Our Australian friends kept telling us not to miss Kakadu National Park. We decided the best way to do so was to hire a tour company.
Starting Monday and ending Wednesday, we joined ten others and local guide Hayden for a three day, 1,000 kilometer (664 mile) drive to see Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks.
Waterfalls. Swimming in the wild. Spotting crocodiles, egrets, white chested sea eagles, cockatoos, wallabies, water buffalo, and other critters. Towering termite nests.
Two nights in comfort camping. Good food. Air conditioning in the van. Amiable companions from all over Europe and New Zealand.
Drive after drive in the truck. Heat. Humidity. Sticky, sweaty clothes. Frogs in the toilets. Overused U-shaped matttesses. No blankets and readjusting layers of clothes in bed as humidity and temperatures changed. No shades or curtains on hut screen windows. Spiders. Lizards under the bed. Fewer flies but more mozzies (mosquitoes). Mo got mozzie bites in never before bitten spots.
The best bit was to see Aboriginal rock painting. Used for ceremony and record keeping, the paintings range in age from tens of thousands to just a few hundred years.
The most striking image was of a demon-like creature whose name I will not record here. Nor did I take a picture of it. I felt it was too powerful to risk any disrespect.
The site felt healing, as well. I had hurt my right knee the day before, stepping off a local bus. As I walked from image to image, the knee pain gradually disappeared.
I was vaguely aware before coming here that there is a wet season and a dry season. I have learned much. We are at the very end of the wet season: high heat, high humidity, and tons of rain. Many sites do not open until after May 1, when rain stops, flood waters go away, and the temperatures become more manageable.
Kakadu, Urulu, and other National Parks are on former Crown land returned to the original Aboriginal owners. The Aboriginals had to demonstrate their connection to the lands by describing resources including food sources in what must have been frustrating, amusing, humiliating, and agonizing interviews with government agents. Then the tribes or clans were obliged to lease their lands back to the government for use as parks. Of course the tribes or clans live in the parks, many pursuing traditional ways. Others work "modern" jobs as rangers and guides. The Aboriginals co-manage the parks with the government, and receive roughly 1/3 of admission fees paid by visitors.
The co-management has worked well. Australians original and late coming are justifiably proud of their wonderful parks.