Kakadu – day 313/3

The name ‘Kakadu’ comes from the Gagudju language, spoken by Aboriginal people in the north of the park. Today, the three main languages spoken in the park are Gundjeihmi, Kunwinjku and Jawoyn. Rock shelters, stone tools, grindstones and ochre quarries in Kakadu are reminders that Aboriginal people have lived in this area for over 50,000 years. We don’t speak any of these languages and we only stayed one night at an Aboriginal-owned park. But, what a tough night it was! Woken at 03:00 by the bats in the trees above our ‘tent’, we were exhausted and a bit grumpy when we finally gave up the pretence of sleep and had our first coffee of the morning. The Rangers were out and about washing down cars from all the bat guano and piss and the smell was pretty horrific. Second coffee in our systems, we filled up with petrol, chose the biggest pastries at the bakery and headed down the highway to the first stop. 

Arriving at Nourlangie the sight of this looming outlier of the Arnhem Land escarpment makes it easy to understand its ancient importance to Aboriginal people. Its long red-sandstone bulk, striped in places with orange, white and black, slopes up from surrounding woodland to fall away at one end in stepped cliffs. I planned a walk around the billabong for us before going over to the main site. However, in the car park we saw a trail map that led up the hill to Nawurlandja Lookout so we decided to break up the morning with lookout, lake walk and then main site. Wow, what a view!Sitting on an outcrop of sandstone, finding some unmarked paintings on the way to this viewpoint, we sat as long as possible in the morning sun gazing out at the impressive views. The shade in the trees around the Anbangbang Billabong Walk were lovely and provided a perfect spot to enjoy the pastries from the bakery. The track circles the receding water, with signs showing how close the crocs can get to tourists along the route without them realising. We passed through the paperbark swamp with no hassle and enjoyed the multitude of birds, both native and migratory, that habituate this picturesque area.The name Nourlangie is a corruption of nawulandja, an Aboriginal word that refers to an area bigger than the rock itself. The 2km looped walking track takes you past some of Kakadu’s best-known collection of rock art. With the majority of sites off limits or inaccessible we started at the Anbangbang Shelter, used for 20,000 years as a refuge and canvas. Next was the Anbangbang Gallery, featuring Dreaming characters repainted in the 1960s. The information board at this gallery made it incredibly easy to locate Nabulwinjbulwinj, a dangerous spirit who likes to eat females after banging them on the head with a yam. From there it was a short walk around the base of the cliff and up the hill to Gunwarddehwarde Lookout. Spoiled once again for incredible views of the Arnhem Land escarpment we had to leave again due to the blistering heat. We didn’t see any signs of the wandering buffalo bull that lurks in the area… we like to live dangerously. Tracey at the wheel, we were down to Cooinda and Yellow Water before long, i.e. – blink and we were there. But, it didn’t seem like anyone else was having a picnic in the area so we asked some bus drivers who were waiting for a cruise boat to return. They must have thought us mad for thinking to eat in the area, it is apparently littered with crocs, not just the shy freshies, but the big salties. So, food in the bag, we went looking for ’em. Katherine spotted one off the end of the jetty hanging around for the boat too, possibly for an unruly brat that may be easy pickings (or thrown overboard). The end of the walkway was bloody noisy with a massive flock of Little Corrolla’s perched in every single branch of about three trees (not thirty trees, just three trees). Down the road a bit further we enjoyed lunch in the picnic area of the campground and an ice cream from the shop.  We’re not sure if we were meant to bring our own sheets, they had forgotten to leave them in the dorm room or perhaps a combination of the above. We forgot to ask and went for a swim in the pool instead. Complete nonsense, hysterics and good fun for maybe half an hour and we we cooled off and refreshed. Plus, it washed the feet for the two ninjas who continue to walk in the bush with flip-flops. With little choice available for dinner options in the shop, we treated ourselves to Chicken Snitty. A lovely meal in the bar area, with the Olympics on in the background, the two amigos enjoyed buckets of white wine and I topped up on electrolytes. In the end I payed the piper for needing the loo and traversing the camp ground to pee, praying that I didn’t spot a snake. Anyway, we enjoyed our evening, teased the baby croc in the aquarium with a wooden replica of itself and headed to bed. An assortment of clothes, nod-pods, taking the fourth mattress, sheet and pillow and we tried to get some sleep as we were frozen but exhausted. Monday 15th August 2016

Litchfield – day 311/1

We had previously discussed with our room mates the night before what their plans were for the morning. They didn’t seem to mind/care if we were up early and getting ready for the day. Yet, we felt that with tension still in the room from our comments about being married, we thought it was best to prepare. So, in the tight little bathroom showering and changing, there was little point in saying we were clean, but a bit fresher – the bathroom was disgusting and nothing to do with being a girls only dorm room. But, we finished packing in the tv room with Olympics on in the background and I headed to Coles to get brekkie. The walk to the shop was fine, the walk back was ridiculous, with the sun literally peeking over the top of the buildings in the 30mins I was in there and the heat was intense. The big slab of watermelon was perfect and the warnings still didn’t prepare Katherine for the temperature outside on the way to Thrifty. 
Tracey was like an eager puppy waiting for us, looking out the window of Thrifty as we approached the office. There might even have been some wagging, who’s to know. With hugs all round and excitement bubbling, we were a little deflated when told the car was delayed as they were fixing a puncture in the wheel. The car was getting a thorough inspection due to the long distance journey we were taking and we could all have had another hour in bed. I guarded the bags while the ninja twins went across the road to Coles for snacks, lunch and plenty of water. We spoke to the lady behind the desk for a bit and she kept pronouncing the town of Katherine as ‘Kat-er-eye-n’. We were interrupted and sat down to listen to the very stuck up and pretentious French couple who wanted to return and swap their car for one that didn’t have Thrifty written on the side of the vehicle. We did really well not to burst out laughing and before long we were packing our stuff into our rental and hitting the road. 
Leaving Australia’s only tropical capital city, we were on a ROAD TRIP!!!
Zooming down the road with the speed demon at the wheel (Old Ninja was sticking to the speed limits – they just seem extreme for us from ‘Up Top’ opposed to those ‘Down Under’) we soon reached Litchfield National Park. It may not be as well know as Kakadu, but many locals rate it higher, with a saying ‘Litchfield-do, Kaka-don’t’. The 1,500 sq km national park encloses much of the spectacular Tabletop Range, a wide sandstone plateau mostly surrounded by cliffs. The many waterfalls of the area are a highlight of the park, feeding crystal clear cascades and croc free plunge pools. But before we reached any of these infamous waterways we stopped at the iconic termite mounds. Now, in all the years I’ve watched the magnificent Sir David Attenborough and other nature programs, not once have I read or heard the info that was in the Lonely Planet. The tip of these mounds are the places where they bury the dead. The height of the the mound correlates to the age of the structure but that extra bit of info was cool. Speaking of cool, the structures are perfectly aligned to regulate temperature, catching the morning sun, then allowing the residents to dodge the midday heat, built in a north-south orientation. I’m sure the way they create folds in the mound also helps to cool the structure. While we were all suitable impressed by the size of the Cathedral Termites (aptly named), the GAdventures tour looked like they were fed up and bored, imagine the faces of people sucking on a few lemons. But, more impressive was the boardwalk that brought us out to a field of magnetic termite mounds. It was like a cemetery of tombstones, varying in size and design and a wicked feat of natural engineering. So, we arrive at Buley Rockholes, an area where the water cascades through a series of rock pools that provide the perfect site to simply cool off and relax. But Katherine seemed far from relaxed, tense in a stare off with this guy at a picnic bench. Tracey was ready to say something, while naturally I was too focused on looking for wildlife. Plus, I’m getting better at ignoring stares and pig ignorant people. But, suddenly there was a realisation between the two of them that they did in fact know each other – they worked together in London. It’s a freakishly small world! So after meeting Ben and his girlfriend and all five of us chatting away for a bit, we settled on a sandstone outcrop under some shade and had our lunch. An occasional bit of bread in the quiet pool to attract the fish and we enjoyed the tranquility of the area while still hearing the kids bomb in to the pools.  I didn’t need to navigate to our next destination. Florence Falls is within walking distance but we drove around the corner to maximise our time in the park. A spectacular double waterfall set amidst monsoon rainforest we didn’t descend the 135 steps to the bottom, but admired it from a viewing platform. The echoes of shouting and laughter coming up from the plunge pool faded as we walked back to the car, passing a few trees with low hanging ant nests. Off to Tolmer Falls, it should have been one of the most readily accessible waterfalls of the park. However, they were renovating the walkway during the dry season and we went for a little walk through the bush walk to get to the views. Being sensible and bringing plenty of water for the 2.4km round trip, we thought we might have to part with some of it for the people underestimating the heat and terrain. We did try and warn a few on our return but it fell on deaf ears. But, we were rewarded by our efforts and scout attitude with incredible, beautiful views of the valley. The falls were only small being dry season, but it was still really nice. It would have been cool if we glimpsed any of the elusive bats of the area, but they were probably hiding from the scorching sun. We missed the turn off for Greenant Creek. It wasn’t signposted in the direction we we’re travelling and it was a bit of a concealed entrance. But, it was meant to be. We carried on to Wangi Falls (pronounced ‘Wong-guy’) and decided before even seeing the pool that we were going swimming to cool down. Changing in the first dirty toilets we’ve experienced at a public facility, we were togged off, ignoring the warnings for crocs and splashing about in the crystal waters with water cascading down the rock face in two places. We found a nice spot between the two downpours, sat on the rock, chatted, ignored the whiny ginger kid, convinced Tracey it wasn’t acceptable to steal a noodle to float around and did a few bombs. With beautiful rainforests around the pool and dramatic backdrops we may have spent a considerable amount of time in the shallows reenacting the end scene from a Dirty Dancing and laughing hysterically at our attempts. Not using the free wifi at the site, (why the hell would you want/need wifi in an area like this) we returned towards Batchelor and checked in to Pandanus. Slight panic moment when they didn’t seem to have our booking, the lovely Debbie showed us our cabin and the kitchen facilities. A quick nip in to town before it got dark, we returned with stuff for dinner (severely overpriced) and cooked up a satisfying meal using the hamster dryer (otherwise known as a George Foreman grill) and enjoyed watching Night at the Museum 2. Well, we all started to watch it, only one managed to see it through and turned off tv and lights… yours truly. 

Saturday 13th August 2016