Australia :: June 1994 - March 1995

Subject: Kakadu I
Date: October 6, 1994 17:07

15:13 Darwin, Northern Territory :: 5 SEP 94

Several other travelers had expressed disappointment in Kakadu National Park, the world's third largest park. [Incidentally, Canada has the largest.] I found this hard to imagine since Kakadu represents Australia's major World Heritage site. The park earns this listing due to its unique flora, fauna and geology and because of the abundant Aboriginal cultural sites left by a civilization that flourished here for 50,000 years before the neighbourhood took a turn for the worse. As far as earning World Heritage points, this park hit a grand slam. How could anyone not find something of significant interest?

The answer comes in two parts: they all drove 2WD vehicles; they all explored the park without a knowledgeable guide. Access to several of the most spectacular locations requires 4WD. Knee-deep dust, rock and gullies prohibit any other vehicles. Even after pulling into the parking lot, reaching a site may require a long hike over unmarked trails, or even a 1 km swim up a gorge. How many travelers come prepared for that?

On the day we were to drive poor Stan into Kakadu, Katrin and I experienced a last-minute coming-to-our-senses-urged not too gently by a travel agent-and booked a guided 4WD camping tour of the park. We were told we got the last two of the nine seats in the vehicle, but at least 3 other people on the trip claimed they had snapped up the last available spaces. There's one born... Still, I'd extracted a $10 discount on the $360 per person fee by pointing out to the travel agent that a couple backpacker hostels offered a free night's accommodation if we booked the tour through them. It was a ploy since there was no way you'd get me into any of those particular roach motels. Everybody else on our tour paid the full rate.

9:23 Darwin, Northern Territory :: 6 SEP 94

The Backpacking Australia Ltd. 4WD Kakadu 4-day Trip algorithm:

initial state-dawn; drive, heat, water, sweat, swim, flies, drive, eat, hike, flies, water, dirt, water, flies, heat, water, sweat, water, dust, flies, water, swim, flies, flies, flies, drive, water, dust, water, eat, flies, dark, dirt, flies, water, camp, beer, dirt, flies, eat, beer, mossies, mossies, sleep, mossies, mossies, wake-up, sleep, mossies, wake-up, sleep, mossies, dawn, crows, wake-up, flies; repeat; repeat; drive, heat, water, sweat, swim, flies, eat, hike, water, dirt, water, flies, heat, water, sweat, flies water, dust, water, swim, flies, flies, flies, drive, water, dust, water, eat, flies, drive, dark, drive, Darwin, BEER, sleep.

Note: mossies is Australian for mosquitoes.

I'll tell you why I put myself through this next time.

Continued in Part II

Patrick. -- Responses Sought --