Thursday, May 7, 2009


We set off at a leisurely pace, following the route of the tourist bus, but about 3 hours behind it. The first place we stopped was a really wonderful nature lookout called “Window on the Wetlands”. Very highly educational, in a kind of Questacon/Powerhouse Museum sort of way and its upper storey was a terrific viewing platform looking out over a vast wetlands. With free telescope. In fact the whole thing was free!

My favourite bird, the wedge tailed eagle (Autralia’s largest raptor), inhabited the area in quite large numbers. Unfortunately, my attempts to photograph them failed due to battery failure, and, when the batteries were replaced, they were insufficiently powerful to drive the camera. Getting ahead of myself, on the way back they were too shy or too close to the road (meaning that they bolted as soon as the car approached) to offer a decent photo opportunity. It doesn’t matter too much, it’s a widely photographed bird for those that don’t know it, and for me the pictures will live in my mind.

We stopped at Nourlangie Rocks, which has some absolutely spectacular aboriginal rock art. Photos are on Flickr here. We spent quite some time wandering around and looking at things. We spent the night at Cooinda, where the accommodation was good and inexpensive and the food was passable and hideously costly. The word ‘gouged’ was on our lips a few times.

The following day we arose at dawn to take the Yellow Water Cruise. We saw sea eagles, kites, several salt water crocs, including a largish one about a metre away from the boat and a very big one on the shore. There were other highlights as well, including jabirus in their nest in a tree and a sea eagle pinching a fish out of the water just before the saltie got there! Again, photos on Flickr.

We drove up to Ubirr to look at more rock art and back to Jabiru for an hour’s flight over the Arnhem Land escarpment. It was wonderful, as we were right at the end of the wet season and the waterfalls were still flowing (just). The only downside was the haze as the pre-dry burns were going all across Kakadu. After a pretty full day, we jumped in the car and drove the 250k back to Darwin. For some reason, I was a bit tired that night.

Eventually we got back to Dili. As usual, our first plans didn’t work, but I was back to work in time and Just Add Water came a couple of days later. It is clear that Dili Customs don’t really know how to use their equipment (our overshopping was a challenge and I probably ended up paying a little too much duty), but even that was an amusing, if a little extended experience. It took an hour to clear customs, but we’re home again.

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