At a mere two billion years old, the World Heritage Listed Kakadu National Park is one of Australia’s most coveted “Must See” destination. It’s an internationally recognised ecological and cultural treasure. Check it out? Don’t mind if I do!
There’s over 1, 600 plant varieties here, and estimated 10, 000 insects (with many so rare or yet to be named that it’s an entymologists wet dream!) There’s also 75 reptile species, 275 bird species, 25 species of cribbety-frogs and countless mammals.
For so many visitors the major attractions are the rugged landscape of towering escarpments with jagged peaks, and the secrets of an ancient civilisation they offer up.
Remnants of stone tools, shelters and ochre and stencil paintings that date back over 50, 000 years and beyond are an enthralling legacy.
Over 5, 000 aboriginal cultural sites have been identified in Kakadu and visitors are afforded a viewing of just a few keys sites. The name Kakadu comes from the Gagudju language, spoken by the aboriginal people in the north of the park.
It’s Gurrung Season. Hot and Dry. A time when local aboriginal people hunt for long necked turtles and file snake, and the wood swallows arrive as thunderclouds slowly build.
It’s one of Kakadu’s six seasons, recognised by the Bininj / Mungguy calendar which we recite with confidence. The Squids feel as if they’ve stepped into the pages of Alison’s Lester’s ‘Ernie Dances to the Didgeridoo’.
It’s hot, humid and we’re plodding slowly towards the build up of the wet season.We’re also plodding on a pretty rough track to Gunlom Falls
This is a return trip to beautiful Kakadu NP for the Skipper and I, but it’s the first time we’ve been able to tick Gunlom Falls off our own Must See list.
Located in the Southern end of the park, it’s a rough old road in, and being in the midst of the dry season we’re beginning to worry that the falls may be dry. Gunlom Falls still manages to deliver. No croc cages in sight either but we only take a quick dip at the base of the trickling falls.
It’s up top that the real show-stopper awaits! We’ll check it out tomorrow.
Dusty, shade-less campsite claimed, we settle in for some unexpected evening entertainment.
It’s BYO chair, bug spray and torch as we had towards the one strip of well-watered grass in Gunlom falls campground and a rustic outdoor screen. Campground Host Michael delivers an entertaining slide show on the area before regailing us with tales of the wet season and early explorers. No high tech gadgetry and whizz-bang special effects. Slide shows still have the ability to keep our Squids entertained and engaged.
Bring back the slide show
We’re lamenting the loss of the Slide Show Talk – it’s becoming a rare occurrence in many national parks throughout Australia – providing an insight for visitors and an enhanced appreciation of an area.
Bring back the slide show I say, and park-based visitor interpretation programs, which are always the first to be slashed from budgets!
We take a just after dawn trek up the next day on a hosted walk with Michael as he shares tales of eccentric explorers like Leichardt in his waistcoat and top hat vanishing off in the distance with his pack horses and men, never to be seen of again. It’s a hot walk up, even at 8am, we’re grateful when Michael leaves us to make the final trek to the top, and to take a long awaited dip.
Gunlom Falls is the original horizon pool.
Only this one is all natural. A series of tantalising water pool, ringed with Paperbarks, Pandanus and Cycads – it’s very tempting to spend the day here.
So we do.
Back down at the base with our fav grey nomads of the trip so far, the unconventional and convivial Anne and David. We’ve been shadowing each other since the Savannah Way. They are the reason for Little Miss Squid’s fascination for birding and she’s delighted to show them she now owns her very own edition of the infamous Simpson and Day Birds of Australia Field Guide.
Gunlom Falls Campground where we also start some serious dust-devil spotting.
Whirly tornado like swirls of wind dancing a frenzied dervish across the red dust toward us. And through the camper. And out again. We find The Skipper after one such Willy-Willy visit sitting bewildered in the annexe, covered dried leaves and dust and sporting a rather fetching hair-do.
On our last night at Gunlom Falls I hold hands with little Squid and gaze at the Milky Way, hovering above us in an inky black sky.
Just one of those moments. Filled my heart. That is all.
Check back in later, I’m way out yonder and there’s not enough juice to upload photos! Or pop over to our Instagram page and see what we’re up to.