Aurora to Gagudju Lodge, Kakadu National Park Northern Territories 19.04.07
22 May 2007
Bright and early; well it was early and the sun was quite bright. Sylvia had a number of good walks planned and our first was to be a two hour 2 ½ mile walk through monsoon forest and woodlands and along the margins of a billabong. At the Aurora shop we asked where the large banyan fig tree was where the walk would start from, and was told there were many walks in Kakadu which were under water and this was one of them.
Cyclone George had visited Kakadu before us when it was just a pup. It deposited 35 inches of monsoon rain in ten days before going out to sea to grow up into a big cyclone. Flood waters from the Alligator River had stretched to just down the road from the Aurora Kakadu Resort. The lady in the shop showed us some photographs. One was the near by road sign with only 4 inches showing and a snake patiently lying along the narrow top waiting for the water to drop. We could only start the shorter walk and would have to turn back once we could go no further.
Fifteen minutes after the start of our woodland walk we came to water; the route marker and a danger, Crocodile Safety sign were standing in the water. Crocodile safety? I thought, this is going to be like Lake Argyle when we were told to beat them off with plastic bats so we did not hurt them. I took the photograph with a bit of zoom so as not to go too near. The Mamukala Wetlands had proved to be too wet. September or October is said to be spectacular when thousands of Magpie Geese congregate to feed. At least there were some of these around.
Before leaving the area we first visited the near by boat ramp where there were lots of vehicles and trailers but no person or boat in sight. There had been a fishing competition two weeks after the water subsided and so frantic work had been performed to clear the vast car and trailer park of mud. This was all bulldozed to the back in the manner of our piles of snow. The problem here is it will not melt away. Our last visit was to a bird hide overlooking a large expanse of water. Not a bird in view other than two little ducks and one of them kept ducking under the water, as they do. There is just too much choice around at the moment for the wild fowl.
The early morning walk had set the tone for most of Kakadu. The camping spots we had planned were either totally inaccessible or available only to Four Wheel Drive vehicles that did not mind travelling through areas of several feet of water. The walks were shut. Our only option was to travel on towards the Visitors Centre at Bowali, (Bor-warl-ee).
At Bowali all our expectations were confirmed about the extent of the Park which we could not travel to. Though only a few kilometres away, Ubirr was off limits to us. We had expected this and it was still a major disappointment. I thought we were fated never to see aboriginal cave paintings. After lapping up the history and watching the very good 25 minute film which showed us what we were missing, we headed south down the Kakadu Highway. Well, it was the only road except for turning back the way we came. We did learn we would have access to cave paintings further on our travel.
The speed limit in Kakadu is 50 mile per hour. We carried on our way looking at the road side scenery until reaching the turn off to Nourlange where we would embark upon a most interesting circular walk. Armed with our camera, bottles of water and optimism we started out along the path. An optional path broke away and took us into the hill side and upwards to what had been a dwelling cave and there were some aborigine paintings, and then on to a lookout point. We then followed the path down through gaps in the rocks on a route that must have been in use by aborigines for over 40,000 years. It was quite an awe inspiring experience for Sylvia and me and we found we had had similar thoughts of being a part of the history of these hills. On rejoining the path we carried on our rocky walk to more art galleries.
Some of the paintings over lap; some are in the style known as the x-ray when the subject is painted as if you can see through and view the bone structure. One cave had modern paintings which were believed to have been painted during the last 1,000 years. One style is believed to be in the form of a story but just what the original story truly was has been lost in history. We took a lot of pictures of the cave featuring Nabullwinjbulwinj pronounced Nar-bull-win-bull-win. He is a dangerous spirit who eats females after striking them with a yam. The Lightning Man is also well featured.
The path then went upwards to a lookout point where we got photographs of the Arnhem Land Escarpment which marks the eastern edge of Kakadu and of the nearby cliffs. It had been a hot and memorable walk. On the road down to Nourlange we had noted one road that led to a billabong and one leading to a lookout point. We tried the first to the billabong but soon came upon water blocking the road so onwards to the lookout point which was bound to be up a hill.
Our car park was just above the water line and the lookout was well above the water line. All this climbing hills should be doing something for our weight. We got a nice surprise when the lookout was only half way up the long hill. By now the day was wearing on so we drove to Gagudju Lodge Cooinda where there was motel accommodation, a bistro, restaurant, pool, store, bar and a camp site. You could also book boat rides on the Yellow Water Billabong. The first one was at 6.30am.
I must have benefited from reading the 'assertiveness' books, or I was either brave or foolhardy, take your pick. Anyway, at my insistence, we booked the 9am trip, but that's another story.