The Billabong Boogie
Travelling deeper into the wilderness of Kakadu we came upon the oasis that is Gagudju Lodge at Cooinda. This resort style caravan park has several pools and recreation areas, bars and restaurants complete with palm trees and thatched huts. It looked like my kind of camping but it had a price tag to match – the cheapest campsite being $70!
The driver though we could stay for one night but first he was keen to give the boat a run on Yellow Water, a vast lagoon on the South Alligator River. However, the boat ramp had been closed to the public. Recent rains had apparently flooded the car park leaving behind some deep water-filled ditches as well as a few stray crocodiles. This did seem rather sensible until we heard that the resort tours were still being allowed access. Odd??
The ranger suggested if we had a 4WD we could launch our boat at Home Billabong and take the shallow access channel through to Yellow Water. The driver decided he could easily manage the ramp and after a small mishap (just some slippery sliding of wheels on the muddy boat ramp) off we went to do the billabong boogie.
I was quite surprised – it was all rather pleasant! The driver cruised slowly around the banks fishing while I lay back reading my book. There was even a gentle breeze floating across the calm ?baby-poo? coloured water dotted in parts with white flowering lily pads and all surrounded by a lush fern-filled shoreline.
The only drawback was the intense heat of the sun reflecting off the water. There was some slight relief to be found in the many shaded nooks and crannies but these also seemed to be home to the abundant mosquito and crocodile population.
The mozzies were so tiny that they were almost invisible until they attacked but the beady yellow eyes of grinning crocodiles could be seen in all directions.
At one point, just as the fisherman/driver was reeling in his first ever Barra (undersize, of course) I noticed a freshly carved croc-print in the mud of the nearby bank. It was so close I could have reached out and touched it!
Later as we made our way back down a narrow channel an enormous croc lazily swam right across in front of us. But then it seemed to disappear. The driver later informed me that he didn?t like to mention the large croc shaped blob showing up directly below us on his fish finder.
We were about to dock and get out of the sun when a bloke threw a line in from the jetty. Of course, the driver just had to stop and have a chat. So, before I was even back on dry land he had convinced his new mate Johnny to come out for a spin.
When they eventually returned (still fishless, I might add!) the driver revealed his master plan. He?d noticed that young Johnny had himself a brand spanking new 4WD and suggested he could help pull the boat out. But Johnny admitted despite having completed a course before he left Sydney he didn?t even know how to put his car in 4WD and couldn?t possibly let Ian drive his shining pride and joy!
Angrily spinning the wheels of the motor home onto the boat ramp the driver quickly got bogged yet again. Luckily for us the trusty ranger had been watching all along and came to our rescue in his Toyota troopy pulling both bounce and the boat up onto the bank.
Needless to say, we didn?t get to stay in the ranger?s flash caravan park!