Tuesday, June 10, 2008

DAY 223: Malabanjbanjdju to Merl (Ubirr)

64 km @ 16.5 km/hr

Tues 3rd June 2008

Sunny, 28 deg C

Elevation of destination 26m

Distance to date 13705 km (8566 miles)

At last a quiet night - and a full 8 hours. I was up and about soon after dawn (0700 approx) and away soon after 0800. I used the last of my water making milk for the muesli and thought about asking someone for more, but didn’t bother as I haven’t far to go to a new supply.

It was a slow plod slightly uphill against a light wind but in just over an hour I wheeled into the Bowali Visitor Centre. This is another well-designed, spacious building, complete with nice cafe, movie theatre, and tourist advice.

First stop was the smart cafe for a very good roast beef and salad roll, and iced coffee which didn’t touch the sides as it went down. At the information desk my main question was “where can I see birds?”, And the immediate answer was “the Wetlands Visitor Centre on the Adelaide River floodplain”. Goody, because that is just off the Arnhem Highway that I will head for Darwin on eventually. I then asked about indigenous rock art, which is supposed to be very common here, and learnt that Ubirr is a good place; there’s a 1km walk around several examples, and Ubirr is not only just 39km away it’s also got a good NP camping area. So that’s where I’ll head after Jabiru....

I then spent a very enjoyable 2 hours watching 2 films about Kakadu - the flora, fauna and ’6’ seasons of weather - which were excellent. The first went through the seasons from wet to dry to wet again showing how this affects the living environment, and the second described the same seasonal cycle through the eyes of a family of Kookaburras. The latter brought out the fragility of animal life, at times of widespread flooding and severe drought for example, and how everything is interdependent. It was nice just to sit back and both see the whole of Kakadu NP in pictures, and to get a feel for the issues, and the films considerably enhanced my experience of this area so far. After more refreshments I rode the remaining 5km into Jabiru.

Jabiru is a strange place - a modern town broken into clumps of buildings (mostly hotels) with wide open spaces in between; it took a while to get to the centre - which is actually a collection of shops and civic buildings with a sign saying “Town Centre” just to make it clear lol. I got onto the internet at the library ($8/hr) and was pleased to find it was a good fast connection, so only cost me $6 to do everything. I also checked out Erik’s website and was pleased to find he has indeed broken the old record for the fastest lap of Oz - by 3 or 4 days too! Check out www.lonebiker.dk

I did a little shopping at the well-stocked supermarket, then as it was only 1445, and the town wasn’t very exciting, I decided I’d got time to get to Merl campsite near Ubirr, 45km away.

I had to go back the way I’d came for 4 or 5km, then take a right for Ubirr. This road was very quiet and after a while becomes very scenic, with winding bends, good tree cover and shade, and ancient craggy sandstone mountains to the right. There were lots of areas of water too so plenty of birds, especially Corellas and Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos, and presumably plenty of Salty Crocs in the many muddy creeks. Croc warning signs were everywhere. This was the most pleasurable bit of road I’ve rode since Cape Tribulation - especially beautiful in the late shady afternoon with the myriad landscape colours highlighted to good effect. I’m very glad I chose to take this (for me) big return detour. I stopped many times to look in the murky creeks and take pics, and also when I spotted a guy who’d been at both Pine Creek and Cooinda caravan parks whom I had a chat with.

I was almost sorry to arrive at Merl, but the NP campsite was excellent too - very large separated camping areas so there’d be lots of space, individual picnic tables and benches, and not too busy either. There’s lots of big trees for shade, but also millions of mozzies unfortunately. I hurriedly threw the tent up and went for a shower, then covered myself in anti-mozzie repellent. This did the trick because for the next hour while I was cooking and eating they didn’t land or bite, even though there were still clouds of them. The dingoes were howling mournfully again all around the camp - what a pitiful sound. There are lots in Kakadu; I’ve heard them every night. I’m now at the eastern end on Kakadu having traversed all 185km across it from west to east - it must be close to the size of Wales I guess.

As I write, at 2100, all is quiet, all is well, except for the dingoes by the sounds of it. Tomorrow I’ll probably try some of the many walks around here which will mean staying another night.

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