The next morning we woke up early after a good nights sleep in the campervan and headed further east on the highway towards Kakadu National Park. A short time after entering into Kakadu we actually saw a huge python on the road that we barely missed hitting. The park is really huge and it actually took us another 40 minutes of driving to reach the park’s visitor center outside of the small city of Jabiru:
The visitor center is actually very well done and worth checking out.
It has lots of displays about the geologic events that created Kakadu as well as displays about the history of the local Aborigines that live in the park. For example her is an example of a canoe the Aborigines made that is carved from a tree:
Kakadu is composed of two very different pieces of terrain. Most of the park is flat wetlands while the far eastern fringes are sandstone rock plateaus that extend into the autonomous aboriginal territory of Arnhem Land. Here is a good terrain model from the visitor center:
Just for clarification the left hand portion of this map is actually the northern area of the map. The plateau you see on the map actually extends for hundreds of miles into Arnhem Land. The wetland areas of Kakadu were actually once under the ocean and the plateau was the ancient shoreline of Australia. When you actually see the Arnhem Land Escarpment as the plateau is known as, you can actually picture in your mind the waves of the ancient ocean crashing on the beaches of the escarpment.
After touring the visitor center we headed off to see what is known as Nourlangie Rock where I planned to hike up and around this prominent plateau that sticks out from the Arnhem Land Escarpment:
If any of the pictures from this travelog look familiar it may because many scenes from the movie Crocodile Dundee were filmed here at this park. My wife and I still get a kick out of watching this movie and being able to recognizes terrain features from Kakadu.
The nearby trails from Nourlangie Rock parking lot are very well maintained and even wheel chair accessible. I highly recommend that anyone going to Kakadu visit this area of the park and especially see the ancient aboriginal art on display that is only a 15 minute walk from the parking lot. The art is located in an aboriginal cave known as the Angbangbang Main Gallery that has served as an aboriginal shelter for 20,000 years. Here is the picture of the aboriginal God the “Lightning Man” in the shelter:
Just think this shelter was in use 16,000 years before the Pyramids were ever built and for Australia this is a young shelter. Archeologists have found evidence and artwork in Western Australia that is anywhere from 60,000-50,000 years old. The Aborigines have one of the oldest civilizations on Earth yet very few people outside of Australia even know this. It probably because they never built anything like a pyramid before. Really the only evidence the ancient Aborigines left is their artwork that is scattered all over Australia.
The Barrk Bush Walk
The Angbangbang Gallery also serves as the starting point for the Barrk Bush Walk. Though the path to the Angbangbang Gallery is well maintained the trail after it is not maintained very well and the complete circuit of the trail should only be attempted by people in reasonable shape with plenty of water. The complete circuit is approximately 12 miles through steep rugged terrain:
I can’t stress enough to bring plenty of water and be in moderate shape before attempting this hike.
The hike begins well enough by ascending up the escarpment and providing a great view of the surrounding wetlands that extend all the way back to Darwin:
As I continued up the escarpment and into thick bushland I saw a number of these beautiful flowers:
As I ascended even further up the mountain the trail pretty much vanished and I was left breaking brush and climbing many steep rock embankments:
After completing the tiring climb up the plateau a beautiful, wide grassland opened up before me:
I even ended up finding the trail again:
However, once I found the trail, it wasn’t too long after that, that I once again had to do some more climbing up and over large rock formations:
The large rock formations just kept coming:
Before long the trail was gone again and it was up to me to start breaking bush and finding my own way through the bush. Due to the poor trail conditions I was glad I brought a decent map and compass to ensure that I stayed in the general correct direction.
After scrambling through the many rocks and gorges I had finally reached the far side of Nourlangie Rock, which had a sweeping view of the surrounding wetlands:
The smoke in the distance is from controlled burns that take place in the Top End usually by the local Aboriginals. The controlled burns during the dry season helps to prevent severe wildfires during the wet season when lightning strikes, which causes frequent bush fires. The Aboriginals have been conducting controlled burns for thousands of years across the whole of Australia.
Behind me I also had a nice view of the rolling hills extending back into Arnhem Land:
I then climbed down off the escarpment and into the lush forest below:
Now that I was back in the flat wetland area I once again found the trail and began to make my way to the isolated rock art gallery of Nanguluwur. However, I found out I had to climb half way back up the escarpment again to reach the gallery. The climb ended up being worth it because the rock art was pretty spectacular, especially when you consider how old and historical the art is.
Here are tracings of the hands of the various rock art painters:
Here are more pictures of various Aboriginal Gods and legends:
You can’t tell me this thing doesn’t look like an alien:
There was plenty of the Aborigines famous x-ray style paintings of fish and animals as well:
Finally, the most interesting image is of this European ship that represents the first contact of the Kakadu Aboriginals with the early Europeans who came to Australia in the 18th and 19th centuries.
At the rock art gallery I met a German couple who had hiked this far with only a liter of water which was truly foolish. I gave them some of the water I had in my Camelbak before heading off back to the parking lot. After another hour and half of walking through mostly wooded flatlands I was back where I started on the opposite side of Nourlangie Rock, but had run out of water and was really thirsty about now:
Fortunately from here it was just a short walk back to the parking lot:
I made it back to car park after cover 12 miles of rugged terrain in fairly hot weather in 4.5 hours and covered the last half hour of the hike with no water. Not too shabby.
Back to Jabiru
I went back to the campervan where my wife was soundly asleep waiting for me to come back. She fired up the campervan and we headed back to the city of Jabiru where there is a massive RV park.
Jabiru is a small city that has one of everything; one gas station, one grocery store, one RV park, etc. So you can imagine how over priced everything is. The city was founded mostly as a place to supply the local uranium mine. Yes you heard me right, there is a massive uranium mine in the middle of a UN listed World Heritage Area:
Pretty ironic isn’t it?
Anyway that night at the RV park we actually made our first dingo sighting in Australia:
The dingo was just walking around trying to get hand outs from the campers in the park. The dingos are good looking dogs though and do have a nice reddish color to them. I was thoroughly tired after the day’s hike around Nourlangie and was looking forward to a hot shower and some rest. I was going to need it because I had a lot more hiking ahead of me on our second day in Kakadu National Park.
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