Where are we now?

Where are we now?
Where are we now? Tahmoor, NSW. Updated 7th December 2011

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Day 167. Malabanijbanjdju, Kakadu

You should always give way at Crocodile crossings….

It was a hot sticky night, and the mozzies had to be seen (or more precisely heard) to be believed! You hear all the good things about visiting a place like Kakadu, but no one ever mentions the bad side. Bec and Scarlett have been bitten a million times over since we entered Kakadu; even though they both wear ’50-10’ coats of insect repellent. They use both cream and spray on, as well as using mozzie coils and spraying the van every night before we go to bed! The buggers are unbelievable. There must be every species known to mankind here; including the deep drilling kind that pierce your skin through your clothing and draw blood – leaving little blood stains all over your clothes! I’ve been bitten too many times to count, but nowhere near as much as my two girls (and I hardly ever use any insect repellent at all).

Bec and Scarlett on top of Ubirr Rock overlooking the floodplains

Today we are off to Ubirr – in the far north of Kakadu that borders Arnhem Land. We stopped off at Jabiru to get some supplies at the local bakery (lunch), before continuing on our journey into the unknown. As we headed north through all the floodplains, Bec spotted a large black feral pig in the distance. Unfortunately we were travelling to fast to get a photo. (If only I had a .308 with me).

Shane and Scarlett entering the Monsoon Rainforest

First stop was the Cahill’s crossing; which is the main access point for Arnhem Land. We parked here and decided to tackle Manngarre walk; a short 1.5km walk through monsoon rainforest along the edge of the East Alligator River. It didn’t take long and we spotted our first ‘Salty’ basking in the sun on a mud bank on the opposite side of the river. We were all very excited about this first sighting; and couldn’t wait to continue exploring. Soon, we came to a diversion in the track that said “Women Only”. I soon discovered that I couldn’t continue with Bec and Scarlett on the longer walk as it is “Secret Women’s Business”, and no men are allowed along this part of the track. So we went our separate ways, and I met up with the girls about 10 minutes later where the two tracks rejoined. Bec explained that there were signs explaining that this part of the river is where the Rainbow Serpent rested, and because of this it is a sacred site for women only. Fair enough – I can respect the local beliefs.

'Old man Croc'

After our walk we dropped into the ‘Border Store’; where we spent about an hour watching some local aboriginal men paint on bark out the front. The work was amazing, and even Scarlett was spellbound by their workmanship. (She was that impressed that the only way we could talk her into leaving was that we would do our own ‘Aboriginal Paintings’ when we returned to the van). Bec fell in love with one piece of art, which she bought straight from the artist – Wilfred. There is nothing like buying art straight from the artist; as it removes the middle man. Thanks Wilfred – a genuine painting from a very talented Arnhem Land Aborigine. (Let’s just say that the price was less than 1/3rd of what the shop was asking for similar works).

Rebecca & Wilfred; with the artwork Bec bought from him

We had a bite to eat, and then went up to look at the Ubirr rock art sites. The artwork was amazing; with the main theme being fishing and hunting. The locals believe that some of the artwork has even been done by 'mimi' spirits.

We also climbed to the top of the rock outcrop to check out the scenery below. The views were astounding, as we had a full 360deg view of the surrounding floodplains, and escarpments overlooking Kakadu and Arnhem Land. This part of the country really gets to you, and the people are the genuine article. I wish we had more time to explore here, as I would love to see the more remote parts of Arnhem Land. Unfortunately you need a permit to do so, and I just don’t have the time to apply for one. If anything, it is a great excuse to return up here to see more of this remote north of Australia sometime in the future.

Climbing to the top of the rock outcrop

Before returning to camp, we wanted to ‘cross’ Cahill’s crossing so that we could say that we had stepped foot on ‘Arnhem Land’. So down to the crossing we went, and you wouldn’t believe what greeted us? As we entered the water (that was up to our headlights and doors), I looked out my window and there was a 4 metre crocodile swimming beside me!

Bec couldn’t move quick enough to grab the camera; and Scarlett absolutely loved all the action! Just as the croc came level with my door window, it sank beneath the water and out of view. The photos really don’t do the experience or encounter any justice, as it was definitely one of those moments in your life that you know you will never ever get the experience to do again.

Now this is the wild Kakadu I wanted to see!

The offending Croc back down at the crossing

On the way back to our campsite, we spotted a dingo near the road going through someone’s rubbish that they had thrown out their car window, Tosser! Unfortunately we have seen a fair bit of rubbish being left lying around – mainly from backpackers. Even this afternoon when we returned to the van, our ‘campground’ was littered with rubbish; and only in all the area’s where the backpackers had been camped. It’s just lazy; as there are bins provided and the rangers empty them daily. So I did a walk around this afternoon and picked up all the offending rubbish and placed it in the bin. Last thing I want is Scarlett playing in a campground covered in crap!

Returning back to Kakadu from Arnhem Land

This afternoon, Bec broke out Scarlett’s paint set and we all went for a walk around the billabong looking for some paperbark; the material that would be used as the canvas for our afternoon’s project – Aboriginal Painting! Well I don’t quite know what to say, but our ‘art work’ is a poor substitute for the real thing. We all had fun doing it, and it was a great way of spending some quality time as a family.

Tomorrow we say ‘Boh Boh’ (pronounced bor bor) or ‘goodbye’ to Kakadu. (Boh Boh is the local Bininj/Mungguy aboriginal word for goodbye). I know we haven’t seen half of what there is to see here in Kakadu, but we’ve had a great time none the less.

We’ve met a number of fellow travellers on the road who have called Kakadu; “Kaka-don’t”, but to give it the respect the place deserves you really need to spend some time up here when exploring Kakadu. Yes it’s all spread out, and there is a bit of travelling to do between sites; but that’s part of the experience. Obviously the people who call this place “Kaka-don’t” haven’t taken the time to really get to know the place and have just rushed though here on a set itinerary.
All up we will of spent almost 6 days in Kakadu; and during that time we have ‘free camped’ every night – sleeping in the bush beside billabongs and listening to the ‘Call of Kakadu’. Where else could you wake up; and see not 30 metres away is a salt water crocodile cruising in the billabong you camp beside?

Bec will always remember Kakadu for the experience of fishing for that elusive wild barramundi, while enjoying a drink and watching a 3.5 metre crocodile swim past – and all this only 50 metres from our caravan where Scarlett and I are cooking dinner on an open fire with the camp oven.

Can life get any better than this?
posted by Shane

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