Our final drive through the outback and back to civilisation. We stopped at Kakadu National Park to enjoy an abundance of nature and historic graffiti. We enjoyed many of our very own Crocodile Dundee moments whilst going through the Never-Never. And thankfully made it out alive – just!
Day 35: 7th December 2017
We left Steve and Angie and headed for Kakadu National Park which we heard wasn’t to be missed. At 20,000 square km it’s huge and has been the home to aboriginal tribes for more than 65,000 years. But that’s not all – it is also where a lot of the scenes from Crocodile Dundee were filmed! Streuth!
The first port of call in Kakadu was the visitor centre. As it was rainy season, stopping here first made lots of sense. We needed to check in to see which roads were closed due to flooding and hence determine which sights we could venture to in our little van. Unfortunately, lots of the places we wanted to visit were closed.
We were especially disappointed about Cahill’s Crossing as at this famous river crossing the chances of croc spotting are high. We spoke to one of the rangers about this and he informed us that as it had been fairly dry over the last few days that the road was passable now – and even clarified that by passable he meant we could do it in a non-4WD camper. “Oh yes, no problems” he said. Wow great news. It was about 20 minutes and four water crossings up the Cahill’s Crossing road when water started to rise up to door level that we thought enough is enough. This was not passable in our little van.
Our next and more successful stop was Nawurlandja lookout walk. It is a short steep climb to the lookout but once at the top it is incredible. This is an impressive spot with views across Anbangbang Billabong to Nourlangie Rock and the Arnhem Land escarpment. A really stunning view and we spent a lot of time taking in it’s beauty and serenity. There was something very spiritual about this place, for us, even more so than Uluru. Maybe it was because of the richness of the ecosystem down in that sea of savanna woodlands, or maybe it was because this is where Sue and Mick “Crocodile” Dundee spent their first night under the stars together.
From the lookout we made our way to Nourlangie Rock to check out the famous aboriginal wall art. One thing you notice about a lot of the art is that it is incredibly fresh looking for something that could be up to 65,000 years old. That is because the art is “layered” meaning that generations of aboriginals have and still do re-paint the artwork to keep it alive. Every painting has a story, and there are up to 6 levels to the story. It depends on your importance and status as to which story you are allowed to know. Tourists will obviously only ever hear the first level…if that, as there is little information given at the site unless you go with a guide. With or without the information it is still an interesting stop. And girls, watch out for Nabulwinjbulwinj a spirit who eats girls after striking them with his yams – and it looks like he has quite the pair!
Next we went to the Yellow Water wetlands which is a floodplain for the South Alligator River. Just in case you are wondering, there are no alligators in Australia – the river was named by a guy that couldn’t tell the difference between a crocodile and an alligator. The water was a bit high but we were still able to walk along the un-kept broadwalk watching the wildlife and keeping an eye out for crocs.
There are lots of Termite mounds in the outback which are fun to spot whilst driving round (hey – you got to get your kicks somehow when driving through the never-never). On our way to our campsite that night we spotted a massive one so had to stop for a photo. Huge!
Day 36: 8th December 2017
Today we would start the journey to Cairns. Unfortunately we didn’t realise that National Highway 1 which runs along the top of Australia isn’t fully sealed. This meant we would have to head south and then back north later on so that we could take sealed roads. A whole days extra drive. Yippee. Day 36 was therefore one of our long non-stop driving days.
Day 37: 9th December 2017
The morning started with the usual pre-departure checks including verifying the oil and water levels in the van were sufficient. As the engine was under the seats this involved lifting up the seats and poking your head right in to get a good look. I had a feeling something wasn’t quite right when I started the checks and shortly after putting my head under the seats I felt something drop on my head. WHAT THE DEUCE! I pulled my head out quickly and then saw a snake fall to the floor. A friggin’ snake! Was on my head! I shouted to Louise to come and have a look but as I was doing that the snake went back under the van and then we saw it climb back in the engine. Bugger.
Not wanting to drive around with a snake in the engine we knew we had to get it out. This involved quickly lifting the seat back up in the hope it would be visible and using sticks grab it and throw it out. Amazingly it only took two attempts and we managed to get the snake out. We needed evidence so I told Louise to get a photo whilst I put the van back in order. This is when the snake turned nasty and raised itself up in a coil and started lunging to bite Louise. OMG! I tossed the snake further away with some sticks and then got back in the van. I went to put my seatbelt on only for Louise to shout, “What are you doing?!! Drive, drive, DRIVE!!”. This made my panic a bit and I ended up pushing the brake instead of the accelerate which led to more shouting. We finally got going but then we left questioning whether we had got away quick enough or had the snake somehow got back in the engine. Random checks of the engine provided no visual signs of said snake still living there but that did little to alleviate concerns or stop weird snake filled dreams. This was not the Crocodile Dundee type of experience I wanted.
To make things worse that day our van started overheating. We pulled over but had no signal. Some people did stop to offer assistance but as we were close to a small town we decided to let the van cool down and then drive on.
Thankfully we had roadside assistance with our hire company and as luck would have it they had a guy in the town we were at. After a short wait and a quick check of the engine, he simply filled up our radiator with water and told us to get on our way. (In the end it turned out we had a faulty radiator cap which thankfully we took to get looked at in Cairns).
Day 38: 10th December 2017
We headed a little out of our way to visit the stuff of legend – Walkabout Creek Hotel! YES! THE Walkabout Creek Hotel from the Dundee movies. Outside are a few relics such as the Never Never Safari’s jeep and behind back there is the set of the original bar from the film. The set isn’t in a good state now unfortunately. However, the actual bar is really nice and a good ol’fashioned outback pub with crude jokes on the wall and a friendly owner. When I started quoting lines from the Crocodile Dundee films he was so impressed that he got out the Dundee hat and knife for me to play about with and take photos. Result! And a nice cold morning pint too!
Afterwards, we made our way back north to Highway 1 as we heard that from this point it is sealed. The information lady also made a point of repeatedly telling me that it was singled laned in various points. I thought this quite strange as it didn’t seem to matter to me if it was a single carriageway or a dual carriageway. It was only when we got there that I realised that she meant single lane for both directions! This option had never crossed my mind – city folk!
Day 39: 11th December 2017
Our last day of driving through the outback and what do we find? A free swimming pool at Georgetown! Amazing. We spent a good time here enjoying the cool pool which we had all to ourselves.
From there we made it out of the outback and into the Atherton Tablelands. The Tablelands is a lush fertile plateau – an intense contrast from the outback. When we arrived we were so happy to see vivid green trees and feel a cool breeze that we headed to our campsite and enjoyed sitting in the open without sweating or being surrounded by flies.
Day 40: 12th December 2017
After a wonderfully cool sleep we walked to the Big Millstream Falls then enjoyed the drive and views through the Tablelands before making it to our next destination – Cairns and the Great Barrier Reef.