Northern Territory

Poor Matilda is feeling sick….

Oh dear look at those dirt roads Matilda

 

Poor Matilda covered in red dust as another vehicle rushes by…

We have been bush again, this time 3 days in the beautiful Litchfield National Park. More on that later because first I have to tell you that our faithful Matilda is not feeling very well. She has struggled into Katherine. Each hill has been a slow drag, dropping back to 50-60 kph. Other vehicles tailgate us in their impatience to speed by. Down hill it was a desperate rush getting up to 80-90 kph before the next tortured climb.

We felt every kilometre for her. If I tried to accelerate her engine would roar but her weary wheels could not respond. The kilometres painfully passed, 40, 30, 20. Finally we limped into Katherine. It was 4pm, good old Matilda had brought us 250 kilometres. But it is Saturday, this is rural Australia and mechanics only work 5 days, every where is shut.

So finding a good campground with grassy sites, shady trees, a pool to cool down in, a bar/bistro with entertainment, plenty of water, and NO mosquitoes. We have settled in for the weekend. On Monday we will take Matilda for her diagnosis.

In the meantime I can do the laundry, relax, swim, relax some more, and let you, all my faithful followers, know what we have done for the past 2 weeks.

I really appreciate the fact that you take time to read the posts and make comments. Please forgive me if I do not reply straight away as often we do not have internet connection. For the same reason the posts are a couple of weeks behind and not posted in “real-time”. So the next episode will take you back to when we left Kakadu and headed toward Darwin….

 

 

 

 

 

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Categories: Australia, National Parks, Northern Territory, photos | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

The best till last…Ubbir…

Late afternoon and the light is beautiful

This is our last day in Kakadu National Park. we have taken a week slowly absorbing the diversity and culture of this unique place. This morning had been spent cruising along the East Alligator River now it is late afternoon and we are walking up to view more rock art in the Ubbir site. The light is at that magical golden time that surrounds the landscape in an aura of magic.

Sandstone rock outliers, the art is on the top corner behind the tree

Rock art high up. How did they do it?

This rock art is attributed to the “Mimi’s” or spirits of Aboriginal Dreamtime as it is so high it would be impossible to reach for normal beings.

The outliers are cool and would be a special place in the heat of summer. Many of the drawings around here are of food and animals. Drawings are often layered on top of older drawings and show the archeologists the changing nature and culture over the years.

Photos cannot capture the magnificence of these places

High on top of the rock out crops looking toward Arnhem land escarpment

Finally we reach the top and can lookout over to Arnhem land where we had been on the morning cruise. It had been a rocky climb, at times on hands and knees, and as it was getting close to sunset we decided we would not stay for the evening show of the sunset as it would be a difficult climb down for us.

It was now we realized why we had been almost on our own as we climbed to the top, because, as we went down, we were passed by hundreds of people on the way up to watch the sunset. This is one of the major highlights of kakadu and all the bus tours organize to have their customers there at that time.

Here are a few of the thoughts from Aboriginal elders that were on boards around the park. It nicely sums up what is “Kakadu”…..

This is a very good reason why National Parks and World Heritage sites are needed

Categories: aboriginal history, Aboriginal rock art, australian travel, Kakadu National Park, National Parks, Northern Territory, photos | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Cruising in crocodile infested waters

Crocodile on the East Alligator river

The East Alligator river is the boundary between Kakadu National Park and Arnhem Land. Kakadu is about 20,000 square kilometres and Arnhem Land is approx 150,000 square kilometres. We have been slowly travelling around Kakadu for 5 days and now we are going to join a 2 hour Aboriginal cultural cruise along this crocodile infested waterway.

Arnhem Land is Aboriginal traditional tribal country and to enter it is necessary to have a permit. This area is shrouded in mystery for me and the stories and accounts I have heard is that the Aboriginal communities that live here are in limbo between their ancient, traditional, tribal lifestyle of hunting and gathering and modern-day society supported by benefits and living in houses supplied by the government. The standards of health,  education, living standards and job opportunities are well below the rest of Australia.

One community, the Gulumyambi people have created an opportunity for themselves by taking tourists for a cruise along the East Alligator River and inviting them onto Arnhem Land.

East Alligator River

Spear throwing demo

The Aboriginal guides told us stories of their culture and pointed out trees and plants that could be eaten or used for medicinal purposes. Of course they took us close up and personal to any crocodiles that were basking on the banks. There are hundreds more that we couldn’t see lurking around in the muddy coloured murky waters of the river.

That boat is smaller than most of the crocs

We passed a couple of “tinnies” with brave blokes fishing. The size of the boats are smaller than some of the crocodiles and notices warn fishermen to always use nets with long handles to bring their catch into the boat. The barramundi is the prize fish in these waters and I have heard it will put up a good fight. If I was that man in the boat I don’t think I would sit with my bottom hanging over the side….

Approaching Arnhem Land

The boat we are in is a good solid size and we keep all parts of our bodies well inside.

Embarking onto Arnhem Land

We embarked and were welcomed onto their home-land. One of the guides was a traditional owner of this part of Arnhem Land. They had a collection of stone tools that were used in the past and they demonstrated the art of spear throwing using a “woomera”, a holder that gives more distance to the throw. We had a short walk to a billabong before it was time to go back along the river.

 

Categories: aboriginal history, australian travel, Kakadu National Park, National Parks, Northern Territory, photos, travel | Tags: , , , , | 9 Comments

Amazing Aboriginal rock art

Bird watchers paradise in the wetlands

Now we are in the cultural heart of Kakadu heading for Nourlangie, the home of Aboriginal tribes for thousands of years.

On the way we stop at a couple of the billabongs and also Yellow Waters. This huge area is flooded in the wet season and never dries right out so it is a haven for birds and all animals. Many migrating birds stop over and in the wet season it is a prime breeding area. During the wet season Kakadu is closed as the roads and all areas are impassable due to the flooding.

The Aborigines recognize 6 distinct seasons in this tropical part of Australia

6 seasons of the Top End

Most people just think 2 seasons up here, hot and dry or hot and wet; but it is far more complex than that. This is now August and is hot and dry. Being the end of August the temperatures are approx 33 to 34 degrees and the humidity is building. The locals tell me the build up is starting early this year. I do not think it would be very comfortable living in Matilda in a few weeks time so we are heading south again.

Talking to tourists in van parks many of them are very disappointed with the Kakadu experience. I’ve heard it said ” Kakdu, Kakadon’t…” But many only whizz through in 2 days just looking out of the car or 4 WD window and staying at the very expensive, all mod-con, commercial camping grounds or cabins. To experience the beauty, history and uniqueness that is Kakadu’s it is necessary to slow down, walk down the tracks to the billabong, take time to look around, walk in the tracks of the ancient tribes and picture the incredible way that these people survived in this very savage and daunting landscape. Sit in the ancient rock shelters and study the art…

Being older has its advantages. We have to pace ourselves, walking up slopes we stop to catch our breath and look around. We cannot fit too much into one day so savour each experience, take lots of photos, we need them to remember what we have seen…

Rock shelters

 

Nourlangie rock shelters and art sites protected by board walks

 

Nourlangie rock shelters

 

These rock shelters are high above the floodplains and as you walk into them the breeze cools you down and it would be a welcome place to sit with the family and wait out the heat of the day. In the storm season a safe refuge to watch the lightning playing across the sky. I could imagine family life, the laws and culture of the aborigines created a very strong family structure. In the above photo you can see traces of where a fire would be lit to cook food or keep warm in the cold nights, maybe the smoke would help to keep away the mosquitoes, I’m sure they would’ve been around then.

Rock art information

 

Information taken from Darwin Museum. Aboriginal rock art is acknowledged as the oldest surviving art in the world

Reasons for painting

 

Rock art

 

Rock art

 

Rock art information

 

The information boards scattered around are very interesting and give an insight into life of the Aborigines before the Europeans arrived. There are more than 500 recorded art sites throughout Kakadu and creating a world heritage site has saved these important relics of another life and culture.

 

 

 

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Categories: aboriginal history, Aboriginal rock art, Australia, australian travel, Kakadu National Park, National Parks, Northern Territory, photos, travel | Tags: , , , | 11 Comments

Journey back in time and culture.

For nearly 2 weeks we have “been bush”, immersed in the diverse vegetation and the amazing journey back into the cultural past of the Australian Aboriginal people of this Northern Territory area of Kakadu. No internet connection for that time.

We are now in a camp ground for a few days R. and R from travel. Time to reflect on what we have seen and experienced, sort out photos, and catch up with my blog and e-mails

Kakadu stone country

Walk through the rocks

After spending 3-4 days in the savanna woodlands  and the floodplains this stone area was a complete change. The escarpments had been a hazy smudge on the horizon. A constant backdrop to the flat floodplains. As we drove closer they loomed large and forbidding.

These amazing formations were the sea bed of a huge inland sea 1500 million years ago. Hard to comprehend that time frame or believe that this ancient, dry country was once under water. We wandered around in awe. To the Aborigines this whole area is a sacred site and I could feel the spiritual atmosphere. We were on our own. This area is not one of the top tourist must see areas. We followed a small sign down a side road

Almost like a hidden city

This was just the start of a journey back in imagination into the culture of these amazing indigenous people of Australia.

For more than 40,000 years the Aborigine has lived with the land. Their culture and laws have been passed down from their Dreamtime in song and dance and stories. Their story of creation is captured in the rock drawings. They are one of the oldest surviving cultures in the world and they are a truly remarkable people. During this trip we have learnt a great deal about their culture.

It came as a surprise to me to find out that the communities had very definite boundaries, and each of these communities had their own language. Over 200 distinct languages in this area of Northern Territory. That is now down to 12. They had strong laws about marriage and trade and every other part of community life. When the European arrived the Aboriginal person was classed as part of the flora and fauna of the country and given no identity as a person. This was a tragic part of Australian history, and it is only very recently that the uniqueness and living skills have been acknowledged.

Next area we visited was the world-famous Nouralangie rock art sites. More of that later…

 

 

Categories: aboriginal history, Aboriginal rock art, australian travel, Kakadu National Park, National Parks, Northern Territory, photos, travel | Tags: , , , | 8 Comments

Bush fire

Bush fire, originally uploaded by gypsy woman1.

This was a controlled burn that we came across as we headed towards Kakadu National Park. Patch work burning is used during the cold, dry season to keep the inflammable grasses under control. It is still scary when you pass this close to one. The black kites were diving on all the small creatures that were racing ahead of the flames. It was an amazing experience, but I would hate to be caught up in a bush fire, it spread along so quickly.

Bush fire

 

 

Categories: Australia, Northern Territory, photos, travel, video | Tags: , , , | 4 Comments

Kakadu Heritage listed National Park

I am covered in mosquito bites, despite smothering myself with repellent. I wonder was it worth it? Was it what I expected?

No it wasn’t the wilderness I expected. It is interesting. I can see the diversity and appreciate the cultural significance for the indigenous people, but it seems subdued. The fire management policy of patchwork burning has created a landscape of alternating scorched earth and blackened trees to other areas of fresh, green growth. In my mind’s eye I could imagine the new growth in a few years would be thick, rampant and jungle-like, but it is not allowed to run wild and unfettered, it is now controlled into submission. I know this has to be done and it is following the way the Aboriginal people have managed their environment for tens of thousands of years. 80% of Kakadu is Savanna Woodlands and the grass grows thick and lush in the wet season. If left it would become a serious fire hazard in the dry and wild, uncontrollable fires would rage through the country.

The unburnt areas are beautiful…

Evening light filtering through the gum trees

 

Kakadu Savanna Woodlands

We came in from the Southern end and this is mostly Savanna Woodlands. We camped at the basic bush camps, toilet and solar heated showers. Being the dry season it was quite dusty but only $10 per person so for budget travellers it had every thing we needed. We have a portable solar panel to supply our own power, and it is always sunny with not a cloud in the sky. One thing we did miss and that was the internet connection…

We can even have a camp fire as fire grates are provided and there is plenty of dead wood around. This was the first time this trip that “one match Jack” had been in action…

One match Jack strikes again

 

Camp fire meditation

By day 3 we had moved further into Kakadu. This is one of the largest parks in Australia and covers nearly 20,000 square kilometres. Within this vast landscape there are 6 main landforms and the habitats in each is distinctively different and quite unique. We passed through the floodplains and billabongs and the bird life is amazing.

By now I had become used to the patchwork burning and accepted it as part of the Kakadu scenery. As we crossed bridges across the mighty South Alligator River and it’s tributaries, we would stop to marvel at the beauty of the waterways and the reflections and, of course, the birds. The South Alligator River is one of the only rivers in the world that is totally enclosed, and therefore protected, in a National Park. The other creäture it is famous for is the huge salt water crocodile. We have not spotted any as yet, but when you walk close to a river, stream or billabong you are on high alert watching for any signs and of course not getting too close to any swampy areas…

White Heron waiting for breakfast

 

White Heron

 

South Alligator river

 

Monsoon forest area reflections on the South Alligator river

 

The park is very well maintained and plenty of walks and tracks that can be followed. They cater for all levels of fitness and age.

20 years ago we had visited Kakadu and the most outstanding memory from that trip was going to Gunlom Falls. We walked the very steep one kilometre track to the top of the waterfall and swam and floated in the pristine mountain stream and connecting pools leading to the edge of the falls. I remember being watched by a large water dragon basking on the rocks. We sat and dried off on the smooth, sun-warmed rocks right on the edge of the drop down to the plunge pool many metres below. Later we swam in that plunge pool and small, iridescent blue bee-eater kingfishers darted and dived above us flashing like jewels in a crown. It was a magic moment.

A large goanna, the size of a fox terrier dog, ambled around the camp as we ate dinner. The ranger said he was called Charlie and not to feed him. That night, as we sat under the stars, the ranger gave a slide show about the flora and fauna of kakadu. As we lay in the hire van we could hear dingoes howling in the distance. Hearing a rustle we looked out the van window to see 2 dingoes checking around the BBQ areas. It was a surreal experience.

( when I get back home I will post some old-fashioned prints from that trip, on my memories blog, to compare them with this time…)

Back to the present: I was looking forward to Gunlom, but it wasn’t to be, the 36 kilometre track was only recommended for 4WD vehicles as it had not been graded this year and was very corrugated. Some said “you can do it, just go slow”. Matilda is at 14 years old, a middle-aged lady and has to last us many more miles as wheels, accommodation and travel companion, so, reluctantly, we missed Gunlom this time.

Now we are up to day 5 and have come in to the small township of Jabiru. We are staying in Kakadu Lodge caravan Park and it is very civilised. Power, shady grass sites, internet, swimming pool, even a bar/bistro with entertainment tonight. So we are going to have a meal over there and chill out for a couple of days before the next part of Kakadu which will be moving into the stone country and exploring the Aboriginal art work sites and culture.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: aboriginal history, Australia, australian travel, camping australia, caravan park, Kakadu National Park, National Parks, Northern Territory | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

The warm, balmy tropical winter weather of Northern Territory, we love it…

The climate is now tropical, a warm 30-32 degrees during the day and only drops to approx 16-17 at night. The sun shines from a clear blue sky. I have stowed away the oil heater and brought out the fan. Jack has discarded his thermals and wooly socks and I have dug out the summer shorts and tops from the bottom box, putting away the jackets, track pants and sweaters. It is now summer on the road and what we have travelled north to find.

I decided that now we do not need power to run a heater, an absolute necessity through the central desert areas when night-time temperatures can drop to 3-4 degrees, we can stay on unpowered campgrounds. So 3 days ago, when we left Katherine, we did a 20 kilometre side trip to Edith Falls National Park.

We arrived at midday and, oh dear, the swarms of people, the car park was crammed, the swimming hole was full of high-spirited, i.e. rowdy, children. We looked at each other, not our scene. So we decided to have lunch and a cuppa, then move on. Then I realised it was a public holiday; picnic day.(not sure what the significance of this holiday is). Feeling more relaxed after a sandwich and coffee we rationalized they will all be back at work and school tomorrow.So we decided we are here now we may as well walk up to the top pool and waterfall and stay the night.

Looks easy on the map…

There are a series of pools joined by cascading waterfalls. The bottom pool, where all the children are playing, is just behind the campground. A 2.6 kilometre round walk takes you up the escarpment to the top pool. a further 8 kilometre trek takes you to the headwaters. We opt for the 2.6 round walk to the top pool

What goes up must come down…

Our fitness levels are not as good as previous years so it is a leisurely, ie slow amble, to the top pool. Lots of steps and rough ground and lots of photo stops!!!! The destination was well worth the journey.

Looking down to the bottom pool from the top pool

Edith falls

After slowly lowering the hot body into the clear, fresh plunge pool below the waterfall and the accompanying gasp, it was blissfully refreshing. Not many people in this pool and only a couple of children.

Jack jumps in I take the photo then follow him

We arrive back at camp as the sun sets, turning the rocks of the escarpment to a molten gold colour.

With glass of wine in hand, feeling so relaxed,we watch the stars appear and the sky turn to velvet. The car park is now empty, all the day-trippers have gone home. It is so quiet we can just hear the distant murmur of the waterfalls.

Next morning we almost have the campground to ourselves. So for the first time this trip we set up the solar panel and decide to stay another day.

Evening reflections in the river

Escarpment reflections

Kapok flowers dance like butterflies in the bush

Grevillea native flower

Beautiful arial perspective

Smoke haze at sunset

The next day we walked part way up the escarpment to watch the sunset. It had an ethereal, mystic look as this time of the year, winter, is “cold burn” time. It is a method of management and control in the bush lands. It has been used for thousands of years by the Aboriginal traditional owners to keep undergrowth down and help prevent summer bush fires and also creates new growth which brought the wild life into their areas for food. Many of the native Australian plants actually need fire to open seed cases and start new plants growing. A very complex system. It is known as patch work burning and the air has a hazy smokey atmosphere most of the time. It is now used by National Park management too.

Categories: aboriginal history, Australia, australian travel, camping australia, Northern Territory, out back, photos, travel | Tags: , , , , , | 12 Comments

Historical Springvale Homestead and thoughts on travel

In the middle of a burn area this sculptural group survives

Travelling I think is genetic, some people have an urge to move, explore,experience new places. Others are happy to stay in one place, making a nest, putting down roots, surrounded by family and familiar friends.

I know I am the restless gypsy type. To explore and discover new places gives me satisfaction. If I am in one place for long I get restless and start to plan the next trip.

Discovering the history of the places we pass through brings the area alive. Over the weekend we stayed in the campground behind Springvale Homestead, 5 kilometres from the town of Katherine. This has a very interesting history and is the oldest surviving homestead in the Northern Territory. Every afternoon at 3pm Wendy gives a very lively and descriptive talk about the history of the place. Since 1877 it has been through good times and bad. Many different types of farming have been tried. For me the individual character of Mary Giles shone through in the talk. She came as a young bride from the city of Adelaide and was the first white woman to to be brought onto a station in the Northern territory. What a strong, resilient pioneer, how lonely she must’ve been, but she planted a vegetable garden and fruit trees, then used the produce to make preserves, jams and chutneys.When the gold rush started a few years later at Pine Creek just 90 kilometres along the road she built a thriving cottage industry selling her produce to the passing crowds going to, hopefully, make their fortune in the gold fields. She even had a separate storehouse built for her business.

Alfred and Mary Giles and family

Eventually the station went broke. Over 4 years the 1200 sheep that had walked over 2000 kilometres from Adelaide had dwindled to 70. The spear grass had got into their gut and poisoned them, and they could not breed. In 1886 the property was put on the market and Alfred and Mary and their 4 surviving children moved on.

Historic Springvale Homestead

But the Homestead remained. It survived fire and flood and in the 1980’s joined the tourist industry with the establishment of a campground and cabins behind the old homestead. The natural hot springs were capped and a swimming pool created with a constant 34 degree temperature. The camp is situated on the banks of a peaceful lagoon. We stayed 3 days in this idyllic setting.

 

The town of Katherine was the scene of one of Australia’s worst floods in 1998. The river rose and the town was inundated. The homestead on the banks of the Katherine River had water up to the roof. Looking at this gently flowing waterway today it is hard to imagine the roaring,giant monster that swept all before it in 1998.

Railway bridge over the Katherine river

This railway bridge was covered, the water came 6 foot over the lines. It is very hard to visualise that much water pouring through.

 

In 2005 I stayed in Katherine backpackers when I travelled around Australia by Greyhound bus (that is another story….) At that time the memories of the flood and the emotions were still very raw. I visited the museum and they had a video made by the SBS TV station showing the horrors and aftermath of that flood. They interviewed locals who shared their stories of loss and grief but also heroism. Being in the town and watching that video had a great impact on me. I felt the sorrow but also the mateship and bonding that great disasters bring to a district.

Next year, 2006,I sat in disbelief, at home, and watched on TV as Katherine, once more, sank beneath the river.

This country is beautiful but capricious and can turn in a moment to danger and disaster.

On a lighter note, when the flood water went down a saltwater crocodile was found swimming around Woolworth’s supermarket meat department….

Family conference termite sculpture

 

As for these characters? We saw them along the road and just had to stop and take their photos, they seemed to call out to us….

Categories: Australia, australian travel, caravan park, floods, Northern Territory, outback, travel | Tags: , , , , , | 5 Comments

The eccentric, quirky, iconic Daly Waters Pub

The Barkly Highway that we have followed across the outback, ends abruptly at Three Ways. It joins into the main north south Stuart Highway. We turn right to head north. To the west of this Highway is largely impenetrable desert. The landscape changes and the volume of traffic increases. This is the route that the explorer John McDouall Stuart discovered in 1860’s and then the telegraph line was put through from Adelaide to Darwin which eventually connected Australia to the world. It is still the only route through the centre of Australia.

The distances between camp grounds dwindles, only approx 150 kilometres. We start to dawdle again, getting up later, stopping for more photo opportunities, taking longer to have lunch.

Lubras Lookout

This amazing rocky outcrop stopped us in our tracks when we came round a bend and it dominated the country side. It had been so flat for days now, so this was quite startling, and I wonder about the geology of this land and how and why this outcrop survived the erosion around it. I made enquiries and was told it has significance in the Aboriginal culture and Dreamtime and the women of the tribe would use it to watch for the men coming back from a hunting expedition.

Now we are approaching the turn off to Daly Waters Pub. It has a solid reputation as the must stay place. It is an Icon in these parts. In the droving days it was a stop off as it had reliable water source. During WW2 an air port was built here and service men would spend leave here. It’s reputation now is built on its hospitality. First is “happy hour”, a tradition in the camping grounds. Then every night they put on a “Barra n Steak” BBQ and the Barramundi is wild caught and fresh from the gulf and the steak is rib-eye from the local cattle station. The salad bar is help yourself and is fresh and delicious. To top the evening off they have “Chillie” to entertain us. Well by 7-30 when Chillie arrives we are all watered and fed and feeling very mellow. Chillie puts on a great show. He is a stand-up comedian and he knows his audience. Each state plus the Asians plus the Americans are given the once over and we all love it. He sings some Country and Western songs and ends with the patriotic Australian song “We are one, but we are many”. The show is so good that Jack buys his CD. We have sat with another 3 couples and made instant friends and all agree it was a great night.

The weather is warmer and we didn’t need a thick jacket on…

Daly Waters Pub

Oops some one missed the air port

Spare thong and shoe post…

Inside the pub the walls and posts and all surfaces are covered with collections of hats, t-shirts, bras, money of all nationalities, memorabilia of all sorts. It is an entertainment just looking around.

Famous Barra and Steak BBQ

Help your self to all you can eat salad

Stand-up comedian, Chillie

Categories: aboriginal history, Australia, australian travel, Northern Territory, outback, photos, Pubs | Tags: , , , | 1 Comment

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