Y is for Yellow Waters

a-to-z-letters-yY IS FOR YELLOW WATERS

Way back at the letter C is for Cooinda I made reference to a touring feature based there. The Yellow Waters cruise is, for my money, one of the best things you can do in Kakadu National Park. For bird watchers or croc seekers it has plenty on offer. For those who want to chill out just pottering along through the waterways it’s just perfect.

A jacana (aka Jesus bird because they appear to walk on water), backlit by the sun.

A jacana backlit by the sun.

Whenever you visit you’re bound to see something different because nature doesn’t run to a schedule of activities: we’ve seen a croc take a large barramundi, brolgas dancing, jabiru, pelicans (occasionally), azure kingfishers, sea eagles and a steady avian diet of cormorants, night herons and jacanas.

A tranquil scene on Yellow Waters.

A tranquil scene on Yellow Waters.

A male jacana and a chick.

A male jacana and a chick.

During the Wet Season the cruise is one of the activities that still continues but it is different because the water is so much higher, and with more water around, the birds are less desperate for places to hang out.  On the flip side you may see magnificent wet season clouds, all puffy and thunderous against the sky.

A sea eagle with his catch, a file snake.

A sea eagle with his catch, a file snake.

As you cruise through narrow channels into the larger billabong and waterways I sometimes feel like I’m on a secret pathway. It’s a rare trip when we haven’t seen something special and on a recent trip (the first we’ve done for a while) we saw a gorgeous rainbow, tiny jacana chicks and a sea eagle up a dead tree with his capture of a file snake (good tucker for all apparently).

Pot of gold Yellow waters low

Is there a pot of gold at Yellow Waters?

During the Dry Season the birds proliferate but then so do the tourists, but since you’ll be one you can hardly complain <smile>. The tour guides are very efficient and knowledgeable about the area. Our most recent guide (Mandy I think from memory) was the daughter of a traditional elder and she had lots to share with us. Some guides are more into birds, other into culture and Indigenous life, but all know that the average tourist is desperate to see a crocodile (count me out!).

The locals enjoy throwing in a line when time permits.

The locals enjoy throwing in a line when time permits.

I was saddened to learn on the recent visit that the boats can no longer get down into the Melaleuca “swamp” where it was rather like being a serene yet spooky forest.

an old photo, probably the Dry Season, with pelicans,

an old photo, probably the Dry Season, with pelicans, water lilies, ducks and herons.

Everywhere you will see lotus flowers, water lilies and other flowering trees like some of the mangroves. What’s flowering again depends on the season.

Trying to impress his mate, this brolga was right into the dance.

Trying to impress his mate, this brolga was right into the dance.

If you do travel to the Territory I hope you take this short voyage because it’s superb, and if you’re staying overnight at the lodge, perhaps book for the sunrise or sunset trip because you can either get a gorgeous sunrise through the mist which rises off the water in the Dry Season, or a blood orange sunset.

A serene sunset  over the water.

A serene sunset over the water.

Why visit: If you love nature, birds or just the serenity of being on the water.

Coming on to the end of the afternoon, the colours and reflections were so pretty.

Coming on to the end of the afternoon, the colours and reflections were so pretty.

FYI: There’s 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.

Snowflake water lilies look like something by Monet.

Snowflake water lilies look like something by Monet.

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

Yarn: chat or tell a story

Yakka: a brand of men’s work wear

Yakka: logically enough, hard work.

Youse: vernacular plural of you (used by some people but sets my teeth on edge)

Yobbo: a rough and ready person, rough around the edges, uncouth.

Y is for Yeehaa! Only one more A to Z post to go!

X is for Art

a-to-z-letters-xX is for X-RAY PAINTINGS

X-ray paintings are typical of the Aboriginal paintings which can be seen in the Wet Season caves and rock overhangs where the communities lived during the floods and heavy rains.  The paintings span centuries and are frequently painted, layer over layer, by succeeding generations of artists.

Some of the themes can be narrowed to particular time eg images of guns will only occur after the mid-19th century. Paintings of sailing ships may be more ambiguous as it’s known that the Macassan traders worked the northern coast of the Northern Territory. What’s interesting to me, is that these drawings aren’t by people who lived right beside the ocean, rather a little inland.

Our tour guide, Peter aka Mongrel, points out some of the less noticeble art work at Ubirr.

Our tour guide, Peter aka Mongrel, points out some of the less noticeble art work at Ubirr. You can see a sailing ship to the left of where he’s pointing and further left, Mabuyu. P Cass 1991

Mabuyu

Mabuyu

Only specific people within the community who had the traditional responsibility could “touch up” the important paintings, which I believe was last done nearly 50 years ago. It’s interesting to me to look at photos taken back in 1991 when I first visited, with some taken last month. Paintings were a form of history keeping as well as telling cultural traditions and animals to hunt.

Long necked turtles are still hunted in the billabongs in Kakadu.

Long necked turtles are still hunted in the billabongs in Kakadu.

I’m not going to try to explain the intricacies of the X Ray Paintings as I’m no expert. There’s an article here by the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The style of painting is still reflected in some art work by Arnhem Land artists.

A hunting scene shows men with spears. The Aboriginal people were, and still are, excellent hunters in their tradiitonal land.

A hunting scene shows men with spears. The Aboriginal people were, and still are, excellent hunters in their tradiitonal land. You can see people, fish and a turtle.

My photographs are taken at two sites, both in Kakadu National Park. One is Ubirr and the other is Nourlangie (or Burrunggui). There are a couple of galleries in each place, and it’s well worth visiting each. Do take time to sit down and have a breather and a sip of water. The longer you look, the more pictures you’ll see. At Nourlangie’s Anbangbang gallery, the iconic image of Namarrgon, the Lightning Man is the most popular feature.

Anbangbang gallery hosts these amazing paintings including the LIghtning Man with the arc between his arms.

Anbangbang gallery hosts these amazing paintings including the LIghtning Man with the arc between his arms.

Archeologists have dated Nourlangie’s Anbangbang gallery as having been in use for over 20,000 years. So much for Australia being a young country!

The person on the left is without a doubt, a white man.

The person on the left is without a doubt, a white man.

Nourlangie art low

The image on the left has a Wandjina vibe to me but I could very well be wrong.

Why visit: to see ancient art tell a story of life before white settlement, and stories of traditional culture and hunting.

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

The closer we get to the end of the alphabet, the fewer options for Aussie-isms, perhaps we really are lazy after all!

Today I leave you with a beer closely associated with my  home state of Queensland:

XXXX: Fourex beer is manufactured on Milton Rd in Brisbane, close to the famous Lang Park Rugby League grounds. XXXX is a Qld icon!

C is for Cooinda touring

a-to-z-letters-c

Today we’re travelling to Kakadu National Park, about 300kms from Darwin in the Northern Territory.

C is for COOINDA

Cooinda offers one of Kakadu’s hotel options, Gagadju Lodge Cooinda. More importantly it’s also home of the famous Yellow Waters cruise which is a year-long tourist opportunity. For my money it’s a “must do” activity if visiting the Top End of the Northern Territory and this will be our visit on . Cooinda provides a hub for a variety of tourist activities from visiting Nourlangie Rock to checking out the bird life (but preferably not the crocs) on Anbangbang billabong.

Approaching Nourlangie. © Pauleen Cass 2012

Approaching Nourlangie. © Pauleen Cass 2013

Cooinda is also the neighbour to a wonderful Indigenous museum, the Warradjan Cultural Centre which offers the visitor the opportunity to learn more about Indigenous life and culture. The video-taped interviews are well worth listening to. It’s sometimes called the Turtle House because it’s in the shape of a turtle which is really only apparent from the air.

Anbangbang Billabong is a bird-spotter's delight in the Dry Season. © Pauleen Cass 2012

Anbangbang Billabong is a bird-spotter’s delight in the Dry Season. © Pauleen Cass 2012

Yellow Waters is a bonzer tourist opportunity and is enjoyable in either the Wet or the Dry Season. In the Dry season, Yellow Waters is a haven for bird life as the surrounding billabongs and waterways contract. The crocs also quite like to sit on the banks to sun themselves when the water’s a bit chilly. Like any wildlife opportunity what you see varies enormously but on the early morning or late afternoon cruises you are more likely to see birds. Of course in the Dry, being peak tourist season, there’s also a proliferation of tour buses etc. Visitors who venture forth in the Wet need to be aware they won’t see as much bird life, or as many crocs, but it’s so tranquil boating through the laneways of overhanging paperbarks (Melaleucas).

A taste tempter: Y is for Yellow Waters © Pauleen Cass 2013

A taste tempter: Y is for Yellow Waters © Pauleen Cass 2013

Why Visit: If you love nature, have a fascination with birds, are obsessed with crocodiles or want to learn more about traditional Aboriginal life and culture.

FYI: There’s 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

Cranky: cross or in a bad temper

Crank: someone who’s a bit obsessed about something (hmm another name for family historians)

Calithumpian*: a description used for someone with no fixed religious affiliation, or perhaps doesn’t want it known. eg “She’s a Calithumpian not a Catholic/Methodist/Anglican”

Cobber*: Once a vitally important word in the Aussie lexicon, this term has progressively disappeared. It was very much in vogue at the time of World War I and expresses something beyond mere friendship – a deep link between men who could rely on each other in times of great need or danger like the outback or war. “Don’t forget me Cobber” is the name of a book about WWI men at the Battle of Fromelles.

Charge like a wounded bull: an exorbitant price being charged for something. “You don’t want to shop there mate, they charge like a wounded bull.”

Crook: usually meant to signify someone is unwell (he’s feeling a bit crook today). Alternatively, it means he/she is something of a thief etc “he’s a crook, he’ll charge like a wounded bull”.

Carry on like a pork chop: make a fuss (She/he’s carrying on like a pork chop because he didn’t win the game).

Chunder: vomit aka “Technicolour Yawn” or “Driving the porcelain bus” (especially with a hangover)

Join me tomorrow for an excursion several hundred kilometres down the Stuart Highway.

A Float-illa of Pelicans

On our recent day trip to Kakadu we were able to visit Anbangbang billabong. When we visited back in May the road was still closed off due to the rains and flooding across the road. As the country dries, the waterholes shrink and the birds gravitate to the remaining water so that the hotter weather is actually a good time to see birds as they cluster together.

A float-illa of pelicans

We had our fingers crossed that the pelicans would be on the billabong and luck was with us. There was a huge float-illa of pelicans sailing up and down.  Wise creatures that they are, they’d ensconced themselves on the far side of the billabong to the picnic areas so the telephoto lens got a work out.

Two pelicans on approach.

We were thrilled to see several pelicans come into land with progressive circling, framed by the stone country, until they splashed down among the crowd.

Some touch-downs look more like crash-landings.

Of course the pelicans weren’t the only ones to enjoy the waterhole…if you look carefully you’ll see lots of ducks lining the water’s edge.

After lunch we saw several of them take off and circle around above us, for no apparent reason than the joy of flying.

Shooting the breeze.

And this sign will tell you why we kept our distance and didn’t go closer to get photos. It was also 40C most of the day according to the car thermometer, and hot, damn hot! Frankly a walk in the midday sun just didn’t appeal and the crocs were a good excuse not to.

Brolga Dreaming

This photo blog has been languishing for a few weeks, not for lack of photos, but perhaps about motivation to get the images posted.

Last week we went for a day trip to Kakadu National Park and just before South Alligator my hawk-eyed husband spotted this group of 22 brolgas. We’ve certainly never seen a group as large as this, and neither has anyone else we’ve spoken to. Our daughter saw a few fat and healthy ones at Litchfield National Park a week or so ago, so perhaps it’s just been a good breeding season.

Whatever the reason we were tickled to bits to have this privileged opportunity and it quite made our day. We thought they looked rather like pictures we’ve seen of flamingos on an African lake, without the pink. What do you think?

Initially nervous they started to wander off -which got them a little away from the grass which was obscuring my image, despite the long telephoto.

Lotus flowers

There are masses of lotus flowers at Fogg Dam and also on Yellow Waters billabong in Kakadu National Park. They are beautiful when they’re flowering but there seed pods are also beautiful once the petals have blown away.