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ReportsWednesday, 19 June 2002
--> Kakadu National Park 3 day Safari (day 1) It was Ed Turner who had invited me through email to join on one of the tour of AussieOverlanders in Darwin. It ended up that I was going along in a 3-days safari tour through the Kakadu National Park, located east of Darwin, in the Top End of Australia.
The Kakadu National Park is the largest national park in Australia, with an area of almost 20,000 square kilometres (half the size of The Netherlands) and includes the traditional lands of a number of Aboriginal clan groups.
Enjoy the photographs of this first day. There are 38 photos on this page. Please let them all load before clicking on one of them. In case they don't all load, right-click on your mouse and select 'show/load picture' from the menu.
The Kakadu National Park is home to many Aboriginal people. As in most cultures, the local Bininj/Mungguy culture has its own set of social behaviours and customs, which are considered good manners. For example, traditionally Bininj/Mungguy do not greet each other every time they meet. They also appreciate privacy. It is good manners not to enter their living areas and not to take photographs without their permission. Some Bininj/Mungguy find constant eye contact uncomfortable.
The woodlands make up nearly eighty percent of the park, at first glance they seem lifeless and monotonous, however I fancied watching a wild pig crossing the road, see a couple of wallabies and I discovered a crocodile track in the coming days.
In the south of the park, hills and broken ridgelines are the results of millions of years of erosion. By walking on these rocks I couldn’t help realizing again how old our earth is.
Sandstone escarpments of the Arnhem Land Plateau dominate the east of Kakadu. It ranges up to 300 metres and that plateau goes on for hundreds of kilometres.
At 6am I woke up this morning, after sleeping in a swag on the office floor of the Turners. Together with the other passengers: a teacher couple Kenneth & Eva from Sweden, the love birds Marco and Nicole from Switzerland, Manuela from Switzerland and Maya from Maryland, USA, we all drove to Kakadu around 7am in the morning.
Our first stop was for a private boat cruise on the Adelaide River where I saw a few nice hungry saltwater crocodiles (know that the fresh water crocodiles are harmless to humans!). The boatman that sailed us on this tidal river just out of Kakadu and Ed Turner fed the crocodiles with little pieces of buffalo meat on a rope. Believe me, those crocy's are fast!
Along the road from the Adelaide River we drove through the entrance of the National Park, where Ed paid the 16$ entry fee for me, and I noticed lots of bush fires along the road.
Fire has been such an important part of Aboriginal life for thousands of years. It was used to signal others and is still used to ‘clean’ the country before the hot dry weather comes in. Hereby I have to explain that the Aboriginal people don’t have four seasons, like us, but six: 1) The cold weather season – June, July; 2) Hot dry season – until October; 3) the pre-monsoon storm season; 4) monsoon season; 5) storm season. (It makes us with our four seasons pretty simple people, doesn't it?)
Our second stop today was at the Mamukala wetlands, where we were given an excellent view on a platform, overlooking the bird life on the wetlands. A mural behind us illustrated the seasonal changes that occur through the year, as the Aboriginals live it. It was at this spot where Ed prepared our lunch with bread, paprika, cucumber, cold meat, and salad etcetera.
Half the first day had already passed as we arrived at Ubirr (Oo-beerr), all the way in the east of the National Park, which was quite a drive in the 4WD-truck with Ed as our driver and tour guide. Ubirr is a sacred Aboriginal piece of land. We walked along a 1-km track past several fascinating Aboriginal rock art.
Ed taught me some new things about the Aboriginal culture. They always had a very strong oral language, however they weren't really skilled in historic counting or writing. The only things they left were paintings on rocks.
It's interesting to actually see how time had passed on, by just looking at the paintings. If they have spears in it, they are very old. If they have tropical fish in them, they are more recent, because there wasn't an ocean up north Australia in the far far history. And suddenly there was this white puppet; the first white European had arrived. And even they were painted on the rocks!
A 250 m high climb took us to the top of a rocky lookout, the actual Ubirr Rock, where we got ourselves some superb views over the Nardab floodplain and the higher plateaus in the distance. That is a place to just sit down, sip from your water bottle, enjoy the weather and get crazy of the panorama.
It was at this spot where I got great memories from my stay near the Kruger National Park in South Africa. It all looked the same, and of course just like in the animated film The Lion King. I just had to ask Ed Turner, who used to be a geologist and gold explorer in Western Australia, why there is not that much wild life as in South Africa.
He gave me some good explanations. First of all, all continents have always been floating around, bumping into each other and being separated again. Australia has been connected with Antarctica billions of years ago and was far away from the African wild life continent.
And with what Australia subsists of, is mainly rock. See it as a big layer of just rock and dust and sat and everything that that creates. So what lives in Australia can't be elephants or giraffes or lions. It's just not fertile enough for them. That explains the many eucalypt trees in Australia; they only need a little bit of water and won't need much nutrition from the soil.
The emptiness of the Australian soil created this unique species of animals, some still to be discovered also. There are plants in Australia that cannot be found anywhere else. Now that was a good school subject for me this afternoon, I didn't know most of that information.
On our way to our last attraction for the day, we stopped the car along the road in the park to collect firewood for tonight's campfire. It was very simple; we just gathered the pieces of dry wood spread around everywhere!
Our last stop was the Nawurlandja lookout. It actually is a 600 m climb up a steep slope, quite a walk, but it offered us an amazing sunset as you can see on the photographs. This was really beautiful. While fumes of bushfires were browning the sky a bit and the sun disappeared amidst this brown-orange glow.
(For movie freaks: behind this rock, in the Anbangbang billabong (billabong is a natural "nsleeping detour" of a river), the recordings of the first Crocodile Dundee movie seem to have taken place)
For tonights camping spot Ed selected the Sandy Billabong, where we set up our mozzie tents and rolled out our swags and sleepingbags. This is camping Aussie Style! Ed made a fire and as it got pretty dark, the fire was all we needed.
Away from streaming water, away from television or Internet, away from civilisation with microwaves and beeping mobile phones, I felt very very comfortable out here. Even though everybody is totally covered by insect repellent and the smell of citronella is surrounding the entire gang…
The girls prepared dinner and Ed was our Chef as we ate veggies and chicken around the fireplace, enjoying the warmth it offered. This was my first official camp out in my first 14 months of Letmestayforaday.com. And I love it!
Good night Kakadu!