As lovely as Edith Falls was, I was excited to hit the road as we were heading to Kakadu. Probably one of the most famous National Parks in Australia. Kakadu is about half the size of Switzerland, and has a reputation of being a true wilderness, full of danger, beauty, and some of the finest examples of Aboriginal rock art in the world.

It was also in the news just recently, as they discovered a site showing evidence of Aboriginal’s existence going back over 65,000 years, which is 18,000 years further back than they had previously thought. This is such a long time ago, that it begins to challenge the fact that man originally evolved in the rift valley in Africa, and then spread throughout from there.

Kakadu. Bring it on.

Gunlom Falls

Our first stop, even before we got to camp and set up, was at Gunlom falls. We jumped out, had a picnic lunch and then wandered over to the pool at the bottom of the waterfall. There are saltwater Croc’s in there, and it’s the top of the waterfall that’s the real feature, so, up we go.

About 45 minutes of climbing straight up, often with children on your shoulders, was pretty tough, but eventually you’re rewarded with a swim in a naturally occurring infinity pool, suspended a hundred metres above some of the most ancient rocks in the world. Wow.

Some of the rocks that create the landscape here are 3 billion years old. Only 1.5 billion years younger than Earth itself. There aren’t many places on the planet where rocks of this age actually protrude out of the ground. Kakadu really has an embarrassment of riches on the natural wonders front.

I didn’t know until we were there, but Gunlom Falls actually features in the movie Crocodile Dundee too, as do many other sites around the Park. I’ll have to watch it again, see if I recognise the locations.

And when we got to the top we met someone we knew! This lovely lady, Jo, who was driving around the country in a red Hi-lux on her own. We’d first met at Daly Waters, then Bitter Springs, Edith Falls and now here! For a big bloody country, it seems awfully small sometimes .

Yellow River

After Gunlom we drove further into the park and set up camp at Cooinda, which had a resort style pool in the middle. Perfect.

Apart from the lovely pool, we’d camped there because it’s right next to the Yellow River Billabong, and many people had told us a wildlife cruise was not to be missed.

So Erin took off the next morning on her own for the sunrise cruise, and Katie and I departed later on for the sunset option.

Skye, we had decided, can’t sit still for two hours on a boat, so she’s going to miss out on some of these trips from now on. Sorry Skye :/

For once ‘they’ were right. The cruise was fantastic. The Aboriginal guide was very knowledgeable, and we saw an amazing amount of wildlife. But the best bit, was the salt water crocodile that patrolled next to us for a few minutes.

Katie and I were out our seats, hunkered down at the front of the boat eyeballing the prehistoric reptile as he slowly made his way up the river, before settling into the mud at the side.

We were so close it got your heart racing.

Nourlangie Rock

The next day we visited Nourlangie Rock, which is a fairly imposing feature even in Kakadu, and unsurprisingly, there’s a lot of rock art down below too. We’d timed our visit to listen to one of the Ranger talks, and the guy was brilliant.

He told us about Kakadu being handed back to the Aboriginal people, after a bit of a fight, and how it was then leased it back to the Northern Territory to be used as a National Park. The whole place is now managed by a board of Governors made up mainly of Aboriginal Elders, and a few white fellas from the Government.

It sounds as if it works well, and the knowledge that both parties bring to the table complement each other very effectively.

As there’s no written language, their cultural inheritance is passed down through stories and rock art. Some paintings tell stories that help from a practical perspective, and some from a moral perspective. There are very old paintings of Echidnas, for example, that show the good bits to eat. Very handy.

He went on to explain the Aboriginal concept of kinship, which was extremely complicated but helped keep the bloodlines clean, by dictating who you could marry, and who you couldn’t. It’s also a bond that connects seemingly everyone, so that you have lots of mothers, brothers, fathers and uncles. All of these traditions seem to have kept the Aboriginies living in Australia very happily, and sustainably, until we came along.

Speaking of sustainability, a few kilometres away was the largest Uranium deposit in the world. Every five years or so, mining companies used to approach the main elder, asking if they can buy the rights to mine the site. He sat on it for years, and eventually, in the mid ‘90’s he made his decision.

He got the land registered as a World Heritage Site, meaning nobody could touch it, forever. Well done that man. Perhaps he should be running the rest of the country too. Certainly no danger of him having dual citizenship.

Ubir

Ubir is a rocky plateau that boasts one the greatest collection of rock art in the world. It also overlooks an enormous plain that extends into Arnehm Land, a ‘permit only’ Aboriginal area almost as large as Kakadu.

And unusually, out there in the middle of nowhere, is a little Thai restaurant!

We phoned ahead, ordered dinner and picked it up on the way to watch the sunset. Even though there were about 50 other people up there taking in the view, it didn’t detract from the sight.

It was stunning, and the sunset over the plain took your breath away. I feel as if I’m running out of superlatives for Kakadu. It was fuckin’ awesome. That’ll do.

Cahills Crossing

At high tide the water runs over a ford at Cahills Crossing, and lots of Crocodiles line up waiting for fish to jump into their mouths.

We saw, maybe ten Crocs in total, but none of them having their breakfast unfortunately. Almost as entertaining as seeing the Crocs line up however, was the Aussie fishermen casting their lines in between them!

Just another morning in Kakadu.

Jim Jim Falls

Not many people go to Jim Jim Falls. It’s 53 km’s off the highway, the road is dreadful and the walk once you get there, arduous. It’s worth it though. Bloody hell. The scale of the place was incredible, and the fact that it wasn’t easy to get to, seemed appropriate.

You shouldn’t be able to saunter up to a place like that, park your car, grab a coffee and toddle over.

One of Erin’s phrases that she keeps saying, and we keep winding her up about, is “I’d love to see that in the west season.” Well with Jim Jim I have to agree. Although you’d have to get a helicopter in.

Unfortunately, at last, it was time to leave. We’d spent a week in Kakadu, and it was bloody brilliant.

Definitely a highlight of the trip so far. So much more to do, but hey, gotta leave something for next time.

It was time to get Aunty Emily.