(written by Dave)
Wow, what a night in the National park it turned out to be. There are several large colonies of flying foxes (fruit bats) living in the park this time of year. There is a group in the camping area but not above our tent so we figured they would not be too noisy overnight. Boy did we get that wrong. It appears that there are many young foxes in the colony. Normally the foxes leave the colony at dusk and return at dawn and I’m sure that this one was no different with regards to the mature foxes. The difference here is that the young ones did not leave. To me at least, it seemed that they pretty much started calling for food as soon as the parents left. They made sporadic racket all night, with increasing decibels coming as dawn approached. We had to get up at 6:00 to be ready for the cruise. The young bats were in full screech by around 4AM – no need to worry about the alarm today.
If the bats were not enough to keep us awake, the kangaroos and wallabies made up the difference. They were running back and forth all night – seemed like we were in a track meet at times. There were quiet times of course, though this is relative as at one point two of the roos were so close to the tent I could hear them pulling and eating the grass. They chewed in sync for a while, then on the off beat. I’m sure that they had no idea that they were entertaining me – they were!
It was one night where Nancy slept pretty good and probably better than me. That’s a first.
It was just getting light as we made it to the boat dock for the cruise. The top of the gorge walls were just starting to be hit by the sun as the boat pulled from the dock. There are 13 gorges, separated by nearly impassable rocks. Our tour took us to the end of gorge 1, then we walked to gorge 2 and took another boat the end of it. We did the same thing in reverse to get back. On the first gorge they served us a full breakfast, complete with bacon, sausage, eggs and the lot. The food was ok but really almost more of a distraction to the beauty of the ever-changing light on the gorge walls. The gorges are not straight so you get the added effect rounding the various corners and the sunrise. By the time you look up after another bite of sausage, the view would completely change. I took over 100 photos (as you do).
On the walk between the gorges there are a couple of easily visible rock paintings. I’m not sure how old they were but the Jawoyn folks have been living here for at least 30,000 years so you never know. The guide was Jawoyn and was full of lots of good information about both their history the geological history as well. He did a good job of mixing both. He also had lots of stories about crocs, which I noted Nancy listened to with particular interest. I’ll be lucky to get near a shower, let alone any river pools for quite some time I’m sure.
We finished the cruise about 9:00. The bat colony by the boat landing had settle down for the day though they did entertain us still as they can never just sit, one of them is always fidgeting, causing a ripple of fidgets and screeches down the line. And the smell… not something you’d want to be around very long.
As it was still early, we decided to go on a hike to one of the many gorge top viewpoints. It was starting to get hot already but there were still lots of wallabies and birds about. The hike itself was pretty hard as the surface was loose stone most of the way. The view on top was quite nice and we saw lots of wild flowers along the way. I figured that the hike was a little over 10k, and we both drank two water bottles. Love that outback heat – 31 today at the top of the gorge.
Anyone who has hiked very much will know that some folks (mostly young men) just can’t resist the opportunity to stop at trail-side boulder piles to try stacking a bunch of stones on top of each other. Well, it’s no different here except the pile at the top of the Gorge was particularly impressive. And here, even Nancy got into the act. While her pile is impressive, I must say that a little more order would normally be expected from her work product. [editor’s note – it was already like this, I only put one little stone on]
We finished the walk a little after 1:00, stopping for iced tea in the visitor centre on the way back to the tent. We were both pretty dirty and a little tired so after showers we had a late lunch and a lazy afternoon. I’ve been sorting photos (I know, I took too many) and Nancy has been reading the paper. We met some folks here at camp who just finished a 22 day bushwalk in Kakadu – they were impressed by our bike ride from Sydney. They only had one re-supply point in 22 days, so for sure, we were impressed by them even more.
Tomorrow we head to Edith Falls. Edith Falls is at the far end of Katherine Gorge, and you can bush walk there (45ks). We’ll however take the road and it will take us about 90ks. We’ll stop in Katherine for some supplies. I’m pretty sure that there is no signal in Edith – but that’s what folks said about here as well. Next post, when we get signal again…