J is jumping into Jabiru

a-to-z-letters-jJ is for JABIRU

Jabiru is both the name of a bird and also a town in the Kakadu National Park. It’s a stopping point into Arnhem Land, that vast stone country on the eastern side of the Territory’s Top End. It’s also famous, or infamous, depending on your point of view for its uranium mines, Ranger (about to close) and Jabiluka. This link reveals why the local people opposed the white man’s mines for their encroachment into sacred sites and dreamtime storylines. They also knew that some areas were “sickness” areas which they avoided, and these are closely linked with the presence of uranium. Of course many balanda (white people) also oppose uranium mining for its land destruction and its risks.

A Jabiru in a run-off near Jabiru, March 2013. © Pauleen Cass

A Jabiru in a run-off near Jabiru, March 2013. © Pauleen Cass

Jabiru township services the local community and provides health services as well as general facilities such as a small supermarket. It also hosts the Holiday Inn Crocodile Hotel, famous for the fact that it is constructed in the shape of a croc, with its legs providing the steps to different floors and its glowing red eyes at night. Of itself the town is not especially photogenic, so today I’ll be showing you photos of some of the places I mention.

All the sites I mentioned in the C for Cooinda post are easily accessible from Jabiru and a standard vehicle will serve to visit them. You only need 4WD for some of the more challenging places like Jim Jim Falls, Twin Falls or Koolpin Gorge. Although cut off by heavy rain and flooding during the Wet Season, one of Kakadu’s more imposing sites is most easily accessible from Jabiru and that’s Ubirr, home of wonderful Aboriginal rock art dating back thousands of years.

Views of the escarpment. © Pauleen Cass

Views of the escarpment. © Pauleen Cass

Visitors are inspired to see the open-fronted caves where the Indigenous people sheltered during the Wet Season, or Gudjewg in their language, living their lives, sharing culture, and their kinship stories. It’s also inspiring to look out over the vast flood plains, from the top of Ubirr, and to watch a tropical sunset colour the land and turn the colour of the rocks.

If you’re visiting during the Wet (or Dry) you can also do a boat cruise with Gulumyambi Cultural tours (a different perspective from the Yellow Waters cruise) which teaches you more about Aboriginal culture and life as well as giving you an opportunity to see Ubirr in the Wet and to visit a tiny portion of Arnhem Land. I notice the tours get rave reviews on Trip Advisor too.

Jim Jim Falls near Xmas 1998 in full flood. Photo taken on a scenic flight. © Pauleen Cass

Jim Jim Falls near Xmas 1998 in full flood. Photo taken on a scenic flight. © Pauleen Cass

Kakadu touring can be slightly more limited during the Wet as some touring options are cut off by flooding or higher crocodile risks, but there’s a way around this if your budget stretches to it. Why not take a short flight from Jabiru’s airport? In a heavy Wet this is a great way to see the powering drama of Jim Jim Falls in full flow (by the time the road’s accessible, the impact of the waterfall has diminished), and you will also get a quick view of the uranium mines. Most importantly what you will get is a view over the stone country of Arnhem Land, the completely different sense of place from the open bush and floodplains that you see from your vehicle.

On your drive into or away from Jabiru, do stop and have a look at the floodplains, lotus flowers and waterlilies and birds at Mamukala Wetlands, especially in the Dry tourist season as the birds congregate here when other waterholes dry up. You can see my waterlily photos from April 2012 here.

Mamukala Wetlands

Mamukala Wetlands

Why visit: as a base for your touring, to see the art at Ubirr and the views of sunlit floodplains, and if possible, to take a flight over the escarpment.

FYI: There are a couple of maps on my A to Z planning post which will help you to pinpoint where today’s tourist spots are situated.

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

We’re a bit light-on for J Aussie-isms.

Jaffle: a sandwich made with a particular cooking implement, that toasts the bread and contains the filling (cheese/egg/ham/tomato or chop all of them together). Delicious over a camp fire. I inherited my jaffle iron from my grandmother many years ago.

Jackaroo (male) or Jillaroo (female): a novice working on a cattle property. This definition says in training for management but I’ve always thought it was about “learning the ropes” at a grass roots level.

Jag: manage to get something (more or less by luck) eg “I jagged a good spot at the outdoor concert”

Jake:  it’s all good, “she’s jake mate”

Joker: a man, usually a bit of an idiot/said disparagingly, but sometimes just means “some bloke” eg “That joker over there”.

Joey:  a baby kangaroo in the pouch, or a small one that’s progressed out of the pouch.

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Bird watching

Over the past few days I’ve happened across some birds just hanging around and got some photos. Inevitably I haven’t had the large telephoto lens when I wanted it, but that’s life.

The Spangled Drongo has beautiful dark blue/black feathers and a distinctively forked tail. Unfortunately his singing voice isn’t nearly as pretty, in fact I’d call it raucous. He was hunting bugs in the local playground.

I spotted this kingfisher on the neighbouring fence just as I drove out. I had to take his photo between the fence panels because of course as I got closer he took off.

Sadly when I saw the jabiru fishing in the tidal shallows the other week I didn’t have my camera at all as I was off to do the school pickup. I’ve never seen that before and wondered if it was the same one I’d seen a few weeks ago.

Aerial Jabiru

It’s not all that common to see Jabiru in town and this is the first chance I’ve had to photograph one. My grandson and I were sitting on the beach at Fannie Bay enjoying the cooler weather and digging some sand castles when I spotted it overhead. They’re not perfect shots but I was happy to get them just the same. The Jabiru is Australia’s only stork and has an iridescent blue/black head. You can see an earlier photo I took at Fogg Dam wetlands here.

Ironically on our way to an Open Garden today we saw one in a waterhole near Jabiru. I did my best to sneak up on it, camera in hand, but it was too quick and up, up and away!

The Spoonbill and the Jabiru

The Jabiru is a local emblem and his vivid midnight blue/green neck is quite exquisite. This photo was taken a while ago at Fogg Dam about an hour south of Darwin.

Jabiru on patrol at the waterfront

This jabiru or jiplyontong (in Tiwi), is one of a cluster which is on patrol near Darwin’s waterfront precinct. They’re part of the urban artscape but they’re also great for small children to ride or climb on. They were designed by Janice Murray from Milikapiti on Melville Island north of Darwin.