Kakadu to Uluru

Heading out from home in the early hours of morning one day in mid-July we carried everything we needed for a visit to Alice Springs, an exploration of Kakadu National Park, a short trip to Bali, a wedding in Darwin and a month's Artist in Residency at Uluru. The 'truck' was fully loaded and we were towing the camper-trailer.  We were to be away for about fourteen weeks in total.

Leaving the gear we needed for our Residency with friends in Alice Springs, a now much lighter truck and trailer took off for Kakadu.  We had only visited the northern half of this National Park and World Heritage area before, so this was to be an exploration starting from the Southern edge, up the Kakadu Highway to Jabiru then back down the Arnhem Highway.  All this was planned to take about two weeks.

I can really only tell you about the highlights - even then there are too many to tell you - but we climbed up escarpments, hills, cliffs and more, saw enchanting waterholes and waterfalls, walked around billabongs, saw crocodiles 'surfing' at Cahill's Crossing and thousands of birds on the wetlands.  Kakadu is truly a remarkable place.  

It's the only World Heritage site wholly enclosed in a National Park and is about 20,00 square km, or roughly one quarter the size of Tasmania.  It also has more than its fair share of mosquitoes, but that balances out with the sensational rock art, abundant bird life and the wonderful flora and fauna.

We both took hundreds of photos and can really only show a small percentage of them here.

Some of the places we clambered around I have already written about in a previous blog and you can read that here.

We camped at Gunlom Falls, about 37km on a dirt road from the Highway and climbed to the infinity pool high above the plains. After a couple of days here we decamped to Maguk, roughly 12 km along a 4WD track. The bird life around the lagoon was the highlight here, as was the knowledgeable camp manager.

Having heard that Jim Jim Falls had almost no water, we gave that a miss (another time?) and headed on to Yellow Water. The wetlands tour on an early morning boat with Dennis as guide was highly entertaining and hugely informative.  He also told us that the thousands of crocodiles in the areas looked on these boats as 'a sort of crocodile bain marie'!

Flying over the escarpment and into Arnhem Land was totally magical. A super-informative pilot was a real help in orienting ourselves. Kakadu Air is a great company to fly over this country with.

Nourlangie (also known as Burrungkuy) was outstanding for the rock art and the fabulous Anbangbang Billabong.  We did every walk that was possible in this magical place before moving on to the East Alligator region.  Ubirr Rock at sunset is pretty magical, although quite heavily touristed.  The rock art here too is pretty special and often in unexpected places.

However by far the most entertaining place around here was Cahill's Crossing.  This is the main road entry point into Arnhem Land and the road crosses the East Alligator River at a tidal ford.  It's a great spot for catching barramundi, so it's full of fishermen trying their luck. The crocodiles have learned that this is a good hunting place, so it was also full of crocodiles trying theirs. Jabiru stalk the waters. keeping a wary eye out for crocs and snaring the occasional fish. At one point we counted nineteen crocodiles, and these were just the ones we could see!

A visit to the Bowali visitors' Centre resulted in a couple of artwork purchases. We have fitted them in to our place, but it was a struggle.

Our last stop was the South Alligator region where the Mamukala wetlands and bird hide were the focus of our attention. Even though it wasn't yet the season for Magpie Geese, there were several hundred around, flying into the wetlands in big mobs, making a real din with their calls.

Kakadu is worth a long trip, but even a few days would be well worth it.  It's a very special place.

After a short trip to Bali to visit friends, a fantastic wedding in Darwin and a couple of days in Edith Falls, then Katherine to stay with other friends, we collected our gear in Alice Springs (thank goodness for friends!) and headed off to Yulara/Ayers Rock Resort for our month-long Artist in Residency.  

Over all we'd been away fourteen weeks, so we were well and truly ready to come home.  Besides I had to make a pile of jewellery to take to Deloraine for the Tasmanain Craft Fair.

In the next blog I'll tell you about climbing a volcano in East Java. Fun, but exhausting!