Kakadu National Park
Story and Pictures by Keith Kellett.
In retrospect, maybe it would have been better to spend two or three days in the Kakadu National Park that to just take a day trip, for it’s a long coach ride from Darwin. But, the driver/guide was fairly talkative, and we gleaned some useful facts on the journey. We would be able to tell a wallaby from a kangaroo, because, he said, there are no kangaroos hereabouts.
In fact, when we stopped for a coffee and a ‘pit-stop’ at the remote Bark Hut Inn, we saw wallabies grazing unconcernedly in the paddock on the far side of the road.
Before we got to the wetlands of Kakadu, our first call was at Nourlangie Rock. This looked extremely familiar. I believe it featured in the film ‘Crocodile Dundee II’; indeed, much of the Crocodile Dundee series was filmed in the Park.
But, we’re not going to see any crocodiles just yet. Nourlangie is high and dry, far above the water, and is home to a gallery of Aboriginal paintings on the cliff face; some ancient; some done fairly recently … certainly, within the lifetime of us older folks.
We’d picked the best time of the year to visit; the season known as the ‘run off’, the period after the ‘Wet’. After lunch, we took the Yellow Water Cruise. To get to the boats, we transferred to smaller minibuses, because the road to the landing stage was still flooded. However, the sturdy little minibuses had no difficulty fording it.
Fortunately, the boats were moored to a pontoon, so we were able to transfer from the buses to the boats dryshod. What a cruise! We saw lilies, egrets, darters (a water bird, similar to the cormorant) and crocodiles!
But, they weren’t the dreaded saltwater crocodile which, despite its name, is quite happy in fresh water, too. These were freshwater crocodiles, which, they say, aren’t harmful to humans. Nevertheless, nobody was game to dip a hand in the water!
We cruised down Yellow Water, and into JimJim Creek. Everywhere, there were floating pads of water lilies and trees, most of which carried a distinct ‘tide mark’ to show where the waters came in the wet season.
And, every time I saw a floating log, I thought it was a crocodile. The ranger said it was better than seeing a crocodile and thinking it was a log, as so many animals … and people … have done, usually with fatal results, in the past.
The Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre, with which we rounded off the visit, was a bit of a disappointment. There were plenty of artefacts and pictures, with comprehensive explanations about what was on show. But, something was missing; the Aborigines are great story-tellers. A lot of what they tell about must not be discussed outside the tribe, but surely there’s something they’re allowed to share with us?
There’s certainly a lot to see at Kakadu; even a week doesn’t seem long enough to devote to it. But, sadly, we could only spend a day there. We had a train to catch!