November 5, 2013
We slept quite well last night, despite having to have the windows closed because of the rain. By morning the rain had stopped and most of the puddles had dried up. We were almost finished in Kakadu; there were a lot of places like Jim Jim Falls where our rental van wasn’t allowed to go, so that left only Nourlangie Rock. So after breakfast we packed up—it doesn’t take very long at all now—and headed down the Kakadu Highway.
It wasn’t far down the road to the Nourlangie turn-off, and we were soon there. The paintings at Nourlangie were not quite as detailed as the ones at Ubirr, but they were very interesting nevertheless. The Ubirr paintings tended to focus on food items, whereas these tended to tell stories instead. There was also a huge rock shelter, which would have been a great place for a group of people to shelter from the rain, and there was also a short walk up to the Gunwarddehwardde Lookout, with views over the surrounding forest and towards the rock formation which formed part of the stories. Near the top we also saw a pair of Spangled Drongos, with the female sitting on the nest.
Farther down the road we stopped at the Warradjan Cultural Centre again, just to look through the gift shop. In the end both of us bought new short-sleeved bamboo shirts to augment our hot-weather wardrobe. They didn’t have aboriginal motifs but at least they were made in Australia.
Our destination for today was Pine Creek, back on the Stuart Highway. It wasn’t too long until we reached the park boundary at the Mary River Roadhouse. Here we decided to fill up the camper van’s gas tank because it was still some distance to our destination, but when we saw the $2.04 per litre price tag we decided to add only 20 litres.
Down in Pine Creek we found that just about the only place to stay was the Lazy Lizard Tavern and Caravan Park. It was very easy to locate and looked fine to us, so we paid $25 for a powered site. They had had only two customers yesterday and we were today’s first customer, so we had our pick of camping spots. The spot we chose was beautifully shaded, so we hoped the van would cool down a bit. The campground was surprising birdy. There were Grey-crowned Babblers digging in the grass and Crested Pigeons over by the dusty edge. There were Red-winged Parrots and Rainbow Lorikeets in the trees. And Rosemary came back with a big surprise, a pair of Great Bowerbirds courting!
The nest was on the ground in the center of a reed bush, about a metre away from the road around the campground. The bush was split down the middle and at each door was a messy pile of white plastic bottle tops, small spiky green fruit, and broken pieces of green glass. Inside the nest were other tasteful items such as pop-can pull tabs. We watched the male bowerbird trying to impress the female. He would pick up a treasure in his beak, then prance towards the female and present it to her. While he was doing this he would raise a fluffy pink cluster of feathers on the back of his head to further attract her attention. From time to time she would look him and the nest over with a disinterested air before turning away. We were thoroughly enthralled with this display, especially considering we were in a caravan park.
We finally tore ourselves away from watching and photographing the birds to prepare dinner. Spaghetti with sauce was on the menu, along with a salad. The propane stove worked really well, so it wasn’t long before our meal was ready. By the time we were finished the sun was setting, and then Venus was joined by a new moon. We watched as the big flying foxes started flying about over us, along with some kind of medium-sized bat. The sky was clear tonight so we had a good showing of stars.
When we had checked in, the owner had warned us that today was the Melbourne Cup (some kind of horse race apparently) and that the tavern might be noisy. It did turn out to be quite noisy, but eventually we managed to fall asleep.