You may remember I wrote about my husbands plan to embark on a week long camping trek around the Top End last week? Yep. I was going but I was packin’ myself. It didn’t help that we stopped off to do A Jumpin Crocs tour on our way along the Adelaide River. As brilliant as it was it provided a sobering warning for both of us about the realities of swimming in the NT. In fact, seeing the Crocs confidently sunning themselves, with their gigantic ego’s, on numerous river banks on the drive into the Kakadu National Park scared us. Alright, me mostly. I was on the verge of hot footin’ it back to Victoria. I actually heard myself asking in my head whether they could attack the car somehow? Obviously the prospect of going swimming was off. Big NO GO. I was glad Mr Vick was now with me on that one. I hadn’t been too sure previously.
I cheered when we arrived at the Kakadu National Park sign. We were officially somewhere very special. Somewhere that means something to our identity as a nation.
Kakadu is all red dirt, dry fauna and suspicious looking creeks which I know are home to our sharp toothed friends who like to play hidey. There are various tracks to numerous campsites. This is where Mr Vick’s loose planning caused me to come undone. See we hadn’t really discussed what we were going to do when we actually arrived at Kakadu. Very briefly, on the way, we pointed to a dot on our map and said the location looked remote and peaceful and that could maybe be our home but after seeing the Crocs out and just how remote this area was ( and beside a billabong) I “accidentally” directed us passed that no-one-would-know-if-you-were-eaten-campsite and steered us towards a little bit more civilisation cos people equal safety right? Anyway there was a bit of narky tension shared between us about that. Holiday tiff #1. It’s true I usually don’t have a problem with roughing it and escaping the crowd but I was on alert here. I had my protective parental radar on.
We kept driving waiting for the right camp spot to hit us in the face. You may not realise but Kakadu is a kinda large place. I didn’t have the foggiest. It covers over 19,800 square km’s. Lots of opportunities to get lost I’d say but for the most part there are a lot of sealed roads, lots of signs and ample amounts of like minded travellers. There’s about 19-20 designated camping areas and there are 2 types including bush campsites for the more a la naturale, remote experience. You’ll be lucky to get a toilet and a fireplace here and often they are located down some seriously rickety 4WD tracks. Then there’s the managed campsites which are still quite peaceful but have flushing toilets and if your lucky a lukewarm solar powered shower. Sites cost between $5-$10 per person per night. There’s no booking or reservation system so it’s first in best dressed and popular areas do fill up quickly each day so I’d recommend you claim your spot before 4 or 5pm each day.
Anywho, we ended up taking the next turn off and landed at the Merl Camping Ground which is situated close to the Ubirr rock-art site in the East Alligator River to the North East of the park.
We found our own little bush area (and this campsite is more primitive than some of the more southern sites) and we started to set up our new tent, of which we had never attempted before. When tensions are high there’s nothing better than setting up a tent for the first time as a team is there? Tents, portacots… they make idiots of us all at the best of times. We managed it.
(not sure why this is so dark… clearly I still don’t know how to use my fancy camera)
For the rest of the day we slummed it. I mostly kept my eyes peeled for snakes, Little Vick set about stirring up as much dirt as possible and Mr Vick snoozed in the tent. Consequently, Mr Vick was thrilled about our campsite. It was precisely as he had envisaged this outdoorsy adventure to be and I was thrilled about being at a campsite that has some form of running water, considering Little Vick was now a dirt monster.
When night was about to fall we got our campie on and got a fire crackling. This became our stove (and most campsites in Kakadu have camp fire pits). Little Vick was right into the stick snapping, throwing and lighting, naturally. Seriously, do all boys have a little bit of a pyromaniac in them?
The worst moment hit the instant the sun went down. It was like a scene from Alfred Hitchcocks The Birds, except the enemy was the mosquitoes. Those little blood sucking feckers! Let me just say, If people in the NT tell you the mosquitoes are bad, BELIEVE THEM. They were buzzing around in gangs of thousands, ready to suck dry us the innocent visitor. Not very hospitable I’d say. We had mozzi repellent & a citronella candle, that should cover it right? NO EFFECT WHATSOEVER and after half an hour of spraying… the mozzi repellent ran out. CATASTROPHE! I had bites from my face to my little pinky. There was nothing more that could be done but crawl into the protection of our little tent and wait it out. I couldn’t believe it. Held hostage by blood obsessed mozzi’s. What spoil sports. I was miserable. I had visions of toasting marshmallows and reminiscing in front of the fire with Mr Vick. It was going to be brilliant connection time. It’s not quite so romantical however when you’re both in a tent trying to not make a sound in case we wake the toddler up, and grumpy from the itchy welts which are already coming up with enough itch to make you want to peel your own skin off. The term “happy camper” couldn’t be further from the truth.
I already started thinking it. If it’s going to be like this every night, I’m bailing. This is a deal breaker.
But where there is disaster there is always a little miracle right? Little Vick went to sleep without a fight. No complaint. A born camper it turns out. THAT was miracle # 1. # 2 is that we decided to keep our fly off the tent because it was such a balmy evening. I’m sure the NT has not heard of rain in June ever, so we were confident in leaving it off. That meant Mr Vick and I, together with those sucking little feckers loud soundtrack playing around us, could gaze up through the top of the tent to see the most spectacular star dotted sky we’ve ever seen. Not a cloud, not a city light to taint the colour or clarity. It was a real wonder. We peered out at the entire world which was laid out before us - us the insignificant creatures. This was miracle # 2. We watched on quietly absorbing, appreciating. All the insanities of the day disintegrated and we fell into a deep, refreshing sleep ready for a day of exploring to follow. Our Kakadu holiday had begun.
Stay tuned for our super spiritual experience at Ubirr Rock site & further along, swimming on top of a Kakadu waterfall!