From Pine Creek we left the Stuart Highway and headed towards Jabiru. The last time we were here was in 1988 and this was a dirt road in those days. We were to find that all the roads to the major attractions are bitumen sealed these days, a bit different to twenty-two years ago. Our destination was Malabanjbandju Campsite, which showed on the map as a caravan camping site. It was also a site recommended by a fellow traveller we had met in Pine Creek.
Kakadu now has a $25.00 entry permit fee that lasts for 14 days. Trouble is it is still $25.00 for one day. On top of this you still have to pay camping fees and for any trips that you do in the park. In Pine Creek we were given entry tickets that were still current for three more days by people who were finished with them. These entry tickets are not transferable so we should not have been using them. I had no problems in using these tickets but Coba on the other hand had a real problem. It was at the stage where I was ready to buy new ticket for us just to make her happy and put her in a better frame of mind. She made me pay for not purchasing our own tickets. At school she was known as Saint Coba because she would never do anything wrong. Fifty years later she’s has not changed and I guess I haven’t either.
We made our campsite by 11.00 am and set up the caravan. After lunch we explored Jabiru and then travelled to Ubirr Rock art site and the Border Store on the East Alligator River. This Aboriginal Art Gallery has been greatly changed since our last visit. It is now all set tracks and barriers to keep people away from the rock paintings.
Back at the caravan I went for a walk with the camera and managed to photograph a Jabiru and some Cotton Pigmy Geese. The humidity was high and this made conditions unpleasant. We tried to sit outside the caravan but the mosquitoes carried us away. So it was back into the van and open everything possible that had screens on it. That night I was pleasantly surprised to hear the ghost like call of the Bush Curlew. I cannot recall hearing it since my childhood days in Mackay when we lived in Archibald Street and these birds were a nightly visitor or probably better described as a local resident.
By next morning conditions had improved and I found myself under a sheet and thin blanket. We made an early start that morning leaving the van and heading for Nourlangie Rock Art Gallery. To me this is the best Aboriginal art gallery in Kakadu. The large shelter cave is also worth the visit if you are in the area.Aborignal Rock Art - Nourlangie Rock
Leaving Nourlangie Rock we set off for Jim Jim Falls. This is still one of the remaining dirt roads in Kakadu and it is approximately sixty fivekilimetres from the main road to the falls. The last nine kilometres is a two wheel track with creek crossings and mud patches. It has been made worse by the NT Parks Service installing either large speed humps or diversion humps across the road. These are continuous for the full nine kilometres of four wheel drive dirt track. Passing other vehicles on this track is also an experience as it is often a tight squeeze to get one of the vehicles off the track. We finally arrived at Jim Jim Falls to find the carpark resembling a major shopping centre car park. It was so bad we were not able to get a park in the main parking area and had to return to an overflow parking area a bit down the track.
The signage at the start of the track to the falls said it was a one kilometre walk along the creek to the falls. It also recommended allowing two hours for the return trip. Coba opted to stay at the car but after getting this close I was going the rest of the way. The walking track to the falls was more rugged than I thought it would be with a lot of bolder hopping along the way. Jim Jim turned out to be two very small streams of water going over the falls. Having achieved my objective and taken some photos, I set off back to the car. The creek itself was very beautiful and a crocodile trap and warning signs were sufficient deterrent to stop people swimming here. I arrived back at the start of the track in just under the hour.Jim Jim Creek below the falls.
From there it was on to Yellow Waters where it was time to photograph some of the local birds. The glossy Ibis were used to people and allowed me to get real close. The Mask Lapwings were different to the ones I had seen elsewhere and lacked the black shawl markings that normally come down from the back of the neck in front of the wings to the breast area. I also photographed my first Pied Herron here as well.Northern Mask Lapwing - Yellow Waters
Back at the caravan we enjoyed the late afternoon breeze until the nightly raid by the local mosquitoes swarmed in like fighter jets from the swam area behind the van. At this point it was time to retreat and allow them to their environment. At night we could hear them buzzing on the screen of the open windows. This went on all night and thankfully the screens held the enemy was kept at bay.
Next morning we hooked up the van and headed for Darwin. We stopped along the way at the Mamulala Wetlands bird hide around 25 kilometres west of the township of Jabiru. I managed to get a couple of good shots of masked finches here along with ordinary shots of Long Tail, Crimson and Double Bar Finches. We stopped for lunch at Bark Hut and then continued on to the caravan park at Berry Springs.Masked Finch - Mamulala Wetlands