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The Ooh Tour

Kakadu National Park, Australia

April 30, 2011: Uluru - Darwin - Jabiru

Australia is a big place. From east coast to west, it is about the same width as the United States. Uluru is just about smack-bang in the center of Australia, and a three-hour flight from Sydney. It is a two and a half hour flight from Uluru to Darwin, which is in the far and steamy north end of this vast continent. Julia and I bid Uluru goodbye and gladly made the long journey with great anticipation for our next destination, Kakadu National Park.

On our journey, we were amazed to see the normally dry, stark, and deep red center flourishing with green plant life. There has been so much rain lately it has transformed the place.

On landing at Darwin, we made the three hour drive on to Kakadu. We arrived at dusk. I asked the receptionist if she thought it okay for Julia and I to make a two kilometer walk through the bush to the information center. She warned me that it was at just this time of night the creatures of Kakadu stirred, and advised against making the walk. Not wanting to be eaten by a crocodile, we took her advice, and were soon tucked safely away in bed and dreaming of electric sheep.

Video of Kakadu

May 01, 2011: Nourlangie / Mirrai Lookout

Our first stop next morning was to drive to the information station to find out which parts of the park were open and which closed. Early May is after the rainy season in Kakadu, and this year there had been lots of rain. We discovered that a few areas and some roads were still closed. Given our options, we put our day's plan together, and drove to our first destination: Nourlangie.

Just a few kilometers down the road, we took our first glimpse of the immense Arnhem Land escarpment, which dominates Kakadu. The walk at Nourlangie also contains aboriginal rock art and it is amazing. The native Australians have lived in this area for over 20,000 years and so have had much time to create and develop their art. How and why would hunter-gatherers waste time and energy creating art? We supposed that there was so much food in the area that they had plenty of time on their hands, giving rise to boredom and driving their creativity. Alternatively, perhaps it was the sheer beauty of Kakadu, which inspired them.

Next, we drove on to the Mirrai Lookout. By this time, 10:30 a.m., Kakadu had become hotter than hell. However, Julia and I climbed up the thirty-minute walk to the top of the lookout. It was worth our sweat as the views of Kakadu were astounding.

May 02, 2011: Gungurul / Mardugal / Yellow Water Wetlands

We were up early to try to beat the heat for our next hike at Gungurul. This walk had two parts. One took us up 800 feet to a lookout that gave us spectacular views of the Kakadu landscape. The second part of the hike dropped down to a crocodile infested river. We found ourselves spooked by spiders, scared by snakes, in dread of dingoes, and creeped out by crocodiles on this trail.

Next, we hiked at Mardugal, on the Gun-gardun bush walk. This trail is very representative of the bush, or rather jungle, here in Kakadu. It contains much of the fauna and flora of the region. The best part was its flatness as it was late morning by the time we started, and getting very hot.

Later in the afternoon, we drove to the Coolinda Lodge and the Yellow Water Wetlands, to cruise on the South Alligator River. It was still very hot, but being out on the river gave us some relief from the stifling humidity and temperature. The wetlands are teaming with life this time of year and we saw most of it on this wonderful trip. We spotted: crocodile, kingfisher, jabiru, snake, whistling kite, catfish, and of course more crocodile. This place is how I had imagined Kakadu, lush green and teaming with life.

May 03, 2011: Kakadu by air

The next day we headed to the local airport and took a helicopter flight to gain a different and amazing perspective of this vast place. The aircraft soon had us flying over the Ranger Uranium Mine, which is the true human power in the area. Then we flew past the enormous escarpments and inaccessible high ground of Arnhem Land. We encountered many waterfalls along our route; the most notable were Twin Falls and Jim Jim Falls. The helicopter enabled us to grasp where we were and how immense and incredibly beautiful Kakadu is, a recommended activity while in Kakadu.


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