Finally Scott wakes up. I’ve been in Jabiru a couple of hours. Not a lot to do in Jabiru, except compile information on how to leave it. And let’s be clear, there’s a L O T of places to leave too. With Scott being a local with a taste for the outdoors I’m somewhat convinced I’ll get a goood introduction to what’s around. In particular I’m hopeful for a trip to the fabled world of Arnhem Land.
Arnhem Land, named after a city in the east of the Netherlands, is a place where White Fellers are not entirely welcomed. Not entirely unwelcomed either. We need a permit. Perhaps more than one. Some permits allow transport between entering Arnhem Land and a destination, such as the Cobourg Peninsular and Garig Gunak Barlu National Park, the most northerly tip of the Northern Territory. But a few hours’ drive from Jabiru.
I tell Scott where I am and half an hour later I’m in his and his partner Evelyn’s house. The photographic paraphernalia starts just inside the door and dominates all the main living area. It’s all top end stuff, Nikon. A HUGE home entertainment systems intimidates whoever dares sit in the sofa. Once seated there’s an overwhelming temptation to slide in a DVD, such as 4WD Action’s informative series on, well, 4WDriving across various iconic and not-so iconic bits of Australia. Or stream Youtube viddies of various wildlife/fishing/adventure stuff from whatever place you’ve ever dreamed of going. Or a movie. Or two. Which we did. All of them, all be it not quite concurrently.
Scott is a rare breed, certainly in Europe. An open trusting person willing to welcome a stranger. We met and know each other from but a few days camped on the same patch of grass at Glen Helen. Being offered the use of The Beast for a week is a very good indication of Scott’s trusting and open nature. I am honoured to be welcomed into his and Evelyn’s lives. Thanks Mate.
Kakadu is vastly larger than Litchfield. Its waterfalls huge in comparison. Distances too. Popularity and possibility. It’s also expensive, 40$ for a seven day pass. Actually, I blazed through figuring I am not a tourist, I’m a nomad delivering a Beast to a local. Besides, I couldn’t find an obvious place where to buy a permit. Or perhaps, I chose not to find one.
Buying food in Jabiru was simple enough. There’s a well equipped Foodland with everything from all your camping needs to the finest ingredients for your penne al arrabiata.
Beer, alcohol, on the other hand is a whole different ball-game. In a bid to limit the consequences of substance abuse it is not possible to buy alcohol as an itinerant random zombie in Jabiru. Whilst the key target group for such prohibition are Indigenous Australians, to avoid the obvious suggestion of racial discrimination all races face the same prohibition. Unless you are a member of the local golf-club. Then you can buy and takeaway alcohol. With a HUGE mark-up, but still possible. I am told that the Elders of the various Indigenous Australian communities requested such prohibition. If so, why are all races subject to the same rules? It smells just a little bit of coercion but since I’ve not met any Elder to either confirm nor deny such claims, nor any policy maker, I don’t know. But I have experienced just how devastating substance abuse has been to Indigenous Australians and can well sympathise that Elders could well want to reign in consumption. I truly hope that Indigenous Australians manage to live more effectively with the various substances which all races to some degree struggle with.
Back to Jabiru’s golf club. Not that I disbelieved Scott, but I thought I’d try. Pretending I am not with him I snuck down the bar, sauntered up the waitress (why are waiting staff still defined by their gender?) and asked to buy a carton of beer: “Are you a member here?” “No” “Do you know anyone who is a member here?” “Well, I’d like to surprise them by buying the beer” [good-natured laughter] “Unfortunately, if you are not a member I can’t sell you beer, or any alcohol, to take away” “Is there anywhere else in town I can buy beer” “No”.
By now Scott had bought and paid and was carrying the beer – as a non-member whilst I may be able to pay for the beer, with a member present, I cannot carry the beer out of the establishment – and we all had a bit of a giggle.
Back at Scott/Evelyn’s place we settle in, eat, start that massive home entertainment system, enjoy the beer, enjoy dinner, and start to plan. I give Scott a Wish List:
- frilled neck lizard
- black-headed python
- Olive python
- A turtle would be kinda nice too
- y’know, that kinda thing.
Over the next couple of days we checkout various sites in Kakadu, sunsets at ___ (I can’t remember the place’s name) …
Crocodile hunting at a large billabong, a massive swamp also for crocodiles though the large number of yapping tourists implied tuning into ‘the nature’ was not on the agenda, and otherwise chilled out.
No matter Scott’s best efforts, no matter the most perfect of billabongs, no matter even infamous Cahill’s Crossing, no matter one of the various iterations of Alligator River, a crocodile was nowhere to been seen.
After awhile it became clear to me that There Are No Crocodiles In Kakadu!
Scott sputtered and muttered and shook his head and mumbled various incoherent mutterings which sounded suspiciously like “dumb ignorant tourist” but he could not prove me wrong for There. Are. No. Crocodiles. In. Kakadu!
All the signs, stories, warnings, urban and no so urban myths are all some clever marketing strategy. For have we not travelled near and far, in Kakadu, and seen but not one crocodile?
There. Are. No. Crocodiles. In. Kakadu!
Even the bizarre jumping crocodile experience one can have on the South Alligator River is not actually in Kakadu. For …
There. Are. No. Crocodiles. In. Kakadu!
It’s pretty obvious when you dig into it. If there are crocodiles in Kakadu, why do all the rivers have the name Alligator in them? I’m telling you, it’s a con.
Mind you, Evelyn kinda nailed it as we were looking at yet another billabong and there was no sign of a crocodile: “Go for a swim then … “ she suggested.
We checked out cave/rock paintings made by Indigenous Australians. The ambience somewhat influenced by the extensive stair-case and viewing platforms.
The popularity of Kakadu among a wide demographic spread means access to iconic sites has been ‘simplified’ and made ‘easier’. It really creates a closed-museum style interaction and makes identifying how it must have been for Indigenous Australians to sit in that space and take the time and effort to record their thoughts and experiences challenging. As it is to see the Nightwatch in the Rijksmuseum. Easy to see the painting but the viewer is well divorced from the painter.
Then again, with corralling Random Zombie Tourists along sanitised routes the ancient art itself is less likely to be destroyed by a zillion little fingers touching the delicate paintings.
One evening Scott is outside when I hear him call me. In front of The Monster, his 79 Series Toyota Landcruiser, making its way over various bits of fishing gear and camping stuff is a snake. A Children’s Python.
Finally, a snake. Found, and caught, not in the jungle, not in the monsoon forest, not in the savannah. Nope, in a carport. They say it’s all about urbanisation nowadays, and here’s the proof.
Aside of futilely looking for crocodiles, enjoying stunning sunsets, wandering beautiful billabongs, drinking litres of expensive malt and hop flavoured water with a mild alcohol after taste and enjoying Scott’s impressive home entertainment system, we also planned a trip into Arnhem Land, specifically the Cobourg Peninsular.
Once planned, there’s little else to do that execute The Plan.
We are goin’ in …
Max, Jabiru, 26 May 2016