I’ve skipped Darwin, but will return later.
Kakadu is Australia’s largest national park, almost 19,000 square kilometres. Its 50% aboriginal land and the other 50% is under claim by the aborigines. It’s jointly managed by the aborigines and the government.
I met folks along the way that seemed to want to steer me clear of Kakadu. “Not as good as Litchfield”, “can’t drive to sites without a 4-wheel drive” etc … If you meet these people, ignore them! Kakadu is a wonderful window into the proverbial land before time, aboriginal ‘dream-time’.
On my 1st drive out to explore some country, I stopped at Cahills Crossing. It’s a tidal ford over the East Alligator River, crossing from Kakadu into Arnhem Land, a 97,000 square kilometre aboriginal reserve. You need special permission to enter. An early English explorer named the Alligator Rivers, mistaking the crocodiles for alligators – no alligators here, only crocodiles – the name stuck however.
I passed a couple of entertaining hours at Cahills crossing, eating lunch and watching the comings and goings. This guy must have wanted out badly – a mistake here and he’s swimming with the crocodiles. He’s driving across a 4 metre wide concrete strip.
The river current flows from right to left, but in these photos the tide is coming in, reversing the flow from left to right. I watched the crocodile below swim up to the ford and surf across. He knew the routine – he swam around in the pool to the left until the tide was high enough to ride across. Once the tide was fully in, the river leveled out at the ford and the water was calm until the tide began to ebb. When that happened the crocodiles could cross back again from right to left. The river mouth is about 50ks away!
A local was killed at this crossing when he fell off the concrete ford into ‘the arms’ of a waiting crocodile. The day I was there, several fishermen were doing their best to snag a fish. The guy in the next 2 photos kept his eye on the crocodile, while the crocodile kept his eye on him (pretending to look somewhere else). When the crocodile went below the surface he was completely out of sight until he popped up in another spot. So, how can a fisherman keep his eye on a crocodile? There were 4 of them swimming in the area. I was primed for the action ‘shot’ of the century.
I enjoyed Ubirr and Anbangbang, 2 sites where you can find walking tracks through the bush, ancient rock paintings and amazing rock formations to climb with vistas over the surrounding territory. Met Joel and Annie, park rangers, who gave interesting talks at several sites at the locations.
Annie told us about ‘dream-time’ and explained that it’s like a book, in which there’s the part you’ve read, the part you’re reading now, and then the part you haven’t read, the future. Close the book – that’s ‘dream-time’, the whole book – past, present, future – already written or maybe just time repeating?
Joel’s a young, thoughtful, educated, laid back, white fella, “bush guy”. He told us how the people shared their stories with each other and their children as they moved about their daily routine, hunting, fishing, gathering … and how their stories were integral with the land they lived on – the animals, the plants, the weather, the rocks, the sky … he explained it in a way that let you understand how the people are divorced from their story, their history and their culture without their land. They have no written history. Aboriginal people have lived in this region for 20,000 – 40,000 years (debate continues). The British established the 1st settlements in this area in 1824, less the 200 years ago!
A nasty fellow.
This doesn’t look like anyone I know.
There were pockets of people waiting on both sides of the ford for the tide to drop, so they could make the crossing. As I walked back to my car I passed through a group of aborigines sitting in the shade. As I walked on, these little kids with the blackest faces, whitest teeth and biggest impish grins I’ve ever seen, jumped up and ‘hi-fived’ me on the way through – ha, ha! – the old white fella in the funny hat and baggy shorts!
Scenes at Ubirr Rock, NT.
A word from the aborigines.
A tourist died at Jim Jim Falls while I was visiting. Aborigine elders closed it as a sign of respect – no news on the cause.
July 1 – Happy Canada Day folks and happy Northern Territory Day!! I left Cooinda and Kakadu behind today, heading for Batchelor, a town 4 hours away on the edge of Litchfield National Park, the next wilderness area I want to visit. I broke my rule for not eating ‘out’ as I had nothing in the van to eat and stopped at a roadhouse along the way for some lunch. The menu was on a blackboard behind the counter and I spotted some toasted sandwiches – love toasted sandwiches. You place your order standing at the counter. I asked the young girl for a cup of tea and a toasted tomato, cheese and onion sandwich (listed in the menu). I paid for my lunch and she headed out to the kitchen. In no time at all she returned and said “sorry mate, we don’t have any tomatoes“. Well, I could see a couple of plump, juicy red tomatoes sitting on the kitchen table. So I thought “what the fuck” (in honour of Tony Soprano) and told her there were a couple of tomatoes right there on the table, and she said “those are the bosses tomatoes“! Ha, ha. Got a huge laugh out of this (small things amuse caravan vagabonds) – ordered a ham, cheese and onion instead – they had all 3 ingredients this time – guess the boss hadn’t seen them yet!