Much Kakadu About Nothing


Where: Kakadu National Park

Hanging out with: The Stracks, the Clifts and Tom and Jas

For many Australians, images that come to mind of the top end are those from our biggest national park, Kakadu. The beautiful escarpments, the picturesque water holes and the beautiful wildlife, all make this place a ‘must do’ on a trip to the NT. We decided to head into the park from the southern end with the first stop at the scenic Gunlom Falls. Like most of northern Australia at the moment, Kakadu is very dry! This makes it easy to do any of the river crossings but sadly reduces the likelihood of those majestic waterfall photos. You would also think that the crocs would be less abundant in the remaining isolated pools but we quickly found out that this is not the case.

Ubirr Rock, Kakadu National Park

Ubirr Rock, Kakadu National Park

After a swim in the apparently saltwater croc-free Gunlom swimming hole and a picnic lunch we made our way to the Yellow Water Billabong for a sunset cruise. It’s always fascinating hearing about how places got their name with dreamtime stories and again we had a local guide who had everyone captivated with his stories. The cruise was a great way to see all the surrounding wildlife, including numerous species of waterbirds, and a ridiculous number of saltwater crocodiles! Also on show were the remaining buffalo in the park, that despite a major cull in the 90’s still occur in the park in reasonable numbers. There are also still cattle and horses that run wild as a remnant of previous mustering in the area. After the cruise we made our way to Jabiru and our accommodation for the next few days at Kakadu Lodge.

A welcome swim at Gunlom Falls

A welcome swim at Gunlom Falls

Crocodiles everywhere!! Yellow Water Billabong

Crocodiles everywhere!! Yellow Water Billabong

One of the stunning features of Kakadu is the rock art that spans stories from thousands of years and our day started by wandering around Norlangie Rock and the beautiful rock art. That evening we took a picnic up to the popular Ubirr Rock and watched the sunset. We also managed to find a couple of the local short-eared rock wallabies, which were super cute.

One of the many beautiful rock art sites at Kakadu NP

One of the many beautiful rock art sites at Kakadu NP

Ubirr Rock, apart from having a rich aboriginal history with rock art that includes a Thylacine, was also made famous by Crocodile Dundee. Sadly our catch up with the Stacks and Clifts had to come to an end and we said goodbye to the Stracks that evening and the Clifts the next day. Who knows where next years catch-up will be?

The clan on top of Ubirr Rock

The clan on top of Ubirr Rock

The next day we decided to see Kakadu from the air – a fantastic way to get a perspective on the ruggedness and remoteness of Arnhem Land, and how much of the place is on fire….don’t get me started on that topic!!.

A wildfire in Kakadu National Park

A wildfire in Kakadu National Park

East Alligator River from the air

East Alligator River from the air

We then met up with another one of the famous ‘frogging’ crew Tom Parkin in Kakadu. Tom and his girlfriend Jas are working with one of the Arnhem Land communities coordinating ranger activities. It was great to hear some of the stories about their adventures hunting and fishing with the locals – we even managed to wet a line at the famous Cahill’s Crossing, where we saw ten large crocs eagerly waiting for someone to catch a large barra or slip over the ledge! There was even one there with a tracker on him from being re-located – the running joke being that no one is game enough to change the batteries! From here it was on to Mary River National Park for a night of luxury at the Wildman Wilderness Lodge and then back to Darwin.

A spot of fishing at Cahill's Crossing, note the crocodile waiting for a catch as well!

A spot of fishing at Cahill’s Crossing, note the crocodile waiting for a catch as well!

The 4th Annual FinStraclift holiday


Where: Darwin and Kakadu NP

Hanging out with: The Stracks and the Clifts.

For the past three years the Finlaysons, the Stracks and the Clifts have managed to organise an annual holiday together. This ritual has become an important part of our lives because we now all live in different states/countries. The inaugural holiday in 2012 was inspired by the fact that for the first time in history, all six of us were pretty much “unemployed” at the same time.

This year the Stracks and Clifts joined us in Darwin for a winter escape. We had lots of fun with the kids in the wavepool and another trip to Litchfield NP to have a picnic and relax in the cooling waters.

DSCN3105We visited the underground tunnels built during WWII

Darwin tunnell DSCN3053and did a cruise on the river to watch wild jumping crocodiles.

Croc jumping IMG_0579Croc jumping IMG_0555

The holiday also happened to coincide with Graeme’s birthday so we took him on a crabbing and bara fishing charter. Alas, the barramundi didn’t take the bait, but we did take home eight giant mudcrabs which fed us for two days.


After five days in Darwin we headed to Kakadu NP for more adventures. To be continued…

A very Raymond Darwin


Where: Darwin of course.

Hanging out with: The Raymonds of course.

Connection: Tash worked with Graeme in Perth

After an overnight visit to Katherine Gorge we arrived in Darwin to celebrate the 30th birthday of the Raymond twins – Tash and Jonelle. Although Tash has a real twin sister, Tash and I call each other “twin” because we look more alike than she does to her actual twin sister. Also she’s part Lankan – which means we are related by marriage somehow (my cousin’s ex-wife’s mother’s partner is Tash’s granduncle – figure that one out). And to confuse things even more Tash’s husband Greg is my birthday twin. A friendship of many happy coincidences.

2015-09-17 20.42.04The Raymond twins decided to celebrate their birthday in Darwin and most of their family joined them. It was a lovely excuse to hangout with them for the weekend which or course revolved around eating and drinking.

We also had a wonderful day at Litchfield National Park swimming in every waterhole we came across (no estuarine crocs in there).DSCN2954 PS

In loving memory



This year marks 10 years since my friend Kirk died. He was the passenger in a car heading towards a remote aboriginal community in Arnhemland when the driver lost control on the dirt road. He was 27 years old. A few months ago our group of friends gathered at one of his favourite parks in Melbourne and planted a tree to commemorate the anniversary of his death. I couldn’t be there with them, but today (16th Sept) we drove past the start of that long and winding road on which he had his accident and in the days leading up to this, Kirk and his death had been weighing heavily on my mind. So I needed to stop at this intersection to quietly reflect on what Kirk meant to me.

Kirk Robson and I became friends when I was 12 and he was 11 years old. He was the son of the new Minister at our church in Box Hill. Going to an all-girls school all my life I had not met many boys, so Kirk became my first true male friend. Actually, Kirk was several firsts for me including my first kiss. We had been Christmas carolling around Box Hill and afterwards we went to the local Seven Eleven to get a slurpy. He was rather swarve back then, his pick-up line was “so sharing the same drink is practically like kissing”. Then we made out behind the dumpster. You can imagine how much I was later teased by my cousins about “having a slurpy behind the 7/11”! That teenage romance lasted a whole two weeks then kind of fizzled out. But we still remained friends until the day he died.

When I reflect on the impact that Kirk had on my life and the gifts he gave me such as his gift of friendship and LOTS of laughter, there is one thing that stands out the most. Through our friendship, he essentially gave me the friendship of many others. When we were 16 years old, he made me go on a youth camp with him because he didn’t want to go alone. At this camp we made friends with so many new people. And from that initial group of friends, we met their friends who then became our friends and so on until this group of friends grew so big I can’t even count the numbers. Kirk gave me this amazing, like-minded group of friends who helped me grow into what I am now and who are still so very important in my life today.

I hadn’t seen Kirk much in the last 12 months of his life. Approaching our late 20’s life had taken all of us on different adventures and on different paths. The same could be said about our group of friends in the present. We might not see each other that much because “life just gets in the way”, but it doesn’t change the significance or importance of these friendships.

Kirk was a budding actor, but he was not seeking fame and fortune (although I do recall him standing up for the actors on Neighbours “because that is where many Australian actors get their start”).   Instead he wanted to use his skills to help people. On the day of his death he was on his way to help the youth of an aboriginal community put together a stage production for a festival. There is no fairness in death. Why can cruel, torturous people live until they’re ninety while the people that want to do good in this world are taken away. This is a question that continues to haunt me.

As I lay a stick with Kirk’s name carved on it at the start of this road, I find myself both crying and smiling at the same time.

Year 11 formal

Kirk accompanying me to my Year 11 formal

A hidden oasis


DSCN2659 cropped

As I said earlier, Daintree NP seems to be the most famous of Queensland’s parks, but we were told by numerous friends who’ve traveled around Australia that Lawn Hill NP is not to be missed. And they were right.

DSCN2849Boodjamulla (aka Lawn Hill NP) is not on the way to anywhere so it is easy to miss. It is a beautiful oasis in the middle of a vast expanse of highly degraded pastoral land near the Qld-NT border. DSCN2810Finally we were able to camp next to a swimmable waterhole without any estuarine crocs so we spent most of our days in the water. We also hired a kayak one day and paddled up stream as far as we could go.

Of course the wildlife didn’t escape our gaze, especially the purple-crowned fairy wren, buff-sided robin and freshwater crocs.

Buff sided robin IMG_9962 croppedPurple crowned fairywren IMG_9995

DSCN2842DSCN2891Nearby is the World Heritage listed Riversleigh Fossil site were you can walk around one of this dig sites and see bones from the extinct Thunderbird (which stood 2.5 meters tall and weighed 300kg), a turtle and a giant freshwater crocodile.

After resting and recharging our batteries in the cooling waters of Lawn Hill gorge for a few days we made our way into the Northern Territory.

DSCN2757 cropped

In search of the striped possum


Another one on the hit list, the striped possum, a tropical species found only in far north Queensland and PNG with striking black and white stripes. As soon as we reached Townsville, the southern most part of their distribution, we were on the lookout.

Graeme spotted two of them, one in the Atherton Tablelands and one in the Daintree, while spotlighting. Striped possums have a unique, elongated 4th finger to scratch Striped possum Eachum PS DSCN1579out bugs from rotting timber which can often make an obvious scratching noise. Graeme heard this noise one night and followed it deep into the bush until he found the culprit way up in a tree!

Unfortunately for me I was too tired to spotlight those nights and I missed them. But my rule for this trip is that if I don’t see the animal it doesn’t count, so our search was not over yet.

This species is supposedly common in the Cairns Botanical Gardens, but our spotlighting was unsuccessful. Cape York didn’t provide me with a viewing either. So on our way from Cape York to western Qld we went back to the Atherton Tableland for the third time and stayed at a birdwatching lodge (nerds!) where we had it on good authority that there was a resident striped possum.

The Kingfisher Lodge has an amazing array of wildlife on their property including the green ringtail possum (also a first for us) and many bird species. And as luck would have it we found this beautiful striped possum foraging in a tree. Striped possum…TICK!Stripped possum cropped IMG_9690

CAPE YORK #3: In search of the cuscus


Where: Kutini-Payamu (Iron range NP)

Hanging out with: Jenny and Euan and kids (again J)

The Daintree National Parks seems to be Queensland’s most famous, but there are so many other National Parks out there that have diverse habitats with an amazing array of wildlife. Iron Range NP is one of those parks. It is one of the largest remaining areas of lowland rainforest to be found in Australia and was once connected to Paupa New Guinea. Due to it’s topography the lowland rainforest has been retained and many of the animals and plants that occur are only found here and in PNG, so a really unique spot on Cape York as a lover of nature. Once again we donned the head torches and went out spotlighting in search of some of the unique critters in the area.

IMG_9372Our first two nights were spent on Chilli beach and we were treated to the spectacular sight of the metallic starling murmeration (this is a new word for us as well – it means a flock of starlings). At dusk, after a day of foraging, the starlings come together into one giant flock and fly around in beautiful patterns over their roosting site for about 10-15mins before finally settling on the trees to sleep for the night. It was breath-taking to watch!

The next two nights we camped in the heart of the rainforest and we had a number of animals on our list to see. The green python was high on our hit list because it would have to be one the most beautiful of all snakes. Euan found this one for us wrapped on a tree waiting for its prey.

Green python PS IMG_9451Cuscus (not to be confused with couscous) are a type of possum and two species can be found inCommon cuscus IMG_9446 cropped PS Australia: spotted cuscus and the common cuscus. We found this beauty only 50 metres from our campsite! In total we found three common cuscus but the unfortunately the spotted cuscus eluded us.