A coin toss led us to the tropical north and we darted toward Kakadu National Park, the largest NP in Australia. Located in the Northern Territory, Kakadu’s beauty and diversity is beyond belief. Characterized by sandstone bluffs, lowlands, floodplains, huge estuaries and tidal flats. It is home to roughly 280 bird species, 60 mammals, 120 reptiles and over 2,000 species of plants! It is also unique because Aborigines have lived here for more than 50,000 years and some still live traditionally, gathering plants and hunting wildlife, such as file snakes, kangaroos and crocodiles.
And what does one do if sleeping is next to impossible, given the hot humid nights and mozzies? Road cruise for herps (amphibians and reptiles), of coarse! And we had an awesome night!
There are over 5,000 important archaeological sites in the park!
And then, a quick side trip to Katherine Gorge National Park, which was almost totally devoid of people. In fact, the whole top half of the country was lacking tourists. It’s just avoided in summer because of the unrelenting heat and bugs! One benefit is that the campgrounds are free and the one we stayed at was plush with a pool and hot showers! We hiked the Butterfly Garden Trail, 12km through the canyon and then down into monsoon rainforest! There were picturesque waterfalls and fresh blooms. Part of the trail was impassable due to heavy rains the previous day, but we made it most of the way to the river mouth. We stopped to take a dip to cool off and I saw a Red Goshawk soaring through the canyon!! Really cool, rare bird that Ryne was after! Unfortunately, he was looking down at ants! Oh well, at least one of us saw this mysterious raptor! Sometimes your the pigeon and sometimes your the statue!
A page from my journal (we left the east coast near Daintree NP and headed west): Day 28, It was a long drive to this sleepy off the tourist trail town of Karumba (say Ay Karumba!!) on the Gulf of Carpentaria. The drive was exceptional with a plethora of wildlife seen especially from Normantan. We saw Sarus Cranes, Yellow Spotted Monitor and the wetlands were chalk-a-block full of birds! At one time we saw hundreds of raucous Little Corellas (small white cockatoos)! The night was less spectacular. We were in a hurry to get to the gulf to watch the sunset and we hit a Wallaby!! They are filthy common along the roads, especially at dusk, and they make driving a complete hazard! They hop haphazardly in every direction! It’s like walking around a pond in summer when there are toadlets everywhere!
The night was torture in a sweat box! It was beyond hot and humid, over 90 degrees F all night. I think it felt hotter than what it was because of the humidity. It never cooled off in the slightest! We were so dehydrated from loosing water as we sweated all night. Sweat dripped down my face all night! Ryne and I put on wet cloths to help cool and I put a wet wash cloth on Cypress (who slept like a baby). It was useless, the wet cloths became hot in seconds.There was no breeze so the air was stuffy and thick with moisture. Mosquitoes were plentiful so the doors and windows were kept closed. The canvas back had a screen but it also had cracks perfect for blood hungry mozzies! The morning couldn’t come fast enough! But with the dawn came teeny tiny sandflys that massacred my legs and Cypress, leaving us clad in red bites. The morning also brought the sun and intense, searing temperatures! After Ryne was done birding and being stalked by a crocodile in the marsh, we sought refuge at the library. We got lucky because there were free pancakes and tons of kids for Cypress to play with! We made a blog post and then made haste to Mt. Isa via Cloncurry.
Day 29, We drove through rugged red earth land. I was surprised the interior (outback) terrain was rocky, red hills with scattered trees and shrubs. The outback has a number of habitat types, not just barren sand and small shrubs, like I pictured. We camped at Clem Walton Park. The air was hot and dry and the “tickle flies” which I named, were out in hoards. At least they didn’t bite. They just tickled your exposed parts, loving your moist eyes the most! Worse were the ants which covered every bare area of the ground. They bit my feet fiercely until they were itchy and swollen.
I made jewel fish, sweet potatoes and green beans for dinner, then enjoyed an evening walk. The setting sun illuminated the brick red rock into a brilliant glow that only spoke of true tranquil beauty. This moment made it worth enduring pesky insects and uncomfortable temperatures. Why, life would be boring if one never let themselves get uncomfortable! Aborigines are a tough group of people!
Let me know if you would like to hear more about our day to day experiences, or just pictures. I did a lot of writing on the trip and plan to compile it into a book.
I am going to start from the beginning, but try not to repeat anything I wrote in previous posts or replicate photos. I did post some good pics in previous posts, but I wont repeat them here. Thus, if you want to read more or see more pictures, refer to my previous blog entries. Cypress is just 14 months old and looks so little in his big orange backpack!
The famous Botany Bay — our first view of Australia from the plane and first stop (besides the food market) after picking up the rental van. I was deliriously tired, dazed and confused from the 36 hour day we just endured with no sleep (Aus. is a half a day ahead of us). I was bursting with excitement and loved the hot air but sweating in my jeans and didn’t have the energy to find my shorts. Everything was buried in a mountainous heap in the van and my bag was on the bottom…I sweated in my hiking boots, thick socks, jeans and long sleeve shirt while Ryne gleefully skipped around in his flip flops and shorts! A memorable short stop.
We drove through the hustle and bustle of Sydney and in just 45 minutes we were at Royal National Park, where we booked a campsite for two nights. After the first night in our new house on wheels, we decided that we love our new bed and mobile home! It was very comfy and cozy! The next day we hiked a beautiful trail that paralleled the rocky coast line and swam in gorgeous waters!
Just some of the flora…
We hiked and explored…Cy was always ready for adventures!
had some eggs and veggies with a squadron of cheeky Sulpher-Crested Cockatoos!
Then headed inland for some spectacular eye candy of the Blue Mountains!
Mailboxes were awesome in Australia! Some skillfully crafted from recycled junk like metal oil drums, milk jugs or even…microwaves?!
Some flora and fauna of Girraween National Park…
We drove to Main Range National Park (southeast Queensland, Aus), a World Heritage Site, in pouring rain. The gravel road turned into a river! There were several creek crossings and no bridges! I forgot about how flooded most of the roads were on the east coast or even 100 km from the coast! It was a bit hairy at times, but luckily we never got stuck! The slow hazardous drive was soooo worth it though because the ancient rainforest we explored was stunning and part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, the most extensive subtropical rainforest in the world! This is a special place because according to the fossil record, some of the same species exist today as they did when Gondwanaland existed 200 million years ago! I think this is probably the coolest place we went, I LOVED traveling back in time to the Triassic Period! (Gondwanaland was a supercontinent that broke up into Australia, India, Africa, Madagascar, South America and Antarctica).
We also went to Lamington National Park, another awesome subtropical rainforest mountain range with impressive GIANT trees!
After some rugged-mountain jungle fun, we headed back to the sweaty coast. To date, the worst night sleep of my life was in Townsville, Queensland! The tropical heat would continue to keep us awake sweating all night and swatting mosquitoes! I don’t know why we wasted our time trying to sleep! We should of went road cruising for snakes instead! Cypress slept, at least!
Sorry for the long hiatus from blog entries. While in Australia, I had some difficulty logging into my wordpress admin site. After several unsuccessful attempts at blogging and posting pictures of our travels, I threw in the cards. Well, now I’m back and my site is working perfectly well.
I have been perusing and organizing our Aussie pictures, and since we have some great ones, I have to share them! We have over 5,000 pictures from our 3 month trip around Australia and 1 month journey in New Zealand!