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Travel Australia with Kids

Monday, 5th September 2011

Parmiss Keyhani - Wednesday, September 07, 2011

A fantastic bit of luck in choosing the right caravan park in Darwin led to a completely unexpected and wonderful reunion with D, J and N whom we had first met in Tasmania when all of us had initially started our respective trips! The kids were so excited to see their first "trip friend" again - they spent quite a few hours playing together; and we had a great catch up with J and D as well.  And so glad to have power for the air conditioning - we had it on pretty much the whole time!

Darwin was the closest WWII came to Australian shores (bombed mercilessly by the Japanese) and there are quite a few displays within the museums describing the era, including one in an ex-ammunitions bunker (quite a few of the bunkers are now within the Charles Darwin National Park).  The kids loved all the different planes in the Aviation Heritage Museum, especially the gigantic (seriously!) B-52 bomber. The Northern Territory Museum and Art Gallery was also great value (in fact it was free!), specially the life-sized statue of "Sweetheart the crocodile" which terrorised the nearby waterways a few years ago (I'm counting the days to the end of the Top End and croc country)!  The Cyclone Tracy display within the museum is also fantastic - really made you realise how badly the whole town was damaged (the aerial before and after photos were particularly eye-opening).  And an enormous range of art - we actually ran out of time to see all of it.

Mindil Beach Markets was lovely - loaded with yummy food stalls and a great contemporary 4-didgeridoo-playing band provided the entertainment.  Around sunset the majority of the wanderers headed onto the beach to watch the spectacular sunset and we were all enthralled with the magical spray-painting art stall (I remember this from a decade or more ago, didn't know there were still people practicing the art).  Sadly bid farewell to our friends again (who are going in the opposite direction) and headed east towards Kakadu - with one major crocodile attraction detour: Adelaide River Jumping Crocodiles. I can't even describe how excited Kiavash was on the day - he could barely stay in his seat on the drive down. The big attraction was the  5.5 metre Brutus who has ruled the roost in that part of the river for years; however Dominator (who is slightly bigger and heir to the throne) failed to make an appearance.  Got some great pictures which I think Kia will probably plaster all over his bedroom at some point!

The weather now is nothing short of stinking hot (mid-30s)!  It was bearable in Darwin because we had power for the air-conditioning and some seaside breezes keeping things somewhat cool.  But travelling inland towards Kakadu revealed that the build up was in fact on its way. And to keep things interesting, just before we got to Kakadu Mike discovered a crack along the chassis! We spent a very tense day wondering if this meant the end of our trip - but happily the very kind engineers at Jabiru assured us that it was definitely fixable, but we would have to go back to Darwin for the repairs.  They suggested we drive as little as possible with the 5th wheeler attached, but they also assured us that it wasn't in danger of cracking in the near future.  Thus assured, we continued to explore Kakadu as planned.

Kakadu is absolutely enormous! The big drawcards are the fabulous aboriginal rock art, prolific range of birds in the enormous wetlands, lots of crocodiles (well it's a drawcard if you're not interested in swimming) and the beautiful gorges and waterfalls in the southern part of the park.  Cahill's Crossing provided plenty of crocodile sightings and Ubirr was magnificent; both the rock art galleries and the incredible sunset over the wetland plains from the top of Nadab Lookout. We did a walk around Anbangbang Billabong (try saying that really fast 3 times) in the early morning to escape the heat and the 3 boys stayed in the air-conditioned car while I braved the mid-day heat to visit the rock art at Nourlangie.

One of the great things about Kakadu is the number of free talks given by the Rangers (about the rock art, the geology, flora and fauna of the area) - I attended as many as I could, including a basket-weaving demonstration run by 2 aboriginal women from Arnhem Land. I had no idea how much work and effort goes into making even the smallest basket: collect the pandanus leaves (it can take hours to collect enough), strip them and tear into very thin strips (an art in itself believe me!), collect the various roots for different colours, grind them up, boil them with the strips, allow the strips to dry and after all that, you can start weaving - no wonder they charge so much for them!).

The rangers we had spoken to during our stay all confirmed that this late in the dry season, most of the waterfalls were down to nothing but trickles, so we decided not to visit the areas. And in the end, the relentless heat (36 degrees and no wind plus humidity starting to build) got the better of us!  Mike challenged the boys to a waterfight with some trigger bottles to cool off - they were all drenched by the end which was the real purpose anyway! We spent an entire day at the wonderfully cool public swimming pool within Cooinda Resort - that was absolute bliss! The Bowali Visitor Centre and the Warradjan Cultural Centre both had wonderful displays about the area and the aboriginal history plus they were air-conditioned which made it all the more enticing to spend a couple of hours at each.

We had decided that we would take a chance that we could find a welder in Katherine to fix the chassis to save us the major detour back to Darwin.  Father's Day was spent at a quirky "caravan park" (well it had power boxes and there were caravans parked around the showground/racecourse, but that's as official as it got to a caravan park) called Pussycat Flats at Pine Creek.  Being both Father's Day and the departing manager's birthday, they had put on a huge dinner and band that night; I sent Mike out to have some "male bonding time" with the other fathers (and a break from the rest of us) - the boys joined him a bit later on and played with the other kids while Mike gas-bagged into the night. It's all about the man of the family on Father's Day after all!


The Kia & Tiran with the Tiger Moth - Heritage Aviation Museum, Darwin, NT (28Aug11)The enormous B-52 - Aviation Heritage Museum, Darwin, NT (28Aug11)Magical sunset at Mindil Markets - Darwin, NT (28Aug11)
Magical sunset at Mindil Markets - Darwin, NT (28Aug11)That takes A LOT of breath! - Mindil Markets, Darwin, NT (28Aug11)With
They were VERY close to the boat - Adelaide River Crocodile Cruise, Darwin, NT (30Aug11)At least driving a boat is safer than croc hunting - Adelaide River Crocodile Cruise, Darwin, NT (30Aug11)Changing tide direction at Cahill's Crossing - Kakadu NP, NT (31Aug11)Basket weaving course - Kakadu NP, NT (31Aug11)

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