Well, there I was, on a BUS, almost bringing the average age down significantly – or that is how it felt!!!!!
BUT, despite my doubts this 3 day trip into Kakadu and the tip of Arnhem land was better than anticipated.
A very early start from Darwin took me into Kakadu. On a great road past great places like the Humpty Doo Hotel.
Don’t ask – the name could be from one of so many origins, but I like the derivative from the cattle station Umpity Doo. Slim Dusty clearly was intrigued too (Humpty Doo Waltz) And it was quite a lively spot as the following quote indicates:
“But it’s not just the proud men and women of the Territory who can sink a Darwin stubby, or two.
If you were around Humpty Doo in the 1980s, you might have come across Norman, the 600 kilogram Brahmin bull who could knock off a Darwin stubby in 47 seconds, and then wash it down with six tinnies and a meat pie.” Rae Allen 2008
We passed miles and miles of mango trees – all neatly groomed into ‘squares’ to facilitate easier harvesting. 40% of Australia’s mangoes come from this area which relies very heavily on backpacker workers and provide 4.8 mill trays annually
The name Kakadu may come from Gaagudju, the name of an Aboriginal language spoken in the park. Or it may come from the Indonesia (kakatuwah)/Dutch (kaketoe)/German (kakadu) word. Any or all anglicised into cockatoo. You decide.
Regardless, Aboriginal people have continuously inhabited this area for more than 65000 years – before the last ice age! Which interestingly enough is not as long as the crocodile has been there – try 200 million years – ‘unchanged’ – hows that for a fact. But more about crocodiles later.
The park is located within the Alligators Region of the Northern Territory. It covers an area of 19,804 km2, apparently the same size as Slovenia and half the size of Switzerland. Half of Kakadu is Aboriginal land and the other half is under claim by them. It is a UNESCO Heritage site and leased to Parks Australia by the Aboriginal people.
Why Alligator Rivers when there is not an alligator anywhere in Australia? Well blame the explorer Phillip King (first English navigator who entered the Gulf of Carpentaria) who has seen alligators in South America and assumed these were they – not having any idea that crocodiles even existed. He wrote
“ On our course up and down the river, we encountered several very large alligators and some were noticed sleeping on the mud. This was the first time we had seen these animals, excepting that at Goulburn Island, and , as they appeared to be very numerous and large, it was not thought safe to stop all night up the River“.
Kakadu is vast with according to the indigenous people 6 seasons.
Yup, 6. Forget spring, summer, autumn and winter. Try:
Yekke (cooler (May-June) when the drying winds and flowering woolybutt tell the locals to patchwork burn the woodlands to encourage new growth.
Bangkerreng (April) harvest time when the floodwaters recede and skies are clear. Plants are fruiting and animals caring for young
Kudjewk (December – March) monsoon rains with spear grass over 2 metres high and high heat and humidity
Wurrkeng (June – August) early dry season, floodplains dry out; magpie geese fat and heavy after abundant food crowd the billabongs.
Kurrung (August – October) hot and dry means good hunting of file snakes and long necked turtles
Kunumeleng (October – December) pre-monsoon sees streams running, waterbirds everywhere and barramundi move to estuaries to breed.
So much more interesting and meaningful if you live in that part of the world than just 4.
Okay so with 6 seasons, why not for symmetry’s sake, 6 landforms here too.
Promise, I won’t go into detail;
Stone Country: Savanna Woodlands: Monsoon Vine Forests: Southern Hills & Ridges: Tidal flats: Mangroves & Coastline and finally Floodplains, Rivers and Billabongs.
I did not get to see all 6 landforms, but what I did see what beautiful, enormous and inviting to return.
There are some that believe it is brooding, because for millennia this land had been called ‘the sick country’ by the indigenous with rock art showing people with misshapen limbs and ‘swollen’ joints.
It turns out, it was in truth ‘ a sick country’ if you spent too much time there. Radiation from the uranium beneath the ground (which causes swollen joints) was found and hence confirmed their label. And with that came the Ranger Uranium Mine – and you may recall the protests. At the time, one of the largest uranium mines in the world. It is now closing down, incurring losses for several reasons. The 2011 Fukushima disaster and related market slump and the waste management costs. The mine is being shut down with rehabilitation costs expected to be $800million!!!!!
And that is not taking into account the town of Jabiru which was a thriving small town supplying the mine and is now almost deserted. Apart perhaps from the hotel – the famous Croc Hotel built as a 250-metre long, 30-metre wide giant crocodile.
It will be interesting to see the restoration when complete.
And ALWAYS worth a visit – this amazing part of our country.