Thursday, 30th August – Darwin

Today we visited the largest national park in Australia – the Kakadu National Park, some three hours\’ drive south-east of Darwin. It\’s HUGE – the size of Wales! And we saw barely 1% of it, but, despite it being a long day, it was well worthwhile.

This was another organised tour by AAT Kings, and the driver/guide was in a different class to the one yesterday. Kept us informed and entertained pretty much the whole way. His instructions were precise, well timed and high quality. Top notch stuff with a coachload of over 50 people on this day trip!

We stopped on the way at Corroborree Tavern for a coffee (it might sell beer, but not at 8 a.m.!) The coffee, to be blunt, was gnat\’s piss. Far too much milk. If that\’s the Australian version of a flat white, then I won\’t be indulging again. However, a decent break.

As you travel along these sparse highways, you get an impression of just how big this place is – and we have so much more to see yet. Mile after mile, hour after hour of what they call woodland savannah – flat, lots of eucalyptus trees, termite mounds, wallabies, and huge areas of charred vegetation. This is deliberate – I don\’t have the time to go into detail here, but fire regenerates the land and it is very carefully controlled.

In the rainy season, much of this huge area is under water, up to a metre deep. It is therefore impassable at certain times of year. It is a total transformation, as it was pretty dry as we went through it. The land, however, does retain water to a great degree as we saw later, even in the dry season.

A stat for you – Northern Territories is home to around 240,000 people in total. It\’s a huge area with a population less than Milton Keynes! Extraordinary.

The main emphasis today was on the culture of the indigenous people of the area. Their civilisation has been in existence for over 70,000 years. I leave that thought hanging……

Referred to erroneously as Nourlangie, our first major stop was Anbangbang, with some truly remarkable exhibits of aboriginal painting. The whole approach to life of these people is far too complex to explain here, but they were amazingly civilised in so many respects. The stories attached to these paintings are also nothing short of fantastic.

After a reasonably decent lunch (part of the package), we embarked on a Yellow Water Billabong cruise which lasted about an hour and a half through the wetlands of the area as alluded to above. The highlight of the day for me, for sure. Led by a local guy who could, as per his own saying, talk under water for an hour with a mouth full of marbles (!), he was an entertainment in himself. I don\’t think he drew breath once. However, the wildlife was fabulous and the below is a tiny sample:

Male croc

Female croc

Jacana – you can just see the youngster bottom right.  Tiny.

Sea eagle

Black necked stork

Whistling kite

Plus a couple of pics of the wetlands themselves to try and convey something of this extraordinary landscape:

Thence to the Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre – a museum of aboriginal artifacts, facts, stories, and a true celebration of the indigenous culture. It was interesting, but to be honest, I\’d had about enough by now, so it was all aboard the coach for the long, long trip back to Darwin. Left at 6.20 a.m., back at the hotel 7.45 p.m. Long, but very interesting day.

Another earlyish get-up tomorrow to embark on our 10 day cruise round the north-west coast of Australia. I may be incommunicado for a few days, depending on Internet connectivity whilst on the ship, so bear with us.

2 responses to “Thursday, 30th August – Darwin”

  1. IF 4: Aboriginal people call themselves Bininj in the north of the park and Munggay in the south. All foreigners are called Balanders.The Balander who did the plumbing in our room has installed the tumble dryer upside down, but we are in Australia!

  2. Anbangbang looks full of interesting stuff. And liking the wildlife pics. Enjoy the cruise, Chris. Sounds like you both might need a bit of a rest!

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