Kakadu National Park – Top End of Australia

So far I have not visited Kakadu National Park in Northern Territory. The brochures and videos show amazing images of this unique harsh environment. Totally understandable that I wanted to visit it at the very first opportunity. And here I am.

I decided not to take any chances with my little Suzuki Swift, which I got for hire this time. The roads at this place are totally unpredictable, prone to flash flooding and crocodiles are everywhere.

So, I booked a day tour with AAA Kings.

Our bus left Darwin at 6 am and the next adventure started.  We passed vast open spaces and crossed dry river beds, saw lots of wallabies and migratory birds on the way. And about two hours later we arrived to Hampty Doo. What a strange and funny name!

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Our first stop was at Bark Hut Inn. We got exactly twenty minutes to stretch our legs, get some refreshments and to have a bathroom break.

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Instead of usual Male / Female signs the management decided to provide visual guidance.

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I guess it’s very obvious where to go for girls and guys. Not?

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This is not a street art, this is Bark Hut Inn art. Looks really good!

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The bathrooms are used by all sorts of living creatures,  from humans to tiny lizards. I guess, this cute little creature came for a drink, or maybe, for a shower?

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To justify the name and emblem of this restaurant the owners keep two Buffaloes, which are quite friendly. I shared my sandwich with one of them: chicken and focaccia for me, lettuce – for the buffalo.

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Aborigines have been leaving at the Top End for 50000 years. Their culture is the oldest in the world. These are the photos of indigenous people, who are the traditional owners of this land. Their ancestors were from local tribes and they keep ancient traditions alive. Two portraits were removed from the board, because those people died, and by aboriginal belief nobody should see faces of the deceased or mention their name. So, if by bad luck, someone else in the community has the same name, that person has to change it for another one.

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Aboriginal paintings on the rock face. They have been applied on top of each other for thousands of years, so it’s really hard to see sometimes. However, on this  photo I could clearly see three different types of fish. One is barramundi, two others gave some local names, which I can’t remember.

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This one is  a long-neck turtle.

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This painting is very interesting because in the right corner (at the bottom) there is a figure of a white man. According to the super-duper advanced carbon testing, this painting is more than thousand years old. White people arrived to Australia about 250 years ago according to modern history. So how and where could aborigines see a white person?

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Our group is climbing Ubirr. This is a sacred rock formation, which is about 500 metres high. There were 10 people in my group, all of them (except me) were international tourists. All of us suffered from the heat and humidity. Climbing was really difficult in these conditions.

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This is another formation not far away from Ubirr. All these places are national heritage and protected by UNESCO.

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Just another beautiful landscape.

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At the bottom we found another aboriginal gallery under the sky. On this painting you can see a riffle (across the middle) and a person with a gun. Aborigines never had guns, so it’s another sign that white people visited this land before.

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Apparently, all those paintings tell stories. The elders of the tribes would bring kids to these places and teach them laws of life. The story behind this painting: one young girl went to do some fishing and caught a barramundy. According to the rules she should not eat this fish as she was too young. (Girls could eat fish after a certain age and after they undertook some special ceremony). Because she was hungry and alone, she decided to eat the fish. Somebody from a different tribe saw that and punished her by hitting her with a stick. That beating was too harsh and disproportional to the bad deed. When she came back home, her people were really offended by hard punishment and went to the neighbouring tribe to sort it out. The discussions and accusations slowly turned into a fight and a few people from both sides were killed.

Moral of the story : don’t break the rules or innocent people could suffer.

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Graphic image age of the same painting.

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Long neck turtle and small fish.

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These painting are like puzzles – the more you look at them, the more images you can find. Some people got PhDs just by studying and interpreting the drawings.

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Everything is very green as the Wet Season has already started. In a few weeks there will be masses of flowers.

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On the top of the Top End.

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Thankfully there weren’t many people around that day, so I managed to take a photo of the path in tropical forest. The soil is red, this is a real colour.

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Our guide took us for lunch to Mercure Kakadu Crocodile Hotel. Every feature is related to crocodiles in one way or another. Aboriginal style painting of crocodile eating fish. Very appropriate for the restaurant.

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The aerial view of the restaurant is in a shape of crocodile. The entrance to the garden is one of the legs.

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This is head with an eye. This hotel is huge, even the head didn’t fit into the photo.

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Since I could not take a photo from above, I decided to capture an emergency evacuation plan, which clearly shows the shape of the hotel and its different sections, like the restaurant, bedrooms and kitchen.

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Even the benches have a crocodile theme.

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Time to chase the real crocs. Part of our tour was a river cruise. This tiny boat was about to take us for another adventure.

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We we were lucky as at this time of the year the water lilies and lotuses are in abundance. They are huge. I took this photo sitting down in the boat. The whole surface of billabong (Australian word for local waterways) is completely covered with lotuses and only a narrow path for the boats is clear from the plants.

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This is totally surreal. Apparently, lotus seeds are “bush tucker” (another Australian word, which means food, mainly from nature). Our guide grabbed a few lotus seed pods and extracted a handful of seeds in hard shells. The seeds were really tasty and reminded very young walnuts. In Asian cuisine it’s quite a popular ingredient.

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We saw lots of birds. This one is Jabiru – Australian true stork. It’s a large bird with a wing span of more than 2 metres.

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And this is Jesus bird. This small bird has the largest feet in proportion to her body and can run on lily pads. From far away it looks like the bird is running on water, hence its name. We stopped right  near the bird and she did not pay any attention to the boat.

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And here is a star performer. Our guide found six crocs for us, which pleased everybody. He said that at this time of the year it’s quite unusual to see saltwater crocodiles basking on the riverside. Since the water is warm, the crocs prefer to stay there, but when water is cold they need to stay in the sun to keep the blood running. They also camouflage very well. I had real trouble trying to see two smaller ones under the bushes. At some stage they were almost extinct, but because of the hunting restrictions their number increased to the dangerous level.  When a few years ago it was a huge flood in this area the crocks moved into paddocks and farmlands. I remember a photo in our newspaper when a farmer opened a door and there was a croc on his doorsteps. Lucky, it was a farmer and not me, as there would be a dead woman and a deaf crocodile.

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So, we were really lucky to see all this wild birds and animals and the beautiful landscapes. Top End is a Top Place to visit!

 

 

Music: Australian Aboriginal Music: Song with Didgeridoo

.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dFGvNxBqYFI

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