site and on to Mamaluka, a bird haven. More bird pictures!

After our return I had a swim and finished reading my book. I brought only the Kindle, and read My Brilliant Career (again). Loved it. Next on the agenda is Mill on the Floss, as I am going through a George Eliot phase for the first time. We did Middlemarch in my book group and that has motivated me. Silas Marner is next.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Oenpelli and Gunbalanya

Tuesday16th August

Our day started at six am, and was spent in the capable hands of tour guide Gerry, with the Arnhemlander Cultural and Heritage tour. An all day tour in a big truck converted to a bus, high off the ground and 4WD so it can manage the terrain, wet or dry (depending on how wet).  We counted the number of times we got in and out of that bus and it was eight or nine in/outs, sixteen altogether. 

Gerry was informative, interesting, intelligent and very likeable.  He described himself as a tradie, a carpenter, who had lived and worked in Arnhemland for many years.  He didn't seem as ground down by the tourist trade as I would be!  We had several Italians on our tour of eleven people and I wonder how they managed with Gerry's English patter.  Better then I would have managed an Italian tour, I am sure.

The tour went out from Jabiru along the Arnhem Highway (sealed) to the Border Crossing cafĂ© and shop where Gerry picked up our packed lunches.  The scenery is magnificent with wetlands, grasslands, and the Kakadu escarpment.  Our first stop was a rocky outcrop looking out over the flood plain and the stone country,  where Gerry talked to us about the geology, flora and fauna (warning us graphically of the ever-present threat of crocodiles) and the aboriginal inhabitants.  He pointed out some rock art.  He showed us bones of meals past - fish, snake, goanna, turtle, magpie geese. Alas there are far fewer goanna than there used to be, since the incursion of the cane toad.  He told us about the early settlers and military posts, and about the buffalo hunters, then the buffalo eradication programme.  We saw no buffalo.  He talked about the weather. They measure rainfall in metres here.  Up to three metres in a season is not unusual. It would be such a different place in The Wet, and Gerry said it was fabulous. Gerry is a very positive guy. 

Gerry leads the way. 

Onwards we went to a site where there was substantial gallery of rock art. It was a bit of a steep climb but well worth it.  I took lots of photos and was pleasantly surprised at how well they turned out.  It reveals them in such detail, more than you can see with the naked eye.  

It was time then to go somewhere for lunch.  This is where we needed the 4WD as it was cross country to a glorious spot beside the water. Again stern warnings about crocodiles.  The signs are everywhere. 

After lunch we drove back across country and I sat up front with Gerry. It is like climbing a ladder to get up to the cabin but the big front window makes for a terrific view.  

We then went to the Injalak Arts and Crafts store at the aboriginal community of Gunbalanya.  There were artists in residence, and we mulled over what to buy,  but confined ourselves to a few small things.  The people looked in poor condition.  They smoke too much, their diet is poor.  It was a bit depressing in some ways.  

The view from the town is spectacular.  Vivid blue and green, and the stone country in the background, and the helicopter as a colourful if incongruent note in the foreground.   

On the way back we stopped at another rock art site and sacred burial ground.  Photos are permitted, but not below a certain line on the rock. We treat the place with respect.  

On the way home we stopped again the Border Crossing to drop off the dirty dishes.  I walked across the road and down a path to see a pocket of rainforest and a colony of flying foxes, plus a riverside scene.  

Yes, the ubiquitous crocodiles. 

Home again, and dinner in the hotel restaurant. Crocodile risotto. Yum. 

Kaka doodle do! And Kakadoodle done

What a busy few days we have had.  While maintaining the paper travel diary I have not been too good at the electronic version, so this is a bit of a summary.

We flew to Darwin on Sunday 11th August, seeking a rise in our core temperatures.  Sydney is gorgeous with a very mild winter, but Darwin is warmer.  The flight was uneventful and a good length, not too gruelling.  We had booked a night at the airport Rydges and that was achieved without fuss.  However the car pickup was not without fuss.  Our itinerary said we had a Europcar, but Europcar said we did not.  We had waited about forty minutes in a queue to be told this, and were not very happy about it.  "Try one of the other companies" suggested the desk clerk.  We were not happy about that either, as there were five or more, and most of them still had queues.  I tried Avis, the only one without a queue, and lo and behold our name was there.  They had a car for us!  Phew.  

The next morning we set off for the long drive to Jabiru, in Kakadu. We were booked in at the crocodile hotel, the Gagadju Holiday Inn.  They had our booking!  It is a very cavernous reception area.  They sent us around to the front right leg of the crocodile, and we hauled our bags up the leg, around to our room.  

Our first adventure was the Yellow Water boat cruise at 4.30 p.m.  We hadn't realised that this  was about an hour's drive from Jabiru so that didn't leave us much time.  Off we went, and made it in good time.  Distances are long, but not much traffic.  We saw hardly anyone on the road, but there were three boats full of people at this time.  Where did they all come from?

The cruise was wonderful, with our grizzled guide Murray telling us all about the wildlife.  Crocodiles galore.  We would have seen at least six or seven, if not more.  I was not at all tempted to swim, or even trail my hands in the water.  We saw all kinds of birds, and lovely scenery.  I was glad Michael had encouraged me to take the big camera with both lenses, including the 80-200 zoomer.  it helped to get some good bird pictures, but paled in comparison to some of the very large equipment carried by some of the others.  I suffered serious lens envy.  It was about two hours with an hour's drive each way, and we had no lunch so we were quite hungry when we got back to the Croc later that night.  We ate dinner in the restaurant.  Michael had the buffet, I had a steak.  Good food.  

Here are some of the pictures of the sunset cruise.

Tuesday, August 06, 2013

Dust, mop, polish

Whew it is dusty in here! Time to bring out the power cleaning tools and clean up before we head off to Darwin on our annual winter holiday, to be documented in these screens.

Although Sydney has been glorious lately it is still cardigan and woolly socks weather. Nothing wrong with that for this happy knitter. But Darwin promises warm weather and sunshine, so off we go for a couple of weeks.

We have lots planned, including Kakadu. On our last trip we went to Litchfield National Park and Katherine Gorge, so now is our chance to go to Kakadu. We had planned a trip to Bathurst Island but alas it was cancelled. I have my packing list, and on it is big camera and both its lenses. There will be lots of photos. Other gizmos include the Apple Airport wifi, an iPad and iPhone each, the Kindle, the card reader for uploading pics, my UP bracelet to track the tropical steps, and all the associated cables and plugs.

Knitting will be the Clark Cable mitts Julie gave me for my birthday. I have all the notions in a ziploc bag. I am also thinking about crocheting some summer cotton gloves. Yes yes, I know. Ridiculous. When would I ever wear them? But they are so pretty and I want to do them. I have the book and will take some crochet cotton and hooks. Nice small projects.

Will I take my rollup keyboard to learn the latest Scriabin Etude? Stay tuned for more.