Monday, December 19, 2011

Northern Territory - Scenery

The Northern Territory (NT) is a really interesting state. At the south of it is Uluru(ayers rock), the heart of our country and the northern area around Darwin is warm to hot all year round.
 We spent three weeks in Darwin (not by choice, but waiting to get our Nissan serviced..... ridiculas! and that was phoning Darwin as soon as we were in mobile phone range on the way in...Be warned if you travel and have a  Nissan , book your car in at least a  month before you want it done - there is only one dealership!! and they couldnt finish servicing it in one day, it had to be booked again for a week later!)
 Darwin can be extremely humid, even if its not hot. It has two main seasons, The Wet and The Dry. Travelling in the wet season is impossible by road and even in the dry you may have to wait or take another route often because roads are still under water. 
 When you drive roads that other people are on and you come to a water crossing, (there are no bridges) its not too stressful because you reason every other 4wd vehicle you see has done it to. But when you don't see another car for days and you come to a water crossing that you have to drive through, you have to check the depth...  Simple enough? There are crocodiles.... some of the water isn't clear and you have to get across....or go back (not happening) so you very gingerly get a big stick and wade a path across the river or stream. The stick is for balance and feeling rocks...useless against a croc I imagine. If the water is too deep to cross, it may only be a day or two before it drops enough to drive across. Once daily temperatures start to soar into the 30s the water evaporates fairly quickly.

Limmen NP,

They do a lot of controlled burns in NT, but this isnt one of them. We were caught in one of the many bushfires that went through the state in September this year. There was very little wind but 30 minutes earlier we were here and the only smoke we could see was what had been hanging in the sky for days. We were on a 4WD track that had a dead end in the bush so coming back this way was the only way out.

This is called the Lost City at Limmen NP.

This is the waterhole at Elsey NP where it is safe to swim. It is a thermal sping and the water is about body temperature.  It is really clear. The water weed on the surface actually looks really pretty from underneath.

 This waterhole is at Nitmiluk NP. near Katherine. This water is really cold! Even though it was really hot - 35'c, (about95'f) it was hard to stay in the water for too long.

 Fogg Dam, near Darwin.  Lots of crocodiles here, All the photos I took here were from the car because a large croc kept sunning itself on the track. I didnt see the croc on the track (lots of others far away) but I got out of the car to take some shots and the ranger was there in a minute reminding me to get back in the car. There is a fantastic bird hide here (2 storey) but its too far away late in the dry season when the water has receded  to see  much. I have spent days at Fogg Dam watching birds This is one of the few shots I took that is just scenery. There are/will be lots of pics of the birds from here elsewhere on this blog.

 These little yellow water lillies are at Flyingfox Swamp, Lorella Springs.

 Limmen NP.

 Elsey NP

 The underside of a waterlilly leaf seen from underwater.

 Lorella Springs. Some of the water holes in isolated areas have waterplants that are only found in a few places.  Some of the plants, even without flowers are really beautiful, and the water is so pristine clear and you can drink it. We filled our campertrailer with water from the campsite near here. I didnt ever think water could taste so good.  No chemicals, really tasted fantastic, a rare treat!  (tastes good but there is no way its practicle for our public drinking water not to have chlorine etc added) The bottom was sand, so even swimming in it, it stayed clear. There were a few predacious diving beetles in here though, that showed too much interest in me for my liking. Im not sure but I really thought they were trying to nibble the skin on my arms( the only part of me not covered)  They were nearly 2 inches long, twice the size of the ones we have here in temperate Victoria (and I don't swim with them)- everything is bigger in the tropics. :).

This is a waterway near Katherine. The local indigenous people fish here for barramundi and catfish. 

 The fires in NT made for interesting sunset shots. However I wish my camera had a white balance setting for smoke... :) So many of the places we went that should have looked fantastic were spoiled by smoke haze.

 Corroboree Billabong, situated near the west boundry of Kakadu NP.

 Sunset at Dawin, another bushfire sunset.

 This is one of the areas where they have recently done control burns. They get rid of fuel so that the undergrowth doesnt build up, so they dont have bush fires.! ? They burn off near the end of the dry season! Some Australian plants thrive from these types of burns... some even need it and burns have been carried out by indigenous people for thousands of years. However we have changed the regime (the time of year, frequency etc) over recent years, and there are information signs (and park rangers) to explain that some creatures are not doing well or decreasing in numbers due to changes in the control burn regimes. When I look at how little is left it really doesn't surprise me that we are giving some species a real hiding. They burn huge areas every year. The dry season ends around October and then the  wet starts again and goes through till around March/April. Although most of us recognize 4 seasons in a year, the aboriginal people in northern oz divide it into 6 season. Changes are marked by certain plants flowering or behaviour of animals. To us, later arrivals in this country, we really can only recognize the wet and the dry. We dont understand the subtleties in the changes that are obvious. Once pointed out though some of the signs are very obvious.

 This is some of the forrested area around Fogg Dam.

 Smokey skies ... again.  near Darwin. And the lower photo is in Central Australia, NT. still smokey. This landscape is usually really dramatic. I think this is part of the Macdonnell ranges. It is  close Alicde Springs.

Flooded Paperbark (Melaleuca) forrest at Flying-fox Swamp, Lorella Springs.

The next two photos are of The Lost City, Limmen NP.

water way near Katherine. Locals fishing.  There are crocodiles in most of these waterways as well as fish.

 Corroborre Billabong. The big bird is a brolga.
Flying-fox Swamp, Lorella Springs. We spent a week at Lorella Springs, it was a cattle station but is now a huge wilderness park. We went through five river crossings to get there. One was the deepest I have ever driven throuh (not that deep, remember I am a wuss.but it did come to the top of the wheels and splashed over the bonnet). When we left at the end of the week all but one crossing had dried up and that was just a trickle across the road.
Manton Dam, Magpie Geese.

temporary waterhole at Limmen NP
both these views are Flying-fox swamp at Lorella Springs. I went conoeing here,  but not without hesitation. Its only a a few feet deep but you do watch the surfacde for anything moving! They did say they had only seen freshwater crocs here but that doestnt mean their cousins havn't moved in. So you always have to remain wary!
Now that I have posted scenery shots I will get back to the critters that I found while exploring these areas in the next posts.

Queensland - Scenery, September2011

There are some beautiful parts of Queensland, (Qld) where there are very few people. These areas are  oases, some of them with permanent water.
 Taken from a rocky outcrop overlooking the river at Dimantina NP, Qld.

 The view from my campsite at Diamantina NP.
 This is taken at Manton Dam near Mt Isa (large inland mining town). Such a nice place to watch the sun go down. Mt Isa was one of the larger towns we went through. 
 In some parts of Australia there are countless termite mounds. Some are very tall, maybe even 5m tall. These ones are about the height of a person.  In cities the last thing we want is termites eating our homes but out here they perform an important function. They recycle nutrients from the plant matter they feed on. They belong here. This is near Bourketown.

 This spot is near Karumba, which is on the Gulf of Carpentaria.  The sky is a bit smokey as there were a lot of bush fires in the area.
In the foreground I think these are Agile wallabies. On the opposite edge of the waterbody is a feral pig (the black blob). These animals are a real pest to Australian water ways, Our animals dont have hoofs and becasue of this they dont compress the soil as much. Our plants (lots of the grasses)  have evolved in soil that is open. not fouled up and compressed by pigs wallowing in it. All the edge vegetation is destroyed by them. So they have little chance once pigs move in. They are increasing in numbers and seem to be less afraid of people than they use to be, In the two months I was away I saw around 30 of them. Some from much closer than anyone would want to be. I use to think in Australia that we were lucky becasue we dont have bears or lions to worry about when we camp (just deadly snakes and spiders :) ) But the tusks of pigs look huge and because I sneak around taking photos I have surprised a few of them when I have been down wind from them. A family of pigs running by you is terrrifying! worse than any snake or spider.

 This is another shot taken at Karumba. Egrets in the foreground and a flock of darters in the background drying off.  Also below.

 This is the Leichhardt River near Bourktown. There are some safe spots to swim here where there are no crocs. (above and below)

 These are kangaroo tracks of a mother and a joey. I think its really cute. This is from the joey hanging out of the puch as mum leans forward. In many of these places the only tracks you find are from wildlife, no people tracks and no nice.
This is a river near Gregory Downs. I sat here till the sun went down and watch flying foxes fly up the river, using it like it was a highway.

 This is a view over Lawn Hill NP
 I hate heights, and I get awful vertigo but after walking up here in the heat I was determined to look over the edge.This is the gorge that the river runs through at Lawn Hill. It is a permanent waterway.
 On the track walking to the top of the gorge. The tree with the white bark is a Eucalypt (Gum tree) 
 This is a clump of Spinifex grass. Very common in this part of Australia. This is about 5ft wide. This stuff is pricklier than any cactus I ever seen. Every blade of grass is like a needle. If you walk to close and it brushes bear skin it prickles you. Usually when I see it, it is dried off and brown, but it is just as prickly when its green. Lots of little creatures like reptiles and little mammals take refuge in these plants.

 This is the river at the bottom of the gorge.
 I canoed for a way down the river, so very peaceful. There are freshwater crocs in this water and some large turtles that aren't found in many other spots.

The line of blue gums run along the waterway. These lines of trees are a give away to the fact there is water there.
I took the two pics above as we entered Lawn Hill. I love the way trees seem to be able to grow out of solid rock.
 After driving in a general north direction in Qld, this was about as far as you can go (unless you are doing the east coast up to Cape York).  Taken in Karumba, this is the Gulf of Carpentaria. This is where we turned left to go west across to the Northern Territory.

Sturt National Park NSW

These photos are taken at Sturt National Park in the NW corner of NSW. The last time I visited this area it was dry.  It took me by surprise to find water here. And even more surprised to find water birds here. This was the first egret I saw on this journey, in a place that I expected to see little more than dry dirt.

This next image with emus wandering through the shallows are about where I camped on my last visit here 3 years ago.

 As the water dries out the mud surface shrinks and cracks and crunches under your feet as you walk on it.
 Galahs, a member  of the parrot family are found in most parts of Australia. Sometimes huge flocks of thees birds drink at the temporary water holes. They are social birds and fun to watch.