Escape Travel’s Clinton Hearne last week returned from a three day APT Tour in the Northern Territory. Clinton tells us about his journey exploring Kakadu National Park, Katherine, Litchfield National Park and Arnhem Land. Clinton’s Top End encounters are split into three blog posts, this one covering Darwin, Kakadu and Arnhem.
We descended into Darwin just past midnight. It was my first adventure to the Top End - the name used to refer to the most northern part of the Northern Territory. Looking out of the aeroplane window to see the city lights of Darwin was a quite bit different from the city lights of Brisbane where we had departed from, that's for sure! Darwin does not have too many high rises or lights but you could make out the reflections of the buildings in the water, and there was water everywhere.
Our first night was spent in the Mantra Pandanas Hotel which is located in the heart of Darwin. The rooms were beautiful to wake up in after a deep sleep! The hotel featured a pool on the 6th floor looking over the city and out to the esplanade. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast at the pier, overlooking the man made wave pool and wharf. Of course, unless you have a wish to be eaten by a crocodile or stung by a lethal jellyfish you need to swim in the wave pool and not the ocean! We enjoyed some time exploring Darwin, and I am happy to say it is a very easy city to navigate.
Sunset is definitely the time of day that Darwin comes to life. People emerge from the heat protection of the indoors to enjoy the cooler evening. They head to the markets or the wharf with their picnics, BBQ's, kids and partners to relax sit and watch the sun go down. Mingil markets on a Thursday are a must. Think Eumundi markets (if you've been there, Sunshine Coast, QLD) on steroids. Such an amazing array of food, trinkets, art, people and performances. There are heaps of activities for everyone and great prices. We indulged in an amazing seafood dinner at a restaurant called Crousteceans. The combination of the Barramundi, beer and sunset in the background was pretty spectacular.
The next day we set off early on an APT three day tour of the Top End. Gerry, our guide was a true blue Aussie and was taking us to Kakadu National Park, Katherine, Litchfield National Park and Arnhem Land.
On day one we explored Kakadu and saw crocs, wildlife, birds, aboriginal art and the best landscape I have seen.... it was stunning. It was so green – EVERYWHERE. Not what I had imagined to see considering we were visiting in the ‘dry season’. Gerry informed us the land will will stay this green the whole dry season as there are flood plains as far as the eye can see, unlike Alice Springs which is that earth red desert. We strolled up to Ubirr where we encounted our first aboriginal art. Gerry pointed out the piece we were looking at was getting drawn at the same time as the Egyptians were building their first pyramid. Australia definitely has history! Ubirr is a rock formation that comes with aboriginal stories and overlooks the flood plains, bush and small creeks where the wallabies graze... not to mention a few crocs as well!
After Ubirr we took a Kakadu Cultural Tour in a small boat down the East Alligator River. Neville, our local Aboriginal guide explained how aboriginals lived off the land for thousands of years. We were shown the instruments the aborigines used, how they speared and what various plant life provided for them. Neville chucked in a couple of croc stories as well and you quickly saw everyone move ever so slightly to the middle of the boat. We were only 50cms off the water and they were telling us stories of how crocs can jump to the hit of tree branches. I was thinking to myself that this boat was not going to do much if there was a flying croc coming out of the water! There was a beautiful little sand bar where a 2 meter croc was sunning himself and his little mate - a 1 year old baby croc.
On day two we set off for Arnhem Land. After crossing the Alligator River and seeing crazy people fishing for barra where the crocs lived we had passed into Arnhem Land. As a child I had always wanted to go here it seemed like a land before time, the last fully untouched place in Australia. Gerry's knowledge of the area was outstanding and you could he had a close relationship with the locals by his passion, stories and enjoyment of answering our never ending questions. We visited an aboriginal community in Arnhem Land. The community was beautiful, from the people to their Arts Centre. This community was living in the middle of untouched land where their backyard is unmatched paradise.
Stay tuned for more on Clinton's APT Tour in the Northern Territory... coming soon.
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