G’day from the Top End, Australia,
What a difference to a landscape water can make. We are in the Northern Territory of Australia. This is the Top End, where the seasons are generally divided into wet and dry. This is the dry season when there exists the best opportunity to appreciate the power and extent of the wet season, even though most of the water has gone. Water is not just a shaper of the land but a harbinger of life. The contrast between wet and dry here in the Top End reminds us that without water we are nothing.
In Kakadu National Park at this time of year there are many remnant waterholes, which usually sit at the foot of majestic waterfalls (even more so in the monsoon season, of course). These plunge pools are quite a distance inland so the only saltwater crocodiles here are those that made it this far inland when the water was high. When there are no crocodiles, these are picturesque and great for swimming.
Jim Jim Falls
Jim Jim Falls are at the end of a very long, bumpy dirt road and a long walk after that. This road is so bad that even the car hire places forbid you to take their 4-wheel drives there.
The crocodile warning signs at Maguk were obvious but new since my previous visit. On the thinking that these signs are rangers covering their tails, so to speak, and having remembered an unencumbered dip here a few years back, we dived in and swam across to the waterfall. Having survived the swim, I can report that Linda and I paved the way for several others that day, most of whom had been game to picnic on the water’s edge but not to immerse themselves.
Carr’s Crossing is a causeway leading into Arnhem Land. Even at this time of the year, the muddy water is covering the bridge, leading to a queue of vehicles waiting for someone to show the way to get across. We saw a few big vehicles ford the river successfully and a few pedestrians (bravely? madly?) trying to cross, too. At the same time we could see several big crocodiles upstream, occasionally breaking the surface. They were obviously looking to cross the causeway too but at 90 degrees to the humans.
We ventured as far as Ubirr, at the end of the road. Some telling wall paintings depict life here for centuries. There were plenty of others also clambering over the rocks and climbing to the top for the view.
Perhaps the highlight in Kakadu is Gunlom Falls, at the end of another shocking road. The sign said that when the local Aboriginal elder officially handed the responsibility of management of this stunningly beautiful place, he reminded us all that their people had preserved it for centuries, hoping that the rangers could do the same.
It’s a good lesson.