Posts Tagged With: Cahill Crossing

Garig Gunak Barlu National Park (Cobourg Peninsula)

Clutching our recently acquired permits to visit the Garig Gunak Barlu National Park, we couldn’t wait to cross the famous Cahill (Alligator River) crossing and enter Arnhemland. The crocodiles were off duty so no need to loiter there (they perform best at high tide catching mullet when the river and fish breach the road causeway) and we pressed on. From exiting Kakadu the campground at Garig Gunak Barlu is approximately 320km and there are no fuel stops or shops. All Jerry cans had been pre-filled and all was set for a fun trip. The corrugation torture began early and a strange rattling outside caused us to stop by some wetlands that surpassed anything we saw in Kakadu for birdlife. Magpie geese were everywhere. A few loose screws were tightened on the newly fixed awning fitting and we were off again.

Rock art could be seen clearly under many ledges as we passed through the Arnhemland escarpment, though none is available for public access.

There were numerous bushfires along the edge of the road as we progressed. Once the Woollybutt tree flowers it’s the season to burn, and burn they do very well up here. Even the black and whistling kites, that predate on animals, flushed out of these burning areas, have developed an interesting behaviour that we witnessed. They swoop into the burning flames with long pieces of dry grass in their beaks, set it alight then drop it in an unburnt area to start a new fire. We have seen hundreds of birds circling, swooping and diving around the fringes of bushfires. The intensity of the fires is less than those experienced in the south and eastern states due to lower amounts of fuel.

A side effect of the fires though is that some trees become unstable and collapse across the roads. We weaved our way through a maze of trunks and branches strewn across the road until we met a large tree straddling the road completely. Once side of the road was in flames, the other was strewn with trunks presumably from previous fires. With no axe, or chainsaw using the winch or towing was an option but the trunk was wedged the wrong side of two trees either side of the road. The prospect of turning around was not attractive so after a quick inspection of the smouldering fire we decided it could be negotiated and the Pajero was briefly turned into bulldozer mode and vehicle and trailer deftly steered through (literally) the bush, Amanda trying hard not to melt her new thongs.

From there on all we had to avoid were the abundant hazards, indicated by strategically placed red triangles, giving no indication of what the upcoming hazard was, and often placed in the middle of the road.

Only 20 vehicles are allowed into the national park at any time, and the campsites are huge and private. The park is populated with water buffalo, many saltwater crocodiles (no swimming allowed here), wild pigs and banteng. The latter were introduced from Indonesia where they are now endangered, but have proliferated in the park, where they are tolerated because of their status in Indonesia. They look like stocky cattle but have a characteristic white rump. The ranger shared the bird list with us and it didn’t take long to spot a few new species for the list.

The campsite sits amongst a number of billabongs hidden behind thick bush and pig and banteng tracks disappeared through the middle of them. Xavier and I followed some and stumbled upon what we reckoned were a couple of large crocodile nests, conical sand mounds, several metres high in the middle of swampy ground that would be water in the wet season.

We had enough fuel to explore the wetlands track that traces around the edge of the largest billabong, the coastal track, where Xavier found a dead crocodile on the beach, Smiths Point and Caiman creek for a spot of fishing. Funny how the incorrectly named Alligator rivers and Caiman Creek names have stuck – yes we only have crocodiles here!

Cobourg is also a breeding ground for 6 of the 7 species of marine turtles. Amanda was excited about seeing them laying but only one was spotted in the water all week. No-one caught a glimpse of a dugong here either, another animal that is abundant here and eaten by the locals.

With a boat there are further options to explore up here and judging by the fish being caught it wouldn’t take long to fill your freezer.

Once Hannah had fulfilled her fishing challenge (catching a fish in every state) Oscar and I decided to get serious and went looking for bigger fish. We almost landed a large shark, that shook the hook only a metre from the shore but when the crocs came in to the beach at dusk (to sleep) it got interesting. Sitting well up the beach we watched a croc zigzag ever closer, then just as it reached the shore it appeared to cross my fishing line. Not wanting to entangle a croc I quickly retrieved the line but as it splashed past the croc exploded into action lunging and grabbing the float. “Time to go” was all I could muster as I grabbed everything and followed Oscar, with the croc still chasing the float, dragging along the beach behind me as I ran. A good croc safety lesson for Oscar, as the kids don’t seem to heed our warning them not to go too close to the water. Fascinating to watch just how quick they can be.

A week passed quickly with fishing and shell collecting on the beaches but Cobourg hasto be up on the favourites list and a place that needs to be revisited in the future. On the return trip my recently fixed awning broke due to metal fatigue induced by corrugations, so I’ll be back to Bunnings when we pass through Katherine next.

Our final stop in Arnhemland was the Injalak Art centre, where there was an excellent collection of paper and bark painting and weavings, well worth the short diversion before crossing the river again. Ironically, we finally bumped into another family with kids at our school. They live around the corner at home, were doing a similar trip to ours and we bumped into “Our Roaming Home” finally at Injalak.

 

Categories: 4WD, Adventure, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Camper Trailer, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, Mitsubishi, National Park, Natural World, Northern Territory, NT, Offroad, Photography, Photos, Travel, Travel Adventure, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Kakadu National Park

 

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Kakadu is another Northern Territory icon that we had all been looking forward to seeing but having recently heard several accounts of people saying how disappointing it was, without much water and that the big name falls were dry, we were a little apprehensive. Undeterred we chose to base ourselves near the Ubirr rock art site and close to the town of Jabiru. In addition this was close to the famous Cahill River crossing that we would be using to get through Arnhemland to get to the Cobourg peninsula. We dragged ourselves out of Noonamah (Where the hell is Noonamah, being its catchcry) and following a cruisy day looking for crocodiles at any opportunity, drawing blanks each time, we arrived mid-afternoon. A quick dinner and with the sun still in the sky I rushed to see the sunset from the lookout. Despite missing the sunset, a fabulous orange glow set a perfect backdrop for the green tranquil wetlands that stretched before us and as far as the eye could see. Hundreds of visitors, like religious disciples, had paid their homage to the sun god and now made an orderly exit from the park, before they got locked in.

The rock art at Ubirr is breathtaking, and a totally different style to that found in the Kimberley or even the Jawoyn art from nearby Katherine. Often referred to as X-Ray art, their depictions of water creatures include their bones and internal organs, often to depict the choicest part of the barramundi or pig-nosed turtle. Amongst the numerous galleries that the public can access are murals depicting stories that have lessons about behaviour, older ones depict images of extinct animals such as the thylacine, and some are just chest-beating efforts of artists showing that they can paint the largest fish, or can paint it the highest up the wall. Another depicts the Rainbow Serpent common throughout aboriginal heritage as the creator. One particularly interesting piece shows a woman with swollen arms and legs, a reference to radioactive sites that made people sick when visited. The controversial uranium mine, Jabiluka is approx. 45km away. A two hour Park Ranger tour by Glen was fascinating as he imparted his extensive knowledge of the subject.

A few hours were spent at Cahill Crossing fishing, unsuccessfully, but mainly watching the crocodiles who, at high tide, congregate at the crossing waiting for the waters to cross the road. When it happens a feeding frenzy commences as they prey on the hordes of fish that have been waiting to move upstream too. It was interesting to see them using their front feet to shepherd the fish towards their mouths, and as soon as they touch one a quick snap sees it disappear pretty quickly. The only thing I caught was an aboriginal spear that was floating down the river!
Despite the park being a rich source of indigenous rock art the public can only access a couple of sites, the other one being Nourlangie Rock. We took advantage of the Parks ranger guided tour. Christian gave three different talks at different points in the park, about the landscape formed by the aborigines and how they lived, then provided some insight into the most famous art piece, painted in 1963/1964 by one of the last true elders in the area, in a last-ditched effort to re-ignite a strong cultural spirit. In his life the number of people living traditional ways had dwindled from 2,000 to around 300. Two languages have been lost in the region since 2000, and another is due to die when the last existing person speaking it oases away. n the next decade there will be no more people from pre-contact days with the “White fella”, when the cultural degradation began as they were exposed to Western ways.

Kakadu and Arnhemland communities do, however, remain culturally strong despite this. Much of their land has been retained or reclaimed to use as they wish, and permits are required to enter many of these areas.

Christian also talked about a famous dig in one of the living areas, performed in the 1980’s. When locals turned up periodically they would ask what the ancestors had left for them to see that day. Looking at some poor archaeology undergraduate trying to identify a tooth dug up from thousands of years ago, they would ask what they were doing. When told the children would grab the tooth and identify it instantly. Another stone tool dating back almost 20,000 years was shown to them and they would reply that the stone didn’t come from around here. They would then explain it came from a region at least two days walk away. Where else on earth can an archaeologist tap into 20,000 years of living knowledge? Language is the law, and the law is the language explained Christian. When nothing is written down in the culture all stories and language have been passed down from all previous ancestors before. Plants only have names if deemed important enough by the ancestors.

We listened for 3 hours and could have spent a day listening to his passionate stories. Being white too he was very wary of ensuring he told stories correctly. The kids were enthralled to the end, and when he pulled out his collection of rock artefacts they were in heaven!

That afternoon we decided to take a path less travelled and drove some 70km along a 4WD track from the Old Jim Jim road back to Jabiru. This was the Kakadu I was hoping to see, beautiful lily and lotus lined billabongs, rich in birdlife, Jabirus, egrets, magpie geese, radjah shelducks and lots more. A few river crossings too to make it interesting.

Kakadu wasn’t disappointing in the slightest.

 

 

 

Categories: Adventure, Animal Action, australia, Australian Outback, Big Lap, Camper Trailer, Discover Australia, Explore Australia, Journey Narrative, Kids Travel, National Park, Natural World, Northern Territory, NT, Photography, Photos, Travel, Travel Adventure, Walks, Wildlife | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

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