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Rosi & Jen's 11 Thousand Beach Odyssey Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you did not do, then the ones you did. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbour. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream...."

Kakadu du du definitely do!

AUSTRALIA | Saturday, 27 December 2008 | Views [1682]

It's been over two months since I have updated this journal.  Life in Darwin is flying by.  The seasons are beginning to change and the periods of thumping heavy driving rain are becoming more frequent.  We are now on the cusp of the "the big wet".

A couple of weeks ago Jen, Rob and I headed out to Kakadu for the weekend to see what all the fuss was about.  A few people had told us not to go.  They told us Kakadu was overrated.  There is a saying we have heard a few times up here, "Kakadu-Kakadon't". We decided to go and see for ourselves.  Kakadu is without a doubt spectacular.  We headed to Cooinda and took a Yellow Water Billabong cruise.  Yellow Water Billabong is located at the end of Jim Jim Creek, a tributary of the South Alligator River. The South Alligator river system, which is the largest in the Park, contains extensive wetlands that include river channels, floodplains and backwater swamps.

About one third of Australia's bird species are represented in Kakadu National Park, with at least 60 species found in the wetlands.  The whole place was alive with wildlife, birdlife and plant life. We didn't know where to look, every few feet there was a croc or a fascinating bird or a beautiful waterlily. It was nature's theme park and it put anything manmade to shame.  The sheer unspoilt magnificence and vastness of the place is jaw dropping.

Later in the day we climbed around the Nourlangie Rock Art site which according to the Dreamtime stories was formed when two Creation Ancestors in the form of short-eared rock wallabies travelled through from east to west. They moved past Nourlangie Rock, across Anbangbang billabong, and up into the rocks at Nawurlandja, where they cut two crevices in the rock as they passed. These crevices are visible today and rock wallabies are often seen there in the early morning and at dusk. 

To look at aboriginal rock art paintings that are thousands of years old is such a humbling experience, that makes you realise how truly insignificant your 80 odd years on the planet truly are.  At the same time it makes you realise how one person truly can make an indelible mark on the history of the planet.  I stood there looking at the art and thought about the person who painted it, maybe 3 thousand years ago.  I thought about them sitting there right where I was standing and painting the stories of their life and there beliefs there on the rock.  It made me feel a connection with them as I understood the need they must have had to write it all down and tell others about what was happening in their life.

The highlight of the day was definitely Ubirr rock.  There is a massive main gallery of rock art.  Groups of Aboriginal people camped in rock shelters around Ubirr to take advantage of the enormous variety of foods available from the East Alligator River, the Nadab floodplain, the woodlands, and the surrounding stone country. The rock overhang of the main gallery provided an area where a family could set up camp. Food items were regularly painted on the back wall, one on top of the other, to pay respect to the particular animal, to ensure future hunting success, or to illustrate a noteworthy catch. Among the animals painted in the main gallery are barramundi, catfish, mullet, goannas, long-necked turtles, pig-nosed turtles, rock ringtail possums, and wallabies. Most of the X-ray art in the main gallery is from the freshwater period, so it is less than 1500 years old. There are also some interesting examples of contact art. One 'white fella' is depicted in trousers, shirt and boots and with his hands in his pockets; another, with a pipe in his mouth and his hands on his hips, is 'bossing us Aboriginal people around'. These figures are probably early buffalo hunters painted around the 1880s. Buffalo hunters employed Aboriginal people to help them hunt and run buffalo camps-they paid them with 'a little bit of tucker and some tobacco'.

A painting by Mimi spirits can be seen high up on the ceiling of the overhang. Aboriginal people describe how the Mimi spirits came out of the cracks in the rocks, pulled the ceiling rock down, painted the yellow and red sorcery image, and then pushed the rock back into place.

Close to the main gallery is a painting of a thylacine (Tasmanian tiger). As noted, archaeological evidence suggests that thylacines became extinct on the mainland about 2000 to 3000 years ago.

At the end of the day we climbed to the top of the rock to watch the sunset.  We looked out over the wetlands and to the west we could see all the way to Arnhem Land.  There was a storm in the distance and the flashes of lightning and rolling thunder really added to the whole experience.  Wallabies were feeding below us.  Whistling Kites and eagles soared in the thermals above.  It was quiet and contemplative.  Looking out over the vastness of the wetlands of Kakadu I couldn't help but think about my own life journey.  I think everyone up there with us would have been doing the same. There was very little talk.  Just a group of people absorbing the sheer magnificance of nature.  As the sunset with all the brilliance of a hollywood blockbuster I thought that this is one of those moments that I will always remember.  It was that perfect, that beautiful.  It was pure magic.

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