Day 168: Way Outback… Heading for Kakadu

You may have noticed that in my posts about this ten day tour that I haven’t yet included the details of the tour company.

With three transport/vehicle problems so far, I thought I’d wait and see how things progressed.

The tour guides are fabulous and the tours have been incredible experiences but the vehicles have not been terribly reliable – air conditioning failure, repeated breakdown, axle snapping on a trailer.

The company could do with improving its fleet as it is the people at the front end – the guides – who end up having to deal with criticism from passengers.

This morning’s adventure started with more of the same vehicular malfunctions.

Nella, Simon and I were out bright and early for out 6.20am pick up and we met the six people awaiting the 6am start.

Every other tour had started BANG on time.

By 6.45am, with no sign of any trucks, and having called the office number but unable to even leave a message, I was beginning to wonder if the company had gone bust.

Have I mentioned that I am a pessimist?

It’s a good way to live. You’re either proved right or, more often than not, pleasantly surprised.

At 6.50am, Mon appeared with a bus… but which trip was the bus for? The Stuart Highway Roadtrip to Alice Springs or our trip to Kakadu?

It was ours! Result!

Mon apologised and explained that another bus had broken down and the Alice Springs group were going to be really delayed in their departure.

We had another eleven people joining us so it wouldn’t be only the three of us on this trip. We would be covering around 600 miles.

We were on our way to Kakadu, a National Park that covers around 15,000 square miles – half the size of Switzerland.

The land that Kakadu covers was known as ‘Sickness Country’ by the Indigenous Peoples – referring to the land’s sensitivity rather than it being a disease causing area.

It was contested for decades.

Gold and then uranium were mined here. The uranium mine now supplies three power stations, one in Singapore.

The land was finally returned, despite offers of substantial financial compensation, to the traditional owners – the Indigenous Peoples – in 1996 and the National Park was created.

It was going to be an extremely hot day so walks would be very short and swimming would feature heavily. Yes, in answer to my Stepdad who is no doubt sputtering his tea out – we would be swimming AGAIN.

As we headed out of Darwin, Mon chatted about various sights and landmarks – World War Two Airstrips, the new Stuart Highway constructed in 1981 and the dinosaur model from Jurassic Park next to the construction site on the city’s outskirts. As you do.

We soon joined the Arnhem Highway heading directly for Kakadu.

The Northern Territory doesn’t have many of the ‘traditional’ Australian animals as it is too hot and too humid. For example, it’s wallabies or walleroos rather than kangaroos and no wombats, koalas or platypus.

There are plenty of snakes though, many of them poisonous. Bloody marvellous.

We paused crossing the Adelaide River to look for crocodiles, but only saw a logodile – a log floating in the water.

The Adelaide River Floodplain is an area, Mon told us, where we didn’t want to break down and if you do… sit on the roof of the car.

The water means there are a lot if crocodiles and it has the densest population of snakes on the planet.

First stop Corroboree… the essential coffee pit stop and a chance to say hello to Anna the albino water buffalo, a couple of pigs…

…and of course Brutus the resident saltwater crocodile.

We also met a man who changed his name by deed pole to Caveman.

We had been driving for a couple of hours, regularly seeing wallabies and at one point, a group of three emus running along the roadside.

Mon told us about the rules of the National Parks in not taking away stones or feathers – to do so is cursed. The Alice Springs Post Office is busy with rocks being returned to Uluru as people have started to associate their bad luck with souvenirs they have taken away.

Staff at Port Arthur had similar stories of people either feeling guilty at their theft or experiencing misfortune.

We crossed into the South Alligator River area and I had thought it was an odd name in a country where there are no alligators.

It was a mistake. The lizards spotted here by early explorers were thought to be alligators… so the name went into books and maps.

The ‘alligators’ were actually saltwater crocodiles but nobody could be bothered to correct the error and the name stuck.

Our walk took us around Anbangbang where there are some beautiful Aboriginal cave paintings, ranging from less than 300 to over 500 years old.

The paintings always served a purpose – either as a warning, to provide guidance on the rules of the local population or to teach others the skills they needed.

One of the designs was essentially a warning about an evil figure and visitors are asked not to take photographs in case his spirit escapes and is spread through the imagery.

This being punished young people who do not follow their elders instructions. The worst punishment is reserved for girls rather than boys.

What a surprise.

The views around the cliffs were amazing. The breeze was even more appreciated.

We were camping in a resort at Cooinda.

More of those tents with beds in. My kinda camping. And fans… yes there were fans to create some cooling.

At the pool, I met a frog whisperer.

This nine year old girl, Lex had made it her mission to rescue the tree frog that was doing laps of the pool in at attempt to get out.

Everytime she helped him out he jumped back in.

Lex was telling me about her pets. One of her guinea pigs had died but they were getting another one.

“We are not getting another guinea pig, Lex,” called her mother sitting on the other side of the pool.

The family were down to enjoy some ‘cooler temperatures than they would experience in Darwin’ and Dad told us about helping to prepare a saltwater crocodile for shipping to Germany.

This had involved heavy sedation of the animal and a pedicure and dental hygiene job to clean the algae from its teeth and claws.

He’s an estate agent. He just likes doing this for fun.

A lightning storm started in the evening, far off in the distance, after dinner. There were several expressed hopes that it would bring a downpour and lower temperatures.

I was also wondering if we would meet Ernie the semi tame dingo that lives on site. That would be great as long as he didn’t steal anyone’s shoes…

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