It was great to be travelling again after the long stay at Berry Springs; but first, a quick detour to Darwin to have the repaired washing machine put back in and we were then on our way to Kakadu.
The small town of Jabiru is located within the north-eastern section of Kakadu National Park. We arrived on a scorching day, with temperatures in the high 30’s and humidity at saturation-point.
After setting up at the Aurora Kakadu Lodge and Caravan Park, it was off to the lagoon pool for a long cool swim and drink from the poolside bar. Free camping will definitely be off the agenda for the short term as the air-conditioner is a necessity in this heat. The locals back at Berry Springs reckoned the heat of the past week or so flagged an early “build-up”, a period before the wet season that brings high humidity and clouds but no rain. Our planned schedule for the North has been cut short by the seven week layover at Berry Springs, and the days are becoming uncomfortably hot and humid.
Heading into Kakadu, we decided that next up will be a fast trip south. The places we’ll miss out on this time, we’ll catch up on next time around.
Day two in Kakadu saw us setting off early to the Aboriginal rock art at Ubirr, a 40km drive north-east from Jabiru near the East Alligator River and bordering on the Arnhem Land region. The area is extremely rich in Aboriginal rock art that dates back tens of thousands of years. Close to the main gallery is a painting of a Thylacine (Tasmanian Tiger), extinct on the Australian mainland for 2,000 to 3,000 years. The painting would have been done by someone who had actually seen one so it has to be at least that old – just amazing. We did the circular walk to some wonderful rock art sites, and climbed up to the Nadab Lookout with views of the Nadab floodplain and Arnhem Land. This is the grassplains area in the “Crocodile Dundee” movie.
Nearby on the East Alligator River, Cahill’s Crossing provides access from Kakadu on one side to Arnhem Land on the other. The low concrete causeway across the river is a bottleneck for barramundi and mullet, and on the high tide when water just covers the causeway, fish make the shallow crossing upstream or downstream. Every day at high tide, crocs gather to feed on the fish. As well as a couple of Salties lying in wait on the causeway itself, a dozen or more were floating patiently in the water nearby. Di can well and truly tick off “Saltwater Crocodile” (Eighth Tick) on her Animals in the Wild List.
The next day, we made an early start to the rock art sites at Nourlangie, 30kms south, and then on to nearby Anbangbang Billabong to view the birdlife. A visit to the Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre, followed by lunch at the Gagudju Lodge Cooinda and a visit to Yellow Water Billabong for more bird watching finished off a wonderful day for us.
Before going there, we’d asked quite a few fellow travellers whether Kakadu would be worth a visit, as we’d heard the various “Kaka-Do” and “Kaka-Don’t” reviews. But despite the negative opinions, it was a place we just had to see as we knew we’d regret not taking the opportunity. Once we were in Kakadu, we just loved it. “Kaka-Definitely-Do”.
The park is so large that sufficient time is needed to see and appreciate it. A day or two would only provide a superficial and very rushed experience. For example, the 1.5km walk at Nourlangie took us all morning, taking our time to appreciate the scenery and rock art galleries. I noticed many people coming up to the rock art, taking a quick photo and moving on, and wondered how they could do that after travelling so far to see it and then giving no more than a cursory look. Would they really be appreciating that, up to 20,000 years ago, a person had stood in that spot and painted that image on the rock face using ochres and pigments ground by hand in the small depressions still visible in nearby rocks, surrounded by the day-to-day life of their family or tribe? And that for the 20,000 years since then, countless other people have looked at that image and related stories about it and a way of life? To see those ancient images that have survived for millennia on rock faces protected from the elements by overhanging ledges was an amazing experience.
“Travel is the only context in which some people ever look around. If we spent half the energy looking at our own neighbourhoods, we’d probably learn twice as much.”
― Lucy R. Lippard, “On the Beaten Track: Tourism, Art, and Place”