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Posts Tagged ‘pandanus’

So when James got his days off, we headed to the east and Kakadu.  Now this is one serious trip.  All the literature tells you to make sure that you keep your vehicle fuelled all the time – I wasn’t sure whether to be alarmed or not.

We headed out about 8 am and made a stop first at Parap Fine Foods to take a gander and get a few nice things to take with us.  One of the problems James has is that working sometimes every day, he doesn’t get much of an opportunity to scour the local food providores.  I can tell you (as most of you would know) that I was happy to oblige!  Local Buffalo Mozzarella, Spanish Manchego and some French Camembert were joined with Cinnamon Dried Figs, Chilli crusted turkey breast and some Pastrami along with a lovely Pumpkin Bread and Coriander Salsa.  Yu-um.

Next stop was at the local TNT office to collect some Gellan Gum that James had ordered.  Those who watch Heston’s work or even Masterchef may have heard of it.  Then finally we were able to hit the open road.  Open road – now that is an apt description!  As we head away from Darwin and through Humpty Doo (yes, that really is the name of the town) we pass huge mango plantations.  The first fruits are just now ripening and being picked – most propbably to be sent to the southern markets and all those slobering consumers who want all fruits all year round!

Kakadu National Park is enormous, covering 20,000 square kilometres of the Northern Territory to the east of Darwin.  We had booked accommodation at Jabiru – part of the eastern most section of the park.  It is a 3+ hour drive from Darwin – without stops.  But of course, stop we did . . .

Our first stop is at the Window on the Wetlands Centre near to the Adelaide River.  This is the first opportunity we have to get high and above the floodplain to gain some sort of an understanding of the relationship between this land and the water that is its lifeblood.  Dave, the indigenous guide is a wealth of knowledge and helpful and friendly to boot.  He fills in missing information when we have a question, offers hints and tips and makes a booking for a cruise that we want to get to. The displays are excellent and explain the former and current uses of the floodplain that in the past have carried experimental crops of sugar cane and rice.  There is a lone water buffalo in a purpose built pen – they monitor the numbers wandering across the lush grasslands so that a careful balance is maintained.

From here it was just a short drive to the Adelaide River where we stopped to join a cruise on the lookout for CROCODILES.  And yes, we found plenty.  We were lucky enough to see all three of the large dominant males in the area – Stumpy, Bogart and Rambo, along with a whole lot of their female girlfriends – about 30!  Some were taking the warm air on the banks, but many were in the water.  And they are deceptive staying deep below you until they reach you – and then then just appear.  When they go under the water, they reappear seconds later quite a distance away – man they can move fast in the water!  The cruise we were on feed the crocs so that you can get an appreciation of how they can jump and what a real threat they might be.

Me, I’m happy to sit near the centre of the boat.  We had  joked with the captain when he asked during the safety briefing where our nearest exits were and we pointed out over the side of the boat.  His suggestion was to don life vests and wait until he had rammed the front of the boat on the nearest bank.  Not sure that even that is safe given the number of crocs we saw on the banks!

Duly educated, after a 1.5 hour feeding cruise we landed safely back at the jetty and began the now 2 hour long drive deepinto the wilderness.  The landscape doesn’t change much as you drive east – lots of rivers, creeks, channels and tributaries – all with the obligatory danger – crocodile signsa in about twelve languages.  The plants are presominantly pandanus, kapok and acacia.  Again, the soil is not all that rich and the grass cover is patchy.  At the moment, much of the land is burnt following back-burning operations either by the local Aboriginal tribes, of the Parks rangers.  I can’t say that I have ever noticed before just how totally the Australian gum trees burn.  And they must burn hot.  There are the powdered skeletal remains of trees, pure white and outlinging the shapre of the fallen tree perfectly lying on the blackened earth on to which it fell.  Quite eerie to look at!

And eastwards we continue.  Michael and James snooze on and off and when he is awake, Michael, sitting in the back continues to read Edward Rutherfurds’s novel New York – he is ploughing through it!  Its not too long before we enter into the Park proper.  Michael and I have had to purchase a $25 per person pass and I had assumed that there would be someone at the entry to check it.  Nope – guess they are just hoping that most people are honest!

We arrive at Jabiru just before 5 pm, take a quick whirl through town and then head over to our accommodation for the night Kakadu Lodge.  Jabiru is a small settlement with just over 1100 residents counted at the 2006 census.  In the Dry Season however, the population swells, primarily with the grey nomads – retired people traversing Australia in their caravans.  The Park is large and much of it laid out in concentric circles – yes, Canberra’s influence can be felt even right up here!  Our cabin is compact, but large enough for a night.  There is a double bed in the bedroom and a pull out sofa bed in the lounge ready made for James.  AND the air-conditioning is on – bliss.

Unpacked, we head over to the pool area and the bistro for dinner – we are famished and could eat a camel!  Turns out while that is not on the menu, Michael chooses Kangaroo and James Duck while I opt for a gourmet chicken burger.  The meals are surprisingly very good and decent sized portions. Michael, ordering the meals meets a Scottish lass who promptly tells him that Neil and Carol at the Bowmore Hotel on Islay are selling up – OMG what a small world it is!  It certainly doesn’t feel like two years since we were there.

So we return to our beds pretty weary after a long day on the road and just a little in awe at this big land up here!  Its not long before I hit the sack while the boys sit up and watch telly!

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