Thursday, September 15, 2011

Kakadu and Litchfield national park

21June 2011. Lyn, Emma and Jake arrived in Darwin by plane and picked up a hire car from the airport and made their way to Truansea without difficulty. They were surprised to see that I had lost more weight than they expected. After they had everything aboard and we had catch up we determined to start off for Kakadu the next morning.

Emma drove us out of Darwin along the Arnhem highway towards Cahills Crossing on the South Alligator River. I was still fairly tired and dozed quite a bit of the way but we still stopped at the tourist places along the way including the ones I remembered from my previous trip. The scenery is interesting and varied from flat plains to hilly country closer to Cahills Crossing and there were some spectacular rock formations. At Cahills Crossing we walked down to the viewing area above the crossing where there were a few others some fishing for barra some successful others not. Not long after our arrival there we saw a large, very large crocodile every bit of 5m long attempt to cross the causeway against the tide but after a couple of attempts he chose to return to the deep hole on the upstream side of the causeway. We were very pleased to be up on the viewing platform out of his reach as he soon disappeared below the surface.

We drove into Jabiru and booked into the Crocodile Hotel. A large and expensive but nice hotel constructed in the shape of a crocodile. We went to the Sportsmanship Club for dinner and had the best meal in the Northern Territory. My steak was possibly the best I have ever had, very tasty, tender and enjoyable. I had eaten here on my previous trip and remembered it was good then. We were all impressed with the meal and service and I would advise anyone traveling in Kakadu to have a meal there.

Next morning after a comfortable and cozy night we headed off towards Katherine. Along the way we stopped at Yellow Waters and took the walk out through the wetlands. We stopped at Mary Waters roadhouse as I had talked up the meal I had there last trip. Unfortunately the establishment had changed since then and take away snack type food was all that was available. However we went on to Pine Creek and to our delight discovered a 1960's retro style cafe that put together large homestyle cooked meals that were excellent along with the coffee and old style milk shakes. A jem of a place not to be missed and we made sure we didn't on our way back from Mataranka.

Leaving Pine Creek we drove down to Katherine and booked in to a new highset cabin at the Shady Rest caravan park. The cabin had a great design 2 bedroom lounge, kitchen, full bathroom & toilet with room for 2 cars and massive storage space underneath. Would make an ideal beach house.

Emma with her mastery of the iPhone had made all the arrangements for accommodation and our breakfast tour of Katherine Gorge. Although it was cool we really enjoyed the tour and the guide was particularly informative. After the tour we headed off to Mataranka to the famous hot springs. We were somewhat disappointed with the hot springs it seems that a recent major flood had caused quite a bit of damage and it was far from it's best and looked in general to be in need of a good dose of TLC. So back in the xTrail and return to that great cafe in Pine Creek for another meal, just as good as the last one. After that we headed for Batchelor and Litchfield National Park.

We stayed the night in a couple of safari tent style cabins at Lattitude 13.08 and had dinner at the "restaurant?" Hmm skip that next time. The tent/cabin was warm and comfortable but the showers were cold. We headed to the waterfalls for a look and a dip in the cool clear streams, very refreshing! These waterfalls are very scenic and a popular getaway for Darwinites to get a break from the incessant heat and oppressing humidity of their summer. Stopping in Batchelor at the hotel for lunch on our way back to Truansea was a good idea and we all had a good meal.

Arriving back on board Truansea after our week of touring we went to the Mindil Beach markets on the Friday night. What a market it is. Seemingly endless food stalls with the most tantalizing aromas and tastes had us sampling as much as we could eat and it was as good as it looked and smelt. Massive buffalo ribs tested us, a little chewy but you just want to keep eating. Seafood selections of all the delights of the sea and Asian style dishes that we shared so as to get taste of it all and then even a desert called a Shazam and that was just as refreshing as the name suggests. Many different types of music from rock to earthy corroborree to classical instrumental filled the entire market from end to end as each performer or group entertained the large crowds gathered around them. When Lyn and Emma had made the purchases they wanted we drove back to the marina.

We decided to go sailing for a few days and headed out of Darwin Harbour north west for Bare Sand Island where Emma, Danny and Jake had been half a dozen years before on board Honeymoon with Danny's parents at the start of there world Circumnavigation. Unfortunately we could not go ashore at Bare Sand Island as it was being used as a military training area. We were however able to fish along the reef protecting the island and landed a very nice fingermark after only a short while. This was to be the only fish we caught here but enough for meal for the 4 of us. The water was very clear and as calm as the bath Truansea's wake at 5 knots motoring was barely discernible a tribute to the hull design and balance. Moving along like this was visually surreal the mercury like surface barely disturbed and the golden reflection of the sun forming a peripheral border around us here and there a disturbance of the surface caused by a turtle's head or a brightly banded sea snake or a fleeing fish or creature unknown, just another of those unique experiences that paint the life of cruising.

We left this portrait of peace behind and moved over to Turnbull bay to anchor for the night. Here Jake got quite a fright when a large fish took the lure he was presenting from the bow of Truansea almost bending the fishing rod double. Unfortunately the reel was only spooled with light line and the fish won. I put the crab pots in close to some mangroves near the mouth of a small creek emptying into the bay just before dark and on checking them early the next morning only 2 undersized blue swimmers had made their way into the pots so I released them and returned to Truansea without delay as it looked to me like crocodile territory.

Motorsailing back to Darwin in smooth water pleased the Rear Admiral especially as shipping was limited to a cruise ship, a pilot boat and a large private and luxurious looking cruiser. We virtually had the whole Harbour to ourselves on such a beautiful day. Safely back in the marina we set about washing etc and planning a couple of trips in and around Darwin city.

The time for Lyn, Emma and Jake to return to Noosa came around pretty quickly and it wasn't long before they were heading to the airport for their trip home. This meant for me that the next stage of the circumnavigation would begin the following day. I was to be joined on this stage from Darwin to Broome via the Kimberley's by an older sailing mate who had expressed a desire to see this part of WA. Bevan flew in that afternoon and we sailed out of Darwin for the Kimberley's the next morning.

The next post will cover from Darwin to Broome and all the rugged beauty of the Kimberley's. I have deliberately not been too descriptive regarding the places and scenery experienced in the Northern Territory for two reasons, those being that it is so spectacular and varied my writing skills would not do it justice and to pay respect to the colloquialism that 'if you never never go you'll never never know'. My recommendation is do it and do it soon you will not be disappointed.

Fair winds

Brian of Truansea

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