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Journals from Deakin University, Australia

2009-11-04 Kakadu National Park

It has been a crazy last month for me. I have been traveling nonstop and finally have some internet access to recount all my awesome adventures for you. Starting with Darwin and Kakadu National Park. It was beautiful. I had a great time spending 3 days and 2 nights out in the bush. It's about a 2-hour drive from Darwin to Kakadu national park, but first we stopped off at the Mary River Wetlands which is this huge billabong (like a big lake) that has the highest concentration of crocodiles in Australia. So we took a boat ride out looking for them--and saw one immediately! Actually we saw a bunch of crocs just chilling on the banks of the billabong and a ton of other wildlife too. It was really cool. After the Wetlands we drove into the park. We went to an aboriginal area where they had a ton of cave art and we got to climb rocks and hike up to a really high lookout and see all over Ubirr which was the area. It was gorgeous. The rock art was really cool and some of it is really old, but extremely detailed. The view from the rocks was unbelievable. You could see all the way to Arnem land, which is strictly Aboriginal land in the park. When we got to camp we made a bonfire, cooking buffalo sausages and kangaroo steak. We slept out under the stars in sleeping bags and "swags" which are Australian made, weatherproof sleeping bags. Pretty cool. The stars were amazing, but then the moon came up. It was full and so bright it blotted out the stars! Crazy. The next day we went over to two waterfalls, the Twin Falls and Jim Jim Falls. We did Twin Falls first because it was a longer hike and we didn't want to get caught in the sun. The north coast is pretty tropical, so the humidity and heat can get pretty severe. And the flies were terrible, but it was worth the effort! The hike was tough, but fun. Beautiful scenery. We hiked to the top of the falls first and it was really cool. It was dry season so the waterfall isn't really running, but still there was a great view of the gorge. Then we went down for a boat ride on the river that basically runs year round before we hiked the rest of the way to the base of the falls. It was really cool. Couldn't swim in the pool, but we saved that for the Jim Jim Falls. The Jim Jim hike was a bit easier, though at one point we went over a ton of loose rock and through a tropical rain forest. Cool stuff. So we finally climbed over some huge boulders and there were the falls in a U-shaped gorge. The falls weren't running really strongly, but the plunge pool at the bottom was nice and deep and filled up with water and fish. So we all got changed and hopped in for a quick swim. Now there's something you need to know about swimming in the Northern Territory. There are crocs EVERYWHERE. In Kakadu national park there is only 1 spot that is 100% safe to swim in and that's a pool at a resort in Jabiru. So there are signs everywhere that say beware of crocs and swim at your own risk. So it is a very real possibility that anywhere we swim might have crocs in it. And now, crocs can hold their breath for a REALLY long time. They don't just hang out on top of the water or on the banks. They can swim down really deep into a pool or river and just chill. So even if the top seems fine, there might be a croc in the pool you're swimming in. But even though they can hold their breath a long time, they still let out air, so you can see the bubbles on the surface. And park rangers check the tourist spots all the time for crocs so there really wasn't much SERIOUS danger to us being there and swimming. But we did have to pay attention and be cautious. So then we dried off and hiked back to our van and made our way to camp. We all put up tents that night because the mosquitoes were bad in the area. But we made chicken curry for dinner and just all hung out around the bonfire talking. It was awesome. The next day we did a cultural exhibition for aboriginal culture, which was fun. I played a didgeridoo and got to throw a spear! Then we drove down to Maguk for another hike into a really amazing pool that had a quality waterfall. We were actually encouraged to swim here. So we did and there were some rock ledges so all the guys were diving off of those and swimming around and it was a lot of fun. That was our last day in Kakadu, but it was an amazing trip overall and definitely one of the highlights of my time abroad. The cities are great, but sometimes the scenic areas of the country are a lot more enjoyable. - Matt

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