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Kakadu & Top End

Kakadu Highlights

The Arnhemland Escarpment

The escarpment - a vast rocky plateau stretching across Arnhemland - was once criss-crossed by ancent hunting and travelling routes and inhabited by many families using the many rock shelters nature has provided. Now this country is rarely visited. There are huge areas which have not felt a human foot for a century or more. White visitors to the Arnhemland coast where warned to avoid "Debil-debil" country. As late as 1950, the escarpment or "stone" country was represented by a large blank space on the map. Around this time, Native Affairs patrol officer Syd Kyle-Little made expeditions into the area, writing about his adventures in his book, Whispering Wind.

The rugged, harsh beauty of this ancient landscape is enhanced by fresh greenery in the wet season. Meanwhile, hidden in gullies and gorges are the monsoon vine forests with their own assortment of plant and wildlife. Beautiful pools offer relief for the bush traveller, who often shares such places with a resident Merton's Water Monitor. The waterfalls give an inkling of the huge volumes of water carried by the sandstone plateau. In the wet, it is saturated and shedding the excess as if with a sense of urgency, but once the rains stop the waterfalls stay alive, some of them right through the dry season as the sandstone slowly leaks out all it has received.

In rock shelters and on protected rock walls are the mysterious paintings drawn by those whose home this country was, giving expression to their desires to hunt and to love, giving respect to the powers and laws of the dreamtime ancestors, and to educate the next generation.

Willis's Walkabouts, 12 Carrington Street, Millner NT 0810, Australia walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au

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