As we cruised down the East Alligator River, Kakadu on one side and Arnhem Land on the other, we were amazed by the amount of crocodiles surrounding us. In the water, on the bank and lazing on logs and rocks in the river, no matter where you looked, these prehistoric beasts were watching our every move. I reiterated to the boys not to put any body parts in the water and reminded them why they need to be extremely careful around rivers and creeks in this part of the country.
Learning about the culture and history of Kakadu and how the local people lived here for hundreds of years was incredibly interesting and a huge contrast to our everyday lives. We never knew paperbark trees could be so practical as they were used for everything from baby blankets to shoes, clothing, plates and even safety harnesses for climbing.
One of the most stunning areas is Ubirr and although we visited nine years ago when Austin was only two-years-old, we were keen for all our kids to see this amazing place. The art galleries are amazing and it was interesting to see the x-ray paintings and the detail which went into the pictorial stories. Although thylacines have been extinct in the Northern Territory for thousands of years, we were impressed to see one painted high above on the rock face, testimony they were here the same time as the aboriginal people so long ago.
Perhaps one of the more intriguing pieces of art was the story of Miyamya. This was a sickness that people would get if they disturbed the stones at a sacred site downstream of the East Alligator River and the picture depicts people with swollen joints. Today there is a uranium mine at this location so many years ago, people may have suffered from radiation poisoning and these stories would warm others not to go near the sacred site.
Once we visited all the art sites, we made our way to the top of Ubirr as the view from the top of the rock at sunset is not to be missed.
The next day, we visited the Anbangang gallery, where we learnt about Nabulwinjbulwinj, a dangerous spirit who would eat females after striking them with a yam. There are plenty of engaging stories and pictures that kept us intrigued and also searching for ways to explain the often adult themes to the children. As we made our way around the site, seeing lightning man, his family and many more stories, we learnt about traditional Aboriginal land and laws through these paintings.
As the heat and humidity had set in much earlier than we expected, we were keen to head south for a little reprieve. Our intended tour of Kakadu was cut short as it was too difficult to sleep in the heat and we decided to leave some of the falls and four-wheel-drive treks for our next return trip, whenever that may be.