I’m always slightly apprehensive in the weeks leading up to a media famil and departing for the Kakadu National Park Walking Adventure in the Northern Territory was no exception.
I’m comfortable camping out, sitting around a campfire, trekking and swimming in pristine waterholes but I’m not sure about some of the seven journalists who will be my trekking buddies for the next five days.
Life of a travel writer
I learn later that one of my new buddies had just returned from reviewing a butler-serviced, luxury Utah ski lodge and I’m very glad I didn’t know about that at the gate lounge when we first met.
Others have amazing stories to tell about recent stays in luxurious hotels and five-star experiences all over the world – such is the life of a travel writer.
At mid-morning on the first day, during the traditional welcome by the indigenous Wulna Aboriginal elders, I began to feel comfortable that no one would need to be airlifted back to civilisation.
As each of my new friends bowed their heads to be sprayed with water, I began to relax and dared to hope that they would enjoy the experience as much as I would.
As we got off the sealed roads travelling east in our specially modified 4WD van along the old Jim Jim Road, we passed wetlands such as Red Lily Billabong. The anticipation built as we arrived in the midst of Australia’s largest land national park, about to see some of what makes Kakadu a World Heritage listed international attraction.
On the alert for any sign of five-star, marble-hotel-foyer absence wobbles, it was wonderful to see everyone happily removing their canvas tent covers on our pre-set up tents to allow a clear view of what would be star-studded skies.
Even a dreaded cane toad hiding in the deep shade of one of the tents failed to bring on even a mild panic attack amongst our happy camper community.
Kakadu National Park
The afternoon’s sunset cruise on the nearby Yellow Water billabong was the perfect way for us to see the wealth of wildlife all around us. We see brumbies, wallabies, salt water crocodiles – big ones! – and thousands of birds.
There are magpie geese, brolgas, cormorants, pelicans and jabiru, Australia’s largest flying bird. Our expert wildlife guide managed to convey his rapture in the surrounds, infecting us all with his enthusiasm.
Home to our cosy campfire and a dinner of fresh, wild caught, local barramundi on the BBQ and the biggest dilemma of the day loomed – do we get to bed early to rest up for the long trek tomorrow or stay by the fire to watch for even more shooting starts competing for our attention with the mesmerizing coals of our campfire?
Most of us opt for the early night and we feel strangely alert and awake when the birds wake us much earlier than the traffic does in whatever city we’ve come from. After a relaxed breakfast, we drive to Nourlangie massif.
This is where we begin our walk across the crest of the plateau. The walk reveals a diversity of habitats, from cool monsoon vine forests to rugged stone country.
It gives us a view of what the landscape was like in ancient times, with the escarpment we see today being the less eroded part of the original range. It’s an active day – and hot – but no-one seems bothered, tho we all look for some shade when we stop to hear about the rock art and what it signifies.
As the days go on, the stunning waterfalls and gorges of Kakadu are a bit of a blur to me. Barramundi Falls is reached by walking through the monsoon forest, which opens out to deep plunge pool lined with blonde quartzite cliffs.
I can’t help thinking that the Gunlom plunge pools on top of the escarpment are better than any exclusive resort’s infinity pool anywhere in the world. It’s a stunning series of rock pools and waterfalls with views over some of the most amazing scenery in the Northern Territory.
I know I skipped showers on the last two days because I was in so much water that another water fix would have been redundant. It’s a sure sign that I’m adjusting to life away from the city. I go to bed earlier than I do at home, get plenty of exercise and eat fresh, delicious food that I don’t have to shop for or cook! All the while I’m surrounded by a fun, interesting bunch of people – none of whom freaked out even slightly at anything and in the surrounds of a world-class natural attraction.
I’m almost ashamed that it’s work!
Michele Eckersley is the Public Relations Manager for World Expeditions. The company’s Larapinta Trail was the winner of the Australian Society of Travel Writers Outstanding Tourism or Travel Product award.