Thursday, 21 August 2008


Kakadu National Park is somewhere I have wanted to visit since working with an Australian when in the MoD 13 years ago.  Darren and Nic - who we are still hanging out with - were meeting Darren's brother Andrew, who lives in Darwin, to go to two different camp spots that require permits.  We were invited along as it was Andrew's birthday and the more the merrier.  We are so glad we took them up on the offer and that we were invited as we got to see Kakadu from a different perspective, not just the main tourist trail.  Kakadu is best seen in the wet season when it is alive with bird and animal life, this time of year it is very dry, lots of fires everywhere, but the roads are passable at least.

We camped at Umbrawarra Gorge, which we weren't expecting to be much, except a pleasant walk down the gorge, but were treated to a spectacular display of a bush fire at close quarters and that went through the night:



Everything was still smoldering in the morning when we left.  The only bad thing was the fire drove the flies out of the bush and onto us.

From Pine Creek we drove to the Southern entrance of Kakadu, Mary River Roadhouse, to pick up the key to gain access to the first camp spot "Koolpin Gorge".  This was our camp for the next two nights.  There was one car there when we arrived, and only one other car when we left the day after - out of about 15-20 camp spots, and this was the weekend, so we were lucky!  We did a full day bushwalking, which Andrew had done before, which was through spectacular gorge country.  He knew where some Aboriginal rock art sites were, and we also found some sites that he hadn't seen before.  It was a pretty special experience as we were bush bashing at times, and crawling over rocks/hanging off rocks over the river, etc.  Great stuff.




Our second camp spot was Ferny Gully.  The NP only let 8 people in per month to this site.  It has a natural spring running right past and was at a dead end of a 4wd track about 10kms off the road.  A real private retreat and truly relaxing.  We stayed there for 2 nights and were sad to leave.


On from there we headed to Maguk Gorge with Andrew and the others, then Andrew headed back to Darwin.  We camped the night at Garnamarr Campground just before the start of the 4wd track to Jim Jim and Twin Falls.  Next day we drove the fairly easy 4wd track to Jim Jim and Twin Falls (saw our first Freshwater croc, or rather 3 of them) and the stunning gorges and waterfalls.  Jim Jim was not flowing, but has a spectacular beachy pool area and a 22m deep plunge pool.  Twin was flowing and was quite picturesque.  The dry season becomes very obvious as when you see how high a drop Jim Jim is, the wet season must truly be a sight to see.  Lots of Euro tourists about, old and young.  Still a nice ambience however. 


On the way back out of the 4wd track a Nissan Patrol hire car came right at us along a forked road, i.e. they came the wrong/left (or European) side of the road at us, so I continued at them, they stopped in a sandy part of the track and so did I, then they waved erratically at me, so I reversed, then I drove past them on the right side of the road at which stage I realised they were stuck in the sand! I asked if they were stuck and saw it was a car full of 5 young lads and lasses who didnt speak much English.  On parking up safely out of the sand I found they were German and clearly didnt have a clue what they were doing in their Nissan 4wd hire car.  They didnt have the tyre pressures down or 4wd engaged (you have to lock the front wheel hubs in) and so we pointed them in the right direction and off they zoomed.  This played a part in fate of the day as it meant we didnt get to the Yellow Water boat cruise and therefore saved ourselves $140! 

We camped at Jim Jim Billabong, after visiting Yellowwater Billabong which was a special experience for us both, as we took the boardwalk (rather than the $140 boat trip!) and a 1.5m croc surfaced about 5m in front us and proceeded to arch his back and do a spectacular snap of his jaws for us.  I think he was a salty, but not sure.  Then on walking back to the car a massive (seriously, this guy was 4 metres at least) salty was sunbaking at the base of a tree with his jaws wide open quite oblivious to us.  It really is like being in Jurassic Park when you see these beasts.



Aboriginal rock art has been a real treat for me & Em as is not something we thought we would be interested in.  However being with Darren and Nic (both are fine art graduates and have a real interest and knowledge in this area) really opened our eyes to it.  Kakadu has some of the finest rock art in the world open to the public, we had already seen some at Koolpin, and now visited Nourlangie Rock to see the Lightning Man (Namarrgon) and other superb examples of age old rock art.  Camped that night at Sandy Billabong, which was absolutely disgusting as it never got below about 26 degrees all night and the air was thick with insects, especially mossies.  Also tried our hand at fishing and I lost my hook and bait to something big....but it got away.  Got up the next morning early to try again, this time caught a reasonable Saratoga (I think that's what it is anyway!).  Lightning man:

Next day we visited Cahills Crossing for lunch, a great spot and we got there just as the tide was pushing the rive over the causeway into Arnhem Land (an exclusive Aboriginal area of NT).  This causes a bit of a stir as the local population of salty crocs sit either side of the man made causeway with their mouths open waiting for the fish to get pushed past!  Quite a sight.   And yes that is a croc behind the bloke fishing:


Then camped at Merl Campground, which was very close to Ubirr - another famous rock art area.  It was full of quite stunning rock art and we got to listen to 3 different talks by a ranger who had spent a lot of time with Aboriginals in Kakadu and Arnhem Land and was really quite interesting; I never knew their social and cultural structures were so fascinating and complex in fact - especially when you see the wandering types in Melbourne and esp. Alice Springs, Katherine, etc.  The rock art was also amazing, like a menu card for other tribes to read when they reach the area in the wet or dry seasons.  And paintings of "whitefellas" with their hands in their pockets and pipes in their mouths (early settlers/buffalo stockmen)!


We were sad to leave Darren and Nic on Friday morning, but they had decisions to make and we had to get to Darwin.  We may meet up again for a coffee in Darwin if we are all still here in a few days.  We said some goodbyes and then me & Em drove out of Kakadu via a 4wd track past a few pretty billabongs and across very dry swamplands.  All in all a great way to leave Kakadu and continue onto our next stage of the adventure.....The Kimberley.....

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