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Posts Tagged ‘Kakadu NP’

I love the way the Aussies call the north this. The specific part of The Top End I visited was the area of the Northern Territory around its capital Darwin. The whole territory has only 250,000 people, half of whom live in Darwin. You’d never guess that at 7am in the morning when they all appear to be on the road. It’s a half-hour behind neighbouring states but it was 20c hotter when I arrived from Melbourne – and very very humid.

Darwin was a base for the area’s chief natural attractions around it. It was heavily bombed in the second world war and devastated by cyclone Tracy in 1974, so its very much a modern city with little visible past. It sits on an enormous harbour, with fencing around it because of the salt water crocodiles lurking in it. It’s two unmissable attractions were the excellent museum, focusing on indiginous art, cyclone Tracy and the area’s wildlife, and an unfeasibly large but distinctive parliament which you are allowed to wander around at leisure. The afternoon of my arrival and the morning of my departure were enough!

My two-day trip into Kakadu was wonderful. The timing was perfect, with the rainy season ending three weeks before, leaving enough water for the wetlands to be lush and teeming with wildlife. On the first day, we visited the rock art of Nourlangie, which varied in age up to 50,000 years; it’s fascinating trying to interpret these ancient visual stories. We followed this with a terrific cruise on the Yellow Water billabong (my new favourite word!) and into the South Alligator river (named like two others by an Englishman who couldn’t tell his crocodiles from his alligators, which don’t exist here). We came across four crocs – one lady with her gaping mouth giving the boys the come-on, one unusually prostrate on a log, one chilling after a night on the razzle and the scariest who was huge and apppeared to be stalking us. The wonderful birdlife and wetland flora and fauna managed to get a look-in too. I ended the day flying over the vastness of it all in an 8-seater light plane. The ignominy of having to be weighed was compensated for by sitting up front with the pilot (resisting temptation to touch the pedals at my feet or the wheel moving of its own accord in front of me). The huge escarpment between Kakadu and Arnhem Land dominated the views, the tree cover seemed total from the air, but there were a few waterfalls, lots of streams rivers and billabongs(!!!) visible and we could see the fires that were part of the intentional burn-off of dry grasses.

Day Two started early with even more spectacular rock art at Ubirr and a challenging climb up through the rocks, rewarded by spectacular views across the wetlands and over the trees to the escarpment. We followed this with another cruise, this time on the East Alligator river, which forms the border with Arnhem Land at this point. The river crossing (no bridge!) had just opened after the rainy season so fully laden trucks were crossing the river as we set off with our aboriginal guides who explained how they used the nature around them in everyday life. This was more of a cultural cruise (though we saw another croc) and being accompanied by people who lived there we were able to set foot on Arnhem Land without permits. This was a terrific trip and Kakadu is like nowhere else I’ve ever visited.

It was probably impossible for the next two days to live up to that and indeed it was. Katherine Gorge is in fact thirteen gorges carved out by the river of the same name as it travels from Arnhem Land to the Timor Sea. Cruising through two of them was spectacular, but it was a very long journey to get there. The next day to Litchfield NP involved a much shorter journey. The tableland is almost completely wooded, with more termite mounds that you’re likley to see anywhere else. It’s hard to grasp the scale of it, though it made more sense when we stopped at the third of three picturesque waterfalls. This was livestock country, some of which has been given over to the park.

A hot and sweaty but scenically spectacular visit unlike the other three stops or indeed anywhere else. Time to return to Sydney, probably the only other city in the world I could live in – but will I still feel the same after my third visit?…..

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