The extraordinary Yellow Water of Kakadu

The Love me lots bird.

Day 2 was basically a quieter day. Richard and Julie had more bad luck with their car and couldn't get it going so we went to call up road service for them and then we went on knowing that they will catch up when they can. We were on a tight time schedule and had to be in Katherine by lunch time on day 4 no matter what. It took a while to travel down to the next campsite and we stopped on the way at the township of Jabiru mainly to apply for the permit to cross Arnhem Land which they said it would be ready to pick up in Katherine. Our friends were serviced very quickly and soon caught up with us.

"Fields" of water lilies

On day 3 the four of us went on a wetlands cruise of Yellow Water. A leisurely cruise in these wetlands is something you really must do when you come to Kakadu. There are so many birds and absolute fields of wild water lilies. Of course viewing crocodiles was a big part of the cruise. Sometimes we were less that metre from a crocodile though most of them were near the banks. We saw spoonbills, whistling ducks by the hundreds, jabirus, sea eagles, darters, magpie geese, rainbow bee-eaters, ibis, ‘love me lots birds commonly named such as they have the curious habit of standing still for hours with the appearance of staring at their reflection in the waters. We also saw these beautiful Jacanas, they’re the ones that walk on water, we also saw some 3 week old baby jacanas, they are so small and delicate they look like big insects. You will be hard pressed to see them on one of the photos. I also loved the wild lilies and was amazed at some junctions to see just acres of lily fields in bloom. We were told that is it a good time for the lilies but not the best time to see the birds... so if there is more birds than this then it would be mind blowing.

Banks were covered by Whistling Ducks. They didn't seem to take to swimming...maybe they are afraid of being a crocodile's meal???
That is a Magpie goose in the background.

Magnificent Sea Eagle at rest on a tree stump

Jabiru in nest
Try to find the baby jacanas here. Below is a close up of the same photo where you can see 2 of them.

After our wonderful cruise we were invited to lunch with Richard and Julie’s friends who were staying at the Cooinda Caravan Park right next to Yellow Water.

In the afternoon we back tracked a bit and went to see more rock art at Nourlangie. These are totally different and appear to be much more ancient and probably more sacred. I was surprised we were privileged to see them if they are so old. By the way we were within ½ metre of the Vice President of China whilst here. (Not that we knew who he was or even which one he was.) His circus almost took over the whole foot track going in the opposite direction to us. We just thought at the time that they were arrogant tourists that think they have the right of way. We wondered why the Customs people were in the carpark.... oops.

Next day we went on our merry way to get the permit for crossing Arnhem Land to visit our son Allan nad his family in Nhulunbuy.

Kakadu & a near miss with a croc

After 2 weeks in Nungalinya, it was time to move on.

Kakadu was our next destination. We stayed in there for 3 nights. Our friends, Richard and Julie were going there too but needed to get some mechanical things seen to first thing before meeting up with us later. First off we went to the Window on the Wetlands display centre wish was very informative and has some wonderful views looking down over the wetlands. From there went right to the eastern most point of Kakadu, to go and see the Aboriginal Rock Art at Ubirr.

It took a short leisurely walk to see all the artwork. It is hard to understand some of the images and the meaning behind them and then others such as the fish and animals have so much anatomical details that it is difficult to believe that an ancient culture could come up with such accuracy and understanding. The walks and such were a delight though the heat was building up. I think the Top End doesn’t know what winter is!

We drove back to East Alligator River to a nearby picnic area and Cahill’s Crossing to have lunch and were fortunate to be spotted & joined by Richard & Julie on their way in. After lunch we went for a short walk to the river crossing and foolishly I enjoyed just standing in the edge of the water to cool my hot feet, only to be admonished by Bob. Others up on a platform that advised us that they could see that there was a crocodile in the water only some 15 metres away from me... duh...Though it was on the other side of the river crossing, they do move quite fast if they want to. We then went up on the viewing platform and saw the crocodile for ourselves and found a second one sunbaking a bit further away and yet a baby crocodile that was only about 30-45 cm long...I guess you would say cute, but these are still meat eaters too! Oh by the way on the photo above, see the sand above the upturned car, well there is a crocodile there sunbaking and the crocodile that was nearest to my toosties is just near the other side of the water but same side as us. You may see a faint smudge of dark in the water.

This is the close up of the sunbaking crocodile on that far sand bank that is in the photo just below!

And that car... it overturned just the week before. The water may have been a bit deeper but certainly it was flowing fast and thus the driver was over confident and overturned. It still has four new tyres on it. I wonder why no one has knocked them off.. Ha... ha... crocs gulp. Good anti theft devices???

From here we finally went onto set up our campsite at Merl, the campsite nearest the eastern border of Kakadu. Our friends went onto to Ubirr to catch up on the rock art.

Sightseeing & time out

It is not all work and no play. We did some sightseeing in Darwin proper including the historical aspects esp in relation to the Darwin bombings of 1942+ and1972’s Cyclone Tracey, the harbour, the shopping mall and finishing off with a light dinner at the wharf. Another outing saw us visit the Anglican Church out at Fred’s Pass which has no side walls followed by a picnic lunch at Howard’s Springs accompanied by many mosquitoes. The coastline between Darwin and Fanny Bay is lovely and would be good for a bike ride which we never got around to, pity. Lunches in the park and strolls around the place were more in keepig with relaxing this time around. At one stage I inquired about having a stall at the famous Mindil Markets but it is just too big and professinal for me plus there wasn't much room for casual marketers. Sunsets up here at the top end are out of this world.

The Anglican Church at Fred's Pass (No side walls)
The interior of Christ Cathedral (Anglican Church ) Darwin

We also attended the Casuarina Baptist Church in the mornings and the local Anglican Church in Nightcliff. The latter is one of the few churches in Darwin that have an afternoon or evening service. The Youth Minister here, Bruce Chapman is supported by BCA as is Tom Slockee who is the Cannon Missioner (lives and works from Nungalinya). The Nightfliff church also have a fellowship meal after every service which is a great way to meet the people. I love how you can generally feel at home in just about any church one attends when travelling. Sure there are different worship styles especially in the music and the liturgy, but you can feel at home amongst other Christian brethren.
Bruce & family
Tom & Muriel with 2  of their grandkids

Howard Springs

Helping out at Nungalinya

We are truly loving this BCA Nomad work. Not only are we being useful to the various bush churches that just don’t have the resources esp manpower available to them but we are meeting and experiencing communities that we would not otherwise connect with.
Our friends and fellow BCA Nomad workers, Richard & Julie are here too. Between the four if us, we have partly renovated a unit (nothing structural) but lots of cleaning, painting, repairs and gardening; getting it ready for the newly appointed cook to move into. Then there was lots more painting and some gardening. Their local maintenance guy, Keith, made good use of Bob’s skills and had him repair all manner of things. I was put to good use making curtains for the unit as well as some book binding. (I also made good use of the borrowed sewing machine and made curtains and pelmets for the Robbiebago in my time off!  ) As one of the photos below show, I made our curtians outside the van. Actually this was terrific, I wish I had done all the sewing out of doors. I caught the breezes and never felt that I was working too hard. I could listen to the birds as I worked and greet people as they went past.

I love Nungalinya College in Darwin

Nungalinya (sounds like Noon-a-lin-ya) is an Indigenous Theological College run by 3 churches working together: The Anglican Church, The Catholic Church and the Uniting Church. Isn’t it great to know and see that these three major denominations can and are working together for the body of Christ. I wish it could happen more often.

Aboriginal Students

The students (all adults) I met came from various Arnhem Land tribes eg Roper Valley, Bathurst Island, Tiwi island and Groote Island. One lady came from a clan near Lightening Ridge who wants to know how to share the gospel with the street people that she deals with in her social welfare work in Outer Sydney. It is so good to meet Aborigines that are here to learn more of the Bible so that they can take it back to their people especially the children through various programs such as a Sunday School or Bible study. Some go on to become ministers in their communities.
They have Chapel (a informal church worship time) every morning and it is marvellous to see and hear them sing and do the actions to the songs. One of the most treasured memories that I will take away with me is being invited to an impromptu dance & praise session that some the ladies had one evening under the stars. It was so beautiful to dance & mime the songs , often times in Kriol (a common Aboriginal language), sometimes in English. Many of the songs were known Hillsong type of songs that we are familiar with. Some are worship songs in their own language written by some of their people.

Aboriginal People

Have you ever considered that most Indigenous people are actually very clever. They are multi lingual in knowing several languages in addition to their own language. They also have a huge capacity for love and are more than willing to include you in their lives.

The college and its people were heavily involved in the creation of the first full bible in an Aboriginal language (Kriol) which was published and launched just last year. They are so excited to have the Bible in their own language. There are some other partial translations avail such as Yolnu (Our son, Allan’s adopted family are Yolnu which is most of North East Arnhem land). There is another language from east Arnhem land that will have the New Testament by the end of the year. Having a Bible avail is well and good but not much use if they can’t read it. The biggest problem is the literacy and numeracy level of the majority is very poor but it is improving esp amongst the younger generation. A couple of Allan’s ‘brothers’ are at boarding school in Darwin and doing very well.

Joining in

Anyway back on track... We didn’t get to many of the Chapel services as they are at 8.30 in the morning which is part of the best time for working here as it gets too hot to work in the afternoons. Even now in winter, 30 degrees is common in the afternoons with an overnight minimum not less than 18 whilst we’ve been here. We do stop and have morning teas and some meals with the students here in the Dining Room, which helps us to get to know them. Some are here for the first time, others have been here several times. Some courses run from 2 weeks to 6 weeks generally speaking with some courses needing a second or third session of stays. Most need to stay on site as they are more often than not from remote areas even islands so daily transport is impossible. Some are here once and others come back several times for further education. Some may need literacy help too. A rare few go on to do a full theological certificate, some even to a full theological degree. The college would love to encouage more to go on to the full certificate and take the Gospel message back to their own people in their own language & culture.  I have met quite a few Aboriginal Deacons and Ministers that have trained here. It is such a vital ministry. Money and resources is extremely limited even after they have trained, they can’t always be as useful as they otherwise could as they don’t have the resources to follow through with back on land, in their tribes etc. The college here would also like to introduce more courses esp in vocational skills such as Hospitality (which is starting next semester) and Child Care training is being considered.

More information

Do take at look at their website and gain more of an understanding of what Nungalinya is all about. There are some exciting photos there too.

More waterfalls and water holes

Next stop is Litchfield National Park where we camped at Wangi Falls and did more walks and visits to waterfalls and water holes. There was no swimming allowed due to the presence of crocodiles at Wangi so walks is what we contented ourselves with at this campsite and just visited the other places for swimming such as Buleys Waterholes which is by far my fave. It is a series of 5 or 6 water holes next to one another. It has a very easy access from the car park – maybe 100m from the car to the pools. I love sitting under or against the water falls if I could. It feels just like a powerful spa.

The Florence Waterfall is spectacular and long. You don’t have to go far or down any steps to view the falls, however access to the pool at the base of the falls is a lot more difficult with some 134 wooden stairs down and that doesn’t count the natural rock stones as steps either. Once again I like to swim up & under the actual waterfalls but these ones were too strong to stay under it for long.

You must also stop by the Magnetic Termite Mounds whilst at Lithchfield. These ant hills are not as interesting to photograph as the cathedral style nor as high but they are fascinating because they are basically a thin rectangular shape not unlike a tombstone which are aligned to the sun on north south orientation for temperature control. Quite curious.

Thermal Pools, Waterfalls and National Parks

Elsey Homestead of We of the Never, Never fame

We continued onto Mataranka Resort which is truly beautiful. There is a 32 degree thermal pool in which we hopped to cool down – that’s how hot it was out of the pool. Mataranka is also the place where “We of the never never”, was written and recorded on film which is shown daily here. We enjoyed a few quiet relaxing days here.

Next stop is at Katherine. We were hoping to visit Allan however the road to Nhulunbuy will remain closed until at least the end of June due to a very late wet season and some of the rivers are flooded in the area. So we will visit & work in Darwin and see how the river fares in the meantime. Whilst in Katherine, we went for some short drives around and found the thermal pools here where we went in clothes and all since we hadn’t planned on swimming and it was just too tempting. We loved it. It is narrower and closer to the spring source.

We spoilt ourselves and took a helicopter ride & cruise up the Katherine Gorge. After a night of rain, the sun came through in perfectly lovely patches which lit up the rocks and gorges but not too much that was stinking hot. We saw 3 long waterfalls and 13 gorges. A 30 minute flight really disappears quickly and it seemed like no time at all and we were back on the ground and rushing off to the cruise wharf. We thoroughly enjoyed the laid back cruise and the breeze created by the movement of the boat whilst viewing everything the gorges had to offer. It was hard to limit our photos to show you of our flight & cruise, it was all so beautiful. More photos are at the end of this entry.
Leaving Katherine we went onto Edith Falls which is an absolutely terrific place and cheap too! It is certainly not overcrowded even though there are no powered sites. Each site has it’s ‘own’ private grassed backyard. I played a joke on Bob. I went back to our van and told him that people we had met previously were there too and that we were invited to go around later to chat and such. Bob didn’t ask any questions about them. I think he assumed that I couldn’t remember their name, I did deliberately put him off by saying that these people were on their way back to Katherine. It was our fellow BCA Nomads. Richard’s car had broken down and had to be towed back, so I was telling Bob the truth... I just didn’t tell him the whole story. It was worth the fun and games. No swimming at the fall’s pool due to crocs, so we went for a 2.5km walk to the top pool.

All is not smooth on the trip north

Once we left Alice we took time out to visit some of the beautiful locations on our way up to Darwin. I was pretty crook with the tail end of a flu and so was glad to leave the near freezing morning temperatures of Alice. First stop was an overnight stay at the fascinating Devil’s Marbles then onto Tennant Creek and their 2 very good museums; one is an excellent rock & gemstone museum worthy of a capital city. Then our overnight stay was at Bunka Bunka Station where there is a interesting slide night of the history of Bunka Bunka.. The following night saw us at Daly Waters, where we had to take an unpowered site which was a problem as earlier that day Bob noticed that the regulator was not working and thus the spare batteries were not being charged up thus no 12 volt power, lights etc. On top of this the last of 3 gas burners on the caravan kitchen hot plates stopped working too. (The first 2 blocked up earlier for some obscure reason). Thankfully Richard, Julie and Judy were still with us and thus we had just enough power from them to run one light and to keep my CPAP machine working that night. Oh to make a bad afternoon worst, Bob had offered to cook a baked dinner for the five of us on the gas hooded BBQ which went well enough except we dropped the vegies on the way to the outdoor table. We had no choice but to rescue the vegies and pick off the grass and present the food as best as we could. Thankfully it wasn’t too bad and our friends were too polite to make any comments about the unexpected ‘herbs’ added. After dinner Bob & I went to the Daly Waters Pub where there was a nightly country singer. Judy came with us as she hadn’t been to a country night at an Aussie pub before. Being a New Zealander, she loved the whole experience. A new day dawns leaving all the problems of the day before. Most problems were soon sorted out and life goes on pleasantly again.