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Kakadu & Top End

Kakadu Highlights

The Upper South Alligator Valley

This is the ancestral land of the Jawoyn people, who call themselves "Mungguy". Until a few generations ago, the Jawoyn walked in this valley gathering food and hunting animals such as the plains kangaroo or wallaroo. They hunted the pig-nosed turtle and even fresh water crocodiles (whilst keeping an eye out for the man-eating estuarine crocodiles). Theirs is the first of many stories about this country.

In their tradition, this land was created eons ago by ancient spirits, Bula being the most important one. Another spirit, Bolung, the rainbow serpent, also helped create the land, and lives in the plunge pools. Both these spirits can be angry if disturbed and cause death and destruction. The serpent can drown swimmers who disrespect her, especially in the rainy season when the water flows strongly in the creeks and swimming holes. The sacred area further up the valley, called Buladjang or "sickness" country, is a particularly important and controversial place for both Jawoyn and mining companies.

Another account of the creation of the land is told by scientists. They speak of the birth and development of this landscape spanning many millions of years. It was inhabited by a variety of plants and animals until human beings first walked into the valley tens of thousands of years ago. Just when these people first arrived, what they were like and what they thought of this country is one of the valley's many secrets.

Recent history tells a story of Jawoyn people dying of disease and moving away after the settlers came, and of pastoralists, miners and buffalo hunters working long and hard days in this country to make a living. The scars, vehicle trails and stockpiles of several mines can still be seen in the valley. The repercussions of mining in the area continues to this day.

More recently, the land was returned to the Jaowyn people, who have leased it to the federal government to manage as part of Kakadu National Park. The park and the Jawoyn people have allowed us to walk in some special places, along routes walked by people for many thousands of years, but now by only a few. "We Jawoyn look after this place. You look after it, too," cautions a Jawoyn traditional owner.

(Comments by Jawoyn elders courtesy of Parks Australia North)

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

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