Sunday, May 27, 2012

Australia Day Four: Kakadu and Darwin

On our last day in Kakadu, we enjoyed a quiet morning, sipping coffee and listening to all the nature sounds just outside our door. Around mid-morning, we reluctantly lugged our bags out to the car. But we had a surprise: a wallaby send-off party! In the clearing where we'd been night-time wildlife watching the past two nights were four wallabies, placidly grazing.

After a while, the wallabies noticed that they were being watched. They hopped closer to the forest edge, stopping every few hops to glance back suspiciously at us.
Hey! Quit lookin' at us!

We decided to leave the wallabies in peace, and headed out. We were planning to head back down the Arnhem Highway to Darwin, but first we decided to swing by the South Alligator River one last time, just to see if we could spot any of the crocodiles we'd heard so much about. We didn't have any reptile luck, but we did spot a very exciting bird - a kookaburra!
Blue-winged kookaburra

I immediately started singing the song:

♫ Kookaburra sits in the old gum tree
Merry, merry king of the bush is he
Laugh, kookaburra! Laugh, kookaburra!
How gay your life must be ♫

I think it's kind of funny us American kids grew up singing this song at school - none of us had any idea what a kookaburra was!! But now I know that the kookaburra is a very large kingfisher that's well known for their propensity to eat snakes - I've come a long way since second grade.
Fly, kookaburra! Fly, kookaburra!

The kookaburra was the most exciting bird around, but it wasn't the only one. As usual, there were magpie-larks hanging around. And below the kookaburra's tree was a purple swamphen. We'd seen those birds around in New Zealand, and it was neat to see one again.
Purple swamphen

After some time spent admiring the birds and the river, we got started on our journey back to Darwin. We took it slow and kept an eye out for wildlife. We were pulling into little side roads along the way, hoping we might see something interesting.
One of our random detours

We got lucky right away when we saw some more wallabies - and one of them had a little joey in its pouch (a WALLABABY)! We stopped and the mom looked up at us, then reached down and shoved her baby all the way into her pouch! I thought it was cute to see her being so protective, but apparently her baby didn't appreciate it very much. We could see him wriggling around inside the pouch, and pretty soon his head popped back out.
Mooooom, let me OUTTA here!

Further down the road we stopped again to watch a flock of galah that were hanging out on the shoulder. They're such beautiful birds!
For obvious reasons, also known as the rose-breasted cockatoo
So weird to see cockatoos in the wild!

We all know how much I love abandoned stuff, and there was some cool abandoned stuff along our route, including the burned out car we'd passed on our way in.
Probably one of the best abandoned cars I've ever seen
Banged up barrel to match the beat up car

We often saw huge trucks on the Arnhem Highway that were longer than any semis we'd seen before - they were like regular semis, but they were pulling three trailers behind. They had big signs on the front that said ROAD TRAIN. It was kind of scary when they passed us, because they made a whump-whump-whump sound.
The signs should say TRUCK MONSTER instead of ROAD TRAIN

There aren't a lot of places to stop between Jabiru and Darwin, but we did find a little place called the Bark Hut Inn, where we could get some lunch. Vegetarian options were pretty limited in the Northern Territory, but I got by with some garlicky pita bread, and stole some of the fries that came with Bryan's burger. It was a nice place to eat - the Bark Hut Inn keeps a few animals (emu, cows, etc.) and we sat outside and watched them while we ate. Adding to the entertainment were the huge blackbirds that would swoop in to steal any food that was left unattended for even a second.
Expert food snatchers

After lunch and a little rest, we got back on the road. It wasn't much longer to Darwin. We stopped just on the edge of town to visit Charles Darwin National Park. As soon as we pulled in, we got the feeling that this park might be a bit past its prime. There weren't many people around and everything looked a little deserted. There was a beat up old camper in the parking lot, and it appeared as though people were living there, and there were a lot of signs warning visitors to lock their cars. Kinda strange.

According to signs posted around the park, Darwin played an important role in defending Australia during World War II. Specifically, it was used as a "bomb dump," a repository for tons of explosives. There were bunkers all over the park. Cool!
Old bunker for storing explosives

One of the bunkers was open and served as a little museum, full of artifacts from the WWII era.
Scary stuff
Old-school typewriter

We followed a path off of the carpark and it meandered along, past bunkers, little skinks, and lots of neat plants that I couldn't identify!
Cool twisty plants

Some of the bunkers were open and some were locked up tight. Just as Bryan walked into one of the open ones, I saw some movement above the door. A 4 or 5 foot long snake slithered up over the bunker so fast we couldn't even snap a photo! It was pretty cool to see it, but I'm glad it didn't drop down on Bryan while he was in the doorway!!

 We hiked all the trails in the park before heading back to our car. It was nice to get out and stretch our legs after a few hours cooped up in the car. Back at the carpark, there was an open area that afforded a nice view of downtown Darwin. Unfortunately it was kind of a hazy day.
Downtown Darwin off in the distance

It was late afternoon by the time we left the park, and we were ready to check into a hotel and then go get some dinner. We headed back to the Holiday Inn, where we'd stayed a few nights before. It was a Tuesday, so we figured we wouldn't have any trouble getting a room. Boy were we wrong! The Holiday Inn was full, and the people at the desk informed us that the train comes in on Tuesday and we'd have trouble finding an available room. Uh-oh! We headed out on foot, and stopped at a couple places. We were temporarily encouraged to hear that there was one vacancy at the Novotel, but immediately disappointed when we were told that the room cost FIVE HUNDRED dollars a night. We tried to keep a straight face when the concierge tried to offer us the sweet deal of four hundred dollars a night. We declined.

After a few more discouraging stops, we decided that hotel-hunting would be easier on a full stomach, so we stopped at the delightfully named Hog's Breath Cafe. They had a variety of Australian ciders, which Bryan and I had become obsessed with on our trip, so we were happy to try a couple more.
I liked both, but preferred the Aussie Cider

Bryan and I both had great food. It looked so good when it showed up on the table that I immediately forgot about my intention to take photos, and just dug right in instead. I had an avocado and mushroom salad, which, I was amused to find, had deep-fried potatoes and mushrooms in it. Playin' it pretty fast and loose with the word "salad" there, but it was SOOO GOOD that I didn't mind. Bryan had what looked like something delicious that my mom would make - chicken, mashed potatoes, corn, and gravy. He looked pretty blissed out on his side of the table. I think the Hog's Breath was probably the best food we had in Australia up until then!

After dinner, we drove out of the main part of town and stopped at the Vitina Studio Motel. The friendly lady at the front desk told me that they had vacancies, and proudly informed me that they also had the cheapest rooms in Darwin (the rooms were cheaper than a lot of others, but were, in my opinion, still overpriced. That just seems to be the way things are in Australia). Anyway, we were grateful to have a place to crash for the night, so we gladly checked in and got comfortable!

Hey! We're finalists in the Singapore Blog Awards! It would be super great if you'd click this link and vote for us!


  1. I can't believe you know the Kookaburra song! Haha and it's "how gay your life must be", gawd get it right!

    Sounds like you're having a fantastic time, almost makes me want to go to Darwin...


  2. Haha I know, I think it's hilarious that we all learned this kookaburra song without ever knowing what a kookaburra was. You should go to Darwin! It was awesome!! Next Australia trip, I want to go chill with your family on the Gold Coast, haha.

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.