Thursday, November 29, 2012

Edith Falls Fun

Besides Katherine Gorge, the other main attraction in Nitmiluk National Park is Edith Falls. This was one of my favorite places on our Northern Territory trip. You can swim in the easily accessible pool (that's Edith Falls in the far background) just a short walk from the parking lot, but the real treat comes when you do the Leliyn Loop walk.

The hike gives you great views of the water and vast landscape below.
Then you get a glimpse of the awesomeness that awaits you.
We had these upper pools all to ourselves! It was amazing. And no, there are no crocodiles up in this area of the park!
Zack did some bouldering...

...while I enjoyed playing in the water.

After an hour or so of enjoying our own private waterfall and rock pools, we continued our hike and got more beautiful views of where we had been.

You sure do feel like you are in the "real" Australia in the Northern Territory. It's pretty darn cool. Well, actually it's pretty darn hot, but you know what I mean! This is my last post about Nitmiluk; my next post will take you to Litchfield National Park (the third and final park of our trip).

Yes, I am a dork who owns an Australian swimsuit. It was $15 and works well for pictures in these settings. Don't judge!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Aboriginal Art in Nitmiluk

In Katherine Gorge, you can park your kayak and get out on the banks of the first gorge and see lots of Aboriginal rock art. I liked it because although you knew the general area in which to find it, nothing was labeled. You had to look at all of the rock faces, under ledges, etc. and see what you could find for yourself. Then you get to figure out what it is. It was kind of like a treasure hunt in which you'd find more and more the longer you looked, and I'm sure I missed tons of it. Anyway, this is just a picture post with some of my favorite rock art I found. Enjoy!

Platypus, I think?
I like the handprints.
Under a ledge.

Another hidden one under a ledge.

These were really high up on the rock face. I'm not sure how they did it.
This one was huge and took up a whole rock face. Awesome!

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Kayaking Katherine Gorge

After leaving Kakadu National Park, Zack and I headed to Katherine Gorge, also known as Nitmiluk National Park. We spent a full day kayaking, hoping to get as far as the fifth gorge, but the low water levels prevented us from getting past the third one. No worries though; we still had plenty of fun and adventure along the way!

There were cool birds along the shore...

Bugs on the rocks (note the spider below the dragonfly) and snakes in the caves to steer clear of...

Harmless Banded Tree Snake-also known as a Night Tiger.

Flies to avoid while walking along the banks of the river (we grew to love our head nets)...

And lots of beautiful views...

But the craziest thing of all happened on our way back to the drop-off point. We had been kayaking along the edge of the shore all day, reading these signs about crocodiles nesting and avoiding certain areas. I knew that there were no saltwater crocodiles in Katherine Gorge, and those are the dangerous ones that will attack and kill you (the type we saw in Kakadu). But freshwater ones live in Nitmiluk, and they can become aggressive if cornered or threatened.

Well, we had just started to kayak into a small cave (like we had when we found the snake pictured above), when we suddenly heard what sounded like a mix between a loud hiss and a growl. Zack paddled us backward quickly; I thought it was a snake for a second. But it was a crocodile!!! That's right, we almost cornered a freshwater crocodile in a cave while we were sitting just inches above the water in a kayak all alone out in the middle of the gorge! It had reared its head up a bit, so its body was kind of slanted while it eyed us. It was pretty big! We stayed at a distance and tried to get a few pictures and a video, but you can see they didn't turn out so well. Anyway, it was wild, and we've been recreating the sound it made ever since! 

Katherine Gorge itself wasn't that impressive compared to some Colorado or Utah scenery we've experienced (I know I sound like a snob, but it's true), but the kayaking was a nice way to spend a hot day, and the crocodile encounter made it worth the trip! Oh yeah, and there was some more cool aboriginal art to see, but that'll be in tomorrow's post...

Monday, November 26, 2012

Aboriginal Art in Kakadu (and a Dingo)

Kakadu National Park is home to lots of aboriginal art sites. We visited one called Nourlangie, and it was pretty cool. The rock shelter here has been used for about 20,000 years! I've included some pictures of some of our favorite drawings.

I've included this in case you want to try making some rock art of your own!
This one shows traditional dancing.

This one is called Nabulwinjbulwinj. You say it like Nar-bull-win-bull-win. He's a dangerous spirit who eats females after striking them with a yam. Yikes!

This is the Anbangbang Gallery, and it includes Namarrgon (the Lightning Man), Barrginj (his wife), Ginga (the great saltwater crocodile), family groups on their way to a ceremony, and Guluibirr (the saratoga fish).

Here's another one of the Lightning Man. Namarrgon is an important Creation Ancestor who is said to be responsible for the violent lightning storms that occur every wet season. The band joining his head and ankles represents the lightning he creates. He's pretty cool looking. This was definitely some of the best (biggest, most detailed, most interesting) rock art I've seen in Australia so far.

And on our drive to our campsite, we saw a dingo. Poor guy-so skinny!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Notre Dame is #1!

Guess whose college football team is #1 in the nation? Yup, mine! Notre Dame beat USC today and finished their season undefeated. They're headed to the National Championship game in Miami on January 7. Yes, I have this Notre Dame flag hanging on our front porch, even though probably nobody in this country has any clue what it means. Anyway, go Irish!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Gagadju Adventure Tour

When you visit Kakadu National Park, you hear that two of the main attractions are Jim Jim and Twin Falls. However, you can't get there during the wet season because the roads are flooded, and no tours were visiting the area while we were there (the end of the dry season), because it was too hot. In order to drive on the road to the waterfalls yourself, you need 4WD along with a snorkel on your vehicle. We didn't have either. We heard that neither waterfall had a lot of water running over it anyway.

So we decided to do a day-long tour with Gagudju Adventure tours, because their 4WD vehicle would be able to take us to some other cool waterfall spots in the park. We met up with our driver and the other passengers in the morning, boarded the truck/bus thing, and were on our way. The first stop was Maguk, also known as Barramundi Gorge. You have to do a short hike to get to the waterfall, but the green plants everywhere and rock scrambles make it beautiful and fun.

After the hike, you reach Maguk Falls. It's not a huge waterfall, but the pool around it is great for a swim. We hung out here for awhile, just soaking in the pool, playing under the waterfall, and climbing the rocks.
After Maguk, we stopped on the side of the road and got out to take pictures with a large termite mound. You see these things everywhere in the park; some are really small and some are huge. I'll talk more about those when I get to my Litchfield post. But you can get an idea of the size by seeing how tall it is compared to me (I'm 5'8").
We had lunch at the park near Gunlom Falls. The Northern Territory is full of flies, and they buzz around your head and drive you crazy. We eventually invested in fly nets (you'll see those in later posts), but here's Zack using his cooling scarf as a makeshift fly swatter by creating a swinging arc to protect his head!

Gunlom Falls is where part of Crocodile Dundee was filmed. The scene where he spears the barramundi was shot on the banks of this plunge pool. We spent some more time swimming and hanging out here before heading back to Gagudju Lodge for a cold cider and beer. It was a pretty good day, though there was a lot of driving involved (Kakadu National Park is HUGE), and our guide didn't let us know that we could have hiked to the top of both waterfalls and had some good views and more plunge pools to enjoy. We probably should have just rented a 4WD vehicle and gone to these places ourselves, but oh well. I really can't complain when I spent my day swimming under waterfalls!

Friday, November 23, 2012

Thanksgiving in Australia Part Two

So many blog posts to catch up on...the rest of our Northern Territory trip, our time at the country races and in the Grampians last weekend, our friend Jon's visit from September, etc.

In the meanwhile, Happy Thanksgiving! You may remember our Thanksgiving celebration last year. This year, we celebrated at Adam and Emily's place again; I think there were 22 people there in total! We weren't all American; there were some Australians and Brits there as well. It was fun to watch the non-Americans try the various traditional dishes and share in the holiday with them. We even watched part of last week's Denver Broncos game after dinner (because watching football is part of the Thanksgiving tradition!). I was so busy eating and having fun that I only managed to snap a few poor-quality phone pictures throughout the night. This picture is part of the feast after we had all had our first helping.
I made pumpkin pie to contribute to the dessert portion of the meal. As canned pumpkin is a bit tricky to obtain (and costs a ridiculous amount when you do find it), I made the pie totally from scratch...roasted the pumpkin, pureed it, added the spices, made the crust, etc. It was pretty darn good if I do say so myself (and I do). The best part is that I made a big enough batch that I had enough left over to make another pie that Zack and I can enjoy all weekend long.

It's hard to be so far away from family for the holidays, but we're very thankful to have great friends we can celebrate with and delicious American-style food to enjoy!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Other Things We Saw

Okay, I promise this is the last post about our Yellow Water Cruise in Kakadu. There's so much more to tell about our trip, and I need to get on to those other posts! But I couldn't help myself when I looked through my pictures and remembered some of the other beautiful sights we witnessed. So here's a taste of the non-crocodile and non-bird sights from that evening.
The lotus lilies were like huge bowls.

And those combined with the lily pads reminded me of a Monet painting.

We saw a tree snake and some strange tree fruit.

And there were awesome landscapes and beautiful wild horses.

This video will give you a taste of the peaceful cruise.

Going at sunset was probably the best decision. The lighting was amazing, especially reflected off Yellow Water Billabong. If you ever find yourself in the Northern Territory, I'd recommend the Yellow Water Cruise at the top of your must-do list!