Sunday, 13 August 1995

Muirella Park

Another moving day and despite the shorter distance to travel, we still had to complete a full pack. We again resisted the urge to pre-pack, feeling we should go with the positive manner in which we worked at Darwin. Mission was accomplished in a wholly reasonable time and we were soon on the road south, to Jabiru.

This small town services the park and its guests, as well as providing for the Ranger Uranium Mine to the east. It is a typical "modern town" with the sort of street design which seems to take you around in circles and back to where you just came from. However, it is clean and has enough of what is needed, even if at much higher prices. The pricing aspect was interesting. The supermarket was oddly priced, with many items being well below other prices In comparable sized supermarkets we had used "en route". However, there were great inconsistencies, as other items were enormously inflated beyond anything you could vaguely be called reasonable.

I made my weekly call to our office manager and checked out how our affairs were being managed. After settling a few minor matters and being reminded by Art we would eventually have to turn for home, it was time to move on.

With fuel for people, vehicle and gas bottles replenished, it was off to Muirella Park, about 40 kms south of Jabiru. It is one of four tent and caravan sites in the park which have solar showers and flushing toilets. Muirella Park is set beside Djurdja Billabong, which is part of the Nourlangie Creek system feeding the South Alligator River. It is a beautiful, tree-lined, elongated water hole containing fantastically clear water and sandy banks. Unfortunately, as much as human beings like the look of the water, "salties" also share this admiration. As they make this their home and they have a nasty habit of consuming visitors to their habitat, there is no swimming here !

The area beside the billabong has been rehabilitated to form a camping area, but was originally cleared and used as an airstrip. Consequently, the camping area is very long and narrow and Is surrounded by a one way bitumen road. As with all areas of this type at Kakadu, there are designated areas for caravans - with and without generators - and campers.

The airstrip was active in the 1950's, when two blokes set up a hunting lodge called "Muirella Park" and flew hunters in during the wet because the roads were impassable. The work in rehabilitating the area is impressive, with naturally occurring species providing shade and wind breaks being planted .
The camping area has a permanent manager least, he is permanent for the dry or busy season. It is his job to collect camping fees, clean the toilets and generally make sure the needs of users are met. We were impressed by his friendliness and general caring manner during our stay, which was to extend to four nights.

Our record in croc spotting continued, with further proof that "salties" frequented the billabong coming during our driving tour of the campground, in search of a site.

After set up and lunch, we drove the 25 kms to Yellow Waters and the Cooinda Resort Lodge. There are three resort lodges placed strategically about Kakadu, catering for the upper end of the tourist market, who require their beds to be made for them and their toilet in an adjoining room. We booked a two hour, sunrise cruise for the following morning - something we had been told was a must for any visitor to the park and then went to the Yellow Waters Billabong, itself.

Yellow Waters is a series of large billabongs which contract, like all water ways in the park during the dry season, after flowing in wide, open spaces during the wet. It is part of the Jim Jim Creek system and also feeds into the South Alligator River. As we were to explore it on the water during our cruise, our one kilometre walk along an elevated board walk was an excellent taste of what was to come.

You are struck immediately by the great beauty of the near still water, as it reflects the Narrow Leaved Paperbark trees and Pandanas Palms. As this short but pretty walk unfolds, the audacious winged inhabitants of this watery area display themselves without apparent fear of the large bipeds which stand, staring in their direction. Egrets slowly picked their way through the shallow water and a Forest Kingfisher darted and dived past us. In the water, Grunters could be clearly seen gleaning a feed among the reeds and me supports for the board walk structure. On the far bank, croc number four was spotted, lying inauspiciously in the mud and reeds and resting his two and a half metre body.

With our appetite whetted, we returned to camp for an early night, as we had an equally early morning ahead of us, if we were to be at Yellow Waters in time for the cruise.

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