Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Kakadu Explorations - Gumlom

As I woke up to Luke's "Good morning, time to rise" I could hear barking owls in the distance. I got dressed, grabbed some coffee and got ready for the day along with Sally and John.
It was still pitch dark as we set out along the dirt road and we saw several night critters including a Bush-Stone Curlew and some wallabies as we drove along. Later on that morning we saw a couple of dingos as well.
After about 1 hour, we suddenly saw some lights in the distance, and soon we could see we had come upon a terrible car accident. Of course we stopped, and Luke got out, found out we were only the 2nd car at the scene, and he quickly got on his radio phone to call for rescue service – there was no cell phone coverage in this remote area. John got out also, as he is certified in first aid, and he and Luke assisted as best they could, but it seemed that the first man on the scene had already done a good job. For a while they were searching for a possible 3rd person, but as a couple of other cars pulled up, it was clarified that luckily there was no 3rd person involved. After more than an hour a ranger came to the scene, and eventually we took off, as there was nothing more we could do at this point. After a good ½ hour's drive we finally met a police car that is racing towards the scene of the accident, and about 10 minutes later we finally, much to our relief, met the ambulance on the way to the scene. But it really brought home how remote this area was – it must have been at least 2 hours after the call was made, before the rescue was at the scene. Very sobering! We just hoped the driver of the rolled-over vehicle would make it – his passenger was in better shape with "just" a broken arm, as far as Luke and John had been able to judge. It was a solo accident, the driver probably fell asleep, and alcohol was involved, but nevertheless tragic.

Obviously we reached our first spot much later than planned, but of course human life comes before bird-watching! As we pulled into the parking area at Gumlom the sun was already up, so we quickly got our packs on and binoculars and cameras ready, before we start the climb up the trail to the Gumlom Lookout, which is a short, but pretty steep and strenuous track up to the top of the escarpment. As we climb up I am especially careful, after our experience this morning it is even more clear to me that this is no place to take any chances, we are indeed far from civilization!
The views are beautiful and justify the climb – and soon we are busy spotting birds in the trees and bushes around us! We have reached our morning coffee spot by a beautiful plunge pool along the Waterfall Creek, where we hope we might be lucky to spot the elusive White-throated Grass-wren!
We enjoy the coffee and tea that Luke brought along, as we study the surrounding landscape and look and listen for birds.

The wren never showed up, but we saw lots of other wonderful birds as we moved higher over boulders and through the brush.

The descent was trickier than coming up, but Luke was there with a helping hand when needed, and we all got down in one piece and with a few more "new" birds for our list!
We enjoyed a rest at the lovely picnic grounds under the shade of the Salmon Gum Trees and Luke cooked up a late breakfast – really more like brunch, as it was past 11 AM – but it was first-class – eggs, bacon, tomatoes, fresh fruit and more!

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