Australia :: June 1994 - March 1995

Subject: Kakadu III
Date: December 1, 1994 23:16Continued from Part II

20:06 Yalara Resort, Northern Territory :: 14 OCT 94

We're camping at Yalara Resort, the jumping off point for both Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (The Olgas). Accommodation comes in endless options here, all of them dreadfully expensive - at least twice the normal rates. Yalara provides the only accommodation within a couple hours drive of the park.

Before getting too far into this, perhaps we should set the time machine back about a week or so and finish off the Kakadu trip...

Already discussed:

The Wet and The Dry.
Aboriginal habitation and art.
The Arnhem escarpment.

So the 4WD tour starts with a 5:45 AM pickup in Darwin on Saturday. For those of you who don't know my typical daily routine, 6AM is rather closer to bedtime than a groggy awakening. To rub salt in the wound, Graeme, our guide, explained there was to be no sleeping in the vehicle. Sigh. In short time 8 of the 9 tourists were aboard and we were on our way to Jabiru, one of only two settlements in Kakadu NP, where we'd pick up the 9th. (Note: Jabiru rhymes with kangaroo-I betcha got it wrong the first time.)

Kakadu lies some 250 kms East of Darwin, which explains the early start, so 9 groggy people made introductions and attempted to hold intelligent conversation for the next 3 hours. The well broken in Toyota Land Cruiser managed a top speed approaching the speed limit.

13:59 Whistler, BC-Canada :: 28 NOV 94

I can't believe how long this has been lying around in my "in process" folder. That's OK, there're a few older ones.

Graeme proved an entertaining, interesting and knowledgeable guide. What's more, because this tour ran essentially the same itinerary over a four day period that everyone else seemed to do in three days, Graeme was extremely easy-going about stragglers and morning rise times. The 6AM start of the first day was not repeated. It was on about the third day I realized that by the time I'd rubbed the sleep from my eyes all the other tour groups in the campground were busily breaking camp and cleaning up after breakfast. In fact, while the rest of our group settled into jaffles for breakfast all the other groups got into their vehicles and trundled off.

I suppose for early morning go-getters getting a head start on a day full of activities is great. The other groups spent the early morning paddling up creek to Twin falls, up the side of Twin falls, climbing down to the head of the falls, climbing back out again, climbing back down again, paddling down stream and then squeezing in lunch before clambering back into the vehicle to drive over to Jim Jim Falls where they spent the afternoon.

They got it all in, but we spent the third day at Twin Falls-the whole day. More time to explore the head wall. More time to squeeze into cracks and caves. More time to climb up to the scenic view well above the head of the falls.

It was this view point that became the highlight of the excursion.

From it you can see down the gorge formed at the base of the falls. You can see all along the Arnhem land escarpment that you are in the middle of. Perched on the weather beaten rock, above it all, sun low on the horizon brightly burnishing the haze with illumination. Just the ten of us to share the rugged expanse with the heat bearing down and the cooling breeze. I've managed to collect an image from those moments that nearly, very nearly, captures the sense of it. It's one of those "Grand Canyon" experiences, where in the process of becoming lost in the immensity you find yourself.

Underneath us Aboriginal rock art decorated the rock under some overhangs. This lot had been painted 10 or 20 thousand years ago. We took a close look at these on the way up and the sense of connection to the ancient habitation of this place heightened the effective immensity of the experience; perhaps 20 thousand years ago someone perched on the same rock watching the sun draw low and the haze swallows up the escarpment.

The hike back down to the basin provided a lengthy opportunity to mull over the events, but what conclusion can one come to? I kept arriving back at the same one: climb back up and stay. Some say that we idealize the lifestyle of Indigenous peoples. Perhaps. Certainly their existence provides difficulties that are beyond the imagination of the industrialization-dependent and other difficulties that all too easily bring a grimace to those attached to their 'creature comforts'.. But something basic and essential tugs at me with every experience like the lookout above Twin Falls. Something involving the essence of being alive. My response to such experiences is invariably deeply emotional and non-rational. It's an urge. An instinct.

This experience alone was worth the price of admission.

Patrick. -- Responses Sought --

Even now when [my country] Larbaryandji calls the urge to return is strong indeed, almost undeniable when I lie between man-made walls, beneath an unnatural blanket of iron which prevents my seeing the moon and the stars.
But I was shown the road ahead.
The Green Light is flashing and I want to cross the intersection before it changes, before I hit another clump of tea-tree.

  graphical element Waipuldanya of the Alawa
in I, the Aboriginal