Kakadu National Park

Experience : Kakadu National Park – Part 1

Kakadu National Park

 

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.

 

DAY 1

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.

 

DAY 2

Mamukala

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.

 

Kakadu National Park

 

Visitor Centre

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 - Kakadu National Park

 

Jabiru

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.

 

Crocodile Hotel - Kakadu National Park

 

Malabanjbanjdju

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.

 

DAY 3

Gubara

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.

 

Kakadu National Park

 

Nawurlandja

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.

 

 

Nourlangie (Burrunggui)

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.

 

 

Mirrai Lookout

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.

 

Kakadu National Park

 

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!

 

Gungurul

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.

 

Kakadu National Park

 

Experience : Kakadu National Park – Part 2

Marble Bar

Experience : Marble Bar

When we left Port Hedland, we decided to take a detour to Marble Bar on our way to Broome.  After driving way past sunset, we arrived at Des Streckfuss Rest Area, and stayed the night.  First thing in the morning, we got back on the road and arrived in town just after 7am.

 

Marble Bar is an isolated pioneer town that was established during the Pilbara gold rush days of the late 1880s.  When gold was found in 1891, the settlement grew and two years later, Marble Bar was declared a town.  Marble Bar is also known as the hottest town in Australia because during the summer of 1923-24, the temperature did not drop below 37.8 degrees (100 degrees Fahrenheit) for 161 consecutive days.

 

In town, there is a caravan park, government houses, and the Ironclad Hotel, which was named by American miners after the ironclad boats that used to travel up and down the Mississippi River during the Civil War.

 

Marble Bar Pool

The huge deposit of colourful rock alongside the Coongan River is what gave the town its name.  It was initially believed to be marble, but was later found to be jasper.  If you splash some water on it, you can see its true colours.

 

 

Chinaman Pool

A little further down the Coongan River is Chinaman Pool, a nice place for a dip and to watch the rich bird life.  There were cranes, cormorants, soaring eagles, rainbow bee eaters and noisy corellas!  Each time they did a circuit of the area, more corellas would come until there was a flock of hundreds – the noise was tremendous!

 

 

There is a great grassed area that’s perfect for kicking a footy around with your mates, and while there is a sheltered picnic bench, a BBQ and toilet facilities would make the area ideal for a day out with family and friends.

 

 

The road back to the highway crossed the De Grey River.  When we arrived at the banks, we were surprised to see the river flowing and were excited about our first river crossing.  Juz noticed the sound of budgies and saw the cute little green birds fluttering amongst the trees.

 

 

The Man from Marble Bar by Victor Courtney

Satan sat by the fires of Hell

As from endless time he’d sat,

And he sniffed great draughts of brimstone’s smell

That came as the tongue-flame spat;

 

Then all at once the devil looked stern

For there in the depths of Hell

Was a fellow whom never a flame could burn

Or goad to an anguished yell;

 

So Satan stalked to the lonely scene

And growled with a stormy brow,

‘Now stranger, tell me what does this mean?

You should be well scorched by now.’

 

But the chappie replied with a laugh quite new;

‘This place is too cold by far

Just chuck on an extra log or two

I’ve come from Marble Bar’

 

Sunset over our campsite

Camping : Narrung

After conquering the Coonawarra Wine Region, we awoke early the next day and drove two hours from a rest area just north of Kingston SE to Narrung Jetty Reserve, a free camping area by the ferry that ushers cars over the water between Lake Alexandrina and Lake Albert.

 

We arrived just before midday and set up camp.  There were toilets, a tap that produced non-drinkable water, a sheltered picnic bench and fireplaces scattered around the area. We also had neighbours – a pair of grey nomads that had been travelling around the country for the last 18 months and still had another 18 months to go.  They had the complete set up – caravan with griller and stove, double bed, TV and CD player, toilet and shower, and banana bread baking in their FlavourWave oven. Of course, all of this was powered by a noisy generator.  They even had their cat with them – a gorgeous tortoiseshell kitty that lazed about in the hot sun.

 

 

It was a scorcher of a day but we were still curious to explore the area.  The birdlife that surrounded the jetty and ferry was dynamic, with cormorants and silver gulls sunning and preening themselves and the giant pelicans soaring above or skimming the water of Lake Alexandrina in search of a tasty morsel.

 

There were a few boats moored by the ferry – fishing boats that would leave first thing in the morning and return in the afternoon.  Apparently, all they would catch is carp. The ferry is a 24hr service that connects the northern and southern ends of Poltalloch Road.  We hitched a ride to the other side to check out the lighthouse on the hill.

 

 

The Point Malcolm Lighthouse is the smallest lighthouse and only inland lighthouse in Australia.  It was operational between 1878 and 1931 to mark the narrow passage between Lake Alexandrina and Lake Albert, the passage that the ferry crosses.  The area was used frequently in the 1800s by fishing boats, sailing vessels and paddle steamers from the Murray River.  In 1931, the lighthouse was replaced with a light on a pole to guide commercial and recreational traffic on the lakes.

 

On the way back to camp, we purchased a huge bag of firewood from the ferry operator for only $5.   We stayed in Narrung for two days, enjoying the lack of reception and the quiet, whist loathing the flies.  One of the highlights of our lazy days was a visit from a shingleback lizard that decided that the best way to get from A to B was through our camp.

 

 

The nearest town is the aboriginal community of Raukkan.  It was established in 1982 (before then, the area was called Port McLeay) and is administered by the Ngarrindjeri people, has a population of about 120 people and is the birthplace of David Unaipon, the guy who is on the $50 note.  He was a preacher, inventor and was the first Aboriginal man to publish in English, writing for newspapers and magazines like the Sydney Daily Telegraph.