Jabiru, Kakadu, Billabongs and Rock Paintings
There are several great places in Australia were you can get in touch with your inner aborigine and Kakadu Park is certainly one of them. Kakadu is a place of extremes. Its rugged, really wet and hot or really dry and less hot. There are all kinds of beautiful, but dangerous wildlife. Most importantly, it is filled with remnants of ancient Aborigine culture.
Shortly after landing in Darwin, Australia, we picked up our rental car, bought some groceries and booze and headed east to the cabin awaiting us in Jabiru, Kakadu National Park.
We chose to visit the park in July, right in the heart of the Australian winter which was a good thing. Winter meant that the day time highs would only be in the low 30’s and there was really no chance of rain. The compromise was the ubiquitous controlled burning of the thick underbrush by the locals. The smoke managed to dullen the intense sun and slowly sore the back of your throat.
Kakadu Park is massive so the only way to go about visiting it was to simply drive to one of the many hiking trail starting points and then hike them. We had a full week in the park so in addition to our self-guided tours, there were several other ‘excursions’ offered that we couldn’t possibly do on our own. We signed up for three of them.
One. We took a boat ride down the East Alligator River. It was ironically named as the river was actually full of salt water crocodiles. Our Aboriginal boat man provided awesome entertainment and explanation of the local fauna and customs. He explained how the East Alligator River was the boundary of the National Park and that the land east of the river belonged to the Aboriginals and was definitely off limits to tourists. He told us to stay at least three metres from any water, no matter how small the puddle and then to throw a rock into it before you approached, if you had to approach it. We can say that the biggest croc’s we’d ever seen were spotted in the East Alligator River.
Two. We partook in a one hour airplane tour of the Kakadu park. The plane had 8 seats, pilot, guide and 6 tourists. The first half hour was amazing. The pilot took us over a number of sites that could not have been accessed by car, such as a natural bridge, the northern coast line and a huge open pit uranium mine, the main reason the town to Jabiru even existed. For the second half hour, we focused on not puking our guts out. The combination of the hot aircraft and the turning and bouncing made for a sickening ride. We couldn’t even take any more photos after that point for fear of losing our cookies. We barely made it back to the ground. It kicked our butt. We both spent the entire afternoon sleeping to try to spot our heads spinning.
Three. Barramundi fishing! Due to a case of food poisoning I was unable to recover in time to get on the boat. I couldn’t guarantee that I wouldn’t shit my pants once we got out onto the water and well, I wasn’t going to take that chance. Once on the boat, there was no getting off because of the crocs. Tracy, however, had an awesome experience and managed to catch a few barramundi. The trick was to cast into the shore, beneath the overhanging trees on the shore and not get your hook hung up in those trees because that’s where the fish would strike.
By the end of our week, we had walked just about every walking trail in the park. Generally, they were easy, relatively flat and didn’t take a lot of effort. There was always something worth seeing along the way and at the trail’s terminus. A few even offered climbs to the tops of the rock outcrops and escarpments for some spectacular views. The common denominators of each trail were the craggy rock landscapes.
One of our more memorable walks was to the Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls. The falls were but a trickle during our visit but the pool beneath them was full of blue, clear water. It was possible to swim in the pool, but the emphatic gator warning sings would certainly have made the swim and uneasy one.
Another walk led to an elevated pool of trapped water. The crystal clear water contained fish which seemed so unlikely given its landlocked circumstance.
The real prize in the park was the Nourlangie walks which contained numerous Aborigine rock paintings. Some of the rock paintings were up to 20,000 years old. The best preserved paintings were in caves and on walls under rock overhangs. The predominant colours of the rock art were red, orange and yellow from ochre, black and white. The themes of the art were varied from hunting to characters of religious significance. There were clearly animals, fish, men and then there were the other, odd creatures.
The hunt to find all of rock paintings was equal to the reward of actually enjoying the pictures themselves. The caves and shaded overhangs also offered much needed relief from the sun.
Our week at Kakadu lived up to its billing. We had a wonderful time and took away so many memories to last a lifetime.