Darwin and Kakadu

From Cairns we flew to Darwin. A city which is highly modern in places and more like a Texan town in others, but a city that still obviously bears the scars of Australia’s past, with drunken Aborigines on many of the street corners. From Darwin we drove to Kakadu National Park, a mystical land of ancient rock formations, arid plains and bountiful wetlands. It is home to over 280 different species of birds (one third of all of Australia’s bird species) and has a ‘croc-ulation density’ of one crocodile to every 2 square km. In October Kakadu is at the end of the dry season and the intense heat, arid rocky landscapes and burnt red soil is more representative of the stereotypical Australia pictured in travel brochures. Aboriginal people have lived here for 25,000 years and there are hundreds of Aborginal rock paintings across the national park. We stayed in Jabiru and it took a couple of days to acclimatise to the sweltering heat (opening the car door was like stepping into a fan oven!) On our second day the temperature was a very sweaty 44 degrees and by the evening it dropped to a ‘cool’ 37 degrees. We visited the Nourlangie rock art site and rock shelter, which has some of the best rock art in Kakadu. The heat and the flies were so intense that we had to make a hasty retreat to the car for our lunch and then cover our heads from the flies for the rest of the walk. In the afternoon we went to the Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre (which thankfully had air conditioning!), the Anbangbang Billabong and then to the Yellow River where we saw lots of interesting wetland birds. On the way back to Jabiru we listened to the only available radio station-ABC Darwin- which had an Alan Partridge style DJ, who made their solitary caller for a competition (who we think was also possibly the only other listener!) repeat the answer for the question just because he forgot to use his applause sound effect button! Interestingly though the DJ said that it was so hot that even the locals aren’t going out at the moment!
Today we went to Ubirr (pronounced oo-beer, which is generally what Alex says when walking past a pub). We saw some more impressive Aboriginal rock art and climbed to an amazing lookout point with 360 degree views of Kakadu and the Arnhem Land. The surrounding roads were still smouldering from last night’s bush fires and we also saw some brumbies (wild horses) sheltering in the trees on our way. We did a forest walk at Manngarre, where we walked under a canopy full with hundreds of flying foxes hanging from the trees. We also saw lots of birds and butterflies. As the path snaked closely to the river we heard a big splash and then saw a big crocodile about 6 meters down a steep bank from where we were standing. We walked cautiously along the path and saw another 3 big crocodiles in the river close by. It’s one thing seeing crocodiles from the safety of a boat whilst on an organised trip, but being on your own in the wild, a few meters away with no barriers is a very different experience! Tomorrow will be our last day in Australia and tomorrow night we will fly to Indonesia, where the ‘real’ travelling will begin…

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