Wednesday, 18 July 2007

Darwin and Kakadu

Once again on the train... this time with 7 other people from the Uluru tour. Annsofie, Veronica, Fahed, John, Christian, Wan, and Lloyd. It’s rather nice to have familiar faces around, and so we all ate meals together, hung out in the lounge together, and at the stop in Katherine decided to go canoeing together. Canoeing was fun, if wet, and used up most of the time we needed to waste in Katherine. Didn’t spot an crocs.... oh well. Arriving in Darwin, we all hopped on the same shuttle and helped each other find accomodations at various hostels. After a brief perusal of our trusty Lonely Planet guides, we selected “Tim’s Surf and Turf” (otherwise known as Ten Litchfield) as a good place where we could all meet up for supper.
Over supper, we gradually came to the conclusion that much as we all wanted to see the rainforest of either Kakadu or Litchfield... both required booking a tour in order to see them properly and all the tours were rather pricey at a minimum of 450$ for 3 days. Bit by bit we put together a plan of making our own tour, and got to work bright and early the next morning. The hostel Laurie and I were at had free pancake batter for the guests, so we invited the others over for a free breakfast. Once there we began phoning car rental shops and camping places for quotes. Many people laughed at the audacity of thinking we could stroll into town in high season and put together our own tours when everything is booked solid. We left town at 2pm with 2 Nissan Patrols filled with 4 tents, 8 mats, all the cooking utensils we needed for cooking around a fire, all our own luggage and sleeping bags, and enough food for 3 days. Grand total for the trip including gas and everything was 360$. Not bad.
We got directions from the guy at the camping supply store “Gone Bush’”, and followed his advice on where to camp. Actually, we got quite a few sarcastic comments from him as well, but no more than the typical Aussie style allows for, and he did well pointing us in the right direction. Four wheel drives were essential for the areas we got into, some creeks to cross and a few sand-pit style roads made driving fun. We had only 4 of us above 25 years old and with valid english licences, so we were the legal drivers. (Yes, of course Laurie got her share of driving in) We didn’t get to the campsite until after dark, and selected it mainly by the fact that it was away from other people, and it was a relatively clear area. The next morning we realized it fit that description because it had recently been burned out. Everything was covered in soot the entire trip. But thanks to our previous camping, we were great at gathering wood. You don’t need an ax out here, as the dead stuff is easily broken into sections that fit relatively well onto the fire.
Two full days in the bush, we saw two gorgeous waterfalls with swimming holes at the base. Both of which had warnings that you swim at your own risk because crocodiles occasionally managed to get through the rocks up the river. Day 1 we were at Jim Jim falls, an impressively high waterfall with frigid water in a well shaded pool. Not many swam for long, only Lloyd even brought swim gear because the rest of us were too worried about crocs. After walking in the intense 30C heat over and around boulders for at least a kilometer, Laurie and I and a few others couldn’t help but get in the water fully clothed. We even filled our water bottles with some of the best tasting water I’ve ever had.
We dried on the walk back. On day 2, we were up before sunrise for a boat tour of a local billabong (yellow water billabong, I think). Absolutely gorgeous, with wildlife everywhere. Even got pics of a few crocs.
We went to Baramundi falls in the afternoon, but this time we were all ready for it and everyone of us got in the water at least briefly. It was heavenly, and very, very hard to leave. The water was perfect. The time was not nearly long enough. (and that's just the river on the way to the falls) But it got late, none of us had had lunch and we were trying to make it to another rock for sunset. Laurie and Fahed begged an extra ten minute swim, and ended up getting lost returning. Thanks to that little delay, we barely made it to Ubirr rock as the sun was setting. There was aborigine rock art/painting all over the place here, but we were too late for anything but the last glows of sunset. And we hightailed it out of there afterwards as this area was one of the worst for mosquito infestations. Day 3 we packed up camp,
and went to Nourlangie Rock for a bit of aborigine history and rock art before heading back to Darwin.
One last night in Darwin, we had a little trouble finding accomodations for those who were staying the night, but eventually everyone one was taken care of. First order of the day was washing all the soot off, and us girls took almost 2 hours. We went out for supper and then to a local backpackers bar, the only one with anything going on on a Tuesday night. Laurie and Annsofie got third place in a dance competition. Finally, half the group took off in taxis to the airport to fly out that night.
Laurie and I went to our hostel, got up in the morning just in time to check out, lock up our bags for the day and meet up with Lloyd and Wan to go out for coffee. We ran errands, took the cars back to the rental agency, and went out for lunch, then split up for the afternoon. We decided to catch up on email, spent some time at the beach (not swimming because of sharks and crocs, just enjoying the sight), went to see Harry Potter 5, and went back to the beach, before meeting up with the boys for supper. After a leisurely supper, we caught a cab to the airport, repacked our bags, and took off for Brisbane at 1:40am.

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