Archive for the ‘Northern Territory’ Tag
Okay, so apparently yesterday’s image wasn’t to everyone’s taste… bit too far off the rails? Hopefully, this one wins you back a bit!
This is a Magpie Goose flying over the Mamukala Wetlands in Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory, Australia. For bird enthusiasts, Kakadu is a spectacular destination. The isolation, the greenery, the warmth, the abundant water all make it prime territory for a wide variety of birds.
Places like this one are quiet (except for the occasional bus load of tourists) with lots of bird watching opportunities. Further south, in the thick of the park, there are cruises out on the water ways that will tire out your trigger finger with the number of birds in residence.
These birds are keeping a careful eye on us as we coast by on the South Alligator River in Kakadu National Park in the Northern Territory. They probably learned to keep a watchful eye considering all the crocs in the river. Despite the name of the river, it was actually named for all the crocodiles. It just so happens that the explorer that named the river couldn’t tell a crocodile from an alligator.
While at this time of year, it would seem reasonable that the picture above is that of a frozen lake, but the wide brim hats and the short sleeves seem to suggest otherwise. This is, in fact, a salt lake and the ice is actually a thick crust of ice that has formed on the surface. Our guide happily took us out for a walk on the lake. Hailing from Northern Ontario and knowing all about the dangers of thin ice, I should have wondered more about how safe it was to walk on the salt crust and yet, it never occurred to me to ask how thick it was.
Walking on the surface of this salt lake, you’d be easily forgiven for thinking that you’re walking on ice, except, of course, this is the Northern Territory and while the nights are chilly, there is no chance of ice forming.
Squatting on the ice is my family as they chat with our guide about a branch that has become entirely covered with salt.
Yesterday, I mentioned the other big rock at the Red Centre. This is it. It’s Mt. Conner and it can be found east of Uluru on the rather large Curtin Springs cattle station. I say it’s rather large because it covers 416,400 hectares. That’s over one million acres!
This photo has not been retouched. This is what it looks like at sunset.
This was the view from our 4×4 as we sipped champagne and watch the sun drop to the horizon. Let me tell you, this far away from civilization, when the sun goes down, it gets very, very dark. Once it got dark, the six of us on the tour piled back into the truck and we set out following our headlights back to the resort.
It was all going just fine as we moved from bouncing over rocks and dropping into pot holes to smoothly gliding across soft sand. At least it was going fine right up until we blew a tire. Did I mention we were in the middle of nowhere? No other traffic. No buildings anywhere in sight. No lights other than the headlights and the torch (flash light) in the glove box.
Not a problem though. We were prepared. Our guide knew what she was doing. We knew how to change the a tire. Not that I’ve ever changed a tire before, but I’ve seen it done plenty of times… on TV. Just need to swap out the flat with the spare. Our guide had never driven this type of 4×4 before and the tire is tucked up underneath the back of the truck. She didn’t know how to get the spare out. No problem, that’s what user manuals are for. Got out the crank, attached it to the mechanism holding the spare and started cranking. After a few well-placed kicks, we eventually got the spare out. Progress!
Next step, jack up the truck and get the flat off. Getting a jack to stand firm in soft, deep sand is a bit tricky, but we managed. We’re getting the lug nuts off the flat, but some of them are pretty tight and we’re pulling so hard we pull the truck back and off the jack. Okay, that was a bit dangerous; don’t want a truck falling on you out here. Back up on the jack and get the tire off. Putting on the new one was pretty straightforward as was storing the flat back up under the truck.
We didn’t even have to pay extra for the extra adventure. Plus I learned a valuable driving tip when you’re driving at night in the Northern Territory. Drive in the middle of the road. Gives you more time to react and avoid the roos jumping across the road. If another car comes toward you, they’re usually so far away there’s plenty of time to move back into your own lane.
Just remember to drive on the left.
Never have I had a more disappointing set of photos than from our long weekend trip to the centre of Australia to see Uluru (aka Ayers Rock). The trip was outstanding, but the images never quite came together for me. I had some modest successes, but not nearly as many as I should have. This was about four years ago and apparently I wasn’t working my camera concentration as hard as I should have been.
But, there’s more to a successful trip than just photos. Home base when visiting Uluru is the little town of Yulara. It’s a resort town with a range of accommodation to meet a range of budgets, but one look at the prices might make you think you need to have a pretty big budget.
Uluru is the chief attraction, but a trip to the Red Centre has to include hiking at Kata Tjuta (aka The Olgas). If you’re feeling adventurous you might even take a full-day four-wheel drive tour out to Mt Connor. Mt Connor is a similar rock formation to Uluru, but it’s bigger and sits on privately held land. A couple of tour companies have arrangements with the owners to take groups to see a salt lake (very cool) and to drive to the top of Mt Connor.
Lots of tourists fly in and out the same day and miss so much that it seems not worth the trouble to me. We stayed three and a half days and could have stayed longer. I personally can’t wait to go again.
Way up north in Australia, toward the top end of the Northern Territory, is a little town called Katherine. Its population of just under 6,000 people actually makes it the fourth largest town in the Territory. It’s the only major settlement between Alice Springs and Darwin, which tells you something about population density in the Territory since Katherine is 1400km north of Alice Springs and over 300km south of Darwin. Agriculture, mining, a local air force base and tourism keep the town’s economy going.
The tourists come to see the nearby Katherine Gorge in Nitmiluk National Park. The gorge is, in fact, 16 separate gorges, and tourists typically only see the first few. The Katherine Gorge is in Jawoyn territory. Jawoyn are the traditional aboriginal owners of the land. Travelling through the gorge provides people with access to ancient aboriginal rock paintings and some insight into how the aboriginal people lived in this area.
The beliefs of the aboriginal people are explained in stories at signposts in the park. Some of these stories describe how the gorge was formed, the source of the water and the name of the park. The name ‘Nitmiluk’ comes from the sound of the cicada (‘nit nit nitnit’). It was given to the land by Nabilil, a dragon-like creation being from the Jawoyn Dreamtime who is said to have camped at the entrance to the gorge.
The local aboriginal people grant permission for boat tours to run through the gorges. This is only possible during the Dry season. During the Wet season, the water levels can rise by as much as 18m making the gorge impassable. I recommend trying the sunset dinner cruise as the light in the gorge is outstanding. Dinner on the boat, as the sun set and our boat became a little island in complete darkness, was a unique and thrilling experience.
It’s hot, humid, crowded, chaotic, and a lot of fun. The Mindil Beach Sunset Market northwest of Darwin city, in the Northern Territory, is a local cultural sampler and more than a bit feral. The first challenge is parking. When you arrive, cars are parked all over the place. For the most part, the cars are in traditional parking lot kinds of lines, but the car park is a dusty, grassy field. When it gets full, the cars start getting wedged any old place. If you come late (as we did) you might have a to take a couple of passes through the labyrinth until you find a nook big enough to squeeze your car into. Pay close attention to where you put your car!
Once in the market, you’ll find food stands of all ethnicities, arts and crafts vendors, clothing vendors, and performers. All this and it’s right up against a gorgeous beach that stretches off into the distance in both directions. Of course, it’s a sunset market, so as the sun drops below the horizon, the crowds come up from the beach and the market gets really crowded. Now is a good time to find a patch of dirt near some of the buskers and catch the evening shows.
There are bands, jugglers, dancers, and this fire breather. He was a man of many talents with comedy, juggling, skipping (with a flaming rope), and fire-breathing all part of his repertoire. I think he even juggled machetes at one stage. His big finish is captured above.
If you want to see the market, you’ll have to plan ahead a little. The market only runs on Thursdays and Sundays during the Dry season (late April to October).