While working in Jabiru, the only town in Kakadu, for nearly 4 months, editing, photographing, writing, laying out etc for the local newspaper, I had many opportunities of exploring the fascinating wildness of the area, once I was given permission to use the work’s 4x4 Troopy on weekends, on the condition that I filled the fuel back up after use, at my expense.
I was flown up there as part of the employment package, which meant that my car was in Sydney, so I walked to the office & around town, then had the truck during work to travel to my story locations in this vast area. It takes about 4 hours round trip to go from Jabiru to the wetlands of Yellow Waters for example.
The town was built to service the Ranger Uranium Mine, which is nearby. It is close to the Western edge of Arnhem Land with the crossing at the notorious Cahill’s Crossing.
I decided that I would book into the Arnhemlander 4WD Cultural Tour to go from town into this other vast wilderness area, that was on my doorstep so to at least get a taste of what was on the other side of that wide expanse of the East Alligator River, seemingly guarded by the many big crocodiles that hang about at this crossing & is a formidable barrier into this ancient landscape, where time has all but stood still.
If you have limited time, taking one of these commercial tours is ideal as your very knowledgeable local indigenous guides know all the secret spots, the cultural history & can maximise the experience content of the trip, in the time available. They also take care of the necessary permit into Arnhem land, which is separate to the Kakadu National Park entry fee.
On the day of travel, I arrived at the Crocodile Hotel (yes, it is shaped like a crocodile when seen from the air & no, the only one there was part of an underwater display in the foyer).
The comfortable 4WD bus was waiting & once the last of the small group was on board, we headed off to what was going to be truly a fascinating journey.
Halfway across Cahill’s Crossing, the driver stopped to warn a fisherman, waist deep in water that there are crocodiles in there, to which he replied after looking around him “She’ll be right mate, I can’t see any.” Oh dear, didn’t hear of anyone being taken that day, so guess luck was on his side. Then again maybe they stopped reporting on stupidity. Hmmm!
From here our journey took us along the narrow 2 tyre mark track which found us at the entrance of the Mikkinj Valley with its stunning scenery of billabongs, wildlife & towering escarpment, then onto the Inkiyu Billabong, for morning tea.
The landscape was mesmerising & the abundance of birdlife made for a photographer’s paradise, thankful I had packed many large memory cards in my camera bag & not at all perturbed that I no longer used film, which had been very expensive, not to say limiting, in my earlier days.
Our next stop was to the Gunbalanya (or Oenpelli as it was known) community and Injalak Arts Centre about 58 klms inside Arnhem Land. Here we witnessed some fantastic indigenous artworks that were available for purchase, having been created by some very talented local artists.