Sunday 5th August - East Alligator River Cruise

Wild Carol does Australia
John and Fiona Fraser
Sun 5 Aug 2018 13:00
13 13.11S
132 49.002E

Photos in next post!

We were up early to be at the East Alligator River boat ramp for the 9amcruise.  There was a German family there waiting - hovering to get on the boat first to get the best seats. An Aussie family arrived with an autistic son and a slightly whiny teenage daughter. 
They parked themselves in the designated waiting area. Our guide busied himself getting the boat ready, not saying much. Didn’t get his name but we’ll call him Jim Jim.  9 arrived and Jim Jim took a roll call. He’s missing a party of 6 ‘bush walkers’. We wait another 5 minutes and no one shows up so Jim Jim calls us to the boat. This is when the Aussies make their move and unexpectedly were first down the ramp. The Germans were completely out-manoeuvred and found themselves at the back of the boat.

Off we go downstream with the laconic Jim Jim giving us his running commentary, every sentence ending in a ‘yehhhh’. Lots of crocs slumbering on the banks with a few cruising about slowly in the water. 

We went downstream as far as Cahill’s crossing where we’d been watching the crocs yesterday, then turned around back towards the jetty. Several people milling about. ‘Are you the bushwalkers’, yells Jim Jim. ‘Yes’ comes the reply. ‘I’ll come and get you’, shouts our dry friend. 

Another 6 people board, all around our age.  The boat is now full. Unbelievably, these people have spent the last who knows how many days walking the escarpment from Jim Jim Falls to here. Carrying all their gear, sleeping out and finding water as they go. Some bits of this trek they could only make 1km a day. One of their party fell and gashed her knee and had to be helicoptered out and then spent 4 days in hospital. Makes our little trip seem like a doddle. 

Jim Jim turns the boat around and we head upriver, which is beautiful. Lots more crocs, mostly slumbering and lots of birds including 2 sea eagles. 

Jim Jim told us lots of things about spears and all the different kinds they used including one which you could throw in the water to spear a fish and it bounced right back to your hand because of its positive buoyancy. He didn’t call it a ‘boomerang’ spear but that’s what it was. He also told us lots of things about the plants growing along the water and how they could fix your bad stomach. I wanted to ask him to stop so I could collect some. 

We went as far as a nice viewpoint where he beached the boat and we all got off to take photos. I asked him if his people used boats. He launched into an extensive spiel about how they made canoes from all kinds of trees and bark, for different purposes. I wanted to ask him how come boats never featured in any of the rock paintings but thought that might be pushing it.

And so we turned around and our cruise was over. It had been a very pleasant couple of hours - the river was beautiful, Jim Jim was entertaining and we met some interesting people.

We headed back to the car and drove to Jabiru to fill up with diesel and buy a few things from the shop which was nearly empty because it was Sunday.

As there was a phone signal in Jabiru we spent far too long doing ‘stuff’ on our phones so we decided to miss out on the Nourlangie rock paintings and we headed straight for Garnamarr, our evening campsite up the Jim Jim Falls road.

We set up camp and used one of the disposable BBQs that we’d been carting around since Perth to cook the hamburgers we’d just bought. We got our timing a bit wrong as we started cooking before dark when the flies were still active so we had to retreat to the tent to eat, when we came out, all the flies had gone and it was a very pleasant evening, drinking a glass or two of wine and watching the world go by. We were in bed by 8. 

In case anyone is wondering why it’s called the East Alligator River, not East Crocodile River, it’s because the English explorer who named it had seen alligators in America and thought they were the same.