Tuesday, 15 August 1995

Bubba Wetlands/Mirray Lookout/Mardugal Billabong

Food prep for the day - Sarah & Sue
VJ50 Day began early, with a 5 km walk around the Bubba Wetlands (pronounced Booba as in "look"), commencing at 7:45 am. No sign of the Swedes surfacing when we left camp. Although, a perspective on our pride in an early start, is to report that the Army had left an hour before us !

Bubba Wetlands are based on a large billabong typical of the type seen in the park. The walk circumnavigates the billabong from a seemingly ridiculous distance at this time of the year. Despite this, there was much to see.

Again we had a great variety of bird life on offer in the receding waters of the billabong. We also caught sight of Pacific Black Ducks, which we had been told were in the park, but were not present at Yellow Waters.

It was pleasant, easy walking and we were enjoying an early morning tea break beside one of the deeper sections, when I rose the alarm and moved the group off at great speed, believing I had seen a lurking "saltie". The false alarm - caused by a lazy Grunterfish sliding along the surface - was the focal point of some jokes from the children, until their mother and my faithful wife, thanked me for being alert and keeping us safe. The sniggers from the children were at least driven behind raised palms !

It was back to the tent for a smattering of school work and some lunch before setting out for the afternoon's activities. During this break time, I also managed to wet the fishing line in the camp side billabong, with Sarah as my second set of eyes, in case of any adventurous "salties". No bites, no fish ... but... Sarah did manage to plait some Pandanas fronds in the manner demonstrated in video footage at the Cultural Centre the day before. I'm not sure how much "croc spotting" she was doing !

Bubba wetlands
Our afternoon started with a walk to the top of the Mirray Lookout, located a few kilometres from our camp. This is a small pimple on the plain which affords a potentially three hundred and sixty degree view, after a climb of less than a kilometre to a height one hundred and twenty metres above the car park. I say potentially, because - as is pointed out so rudely in the visitors book at the base of the walk - there are quite a few trees which obscure about ninety degrees of the view completely and the remainder, partially. However, it was not our belief this ruined the effect of the view from the lookout, nor did it make the walk unworthy. We certainly did not subscribe to the chainsaw solution suggested in the visitor's book by several recent guests. To the designer label set, who fly into Darwin, drive their hired vehicles to the sights and then walk them in sandals and carry no water,  hese are impossible walks. Personally, I wouldn't give them the opportunity of making a comment by way of a visitors book. If they feel so strongly, let them contact the park office or seek out a ranger !

The track had been undergoing repairs thanks to the army engineers we had shared camp with the
previous evening and it should be noted, they had done a damn fine job.

We rested, took some appropriate video and still shots from our vantage point and generally enjoyed the view. During this time, Sue made a new friend: a middle aged woman who took a liking to her and wouldn't stop talking. She had worked in the Kimberleys, as part of the support structure for an aboriginal community. Following us down the hill, her life story continued unabated, with Sue the latest custodian.

Leaving this new and not entirely wanted acquaintance in our wake, we headed further south, to Mardugal Billabong and camping area. At one stage, this was to be our destination and base camp, as we explored the southern section of the park.

Upon arrival and Inspection of the facilities, we soon reached the conclusion we had chosen wisely in
selecting Muirella Park. Not only did you have to boil the water at Mardugal, but there were many more people in the camp. Organised in the more traditional "circle the wagons" manner, all guests in the camping area were equally aware of each other's presence. This was not the case at our camp, as the elongated nature of the grounds created a greater spread of the fewer guests.

Mardugal Billabong
A short walk leaves the camping ground and takes you to a picnic area on the edge of the billabong,  although the walk virtually follows the billabong all of the way along its 500 metre length. This was our least enjoyable walk at Kakadu, as it seemed pointless and showed no more of the billabong than a walk to the adjacent boat ramp would have. Further, we didn't sight any crocs - a first for any of the larger water ways we had visited - and it was getting late in the day. The billabong is a further part of the Jim Jim/Yellow Waters system.

We returned to camp for dinner, showers - much hot water as there were very few left in the campgrounds - and meeting new arrivals.

There are many funny things about travelling, but perhaps the best are the rituals associated with the
greeting of new members to a camp site. This is especially so if you have been in the site for a few nights. It becomes your "responsibility" to welcome the newcomers and pass on to them the local "inside info". On this occasion, it was a retired couple who were parked between us and the ablutions block and were therefore unavoidable. After initial pleasantries before the sun fell, a full scale discussion ensued as I returned from washing the dishes. This discussion went so long as to have Sue come looking for me - although she had a fair idea where I was. It was becoming apparent, the children's jibes about me taking lessons from Pa in the art of talking, could perhaps have some basis in truth.

Sam, Sarah & Chris
at Margugal
In the space of 90 minutes, we discussed:
* where we had been;
* where they had been;
* our backgrounds;
* my job;
* education in general;
* the future;
* and any other major problems we felt we could solve in our eventual four-way talk.

They were a nice couple - Ian and Elizabeth - and had much to say about the future generation. Most of it was informed (which means I agreed with it!) and well considered (which means I agreed with it a lot!).

Bite ridden from the over-friendly mosquitoes, we retired to our tent and the safety of netting and Mozzie Coils. After lights out, our canine mate returned to see if there was anything left on offer in our fireplace. He wandered restlessly back and forward and eventually left disappointed.

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