It’s been a little over five weeks since my last trip to Sydney for Easter, so I was very excited to have Kim coming up for the May Day long weekend. I spent a bit of time planning out the weekend and making all the bookings: we were off to Kakadu for three days and I wanted to make sure everything was perfect. There was fuel in the car, food in the bags (!) and plenty of time to take things easy.
We made pretty good time and arrived in Jabiru with enough time in hand to check in and relax before heading out for a Yellow Waters cruise. I was quite excited for this, because although I’ve spent plenty of time floating on wetlands and looking at birds in the past, this time in addition to the sunset cruise we were booked on a night cruise, which was aimed at star gazing and sharing some of the Dreaming stories of the local people about the stars and how they came to be where they were.
Unfortunately the arrangements for cruises had changed a bit since the last time I was out there. The car park for the boat dock was still slightly underwater from the wet season which we are rumoured to have had (I saw very little evidence of this), so the idea was to arrive at the resort just around the corner and get ferried over by someone with a large bus. So you need to get there twenty minutes before the departure time.
I did not realise this.
We arrived about fifteen minutes before and were summarily dismissed and told to come back the next day. It was a bit of a nuisance, but after rearranging our bookings, we jumped back in the car and headed for Ubirr. I’d planned to do Yellow Waters on Saturday and Ubirr on Sunday, but there was no reason why we couldn’t do it backwards, right?
Well, the traffic on the road out to Ubirr is a little bit steadier than you might normally encounter on a road out to the middle of nowhere, and not every car out there is as awesome as my Focus, the GSS Unity. Some prefer to take the road at something a little closer to what I might be able to manage on a golf cart. By the time we made it to the Ubirr car park, the sun was very low in the sky and we were in serious danger of missing the sunset altogether. Fortunately Kim was wearing the sneakers she had assured me she wouldn’t need, so we were able to manage a quick sprint up to the lookout.
I don’t know if you’ve ever tried to run straight up a rock face. In my experience it’s not really conducive to the kind of contemplative/romantic serenity I’d had in mind when I planned the trip. Nonetheless, we made it up in time for me to watch the sunset and for Kim to take about sixty identical photos of it.
The next day we were all set to take another run at the Yellow Waters. We took no chances and I made sure I had us down at the resort a full hour before we were due to depart. Unfortunately this meant we had to sit around in the heat for forty minutes waiting for the guides to show up. My father would have been proud of me.
The sunset cruise itself actually went pretty well. The air over the water wasn’t as hot and the guide was out to practice his upcoming comedy routine on us. We didn’t see any jabirus or brolgas, but we got some great views of some White Breasted Sea Eagles, which are my favourite bird and Kim’s favourite rugby team (Don’t ask me why).
We had some dinner and waited until the night cruise was ready to start. It was cloudy, with a slight chance of rain, so the guides did what they could to talk us out of making them take the boat out. We were really keen to go, so we stuck our heels in and asked for the tour to go ahead. After a few delays, a massive and yet still ineffective dosage of insect repellent and an apology that we weren’t going spotlighting, we got moving and went down to the boat dock again.
The boat had a flat battery. We turned around and came back.
I don’t know what dreaming story they tell about that, but I do know that we drove back through the rain, and that by the time we got back to our hotel the sky was clear as a bell. At least we got our money back.
Monday afternoon we got moving again and headed back to Darwin. I wouldn’t exactly say the Kakadu excursion was a complete disaster, but I certainly hadn’t been everything I had imagined. We had a dinner reservation at Nirvana that night, which was handy because I had a voucher I had won at an open mic night a few weeks previously and had stored carefully in the glove box in my car for just such an occasion.
Naturally, it was nowhere to be found when I needed it. That's not unusual; things go missing in my car all the time. But they usually do show up when i need them. My car is a bit like the Room of Requirement. But not this weekend. And I think that's the second one that's gone missing. I can only assume that at some point in the future I'm going to find myself in dire need of Nirvana vouchers (I have no idea why) and there'll be a stack of six of them waiting on my passenger seat.
We had a lovely dinner anyway, and were contemplating desert when Kim got a text message from Jetstar. With just four hour's notice, her flight home had been cancelled. Not postponed, or rescheduled, just cancelled completely. There was a phone number for her to call so that she could organise her own way home, and a promise to pay for accommodation for the night. So we quickly paid (Full price. Oh well.) for dinner and then wandered off into the night to find Kim somewhere nicer than our living room floor to stay.
I took her to the airport the next day only to find that the entire airport had been dismantled by an army of demonic nuclear powered scarab beetles.
There are a number of lessons that can be learned from last weekend.
1) Don't use Jetstar ever. I have yet to meet anyone who has had a positive experience with them.
2) Boat rides in Kakadu at night sound really romantic, but probably aren't
3) It doesn't matter how comprehensively wrong a weekend goes, if you have the right company it still turns out pretty good.
Make of that what you will.
Garry with 2 Rs