We spent most of our time on the south part of Kakadu. However, on the last day we decoded to do a 90 km detour for stunning views and short interesting walks. One of them was along Stone country which is some of the oldest rock in the world and the house for Aboriginal Australians for thousands of years. Stone country signals the start of Arnhem land a vast area of the top end named after a Dutch boat that passed a hundred years before Captain Cook arrived. This particular site in Stone country is called Gunwarrdehwarrde; warrde means ‘rocks’ and gun ‘lots of’.
In the walk we learnt that during wet season, Stone country was the home of the inhabitants of Kakadu. We also learnt about the aboriginal art which are paintings some of which cannot be dated; the ink is made of stone (ochre) which cannot be carbon dated. Those that can be dated are due to one of two reasons: either the paint was made of bees wax and thus can be carbon dated, or the ancestors painted over wasps nests and those nests can also be carbon nested.
In its enormity, it is not astonishing to find hidden treasures or swimming holes scattered through the national park. Some places are not even in the tourist map of Kakadu and only known to the guides and park rangers. Some of these hidden swimming paradises are not visited by crocodiles as they don’t really like having to climb across rocks.
Though the most popular swimming places are frequently checked by the rangers to make sure ‘salties’ are not hidding in the depths and make it to the news covers by attacking a distracted tourist. To search and dispose of crocs, the rangers use a few different methods. They might put a cage in the water with a feral pig’s leg at the end with a simple pull and close the hatch mechanism and trap the crocodile inside. Another way to check if estuarine crocodiles are about is by putting a styrofoam ball in the water. Crocodiles, being the inquisitive animals they are, will bite the foreign object. Rangers can then look at the teeth marks and determine if they are salt or fresh water crocodiles.
Rangers also use the good old have a look and see for tracks of animals method.
Lastly, at night, rangers flash lights along water surfaces. The crocodiles eyes will be easily spotted as red reflections in the water, much like humans eyes on a night photo taken with a flash.
In any case, all these methods are not certain and you can always be risking your life if you do decide to have a swim. Though if you come out, you might have a good story to tell. And feeling refreshed from swimmingin the crystal clear waters.
The national park of Kakadu is 20K squared kilometers, the size of Israel, has 8 different habitats and only 2 seasons: wet and dry. (Indigenous locals have 6 though so it evens out) For its natural importance it has been named a UNESCO world heritage site. Though it is a double listed heritage site as it also has great cultural significance for Australia as it is Aboriginal land.
Billabongs are inviting swimming places around the national park. They are peaceful looking crystal clear ponds left behind as rivers changed course. For the longest part of the year, billabongs are dry but fill up with the seasonal rain. However, full of fresh and salt water crocodiles, all rivers, billabongs, water holes in Kakadu are strictly no swimming areas. Or swim at your own risk.
Both species of crocodiles were once hunted until almost extinction in around the 1960’s but are now protected species and their populations recovering. So whilst it is tempting, I’d rather stay out of becoming a crocs meal.
The estuarine crocodile are known as ‘salties’ but who knows why as they are found in both fresh and salt water around Australia. Unlike the freshwater crocodile which are pescetarian and shy, salties are aggressive.
Estuarine crocodiles can be found in pretty much any area of water up here; they can completely submerge in 30cm depth of water and thus sneak up on prey easily. Though with the strength of their tail, estuarine crocodiles can jump up and raise all of their bodies out of the water from when they are 7 days old.
The only place in Australia where you can see the acrobatic prowess of crocodiles when they jump for a feast, or in this case, a piece of meat, is in the Adelaide river. Don’t stick your arm out or the crocs might think it is their morning tea!
Most of Australia’s population lives in the coastline. In fact 85% of us. The rest live in the outback, or as Aussies say, out in woop woop or back o bourke. In such a big country, that means that 275,000 people would have limited access to emergency and any kind of health care service. However, John Flynn had a dream that took flight, literally. To provide heathcare access to those remote areas of Australia. Operating since 1928, the service started as an experiment to provide medical aid to those in rural areas through radio consultation. An Australian military Pilot then suggested the use of airplanes to provide transport to practitioners to rural Australia, patients to the closest cities for treatment and continue with the radio consultation.
In 1953 the Queen, Elizabeth II, recognised the noble service of the Flying Doctor Service and thus allowed them the title of Royal. The service has grown and become such that now it also serves as transport for patients even in between major cities in the country.
Litchfield National Park is the perfect day trip from Darwin. You could spend a night camping there but for us, a return trip was ideal. A day spent walking and then a refreshing swim in natural pools are a good break to the 30 degree heat. The most popular pool, by Florence Falls, was quite crowded. It was a good decision to go check out Walker Creek pool next to camping ground 7. We were the only people there, and no crocodiles! (We think) What a bonus…
Holidays! And what are holidays without bikes? Another city that sees us pedal pedal pedal. This 24 km ride was flat, we could hear the military jet planes in the skies and it had an unexpected pop-up cafe: the perfect setting for a coffee and a laze before heading back. It is no wonder that people make their own fun as Darwin is a sleepy town of around 170K inhabitants. It reminded me of Cairns and its beaches that nobody goes in out of fear of crocodiles or box jellyfish