Australia: Darwin and Kakadu National Park

Outback and Northern Territory were the last stops on our Australian journey. As I mentioned in my previous post I so regretted not going to most famous Australian site Uluru, I thought it was very overrated, but when I fell in love with Kakadu, I realised what a chance I lost, as they are sort of like sister places. Oh, well, I guess there is no point crying over spilt milk. Maybe we will go there one day and will be sleeping at the desert and counting stars (doesn’t look like it’s going to happen any time soon).

I thought Darwin was the place where the devil says goodnight. Kind of lethargic, it didn’t have the feel of a vibrant modern city, like Sydney for example. But there is nice complex of swimming pools and playgrounds, and also wide selection of restaurants ( lots of Asian), so you’ll definitely survive here, also with kids. After all we hadn’t come here for Darwin, but for one of the most amazing places on earth, which is Kakadu National Park.

Its rock formation called Ubirr is the second, after Uluru sacred place for Aboriginal people. The oldest rock art, which can be found here, is 20 000 years old. Aborigines inhabited this land for 65 000 years, they are the oldest culture present on earth. which makes it even more upsetting, that this minority, which makes only 3% of Australian population, lives on the outskirts of society. Unemployment amongst them is really high, alcohol abuse, crimes and domestic violence is also very common (Aboriginal women are hospitalised 34 times more than Australian women for that reason), and general feeling of lack of perspectives for the future.

It is all caused by decades of discrimination and racism, of which indigenous people were being victims since 1788, when the British first came here and the colonisation began. Similar story to American Indians; Aborigines were marginalised, were not allowed to perform some of their rituals, and for long time they were not considered Australian citizens.

Today the government is trying to reimburse them for all those years of suffering; there are some initiatives, which aim to include indigenous people and give them the equal rights and access to education and work, i.e. mortality rate in newborns has been significantly decreased. But of course it will take years to come, to fix something that was being destroyed for ages.

Kakadu National Park is simply amazing. I really can’t find better words to describe the feeling that comes with experiencing pristine, untouched nature, it’s like being guests in a bush – home of wild animals, who in their hospitality tolerate us – nosy visitors – sneak peeking at their everyday business. 10 000 crocodiles live here, which is approx. 1 croc per 2 square meters. The terrain is versatile and apart from rocks, there are lakes, forests, waterfalls, bushes, deserts and humid, lush green jungle. Evening cruise on Yellow Water Billabong was hands off one of the best experiences of a lifetime. It was such splendid display of nature’s wonders, that we were all swept off our feet, and even Lily, despite tiredness and heat, was excitedly jumping on the boat, when she spotted a croc first (these waters are packed with crocs by the way). Massive trees with twisted roots and rotten branches bend over in a dramatic and melancholic poses as if they were dancing, and the scenery is extraordinary in this theatre, like nowhere else. The evening sky changes from pinks, bold oranges to silver greys. Just thinking about it makes my heart beat faster (like a jungle drum).

But there were also moments of terror, like for example when Lily’s beloved mouse fell into the alligator river! Lily of course was in a total despair but thank goodness T. managed to rescue the mouse with the stick from a certain death in crocodile’s mouth (Lily’s face at that moment – priceless).

I was really proud of my 4,5 year old, she was doing really well, and everyone was shocked that such little girl has travelled to Kakadu already (we didn’t see any small children on these trips, just adults). The hardest bit was the heat and flies, which were literally all over you all the time, trying to enter your body through your nostrils, eyes and ears with a persistence, that could drive you insane. We saw that everyone here had net head covers, so we bought them as well. They kind of did the job, but it was a bit hard to breath through them.

Off course there were hard times as well, as Lily is not a fan of a real bush walking, so we had to piggyback her most of the time (bye bye spine, it was nice having you).

We slept in two different camps, and our chill out dread head guide Kal had all kitchen equipment in his van, including portable gas hob, bowls and plates of a hygiene level, that would definitively raised some eyebrows in Food Standards Agency.

It’s definitely worth to browse through some basic info about climate, before booking your flights. It didn’t occurred to us that there are a couple of climate zones in Australia, and that in Kakadu it might be different than let’s say Sydney or Cairns. There are 2 distinctive seasons in Northern Territory: dry (August – October) and wet (January – March). We were here in  December, which is sort of a transitional month and it might rain quite a lot as well, so we were praying for the roads not to be flooded, which often happens. But thankfully we were lucky – the weather was great, it rained only at night a  couple of times, and there was one thunderstorm, and I swear I have never heard such thunders in my life – it could wake up the dead, and I thought it would shoot us to the moon, along with our tin camping hut.

Another moment I’ll never forget was our afternoon walk into the fields behind the camp, when we encountered a group of kangaroos. I often think about it, when I’m on my daily city stroll with my baby boy, and it seems so surreal, and evermore priceless.

BTW did you know that baby kangaroo is in its mother womb only for a month, and then they are born – 2 cm long, see through pink jelly, and climb up mother’s fur to get to the pouch, where they stay for next 10 months? How on earth do they know they need to climb, and where? Unbelievable.

While I’am at a nature wonders topic, here are some facts about koala. Would you guess, that it isn’t actually a bear, but marsupial? He spends 20 hours sleeping, and the remaining 4 eating his favourite eucalyptus, he doesn’t drink, he gets all the fluids from the leaves. The name comes from aboriginal language and means: the one that doesn’t drink.

The words can’t really do Kakadu a justice, so here are some photos – quite a lot, but how to choose from such amazingness?

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we set off to Kakadu very early, it’s still dark, but Lily and Mouse are ready for an andevnture 🙂

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Ubirr – ancient Aboriginal rock art

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so fell in love with that place 🙂

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mmm, can’t wait to eat food from such squeaky clean plates 🙂

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Mouse recscue operation complete 🙂

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is there anything lurking in the darkness?

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this moment when we went for an afternoon walk and encountered a group of kangaroos behind our camp 🙂

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cuddled up during thunderstorm

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I’ve been enlighted (finally)

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Lily is bravely following our guide (just for a moment obviously:)

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termite mounds – like a graveyard

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Didn’t I say it’s awesome? 🙂

Author: co pozostaje / what remains

My name is Gosia, in life I love traveling, discovering extraordinary places, running, good tv series, raspberries and Lindt chocolates. I don’t like getting up early in the morning, blue and red colours next to each other, washing up wooden things gives me goosebumps. I am mum to 8 year old Lily and baby Joseph. Fresh experience of having a baby again brutally reminded me, that time doesn’t flow steadily like a forest stream, but races like a leopard in the savanna and fiercely snatches from me every passing hour, in the manner he deals with a gazelle he just hunted. I was thinking about writing a blog for a long time, but my extremely introverted nature has been effectively holding off any desires to express myself. But here I am putting constraints of my nature aside and trying to stop things slipping through my fingers, precious moments going by in a blur. My hope is that blog will bring out and save things that give the days colour and shape, and will capture and treasure what remains.

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