Even though we landed in Darwin the night before, we set out on our adventure to Kakadu early in the morning when our guide picked us up at 5:30 in the morning. There were already two people in the jeep, and the driver said we have two more to pick up. The driver zoomed through the streets at speeds that were less than safe and picked up two people waiting in front of a building. “Great, we’ll be in the park in about two to three hours.”
The driver, true to his word, got us to the park in a little over two hours. He stopped in the middle of no where and proclaimed: “We need wood. Go pee and collect wood.” Having been stung by a scorpion before, and knowing that just about everything in Australia bites and can make you sick, made me a little nervous about picking up pieces of wood. However, we collected a good bunch and worked our way into the park.
The termite mounds were first thing we saw. They were massive and many and really gave us pause as to how many termites were in this area.
We bumped along the four wheel drive track to Jim Jim Falls. The driver parked and said: “Now we walk”. It wasn’t a long walk and the falls were relatively dry. The guide asked us if we wanted to swim, and everyone was too apprehensive so we hiked back to the jeep. I don’t know if the guide was trying to impress us or not, but he went quite fast on the four wheel tracks. On more than one occasion we were air borne, and I hit my head on the ceiling twice. It made for an interest ride. Twin Falls was the next stop. We looked for the trail, and it took us down to the water. We asked the guide how to get to the falls and he said: “Swim upriver mate….I don’t think the crocodiles are here now, but keep your eyes open for moving logs.” “Aren’t you coming?” I asked jokingly. “No, I’ll wait here.” This dramatic dialogue was probably meant to worry us. We shrugged it off and started the swim up the river. In about a half mile of swimming we could see the falls.
Massive side by side falls were decorated with nearly 25 other travelers playing in the waters. We climbed on the falls and swam in the pool of in which the waters collected. It was a great way to spend time.
Working hard to get somewhere makes the experience of getting there and the destination more enjoyable. The memory of that time etched itself into my memory forever.
Swimming back I noticed a giant steel green barrel. I asked the guide what those were for.
“That’s a crocodile trap.”
“I thought you were kidding about the crocodiles!”
The sun was starting to get low and our guide had one more stop before making camp. A scenic overlook.
We set up camp far back from the shore of a billibong. We set up our tents and our guide started dinner. “Don’t get too close to the water,” he shouted as we all explored around the campsite. Now of course, I took his warning a little more seriously. The sun was setting and then it got suddenly darker. I looked up and saw a giant flock of birds blot out the remaining light. I asked the guide what type of bird that was. “Those are fruit bats.” They were much larger than bats I’d seen before, and they flew in a much more regular pattern than the helter-skelter paths of bats I had seen, and there were thousands of them.
Dinner was ready at our campsite. It was a delicious meat stew dish. Our guide claimed it was kangaroo meat. Although it was gamey, I knew there were limits on kangaroo meat consumption. I thought that maybe it was ostrich instead which is easier to come by.
We looked at the light near our campsite and saw too many bugs to count circling the light. “Ahh, that is nothing take a look at this.” We followed the guide to the edge of the campsite in the pitch black. “Now watch.” He shined a flash light in the brush and along the land. Hundreds of eyes looked back us. “Those ones there low on the ground, those are spiders…funnel webs nasty bite they have. And that there climbing in that bush, that’s a tree rat.”
We knew that when camping life is all around, but do they have to be rats and spiders? All of us hustled back to our tents and turned in.
Anbangbang Rock Shelter
The next day we spent time at the Anabangbang rock shelter. The ranger helped us visualize the early Aborigines seeking shelter here looking out over the land 50,000 years ago. As the ranger talked, some rock wallabies hopped nearby. He explained the rock art, the x-ray drawings, hand stencils, and some contact art. The art was mesmerizing and chronicled a people’s existence and place in changing world. We learned about Barramundi Charlie, (Charlie Najomboli), who was the last Aborigine to create authentic rock art in the mid 60s. While arguably the end of the era, it was a definitely a reminder that the world changes. As with changes in cultures and languages, stories of our ancestors start to disappear as new stories begin and new cultures emerge.
I left Kakadu wondering what will be the story of this modern generation of humans.
Kakadu is a UNESCO world heritage site.