Darwin, Kakadu & Litchfield.
And so we finally made it into the Northern Territory, and Darwin. Now we know from Cairns that 'the tropics'does indicate that it would be quite warm, but we were not quite prepared for the humidity of the 37 degrees. However we couldn't let a little thing like heat stop us on what has been the highlight of Australia so far - Kakadu National Park.
We decided to travel independently and in style to Kakadu and Litchfield, so we hired a Wicked campervan. We had seen these vans all over Australia with different cool designs on each and were excited at the prospect of having our own. So you can imagine our dismay that among all the lovely decorated vans, with butterflies on etc, we were allocated - we must stress we did not choose this vehicle - a van covered in the chests of bikini clad women. Oh and on the back it had a picture of lips with the phrase 'Places to go and people to do'. How we laughed.
We got over it though and we came to love the van, it was especially funny when Lisa was pulled over for random breath testing - the policemen appreciated it (needless to say she was clean). Even elderly people were asking us to pose with the van, in the end it really did add to our experience.
So armed with our trusty van and a map we headed to Kakadu, which the brochures promised a glimpse of the 'real Australia'. Our first stop was a place called Ubirr, which housed a tremendous amount of aboriginal cave art, which we were excited to finally see. However the true highlight of this was the view from atop the rocks of Ubirr, across the rest of the park. It blew both of us away. The area has just finished its rainy season, which seems quite an inadequate name for it considering that normal rivers in this season become 22km wide and 20 metres higher than their usual banks. Luckily the dry had just arrived so we could get around ok but also see the luscious colours of the park. Take a look at the pictures to get an idea.
So onto our first night of camping. It was hot, very hot in that van and somehow mosquitoes were getting in faster than we could kill them. It was carnage for them and us, so so many bites and so many mosquitoe splodges on the van. Gross and itchy. We still loved the van though and amazingly managed to get some sleep.
Next morning we started with a cruise on the East Alligator River, which is riddled with crocodiles. We saw a couple but they were pretty stealthy. The main feature with this cruise was that it was run by aboriginals and we were shown exactly how the aboriginal people live off the land, and the guide even demonstrated hunting skills. We were happy enough with this, but were made even more so when we were allowed a little way onto Arnhem Land. This is the land which the Australian government has finally handed back to aboriginal ownership, meaning it's not that often visited by tourists. It was amazing to see and imagine that there are still aboriginal people at least partially living how they used to before colonisation. We were impressed.
Kakadu did show us a large amount of the aboriginal culture, something that had been missing from our experiences so far, and we were impressed by the knowledge we gleamed not only from the tour but also the rock paintings, which date back 20,000 years.
Already bewitched by the Northern Territory, we travelled to the lesser hyped national park of Litchfield. The park is mainly full of beautiful waterholes and waterfalls, but the cool thing here was that we could actually swim in them - well except Waggi Falls as there are apparently still some crocs around after the wet season - fair enough. The only thing that did not impress Lisa was the fact that at Florence Falls fish kept eating the scabs formed from her bites. Gross and painful. And not at all funny for Gem.
Back in the relatively safe Darwin, we went to the Mindil Beach night markets, which are full of crafts and loads of different yummy food. Already impressed and full, we were totally giddy with excitement when Lisa spotted Damian, a contestant on The Biggest Loser which we became hooked on while working in Sydney, and a bit of a celeb here in Oz. He was even wearing his Biggest Loser t-shirt (bit overkill we must admit). Trust me, it's huge over here.
We wanted to spend more time here and in Kakadu, but home looms ever closer and we've got to see Uluru and Alice Springs yet. Hope you like the pics. The next update will probably be sent from the UK!!!!!!