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Sunday, March 25, 2012

Australia 2011 - Day 8, Part 1 - Kakadu

"There are lots of ways of being miserable, but there's only one way of being comfortable, and that is to stop running round after happiness. If you make up your mind not to be happy there's no reason why you shouldn't have a fairly good time." - Edith Wharton

***

Australia 2011
Day 8 - 5th August - Kakadu
(Part 1)

In the morning we collected the next car and drove to Kakadu National Park.

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We went to get supplies: "It is an offence to handle food with your fingers"

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From a Hyundai Getz we were now in a Ford Focus. We were asked if we preferred a stick-shift, and when we said we'd rather have auto they gave us a car with a manual option anyway (with a choice of 4 gears). It also told us how many KM worth of fuel we had left, which was nifty.

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Pauls Orange Juice: not only was it "proudly produced by Parmalat Australia" from imported fruit juice, it was also horribly vile like all Australian orange juice (Australians cannot make sweet orange juice).

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Cheese and bacon pastry. Mmm.

We passed by a "Sexyland. Adult Department Store". Later there was "Australia's biggest collection of country music. Country music shack". Uhh.

We went down the Stuart Highway (yes, it was the same road - we'd considered driving up from Alice Springs but it'd have taken 18 hours from Alice Springs to Darwin, really expensive - it was cheaper to rent a new car and there'd be little to see on the way). Past a certain point, a sign proclaimed that no pedestrials, animals, bicycles and horse-drawn vehicles were allowed.

At one point there were 60kmph and 100kmph speed limit signs - 50m apart.

"We like our lizards fried not grilled" - sign about bushfires

There was a stupid bird on the road. We slowed as we approached it but it didn't move. It only flew away when we were going to hit it.

There were signs along the highway offering free coffee for drivers, but when I went into those establishments there didn't seem to be coffee counters. Apparently I would have to ask, but anyway I don't like coffee.

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"Last chance for alcohol before Kakadu". Hurr, blame the aborigines for Kakadu being dry.

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Fishing is a pain. Maybe this is due to lobbying by the fisheries industry, to boost fish sales.

The roads were narrower than at the Alice Springs part of the Northern Territory. I'm guessing this had something to do with blasting a way through the jungle.

I was intending to visit the Ranger Uranium Mine in Kakadu. Usually there are tours in the dry season (the time I was there) but not this year, possibly due to Fukushima.

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Entrance to Kakadu National Park

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Behind the main sign they also mentioned that they were aboriginal lands

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On the place

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"A Special World Heritage Place"
I thought all World Heritage Sites were special.

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All the ways you can die in Kakadu
Chris Christensen of the Amateur Traeler on Bill Bryson's In a Sunburned Country: "The thing that stands out for me about Australia after reading his book is how many things there can kill you"

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Park map

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Short and long sarongs, depending on the sort of SPG you want to be

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Bamboo clothing. I have a bamboo fibre shirt from the US.

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"Regrettably Management & Staff of Aurora Kakadu have no control of:
The Weather
Mosquitoes
Flies
Frogs
Cane Toads
Geckos
And all other Bugs and Insects"

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Another cheerful sign warning you you could die

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These signs marked every bridge

Our first real stop in the park was the Mamukala Wetlands.

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Mamukala Wetlands sign
"Today Bininj have decided not to hunt in this area so the wetland and its wealth of bird life can be enjoyed by park visitors"
I'm quite sure the real reason is that it's easier to go to Coles Supermarket.

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Free ranger talk - once a week. Thanks ah.
The previous night we'd met a French couple who were doing in 9 days what we'd allocated 3.5 for. But he was a PhD student and she was on a 6 month working holiday, so. They said they'd first seen the strange toilet up the East Coast from Sydney, and it also had retro (démodée) music. No wonder they were taking 9 days, with this sort of talk schedule.

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More ways to die in Kakadu

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Whoever came up with the term "Wetlands" was a genius in PR. Technically "wetlands" is a superset of the terms "marsh", "swamp" and "bog", among which there are some differences, but I'm quite sure this nomenclature is more PR than anything. That said this being the dry season they were more like drylands. In this case it was bad, but there were a reason the dry season was the high season.

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On these wetlands

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Six seasons of Mamukala


Mamukala Wetlands Panorama

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Weeds

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On the hot and dry season

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We then took a walk

A parang to cut the tree branches in our way would've been useful.

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Vegetation

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There is a penalty for going off the trail

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Track

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Tree and possible termite mound

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Following an unofficial but well-trodden path almost to the edge of the water, I tried looking for crocodiles but couldn't find any

It was very hot so I nuaed with a pink umbrella. Unfortunately my umbrella broke very fast despite the wind not being very strong. Sensodyne: giving out cheap umbrellas as a publicity tool backfires and makes your brand look cheap. I should've brought my ME2 cap, but it would've gotten soiled.

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Bare expanse

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We then went to the visitors centre.

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"Taking photos of art in this shop is a copyright infringement"
And witnessed a massive misunderstanding (whether deliberate or accidental I couldn't tell) of copyright law.

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My notes ask if one can add the "guk" modifier at the end, but I'm not sure where I got this idea from.

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"Children under 16 years and Northern Territory residents are free"

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World Heritage sign

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Cruise prices. Why anyone would take two cruises is beyond me, even if the second is only $20. Well, if you're staying there for 9 days, you need to pass the time somehow I guess.

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"Spanish
Italian
French
Aboriginal language"
At first I thought "Aboriginal language" was a language the pamphlets were available in.

Almost 80% of Kakadu is savannah.

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Aboriginal rock by Bluey Iikgirr and his grandson Wilfred Nawirrid

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Yay for photography!

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"The 25 World Heritage sites declared for their natural and cultural values" (it was 28 when this photo was taken)
The perils of putting a number on your World Heritage sign - it gets out of date.

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We love locusts. Notice also the cross-promotion: "You can learn more of their story at Nourlangie Rock"

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On the forest roof

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"Look up! You too are part of the food web."

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On the biodiversity in Kakadu

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Some men just want to watch the world burn

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Drink up
Maybe because I didn't drink enough, I got a nosebleed. Or maybe there were too many French people around.

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Small dingo on road

At Jabiru (a small town in Kakadu) there was an industrial area and an airport. I'm not sure if they owed more to tourism or to the Ranger Uranium Mine.

For lunch we went to Kakadu Bakery.

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Large menu

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Pizza Pull-apart (?!)

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Exotic pies

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Very expensive bread. It'd be cheaper to import than to bake it here.

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Pastries.

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Veggie pizza slice. A bit less ugly than the Pizza Pull-apart. But it had sundried tomatoes so it was okay (I didn't try it).

The guidebook said it had the Northern Territory's best Fish and Chips. In the middle of crocodiles. The famous half chicken took 1/2 and hour so I opted for the 10 min Fish & Chips.

They also had crumbed chicken - just the middle of the wing. For A$2. Australia is bloody expensive.

The fish & chips were excellent - the second-best I'd had (the best was in Tasmania). The fish was very well crumbed and there were 2 generous pieces. Inside the flesh was delicate and sweet.

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The chips were crispy and fluffy, with a hint of non-salt seasoning. The paper cup apparently had something to do with it.

Addendum: Note the anti-immigrant sentiment, with talk of "real Aussies".

Both the fish and the chips were slightly too salty. More annoyingly, eating in a moving car sucked - when the car moved sharply, my chips landed on the floor (so I threw them out of the window - it was alright as they were biodegradable).

I had one of the huge éclairs for dessert. It was a bit disappointing - the cream and body were a bit heavy. Ironic, given that it was a bakery.


Fuel was $1.467/l in Darwin. Ahh, Civilization! At the BP in Aurora Resort in Kakadu it was $1.65/l. Branded fuel seemed cheaper than non-branded fuel, ironically.
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