We’re up early, trucking through the jetlag from the far away land of Auckland, NZ. We tell our friends we’re rugged blokes, but our Landcruiser keeps us all too cool from the easygoing 32 degree heat. And while our Instagram filters are scorching, the road to Kakadu National Park glistens smoothly.
After an easy day’s ride of 252km, we arrive at the Bark Hutt Inn, a fine restaurant with the best Barramundi around, and knock it back with a pint or two. We decide then and there: if this is the outback, we could get used to this.
The red dirt roads finally begin and after locking the hubs on our Safari, we reach the waterfalls at Jim Jim Falls. The rushing water and towering cliffs help us realize how Snapchat just can’t do this place justice. The rangers clear the pools for swimming, and we freshen up the way locals do: by jumping in for a quick paddle.
After our dip, we move to Garnamarr campsite to watch the sunset with some bangers on the cooker. Our trusty steed serves us well with a tent on the roof, taking only 5 minutes to set up and hardly any swear words. With our stomachs full, we settle into bed, unaware of how much beauty tomorrow will hold.
Back on the tarmac, we decide to explore the art of the Aboriginal people at Nourlangie. Their culture goes back thousands of years, and their paintings and stories leave us well spellbound.
From learning about their land to experiencing it firsthand, we drive to Anbangbang Billabong where we spot our first big saltie. He’s a big bugger, but we’re more than safe inside our Landcruiser. And with that, we’re off to Cooinda for a Yellow Water Sunset Cruise. The sky turns amber and from the boat we soak in the birds, snakes and crocs. What a place.
It’s easy to imagine the trees singing with life while passing through Kakadu. Especially in Gunlom, a beautiful campsite with a stunning pool, towering rock walls and lush forest. It’s as outback as you can get, but with convenient facilities for the whole family.
Rising from our rooftop tent for an early cuppa, we bid Kakadu National Park goodbye. In the mid-day ‘sausage sizzle’ sun, we catch a couple strokes at Edith Falls, a gorgeous pool safe for swimming.
An hour later, we arrive in a small town called Katherine for a tour with Katherine Outback Experience. We’re greeted by the man in charge, Tom Curtain, who rides horses bareback. While singing. And playing guitar. We decide that he’s the Van Damme of the Northern Territory and take down his number in case we need to serenade a lady.
To save our manly reputation after yesterday, we proceed to Nitmuluk National Park for a spot of canoeing. We catch sight of friendlier fresh water crocs, birds, and like-minded canoeists.
When we realize there’s much more to see, we jump on an easy-going boat for a tour. The guide explains to us the importance of the gorge to the local Aboriginal people, and soon enough we end day six watching the sun get lost in the cliffs.
We’re off on another early morning to Litchfield National Park, where termite mounds tower above us at 6 metres or more. The magnetic termite mounds are smaller but run from magnetic north to south and stick up like a punk rocker’s mohawk in the ground. The absolute definition of rock.
After our time observing mounds, we reach Wangi Falls later than expected, but just in time for a sunset dip. Who needs Bondi when you have waterfalls round every bend
It’s time again to lock the hubs and off road into the fiery red sand, all the way to Dundee Beach. We’re greeted by golden, white sand between our toes, so we pull up deck chairs and do what we do best: watch the sun slowly track its way down the blue and blonde sky. It’s a gorgeous reflection of our time out here, and a view fit to finish our two-man show-and-tell of the big NT.
We begin our return to Darwin, wishing we didn’t have to leave the expanse, but appreciating how far we’ve come. When we reach the city, we spend our last two days exploring the Darwin Waterfront, its markets and restaurants.
A cross between a Melanesian town in the Pacific, and a cosmopolitan Australian city, it’s really quite a sight. We check into the airport for our flight, not knowing when we’ll be back, just knowing that we will be.
TIM N’ HAMISH’S TOP 5 HIGHLIGHTS:
- Best View: Nitmuluk National Park, up on the cliff tops watching the sunset.
- Best Campsite: Gunlom campsite; remote and removed from civilization, but with great facilities and sites.
- Best Place: Kakadu National Park.
- Best Swim: The waterfall at Wangi Falls.
- Best Road Trip Recipe: Spicy chorizo sausages, Japanese slaw and potatoes with mint and butter.