Early morning, a medium-sized bus with an attached luggage trailer waited for bleary-eyed me outside my hostel in Darwin. It was the guys from Way Outback Tour who came to pick me up for their 3-day Buffalo Dreaming Top End tour through Kakadu and Litchfield National park.
After checking in with our guide and throwing my backpack into the luggage trailer, I got on the bus and picked a window seat in the middle. Shortly after a young British girl sat next to me and we introduced ourselves. I quickly realized that my company for the next 3 days would consist of young europeans who were traveling through Australia on work holiday visa.
And thus, we began my first journey into the outback of Australia.
This post is the second of a series of posts on the amazing time I had in the outback with YHA Australia. You can check out ‘Northern Territory’ tag to see more posts from the outback and ‘Australia’ tag for any posts I will be doing on Australia.
1. Mary River Wetlands Cruise
We drove for three hours from Darwin, stopping only for a quick 30-minute breakfast and toilet break. I spent most of this time catching up on sleep. Our first stop is a cruise at Mary River Wetlands, to spot the reptile Australia is most known for – the crocodiles.
Trust me, there is a crocodile in the picture above! (HINT: look for the subtle bump among the lily pads on top of the flower in the middle). This one is a female saltwater crocodile, about 2m in length. She is assuming what’s called ‘minimal exposure’ stance, so that her prey can’t see how large she really is.
But if you can’t find her, fear not. I have a clearer picture of one of the other crocs in land:
The cruise lasted about an hour and we spotted about four crocs in total. After we got off the boat, we had our own DIY BBQ lunch before proceeding to drive to Ubirr Art Site, which took another four hours(!). Yes, Australia is SO HUGE. Throughout this trip, we spent most of the day driving around from site to site which could be pretty dull if it’s not for the random burst of excitements of spotting wallabies hopping around on the side of the street.
2. Ubirr Art Site
Ubirr is a sacred Aboriginal site, known for its rock art which we saw plenty of during our walk up to the Ubirr Rock. The Aboriginal painting mostly depicts animals, spirits and hunting activities.
We also learned about the Rainbow Serpent, an important symbol in Aboriginal culture, and Namarrgarn Sisters, an aboriginal legend tied closely to Ubirr.
According to Aboriginal culture, the Rainbow Serpent visited Ubirr in human form during her journey across Australia and painted her image on the rocks here. This became the most scared site in Ubirr.
After seeing the galleries, we made our way up to the Ubirr Rock for a panoramic view of the outback plains.
And I just want to highlight my outfit above which I think it’s totally necessary when visiting the outback. Especially in May! Even though May is generally a cooler time in Australia, this is not the case for the top end of Australia since it’s very close to the equator. It was super hot and the sun was as strong as ever. I would have been burnt to crisp if I didn’t have that thin layer of cotton for coverage and a full hat!
On the way down we learned about bush food and what sort of plants grows in Australian outback.
3. Cooinda Campsite
The weather is so hot in Kakadu that it can sometimes spark fire among the dry grass and branches. This we all know, BUT what i didn’t know is – birds would come flying over the fire whenever this happens, because all the insects would be jumping out of the bush to escape the fire. This means free BBQ for the birds!
Not long after, we arrived at Cooinda Campsite. It was very basic but exceeded my expectation in terms of accomodation. We still have electricity, clean running water, a bed and did not have to pitch our own tents (I was fully prepared for the worst). Most importantly – the 4G here is even stronger than Darwin… go figure.
Our group claimed one of the camping spots. We cooked dinner, did dishes and chatted inside one of the “kitchen” camps afterwards.
4. Motorcar Falls
We woke up bright and early to drive to one of the plunge pools in Kakadu. This one is an unnamed plunge pool that is also not marked on the map, so it’s not a well-known site. We were the only group at the pool. I wish I can tell you where it is, but I had no reception or GPS at that time and I honestly don’t know!
After enjoying the private pool, we drove about an hour to Motorcar Falls. Once we got there, we parked our bus and had to walk the remaining of the way to the actual Fall. If memory served me right, it took about half an hour but the walk was pretty easy and flat for the most part. We did have to climb over a few large boulders towards the end, but nothing too taxing if you wear the right shoes! I wore running shoes.
Motorcar Falls received its name from 1946, when the first vehicle that came to this part of Kakadu can only go as far as this waterfall. During my trip, I heard of an alternative story which says that the name is from the fact that during rainy season, there is so much water that the waterfall sounds like a car’s engine. However I went during dry season and there were hardly any water, let alone a waterfall there 🙁
5. Mount Bundy Station
We walked back to our bus and exited Kakadu National Park shortly after. We kept driving for a few more hours to Mount Bundy station, our campsite accommodation for the night.
We got to Mount Bundy just in time for sunset. After picking which tents to sleep in for the night (this time it’s an actual tent with sleeping bags, which I sadly have no pictures of) we walked around the area. Mount Bundy Sation is actually a farm and we were literally camping on their back yard.
We decided to visit the horses and enjoyed the sunset from there.
I’m super bummed have no good picture of this because they were so fast, but there were SO many wild wallabies jumping around the campsite. They are basically a smaller and cuter version of kangaroos!
During the night, my tent-mate and I were woken up by a repetitive thumping sound right outside our tent. Curious (and slightly freaked out), we decided to peek outside to find out it was a group of wild wallaby passing by the campground! It was quite an amazing memory that I will truly cherish forever.
The next morning we left Mount Bundy to enter Litchfield National Park. I will cover this in the next post! Until next time.