Week 7 12/9/06 through 18/9/06
It was a good night sleep last night as the evenings are getting cooler again. This morning we ventured to the Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre Art Display near the Yellow Waters area of Kakadu. This centre was well set out and presented many and varied displays. I guess the one thing we miss most is the contact with the aboriginal people in Kakadu, even at a store front level. This Art Gallery wasn't any different, the same types of wares being sold without any Aboriginal representation.
Next stop was just around the corner at the Yellow Water Tours. These large tours, where they jam pack as many tourists into the smallest area they can, do not appeal to us, so we decided to skip the boat tour. Peter and Dale (The avid bird photographers we met previously) had told us about the Jumping Croc Tour near Fogg Dam which caters to a maximum of 10 people per tour, so we decided to do that in the next day or two.
Due to the problems with of our vehicle, namely the rear axle being cracked, and the condition of the road to Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls, we decided to give this section a miss. The drive in is 50kms but takes 2 hours, punishment our vehicle doesn't need. So next stop is Darwin again. Now let me tell you why we love Darwin so much... 2 examples. The guys at Falcon Engineering inspected the rear axle and as we had caught it so early they had our vehicle, and us, back on the road within 20 minutes. Axle welded and even the broken exhaust pipe bracket re-welded... the fastest service we have ever experienced. They confirmed how common the problem is with the GQs and claim to have fixed hundreds over the 19 years since they were first produced. Then on to Australia Post, where Ruth chased up our mail in Katherine for us. Nothing was a problem for her.
We have been asked via email what is a triangle weld and will answer it here in case it answers any others questions: In the picture above you will see a triangle to the left of the diff housing. On the GQ's there is one either side of the diff, and in earlier production runs these had a reputation for cracking along the weld. Previously our right hand side weld had cracked , so we knew what to do quickly to avoid costly repairs. In extreme cases this would be new wheel bearings, removal of the axle, grind out of the old welds, and then the axle is placed in a kiln and then welded while its hot to avoid pulling the axle out of alignment. Luckily we caught our problem early, and avoided this expense!!!
Restful day spent catching up with emails from friends, and the household washing etc. BUT this afternoon was very different. We took the 3pm tour of the Jumping Crocs near Fogg Dam on the Adelaide River. Now this was totally awesome! Captain Morgan navigated our vessel through croc infested waters and carefully positioned us so we didn't need our telephoto lenses or glasses to see them! We were warned to look not touch, and no one argued with him, believe us. They have given their croc names based on some of their individual characteristics like Godfrey, Diver, Chainsaw, Surfer Jo, to name a few. Now Diver is called diver because he dives below before he comes up from the water to grab his treat. Surfer Jo shoots in across the water for her treat. It was amazing to see the crocs up close and to see their individual patterns, colours and tones of their bodies, one croc had a 1 big red tooth. At one point Captain Morgan beached our vessel on a mud flat and bought a croc up to feed along side us. After getting his treat the croc returned to the water, washed his mouth out and ate the treat.
The final part of the cruise involved meat being placed on a floating platform and birds of prey diving it to claim their piece. There was one bird called a White Breasted Eagle (we think) and it was magnificent with the majority of its body snow white.
Thank you! Captain Morgan and Maxine for a wonderful afternoon.
<<<CLICK HERE to see Hunter Safaris Web Site>>>
Today we headed for Dundee Beach on the edge of the Indian Ocean on Fog Bay. Dundee Beach is West of Darwin approx 80kms as the crow flies and a small community which is just about to be connected to the electricity grid. (The lines are in, and the houses power poles were being installed as we drove by. We ventured here not really knowing too much about the beach as the internet didn't help much and the Darwin locals seem to avoid it. We soon discovered that Real Estate agents are selling the place. Why not, house blocks on the beach and a small community, very cute.
The beach is very pretty with its white sand, dark coloured rocks and coloured sand hills. The shoreline seems a lot steeper than West Alligator Head and markedly less mud flats. There is not a lot of 4WDring here, but what there is, is combined with spectacular views of the Indian Ocean. We guess it will not be too long before 4WD will be off limits and access to the pretty areas closed off. Also dotted along the track are Magnetic Termite Mounds like the ones we saw in Litchfield National Park (although not as large), some on the coastal sand dunes. The short stretch of beach we drove down was lined with many turtle tracks, including some obvious new nests and fresh nesting holes being prepared. This nesting seems to coincide with the full moon and this time of year, near the end of the dry season. Another interesting thing we noted is that there is not one Croc or Box Jellyfish Warning sign anywhere, but don't for a minute think we are not being very cautious, we also noted no one swimming either.
Locals always seem proud of anything which mentions croc and their local community in the Newspapers. We did spot the news clippings for the area in the local pub which mentions Finniss River 4.5m nasty croc who chased 2 men up a tree and kept them there for 3 days, and after yesterday, we certainly believe that!
A new rule presented itself today also. Rule No 2 - there are coloured sands on many beaches, but not all grey low tide sand can be walked on!
One of us, who will remained nameless, ventured down the beach today in search of that ultimate photograph and took a small step onto what she thought was a patch of grey sand! The sand, she quickly discovered was the richest, finest, stickiest mud she had ever found sinking instantly to her ankles and smothering her sandshoes.
The tide was not as high last night as we expected, but the noise of the waves crashing on the rocks near the campsite did wake both of us up a few times during the night. The morning stroll down the beach revealed that no turtles came ashore last night to prepare their nest or lay eggs, perhaps the tide and moon are out of sync at the moment? About 11am we headed down the beach to Stingray Point. The cliffs here were impressive and gave views to the mouth of the Finniss River. Oh course we could not turn down a drive down 5 mile beach and it certainly gave us some great photo opportunities. The beach borders the edge of Finniss Station and was deserted except for one person who has a squatting shack at the end of the beach.
From Finniss River Beach we moved onto Mandorah to say good bye to Darwin for the last time on this trip. We have certainly enjoyed Darwin, its friendliness and to a certain degree its innocence. It makes you realise how much our own life just buzzes by in Brisbane and maybe it is us who have lost the correct path in life? Mandorah, for those who do not know, is on the opposite side of Darwin harbour to Darwin. There is very little there except a jetty and a hotel, and the hotel for only another 116 days! Close to Mandorah is the community of Wagait. It contains a mixture of buildings from the run down to the modern, but alas still no good examples of the open architecture we were hoping to see in Darwin.
We headed back to Katherine, and as it was getting late, set up camp near Edith Falls again, the same place as we were on the 26-08-2006, just outside of Katherine. Nice to be in familiar territory!
Although last night was a really peaceful sleep the smoke from local bush fires filled the atmosphere and totally stuffed up our noses this morning. As we had camped on the Edith River we were still 50kms from Katherine, so an early rise and hit the road was in order this morning. Arriving in Katherine about 9 we set off to do our tasks so we could move onto Katherine Gorge. Problem No 1. ..post office doesn't open on Saturdays and problem No. 2 no alcohol sales in Katherine until noon. Oh well can't win them all! We also needed fuel to feed our thirsty vehicle and an interesting fact came to light, Katherine has a Coles Express service station, BUT no Coles supermarket to issue discount vouchers! How bizarre!
Another interesting thing about Northern Territory, we have been meaning to comment on, is their personalised number plates. They must be so cheap as chips as every man and his dog seem to have one, even the wildlife!
The other thing we had to do before we left civilisation was to upgrade the amount of memory in the laptop from 512KB to 1GB. Leslie from NT Technology in Katherine was an another example of how the locals always go out of their way to help you, even staying back after shop closing time for 1/2 hour to ensure the memory fitted and functioned correctly. It people like Leslie who really make us want to stay a little bit longer. Thanks Leslie.
Arrived at Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge about 2.30pm and discovered the free internet in the visitor centre, well that engrossed us for an hour before we ventured out of the air conditioning to the lookout. To gain access to the lookout involved many many steps, but the view did make it worth it. The view stretched up and down the gorge and people taking boat rides and paddling canoes could be seen in the distance. Nitmiluk (Katherine) Gorge consists of 13 gorges which would take many days to view if one was to attempt to walk it. They do offer helicopter rides, $70 per person for a 10 minutes ride. As accountants we work that out as 2 minutes to take off and land and approximately 2 gorges per minute for the remainder of the trip. Hope the pilot tells you not to blink!
For the night we camped just outside the National Park on a small river, the gentle breeze filled the evening and made it very pleasurable.
We have received some questions on what equipment we use in our travels and what we use to produce a web page like this. Again we decided we will go into more details here so others might benefit from inquiry. <<<CLICK HERE for details of our Electronic Equipment>>
Our day started a little slow today and we decided to take the 3pm 2 hour boat tour of the gorge. The tour commences at the beginning of gorge 1 and at the end of that gorge you swap boats to go up gorge 2. We had 2 wonderful tour guides namely Jamie & Don who pointed out many things from special areas of the gorge to freshwater croc nests on the sandy banks that occur in parts. It turns out this was Don's first time as captain and he handled the boat like a pro. Thank you guys for a great 2 hours and some enjoyable conversations along the way.
Before we ventured out for the gorge tour we stopped in the visitors centre to see what Manuel and Jessica were painting today. We had been disappointed yesterday when they had sold out of their art work of the native gorge animals. Today we found them working on 1 large piece of artwork and they had one last painting for sale which we purchased. They have been painting for over 14 years and certainly produce some wonderful images. By the way if you are interested, they do mail order and can be contacted by phoning 08 8972 1253. Just ask for the artwork produced by Manuel.Pamkal or Jessica.Pamkal. Alison spent some time talking to them and we found the experience wonderful. Manuel told his the story about the rainoow serpent in the artwork he was working on and the significance of the horns.
We decided to spend the night in the same place as last night on a small creek outside the gorge on the road back to Katherine.
Today we headed for Gregory National Park. As this is the last day, for a while, before we have internet again we decided to put up this week's instalment a day early, so next weeks posting will be a little thicker!
Stay tuned as the adventure continues......