Kakadu is one of, if not the most famous national park in Australia, and even worldwide, boasting caves filled with Aboriginal stone art from 20,000 years ago all the way up to the 20th century. It’s a living nature reserve and aboriginal culture museum, burned and flooded every year throughout its six indigenous seasons. It’s massive in size, taking nearly the same amount of time to drive through as it takes one to drive clear across Iceland. Half of it isn’t even accessible in the wet season, but the whole of it can hardly be called ‘accessible’ in the dry season since it was a scorching 42`C high every day and hiking around to all the art sights, billabongs and look-out points were nearly suicide missions (I swear I almost melted).
It’s nearly the end of the dry season, and the only water left was a few muddy puddles, covered in lilies and hundreds of birds, plus three major rivers, affectionately named West Alligator River, South Alligator River, and East Alligator river (aren’t their only crocodiles in Australia? and the South one was really the middle one, since they were all parallel in a row… unimportant technicalities I guess). It was scorching hot, even at night, and I don’t think I’ve ever drank so much water or sweated it out so quickly.
Luckily we had a car with air conditioning to provide temporary relief between the walk-abouts, and the hikes always proved worthwhile once you stood under a shady cave covered in cartoony but intricate images of fish and kangaroos painted by someone in red-ochre thousands of years ago.
We saw dozens of kangaroos and hundreds of birds – geese, storks, and colourful parrots to boot. Yellow-crusted cockatoos flew overhead as often as lizards crossed our paths, and we even saw one crocodile make a lunch out of one unlucky bird (or fish, it’s hard to say… just glad it wasn’t one of us). Our luck continued as we drove out of the park, where we sighted a dingo cross the road, and 3 wild horses, aka brumbies, grazing right beside the road!
We found the perfect Kakadu decompression site on our way home, the Douglas Daly hotspring national park, where we bathed in hot water, but at maybe 36`C, the water mas still cooler than the air and we managed to enjoy it under the shade of cockatoo-perched trees. It’s hard to imagine places like this exist, naturally, and total in the wild, and all it took was a weekend roadtrip from Darwin to find them.