Day one Our first day of walking. I am excited. After a quick lunch stop at the Bowali Visitor Centre, we leave our 4WD behind and say goodbye to all civilization for about thirteen days. It is hot and humid. No clouds appear on the sky. I put my backpack on my shoulders and wonder how it got so heavy. The first three kilometres are on a walking track. The pace is fast. We will never get that fast again.
As soon as we leave the track behind us, the terrain and our walking speed changes. After a swim stop in a shady monsoonal forest, we scramble up a hill and make our way on the escarpment. Two hours later, we arrive at our first camp spot - right at the time when my backpack seemed to get too heavy. After setting up our tents, we enjoy a swim and a yummie dinner. The first night in the bush is waiting for me.
Day two After a dry night we get ready at about eight. We decide to follow the creek upstream, stop at the next potential campsite and go "exploring". "Exploring" means to walk in areas, where even Russell hasn't been yet. I certainly love to switch my heavy pack against a light day pack and to "explore" the "Unknown".
At lunchtime, in the heat of the day, we find a cool rock shelter. The walls are covered in Aboriginal paintings. Layers and layers of different periods and styles. I try to imagine how Aborigines lived here during the "Wet" and fall asleep after a while.
Day three-four These days consist of walking up the creek. We find an abundance of rock art and everywhere I never get bored of it. I find my favourite rock art painting: a crocodile with huge white eyes. We spend days with walking, swimming and resting in cool rock shelters.
It hasn't rained since we left and the pools are getting warmer and smaller. Never mind. Every swim stop is a welcome refreshment after hours of rock hopping. I realize that walking off track needs a lot of concentration and that I have to watch every step even though I would love to enjoy the scenery around me.
Day five In Germany, we have a saying: "Plans are made in order to modify them." This day is a perfect example for that. Originally, we wanted to have a lazy day, to regain energy for a long walk the day after. At the end of the day, we ended up with an eight-hour walk. The reason? After a pretty "dry" wet season not all the creeks carried as much water as we wished they would. The creek with our potential campsite fell under this category. We end up walking the distance of two days in only one. The reward is a beautiful campsite at the bottom of the Arnhem Land escarpment. My favourite of the whole trip.
Day six After the long day before, we stroll upstream and stop at almost every swimming hole. The water looks so inviting, and we cannot pass it without having a swim. In the evening, Russell cooks another wonderful three-course-dinner. I love the dessert: Blueberries in custard.
Day seven-nine Category: "Exploring days". Day seven turns out to be a really strenuous one for me. My legs are tired and my skin is definitely not made for pushing through all that spinifex grass. After the walk I look as if I was involved in a fight with my arms and legs covered in scratches.
Day eight is much more fun. We explore another creek and try to find a way up on the highest point of the Arnhem Land Plateau - Hill 420. Soon we realize that this is certainly not the way to the top. After a lot of scrambling and rock climbing, we find ourselves surrounded by cliffs. Turning around is the only possible way.
After a relaxing afternoon and another lovely dinner, we experience our first and only rainfall of the trip. What follows is our most exciting night. After some heavy rainfalls, the creek comes up and our campsite turns out to be a river. I am lucky. My tent is sitting on a high point. While others have to move their tents into safer areas, I am lying in my tent, listening to the thunderstorm while water is dripping on my bum.
Day ten - eleven We climb on top of Hill 420. 420 metres above sea level doesn't sound too bad to me. Soon, I discover that Kakadu's rugged landscape shouldn't be underestimated. The day is definitely the most strenuous day of our trip, but the reward is incredible. After a long, long day with a lot of spinifex grass and scrambling, I sit back on the top and enjoy the 360° view of Kakadu.
We watch the sunset and I feel very small in comparison to the huge landscape around me. I spend the night in my mossie net watching the clouds to clear up to give way to the stars. Breathtaking. The day after is even longer and almost as hard as the climb up. Often we end up in front of a cliff and the search for another route begins. Congratulations to Russell, who always looked for a way while we were resting in the shade.
Day twelve - the end The return route to the car takes up two days and again we walk through the flat plain. We finish our walk at noon, day thirteen, looking forward to ice cold drinks and clean clothes.
Well, we have to wait another few hours: the battery of the 4WD is dead flat. We share lunch and shade, receive sweets from other tourists and wait until the car is fixed again. Finally, we get our cold drinks and I end up having a long night at the bar of the Mary River resort. We finish the last day with a cruise and I get very excited when I see two freshies. Looking back at the trip, I know that walking is definitely the way to see Kakadu's true face. I will be back off-track as soon as I can. Next time with long pants and long sleeves.
For more photos see the Baroalba - Hill 420 area Gallery
Willis's Walkabouts, 12 Carrington Street, Millner NT 0810, Australia firstname.lastname@example.org
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