Friday, 30 July 2010

Kakadu - Jabiru Region

Kakadu is awesome!!  The end.

I could leave it at that, but being the big mouth that I am, of course I won't. I will warn you though - we've only spent one full day touring a small section of the park and already have over 250 photos. Yes, it's that beautiful here. You may want to keep that in mind when we invite you over to see our holiday photos.

Arriving at Kakadu National Park

A few tourist safety warnings done in a humorous way.

One of our favourites.

Lots to do in Kakadu

We started our touring of Kakadu with a visit to Ubirr in the Northeast of Kakadu.  This region is the traditional lands of the Gagudju people, and the site of ancient rock art.

Paintings can be found on the rock faces and under overhangs where they've been protected from the weather over thousands of years.

The art in Kakadu has been dated from recent history to over 20,000 years old, giving a rich insight into the culture of the land's Aboriginal inhabitants.  The cultural value of the art is internationally renowned, and is one of the reasons that Kakadu is inscribed on the United Nation's list of Wold Heritage sites. This particular painting of the rainbow serpent, which features heavily in Aboriginal Dreamtime beliefs, is thought to be up to 23,000 years old!

The art in this area has a strong emphasis on fish, fishing and hunting.  It was thought that the paintings would keep the spirit of the animal close and ensure bountiful and successful hunts.

Ubirr is also known for it's fine examples of x-ray art where the artist included the fish or animal's internal organs in the painting.

The fish paintings were also a way of preserving the memory of a good catch, similar to the photograph we would take today after catching a big fish.

If you click on any of the photos you can view a larger version with more detail of the artwork.

There were Rangers in various locations of the park giving free talks about the art and the park in general.  One of the things we learned was about "skin names" used by Aboriginal people. Each person is given a skin name, which is similar to a family name, and identifies them as part of a family as well as defines who they may marry and have children with. People with skin names too close to their own were forbidden from marriage.  A female child who reached adolescence was forbidden from associating with males in the same family group (including her own brothers).  This prevented incestuous relationships and kept the bloodlines from intermingling too closely.  We were shown a chart illustrating some of the family groups. It was a remarkably complex system when you consider how long ago the system began.

We climbed a rock that was 250 meters high to the lookout.

Climbing, climbing, climbing...

Almost there!

At the top!

We were rewarded with spectacular 360 degree views over the park.

We also went on the Guluyambi East Alligator River Cruise.  The cruise is an Aboriginal owned cultural and wildlife cruise.  As we cruised down the river with our Aboriginal guide we took in amazing scenery and learned about bush tucker and wildlife as well as the cultural history of the area.  It was a great cruise, and the guide was fantastic.

There are no alligators in East Alligator River.  It was named by someone who didn't know the difference between an alligator and a crocodile.  There were plenty of crocs around though.

The East Alligator River is the border between Kakadu and Arnhem Land.  Kakadu is on the right (to the West) and Arnhem Land to the left. 

We were given the opportunity to get off the boat at Arnhem Land for a look around and a spear demonstration.

Views of the river from Arnhem Land.

On the way back

The rock cliffs along the river were stunning.

Back at camp a wild dingo took a stroll through the campsite just in time for dinner.  He must have smelled all the barbecues.

Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Farewell Darwin

The last few days in Darwin were spent revisiting some favourite spots such as Stokes Hill Wharf, exploring the city, and visiting the military museum, parks, markets and harbours.

We had a fun afternoon at Sky City Casino.

We also went to Aquascene to feed the fishies.

It all started in the 1950's when a resident threw some scraps into the water for the fish.

Apparently fish like a free meal just as much as us humans do, and word got around.  Now, at every high tide hundreds of fish turn up hoping to get a feed.

It was incredible watching the water come alive with fish, as though they'd all heard a dinner bell ring. It was good fun throwing bits of bread in the water and watching them gulp it down, sometimes jumping and soaking us as they vied for the biggest piece.

Eventually I decided to have a go at hand feeding them, which was great except for the one cheeky fish that nibbled my finger.  Luckily they didn't have teeth!

Who knew you could pet a fish?

Although we both loved Darwin, after two weeks we were ready to move on. The heat was really starting to take it's toll on us. The hot days weren't bad when they were dry, but the hot humid nights made sleeping difficult. Leave it to us to visit during an unseasonably humid dry season!  More and more we found ourselves choosing air-conditioned places to visit and seeking refuge in the pool.  Back when we were complaining about the cold in Alice Springs I knew it wouldn't be long before we'd be complaining about the heat. :)

The locals explained that the humidity we were feeling was more like the wet season "build up", and that they seemed to have skipped the dry season which is the best time to visit the area.

From here we are heading to Kakadu National Park which has similar hot temperatures but hopefully won't be as humid.

Off to Kakadu!