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Top End of the NT - Kakadu, Matarinka & Tennant CrAuthor: Carl from pahrump (More Trip Reviews by Carl from pahrump)
Date of Trip: September 2006
On Sept 26 we drove 230 Km from Darwin to Jabiru in Kakadu NP, a World Heritage site. Cyclone Larry (Cat. 5) heavily damaged this area in 2005. In many places half the trees were uprooted. Preventative grass fires had charred the trees that were left standing.
We stopped at the South Alligator gas station for a Maxibond Ice Cream Bar for Lunch. The naming here seemed crazy since there are no Alligators in Australia.
We stopped at the massive Mamukala Wetlands (pronounced Mar-moo-car-lar) in the early afternoon (12.650S 132.574E). Our best bird was a flaming Red-backed Fairywren male -- a small black Wren with a huge red area on the back. We enjoyed it so much we came back here for more bird watching before sunset, and saw a covey of Brown Quail.
We were up at 4:30am on Sept 27. We drove 40 Km in the dark to Ubirr (pronounced Oo-beer) on the East Alligator River (12.410S 132.959E). Ubirr is a rock art site. From the top of the sandstone bluff there is an expansive view of the floodplain and Arnhem Land.
We went birding along the river and through the sandstone cliffs. We saw a Sandstone Shrike-Thrush and a Pheasant Coucal (a Pheasant that likes to climb trees). We walked 7 Km this morning.
We headed off to the General Store to get some real Aborigine tucker for lunch. My wife had the Aborigine Burger with the Lot (lettuce, cheese, ham, bacon, eggs, tomatoes, cucumber and beet root with a mild BBQ type sauce). The sandwich has at least 3/4 Lbs of hamburger. I had an Aborigine burger with the Lot minus the eggs and beetroot. They were great sandwiches but very thick.
After a very hard, hot, long, and exciting morning of birding, it was time for a shower and a 2-hour nap. My wife took a shower wearing the white camisole she wears under her blouse while bird watching. That way you get clean clothes as well as a clean body.
We headed off to the Nourlangie area in the late afternoon for birding at the Bubba Billabong (12.858S 132.756E). We saw a pair of Little Eagles and some Plumbed Whistling Ducks.
We were up at 4:45am on Sept 28. We drove 40 Km to Anbangbang (pronounced Arn-barng-barng) Billabong in the dark (12.864S 132.796E). At very first light (about 5:45am) it sounded like someone flipped on the radio at full blast. It sounded like we were surrounded by millions of birds. Actually, it was a few hundred Little Corellas that can make that much noise with a support crew of a few thousand water birds.
We walked the 2.5 Km track around the Billabong in 3 hours. It was cool in the beginning, but we were drenched by the end of the walk. We saw dozens of Rainbow Bee-eaters and Forest Kingfishers, plus Square-tailed Kites and Great Cormorants. Plumbed Whistling Duck predominated the waterfront.
We climbed over rough quartz rock to the Nawurlandja Rock Lookout (12.865S 132.814E). The trail is only 600 Meters to the Lookout, but you go up about 300 ft in elevation above the Billabong. From the Lookout you have a nice view of Nourlangie Rock. The main draw here is the ancient rock art sites. The art is integrally tied into the culture and doesn't mean that much to the uninitiated. The rock art was spiffed up a few years ago by the Aborigine Caretakers, so it is very visible.
We ate dinner at the resort restaurant. For starters we had flat bread with 3 sauces (spinach blended in cream cheese, corn blended in sour cream, and ground pickled beets). I had a Greek Lamb Salad, which was loin fillet marinated in Olive Oil, Oregano, lemon juice served medium rare over a Greek salad garnished with Fete Cheese and Black Olives. My wife had Chicken and Red Pesto, which was grilled chicken tenderloins tossed with sun dried tomatoes, pesto, garlic and mushrooms finished with spinach and cream cheese. Beautiful!!! For dessert we had Kings Island chocolate on shortbread in our room.
We were up at 4am on Sept 29. We drove 55 Km to Yellow Waters. Along the way we ran over 2 Cane Toads and saw an Australian Owlet Nightjar. We talked to the guide for the fishing charter while we were waiting for the resort to open so we could buy our tickets. He said he could also take visitors on all day bird watching trips.
We went on the 6:45am Yellow Waters cruise (12.896S 132.517E) on south Alligator River Flood Plain. It is a general-purpose tour but featured birds. We also saw Brombeys (Wild Horses) and cattle with egrets on their backs. We saw miles of floating grass and Pink Lotus Lilies. There is a Croc every 10 sq meters out here.
We drove out of the park and on to Pine Creek. As we entered town we spotted an Australian Hobby on a telephone post.
We ate at Mayse's Cafe -- named after a woman who used to live here that wrote the book "No Place for a Woman". We had the Pork sandwich special, chips and pork rind with a Mango Smoothie and Hemp energy drink.
We saw lots of boulder piles on the drive south this afternoon. The countryside looks really dry, like one giant fire waiting to happen. The roadside slogan was: "Don't burn your bird -- fire safety starts with you". We arrived in Matarinka about 3pm.
It was a chilly 68F on Sept 30 at sunrise. We went over to the nearby Bitter Springs for our early morning birding (14.912S 133.089E). We saw a dozen Wallabies and a giant bee hive (to sustain the Bee Eaters). The area is covered in Cabbage palms.
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