The Gypsy with the red notebook

How to discover yourself and the world with inspirational journeys

Darwin, days 21 and 22 – Kakadu & Litchfield National Parks

Crocs in Litchfield Park

“Hey bros what happens if I lose my son in Kakadu?”
“He may get eaten by crocs”.
Ref. Google Maps Q&A, first result.

It is difficult to fully realize the size of a natural park that is as big as half Switzerland. With its 20 thousand square kilometers, Kakadu is the prince of the Northern Territory: it is impossible to visit it all, equally impossible not to try a taste of its territory. Here you can finda an infinite biodiversity: from forests to rocky plateaus, passing through savannah, mangroves and waterways. It is also famous for its “six seasons” created by the Bininj and Mungguy (the local aborigines), who defined them on the basis of temperatures and rainfall. I went to Darwin during Gurrung, the hot and dry season, although there were already some signs of the Wet.
My original idea was to plan another 3-days excursion with two nights outdoors, like in the Red Center. In the end I chose two relaxing 1-day trips (I’m getting old!), the first to Kakadu and the second to Litchfield, a small 1,500 square km-gem, popular for waterfalls and streams. A very efficient Tourist Office employee in Darwin, who speaks a perfect English (from Sydney onwards I will struggle to understand the terrible Aussie accent), gives me advice and books me an Offroad Dreaming tour for Kakadu on Thursday and for Litchfield on Friday.

On thursday morning I wake up at dawn. Norman, a funny driver who will be the tour guide, seems to have aboriginal origins (this makes me feel excited), but actually he is a Sinhalese guy who has been living in Australia for 40 years. He will be my mentor: I am travelling alone, and Aussie are really supportive, and he will also be my guide for Litchfield the day after.
During the drive he makes funny jokes mixing nationalities and stereotypes, while telling us the Kakadu’s history, strictly connected with the Ranger Uranium Mine. One of the richest uranium deposits in the world, it is located exactly in the center of the park. Its exploitation, in fact, has been controversial for years, due to the risk of contamination of the environment and water. I didn’t know it, but Australia alone exports 24% of the world’s uranium

We’ll explore the northeast of Kakadu, from Ubirr – with its incredible cave paintings, tracing back to thousands years ago – to the East Alligator, a crocodile-infested river bordering Arnhem Land. The origin of the name is funny, since here there is anything but alligators. The explorer Philip Parker King, a skilled navigator and scholar who, however, when he saw three crocodiles mistook them for alligators and mystified the whole park’s geography. In the evening I drop off at Mindil Beach to see the famous Thursday night markets, where I eat the crocodile burger. Not very original, but… it has really a chicken taste, with a kind of fishy softness.

Kakadu & Litchfield. Ubirr, The mysterious cave paintings
Ubirr, The mysterious cave paintings
Kakadu & Litchfield. Ubirr, The mysterious cave paintings
Ubirr, The mysterious cave paintings
Arnhem Land
Weird landscape in Arnhem Land
Kakadu & Litchfield.The East Alligator
The East Alligator

On Friday we visit the Litchfield, smaller (ok… let’s say compared to Kakadu) but more fun for me. The first stop is the termite moulds, impressive cathedrals several meters high, real estate companies that show an incredible long-term orientation. A termite lives for a few months, but works all its life to build a termite mound, growing at the rate of one meter every ten years.
Then, we see the amazing falls: Wangi Falls, Florence Falls, Buley Rockhole, all wonderful spots where you can swim close to the signals, warning about freshwater and possibly saltwater crocs.
Litchfield’s highlight comes last: the cruise on the Adelaide River with crocodiles, in the middle of the mating season. This time we don’t look at them from afar, like we did in Kakadu. Jack, the weird crocodile dundee, barefoot, with wild hair and beard, cutlass and gun at his waist, makes jokes and terrifies us! Then he approaches and feeds crocs of different kinds and sizes, including an immense “alpha male”, very cheerful, with big smiles, and particularly fond of white meat (chicken, I suppose?)…
See the giant croc’s video here!!!

Termite Moulds in Litchfield
Termite Moulds in Litchfield
Kakadu & Litchfield, Florence Falls
Florence Falls
Kakadu & Litchfield, Wangi Falls
Wangi Falls
Crocodile Safety in Litchfield National Park
Crocodile Safety in Litchfield National Park
Crocs cruise on Adelaide river

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