We left the “city” (very small one at that!) behind and headed into the wilderness of Kakadu national park. We were in the back of Toyota Landcruiser sandwiched in between 4 Germans who only wanted to speak German, 1 socially challenged South Korean, 1 extraordinarily strange English woman and 1 cool Aussie girl. This, along with the realisation that we would be squashed in on hard bench-like seats facing and knee-to-knee with these people for several hours each day in 35 degree heat didn’t lift our spirits, but then it wasn’t even 7am yet…(although it does mean that i can now say “My Bum is killing me” in perfect German)
Our driver/guide was not best pleased by the German’s inability to understand his Aussie drawl and took against them from day 1, he clearly decided that he wouldn’t make an effort with any of us at all. Luckily for us then that were were travelling in tandem with another truck full of a fun mix of people and a fantastic guide called “Dino”. Crocs Ahoy! The first stop was a “Jumping Crodile Cruise” down the Adelaide River, sounds a bit dodgy… this river is home to over 2000 Crocs, but they wouldn’t usually rear their ugly mugs for anyone that is unless there is someone on the boat holding a juicy piece of steak on a rod over the water! (quite a cruel way to see them..). The boat driver greeted us with “welcome, this boat is petrol fuelled, you will survive the explosion, but you certainly won’t make it to the banks..” When the crocs suddenly appear, start to glide towards the boat and then leap up out of the water you can kind of see what he’s on about! (Photo 2) It’s pretty hard to see why Crocs evolved really, since they are a nasty piece of work from all angles. They regularly have each other for dinner and even after carrying the eggs, laying them and waiting for 2 months for them hatch the mother croc may decide to feast on her babies if she can’t find anything else! Worse than that, Dad waits on the banks for the eggs to hatch so he can have a feed!
A couple of hours of “butt busting” later and we were in the heart of Kakadu. It’s pure postcard Australia here: orange dust leaps up behind the van, the view is of barren, untamed land, and Emus and Kangeroos occasionally saunter past the window. It’s the wet season at the moment so apparently many of the roads will soon become flooded, but we’ve only had one rain storm since we’ve been up here. (Photo 3) 30% of the Northern Territory’s (NT) inhabitants are Aboriginals and kakadu is owned by them. Rightly so as there are 5000 sites of Rock Art here some of which is up to 35,000 years old. We only went to one site which was amazing. The pictures are drawn with ochre on the edges of rock overhangs and in caves. As the guide explained the meaning of each picture to us, I thought about how impressed I normally am with old things in Europe, but looking at something that is mostly 20,000 years old is something else entirely!
We climbed to a rocky lookout which gave us a great 360 view. The scenery from each angle was so different – the wetlands on one side, the multicoloired layers of rock escarpments on the other and the Savannah woodlands stretching for miles. There’s definitely a remarkable feeling of peace and tranquility at the top of the Aboriginal spiritual sites I have been to. It’s just so silent and you feel like you are so far removed from anywhere when all you can see is nothing for miles! (Photo 5) Sweaty betty Enough of that stuff…. after an evening round the camp-fire star-gazing and attempting to make a noise out of a digeridoo (Jason managed it but I couldn’t get a sound out of it! – see Photo 6)it was a 6am start.. again…. We hiked to a waterfall and rock pool. Only 7km return but in this heat hiking is really something else. Sweat starts to pour off you and the flies get worse. You guzzle a ridiculous amount of water but nothing can quench your thirst. You feel like you might just be that pathetic English wimp who keels over in the heat when finally you reach a gorgeous plunge pool and waterfall as if it had been put there just for you. The relief of jumping in is immense. This was basically the pattern for the rest of the day – small pools and a huge lake/pool fed by a waterfall with croc warning signs everywhere. (One sign said “Please do not approach or interfere with these animals” ha ha! Like we were thinking if it….)
We attempted to have lunch but the flies thought they would try every way to stop that. Kakadu has 1000 species of fly and I swear 996 of these flew into my face during the 3 days. Aussie outback flies are nothing like your normal, average fly. Firstly they only come in gangs of 20, secondly if you bat them away they don’t fly off for a bit, oh no, that’s just sign to them for further torment. They just keep on coming and this time they’re up your nose, in your mouth, in your eyes and even your ears until you are forced to start jumping round in a frenzy that would have you sectioned anywhere else in the world. They say NT people are a bit crazy, it’s pretty obvious why.
The final hike to the top of that waterfall was so worth every bit of sweat and fly batting. At the top 3 pools cascaded into a the bottom lake 30m below so the middle pool was left with a view for miles and surrounded by huge boulders that looked like they came straight from a film set. Infact this was where some of Crocodile Dundee was filmed. (Photo 9) It’s just a log in the water .. isn’t it? More hiking and frolicking in pools followed the next day. We hiked up some tricky rocks to get to the top of another waterfall where there were 3 or 4 pools with narrow passages and small waterfalls between them. Scrambling over these waterfalls and jumping in was great fun.(Photo 10) From here we could see down to the huge pool below where the other half of our 2-truck group were swimming. I suddenly saw Dino clapping in arms like a croc mouth from the banks at them and I have never seen a group of people move so fast! They swum to the bank in seconds. Another driver next to me explained that a freshwater croc has been living in that pool for 30 years but she is harmless. Díno’s ‘funny’joke had been to let them swim to the other end thinking the croc was a just a log, until it came up and then he thought he’d let them know!