It was a great idea….renting a mini-van equipped with all the camping gear, pots and pans, refrigerator, microwave, sink and range. We would get off the plane, take a taxi and pick up the van and be on our way to Kakadu National Park. And that really is what happened. This is going to be a long post because a lot of other things happened too!
We enjoyed the drive stopping at Mary’s River where we saw our first ‘in the wild’ kangaroo and the termite nest.
|Very Tall Termite Nest|
That is also where the T-belt warning light came on! Trust me – that is not a good sign as I quickly found out in the manual. The T-belt light is the timing belt and if that goes, the engine goes! As there were no places to stop and call the rental company we drove on in the hopes that we had time to get to someplace that could help.
The further we drove, the more comfortable we became and Peter said, “Let’s go down this road a little ways”. It was a sandy billabong road with about an 8” berm on each side and soon it became obvious that we should turn around and let a 4-wheel drive use it! In the process of turning around we ended up on the berm with one wheel hanging in space. No one around so we found some wood (no rocks available) to pile under the wheel for traction. Did I mention that it was very hot in Darwin and Kakadu?
Help appeared in the form of a pickup and several men who kindly stopped and pushed our mini-van onto the road. Yes, they were shaking their heads about the ‘tourists’! We were off again and did NOT take any more side roads like that. And yes, the warning light was still on.
|Thanks for all your help!|
We stopped in at the first campground/resort area but it was only 3 p.m. and we had lots more light to explore. The fee to camp there was $15. We got our park passes ($27 each) and drove to
That was such a treat! There were hundreds of birds in the lily pads in these wetlands. Binoculars and cameras were busy! So many birds and so little time!
A long covered blind with lots of benches and explanations of the area made sitting here so pleasant. I could have done without the flies. A kangaroo was foraging next to the blind and a Willie Wagtail (black bird) was picking bugs off his back.
|Willie Wagtail and the Roo|
Traveling on to Jabaru was the plan. It was dark and late when we arrived at the campground to find that the hookup would be $50 on a dirt plot next to many other people. We opted to find another place to stop. On another side road we ate chicken and coleslaw for dinner and tried to get comfortable for the night. It was too hot for the sleeping bags or sheets. We had already been told the air conditioner would not keep the back of the van cool and there were no fans left to give us. We were not told that the oval LED light on the side of the van would come on in the dark and could not be turned off. So much for the dark night!
Next morning we left early to go to the cultural center so we could call the rental company and find out what to do about the warning light. Bowali Cultural Center was lovely in the early morning. Saw our first Black Cockatoo, found a found to call the rental company who said to call back in 10 minutes after they checked with a mechanic, and a very interesting gift shop that was closed for 3 more hours. The mechanic said, “Go ahead and drive it! Usually you have time after the light comes on before it has to be changed.” I also asked why the range did not work and found that probably the valves had giggled out of alignment. They had and we had morning coffee with our breakfast– finally.
|Aboriginal art in the closed gift shop!|
Next stop was the Aboriginal Cultural Center. The museum was extremely well designed showing artifacts, explaining the way of life and the history of the Aboriginal people. Unfortunately there was no brochure and photos were not allowed. In the picnic area, we met a very helpful Australian birder who identified one of the birds we saw. I made sandwiches for lunch. Did I mention it was hot and humid?
|Entrance to the Aboriginal Cultural Center|
We stopped at Mamukala again on the way out of the park. Different lighting and a few different birds. It is such an incredible sight.
|Rajah Shelduck, Purple Swamphen, Wandering Whistling Duck|
We arrived back in Darwin around 5 p.m. and found a Doubletree Hotel on the esplanade. Great rate, great bed, great shower and a great view. Maybe camping is not my thing! I’d heard about Australian beets and had purchased a can for the camping trip. We did not use them and when I found out the can opener was broken, I asked at the hotel if they would open the can so I could taste them. They took the can and brought the beets back to the room in a bowl with a passion fruit so I could taste it too. That was so nice.
Next morning we took a walk in the park, returned the mini-van, and got a taxi to the airport.
Goodbye Darwin – Hello Melbourne!