Friday, August 05, 2011

Kakadu and the Top End

This is Part V of a 5 part post about a trip to Cairns and the Top End.

The second morning we got up and traveled to Ubirr, another site with a lot more Aboriginal art and a fantasti view of the surrounding wetlands. We had heard it was amazing, so we picked that over Yellow Water, which was a boardwalk hike or boat tour through the billabongs. I found that the billabongs looked kind of, well, Floridian, so we thought Ubirr was a better choice for us.

View from Ubirr toward escarpment

View from Ubirr over wetlands

Kapok tree (as heard in Waltzing Matilda)

Again, it was beautiful. Even though it was really hot, the hike wasn’t too hard, and I loved the view. The art was really cool too – and there was so much of it! I picked this first picture in particular because of the history behind it: you may have a bit of difficulty seeing, but on the rock there is a painting of a short eared animal that is representative of a thylacine, otherwise known as the Tasmanian Tiger. The thylacine is the largest marsupial (about the size of a mastiff), and used to exist everywhere in Australia until dingoes arrived and hunted it to extinction, about 4000 years ago. So that means this painting is at least 4000 years old!

You might have to click to get a larger view to see the thylacine

Aboriginal art -- a barrumundi?

Kakadu is only one part of the Top End, and we got to see some interesting things on the way to and from as well. I’m sure there are places in Kakadu where you can see the termite mounds, but the park was so big we didn’t see much of it. However, on the way, there were loads of them. Another interesting thing about the terrain around the area is how the Aboriginal inhabitants manage the land. This time of year is the time they burn off the grass, to encourage fresh growth when the wet season comes and increased animal habitat. We saw quite a few grass fires, some quite close to the road! The Australian fire management bureaus are currently taking quite an interest in these age-old techniques.

Grasslands and termite mounds

Ethan next to the larger termite mound

Burnt off area, including roasted termites

You may notice that I don’t have any pictures of Darwin; unfortunately, because of our short time, we didn’t really get to fully see Darwin. I was a bit disappointed to learn that a lot of Darwin has been rebuilt since 1974 due to Cyclone Tracy, so the architecture wasn’t as interesting as it is in Sydney or Melbourne. Also, it was really hot, and after our trip to Kakadu, we were all pretty faded.

View across the Outback from the car window

I’m really glad we visited the Top End, because I feel like I got to see the Australia of my dreams. It’s fascinating for anyone who’s interested in history – both from the ancient Aboriginal culture, and also from the history Darwin has from being bombed in WWII. Due to the heat and the expense, however, it is definitely not for the faint of heart or the thin of wallet.

Overall, this was a really great trip. I have a few more things I “must do” before leaving Australia, but I’m glad to have knocked out a few of them in the experience of a lifetime.


Lynn said...

Awesome, it all sounds like fun!

L said...

It was, Lynn. Glad you enjoyed the post.