Our second part of our journey included a trip to Darwin and Kakadu National Park. The term Top End encompasses pretty much the top 1/3 of Australia, which is mostly inaccessible by car and a very harsh environment. After aforementioned snafus with JetStar, we arrived in Darwin too late to go to the famous Mendil Beach markets, which was a huge bummer for me in particular. The next morning, we headed out pretty early towards Kakadu National Park, which is a good 3 hour drive from Darwin.
It was at this point that I finally got to see the Australia of my imagination! Kakadu National Park is where parts of Crocodile Dundee were filmed, so it’s the terrain most Americans are probably familiar with. Kakadu National Park is also an area that’s been the homes of Aboriginal peoples for over 20,000 years, so there’s a lot of fascinating history there too.
Our first stop was Nourlangie Rock (or Burrunggui, which is the true Aboriginal name), where we got to see some ancient Aboriginal art. This rock painting illustrates an old legend about two “cousins” who had a relationship and were banned from their tribes. I put cousins in quotation marks, because as we learned, Australian Aboriginal peoples have very strict rules about which tribes were allowed to communicate and which weren’t. The tribal lines were determined not only by birth, but also by gender. It is very complicated – and an excellent way of ensuring a strong gene pool. Guess the European royalty could have learned something.
|Aboriginal art! This one was repainted in 1963. Repainting is part of the tradition.|
|View of the escarpment from further up on the rock|
|Ethan and Linda in front of Burrunggui/Nourlangie|
In spite of the fact that Kakadu looks like what I imagined Australia to look like, it’s still not very flat. The second thing we did was climb a small hill to get a beautiful view of Nourlangie rock and the escarpment. We could even see a billabong down below, which we drove to a bit later for pictures. Unfortunately, the path around the billabong was closed due to high water this year, mainly because of the threat of crocodiles. I didn’t test that theory, let me tell you.
|Interesting rock formation|
|View coming down from the overlook|
We spent the night in the park, at great expense, partially so we could see the park the next day and partially because we didn’t want to drive back at night. Our fortune at dusk was to see two dingoes run to the front of the resort and roll in the grass under the sprinklers. I didn’t get a picture of them – partially because we didn’t realize they were actual wild dingoes and not just someone’s pets. Even though our hotel was a total rip off ($200 for a room where you couldn’t drink the water!), we were glad to have stayed so we could go the park again the next day.
|Sunset in Kakadu Natl Park (taken through a bug-smeared windshield)|