Kununurra And Surrounds

Australia, Western Australia 3 Comments »
Planet View: S15°46.229′ E128°43.826′
Street View: S15°46.229′ E128°43.826′

Central KununurraLake KununurraWe spent a few days in Kununurra, winding down from our trip through Kakadu, Gregory and Keep River National Parks.  Kununurra is around 40 kilometers west of the Northern Territory/Western Australia border, a relatively new town founded to support the Ord River Scheme when it was launched in 1963.  (For those of you that don’t know [and I didn’t before visiting the area] the Ord River Scheme involved the damming of Lake Argyle, now Australia’s largest man-made lake, to provide an irrigation source for the fertile soils surrounding the Ord River.  The Ord stretches from Lake Argyle to the Arafura Sea to the north.  The project began in 1963 and I believe the damming of Lake Argyle was completed some time in the 1970s.]

The Ivanhoe CrossingThe Ivanhoe CrossingKununurra in the afternoon sun from Kelly's Knob 

Lake Argyle and the Ord River damLake ArgyleOn our way from Keep River National Park into Kununurra we took a scenic drive into Lake Argyle, a must-see recommended to us by a number of people who have ventured to this area.  Lake Argyle is massive; in a country where water is often scarce and permanent lakes like Argyle are The Ord River leading out of Lake Argylefew-and-far-between, the huge expanse of water that is Lake Argyle was surely an eye-opener.  Hemmed in by red and orange cliffs, the midnight blue of the lake was very picturesque.  Local tour operators offer boat cruises as well as scenic flights of the lake, we even spied a few sailing boats moored in the harbor near the Lake Argyle tourist village. 

Canned sardines at Kununurra's Ivanhoe Caravan ParkHoochery Distillery north of KununurraKununurra itself was a very clean and tidy town.  The place felt more like a staging area than an agricultural-centric country town: in every parking lot there were 4WD vehicles priming for trips across the Gibb River Road, and the mechanic shops were all full of rigs with all kinds of maladies resulting from their trip across the famed route, butchers in town offer free vacuum sealing of meats and there were no shortage of 4WD outfitters.  As with the other towns up north, the only place to camp anywhere near town was at the caravan parks, all of which were full to the brim with grey nomads packed-in like tinned sardines.  We joined the fray for our time in Kununurra, Hoochery Distillery north of KununurraHoochery Distillery north of Kununurracordoning off a patch of grass for a few days and enjoying the caravan park’s pool during the heat of each day.  We inquired about tours of the Argyle Diamond Mine, located a couple of hours drive south of Kununurra and responsible for the production of a third of the world’s naturally occurring diamonds, but tours of the mine were only available via $575 per person scenic flights which stop off at the mine.  A bit too rich for our traveling blood!  We did take a drive through the agricultural areas surrounding Kununurra Hoochery Distillery north of Kununurrafed by Lake Argyle, the myriad of waterways feeding the paddocks made us feel as if we could have been traveling through the California Delta.  The fertile soil, sub-tropical climate and seemingly endless water supply allows the harvesting of almost anything, from melons through fruit and even some sugarcane.  We found a fruit stand operated by some of the local producers where we stocked up on fruit and vegetables for the next week, some fantastically fresh and tasty produce on offer.  During our tour of the Crops in the fertile Ord River basinSam's thirtieth birthday at Ivanhoe Caravan ParkSam's thirtieth birthday at Ivanhoe Caravan ParkSam's birthday dinner at The Pump House in KununurraKununurra surrounds we also stopped off at Hoochery Distillery, sampling some of the 140-proof rum which seemed to evaporate in our mouths before we could swallow it!  One nip was definitely enough for both of us.

I turned 30 during our time in Kununurra, the day being made special by my lovely wife having all kinds of hidden treats in store for me, from hidden streamers Sam's thirtieth birthday at Ivanhoe Caravan Parkthat were used to decorate our campsite to frozen chocolate cake from Darwin.  The day I started on my way downhill is one I’ll always remember.  And, of course, all the calls and emails from friends and family were very special too (thanks!).  We enjoyed a dinner from my mum at a fantastic restaurant called the Pump House, located on Lake Kununurra in a converted lock pump house it made for beautiful views of Lake Kununurra and the sunset.  The local barramundi and lamb shanks we ordered capped off a fantastic birthday and allowed me to forget that I’m now officially starting to get old!

Chocolate-cherry birthday cake!Sam's birthday dinner at The Pump House in KununurraSam's birthday dinner at The Pump House in KununurraSam's birthday dinner at The Pump House in Kununurra Sunset over Lake KununurraSam's birthday dinner at The Pump House in KununurraSunset over Lake Kununurra

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Keep River National Park

Australia, Northern Territory 1 Comment »

Temperature: 36°C (97°F)

Northern Territory

Keep River National Park

Cockatoo LagoonKeep River, a remote National Park on the Western Australia/Northern Territory border, was our last stop in the Northern Territory.  Keep River covers a relatively small area of around 700 square kilometers, but what it lacks in acreage it surely makes up for in natural splendor.  Some of the most picturesque vistas we witnessed throughout the Northern Territory with a very out-of-the-way feel that suited us to a ‘T’.  Our first stop was Cockatoo Lagoon, one of the park’s few permanent waterholes, located near the ranger’s station a few kilometers off the Victoria Highway.  It acts as a congregating point for a range of wildlife, everything from the huge water monitor pictured here through scores of species of birds and the native frogs for which Keep River is famous.  Unfortunately we were at the lagoon during the middle of the day so all the frogs were hiding, but the photos of them at the ranger’s station Rock formations behind Jarnem campgroundgave an idea of the range of amphibious species in the area.

We spent our night at Keep River in the northernmost A huge water monitor we encountered at Keep River National Park's Cockatoo Lagooncampground, Jarnem, deciding that it offered the widest range of walks in the park and was also a strictly no-generator camp area, which is always a nice way to enjoy the outdoors.  We setup camp and waited for the heat to pass before tackling the eight kilometer Jarnem loop walk, a brilliant The Jarnem loop walk in Keep River National Parkhike through the bee-hive rock formations endemic to this area of Australia.  Such a surreal feeling walking through the massive gorges formed by the rocks, easy to understand why the Aboriginals consider the area a sacred site.  We made it to the Jarnem lookout late in the afternoon for a magic view of the rock domes in the falling sun, spending a good half hour on our Sam and Lisa on the Jarnem loop walk in Keep River National Parklonesome at the lookout enjoying the view and afternoon breeze.  A bit of excitement spying a golden tree snake hunting for frogs amongst the Pandanus palms on the hike back to camp, such iridescent yellow scales…

We could have used a good swim or bush shower after our hike but the water at Jarnem was for drinking only, so instead we opted for a cool wipe down with wet face towels.  We’d foraged for wood on the road into Jarnem so enjoyed a big fire in the evening with a family who had just completed the Gibb River Road, good to get a few tips and the low down on some lesser known camping spots along the popular 4WD route in Beehive rock formations along the Jarnem loop walkpreparation for our run across it in a week or two.  The kids, Jamie and his sister Anna, took to us like we were their long lost best friends, giving us a kid fix for all those we’re missing from Adelaide an California.  Lisa played a long game of Simon Says with them around the campfire.  We cooked all the vegetables we had left from our most recent restocking in Katherine in preparation for the quarantine inspection at the Western Australia border.  Very frustrating to have to worry about having all fresh fruit, vegetables and honey being confiscated as we changed states but fortunately we made it through with no issues.

Glad we stopped in Keep River on our way into Western Australia, a Northern Territory highlight for both of us.

 A huge water monitor we encountered at Keep River National Park's Cockatoo LagoonThe Jarnem loop walk in Keep River National ParkA desert grevillea on the Jarnem loop walk in Keep River National ParkThe Jarnem loop walk in Keep River National Park Beehive rock formations along the Jarnem loop walkThe Jarnem loop walk in Keep River National ParkThe Jarnem loop walk in Keep River National Park The Jarnem loop walk in Keep River National ParkThe Jarnem loop walk in Keep River National ParkThe Jarnem loop walk in Keep River National ParkOur neighbor Anna in the Jarnem campround

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Gallery: Northern Territory

Australia, Galleries, Northern Territory Comments Off on Gallery: Northern Territory
Northern Territory

Photos from Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park, Alice Springs, West Macdonnell Ranges National Park, the Devil's Marbles, Daly Waters, Mataranka, Bitter Springs, Katherine Gorge, Edith Falls, Mandorah, Litchfield National Park, Darwin, Kakadu National Park, Katherine, Gregory National Park and Keep River National Park

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Katherine and Gregory National Park

Australia, Northern Territory 6 Comments »
Planet View: S15°37.753′ E130°28.510′
Street View: S15°37.753′ E130°28.510′

Katherine Hot SpringsWe spent some time in Katherine (S14°19.067′ E132°25.252′)last weekend restocking our supplies and also getting a few minor items on The Tank taken care of.  The Tank was due for an oil change and we also had one front hub that wouldn’t consistently disengage from being locked in 4WD so we figured that Katherine, being the third largest town in the Northern Territory, would be a good spot for mechanics.  We called no less than seven mechanics before being able to get an appointment any sooner than five days wait!  The fellas at Katherine Crash Joe's Creek Walk in Gregory National Parkseemed for know Toyota Troop Carriers back to front and had our oil changed and hub fixed in no time.  We also received a good dose of Northern Territory culture with a visit to the Katherine Hotel around 2:00PM on Friday afternoon.  I think of the around 200 people in the pub we were probably two of the five white-skinned patrons, Lisa’s blonde hair sure motivated a few long looks from the local Aboriginals!  I had a good chat to a few of the local black fellas about topics ranging from Christianity to the ensuing game of pool, definitely a good time to see a Territory pub in full swing on a Friday afternoon.  We spent the night in Katherine at one of the caravan parks close to Katherine Hot Springs, springing for a pizza for dinner as it’s one of the things we can’t cook for ourselves when we’re on the road. 

The Aboriginal art along the cliffs of Joe's Creek Walk in Gregory National ParkGregory National ParkSaturday morning we spent a bit of time in Katherine enjoying some of the last niceties of civilization with a cappuccino each and a fresh pastry for me before continuing west to Gregory National Park.  Gregory is split into two sections across the Nungali and Wanimiyn Aboriginal lands, the most easterly portion of the park centers on the Victoria River and surrounding gorges.  For our first night west of Katherine we camped at Victoria River Roadhouse (S15°36.969′ E131°07.736′), a small petrol station behind which is a large expanse of grassy campsites along the Victoria River.  We spent the early portion of the afternoon on Saturday exploring Joe’s Creek, an easy hike through one of the Gregory gorges amongst Livistonia palms and cliffs decorated with ancient Aboriginal art.  The escarpments in Gregory were just fantastic, the red cliffs contrasting with the green of the gums and deep blue skies.  So much to take in…  After our hike we veered off the highway and spent the balance of the afternoon at the Old Victoria River Crossing, Lisa filling her sketch book with drawings of the surrounds and me trying my hand at more fishing.  I managed to catch a few juvenile fish in my yabbie pot and for the first time had a few bites on the line, but again finished the afternoon empty handed.  A very relaxing spot though, good to be able to wind down after a week of go-go-going in Kakadu and trying to get everything with The Tank sorted in Katherine.

Joe's Creek Walk in Gregory National ParkLooking up at the escarpment on Joe's Creek Walk in Gregory National ParkThe Aboriginal art along the cliffs of Joe's Creek Walk in Gregory National Park The Aboriginal art along the cliffs of Joe's Creek Walk in Gregory National ParkA snappy gum and the escarpment along Joe's Creek Walk in Gregory National ParkOur afternoon fishing spot on the Victoria River Our campsite at Victoria River in Gregory National ParkOne of the stations in-between Katherine and KununurraThe best thing in the world at around 4:00PM in The OutbackLamb chops and salad for dinner at Victora River in Gregory National Park (for Tom Brown)

Stromatolites at Limestone GorgeA morning visitor to our campsite at Victoria River RoadhouseThe calcite cascades in Limestone GorgeAfter our night at Victoria River Roadhouse we ventured west to the larger portion of Gregory National Park.  A quick check of the track conditions at Timber Creek and we started down the 40 kilometer unsealed road to Bullita Homestead.  We’d planned to camp the first night at Limestone Gorge, a campsite 10 or so kilometers before Bullita, but due to extreme flood damage during the most recent wet season the campsite was closed.  We still ended up driving down the gorge to have a look at the calcite formations cascading down the limestone faces of the gorge.  On the walk to the calcite cascades Limestone Gorgeis a reef of stromatolites, fossils of the oldest known forms of life on earth, hundreds of the fossils are spread across a concentrated section of earth, quite cool to see.     

The Bullita HomesteadLisa in the Bullita Homestead cattle yardsWe continued on to Bullita, staking out a campsite on the edge of the East Baines River for the night and The Bullita Homesteadthen making the few hundred meters drive to the historic site of Bullita Homestead for lunch.  The homestead was first used by pastoralists in the early 1800s, cattle was transported across the country by drovers from The Bullita HomesteadQueensland, a trek of over 3000 kilometers.  Bullita remained as a working cattle station until the The East Baines River in front of the Bullita Homestead1970s, when it was abandoned by its owners after ravaging floods.  It’s now a historical site, maintained by the National Parks Service.  It was very interesting, replicas of the original cattle yards are on show and the homestead maintained in its original condition.  The huge boab tree in the center of the property, one of many we’ve seen since being in Gregory, is engraved with names of stockmen and drovers who have worked the property over the centuries.  The flies here in Gregory were absolutely relentless, swarms of them followed us everywhere we went, finding their way into nostrils, eyes and ears, so very frustrating.  It’s the first time we’d broken out the fly nets that Lisa’s mum made for us before we left the States.  I quickly discovered that no, you cannot drink liquids (beer) through the fly nets.  The flies got under my skin so much at one point that Lisa got to have a good laugh at me screaming profanities at them in the middle of the bush.  I guess I was hoping they’d understand English swear words and leave me alone…  We ate our dinner at Bullita inside our mosquito tent, a fine art to enter the tent holding a plate of food and not have any flies make it through the opening flap!

The Bullita Homestead cattle yardsThe Bullita Homestead cattle yardsThe Bullita HomesteadSam having an afternoon beer and working on the blog in his fly net

A boab tree along the Bullita Stock Route in Gregory National ParkLisa and The Tank tackling the limestone steps into Spring CreekLisa and The Tank tackling the limestone steps into Spring CreekToday we tackled the Bullita Stock Route, a 92 kilometer 4WD track beginning at our campsite at Bullita Homestead and finishing up halfway back toward Timber Creek.  The route is rated as ‘difficult’ by one of the 4WD guides we have and is also a one way loop, so we were crossing our fingers that we’d be up to it.  The route began with a long but relatively shallow river crossing across the East Baines River, a little unnerving as we dropped into a hole or two during the crossing, but we made it out unscathed.  The first 10 or 15 kilometers of the track was very slow going, a lot of the dry creek beds along the route were covered in large, jagged rocks and we had to traverse a long section of steep limestone steps as we dropped down Spring Creek Jump-up.  Lots of time in low-range…  It took a bit of cajoling for me to get Lisa behind the wheel down the steps to take some photos, but once she was used to letting The Tank’s own weight propel it down the steps in low-range it was smooth sailing.  The Tank really showed us it’s abilities today, handling the jagged and steep sections of the trail with ease, an awesome vehicle when in its element.

Lisa and The Tank tackling the limestone steps into Spring CreekLisa and The Tank tackling the limestone steps into Spring CreekLisa and The Tank tackling the limestone steps into Spring CreekA boab tree along the Bullita Stock Route in Gregory National Park

Spring Creek swimming hole

Lisa underneath the massive Oriental Hotel Boab Tree along Bullita Stock Route The Bullita Stock Route traversed some beautiful country, forever changing as we progressed, from grassy plains covered with gums and boabs to lush creeks lined with pandanus palms.  The entire day we encountered only one other vehicle so were lucky to be able to experience the rugged country on our lonesome.  Quite a treat to see the Oriental Hotel Boab Tree (pictured here to the right), a favorite stop-off for drovers of yesteryear with their favorite pubs and hotels in Australia’s Top End carved into the massive tree’s trunk.  The other main river crossing of the track was another across the East Baines River, the second crossing dropping down Boab trees along the Bullita Stock Route in Gregory National ParkGregory National Parka near vertical bank into marshy swamp and finally across the river.  Both our hearts were pumping in unison as we dropped down the bank, amazing that neither the bull bar or rear bumper didn’t end up buried in the track!  We made a slight detour to a spot 10 kilometers down a side road called Drover’s Rest, a favorite resting stop for drovers pushing cattle north to the slaughterhouses at Wyndham.  It was along the Drover’s Rest side track that we came across the biggest red kangaroo either of us has ever seen.  He was well beyond six feet tall when standing up, puffing his chest out at us to let us know we were on his turf.  If the two females with him hadn’t hopped off into the bush I imagine he would have stood there all day letting us know who’s boss!  Unfortunately I couldn’t get my camera out quickly enough for a shot of him.

An eagle at our campsite at Big Horse Creek in Gregory National ParkWe’d planned to stay the night at Drover’s Rest but the campsite was located next to a murky, stagnant section of a tributary of the East Baines River and we thus decided to push on toward Timber Creek.  Our last night in Gregory we’re spending alongside the Victoria River west of Timber Creek, a nice campsite in the north-western reach of the National Park called Big Horse Creek (S15°37.753′ E130°28.510′).  The Victoria River west of Timber CreekWe almost lost our dinner to the eagle pictured to the right, we left it out to thaw in the afternoon sun and I turned around to see the huge bird swoop and almost pick up our roo steaks with its talons!  I dropped in a yabbie pot in the Victoria River (pictured to the left here) overnight tonight, fingers crossed for some cherabin in the morning.  Off to Keep River tomorrow, likely our last stop in the Northern Territory before making our way across the border into Western Australia.  We’ve been eating vegetables and nuts like crazy since restocking a few days ago in Katherine as we recently discovered that the quarantine station into Western Australia confiscates all fresh fruits, vegetables, nuts and honey!

Lisa and The Tank tackling the East Baines River crossing along the Bullita Stock RouteA magpie at our campsite at Big Horse Creek in Gregory National ParkLisa and The Tank tackling the East Baines River crossing along the Bullita Stock Route

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Kakadu National Park

Australia, Northern Territory 4 Comments »
Planet View: S13°18.690’ E132°46.933’
Street View: S13°18.690’ E132°46.933’

A sulphur-crested cockatoo along the Bardedjilidji WalkKakadu One of our main stops up north is Kakadu National Park, one of Australia’s most famous attractions and (I think) the only site listed as a World Heritage Area for both natural and cultural features.  Kakadu is massive, it’s a third the size of Tasmania, and even though only a measly 3% is open to visitors we still took almost a week to explore all its wonders. 

With The Tank laden with two full fuel tanks, 85 liters of water and enough food for a few weeks we left my cousins Margot and Sophie in Darwin on Sunday morning, headed for Kakadu.  We made our way to the town of Jabiru in the northeastern corner of the park; Jabiru is a fully-functioning town with banks, a post office, supermarket and even a Holiday Inn built in the shape of a huge crocodile.  More than one person recommended to us that we should spend a night at the Kakadu Lodge caravan park in Jabiru, it was certainly camping in style.  The caravan park offers grassy camping areas (something that’s a bit of a luxury in the Northern Territory), a beautiful pool set amongst tropical palms, a bar that’s open between 4:00PM and 10:00PM as well as live music during the evenings in the dry season.  We setup camp and made the roughly six kilometer walk between Kakadu Lodge and the Bowali Visitor Center, passing through an active controlled burn area on the way and earning a swim in the pool before dinner.  As well as everything from chicken breasts to kangaroo steaks from Darwin’s Fannie Bay Meat Company we still had a few vacuum packed scotch fillets from Adelaide so dined on them sliced up over spinach salad (fresh fruit and vegetables is also a luxury for us when we’re near large towns with supermarkets).

Sandstone formations along the Bardedjilidji WalkThe Bardedjilidji WalkWe headed out early from Kakadu Lodge, heading to the most northeastern section of Kakadu to view the Aboriginal art sites at Ubirr.  We took a quick stroll around the Bardedjildji Walk The Arnhem Land escarpment alongside the road between Ubirr and Jabiruloop along the eerie Alligator River, being rewarded with some fantastic views of the sandstone escarpments along the edges of the path.  We’d also planned to take the 6.5 kilometer Sandstone and River Bushwalk from the end of the Bardedjildji Walk for supposed good views of the Arnhem Land escarpment but the track was unfortunately closed due to major bridge damage during the most recent wet season.  We’ve found (the hard way) that we need to complete any morning activities by around 10:30AM up here in the Top End, otherwise the heat and humidity become just unbearable.  We finished our morning walk and made our way to the Ubirr art sites for a leisurely stroll through the painted gorge.  Some of the paintings are thought to be around 2000 years old, very cool to see all the Aboriginal art in its natural setting.  The end of the Ubirr art loop walk makes its way to a lookout providing excellent views of Arnhem Land and the sandstone escarpments hemming the wetlands.  It really gave us a feel for Kakadu from the lookout, red and yellow sandstone rocks overlooking lush green wetlands below. 

Lisa walking through one of the sandstone crevices along the Bardedjilidji WalkLisa walking through one of the sandstone crevices along the Bardedjilidji WalkLisa in a cave at the end of the Bardedjilidji WalkStepped sandstone along the Bardedjilidji Walk A sandstone tower along the Bardedjilidji WalkAboriginal art at UbirrAboriginal art at UbirrAboriginal art at Ubirr Aboriginal art at UbirrThe edge of the sandstone escarpment and wetlands below at the Ubirr Aboriginal art siteSam and Lisa on the edge of the sandstone escarpment with wetlands below at the Ubirr Aboriginal art site Looking out from the top of the sandstone escarpment at Ubirr into Arnhem LandAboriginal art at UbirrAboriginal art at Ubirr 

Fishing at Djarradjin Billabong next to Muirella Park campsiteEnjoying an end of day beer at Muirella ParkProbably the noisiest bird in Kakadu at our campsite at Muirella Park!The plan was to spend our next night at Merl campground near Ubirr, but when we arrived we discovered that the campsites were located in thick, humid jungle brimming with flies and mosquitoes.  So we kept moving and made our way to the Muirella Park campground next to Djarradjin Billabong.  The Muirella Park campground is run by a local Aboriginal Aboriginal art at AnbangbangAboriginal art at Anbangbangfamily who also operate night spotlight tours cruising the billabong as well as Aboriginal nature talks.  I tried my hand at fishing for barramundi again at Djarradjin, but all I ended up doing is losing one of my lures to a shoreline tree.  Very eerie fishing up here, I was very careful to stay at least 10 feet from the water’s edge, you never know what’s lurking just below the surface!  After spending the heat of the day laying low at Muirella Park, we ventured back up the road to Burrunggui and Anbangbang for some more Aboriginal artwork and a view of the Arnhem Land escarpment in the sunset.  Burrunggui and Anbangbang are the Aboriginal names for Nourlangie Rock, a lone standing piece of the escarpment on the edge of Arnhem Land.  The local The Arnhem Land escarpment at Burrungguipeople request that Burrunggui and Anbangbang be used to describe the area, so that’s what we’ve used here instead of Nourlangie.  The artwork at Anbangbang was fantastic, a great deal of the x-ray style Aboriginal rock painting for which Kakadu is so famous.  It’s thought that the artwork at Anbangbang is approximately 1000 years old, only half the age of that at Ubirr.  Anbangbang’s artwork has been maintained fantastically, some of the paintings are still very clear on the sandstone walls.  The caves housing the Anbangbang paintings are thought to have provided sanctuary for the local Aboriginal people for over 20000 years!  We hiked up to the lookout at Nawurlandja for a view of Burrunggui and Anbangbang during the late afternoon sun, some beautiful views of Burrunggui and Anbangbang as well as the distant southern extension of the Arnhem Land plateau.

Aboriginal art at AnbangbangAboriginal art at AnbangbangThe Arnhem Land escarpment at BurrungguiLisa in front of the Arnhem Land escarpment at Burrunggui Sam and Lisa in front of the Arnhem Land escarpment at BurrungguiSam in front of the Arnhem Land escarpment at BurrungguiA well-earned beer at Muirella Park

Blooming gum nuts on the walk to Gubara PoolsRocket frogs at Gubara PoolsThe monsoon forest at Gubara PoolsSticking with our plan to complete any strenuous activity before around 10:30AM each day, we took a morning walk into Gubara Pools on Tuesday starting around 8:00AM.  The temperature was perfect for the six kilometer out-and-back walk through a sandy creek bed to the monsoon forest at Gubara.  Gubara is one of the few places at the base of the Arnhem Plateau with permanent water that doesn’t have estuarine crocodiles, so we felt comfortable walking through the forest next to the water’s edge.  The Wildflowers on the walk to Gubara Poolspool edges were hopping with the rocket frogs we first encountered at Nitmiluk and I spotted a couple of huge catfish making their way through the water.  Throughout the monsoon forest at Gubara were sections of two meter high debris wrapped around tree trunks and boulders, one of the most vivid demonstrations of the massive amounts of water that must flow through the rivers in Kakadu during the wet season.  For the entire Gubara hike we were both amazed at the early morning bird choir throughout the bush, amazingly loud and so many different tunes.  Most of the time the singers were hidden, however, so we had to enjoy the chorus without having too much of an idea from whom it was coming.

Wildflowers on the walk to Gubara PoolsWater draining into Gubara PoolsRocket frogs at Gubara PoolsLisa relaxing at Gubara Pools Wildflowers on the walk to Gubara PoolsLisa driving on the track out of Gubara PoolsLisa relaxing with a beer at our campsite at Cooinda

An Azure Kingfisher at Yellow WatersSulphur-Crested Cockatoos at Yellow WatersAn estuarine (saltwater) crocodile at Yellow WatersWhile our camp at Muirella Park was quite comfortable, we decided that the extra $5 a night for a campsite with access to a pool was worth it in the heat, so for the next two nights we shacked up at Gagudju Lodge Cooinda.  It’s not much of a lodge, it’s basically a highly concentrated caravan park and headquarters of the famous Yellow Waters tours, but the unpowered campsites were quite hospitable located in the bush at A White-Breasted Sea Eagle at Yellow WatersA Rainbow Bee-Eater at Yellow Watersthe rear of the property with access to the main lodge’s pool.  On Tuesday we spent a couple of hours during the heat of the afternoon lounging by the pool Water lillies at Yellow Waters(yes, I love the pool) before taking a sunset tour of the Yellow Waters billabong and South Alligator River.  The cruise was amazing!  Our tour guide Robin was fantastic, an absolute wealth of information not only on the history of Kakadu but also on all the animal and bird species we encountered during our two hour sunset trip.  As Lisa’s mum commented to us (she was at Yellow Waters a few years ago), the cruise is very much like a Disneyland ride; from gigantic estuarine crocodiles to majestic white-breasted sea eagles, everywhere we looked offered a new and wonderful animal to behold.  To all the people that recommended to us that we undertake a Yellow Waters tour, thank you very much!

An estuarine (saltwater) crocodile at Yellow WatersAn egret at Yellow WatersA Rainbow Bee-Eater at Yellow WatersAn estuarine (saltwater) crocodile at Yellow Waters An estuarine (saltwater) crocodile at Yellow WatersAn egret at Yellow WatersA juvenile Jacana at Yellow Waters Yellow Waters A cormorant at Yellow WatersA Jacana at Yellow WatersA White-Breasted Sea Eagle at Yellow WatersA White-Breasted Sea Eagle at Yellow Waters An estuarine (saltwater) crocodile at Yellow WatersWhistling Ducks at Yellow WatersYellow Waters Yellow WatersYellow WatersAn estuarine (saltwater) crocodile at Yellow Waters Yellow WatersYellow WatersYellow WatersSunset at Yellow Waters

The top of Twin Falls and the gorge in the distanceSam and Lisa admiring the gorge at Jim Jim FallsWednesday we made the trip into Jim Jim and Twin Falls, probably the two most famous waterfalls in Kakadu National Park.  A short drive from Cooinda is the turn-off to the Jim Jim Falls 4WD track, a 50 kilometer corrugated dirt road followed by a further 10 kilometers of 4WD track.  The final 10 kilometers were a lot of fun, the track was definitely 4WD only, a mix of deep sand, rocks and quite a few river crossings.  Unfortunately Jim Jim Falls had already run dry for the season, the massive falls just a trickle, but the swimming pools at the base of the falls hemmed in by huge cliffs were quite a sight.  We were contemplating hiking to the top of Jim Jim Falls, allegedly a strenuous seven kilometer hike, but after talking to a guide we ran into on the Jim Jim Falls hiking trail we instead decided to make the drive to Twin Falls and hike to the top of them instead.  The Lisa's turn across the longest water crossing of the dayTwin Falls track was another 10 kilometers of sand and water bars, with the longest water crossing of the day.  At 50 centimeters deep, however, it didn’t get out hearts racing like our crossing in Litchfield.  The hike to the top of Twin Falls ended up being quite strenuous, it was only a couple of kilometers to the top but we attempted it during the heat of One of the swimming pools at the top of Twin Fallsthe day so were pretty drained by the time we reached the pools.  It was well worth it, we found a pool to ourselves and spent plenty of time cooling off.  We didn’t actually get to see the falls at Twin Falls: they’re located at the end of a long plunge pool that is inhabited by estuarine crocodiles, the only way to see the falls is in a boat.  Lisa drove back to the camp and gave us both quite a start when The top of Twin Falls and the gorge in the distancewe attempted the longest creek crossing without 4WD low-range engaged properly.  It’s no fun when you’re motoring through a crocodile-infested river and you hear a clunk, followed by your vehicle starting The pools at the base of Twin Fallsto shudder to a stop.  Luckily we quickly realized what had happened and re-engaged the drive-train before losing all our momentum.  Lisa was physically shaking at the end of that crossing, not quite her hyperventilation-at-the-sight-of-a-snake trick from Turkey, but she was definitely a little shaken up!  Our neighbors at the campsite at Cooinda offered us fresh-baked pumpkin damper scones on our return to camp, couldn’t have asked for a better way to end a long day of hiking and 4WD tracks…

The hike into Jim Jim FallsThe beach swimming pool at Jim Jim FallsA dry Jim Jim FallsThe gorge at Jim Jim Falls Sam driving across one of the water crossings into Twin FallsTwin Falls GorgeThe top of Twin Falls and the gorge in the distance 

The top of Twin Falls and the gorge in the distancePumpkin damper scones at the end of a long day!

The swimming hole and waterfall at MagukToday, our last full day in Kakadu, we left our luxurious caravan park at Cooinda and continued south to the waterfall at Maguk (Barramundi Gorge).  Located 12 kilometers off the main road along an unsealed road, Maguk’s falls are a quick walk through the monsoon forest from the end of the driving track.  Unlike Jim Jim, Maguk’s falls were flowing with plenty of water, though we didn’t stop for a swim as we had ground to cover before reaching our resting place for the night at Gunlom.  Gunlom was recommended to us by my cousin Margot, located 37 kilometers off the main road A water monitor we encountered at the top of Gunlom waterfallalong a very corrugated dirt road that crossed a number of (currently dry) creeks.  One of the creeks had water depth markers up to four The day use area at Gunlommeters, if anyone knows a vehicle that can tackle a water crossing with water four meters deep please let us know!  The campsite at Gunlom is located right next to the falls, unfortunately the falls there had also exhausted themselves for the dry season.  The facilities at Gunlom have a fantastic grassy day use area shaded by gums next to the falls’ plunge pool.  Maintaining our wariness about swimming in pools at the base of the Arnhem Land escarpment, we hiked the kilometer or so to the top of the falls and were rewarded with the best swimming holes we’d encountered in Kakadu.  A series of four or five pools are located at the top of Gunlom, bordered by trees for shade and plenty of cliffs to launch off for those so inclined.  An hour cooling off at the top of the falls was a great way to cap off our stay in Kakadu.

The swimming hole and waterfall at MagukOne of the swimming holes at the top of Gunlom waterfallOne of the swimming holes at the top of Gunlom waterfallOne of the swimming holes at the top of Gunlom waterfall One of the swimming holes at the top of Gunlom waterfallThe Gunlom plunge pool from the top of the waterfallA water monitor we encountered at the top of Gunlom waterfall 

The Gunlom plunge pool from the top of the waterfallA water monitor we encountered at the top of Gunlom waterfallA water monitor we encountered at the top of Gunlom waterfallFrom here we’ll probably take a day or two in Katherine getting a couple of minor issues with The Tank checked out before heading west to Gregory National Park.  I’m glad we allotted a week to spend in Kakadu, the place really is massive and requires a good amount of time to take it all in.  It has everything you could ask for in the Top End: wetlands, billabongs, waterfalls, Aboriginal art, and some of the most amazing wildlife we’ve seen on our travels thus far.  That Yellow Waters boat tour is something neither of us will ever forget, being able to get six feet from a wild 18 foot long estuarine crocodile (we were in a boat, of course) was a pretty unforgettable experience.

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Darwin

Australia, Northern Territory 7 Comments »
Planet View: S12°25.652’ E130°50.230’
Street View: S12°25.652’ E130°50.230’

The Hudson house in Fannie BayNorthern TerritoryWe’re just about to finish up a very fun week-and-a-half stay in Darwin with my auntie, uncle and cousins.  It’s been a little luxurious for us, being able to enjoy their wonderful home in Fannie Bay after getting used to living out of The Tank as we traversed the country from Adelaide.  Margot, my middle cousin of the three girls in the Hudson family, proved to be a fantastic tour guide during our time in Darwin, showing us all the sites of Darwin from the mangroves of East Point to the best bars and clubs in the city center.  We enjoyed spending time at a few of the many street markets Darwin has to offer, the Mindil Beach markets on Thursdays and Parap Markets on Saturdays were two we visited during our time here.  The markets were a lot of fun, more food stalls and local artists than one can imagine, it was difficult for us to decide what ethnicity of food to eat with all the choices.  We also enjoyed the once-monthly Indian night held at Mindil Beach, the regular markets transforming into Indian- and Sri Lankan-only cuisine for the event.  So many scrumptious curries to choose from! 

Lisa teaching an water aerobics class in the Hudson's poolMindil Beach MarketsMindil Beach Markets The Darwin wave poolMargot, Bob, Cathy, Sophie, Lisa and Sam at the Darwin Sailing ClubLisa and Sam at the Darwin Sailing Club 

Margot, Lisa and Sophie out for Richie's 30th birthdayMargot, Lisa, Sam and Sophie out for Richie's 30th birthdayA few days after we arrived my youngest cousin Sophie arrived in town fresh from finishing her final university exams in Adelaide.  Her boyfriend Richie, in town from his job in Jakarta to celebrate his 30th birthday, had a function at the Deck Bar in the city where we met the girls for a night Margot, Sam and Sophie out for Richie's 30th birthdayout on the town.  They gave us quite the tour of Darwin drinking holes: after the Deck Bar we moved to Wisdom and finished the night up at the Tap Bar.  Never one to dismiss a late night bakery I also sampled the fare at Tommo’s Pies in Mitchell Street around 2:00AM, Lisa deciding to join the party for her favorite spinach and cheese roll.  The Tap Bar offered quite hefty cocktails (Margot and Lisa are pictured enjoying one below), they’re called fishbowls and are probably the size of a human head, definitely a good way get in the mood for the night!  Lisa slotted in like an older sister with the girls and I haven’t spent any significant time with either of them since I was a teenager, so it was great to catch up with them both here in Darwin on their home turf.  It was unfortunate that my oldest cousin Amy couldn’t be here with us all as well, but she’s off conquering the world with Ernst and Young in Zurich so we’ll have to catch up with her and her boyfriend Andy at another time. 

Margot, Lisa and Sophie out for Richie's 30th birthdayMargot and Lisa enjoying an Illusion at the Tap BarMargot and Lisa enjoying an Illusion at the Tap Bar 

The Darwin Deckchair CinemaOne of the other attractions we enjoyed whilst using Darwin as a base for the past week-and-a-half is the Deckchair Cinema, located on the water’s edge just below the city center.  The cinema is an outdoor establishment set in the tropical palms of the Darwin waterfront, rows of deckchairs set up facing a large outdoor cinema screen.  With surround sound, a licensed bar and what looked to be quite scrumptious food, we enjoyed watching a movie there so much that we’re going back tonight for a second helping.  The first flick we saw was an Aussie claymation feature called Mary and Max, a sometimes serious but also very funny story about an unlikely couple: an Australian girl from a broken home named Mary and her Jewish New Yorker pen friend Max, who happens to have Aspergers Syndrome.  Definitely worth a watch, the animation is fantastic and characters are a real hoot.

Cullen Bay harborWe’ve both really enjoyed Darwin, spending time with my family has been great and it’s been nice to have a few days to just sit and relax.  We even managed to go jogging around East Point a few mornings when we rose before the humidity started to kick in.  It’s been a great base for a trip to Litchfield National Park as well as a day trip over to Mandorah.  The sunsets up here have been fantastic and the ease of getting around is like nothing we’ve experienced before when it comes to a capital city.  As a send off my auntie and uncle took us all out for dinner for my 30th birthday at Yots Greek Taverna in Cullen Bay.  Some of the best Greek food we’ve ever had, and the oysters flown up from Coffin Bay in South Australia, shucked in front of us, were delectable.  We’ll be sad to leave Darwin but The Outback awaits so it’s time to repack The Tank and get moving again tomorrow morning.  We’ve done quite a shopping run this afternoon and yesterday we had enough meat vacuum packed to feed an army, so should be set now for a few weeks as we make our way across to Kununurra via Kakadu and Gregory National Parks.

Cullen Bay harborBob, Lisa and Cathy walking around Cullen Bay harbor The oyster shucker at Yots Greek TavernaAn early birthday celebration for Sam's 30th at Yots Greek TavernaAn early birthday celebration for Sam's 30th at Yots Greek Taverna Dinner at Yots Greek Taverna on Cullen Bay HarborLisa teaching an water aerobics class in the Hudson's poolMargot pulsing LisaThe Hudson house in Fannie Bay

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Firefox, Internet Explorer, Safari and Misty Water

Australia 1 Comment »

Leliyn's upper falls and swimming holeI’ve had a couple of enquiries as to why some of the posts on Our Walkabout have the pictures jumbled in a funny way around the blog content.  I try hard to avoid this, but the availability of different web browsers (Safari, Internet Explorer, Firefox…) and different companies producing the browsers means that each browser interprets web pages a little differently.  I run a couple of browsers on our laptop, but quirks still manage to weasel their way through and it absolutely drives me up the wall.  When Internet Explorer went from version seven to eight Microsoft changed the way certain pages are interpreted and I had to spend hours fixing the aesthetics of Our Walkabout.  Ugh…  So, if you see something funky please let me know so I can fix it.

Something else I want to mention stems from queries I’ve had about the misty water shots that have started to show up on the blog.  No, this is not a Photoshop trick.  No, I don’t spend inordinate amounts of time doctoring these photos to make the water mist.  It’s all camera.  These shots are taken using a low ISO speed, high lens aperture and usually a neutral density or polarizing filter to reduce the amount of light entering the camera.  And, as with the photo to the right, it usually works best when the water itself is in the shade as the shutter can stay open for even longer, allowing the water to mist even more. 

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Litchfield National Park

Australia, Northern Territory 5 Comments »
Planet View: S13°14.970’ E130°44.698’
Street View: S13°14.970’ E130°44.698’

Lisa swimming in Florence FallsLitchfield National ParkA couple of hours drive south of Darwin lies Litchfield National Park, where we spent that last few days enjoying all the waterfalls and swimming holes the park has to offer.  Litchfield’s main attraction is surely it’s array of waterfalls, Florence and Wangi Falls being the main two cascades due to their ease of access for day trippers from Darwin.  The falls in Litchfield flow all year round, fed by sandstone springs that absorb the wet season rains and empty during the dry.  The spring-fed nature of the falls Florence Creek below Florence Fallsresults in almost all of the falls being permanently saltwater crocodile free, a welcome trait given some of the warning signs we’ve seen elsewhere in the Top End.

We entered through the southern Batchelor entrance, stopping off at Florence Falls for a swim on the way to our first night’s campsite.  After our swim we veered off the main Litchfield Road to tackle a 10 kilometer 4WD track to the Lost City, towering remnants of stone from an ancient time when the area around Litchfield was covered with sandstone.  The ancient pillars that The Lost Cityremain appear uncannily like ruins of a city, an eerie place to walk through in the middle of the jungle.  The ominous creek crossing on the road into Tjaynera FallsThe ominous creek crossing on the road into Tjaynera FallsFurther down the road we veered into the parking lot at the trailhead to Tolmer Falls; Tolmer was probably the most majestic of all the falls we visited.  Tolmer Falls are closed to visitors, however, as an endangered species of bat inhabit the The ominous creek crossing on the road into Tjaynera Fallssurrounding cliffs and human interference would threaten their habitat. 

A Land Rover crossing the creek on the road into Tjaynera FallsOur goal for the first night was the Sandy Creek Campground at Tjaynera Falls, approximately 10 kilometers down a 4WD track from the main sealed Litchfield Park Road.  Throughout our travels so far 4WD tracks have often involved corrugations, boulders, sharp shale and the odd creek crossing.  The 4WD track into Tjaynera Falls, however, allowed us to test out The Tank in a true-blue Top End water crossing.  A bit of a baptism by fire: the crossing into the falls was an 80 centimeter deep, crocodile-infested swamp around 50 meters in length!  Our venerable 4WD instructor Tom Brown suggested we walk all water crossings before attempting them and try not to cross waterways deeper than the bottom of our air filter (even though The Tank has a snorkel).  At 80 millimeters we were okay with the latter air filter depth requirement, but neither Lisa or I were about to wade through the murky, croc-infested creek to check the stability of the track.  So windows down and 4WD low range engaged we motored across the creek praying that all of The Tank’s seals were ship shape, at the same time hoping we didn’t see any red eyes glistening at us from up- or down-stream.  True to form, The Tank handled the crossing with ease, we could both practically hear Tjaynera Fallseach other’s heartbeats as we exited the swamp, full of adrenaline declared our christening deepwater crossing a victory.  We learned later the next day that an unfortunate traveler attempting the creek after us in a smaller rig without an air snorkel had water enter the engine through the air filter and was stuck in the middle of the creek with an hydraulically seized engine.  They had to sit in the vehicle waiting to be towed out by park staff later in the evening.  No Tjaynera Fallsthank you!  The photo above was snapped by Lisa as we were crossing the swamp on our way out from the campsite this morning, and the one here to the right is a shot of a Land Rover tackling the water after we’d successfully made it out.

Tjaynera Falls was worth the drive, a majestic waterfall emptying into a huge plunge pool at its base.  We hiked the couple of kilometers into the falls from the packed Sandy Creek campground, whilst swimming I asked others in the falls if we could share their campsite for the night as the campground was full when we arrived.  We found a friendly couple that was amiable to our company, which was quite lucky as leaving Sandy Creek late in the day would have meant crossing our croc-infested waterway in the dark to find a campsite at Wangi Falls!  We spent an hour or two swimming at Tjaynera before heading back to Sandy Creek for the night, crystal clear water and such a relief from the humidity.

The Lost CityThe Lost CityTolmer Falls 

Magnetic termite moundsMagnetic termite moundsThe biggest termite mound we saw in Litchfield National ParkWe’d planned to meet my cousins, Sophie and Margot, at Tjaynera Falls on our second day in Litchfield, but we didn’t think they’d be up to the creek crossing described above so left Sandy Creek early to head them off on the other side of the waterway.  On the way out of Tjaynera Falls we stopped to snap some shots of Litchfield’s magnetic termite mounds, named for their north-south orientation.  The mounds are constructed facing the poles to regulate their temperature during the hotter months of the year, they were quite a sight, the ones pictured here are at least six feet tall.  We also stopped off next to the most gargantuan of the regular termite mounds we’ve seen during our travels thus far, the one pictured here to the left towering over The Tank, even with Lisa standing on top of the bull bar!

Sam, Sophie, Lisa and Margot at Wangi FallsWe had a bit of time to spare before heading-off my cousins so we drove up the road to the Wangi Falls campsite to stake out a sleeping spot for the night.  Lucky we did so as we nabbed one of the last spots, Our campsite at Wangi Fallsunfortunate campers filtering through for the rest of the day eyeing off our pad with wanting eyes as they realized they’d have to motor out of the National Park to sleep at one of the distant caravan parks.  After hooking up with my cousins, our first ‘house guests’ for the Australian portion of our trip, we spent the day frolicking in the pool at the base of Wangi Falls.  Another one the Litchfield’s more popular falls, the swimming area was very busy for most of the afternoon, the cool water a welcome relief from the heat and humidity.  Lamb chops for dinner and a fun evening of board games had us in bed around 9:00PM.

Wangi Falls in the sunsetWangi Falls in the sunsetWangi Falls in the sunset

Buley RockholeBuley RockholeThis morning we had a gourmet brekky of bacon and eggs, packed up relatively early and headed off for a morning swim at Buley Rockhole.  Lisa and I tried to stop off at Buley during our first day in Litchfield but the parking lot was full so we had to jot it down for a later visit.  Our early morning arrival today ensured the parking lot was almost empty and we managed to secure one of the many swimming holes for ourselves for the entire morning.  I think Buley was my favorite swimming spot in the park, it doesn’t boast the picturesque falls of many of the other attractions at Litchfield, but the cascading water forms a plethora of deep swimming holes along the creek and is absolutely beautiful.  I spotted a large water monitor (that’s a big swimming goanna for you northerners) sunning itself next to our pool, something I’d been on the lookout for during our days in Litchfield, so I was excited to finally see one.  It was too quick for the camera though, swimming up the Buley cascades with ease at the sign of my approach.  We spent a few hours in the seclusion of our Buley swimming hole before packing up and heading back to Darwin.  Litchfield, what an amazing place, I doubt there are many places on the planet with such an array of picturesque waterfalls and swimming holes.  Definitely worth the visit!

Sam about to dive into one of the pools at Buley RockholeSam about to dive into one of the pools at Buley RockholeBuley Rockhole

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A Day At Mandorah

Australia, Northern Territory Comments Off on A Day At Mandorah

A mud crab on the beach at MandorahThe ocean side of the lock at Cullen Bay looking toward MandorahIt was another typical dry season afternoon today: hot and humid with big blue skies and pleasant enough if you’re lucky to have some swimmable water nearby!  We decided to take a trip across to Mandorah from our current home at my auntie and uncle’s house in Darwin.  Mandorah is located across the bay from Darwin, a couple of hundred kilometers around by road but only a short 15 minute ferry ride from the harbor at Cullen Bay.  The ferry runs every couple of hours so there’s quite a community over in the small enclave of Mandorah that work in Darwin by day and return Tide pools at MandorahThe jetty at Mandorah with a view of Darwin across the wateracross the water each evening.  Mandorah boasts a popular pub on the water’s edge, the Mandorah Hotel, that offers what looked to be quite good counter meals as well as live music and a relaxing setting for an afternoon beer.  We spent the afternoon on Mandorah Beach, Lisa reading her latest book on the sand while I tried my hand at a spot of fishing, again with no luck.  The mud flats and tide pools kept me occupied, however, teeming with all kinds of crabs and juvenile fish.  We’re still not used to being in the hot and humid tropics without being able to take a dip for fear of saltwater crocodiles and box jellyfish.  I don’t think either one of us will ever become used to that part of Australia’s Top End!

The mud flats and jetty at MandorahA hermit crab on the beach at MandorahA colorful mud crab in the mud flats at MandorahColorful rocks along the beach at Mandorah

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Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) National Park

Australia, Northern Territory 4 Comments »
Planet View: S14°19.067′ E132°25.252′
Street View: S14°19.067′ E132°25.252′

Our campsite in Nitmiluk National ParkThe pool at the campground in Nitmiluk National ParkWe arrived at the famous Nitmiluk National Park mid-afternoon and setup camp in the beautiful campsite run by the National Parks and Wildlife Service.  Green grass amid towering gums, again with hot showers and a fabulous pool surrounded by a tropical garden, definitely our best camping spot A small snake scurrying across the hiking trail on the way to the Southern Rockholeyet.  Other than the main attraction of Katherine Gorge, Nitmiluk boasts an array of hiking trails to the various gorges and waterfalls throughout the park, ranging from a couple of kilometers to a six day 66 kilometer slog between Katherine Gorge Hiking to the Southern Rockholeand Leliyn (Edith Falls).  After our arrival we had time for a couple of hours of hiking to the Southern Rockhole, a small swimming hole just above the water level of the first gorge in the Katherine Gorge system.  Lisa had a keen eye for wildlife (again), spotting the small snake pictured here on the trail to the Southern Rockhole, as well as sizeable keelback snake hunting for rocket frogs next to the Southern Rockhole.  The rocket frogs were absolutely everywhere around the Southern Rockhole, fingernail-sized little brown frogs that would jump all over the place as either one of us approached their resting places.  Pat’s lookout was a short hike off the trail to the Southern Rockhole, an amazing view of the first gorge in the Katherine Gorge system.

The Southern RockholeKatherine Gorge's first gorge from Pat's LookoutSam and Lisa at Katherine Gorge's first gorge from Pat's LookoutA wallaby near our campsite in Nitmiluk National Park 

A female freshwater crocodile enjoying the sun in Katherine Gorge's first gorgeComforting?We were told by a number of people that one thing we must do at Nitmiluk National Park is take a boat tour of the gorge system.  We chose the extended tour, four hours through the first three gorges, which included a swim and a few snacks along the way.  As the water level is so low in the dry season a single boat can’t traverse the entire gorge system.  At the end of each gorge we’d disembark our boat and make the few hundred meter hike between gorges to board the boat for the next portion of the cruise.  Our host for the tour was Shane, a quick-witted and very friendly Tiwi Islander who managed to get the whole boat laughing a number of times during the tour.  The second gorge was amazing, massive towering walls of Katherine Gorge's first gorgered rock on either side of the water, beautiful shades of red and orange.  We spotted a couple of freshwater crocodiles along the Katherine Gorge's first gorge and a crocodile nesting area in the sandway, one of which is pictured here.  Awesome to see the prehistoric-looking beasts up close in the wild, to get close enough to see the rows of razor-sharp teeth.  Shane mentioned that in the wet season the water level in the gorge system rises between eight and twelve meters from its dry season level.  What an amazing amount of water!  He also talked about the estuarine (saltwater) crocodile control, detailing that the gorge is closed to swimming for three months while the waters are patrolled for the man-eating beasts after the rains of the wet have passed.  That left us feeling a little more comfortable as we were frolicking around in the water! 

Katherine Gorge's first gorgeWalking between Katherine Gorge's first and second gorgesKatherine Gorge's second gorge Katherine Gorge's second gorgeKatherine Gorge's second gorgeKatherine Gorge's second gorge Ferns growing from the rock walls in Katherine Gorge's second gorgeA freshwater crocodile enjoying the sun in Katherine Gorge's second gorgeFerns growing from the rock walls in Katherine Gorge's second gorgeFerns growing from the rock walls in Katherine Gorge's second gorge Katherine Gorge's second gorgeKatherine Gorge's second gorgeKatherine Gorge's third gorgeKatherine Gorge's third gorgeKatherine Gorge's third gorgeKatherine Gorge's third gorgeWalking between Katherine Gorge's third and second  gorges

Kayakers at the mouth of Sparrow Cave in Katherine Gorge's second gorgeOur campsite at Leliyn in Nitmiluk National ParkAfter finishing up with our gorge tour we headed back into Katherine to grab a few beers after the mandatory 2:00PM opening time for liquor stores in Katherine.  As we were waiting for the shop to open Lisa had a chance to call her dad for Father’s Day while we had Telstra connection.  We then headed around 50 kilometers up the Stuart Highway and back into Nitmiluk National Park at Leliyn (Edith Falls) (S14°10.795′ E132°11.178′).  Leliyn is a much lesser-known area of the park, but by no means any less grand, the campsite is located The lower falls at Leliyn (Edith Falls)right next to the lower falls of Leliyn and we fell asleep on both nights listening to the gushing of the water as it cascaded down the An orb spider at Leliyn's upper fallsA huge butterfly at Leliyn's upper fallsfalls.  The lower falls at Leliyn empty into a huge cliff-hemmed swimming hole, in which we took a sunset swim after setting up camp on our first night.  Today we explored some of the myriad of hiking trails beginning at the falls, taking the roughly four hour return hike up the river to Sweetwater Pool (S14°11.247′ E132°12.998′).  Along the way we passed the majestic upper falls of Leliyn, such a picturesque spot, the pools surrounded by all kinds of wildlife: from Sam and Lisa at Sweetwater Poolorb spiders the size of my palm to giant butterflies drinking from shaded pools (the two pictures to the right).  We passed Longhole on the way to Sweetwater, holding out to swim until reaching our final destination.  Leliyn's upper falls and swimming holeSweetwater Pool was just beautiful, cascades of crystal clear water flowing into a large, deep pool.  We spent the better part of an hour swimming and exploring the pool’s surrounds before making our way back along the hot midday walk to Leliyn’s upper falls for another swim.  I managed to snap a good shot of Lisa being pelted by the upper falls’ cascades, it’s all the way at the bottom right of this post.  We ate lunch at the upper falls then made it back down to camp for a mid-afternoon kip before yet another swim to finish up the day, this time at Leliyn’s lower falls just next to our campsite.  Lisa noticed that the estuarine (saltwater) crocodile signs were a little different at Leliyn than those at Katherine Gorge.  Leliyn’s signs read something to the effect of ‘saltwater crocodiles may inhabit this area, swim at own risk’ instead of the more comforting signs at Katherine Gorge pictured higher up in this post.  So Lisa only spent a few quick minutes in the pool for our final swim!  At the campsite ranger presentation later in the evening he assured us that they wouldn’t allow swimming should there be any chance of an estuarine crocodile in the area.

The lower falls at Leliyn (Edith Falls)A wallaby at our campsite at Leliyn in Nitmiluk National ParkLeliyn's upper falls and swimming holeA lizard on the hike to Sweetwater Pool The Edith River along the hike to Leliyn's upper fallsWildflowers along the hike to Sweetwater PoolFalls leading into Longhole on the way to Sweetwater Pool Sam diving into Sweetwater PoolThe falls at Sweetwater PoolLisa in the falls at Leliyn's upper falls An orb spider at Leliyn's upper fallsLeliyn's upper fallsHooded parrots at our campsite at LeliynA kingfisher (I think) at our campsite at Leliyn

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