Leaving Darwin we hadn’t yet made up our minds whether to visit Kakadu or Lichfield National Parks. Several people had told us that Lichfield had magnificent crocodile free swimming holes but in the end we opted for Kakadu. We had seen fantastic gorges and swum in some spectacular places on the Gibb River Road so we opted for Kakadu as this is renowned for its wetlands and floodplains, aboriginal rock art, river systems and of course crocodiles and we wanted to see and experience this.
I also wanted to see the country described by Tom Cole in his book Hell West and Crooked. A fantastic true story of a young English immigrant who spent time crocodile and buffalo shooting before the second world war in what is now Kakadu. He lived a life that is hard to imagine in this day and age.
We wanted to get to the 4 mile water hole on the Wildman River and then the head of the West Alligator River however the track proved too narrow to safely tow the van. It would have been almost impossible to pass another vehicle if we had met one so we eventually found a small area where I managed to turn the van around by jack knifing it. So it was back on the wide sealed highway to Jabiru to fill up with fuel then headed north east to Merl camp ground.
This camp ground is close to Cahills Crossing which separates Kakadu from Arnhem Land. This is the border and unless you have a permit you cannot cross into Arnhem Land and unfortunately I didn’t think to get a permit so that was as far as we can go this trip. Cahills Crossing is interesting as it is a barrage across the East Alligator River. Whilst this barrage is 150 kilometres or so upstream, in the dry season at low water the fresh water from upstream flows over the causeway, however at high tide the incoming tide pushes over the causeway and barramundi make their way upstream. On the upstream side crocodiles wait for the fish, we saw three large crocodiles but we are told there are many more. People fish from the causeway but always stay in the middle and to the ends. There have been fatalities here, no way would I fish from the causeway.
Ubirr is an aboriginal art site nearby. It is very impressive with art as old as 5,000 years. From the top of the massive rocks that contain the art galleries you have an uninterrupted 360 degree view of the wetlands, a truly spectacular site.
Kakadu is expensive to travel in. It costs $25 per person for a 14 day entry pass and then $10 per night per person to camp in the camp grounds. The resorts are very expensive Cooinda wanted $40 for a powered site! Needless to say we didn’t stay.
Spent 2 days at Merl camp ground then moved to Mardugal Billabong camp ground. The 12 volt fan we brought in Darwin has been terrific but the heat is proving just a bit too much. 39c is forecast tomorrow but that is in the shade. We think we will move on south tomorrow as it really is too hot to enjoy this spectacular place. There are almost no other travellers and Kakadu basically closes down at the end of this month.
We have been told that the best time to be here is late August when the bulk of the “grey nomads” have left and the weather is still relatively mild. Up until the end of September is okay. So when we come back next time it will be in this time frame and with permits for Arhem Land.
The fridge is still not coping and now the air conditioner in the car has decided to pack it in and blow hot and cold alternatively. Its 8:00pm as I write this and the sweat is just running off me in streams. Have to stay in the caravan as the mossies are thick outside. When I lived in New Guinea this was the time of year that people “went troppo” and had to be sent south. The cumulus clouds build up, the heat intensifies, the humidity is so high that you are continually wet yet the rains are still a way off. Once the wet sets in it is liveable again.
It’s definitely cooler climates for us, well under 35c anyway so we are moving south today.
Kakadu – Monday 24 October 2011