This is a big one, so hunker down with a nice cup of tea and a biscuit or two – or do what I do and just look at the pictures!
We bunked down at the Katherine Big4 for the start of our parks adventure. Nice enough, although we managed to get the only spot without shade and incurred the wrath of a groundman for thinking we could park on a vacant lot. He was so peeved that when we left the next day for a trip into town he redid the blue spray paint lines around our camp, no one else ….. just ours. Then he spent the next few days driving past on his little scooter glowering at us. He slightly lost his ferocity as he was hunched over a tiny scooter but still points for the effort.
We restocked our fridge and visited the local museum, which was little random but interesting. I particularly like the mention on the telegraph info board which was a first hand account of the success of its installation. Best bit by far was that after they managed to connect they celebrated with some beers, fired 21 shots from their guns and then went for a swim. Can’t think of a better way to celebrate anything now.
We saw a video on the 1998 flood when the river rose 20 metres and pretty much flooded the town. Amazing but horrifying to imagine coming home after it all knowing there was nothing left. Later on a ranger later told me when the waters receded they had found 2 salties hanging out in woolies. No idea whether it actually happened but I like the story entirely too much to investigate!
We went down to Cutta Cutta caves, better in the wet season when the bats are not as deep into the cave but I finally learnt the difference between stalagmites and stalactites. And the kids spotted spiders and frogs, apparently exactly what little boys are interested in.
We also decided on a boat tour of Katherine Gorge while we were in town. Seemed the easiest way to see it as apparently Zachary has developed a weird allergy to walking anywhere. Not sure how he will cope with the next 5 months!
We pootled down the river looking at little freshies, nesting birds, and rock art as we wandered between boats. Jack was slightly disappointed with the size of the crocodiles but I have promised him some massive ones when we hit Kakadu – it’s keeping me up at night imagining our boat being eaten by a saltie. On the way down to the boat ramp the trees were covered in bats and flying foxes, around 10,000 are currently living there. They were all arguing over space, fanning themselves cool and leaping into the air in a cloud every time the weight of them broke the tree branch they were on.
We finished the last night with dinner at the Katherine Club – I’d suggest giving it a miss, great jumping pillow but the food left Jamie throwing up and Abi in bed with a tummy ache. But before all of that Jack, Dad and I climbed to a lookout in the park to watch the bats leave. We clambered half way to the look out before giving up, entirely too hot and too far, but actually further down is a better place to watch them. The sunset came and went, the sky got darker and finally they appeared.
The video gives you a little idea but it was amazing. They filled the sky for 15 minutes or more as they soared out. You could hear them chattering as they flew, and you could smell them – a bit musty. We walked carefully back in the dark and when we got back to the car the trees were filled with all the babies that had been left behind. You could hear them all screeching for their mothers, they sound exactly like you’d imagine baby bats would. Jack also managed to spot a Bandi Bandi snake on our way and almost picked it up thinking it was a pretty stick! See if you can find it below…
We then packed up and left the comfort of the Big4 – slightly relieved to be out from under the watching eye of the groundman – and headed for Edith Falls. It gets busy and the tourist information had said to be there before 12 to get a spot, so of course Jamie being Jamie decided it called for an early morning and we were on the road at 8am, arriving at 9:15! We booked the first spot and sat down at the little cafe to wait for the current owners to shift their butts. The kids refused to move from the car so we got to sip hot chocolate and coffee in peace and quiet. It was bliss. The campsites are lovely, big grassy area for the kids to play on beside the van, lots of trees and privacy – downside was the large black snake the kids discovered disappearing into the bushes around the camp. There is also a little kiosk doing what look liked yummy meals. Definitely should be on your list if you are heading up that way.
After setting up we took a dip in the plunge pool just across from the campsite. The kids found some friends and built some rock houses. The boys built theirs with guns, the girls added flowers! Jamie got some drone footage of the falls and a little hint to what we were heading to the next day.
The next day we headed to the falls, it’s a 1km walk, mostly uphill and once over the top you have to scramble over rocks and boulders to get to the swimming pools. On the way you pass the usual sign telling you that they have removed the salties but don’t blame them if they come back. Luckily there were lots of other people already swimming so I figured one of them would get eaten first.
The water was cold but once you were in lovely. We spotted fish while the kids and Jamie ducked behind the waterfall and found rocks to jump off. Zachary retreated to the shallows, not being able to see the bottom has left him a bit wary of the water, Dad even bought noodles for him but they only slightly help. It was the best way to cool off in the heat. The kids went back to rock house building on our return and eventually got persuaded from the water with the promise of a movie. We invited their new friends and had a little outdoor cinema evening with Ferris Buller’s Day off.We packed up and headed into Kakadu the next day. We spent the first 2 nights at a little campsite called Maguk. Just basic bush camping with drop toilets. Hardly anyone there, apart from a couple of groups. We were planning on leaving the swimming until the next day but as the temperature slowly started to rise we packed into the car and drove to the pool car park a 1.5km down the road. Then it’s a 1km walk through the tropical forest to the pools. We walk over little metal bridges, still sunk partially under water, and covered with signs that say no swimming, crocs. Once again you scramble over rocks and find yourself at little pools just perfect for a cooling dip. We only made it to the first set of pools, just enough to cool down and look for fish.
We probably should have just stayed there for the night because once we got back the temperature seemed to just continue to rise. We all slept in nothing, covered in wet flannels and tea towels grumbling every time someone touched us. It think in the end the cool change came through about 4am.The next day we packed for a day out. Dad stayed behind to catch up on emails and work, mad man, and the rest of us headed back down the path and over the rocks to the next set of pools. Bliss – not as clear as Edith Falls but again with swimmers who were all more likely to get eaten first. We paddled and floated. Zachary mostly looking for fish to catch. Abi and Jack scrambled up cliff sides with Jamie, topping out at about 9 metres. I think I got as far as 2 metres, I’ll stick to floating about on noodles and staring up at the sky.
Our next stop was Cooinda Lodge, kind of in the middle of Kakadu and home of the yellow river tours. I think Dad is relieved to be near a shower and pool finally! We took the 9am Yellow River tour and apart from Zachary’s near miss into the water it was a great tour. We got to see Salties, Jack’s dream is filled, and I survived those moments even though the boat definitely tips alarmingly when everyone rushes over to one side or the other to look. Apparently the 6:45am also got to see wild horses and pigs but I’ll stick to more sleep and just crocs.
We were heading over to find the big male crocodile in his territory when Brutus found us. He silently emerged out of the water beside the boat just where Jamie was, one eye watching us. He kept pace with the boat for enough time for everyone to get photos and me to have heart failure that we were about to become lunch when he just as silently powered away. Amazing and utterly terrifying because there is not one doubt in my mind that I am most definitely prey. The tour guide informed us if the croc has his back out of the water he will be rumbling which means there is another croc in his territory. Hopefully that bit of information will never be useful to me. We finished the day at the pool, and I can see the bottom there so that’s all that matters.
Our final day dawned and Jamie headed off on his long awaited fishing charter. He was excited from the moment he woke up, you can tell because when he rolled over the top of me to get up he whispered “fishing day!” He got his fish, and we had barramundi fillets for dinner. The boys declined after tasting the most minuscule morsel, Abi managed her bit and declared it fishy and muddy. It was really but very tender and you can’t really get any fresher!
Our final stop in Kakadu was Jabiru, home of the famous Cahill Crossing. We managed one croc while we were there. Just as we were leaving he surfaced, just in front of the crossing, effortless keeping pace with the current. The kids were whopping and cheering, I was trying to work out is his back was raised or not.
Either way I mother hen-ed everyone back to the car and we headed to Ubirr to catch the sunset.
At Ubirr there is a 1km loop art walk which takes you past aboriginal rock art. It has been amazingly well kept and looks almost just done despite being thousands of years old. We found ourselves behind a school group which was useful to listen to until I realised she had just as much of an idea about it as me.
So the kids and I left Dad and Jamie nodding intelligently and went back to scrambling about the rock side to get to the top. They were burning off just under the lookout which slightly spoiled the sunset but it was amazing to see the line of fires making their way across the dead bush.
The next day Jamie went off to fish and we went to the pool, fair trade. He returned at lunch completely over excited, apparently fish “WERE GOING OFF”, but were all undersized. I was just happy nothing had eaten him but he had high hopes for the tide turning, so Dad rushed him back. The rest of us had a swim and ate some cupcakes before joining him back at Cahill. Unfortunately despite the earlier interest there were no fish but lots of spectators waiting for the tide to drop low enough to make it over. Every time a car braved the crossing you tell everyone was waiting to watch it get swept away and join the other wreck further down the river.
Everyone made it safely over and Jamie called it a day at 4pm, retired the rod and made plans for a couple of days in Port Stuart in his last grab for a barramundi. There is a pool and I made extra cupcakes so onwards!
Port Stuart success!!