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Down UnderKakadu & Arnhem Land

On 23 August 2004 from Katherine, NT , trackback

Wednesday morning I packed all my stuff in the car and said goodbye to Adina (Peter had already left to work), before meeting David at his hostel. Unfortunately I was only able to find one person to share fuel costs with, but that would have to do. I did not want to spend much time looking for other people, since my flight date seems to approach fast. And despite the fact that David is from London, our ideas about travelling were fairly similar and he knows how to cook, so we have been saving quite some money by camping (sometimes for free) and cooking during the trip.

After shopping for food at Woolworths we drove towards Kakadu National Park. Before the park we stopped at Adelaide River for a jumping croc cruise. On this river the saltwater crocodiles (the nasty ones) actually swim towards boats to get fed. But the meat is hold out in the air, so they have to jump for it. And they do! I saw crocodiles jumping from the water up to one metre in the air. Very spectacular, and I have a few very good photos and videos. After the cruise we checked out some more huge termite mounds, before finding a campsite for the night.

Thursday morning we got up early, viewed the Mamukala Wetlands (Australia being as dry as it is, wetlands are quite unusual and an important feature of Kakadu NP), and checked out the visitors centre. There we decided to make it a day of Aboriginal rock art and hiking, so we drove to Ubirr, did a 9km hike around sandstone formations, creeks and the river. Before driving to the rock art, we got some ice for the esky (coolbox) at the store and I met Lieke there. Australia is a big place, but not big enough not to run into the same people all the time. The Aboriginal rock at Ubirr (and later Nourlangie Rock) is definitely the best I have seen, and some paintings are thousands of years old. Besides rock art, Ubirr has a really good lookout, and we planned to see the sunset there, but could not be bothered to wait more than 3 hours, so we drove on to Nourlangie Rock to see some more rock art. We were just in time for the second ranger talk about Aboriginal culture, which was very interesting. The rock art here was really good, but also really recent (around 1960). In Aboriginal tradition it is not a bad thing to put a new painting over an old one. Before driving to our free campsite, we checked out a billabong (waterhole) and another lookout.

We booked a tour to Jim Jim Falls and Twin Falls on Friday, because the 60km road there is a very rough 4WD track with a deep water crossing on the way to Twin Falls (I heard it was 1m deep). The deep water crossing was the main reason to do a tour (getting stalled in crocodile infested waters does not sound like fun), and additionally we would get to hear about the flora and fauna, and not have to worry about driving rough tracks that might end up costing more in repairs than the tour. We drove to Twin Falls first, where we had to get on a boat for the last bit, because of the saltwater crocodiles in the water. The falls were probably the highest I have seen in Australia. Next we drove to Jim Jim Falls, and it took a decent hike to get there, but the swimming was great (the falls were not flowing unfortunately). All in all it was a pretty relaxed day.

Saturday we drove into Arnhem Land, and every other day of the year it is necessary to get a permit to drive there, because it is Aboriginal owned land. But Saturday happened to be the yearly open day in Oenpelli, with lots of activities going on. We checked out the art store and the school where all the activities centered. After the official opening at noon there did not seem to be much going on however (we had already checked out all the stands before), and it seemed most things were run by white people anyway, and there was even an Asian food stand. So I was getting fairly bored, but the problem was getting back. To get to Arnhem Land it is necessary to cross the East Alligator River, which is impassable during high tide. So we had to wait a while before we could drive through the river, and got back late afternoon. We made a short walk near the river, before heading to the campsite at Yellow Water.

Sunday we checked out the wetlands and the Aboriginal cultural centre at Yellow Water. The rest of the day was driving, hiking and swimming. First we drove the 4WD-only road to Maguk, where the waterfall and plunge pool was refreshing. Then we drove the 4WD-recommended road to Gunlom, another waterfall with plunge pool. We did not swim here though, since there were some more rock pools and small waterfalls at the top of the falls, and those were much better to swim in.

On Monday we started the day with a hike to Motor Car Falls, but it was too early to swim, so we hiked back and drove out of Kakadu NP. On Friday the tour guide had given us the tip to go to Molime Rockhole, just outside Kakadu NP down a 4WD track that was not signposted. So we went there, had the place to ourselves and went for a swim. Afterwards we drove to Edith Falls, where we also hiked to the top of the waterfall for a refreshing swim in the rockholes. It was also the first place where I forgot to take my camera (left it in the car), so annoying. Late afternoon we drove on to Katherine, where we camped at Coco’s. Finally I was able to get 2 litres of Hokey Pokey ice-cream, since there was a freezer and we stayed two nights.

 

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