Thursday, 22 May 2014

Kakadu Part 1- Mardgual Campground and Nourlangie

I won’t say it was a tearful farewell, but saying goodbye to the Braggs in Katherine before we headed up to Kakadu was a little depressing. Fiela and I had been mourning our lack of travel companions (besides ourselves obviously!) in our two months of travel before we met this couple, and having spent a few days getting to know them a little better, we realised we’d found some true friends. Of course, we would probably see them in Darwin in a month’s time if not before (so dry your eyes princess).
Nourlangie art site, Kakadu, on a quiet day.

Our first taste of Kakadu... The Bukbukluk Lookout.
We got on the highway toward the famous Kakadu National Park feeling a little lonely, which was increased ten-fold by the Irish guy manning the Mary River Hotel where we were supposed to buy our Park Passes ($25 each to get into a National Park). I walked in and felt like I was in an episode of ‘Black’s Books’ as he gleefully told me that no, he had no park passes left, and no, you won’t be camping anywhere near that beautiful waterfall as it’s still closed for the wet season and no, actually you can’t really go anywhere but a handful of spots in the entire park. Oh and if you do go and camp there when the sign says closed you’ll probably get rained in for a month which would serve you right you stupid stupid  tourist.

Nourlangie from the (enormous) carpark. We arrived just before busload of tourists came- apparently we were lucky it was just one. We visited at the beginning of the Dry Season, and still had the place relatively to ourselves. 

So our plans changed again and instead of camping at Gunlom Falls and swimming in the croc-free natural infinity pool at the top of a cliff overlooking the plains below, we drove an extra hundred kilometers into the park and camped at the Mozzie Campground. Sorry, I mean Mardugal Campground. It is a beautiful camping area with showers and toilets, but the mosquitoes were outrageous: at exactly 6.55pm every night they descended upon our little band of warm blooded bodies in a way that is unholy. Completely unprepared the first night we were eaten alive, found about 25 blood filled mozzies in the campertrailer in the morning and thousands clinging to the outside waiting for an opportunity to get to the Uys Huis Buffet.

So far, Kakadu had definitely felt like Kakadon’t.

The first hint that Kakadu was more than mosquitoes and disappointment. This is the entrance way to a 'minor' site (cave) of Aboriginal artwork.

But we picked our anemic selves up, found a resort at Cooinda 5 minutes up the road with the most beautiful pool ever (open to the camping peasants from down at Mardugal), bought our park passes,  booked a billabong tour and suddenly felt like we had hit good times again… The photos can do the rest of the talking. About bloody time I hear you all scream...

30,000 year old artwork at a minor site at Nourlangie. Kangaroos  were also some of Australia's early inhabitants ;)

The shelter, painting to the far bottom left, used for 10,000s of years.

Another 'minor site'. Artwork was often painted and repainted. The act of painting was at times more significant than the subject itself.

A greater perspective of the wall from where the previous artwork came.

A close up of some paintings on a wall. Every twist and turn in the rock showed some new, familiar and at times baffling pictures.

From the main gallery at Nourlangie.

Nourlangie. This frieze has a few moralistic stories attached to it, the most obvious being don't sleep with your sister or you'll be turned into a crocodile... one for all of us, not just traditional land owners!

Namorrgon the lightning spirit.



At the lookout, Nourlangie gallery to the left.
Beautiful Kakadu ranges.

Nourlangie in the background.

So high on Kakadu awesomeness we decided to tackle the first 1 or 2kms of the Barrk track... "Do not underestimate the difficulty of this walk.." said the big sign at the start.

Our reward for 2kms of up up up rock climbing.

Can you hear the adrenaline pumping as I take a photo of my children being held by a maniac next to a cliff??
I jest. This place is beautiful and spiritual. I felt like I was in a Baz Luhrman film.
Yes, just me. Everyone else was pumped to be at one of the highest points in the Kakadu Ranges, looking over plains and plains of untouched wilderness with not a human in sight.
A Lion King moment.
Some perspective... One of the most rewarding, challenging and wonderful experiences of Kakadu. Nothing but the whistling of wind, some lonely birds and us, the Uys Huis crazies puffing at the climb and exclaiming at the view. What an ancient and spiritual land we live in. 

A dingo sauntering about as we headed back to the creature comforts of mozzie central.
 We booked a cruise on the Yellow Billabong for the next day. I was excited about seeing crocodiles (though there was a buffet breakfast at the end of the cruise and those that know me will know that was possibly even more exciting).

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