Sunday, June 21, 2009

Kakadu & Darwin, Day 4 - Final Day

From my previous post it could sound like Ubirr was the best place around ... I did not tell about the mosquitoes! After having been gobsmacked by the sunset at Ubirr I raced back to the campsite: Merl, where I already had pitched the tent. I was nearly as hungry as tired and started cooking my gnocchi. You all know by now, that gnocchi only takes a fraction of time longer than couscous to prepare i.e. it is fairly fast. However, multiple times I nearly gave up and considered leaving the food and seek shelter in the car or the tent. I literally could not stand still while cooking without being sucked dry by an army of mosquitoes. In similar fashion I ate my food while walking, I just dropped all the unwashed cooking gear into the bottom of the car - I could clean it the next day - and crawled into the tent, after negotiating a ceasefire with the approximately 50 mossies that wanted to go to bed with me, I realized that I had not brushed my teeth ... well I for sure was not going to crawl out again, so I fell asleep to the sound of mosquitoes trying to enter my tent and the taste of gnocchi and red wine ... hm.... :-D

Next morning the space between the fly and my inner tent was populated by many thousand mossies - attracted to the CO2 and dampness caught under the fly - it looked like suicide to try to crawl out. Luckily the "coldness" of the morning (still above 20) had slowed them down and in a mad charge I made it into freedom. All in all I probably received somewhere around 200 bites and was still scratchy a week after :-(
Before driving back to the Arnhem highway, which would take me back to Darwin, I decided to give the Bardedjildji walk another go. Result; nearly as depressing as the day before - but the sandstone rock formation was still stunning.

Another happy camper advice had been to stop at Mamukala, I had actually planned to go to Fogg Dam again, but the lady had been very convincing so the homesick Yaris and I turned of the Arnhem highway nearly before the 1.3L engine had reached cruising temperature. The bird hide overlooking the lake was very impressive and is supposed to be the main attraction, however, having already seen hundreds of waterbirds I used less than 10 min there. Walking back to the car I noticed the sign proclaiming the start of the 3km bush walk ... hm ... well why not? Good decision!!

The walk lets you explore the dryer regions around the billabong, a type of habitat that I had not really visited previously during my trip. Highlight was probably when two Brolgas flew over my head. I am getting better at this camera thing, because when this deep thundering sound started in the distance I had absolutely no idea what was coming, but instead of seeking shelter I change the setting of the camera from center auto focus to 21 AF points and tracking, knowing that no matter what it was, I wanted the picture :-D

After a super duper walk, we took of again this time making it all the way to Darwin without any further stops ... actually there was entirely true had a quick stop at some wetland center, but not much to report from there.

Owls are fantastic animals and very very hard to see, unless you know where they like to hide during the day you will have to tramp around in the night trying to spotlight them while they are out hunting. If you are lucky you will get a glimpse of something flying through your light beam and you will have to be very lucky to be able to ID what it was. The task of trying to convince friends and family(?) afterward is nearly as hard as seeing the bird in the first place, unless you have a picture ;-)
The Botanical Garden in Darwin is an owl hotspot and that was my first stop after returning from Kakadu. Rumors would know that there was a good chance of seeing Barking Owl in the park and if really lucky; there was a chance of spotting a Rufous Owl. After having spend an hour tramping around I was getting afraid - I had only about an hour of sunlight left and I would have preferred seeing a little more of Darwin while bright, for a little while I stopped looking up in the treetops and looked at people instead; I should have done that earlier! An older couple with binoculars around their necks, telelens on the camera and Birding Australia t-shirts ... hm... they would probably not be offended of I asked them if they had seen an owl :-D Big smile and a "show him the picture" confirmed I was right!
Got excellent description of where to go followed by a "hurry, it might take off" and I raced towards the rainforest section of the park, about 30 sec of quick walking, just when I was at the junction with the rainforest up to the right a Barking Owl called from down left ... what to do? I went left, it sounded like the Barking had been close and one bird in the hand is better than .... In a matter of less than 2 min I found the Barking Owl, luckily it called again - if not it would have been super hard to pinpoint it.

Took 30 pictures in less than 1 min and took off towards the rainforest again. I had been given excellent advice on how to find the Rufous and had even been told that if I looped around I would be able to get pictures front on. Got great views of a sleepy Rufous owl that took a little look at me when I started shooting of pictures, but quickly went back to sleep again - 2 owls in less than 5 min, not too shabby :-)

All that owl-action took the energy out of me - and I decided that there was no need to run around hunting wildlife anymore. Took the Yaris downtown Darwin, to get some non-gnocchi food. Departed Darwin 1.45am, luckily I had been able to sleep a bit in the airport before leaving and had my eyes well and truly closed most of the way back home to Sydney so that I could be fresh at work a few minuets before 8am.
The pictures from day 3 and 4 have been combined in the Picasa link below here below - please feel free to press the funny looking pigeon below if you having already seen the photos.
Darwin & Kakadu Escape, Day 3 and 4

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