Friday, 1 August 2014

Borroloola

At Daly Waters we turned east onto the Carpentaria  Highway. It's called a highway but the traffic is delightfully sparse. It's a sealed road but for many kilometres it's a single lane so whenever we passed a vehicle going the opposite way we slowed almost to a stop to prevent windscreen damage - most other travellers are courteous and do the same.

Carpentaria Highway
Grey-fronted Honeyeaters and White-throated Honeyeaters taking advantage
of a tub of water beside a tank at a rest stop.
Open woodland all the way to Borroloola but never boring because it changes as the underlying geology changes. Only one building in nearly 400 kms, the Heartbreak Hotel at Cape Crawford. Several rest areas along the way. Some drought tolerant cattle, because we were driving through cattle stations.

Brahman cattle
And a mine I never knew existed but apparently there was a lot of kerfuffle here when Peter Garrett was the Environment Minister. It's the McArthur River zinc mine, one of the largest in the world. When I get home I'll have to do some more background reading.

McArthur River Mining, near Borroloola

We drove to Bing Bong on the ocean where the loading facilities for zinc from McArthur Mining and iron ore from somewhere up near the Roper River. We were talking to other grey nomads out there who said that last year they enjoyed a walk along the beach near the zinc-loading works but this year they couldn't because of the iron ore conveyor belt. Things have changed. The vegetation near the port has certainly changed, from green to red because of the dust.

Several large front loaders busily moving iron ore from one place to another.
Iron ore on a conveyor.
A truck arrives at the zinc storage shed at the port.
Mangroves and mud flats now inaccessible.
Dust-covered vegetation
At Borroloola we saw the big bridge over the McArthur River, and on a shed we noted the measurement markers for the anticipated flood levels. It reads 13 metres. If the water reaches that level the bridge is under water. That's a lot of water!

McArthur River, Borroloola
Flood marker above bridge height, Borroloola.
We also drove to King Ash Bay on the McArthur River estuary where the Borroloola Fishing Club has a campground, shop, mechanic, fuel and a clubhouse with a restuarant and entertainmant for the campers. A lot of people from all over Australia come up here each winter and stay a few months to fish and soak up the warmth.

Mangrove-lined McArthur River estuary, King Ash Bay
McArthur River estuary
Batten Point
I had no concept of what Borroloola would be like apart from a vague idea that it was an Aboriginal town. Which it is. But a lot of things about the area have surprised me.

Tuesday, 29 July 2014

Nourlangie (Anbangbang)

The Aboriginal rock shelter and art sites used to be called Nourlangie but that was due to a misunderstanding. The actual Aboriginal name for the rocky outcrop is Burrunggui, and their name for the lower area where the art sites are is called Anbangbang. Visitors are being encouraged to use the correct names. There were excellent information boards at each art site and fences keep visitors at a distance to protect the art. It's a fascinating site and apparently there are hundreds more on the Arnhem Plateau. We also visited the very attractive Anbangbang Billabong which is nearby.







Whistling Ducks on Anbangbang Billabong
Anbangbang Billabong

Yellow Water

You can't go to Kakadu without going on a Yellow Water wetlands cruise. So we were there at the crack of dawn and for the next two hours enjoyed the delights of a wetland reflected in the still water and  full of wildlife - Azure Kingfishers, Forest Kingfishers, Jabiru, Rainbow Bee-eaters, whistling-ducks, egrets, spoonbills, pygmy-geese, night-herons, a jacana dad with two chicks, sea-eagles, herons and whistling kites. I was most surprised and pleased with a pair of large Channel-billed Cuckoos calling loudly from a dead tree because I've never seen them before and I think they are probably returning from a visit to Asia slightly early this year.


Crocodiles, again, and a few wild horses.

Juvenile Nankeen Night Heron
Pandanus aquaticus and Lotus Lilies
Sea Eagle


Monday, 28 July 2014

Ubirr

Arnhem Land Escarpment
The East Alligator River marks the eastern boundary of Kakadu National Park. That area is also the abrupt boundary of the floodplain and the Arnhem Land plateau marked by a geographical feature called 'the escarpment. For tourists the 300 m high escarpment provides adventure in the form of waterfalls, birdwatching expeditions, fishing, rock pools, four-wheel driving on dirt tracks, exploration of Aboriginal cultural sites and flights to see the splendour from the air. 

As the plateau rose the continuous erosion has created spectacular landscapes of chasms and gorges along its 500 km length.


We visited the Ubirr area near the East Alligator River, famous for the rock paintings found in a low outlier of the escarpment. The trail lead us higher and higher until finally we were rewarded by a spectacular 360 degree outlook from the top. 

View from Ubirr
It took us a while to get to the top and down again because the ancient Aboriginal rock paintings are equally spectacular. Layers of history that are of international significance and still hugely significant to the local cultures.



Evidence that the thylacine once existed in this area.

On our way back past the impressive Border Store (you can grab a Thai meal there!) to Jabiru we stopped to have a look at Cahills Crossing where the road to Oenpelli and Arnhem Land crosses the East Alligator River. There is a lookout near the crossing where you can view the crocodiles loitering with intent. We saw about five in the water near the crossing and one briefly on the crossing.

Cahills Crossing, East Alligator River

Crocodile beside Cahills Crossing
We didn't stay at the Merl camp in this area but I wish we had. If we're ever in Kakadu again I plan to spend more time in this lovely and fascinating spot.