14th January 2013 05:16
Just your average accommodation here… I stayed with a gay, nudist couple. More on that later - I'll build some suspense.
Darwin was my stop off point for the Kakadu National Park. When I first bought my round-the-world plane ticket I had to tell them which places I wanted to visit in Australia, so they could include those flights in the overall price. I picked some cool "attractions" around the country and went with the nearest cities. Seemed like a good way to do it.
Kakadu is actually a lot further from Darwin than you realise. Australia is quite big. Very big in fact - around sixty times bigger than the UK. Gone were the days of just showing up somewhere and easily being able to see the sights - I was forced to book onto a tour. I found one which visited both Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks, camping out in the bush overnight - perfect!
Arriving at the tour agent early in the morning, in preparation for a long day of awesomeness, we were rounded up by our tour guide Luke (I could tell immediately he was a great guy) and began our drive to the park. Along the way he handed round a microphone to everyone in the minibus so we could introduce ourselves and tell the group a little of what we were about - a nice way to break the ice. There were of course obligatory Germans - seriously, they're everywhere!
Our first stop saw us driving down our first red dirt road of the trip - very exciting! We were headed for the Mary River, where we would board a boat to take us on a little blast upriver and down, in search of crocodiles and other wildlife. Unfortunately all the crocodiles had decided that particular day was too hot for them, and had made their way into the water rather than basking in the sun on the riverbanks. This meant that while we did see them, it was no more than a fleeting glimpse as they briefly surfaced to check us out before submerging again a few seconds later. This made photos nearly impossible, but there was still plenty of twitching to be done:
We disembarked from the boat, and headed away from the crocodile infested waters towards our next destination, Ubirr. This place is famous for its aboriginal rock art, and evidentally - phenomenal views across the outback:
I was surprised at just how green everything was, but that's the result of heavy rainfall which brings everything to life. The foliage was certainly flourishing.
Our campsite for the night was a permanent site with pretty big tents - more like little huts, surrounding a large marquee where we ate our meals. The site also had a swimming pool. You can probably guess how the rest of the afternoon was spent.
We rose at 6am the next morning - some of us feeling slightly worse for wear after a few drinks the night before. After packing up all our junk into our trusty minibus and trailer, we continued our journey to our next port of call - Gunlom Falls. This was a fantastic place with a waterfall flowing down into a plunge pool at the bottom of a rockface, but the best bit was rewarded by a fairly steep ascent - to the source of the waterfall up above. Here lies a series of pools of water, all flowing into one last "infinity" pool before finally plunging over the edge of the cliff face:
You were given strict instructions not to get too close to the edge, as people can - and have in the past - slipped and fallen to their deaths below. Not a nice thought, and one prominently in your mind as you're walking from rock to rock!
After a whole morning spent here, swimming and messing around, everyone was pretty tired:
We had the opportunity to sleep for a good while though, as we had a long drive to the edge of Kakadu, to another campsite where we could be up the following morning in good time to beat the rest of the crowds to all the best spots in Litchfield. This time we were sleeping in "proper" tents - although it was so hot you really didn't need the cover at all - we put the bug nets up and left it at that. They really were needed as well - the flies in this area are the most annoying flies you've ever encountered. They are constantly there and will not leave your face alone for more than a few seconds. You are endlessly swatting them away and it really becomes quite irritating after a while! There was one girl who had experienced this before and bought a fly net and hat - I was seriously contemplating stealing this from her during the night.
This site also had a pool. You can probably guess how the rest of the afternoon was spent once again... But this time we spent a good 15 minutes trying to get a timed shot of us (a group of about fifteen people!) all jumping into the water at the same time. We didn't really manage it - apart from a few blurry ones, but good fun nonetheless.
There was also a guy called Richard who was well into his photography and managed to get some very cool light painting photos:
The next morning we had an early start yet again to venture into Litchfield National Park for the first time. Our long drive the day before and our early headstart meant we were able to miss most of the crowds at the best places. As you can imagine, there are a large number of tour companies which operate in the area herding people around from point to point.
We headed to Florence Falls, a twin waterfall which you could go and swim under. Very cool. Very Peter Andre. Unfortunately one of the lads managed to dislocate his finger as he jumped into the water - apparently catching it on something. Luckily for him, one of the group was a doctor so she was able to reset it and all was well! It hurt, obviously - but it didn't seem to faze him too much.
The pool was really relaxing to swim in. It's a good thing we weren't there in wet season though, things would have been slightly more hectic:
We stopped off at a bunch of termite mounds after our swim - you don't realise how huge these things are until you get up close to them. They're apparently made from spit and shit, which is nice. This forms to be pretty rock solid - and is meant as a defence from ants, who are constantly trying to attack the termites.
Our last waterfall stop on this tour was to Wangi Falls. Much the same as the others, you could swim right under the falls which is a really cool feeling (literally, in this case - as the water was ice cold, a refreshing change). After more fun and games here, we were all pretty tired - but managed to summon our energy reserves for one last stop off before returning back to Darwin.
It's good that we stayed awake for this one, as it was probably my joint favourite spot along with Gunlom Falls and the infinity pool. Buley Rockhole was a series of pools which flowed down into each other, that you could literally slide through on your belly with a little care. Some bits were also deep enough for more silly jumping:
It was a great place to go to just before we headed back, and ended the tour on a definite high note. No one dislocated or broke any bones there either, which was handy. We did also briefly stop at a rest stop to grab some snacks - the owner then got the baby python out for us to play with which was pretty cool.
Arriving back in Darwin, I headed back to the nudist den. You may remember I'd been couchsurfing way back at the start of my trip, in Hong Kong. I found Stephen and Kevin through the same website. They have a swimming pool in their back garden, and had eventually got tired of changing in and out of swimshorts whenever they use their pool. Makes sense - and if you're in your own home, why not? They weren't naked all of the time, just, some of the time. All this was clear and upfront on their profile, and I didn't really care - so that's how I ended up there staying with them for a little while. They're really nice guys, and after a short while it's not really weird anymore. And yes, I ended up partaking. Just in the pool though...