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Published: November 25th 2021
Today we head three hours north-east to Jabiru in Kakadu National Park.
It looks like time goes by slowly here in sleepy Katherine, with no one seeming to care too much about its progress. We see lots of the local indigenous folk sitting about and wandering slowly along the main street, seemingly without the need to hurry too much. Before we make our getaway I first need to make a quick dash into the chemist to get a prescription filled. It looks almost deserted, but I’m told it won’t be ready for "about half an hour". I wander the streets impatiently waiting for the thirty minutes to pass. It seems however that the pharmacists of Katherine are not familiar with the concept of a “quick dash”; half an hour and a bit later I’m told that my script‘s still not quite ready, but it will be in "about half an hour”. Hmm. I think I may perhaps be struggling to adapt to the pace of life here; time really doesn’t seem to matter, particularly, apparently, if it’s mine. I ask very politely if I could please have the prescription back, and then try very hard to pretend that I’m not
fuming as I storm out of the shop with smoke pouring from my ears. A few blood pressure pills might have come in handy about now….
We stop at Pine Creek to stretch our legs. We follow a sign up what must be the world’s steepest and windiest two-way single-lane track, to the “Mine Lookout”. We’re in a lot of trouble if we meet anything coming the other way. There are three viewing platforms here. There‘s a large lake in the valley below us that we can see from one of the platforms, but there aren’t any signs to tell us anything about it, or what we’re supposed to view from the other two. We agree with only other people here that we’re obviously supposed to know what we’re looking at, and that we must all have all been asleep the day of the school lesson on the history of Pine Creek. We then happen to notice through the thick grate that forms one of the other platforms that it's sitting over the top of a bottomless mine shaft, and its sole purpose in life seems to be to stop you from falling into it. Hmm. We consult the
Google machine. It seems that an open cut gold mine operated here for ten years from 1985, and it’s now been filled with water “to prevent acid build up”. Now surely that information wouldn’t have been too hard to put on a sign,
We’re hanging out to reach the remote Mary River Crossing so we can take a rest break. Hmmm. It seems we may have to hang on a little longer. A sign tells us that the massive car park is open, but the roadhouse, the only other thing here, is closed. I suppose it's vaguely possible someone might want to stop here just to admire the bitumen…
We stop at a park office to buy our mandatory entry passes. We read that Kakadu is the country’s largest national park. When I came here in 1980 the only available accommodation was a bring-your-own tent, but it seems that here, unlike in Katherine, time has moved on since then. We’re booked into the famous "Crocodile Hotel" in Jabiru, so named because it's shaped like a crocodile when viewed from the air. This is a bit less obvious from the ground, but Issy advises me very confidently that the
entrance to reception is vía the creature’s mouth. She says we’ll know this soon because it will suddenly close on us when we try to go in. Such a vivid imagination.
Kakadu seems to be crocodile central. There are a couple of fenced in swimming pools at hotels and caravan parks in the park, but if you try to swim anywhere else here you seem certain to end up as croc food. We’re told that there’s lake in the middle of Jabiru township, but go anywhere near it at your peril - crocs can be seen sunning themselves on its shores on an almost daily basis. Our hotel room's on the ground floor, so we take careful note to make sure that we lock and bolt the door before we turn in tonight.
I leave Issy lazing by the hopefully croc-proof hotel pool, while I head out to Nourlangie Rock. This is a beyond spectacular monstrous monolith, which looks even more so in the late afternoon light. I follow a path along the base of the rock past several indigenous rock art sites. I spot the most spectacular example from a distance and charge enthusiastically toward it with camera at the ready. Uh oh. It seems that this particular item is so sacred to the local indigenous folk that photographing it is prohibited. It's called "Lightning Man" and it looks like an alien. I remember reading Erich von Daniken's "Chariots of the Gods" when I was at school. Mr von Daniken claimed to have irrefutable evidence that we’d been visited by aliens, and I’m sure that this particular bit of rock art was one of the examples he quoted. Spooky. I continue on up to Gunwarddehwarde Lookout for more ridiculously spectacular views of the Rock and the surrounding plains, and across to the Arnhem Land escarpment. Stunning.
The dinner menu includes "Shredded Wallaby Croquettes". Now I'm more than happy to munch away on a piece of kangaroo meat as much as the next person, but shredding undersized specimens and rolling them up into a croquette I’m not quite so sure about….
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