australia kakadu national park - backpacking around the world in 333 days
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around the world in 333 days

REPORT 17 - Feb. 2001

Kakadu National Park

Snapping crocodiles, jumping kangaroos and mind boggling quantities of nothingness are just a few of the dramatic images that flash through the mind on hearing the word 'Australia'. Famous for it's exports of beer, trashy soaps and pint sized singing vixens, Australia's real claim to fame should be it's size. Big, large and even gigantic are all words that fail to do justice to what is the world's largest island; a lump of rock so huge it is capable of swallowing Europe whole and still having room for another slice. The Kakadu National park forms just a fraction of this unique landmass but with countless possibilities for adventure, it attracts backpackers like the proverbial bee-to-honey, giving them a taste of the wilderness and the chance to see some truly unique wildlife.

The park, all 20000 km of it, is located in the Northern Territory, near to the state capital of Darwin. 'Near' in Australia is of course a relative term and as we set off early in the morning, four of us, one guide and enough food and drink to feed 30, we had a four hour drive before us. Our guide Ray quickly established himself as both a fountain of knowledge for all things Ozzie and as great entertainment. First stop was the Adelaide River where big bad beasts of the crocodile variety lay in wait. As we dangled lumps of chicken off the ends of fishing rods, the salt-water crocodiles, that can grow up to 7 metres long, swam from the riverbanks and, with startling speed and athleticism, leapt from the water. A rather nervous "wow", was all we could muster on seeing the 'snapping handbags' from less than a metre away.

Now, when I think of Australia, I imagine the land to consist of red dust with a handful of deadly snakes thrown in for fun. In March however - the wet season - the Kakadu was positively glowing green and immediately blew away all our preconceptions. Parking the 4x4, we took a walk through the bush to check out the Nourlangie Aboriginal art site, one of the thousands dotted around the park. Ray pointed out 'bush tucker' along the way and explained the weird and wonderful uses for the bushes and shrubs. The art, painted onto a bright red outcrop that juts up from the surrounding forest, was impressive. Each fading figure a spirit from the quickly disappearing aboriginal beliefs of the past. The art isn't really as old as it looks however. The wet humid weather of the tropics meaning there was scarcely any older than 100 years and even this has been retouched, which was a little disappointing.

We were awoken early the next day by some rowdy birds and sleepily headed off to check out more of Kakadu's charms. Driving around in the 4x4, it really was a case of the wildlife finding us rather than us having to find it. Every turn of the road brought with it the possibility of stumbling across another amazing site, wild horses, snakes crossing the road and of course, the frill-neck lizard, a reptile scarcely found outside the park.

To get a sense of the parks size, the ever-chirpy Ray decided it was time we did a bit of climbing. Hauling ourselves over some perilous rock faces and squeezing through some tiny bat filled caves, an hour or so later, we found ourselves sitting on an overhang on the edge of a cliff; the ideal spot for lunch. It was while tucking into our tuna sandwiches that the real scale of the park hit us. As far as we could see there was nothing, not a house, not an electricity pylon, nothing. Coming from a county where a 4-hour drive is a bit of a trek, the fact that this park alone was the size of Wales was a bit of an eye-opener.

We cooled off with a swim in a nearby waterfall, a tropical paradise just when it was needed, and started the meandering journey back to Darwin, stopping by the side of the road to see a monstrously large termite mound. The mound, three times as tall as your average human, was immense, especially when you look down at your feet, spot a tiny termite crawl across you boot and then look up at the cathedral like structure they call home.

The Kakadu had lived up to all our expectations; we had a truly great time. As our first taste of Australia, I doubt it could have been beaten. We saw more wildlife in 3 days than I think we have previously seen in our entire lives. It rained, we got wet, we got filthy, but most importantly it was damn good fun! We had learnt so much about Aboriginal culture, seen the most amazing scenery, swam in the most stunning waterfalls and despite the humidity of the tropical North, we were almost sad to leave, until we saw a comfy bed and shower that is!

Jon & liz

A big thanks to Kakadu Dreams who helped us a lot

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Aboriginal Rock Art, Nourlangie

Frilled Lizard

giant termite mound

wild horse

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The Beginning 14 - THAILAND Bangkok
01 - INDIA Delhi 15 - THAILAND Bridge Over the River Kwai
02 - INDIA Agra Taj Mahal 16 - THAILAND Chang Mai - The Long Necks
03 - INDIA Jaipur 17 - AUSTRALIA Kakadu National Park
04 - INDIA Camel Safari 18 - AUSTRALIA Ayers Rock
05 - INDIA Mount Abu 19 - AUSTRALIA Great barrier Reef
06 - INDIA Goa 20 - AUSTRALIA Fraser Island
07 - INDIA Mumbai (Bombay) 21 - AUSTRALIA Sydney
08 - HONG KONG 22 - NEW ZEALAND South Island
09 - PHILIPPINES Boracay & Panglao Island 23 - NEW ZEALAND North Island
10 - PHILIPPINES Bohol Chocolate Hills 24 - USA Hawaii Oahu Island
11 - PHILIPPINES Banaue Rice Terraces 25 - USA San Francisco
12 - MALAYSIA Kuala Lumpur 26 - USA Washington DC
13 - MALAYSIA Penang, Georgetown 27 - USA New York
  28 - UK - THE END
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Produced by John Bentham - Copyright 2000/01 Jonathan Enoch & Elizabeth Wigg / John Bentham

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giant waterfall

Jon climbing for a better view