Category Archives: Kakadu
We are now at Roma. Have made it down from Winton over the last few days, calling in at Isisford to see a fossilized ancestor of the modern crocodile. We have had a night along the way at Blackall and then Morven. This is country over which we have travelled before. The towns don’t change much but the land does. Last time it was pretty green. This time, pretty brown and dusty.
Between Cloncurry and Winton we stopped in at 2 great Australian icons. Walkabout Creek Hotel at McKinlay and the billabong thought to be the basis of Banjo Patterson’s ‘Waltzing Matilda, near Kyuna. The billabong was at the end of a long dusty road and a 1 k walk, accompanied by hoards of flies. We abandoned our plans for a quiet picnic under the shade of a coolibah tree.
Walkabout Creek Hotel being famous, as we all know, for where Mick Dundee (aka Paul Hogan) had his regular drink.
We leave here now for the final leg home to Brisbane. We will have traveled just over 10,000 k on this trip without a ‘bleep’ from the car or van and not a drop of rain in just under 8 weeks
PS I spoke too soon, it is now raining. Most of the night. Homealone is not impressed, but it is great for the farmers and graziers out here. The van is a little wet and messy to pack up. We will get there though!
One of the features of life on the road is the food one eats. The humble sausage is a favourite. It is so easy to cook and can be supplemented with a range of sauces and accompaniments. But the really interesting bit is the different types of sausages available and how most town’s butcher has won the ‘best sausage’ award at some time.
The range of premises from which they were acquired also varied from the modern flash sort of premises to the somewhat more rustic. The shop in Croydon was closed in November 1983 so we were unable to taste its fare.
We have had our fair share of sausages on this trip. All have been excellent. There are two standouts. The first was from the small butcher in Georgetown. A really nice thick meaty traditional beef sausage with some subtle flavouring, went really well with tomato sauce. The other was at Normanton where we picked up some neat small Italian flavoured snags. The others along the way have been good, particularly the little number from Winton (illustrated). Homealone put together a great onion gravy to go with this one.
We did not try the sausage from the tree at Greenvale, it looked a bit tough and leathery.
The other thing I must mention is the music and bush poets! It is just wonderful here in the outback sitting back listening to old crooners pumping out the hits from days gone by. A number of the caravan parks have dugouts into which they drop these guys and girls who entertain us as the night goes by.
Of the few we saw the guys at Daly waters put on a good show. The Daly waters trio was an impromptu. The harmonica player and the guy playing the spoons were ring ins from the audience. they were pretty good!
It is just the sort of thing an old muso friend from Orange, Bruce Longhurst, should get into now that he has retired. Pull out the old keyboard Bruce and get into the action on the circuit! He could while away the hours and make a dollar or two, although it is busking. These musos park their vans in a secluded part of the park for 3 or 4 months and then churn out the hits night after night for 3 or 4 months during the touring season. Homealone is really into this stuff, she almost fell off her perch when one of them belted out John Denver’s ‘Its good to be back home again’, even if we are not. Nearly, though!
We have had the last 4 days exploring the Mt Isa and Cloncurry townships and surrounding areas. The people in The Isa would take offence at calling it a town because it is actually a city. The Isa appears to have pinched a few of Cloncurry’s (or ‘The Curry’ as they call it) original attractions……….Flying Doctor and the School of the Air.
Cloncurry has a few of its own….The John Flynn Centre and the Flying Doctor as well. Not to mention a pretty good Information Centre. The centre piece of which is a section dedicated to Burke & Wills. On display is what is thought to be Burke’s water bottle , apparently there are a couple of competing water bottles in other places. But who wants to spoil a good story! The Centre also had an enormous collection of aboriginal artifacts; stone tools and weapons. There were also about 8 old boomerangs collected in the 1870-1880 period.
Back in The Isa we spent some time at the Information Centre which has a whole host of things under one roof. In fact you could just go there for a couple of days and say you ‘have seen it all’. Of particular interest was the Riversleigh Fossil Centre which gave a really good presentation on the site we had seen a few weeks back when we were staying at Adels Grove, a couple of hundred k to the north.
Nearby is the old Mary Kathleen Uranium Mine. The township is about 3 k off the Hwy, now deserted and buildings removed. The street layout remains with concrete pads scattered around on which buildings once stood. Althego was keen to see the actual old open cut which is full of funny coloured water. Now this was supposed to be a further 7k down a worn out bitumen road full of rather deep potholes and invading vegetation on its edges. After 7 k the bitumen ran out and we were left with a recently graded (graded is a generous term) gravel road which kept going and going. Eventually we caught up with the grader stopped in the middle of the road. Homealone was quite edgy, though quiet, at this stage. So Allthego thought it wise to ask the driver where the mine was. He replied with a question as to ‘which mine’. After explaining the old Mary Kathleen mine (apparently there are a few ‘old mines’ in these parts) he said it was back where the bitumen ran out and you had to go off on a side track. He didn’t think we would make it with the van. After informing Homealone (from a distance) that we would need to turn back, we did so but passed up the opportunity of taking the side track. Instead observing part of the mine site from the road. The mine will need to wait another day.
We leave Cloncurry tomorrow, heading for Winton. It is starting to get cooler in the evenings. Soon I suspect we will give up the lightweight clothing at night and get into our woollies. Not a drop of rain in 7 weeks and only light winds.
Looking up in the clear evening sky the moon is waxing to full, the little rabbit standing tall among the cheese!
We are now at Mt Isa having travelled down the Stuart Hwy from Katherine and then at 3 Ways turned east on the Barkly Hwy. I thought I would reflect on Barramundi. These fish populate all the waterways in the north and are just waiting to have a go at your hook and then jump into the boat or onto the riverbank and be taken home to be cooked by all sorts of methods. And they are just the best! Or so the travel promos tell you, not to mention the towns one passes through. Allthego had taken a trusty rod with him on the trip to catch this fish. But as reported previously a few under size salmon and a sting ray at Karumba on the Gulf has been the result, nothing has changed since. THE BARRAMUNDI IS ELUSIVE! This is what the people on the ground tell me when I ask. It’s like they are not meant to be caught. Then I suppose you do have to get the rod out!
However, it seems this has not always been the case. Our aboriginal people had great success in catching this fish. Rock art documents the many such fish caught. As an aside I recall a story about some aboriginal sisters (I think) who disobeyed the law and went fishing for Barramundi when they were spawning, caught some and were promptly turned into Gingas (crocodiles) as punishment. The crocodile is not well looked upon. This seems to be evidence of the first closed season for fishing. Today one gets a fine (as well as losing the fish) rather than being turned into a Ginga. Barramundi feature prominently in rock art and is also popular with modern painters.
Anyway, back to Barramundi. We have eaten a few on the trip. Grilled, baked and deep-fried. It’s not bad. And we have had them for dinner in a few places; each says they have the best Barramundi in the north. Last night in Mt Isa I had one deep-fried in Fat Yak beer batter at the Buffs Club. Not bad at all and certainly plenty of it. But,in looking back I think we had the best Barra at the cafe at Kurumba. If you are ever there try it!.
We are now moving onto to Cloncurry.
One of the disadvantages in getting to Kakadu early in the season is that Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls are closed, they are cleaning out the crocs and getting facilities ready after the wet. There was a late wet season this year which meant there was no chance of them being open when we were there. So we didn’t get there. There is always next time! However, the big advantage is there is hardly anyone around in all the other places. And so we found it at Gumlon Falls which is reached along a 37 k gravel road the last 10 or so k being particularly rough, rocky and washed out in places. But it is worth the drive. Took an hour and half to travel the 37 k, so we were not rushing.
The campground here at Gumlon is wide spaced, no sites just set up where you like. No power, but the showers are solar heated. Rather dark at night as there is no moon at the moment, dingoes can be heard barking and growling in the distance.
The plunge pool at the base of the Falls is very clear with a great sandy bottom near the shore but it drops away deeply on the swim out to the base of the Falls. No crocs.
Allthego did the rather steep walk to the top of the Falls for a swim, along with a group of tourists from all parts of Europe. They were gob-smacked by the views from the top and the water in the pools. Interesting to observe their reactions and reluctance to leave when their guide called time.
We had 2 nights here at Gumlon before leaving to head to Brisbane on the return trip.
We are now revisiting the Daly Waters Pub for the night, having moved on from Katherine.
On leaving Kakadu I thought I might quote from one of f Kakadu Man’s poems:
“White European can’t say,
‘Oh, that Aborigine no good.’
Might be that Aborigine alright.
Man can’t growl at Aborigine,
Aborigine can’t growl at white European.
Because both ways.
Might be both good men,
might be both no good.
You never know.
So you should get understand yourself.
No matter Aborigine or white European.”
Interesting words from a wise Old Man.
All has been quiet on the blog for the last few days because we have been holed up at Gunlom Falls and are now at Katherine on the return trip to Brisbane. Now Gunlom was a great place but there were no telephones, internet or power for that matter. So it is quite peaceful. But more on Gunlom later.
We have stayed at the Kakadu Lodge campground in Jabiru and have used it as a base for exploring the Park. Quite a comfortable campground with a large chlorinated crocodile free billabong to swim in at the end of the day’s activities. It is still rather warm up here, temperatures are around 33-35 degrees and humid, so it is good to get walks in the morning and then return to the Billabong to cool off after lunch. We had a large shaded camp site, plenty of room. It seems we are well ahead of all the old people in their vans travelling north as the place was only about 15% full.
Have spent two mornings visiting firstly Ubirr and then Nourlangie Rock. On both occasions we did the free Ranger guided walks. These were a really good way to gain a better appreciation of the environment and the attachment that aboriginal people have to the land and what lives in it; and have had for thousands of years. The views over the Kakadu landscapes and the rock art were amazing. We later went back to Ubirr to see the sunset over Arnhem Land. Something we will remember for years to come.
On our last day at Jabiru, the State of Origin game was on that night, we crossed over into Arnhem land on a day tour over the East Alligator River flood plain and some more less visited art sites, as well as a visit to the Guluyambi Aboriginal community arts centre.
Kakadu NP has been a bit of an eye opener to us and we have learned a lot more about the aboriginal people’s connection to Country. I picked up a copy of a little book ‘Gagudju Man Bill Neidjie’. It seems there was a TV show Kakadu Man in the late 80s maybe, Big Bill was Kakadu Man. He was one of the leading traditional owners who played a key role in the formation of Kakadu NP and the co management of it. He died in 2002, 89 years old or thereabouts. His bones are at a place called Hawk Dreaming in Arnhem Land. The book is a collection of poems. They are a ‘history’ of the aboriginal people. There are some inspiring pieces. Big Bill was worried the ‘story’ would be lost and he needed to have it written down. He was pessimistic about the future and whether younger aboriginals would hang onto their culture. Only time will tell I suppose.
Gunlom Falls to come.
Why Kakadu Man 1? I’ll explain in the next blog.
Meanwhile we have had a great few days here in the NP. Amazing place. A highlight has been the sunset boat trip on the Yellow Waters Billabong, and also part of the Alligator River system. No alligators here just crocs, one of those early English explorers got it wrong. Plenty of crocs and bird life.
Up here we are just at the end of the wet season, plenty of water around and everything is still so green and lush. With the onset of the dry parts of the Park are deliberately burnt in accordance with indigenous culture requirements. The reasons behind this are actually pretty good………makes it easier to move around in the country, much of the plant life responds to fire, creates new growth and then attracts animals and food etc. It also mitigates the effect of much more intense fires late in the dry season. The ground is so damp the fires are quite benign in their impact, new growth appears within days.
What all the smoke did for us was create a great sunset!
We have now arrived in Kakadu and are based in Jabiru. After leaving Mataranka we stopped for 2 nights at Edith Falls. This is about 50 k north of Katherine, and is in the northern section of Nitlimik NP, Katherine Gorge is in the southern section. We stopped briefly in Katherine to do a shop at Woolies, not seen since goodness knows where ( I think Charters Towers). Edith Falls was a great stopover. Super plunge pool. It had not been long opened before we arrived. “Opened’ is a code word up here meaning checked/cleared of crocs. So you can have a swim.
Which allthego did. In fact he swam across the plunge pool to the waterfall on the other side. The posters said this was 150 m, but it seemed a bit further. A couple of other old blokes went around the edge of the pool (sort of dragging themselves along the rocks) probably 5 times as far. They were pretty well-worn out by the time they got to the falls. Being pretty fit allthego was there without trouble, but waited half an hour to return with the current from the Falls. Athomealone had lost interest in allthego and had returned to camp to have a chardonnay. Allthego staggered back. The water in the pool was just great, nice and warm with little fish that nibbled at your feet and legs. Athomealone was reluctant to enter the pool because of this.
Next day we were off on a two-hour walk to the upper Falls. What a super spot this is. Water just cascades down into a deep pool and then further down to a quiet and deep pond.
All sorts of characters were here enjoying the dip. Some climbed up the rock walls and jumped in, whilst others trod water and watched on taking pictures.
The camp site was also excellent. Alas we had to move on to Kakadu for the next adventure!
“No, it’s not Never Land”, Tinker Bell said to Peter Pan it’s the Never Never land of the famous Aussie classic ‘We of the Never Never”! We are at Mataranka (the town near where the novel was set in the early 1900s) enjoying the Bitter Springs thermal pools. Nice warm 34 d flowing waters. Coming up from the 3 Ways we stopped overnight at the Daly Waters Hotel. A good stop with a bit of lively entertainment and a nice meal of steak and Barra.
On the way to Mataranka it was recommended that we should call in at Fran’s place at Laramah for a meat pie. David and Jenny Guyatt our friends from CUC were here a year ago and they got stung for $10 a pie. Well the pies are mow $11 and it was too early in the morning for us to partake. Instead we got stung for coffee, tea and scones at $18. Not bad coffee I must say. Fran didn’t have a black eye, just a rather red nose after
Athomealone pretending to be having fun in the pool at Bitter Springs
45 years in the Territory.
We have spent 4 wonderful days here in the Boodjamulla National Park, formerly Lawn Hill Gorge NP. Telephone and internet access just doesn’t happen here unless you park yourself next to the Ranger Station in the Park, about 10 k from where we stayed at Adels Grove.
This is just one of those magic places, outstanding natural beauty. An oasis in a some what dry environment. We have wandered off on a couple of bush walks along the creek banks, nothing too strenuous, and also a two-hour paddle up the gorge. Allthego doing all the paddling with Leanne keeping an eye peeled for crocs and turtles! Only the freshwater crocs are here which are harmless it seems, unless we human types annoy and provoke them.
Also slipped down to the Riversleigh World Heritage fossil site for a look-see. An evening plunge in the Creek as the sun was setting was a great way to cool off before heading down to the bar for an evening drink before dinner.
It was hard to leave here but we packed up and continued the journey down a fairly rugged gravel road, with a few shallow creek crossings, for about 240 k to Camooweal. Tomorrow we cross the border into the NT.
Pictures are the best way to tell the story.