… 10.000 km actually. Still in Kakadu, 5 km before the Mamukala bird watching area, we have completed the first 10.000.000 meter of this trip, in the 2nd country along our way. Not bad, eh?
Over all, this was a pretty sweet day for us. We got up at quarter past six and had everything ready even before the bakery opened at 8am to get breakfast. As a bonus, I got a smile out of the lady at the petrol station for mentioning our next destination: She was from East Timor and was genuinely excited that we decided to go and visit her home country.
First destination for the day was Ubirr and surroundings. A nice curvy road led us to the border between Kakadu national park and Arnhem Land. Border is meant quite literally, since travel past the border store into Arnhem Land is restricted and requires a permit from the traditional owners. Geographically, the border is marked by the Arnhem Land limestone escarpment and the East Alligator River.
The road follows the escarpment for a bit, offering a great change of scenery from the monotonous savannah so far. It turns out, exploring the Kakadu National Park via the Kakadu and Arnhem Highways is a sure way to be bored out of your scull. There are great things to see a couple of km off on side tracks, but so far most of it was locked away from us behind corrugated sandy 4wd tracks.
This changed today: We started with a short walk from the Border Store along the river, croc spotting and through the nice cool Manngarree Monsoon Forest. Saltwater Crocodiles were shy, but we saw hundreds of cute flying foxes hanging from the trees. The walk was made even more pleasant by Frederike and Lars, who joined us once more.
Next stop was Ubirr itself, which we hit in time for the 11 am guided rock art tour. The style of the ranger turned out to be not quite our cup of tea, but we ducked ahead and got the highlight of the park (for us) almost to ourselves as a reward. Climbing some 250m up the Nardab Lookout on top of a limestone cliff, we got a mind boggling 360° view of everything that makes the Kakadu: Savannah, bush fires, river lands and billabongs, rocky cliffs, monsoon forest and the perfectly flat and pool table green expanse of a flood plain right at our feet. Jackpot!
Despite the lunch pack being ready on the bike, we could not resist the authentic Thai cuisine offered at the Border Store. Lunch packs can be dinner, right?
We cut the next bit of croc-watching short to head off to our final destination in Kakadu: The above mentioned Mamukala wetlands. This wetland is cut off from the South Alligator River during the dry season and holds a good bit of water that can only escape via evaporation. Now, during Gurrung (mid-August to September) thousands of birds, mainly geese, flock to this wetland to fatten up. It was in deed quite spectacular, the noise, the diving geese and seemingly endless supply of waterlilies.
So that is it than. On our way to Darwin, we gave in to the weakness once more and cut the gravel trip to the Shady Camp short by staying in the pool-providing Stuart Wilderness Lodge. It is going to be the last night of camping for a good wile. Beyond Darwin, where lovely Celia and Tig have offered us shelter, we also got a place to sort ourselves out in Dili, thanks to my former colleague Joseph.