Lightning flashed above the camp for most of the night. The rumbles of thunder were too quiet to hear while I was wearing earplugs.
It did indeed rain and this discouraged the skinks and locusts that had been hanging out at the toilet block. So I had no body to say hello too when I wandered over.
We were up and out at the civilised hour of 6am to take a boat ride through the Yellow Waters Billabong and South Alligator River.
And Ernie had popped in for a belly scratch before we all set off but we also had a another casualty, from the previous night, as Carlotta broke her second toe after stubbing them on the bed.
She did her best to hide it but it was clear she was in a lot of pain. There was little to be done other than take painkillers, though with having a nurse on tour and Nella’s doctor daughter a phone call away, advice was on hand and a splint was fashioned.
The sun had only just risen as the boat smoothly took to the water.
“We won’t see any alligators,” said James our guide and one of the passengers was briefly outraged… until the penny dropped.
James took us on a trip lasting almost two hours, pointing out the various wild birds, showing us the plants and trees and explaining about the traditional customs of his people who are one of the twelve tribes that live in Kakadu.
More importantly he pointed out the crocodiles.
We saw eight – one, a female guarding her nest and opening her jaws in a display of aggression.
James said that while crocodiles can lay up to 70, he had not been in a hurry to check for the number of eggs.
I couldn’t think why.
A couple were swimming, sinuously across the river and several were lazing on the muddy banks.
We spotted Garfield, a ginger feral cat.
Cats, like pigs, donkeys and cattle are not native to Australia. Pigs and cattle destroy the land, digging up shrubs or trampling sources of water to mud.
Cats kill the Australian fauna and Garfield is particularly elusive. The park’s rangers have been after him for months and there he was stunning himself as James came past with a boat full of witnesses – the word James used rather than my selection.
If James had had a gun and no boat full of passengers, I wouldn’t fancy Garfield’s chances… but then I doubt he would have shown himself.
Some cats really aren’t daft. Garfield’s duel with the rangers continues.
For the most part, the birds remained overhead, either in the trees or in flight, keeping out of the way, though apparently crocodiles aren’t keen on birds and cough them back up in a similar way to cats bringing up hairballs.
It was incredible to see them in the wild, from the safety of a boat.
After breakfast and packing up the camp we set off for our first stop of the day.
The continued heat meant lengthy treks were again not an option and more swimming, in saltwater crocodile free pools, was on the day’s schedule.
Just as we headed out of Cooinda, Mon brought the truck to a halt.
She had spotted a frill necked lizard that she was keen for us all to see.
Their numbers are declining as a result of the cane toads which were imported to deal with a pest destroying the sugar cane crops.
Turned out the cane toads were useless at their designated task and are now threatening the native wildlife.
We headed down a dirt track to head for a dip in the waterfall pools at Boulder Creek. This was in a valley surrounded by gret granite cliffs.
I hadn’t seen grey stone for a while.
Who needs to go hiking when there is a pool?
Once we had eaten lunch, it was back on the dirt track and then down the Kakadu Highway to somewhere a little familiar… Pine Creek.
This time, homemade icecream was calling.
The town is making headlines in Denmark, Brian from Arhus told the group. The numbers of fruitbats have grown so much that their presence is a nuisance.
We saw more bats swirling above Pine Creek than the last time Nella, Simone and I passed this way.
Refueled with either icecream, dependent on whether you were the truck or a passenger, we headed off on our last 60 miles of the day.
There were several burns taking place alongside the road.
In the Northern Territory, the traditional customs of controlled burning of the dead grass and scrub are continued. These burns take place along the same patterns as Indigenous peoples have used for thousands of years.
The Territory doesn’t experience anywhere near the same levels of out of control fires as seen in New South Wales and Victoria.
Climate change denialists (and I have met a couple while I’ve been here) argue that this ‘proves’ global temperature increases are not real, which is rather refusing to acknowledge the evidence.
How to prevent bush fires is a bitterly argued topic here. I’m not sure why the other states don’t do controlled burns when it seems to work in the Northern Territory but I haven’t done enough reading on this.
We drove alongside the original Stuart Highway, replaced in the 1980s, and Mon pointed out how narrow it was compared to the Highway of the today.
The current Stuart Highway is the equivalent of a British A road – a single lane of traffic in each direction. This is what crosses the centre of Australia from Adelaide to Darwin.
Our campsite was a cattle station just outside Adelaide River and the paddocks were full of wallabies enjoying the cooler temperature of the late afternoon.
This cattle station is also an animal rescue site and a buffalo, two donkeys and a pig wandered over to see if we had food for them.
A male peacock was displaying to a female but, I swear, he lost interest in her when he spotted the cameras and started posing for us.
The female wandered off.
As darkness fell, it was obvious that this was going to be the noisiest spot yet. A chorus of insects, including the usual cicadas but plenty of others along with birds started chattering.
Banka Banka was quiet but you couldn’t put your torch on without insects swarming to the light. I didn’t use it as a head torch that night.
At least this lot were noisy rather than re-enacting Poltergeist… you know… run to the light, Carol-Ann.