We said goodbye to Darwin after an 11 month stay and headed to our first destination – Kakadu National Park. We were really excited to see the waterfalls and billabongs and couldn’t wait to get our boots dirty on a few hikes.
The name Kakadu comes from the Aboriginal floodplain language of Gagadju. The Rainbow Serpent, a very important creation being for the Bininj Mungguy people, created most of the landscape, forming habitats and controlling the life cycles of plants and animals.
Kakadu was internationally recognised as a World Heritage area in 1981 for its rock art galleries and archaeological sites, and at nearly 20,000 hectares, it is the largest national park in Australia and second largest park in the world. The traditional owners, the Bininj Mungguy, have been living in Kakadu for more than 50,000 years and are possibly the oldest living culture on earth. The rock within the park could also be the world’s oldest rock, dating back 2,500 million years!
There are approximately 280 species of birds residing in the national park, which is around a third of all bird species in Australia, as well as 2,000 varieties of plants that have been used by the local aboriginals for food and medicine. Crocodiles, or ginga, live within the park and while they are trying to increase the population since the hunting days in the 1960s, Crocodile Management Zones focus on relocating crocodiles so that the area is safe for visitors.
Bark Hut Inn
After a long drive along the highway, we stopped at the Bark Hut Inn for a beer. Lucky for us, they had NT Draught on tap and they were particularly proud of the fact. The Bark Hut Inn is essentially a historical pub that offers accommodation, food and fuel before hitting the national park. It’s also the last stop for alcohol before Kakadu.
The place looks fairly ancient with all the dusty wood and animal heads mounted on the walls but it was erected in the 1970s. There are some old Toyota wrecks dotted around the establishment with plaques providing information on what they were used for. One of them had a specially designed bulbar with a platform for a person to stand on while they tried to lasso wild buffalo! Outside, you can check out the enclosed emus and buffalo while inside, they have a pet snake and turtle.
After a schooner and a wander around the place, we continued to the Kakadu Information Bay at the entrance of the park. We planned to sleep at Two Mile Creek but the gates were closed so we returned to the information bay for the night.
Our first stop for the morning was the Mamukala wetlands. There were beautiful pink lilies, a few ducks on the water and the sound of magpie geese in the distance. The water seemed to go on forever and the view was really lovely.
The lady at the information centre was friendly and informative but it wasn’t all good news for us – a lot of the attractions were closed due to impassable river crossings or they hadn’t been cleared of crocodiles. Apparently, the start of the Dry Season is not the best time of the year to come. Even though the weather is great, you still have to wait until June for evething to open. What this meant for us is that we missed out on Ubirr, Jim Jim Falls, Twin Falls and Gunlom. Poopy…
Jabiru is a small and simple town with a small shopping complex that consists of a supermarket that sells everything, a Westpac branch, post office, newsagency, a café and council offices. The Kakadu Bakery is around the corner and sells pies stuffed with buffalo, roo or croc, and there is a lake at the edge of town with a playground and BBQs.
The Crocodile Hotel is also in Jabiru – an enormous building shaped like a crocodile, and phone reception is available with all networks.
Our first camp spot in Kakadu, and we were inundated with mozzies. We shouldn’t have been surprised considering that the site is next to a lagoon, but at least it was quiet and the birdlife was lovely.
The Malabanjbanjdju camping area has heaps of space, drop toilets, picnic benches and fire places and is $5 per person per night.
We had a bit of a rusty start – forgetting our hats, and being completely disorganised for our first hike in a long time. We completed a lovely 3km walk through grassland and great scenery to cross a bridge and arrive at a fork in the road. One clearly leads to the pools, which were clear and cool and more than welcome for a quick refreshing wash. Tiny frogs and St Andrews Cross spiders were clearly visible in the area but we were conscious that there could be freshwater crocodiles as well. As we rested by the waterhole, a monitor lizard sunned himself on a rock.
We returned to the fork in the road and followed the unmarked path to shaded waterfall.
This lookout took us up a long rocky ramp to a beautiful view of the escarpment. This is one of our favourite lookouts and reminded us of Cave Hill in Western Australia.
The Anbangbang gallery is a popular location that exhibits Aboriginal rock art. It’s an easy 1.5km loop with wheelchair access in some parts and includes a lookout. The Nourlangie region consists of two areas. Burrunggui is the name for the higher parts and Anbangbang is the name of the lower areas. The rock shelters in the Nourlangie area have been used by Aboriginal people for the last 20,000 years.
At the lookout, there’s a fork in the path to begin the Barrk walking trail. Barrk means male black wallaroo and the walking track is a 12km circular loop that includes walking through bushland, gullies, and climbing rocky ridges to see various galleries along the way. It’s an area that Ludwig Leichhardt passed through in 1845 and this history is reflected in the artwork. We did a short stint of the Barrk walk to a small creek to refresh ourselves.
This was a very steep 2km climb to a lookout structure that was partially obscured by trees. Signs at the top pointed out landmarks in the distance. We stayed long enough to catch our breath before returning to the Troopy.
Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre
This was a quick stop to check out what was on offer. There was an interesting exhibition inside about the aboriginals who live in this country, as well as a souvenir shop, kiosk and toilets.
We learnt how they cooked wallaroos, and that they thought flying foxes apparently taste good. We also learnt about the buffalo farming industry, message sticks and different types of spears.
As we continued south west along the highway, we crossed Jim Jim Creek and saw a crocodile in the water below!
We camped at Gungurul and did the lookout walk at sunset. It’s a fair climb to the top with great views all the way around. Juz’s keen eye spotted a cute little legless lizard catching the last few rays of sunlight on a rock.
The Gungurul camping area has limited spaces, with drop toilets, picnic chairs and fire places and is $5 per person per night.