I am covered in mosquito bites, despite smothering myself with repellent. I wonder was it worth it? Was it what I expected?
No it wasn’t the wilderness I expected. It is interesting. I can see the diversity and appreciate the cultural significance for the indigenous people, but it seems subdued. The fire management policy of patchwork burning has created a landscape of alternating scorched earth and blackened trees to other areas of fresh, green growth. In my mind’s eye I could imagine the new growth in a few years would be thick, rampant and jungle-like, but it is not allowed to run wild and unfettered, it is now controlled into submission. I know this has to be done and it is following the way the Aboriginal people have managed their environment for tens of thousands of years. 80% of Kakadu is Savanna Woodlands and the grass grows thick and lush in the wet season. If left it would become a serious fire hazard in the dry and wild, uncontrollable fires would rage through the country.
The unburnt areas are beautiful…
Evening light filtering through the gum trees
Kakadu Savanna Woodlands
We came in from the Southern end and this is mostly Savanna Woodlands. We camped at the basic bush camps, toilet and solar heated showers. Being the dry season it was quite dusty but only $10 per person so for budget travellers it had every thing we needed. We have a portable solar panel to supply our own power, and it is always sunny with not a cloud in the sky. One thing we did miss and that was the internet connection…
We can even have a camp fire as fire grates are provided and there is plenty of dead wood around. This was the first time this trip that “one match Jack” had been in action…
One match Jack strikes again
Camp fire meditation
By day 3 we had moved further into Kakadu. This is one of the largest parks in Australia and covers nearly 20,000 square kilometres. Within this vast landscape there are 6 main landforms and the habitats in each is distinctively different and quite unique. We passed through the floodplains and billabongs and the bird life is amazing.
By now I had become used to the patchwork burning and accepted it as part of the Kakadu scenery. As we crossed bridges across the mighty South Alligator River and it’s tributaries, we would stop to marvel at the beauty of the waterways and the reflections and, of course, the birds. The South Alligator River is one of the only rivers in the world that is totally enclosed, and therefore protected, in a National Park. The other creäture it is famous for is the huge salt water crocodile. We have not spotted any as yet, but when you walk close to a river, stream or billabong you are on high alert watching for any signs and of course not getting too close to any swampy areas…
White Heron waiting for breakfast
South Alligator river
Monsoon forest area reflections on the South Alligator river
The park is very well maintained and plenty of walks and tracks that can be followed. They cater for all levels of fitness and age.
20 years ago we had visited Kakadu and the most outstanding memory from that trip was going to Gunlom Falls. We walked the very steep one kilometre track to the top of the waterfall and swam and floated in the pristine mountain stream and connecting pools leading to the edge of the falls. I remember being watched by a large water dragon basking on the rocks. We sat and dried off on the smooth, sun-warmed rocks right on the edge of the drop down to the plunge pool many metres below. Later we swam in that plunge pool and small, iridescent blue bee-eater kingfishers darted and dived above us flashing like jewels in a crown. It was a magic moment.
A large goanna, the size of a fox terrier dog, ambled around the camp as we ate dinner. The ranger said he was called Charlie and not to feed him. That night, as we sat under the stars, the ranger gave a slide show about the flora and fauna of kakadu. As we lay in the hire van we could hear dingoes howling in the distance. Hearing a rustle we looked out the van window to see 2 dingoes checking around the BBQ areas. It was a surreal experience.
( when I get back home I will post some old-fashioned prints from that trip, on my memories blog, to compare them with this time…)
Back to the present: I was looking forward to Gunlom, but it wasn’t to be, the 36 kilometre track was only recommended for 4WD vehicles as it had not been graded this year and was very corrugated. Some said “you can do it, just go slow”. Matilda is at 14 years old, a middle-aged lady and has to last us many more miles as wheels, accommodation and travel companion, so, reluctantly, we missed Gunlom this time.
Now we are up to day 5 and have come in to the small township of Jabiru. We are staying in Kakadu Lodge caravan Park and it is very civilised. Power, shady grass sites, internet, swimming pool, even a bar/bistro with entertainment tonight. So we are going to have a meal over there and chill out for a couple of days before the next part of Kakadu which will be moving into the stone country and exploring the Aboriginal art work sites and culture.