March 11, 2017
We flew into Darwin yesterday and checked into the Hilton. In fact, I checked in from our transfer in the Alice Springs airport. Love these apps. I even selected our room using the app.
We met a woman from the Philadelphia suburbs in the airport. She shared this t-shirt design:
Remember I mentioned how much avocado they seem to serve here? (and I love avocado). In the Quantas magazine I saw this small article about the different foods that they like here in Australia. This is the explanation for the avocado:
“When social commentator Bernard Salt pontificated in his newspaper column last October that young people could afford a mortgage if they stopped paying $22 for smashed avocado on toast, he unwittingly put this humble fruit in the national spotlight. Now you can’t find a cafe without smashed avocado on the menu!”
So after we actually arrived at the hotel, we went for a walk to the waterfront. Very hot here but the waterfront is just a few blocks away. In fact, I think we will be able to see our ship when it arrives on Monday morning.
We went to a local pub for dinner – sat outside and this tree was right in the middle of the pub!
After a short night’s sleep – again – we had a trip today to Kakadu National Park. It is a 3 1/2 hour trip to the part of the park we were headed for, so we left at 6:15. We were with a group of 30 people and our driver/guide was Michael. He was a wealth of knowledge – his mother has aboriginal background.
The park covers an amazing 20,000 square kilometers and is on the UNESCO World Heritage List in recognition of both its outstanding natural values and as a living cultural landscape. It is known as the oldest living culture in the world – aboriginal people have lived here for what is believed to be 70,000 years! It is also known as the cleanest park in the world – it is a weed free environment. Much like Uluru, this park land was returned to the indigenous people and was leased back to be held as a national park for 99 years – in 1992. Both Uluru and Kakadu are managed by a Board of Management which has an Aboriginal majority representing the traditional owners. There are thousands of rock art sites here, we saw just a few – most are sacred sites and cannot be visited or photographed.
There is a uranium mine within the park and it is still operational. The mine workers are breathalyzed and drug tested every day.
The name Kakadu comes from an Aboriginal language called Gagudju which was one of the languages spoken in the north of the park at the beginning of the 20th century.
Kakadu is home to 68 mammals, more than 120 reptiles, 26 frogs, over 300 fish species and over 1/3 of Australias birds. We saw many wallabies frolicking along the road.. but what we really wanted to see was either a fresh water or salt water crocodile – but Michael said it was too hot and they were probably under the water. They are prevalent – 80 crocodiles/kilometer and there are warnings everywhere. But we didn’t see even one!
This is the wet season here, so we had the opportunity to take a flight over the park to see the waterfalls. This flight is only operated during wet season since the waterfalls dry up the rest of the year. 9 of us decided to do the flight with Kakadu Air. Vincent was our pilot – there were 4 in our plane and 5 in the other one. The planes are Airvan G8 high wing aircraft and hold 7 plus the pilot.
The first is the Mercure Kakadu Crocodile hotel. Wonder why they named it that?
Our next adventure was a boat trip in the Yellow Water wetlands. Our boat captain was Dennis and he explained all about the waterways and we learned that a billabong is a permanent source of water. Because it is wet season, the rivers are full but that is not the case the rest of the year. We were on the Alligator rivers – there are three of them. There are actually no alligators in Australia but an American explorer named the rivers thinking that the crocodiles were alligators. By the time it was on all the maps, they decided not to change the names – they are the South, West and East Alligator Rivers.
We saw many cockatoos – pure white – lots of lilies (the native people eat the roots and say they are delicious) and lots of magpie geese – the rarest goose in the world. They have half webbed feet so they can both swim and land in trees.
We had our lunch at the Cooinda Lodge where I spotted this sign:
After lunch we went to the Anbangbang rock walk to see the art sites there. Michael explained the meaning of the art. The act of painting was more important to the people than its permanence, so some of the sites were painted over. The art was interesting and the additional rock formations just awesome.
Wonderful, amazing day and again, quite a spiritual place in so many ways. We have really appreciated getting an understanding of the indigenous people here and learned so many things about their culture and the beauty of their surroundings. They value their land so much and here at Kakadu, like at Uluru, they ask that we respect their culture by not entering restricted areas. They may be sacred sites, ceremonial sites or burial sites.
On the way home, we had thunder, lightning and heavy rain. The water came up past the bus windows as Michael drive through the standing water. I see why they call it the wet season! Here’s a shot of the sky just before we reached our hotel at 8 PM. Just beautiful.
Tomorrow we are doing a tour of Darwin and I will have fast wifi here at the hotel to post about that. Then on Monday, we will rejoin the ship. Back to painfully slow internet, but looking forward to seeing our friends and the next ports of call.