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Willis's Walkabouts Newsletter 40, February 2009

Bushfires. What can I say? Some of you will have been affected by the fires. Many will know people who have been affected. My thoughts are with you. But life goes on and so too does this newsletter.

Willis's Walkabouts

In this issue

Australian Bushfire Information

Geoscience Australia has a website which shows current bushfire hot spots around the country. See the Sentinel Hot Spot home page . Click on "Current Overview" then click on the area you are interested in for the latest information.

The About Sentinel page explains the system.

The Disclaimer page gives yet more information. If you have Google Earth installed on your computer, click the Current Hotspot KML at the bottom of the page. That will give you a Google Earth view of Australia showing hot spots around the country. Zoom in to the area that interests you.

The bushfire photos I've seen emphasise just how different bushfires are here in the north. When I've met a bushfire on a walk in Kakadu, I've usually walked through it. A crown fire is impossible. Our trees can't burn like your trees do.

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Our Weird and Wondrous Weather

Our January-February Kakadu Super Circle trip has come and gone. It could hardly have been better. In 21 days,

Escape the summer heat next year. Come north and enjoy the cool!

The Top End rainfall pattern has been one of the strangest on record. In January, Darwin was spot on the avarage. Katherine got 85% above their average. Jabiru got slightly under half their average.

Further afield, the north Kimberley had good rain. The south Kimberley had exceptional rain. The Victoria River district in the NT had so much rain that the Victoria River Bridge was closed for weeks.

As mentioned in the last newsletter, central Australia has had more rain since November than any time in the last 5 or 10 years. This should be the best bushwalking year for a long time in that area. Also, from the last newsletter, I've come up with a new trip, the easiest and least expensive trip we offer in the centre.

To find out more, you need to look at

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Kakadu Circle No. 1 -- Last One Ever?

If I had to pick two or three favourite Kakadu trips, this would be one of them. This is the only dry season trip that anyone offers where you can see Jim Jim and Twin Falls before the road opens, up close without the tourist crowds. May is the best compromise between the wet and dry seasons. I'll repeat what I've often said, "If you're going to see Kakadu only once, come in May."

I'm not the only one who thinks it's a great trip. Have a look at what others have had to say. Even the park manager agrees that there should be more trips like this. So, why might this be the last?

Carrying food for the full three weeks is too much. The trip needs a food drop. Putting out that food drop can be a nightmare. The drop has to go out in November, the hottest, most uncomfortable month of the year. It has to be carried up a steep hill, then hauled up a small cliff and stashed in the back of a cave. None of the other current guides is a permanent resident of Darwin. If I hadn't been able to twist the arms of three other people last November, I'm not sure I'd have been physically capable of doing it myself. The trip remains listed for 2010, but, if I can't find a better place to leave the food drop, it may not happen, no matter how many book.

That's the bad news. The good news is that there is enough food in the current drop for several extra people. The better news is that I'll hold the 20% advance purchase discount open until Friday 27 February. The links below will take you to a description of the trip, two photo galleries from our 2006 trip and the comments people wrote at the end of that trip.

Want still more info? Some of those who did our 2006 & 2007 trips have volunteered to talk to interested people about their trip. Please let us know if you'd like to contact one of them.

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Drysdale River -- Easiest Ever

Drysdale River is the largest and least accessible park in the Kimberley. It is home to one of the greatest concentrations of Aboriginal rock art in Australia. The isolation means that the environment is relatively undisturbed compared to much of the rest of the region. It's a bushwalkers paradise.

The isolation that makes Drysdale River such a great place to walk comes at a price. The only way we can guarantee that we'll be able to get in is to fly to the Mitchell Plateau and charter a helicopter from there. Helicopters aren't cheap, but we can cut the cost this one time.

We have a charter group finishing a Drysdale walk on 29 May. Last year, we locked in a quote that is substantially less than the new 2009 price. By flying in on the same aircraft that bring them out, the cost of running the trip drops by thousands of dollars. We'll share that saving with you. The more who book, the less it will cost each person.

Our new trip, Drysdale River National Park: 29 May - 11 June will not only share transport costs with another group, it will be the first Drysdale trip where we have organised a food drop to come in with the group. This means that you need to carry less than on any other Drysdale trip we have ever offered.

Deadline. We need three confirmed bookings by 20 February to keep the trip in the program; five to guarantee departure.

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Leichhardt Revisited

Ludwig Leichhardt became the first European to visit what is now Kakadu in 1845 as he neared the end of his epic journey from Moreton Bay to Port Essington. In 2008, Dan Baschiera and Annie Whybourne from Darwin found what may be a tree blazed by Leichhardt at one of his Kakadu camp sites. The link below takes you to a paper Dan recently wrote about Leichhardt and their find. Anyone with an interest in the history of northern Australia will fine it well worth a read. Note. The illustrations bring the file up to 2.7 MB so it may take a while to download.

On Leichhardt's path -- We walk the time tunnel

We have our own connection to Leichhardt as we offer a trip called In Leichhardt's Footsteps which retraces his route beginning from a point near the Manyallaluk community near Katherine and finishing at Jim Jim Falls.

As with the article, anyone with an interest in the history of northern Australia should have a look at the trip notes which describe out trip.

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Family Bushwalks

Our family walks are designed to run at a slower pace so that they are suitable for children. They are the only trips where we can offer a children's discount. If you have children who might enjoy a bushwalk in Kakadu, you should have a look at our Family Bushwalking page and see what these trips are like. That page has a link to a photo gallery page with additional information.

Both Kakadu Family Bushwalk No. 2: 5-11 July and Kakadu Family Bushwalk No. 3: 27 Sep - 3 Oct already have bookings. One more family on either would guarantee departure.

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Last Chance -- March to May

March. Only one trip remains available.

The Kimberley Coast Explorer has one place available on sections 3 & 4 and may have another space become available on the full trip.

April. Only two trips remain available.

Kakadu Highlights No. 3: 5-18 April.
Two great walks, either of which can be done on its own. The second walk is one of the few in Kakadu where we are normally accompanied by an Aboriginal guide.
Special Offer. I hate to disappoint someone who booked back in October so I'm offering a 20% discount to anyone who books before the end of the month. If we don't have four bookings by then, the trip will be cancelled. No other discounts apply with this offer.

The Bungle Bungles: 18-25 April
This was section two of the Bungles Osmond trip. Sections one and three have no bookings so they won't run. It's a definite departure for a very small group. I'd like a few more so,
Special Offer 1. The next three people who book will receive a 20% discount. No other discounts apply with this offer.
Special Offer 2. Fly to Darwin and we'll give you free transport to and from Kununurra.

May. Every trip remains available but only those listed below have bookings.

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2009 -- June and Beyond

Every trip remains available. The trips below all have bookings. One is already almost full.

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Aboriginal People and Parks

Kakadu is not only the largest park in Australia, it is also the first where the Aboriginal traditional owners took over a major management role. (10 of the 13 members of the Kakadu Board of Management are Aboriginal traditional owners.) More and more of the local people are becoming involved in tourism. In addition to the trips where we are accompanied by Aboriginal guides, we now include a short cultural walk with Violet Lawson, one of the senior traditional owners, on most of our trips which spend a night at Cooinda. To date, everyone who has done Violet's tour with us has thought it was well worth while. If you'd like to get an idea of what it's like, please have a look at our new Violet Lawson's Wurrgeng Cultural Walk photo gallery.

While on the subject of indigenous people and parks, Protecting Country - Indigenous Governance and Management of Protected Areas has just been published by the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies as an e-book and is available for free download at the ATSIS publications "Protecting Country" contents web page. Click on any one of the chapters to download that chapter.

This publication is based on presentations by Indigenous land managers, protected area managers, researchers and graduate students at a workshop on Indigenous Governance and Management of Protected Areas held during the Australian Institute of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Studies Conference in Canberra in 2007.

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Please Help Me Stay in Business

I've been listed on the Total Travel website for years. It consistently produces lots of people clicking through to my own website. When I asked if anyone would be willing to write a review in mid 2008, I quickly got three. That's not many. It would do a lot better if I had a few more reviews. If you've been on one of our trips within the last few years and would be happy to write a review, please go to the Total Travel Willis's Walkabouts page and click on write a review.

Thanks to anyone who can help.

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Special discounts -- combine them and save even more


Book now and save! As in the past, if you are one of the first three people who quote this newsletter when booking any Australian trip within two weeks of when we sent it out, you will get an extra 10% discount on any trip where your total discounts are 10% or less. You'll get an extra 5% off if your total discounts are 15% or more.

Note 1. There has to be a limit. The maximum total discount on any trip is 35%.
Note 2. This offer does not apply to trips where the special offer specifies no other discounts apply.
Note 3. It's amazing how few people take advantage of this offer. You have to ask to get it.

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News About This Newsletter

Once again, I've put in a lot of time updating the email newsletter list. I do my best, but I make mistakes. If I've made a mistake with your listing, please accept my apologies, let me know and I'll fix it for next time.

This newsletter is sent from rrwillis@russellwillis.com. If you would like to continue to receive these newsletters, please include this address in your "friends list" so that it isn't blocked.

We don't want to add to the mass of email spam. If you don't want our newsletter, please send us an email and let us know. We'll then delete your name from our newsletter list.

Our email address is walkabout@ais.net.au.

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If you know someone you think would enjoy this newsletter, please forward it to them.

Best wishes to all.
Russell Willis

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Willis's Walkabouts, 12 Carrington Street, Millner NT 0810, Australia walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au

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