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Australia - September 2017


Purnululu NP (Bungle Bungle), WA

One of the world’s most fascinating geological landmarks, the striking banded domes known as the Bungle Bungles rises 300 m above the plains of Purnululu. They are made of sandstone deposited 360 millions years ago. Erosion by creeks and weathering has carved out these domes, creating this surreal landscape. 

The colors and the banding of the domes is due to differences in clay content and porosity of the sandstone layers.
The dark layers in the sediment have a higher clay content and hold the moisture better, this allows cyanobacteria (blue algae) to grow. The bacteria only grow a few millimeters into the rock but that's enough to form a protective outer layer and prevent erosion. The orange colored layers have less clay, are more porous and, thus, dry out too quickly for cyanobacteria to grow. The oxidization of the iron in the sandstone gives the beautiful orange color.

The banded domes are located in the Southern part of the Bungle Bungle Range. It’s an amazing scenery, especially if you take the Piccaninny Creek trail, the best trail to see the domes with a 360 degree panorama. 

In the Northern part, we highlight the fabulous Echidna Chasm (no comparison with the unattractive Standley Chasm near Alice Springs!) This one is a very special experience, worth traveling there! Feels a bit like Antelope Canyon in Arizona ...

Due to its remoteness and difficulty of access: 53 km of corrugated gravel road with 8 river crossing during the dry season and at least 50 river crossings in the wet season, this park is quite wild and very few people are staying over night.

By far the best NP we visited since we started in Australia! 


Kakadu NP, NT

Kakadu is a World Heritage-listed site and Australia’s largest national park. It covers an area of approximately 20’000 km2. The park is displaying waterfalls, rugged escarpments, aboriginal rock art, giant crocodiles and exotic bird life. 

Kakadu contains one of the greatest concentrations of rock art sites in the world and constitutes one of the longest historical records of any group of people. Concentrated along the escarpment, in gorges, and on rock outliers, the art sites are tangible evidence of the close personal relationship of aboriginal people with their land and spiritual heritage. Experts differ about the age of the art but the most widely shared view is that some of the paintings may be as old as 20’000 years. The most recent intensive painting period was during the sixties when Nayombolmi painted the Anbangbang Gallery at Nourlangie. Iron-stained clays are used to produce red, orange and yellow pigments. Other materials used for pigments include iron-rich hematite for red, limonite or goethite for yellow, kaolin or huntite for white and manganese oxide for black pigment. 
Of the 3 sites accessible in Kakadu, Ubirr is by far the most interesting, colorful, rich and beautiful; Nourlangie is the least attractive with paintings of low quality and difficult to recognize as painted on conglomerate rock. The Nanguluwurr Gallery is worth the 3.4 km return walk through the woodlands, this guarantees you to be absolutely alone up there without the crowd of Nourlangie or Ubirr!

Ubirr: Apart from a painting of a Tasmanian tiger, which became extinct on the mainland about 3000 years ago, much of the art at the site is less than 1500 years old with examples of x-ray renderings of fishes, goannas, turtles and wallabies. Paintings may tell of particular ceremonies or creation ancestors and spirits associated with the area. Ubirr has has also the best lookout within Kakadu with an amazing view over the floodplains.
Further, near Ubirr, at Cahills Crossing, you have the best place for saltwater crocodiles spotting in the NT for free (better than any expensive boat cruise). You may see up to 20 crocodiles in the same place waiting for the fish-rich high tide (normally a crocodile has a territory of 200 m of the river). In other words, you see all the best of Kakadu at Ubirr. 

Jim-Jim and Twin Falls: In the wet season, heavy rains fill the creeks and huge volumes of water thunder over the falls to flood the lowlands. At this time, the area is inaccessible by road. In the dry season, the creeks and falls dry up, and the area can be visited by 4WD. Unfortunately, the Jim-Jim Falls (jim-jim means “big water” in local language) were completely dry in September (toward the end of the dry season) and we could only enjoy the large plunge pool (only harmless freshwater crocodiles are present). The Twin Falls were still discharging a trickle but there, swimming in the plunge pool is prohibited (due to saltwater crocodiles). 
In Gunlom you can safely swim in the upper- and in the plunge-pool! Yes ... finally a good swim in large and deep pools of fresh water without any risk (only crocodiles with hiking boots can climb up here!). 

Jabiru: when arriving in town, we expected another cultural shock as in Yulara … but this time it was the opposite … Jabiru is like a ghost-town with its best year behind it. The town mall is partly abandoned as well as several houses in the residential area. The town with its airport, large avenues and boulevards, rugby field, basket and tennis courts, Olympic swimming pool, playing grounds and more, has been built with very high expectations that never materialized.



Litchfield NP, NT

A fun park built around two waterfalls (Florence and Wangi) and a few waterholes (Buley), where the crowd from Darwin meet for picnic and swimming especially during week-end.
The Florence falls have a plunge pool that is a bit smaller than Wangi but very nice. The fall on the right side is cold whereas the one on the left side is warm. It’s worth swimming next to them to enjoy the difference. The pool is accessed via 178 steps, we’ve counted them!!! and not 160 steps like indicated on the park map or 135 steps as signposted at the bottom of the pool. 
The Wangi plunge pool is 300 meters away from a huge and modern cafe building, really not for the nature lovers. Try to go early in the morning or late in the afternoon to avoid the crowds. A sundowner over the Wangi loop walk allows you to have a glimpse of the vast monsoon forest below.
For the tourists, they created elevated boardwalks to see (at 300 meters distance!) the famous magnetic termite mounds built in a North to South direction. Fortunately, outside the park, there are many larger and more impressive magnetic termite mounds areas that you can explore on your own! You can even touch them… Take the road to Berry Springs, you cannot miss them!


Dundee Beach Area, NT

This is still an undeveloped area near Darwin. Beside one lodge with caravan park on the seafront there is nothing else. Apparently NT has big plans to develop this region as tens of roads are being built in all directions and most of the land is being offered for sale. 
Crab Claw Island Resort is located North of Bynoe and it’s a pretty secluded resort that’s worthwhile a visit. The very nice elevated restaurant is overlooking the gulf and really pleasant to have a drink or a meal. In this region, this is certainly the most developed spot! 
There are nearly no beaches around Dundee beach and if any, they are infested by salties and sand flies! Thus, no swim and no sun-bathing: it’s a sport-fishing destination, mate.


Darwin, NT

Darwin is the smallest and most northerly of the Australian capital cities and acts as the Top End’s regional center. Darwin has a very 
modern vibe and is a fast growing city. The two largest economic sectors are mining and tourism. 
Darwin's proximity to South East Asia makes it a link between Australia and countries such as Indonesia and East Timor. 
Prone to cyclone activity during the wet season, Darwin experiences heavy monsoonal downpours and spectacular lightning shows. During the dry season, the city is met with blue skies and gentle sea breezes from the harbor.
The city has kilometers of wide, unpolluted beaches. However, saltwater crocodiles inhabit the area and swimming in the sea is clearly a no go. 
Darwin is a lively place with plenty of fine dining restaurants and lovely bars within the CBD. There’s something for everyone. The Mall is the shopping area and Mitchell’s street is the meeting and melting point! You can taste excellent craft beers at Six Tanks brewed in the premises. You can also buy fresh fishes or seafood at the Darwin Fish market to cook on the BBQ, a nice change from the Barra-days...


Gastronomic Experience

In the most popular resorts like Cairns or Port Douglas, you can find a few restaurants with attractive and diverse menus. In big cities like Perth or Brisbane, you can find some excellent fine dining restaurants. Otherwise, the country offers only eateries in pub-style, delivering basic nourishment and all of them have exactly the same offer … you can drive 10’000 km across the country and the menu is always the same! Barramonday, barratuesday, barrawednesday, barrathursday, barrafriday, barrasaturday, barrasunday! Oh gee, it’s barramundi everyday !!! Australia is not a gourmet country!


Navigator (GPS device)

When we started our tour in Australia we thought we would need to have an Australian navigator for more precise information on the roads, especially when driving off-road on 4WD tracks. We rented one: a Navman, one of the most widespread brands in down-under. 
We tested it during our first week of travel against our Garmin loaded with the FREE open street maps (OSM). Guess what: no difference in map precision and the Garmin graphics are by far better! After 3 months, we are still navigating using only our Garmin with the free OSM maps and we will continue to use it in New Zealand and the rest of the world. Every track or trail is on the OSM maps.
You can download the FREE (it’s true, believe me) road maps for the entire planet from: http://garmin.openstreetmap.nl


National Parks (part 2)

To our opinion, there are two categories of National Parks in Australia: MMP’s (Money Maker Parks like Uluru, Nitmiluk or Kakadu) and FP’s (Fun Parks, the large majority). FP’s have typically nothing attractive to see and are not made to preserve nature but were created as recreational area (BBQ, swimming, fishing or for 4WD freaks). MMP’s are clearly over-commercialized, sometimes self-activities are restricted in favor of pricey guided tours that become nearly mandatory. Simple hiking on your-own is not really supported in the National Parks, you need additional permits and you always get the  recommendation "don’t do it ... ‘cause it’s dangerous, strenuous and very difficult". This, just to discourage you and invite you to buy a guided tour. The only positive observation in the NP’s, is that sometimes they have recycling bins which is very rare in this country. Normally, even the 10 cent refund bottles are dumped. Australia is not a nature friendly country, this explains why the NP's are focused on fun rather than on nature preservation.


Alcohol in the Northern Territory

Buying alcohol in the NT bottle-shops is quite embarrassing for the tourist not used to the NT severe alcohol restrictions.

From 1-Sep-17, all Territorians and visitors need to show a photo ID to buy takeaway alcohol. The photo ID is scanned and recorded in a database to monitor your drinking habits! 

Can you imagine such a law in Europe? No privacy rights and your passport with all your personal data scanned by a shop in order to buy a bottle of wine? All civil rights associations would jump up!

In addition, there’re times and days when you can buy takeaway alcohol and how much you can buy of certain types of alcohol. Furthermore, there are more than 100 communities in the NT where alcohol is totally banned and you cannot cross them with your camper if in possession of alcohol. 

Finally, drinking alcohol in a public place is banned within 2 km of a licensed premises everywhere in the NT and in many public areas. 

You really get the feeling that buying or drinking a glass of wine is a crime! …  ☹

 ... And the government entices people to denounce public drinking !!! 



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After 12'969 km driving and 70 nights in a 4WD camper  ...  bye bye Australia!  ...  and bye bye to our wonderful apartment H105 in Darwin!