It was still raining when we woke this morning but there was a break soon after. We rushed outside and put the awning up, hitched up, detached, washed and stored the hoses, all the while splashing about in ankle depth water and a mud scum that had concentrated near the caravan. The rain had held off and continued to do so while we had breakfast and finished readying ourselves for departure. This was all most unexpected and most welcome, especially since my first words to Chris earlier had been, “Do you think we should extend another day?”
But we were off on the Kakadu Highway by about 9.30 am, and while the road was clear of flooding, the sea of floods extended far beyond the billabongs, lagoons and rivers we had observed just two days ago along the same road. But today we were travelling further than the turnoff to Nourlangie; through to Cooinda which is just this accommodation facility on the edge of the Yellow Water wetland, one of those feeding into Kakadu’s largest river, the South Alligator River.
Nineteen kilometres north east of the turnoff into Cooinda, we turned into the Mirrai Lookout, parked and walked the steep two kilometre path to the top of Mount Cahill. Here there is a platform lookout from where one can enjoy 360 degree views of the lowlands all about and the Arnhem Land escarpment. I was a little disappointed because I honestly thought we would be able to see the extent of the flooded lands we had driven through and those beyond, but it was a sea of trees which met our gaze with the one slash in the landscape; the South Alligator River on its way to the sea.
It did not take us long to make our way past the closed road entrance to the JimJim Falls and on to the Gagudju Lodge where we checked in and found that the tariff was less than that indicated online; a very pleasant turn about face I assure you.
As we parked up, remaining hitched but otherwise hooking up to the amenities, we noted the many families here packing up their camper trailers. It never ceases to astound me how lax people are about check out times when these establishments make a point of stating the time and the fact that one might be charged for a further day. We are sticklers to the rule in this area; maybe we too should become as relaxed as everyone else?
We found our way to the boat ramp here at the Lodge and watched as guests launched and pulled their boats out. None seemed too concerned about the crocodile warnings, even though the camp manager had told us the path way through to the regular Yellow Water boat ramp was closed due to the lurking of the great beasts. We watched too as a full boat load of tourists went out for their cruise and decided we had better go and book ours before it was all booked out. We are now booked for the breakfast cruise leaving Home Billabong at 6.45 am tomorrow. We will have to set the alarm since we are such slugs these days.
I did learn here that buffalo were introduced from South East Asia onto the Cobourg Peninsula in the 1820s for meat and hides. The experiment, much like the rice one in the next century, was abandoned and fifty buffalo went forth and multiplied. It was not until the 1980s that anything was seriously done about these now feral creatures which had, in the meantime, become an absolute pest destroying the wetland environment and the natural hunting grounds of the aborigines. It is said that there were 350,000 buffalo on the loose before wide scale culling under the Brucellosis and Tuberculosis Eradication Campaign. Numbers were severely limited but have grown again now to about 150,000, these farmed for their meat and hides, as originally intended. Mention was made at the centre that the feral beasts did provide an addition to the diet of the local people, which was one positive against the vast devastation they caused.
We found a walking track back to the camp from the centre which was only partly flooded. Here we dodged around the side of the track and through bushes that were alive with green tree ants. These are the ants I dared to speak kindly of the other day; today I changed my mind as they bit and swarmed all through our clothes and across our bare skin. Fortunately there is no residual damage such as mosquitoes have wrecked upon us over the past week.
On our return we checked out the pool, and spent twenty minutes or so in the very cool waters chatting with fellow travelers We were tempted ever so briefly by the Bistro and Bar, however the prices are such that we decided that we had already racked up enough on the credit card during our stay here in Kakadu without indulging in food and beverages as well. (But I am looking forward to the breakfast back in the Lodge tomorrow which follows the cruise.)