Journey into the Northern Territory Pt. 2: Kakadu National Park

KakaduIn part 2 of the series about our journey through the Northern Territory we venture into a park made famous to Americans by Crocodile Dundee, Kakadu. If you want to catch-up with part 1 you can find it here.

But first, the prelude, as travelers my wife and I have slowly progressed from planning every minute detail to being much more go with the flow. That type of traveling has its pluses, impromptu places, changing things on a whim, etc., but it also has some drawbacks and unfortunately for us Kakadu was heavy on the drawbacks. Because of our lack of research and planning on our visit we didn’t realize how much weather impacted your ability to see the park and the week before we arrived Kakadu got a lot of rain. Due to all of that rain almost every part of the park was closed to non-4×4 vehicles, which we didn’t have. So essentially, we spent a lot of time and money to only be able to see three or four parts of the park. The other mistake we made was not staying in the park itself. We rented an Airbnb in Pine Creek, which was beautiful and we had a lovely host, but that choice of locale meant that we did a whole LOT of driving. Those two things combined to form a bad taste in our mouth over our time in Kakadu. It wasn’t all bad, but just reliving the trip through this blog has revived the frustration I felt during our time there.

Our first stop in Kakadu was Cahills Crossing, where we stopped for a picnic lunch and to stretch our legs. The crossing goes straight through the Alligator River leading from the park into Arnhem Land, which is owned by the Aborigines and can only be visited with a special permit. There is no bridge, so many vehicles have been pushed off the crossing into the river due to the strong flow of the water. However, the water is the least of your worries, due to the high population of saltwater crocodiles that live in the area. It’s considered one of the most dangerous bodies of water in Australia. Understandably we stayed well away from the water, while we picnicked.

From Cahills we traveled up to Ubirr, which for me was probably the highlight of our time in Kakadu. Walking around Ubirr you can take in Aboriginal Rock Art that have been there for thousands of years. The walk itself is about 1km and there is a spur leading off the loop up to Nadab Lookout, allowing a stunning 360 panorama over the floodplain. It was the type of view that takes your breath away and makes you want to sit there and never leave. Unfortunately, the sun was scorching and we had a long drive ahead of us to Pine Creek, so we pulled ourselves away from the spectacular view and headed south.

Nadab pana
Nadab Lookout
Rock outcropping Nadab
Stunning views at Nadab Lookout
On top of Nadab
On top of Nadab Lookout
Pride rock
It looked like Pride Rock from the Lion King to us

On our way, we stopped at Bukbukluk to take in the sunset. The fiery colors we had come accustomed to during our time in Australia didn’t disappoint as we happily snapped away with our camera. Regrettably, after the sun was gone we still had over 80 harrowing kilometers to go in the pitch black. The trip was made all the more nerve-racking by coming upon a huge brush fire alongside of the road. Just acres and acres of woods burning without anyone around was an incredibly surreal experience. We found out later that this burning was apparently part of the Aboriginal land management.

Sunset
Fiery sunset from Bukbukluk
Fiery sunset
Sun going down at Bukbukluk
Bush fire
Brush fire on the way to Pine Creek

Our second day in Kakadu was incredibly exasperating as the recent rains had closed all but three of the walks in the park that you could reach without a 4×4. We visited Nawurlandja Lookout and Mirrai Lookout, which we’re both nice, but nothing compared to Nadab. We got rained out of our walk Nourlangie, which added to our disappointment. Defeated, we gave up and took our long drive back to Pine Creek to rest up for our continued journey south.

Off road
Captivating off-road path
Nawurlandja Lookout
Nawurlandja Lookout
Rock formation on Nawurlandja
Interesting rock formation on Nawurlandja

Kakadu was incredibly frustrating for us because of our lack of planning and factors outside of our control, but it is a beautiful place. I’d like the opportunity for a do-over in the future with much more preparation on our part. How about you, have you ever encountered a frustrating part of a trip? A main site under construction or closed? Maybe terrible weather during your stay? Let me know how you dealt with them in the comments below.

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6 thoughts on “Journey into the Northern Territory Pt. 2: Kakadu National Park

  1. Hi Dustin!
    I really enjoyed your descriptions and the drive in the dark in the fire is something I would not want to do.
    I learned my two lessons (through frustration) about “just go” and ” A good traveler is not moody” this way:
    Carley was teaching kindergarten at haven of peace academy. I was visiting. I was having a moody morning. So I did not go to school with her that day. I stayed home. That was the day that the local fire rescue department brought a fire rescue ladder vehicle to school, a spur of the moment visit. Nobody needed permission slips to ride up in the bucket. The whole school got to take bucket rides to look over the landscape of Dar es Salaam high in the air. Photos were taken for the yearbook. Kindergarten children got to go. I could’ve gone. That day taught me never again to stay home, (and knock off the moodiness). It was frustrating at the time, because I lost a golden opportunity, but I’m so glad I learned that lesson.

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