Corroboree Billabong is on the way to Kakadu National Park, and is the subject of two paintings that we bought at the Mindil Beach markets in Darwin the day before we went on the billabong tour. It was great to see the subject of the paintings for ourselves. We got our first look at real crocodiles as well as lotus flowers and lilies, jabiru, barking owls, a sea eagle, cormorants, a jacana (aka Jesus or Lotus bird) and its tiny chick, wallabies, horses, pigs and buffaloes. Evan, the tour guide, gave us a safety tip that if the boat is sinking we need to form circles around him and swim to the nearest shore! He assured us that women can form the inner circle!
The same joke was used by the Yellow Water billabong tour guide, so they must have gone to the same tour guide school! This tour, which we did a few days later, turned up the dial on the number of animals, including a 6 day old croc kill of a buffalo, with a number of crocodiles still keeping watch over the carcass. The smell was overpowering by that stage! The finale of our Yellow River tour was the sunset, but we’ve been told that the sunrise tour is very different and well worth doing as well.
We stayed a couple of nights at a free camp at Bucket Billabong. Within a few minutes of arriving we saw a croc in the water near us. Thankfully, we were on a vertical 2 metre high embankment. I was on croc-watch for the next 2 days, as we couldn’t resist setting up the fly annex close enough to the water to be able to keep an eye out for them and to check out the fish jumping and birds gliding around the water. The mozzies and midgies are cruel here, and my legs were starting to look like pincushions.
The aboriginal rock art in Kakadu is one of the highlights, and was abundant in Ubirr and Nourmangie where there are also walks with views of the surrounding landscape. Can you tell what the subjects of these paintings are?
They are a long necked turtle, a white man with hands in pockets, a thylacine (aka Tasmanian Tiger before they were made extinct on the mainland) and the Rainbow Serpent.
Cahills Crossing is a cement weir over the East Alligator River (called that by an English guy who didn’t know the difference between crocs and alligators) where lots of crocodiles wait until the tidal water rises up over the weir bringing fish with it, that are more easily caught. We saw at least 15 crocodiles on one side, and probably that many on the other side. As the water gets higher they fight with each other to get the best position, although they didn’t fight with the largest croc, closest to us.
You can see a video of this here:
The pools and air conditioning at the two caravan parks we stayed at, in Jabiru and Cooinda, were what drew us there, but they also had pretty good bar bistro areas, and Jabiru even had a guy on a guitar one night.
The waterfalls and natural pools we visited in Kakadu were each very different, and were welcome respite from the heat. Jim Jim Falls is iconic as the highest falls at 150m, and despite the falls not flowing, it was still spectacular to swim under these tall vertical rock walls. The issue here is the walk in requires you to have the balance of a tightrope walker and the agility of a mountain goat to get over the increasingly larger boulders. Some people we passed, didn’t make it all the way to the falls, even though its only 1km.
Maguk Falls was my favourite in that the water is crystal clear and just the right temperature, the walk from the parking area is easier than Jim Jim, and there is some shade to sit under.
Gunlom Falls plunge pool has a resident 2.5m freshwater crocodile, and was tinged a little green, but after the 40-odd kilometres of corrugations we endured to get there, nothing was stopping us from cooling off in the water. There is also a natural infinity pool but this is currently closed by the traditional owners, a small sign having been posted at the beginning of the road advising not to try to get up there. We were very disappointed by this but stopped wondering why there were so few people in the campground! At night there was a dingo circling around after Mark went to have a shower. I assume it smelt our beef stew on the campfire. No photos as I was too busy putting food inside and ensuring I had a camp chair and axe between me and it. If its not crocodiles and mozzies, its dingoes that want to attack you! Only joking – it really wasn’t very menacing and kept its distance.
We’re now back in Katherine, stocking up, and cleaning and repacking Katya, before we head east along the Gulf of Carpentaria towards Queensland. The Katherine Hot Springs are not hot, more like tepid, but very relaxing after the heat of each day.
Despite it still being winter, the temperatures have been ranging between 35-39C each day since we hit the Top End, and the predictions are for an early wet season. With this in mind, knowing that we need to come back again earlier next time in the dry season when there is more water around, and when the virus is over and the cultural centres are open, we’re going to get to Cape York and ensure we tick that off the bucket list this year.