Three years ago, in the last days of June 2017, I was at the end of my first year in Australia. I haven’t written or published anything about this period yet, so I thought this was the perfect occasion to look back on the memories of my very last week in the country, filled with beautiful landscapes, aboriginal art and some of the most extraordinary sunsets I ever saw.
📷 For more pictures have a look at my gallery of photos of Kakadu National Park and Darwin.
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After my farmwork experience from February to May 2017, I went back to Melbourne where I lived and worked again for a few more weeks. I left on the 18th of June; I first flew to Uluru for a three-day guided tour around this iconic monolith in the middle of the desert, that I described in a previous article. When the tour ended, instead of going back to Melbourne I drove to Alice Springs, the nearest city, and on the next day I took a plane to Darwin in the North of the country. That’s where I was going to spend my five last days in Australia before my return flight scheduled on the 28th of June.
I hadn’t planned anything and didn’t really know what to expect; all I knew was that I wanted to explore the city and its surroundings. Before I arrived, I posted a message on one of the many Facebook traveller’s groups explaining that I was looking for travelmates to join me. A French girl replied to it and together we decided to rent a car and begin a road trip around Kakadu National Park.
Let’s begin with a few facts about Kakadu. It’s the biggest National Park of Australia: it covers an area of almost 20,000 km², about the surface of Slovenia. It has been added to the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1981, both for cultural and natural criteria. It’s located in the tropics, on top of the Northern Territory, which means there are only two seasons here: the wet season (from November/December to April/May) and the dry season (from May/June to October/November). During the wet season, a large part of the park isn’t accessible, and even during the dry season, many places can only be reached with a 4WD vehicle, such as the famous 200m-high Jim Jim Falls (we only had a “regular” car, but it was still enough to enjoy our trip). Kakadu is a place of great diversity, with many different landscapes; not less than six main landforms according to the Australian Government website, including floodplains, woodlands, lowlands and plateaux.
It is estimated that Aboriginal people have been living in the area continuously for more than 40,000 years, and the park is home to one of the greatest concentrations of Aboriginal rock art. The best spot to admire it is North-East of the park, around a rock formation called Ubirr that overlooks the surroundings. These paintings are absolutely outstanding; I was expecting something quite naïve but I was really impressed by the level of details. Have a look at the man below for example!
Most of the paintings at Ubirr have been estimated to be about 2,000 years old. They represent various subjects: hunting scenes or stories from the “Dreamtime” which explain the origins of the world in Aboriginal beliefs, including a painting of the “Rainbow Serpent”, a mythological creature of great importance in the Aboriginal culture.
We spent two days in the park, and then headed back to Darwin. It was a Sunday, and every Sunday (as well as every Thursday) from April to October, a night market attracts thousands of people to Mindil Beach, a beach facing the North-West. There are dozens of stalls with food, souvenirs and Aboriginal craft, but what makes this market so special is its unique sunset. Shortly before the sun was setting over the horizon, everyone left the alleys of the market and gathered on the beach to admire this fantastic sight. It’s clearly one of the most extraordinary sunsets I ever saw.
I spent the next couple of days slowly exploring Darwin. It’s not a very beautiful city, but I really enjoyed my time there. The weather was perfect, it was warm, nature was flourishing everywhere, there was a very relaxed atmosphere that perfectly fitted my state of mind. I also visited the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory, located next to Mindil Beach. I found it really interesting, with a large collection of Aboriginal objects, a section entirely dedicated to the cyclone Tracy that completely destroyed Darwin in 1974 (more than 70% of the city was destroyed, and 71 people were killed)… and the body of Sweetheart, a 5.1m saltwater crocodile that despite its name was famous for attacking boats in the late 70’s!
That’s actually one of the most frustrating things in Darwin; even if the beaches are beautiful, it’s absolutely not recommended to swim because of the presence of saltwater crocodiles (and jellyfish). Like in Cairns or Brisbane on the East coast, an artificial lagoon has been built so that people can safely go swimming.
And then, finally, it was my last night in Australia. I went back to Mindil Beach for the sunset; there was no market so I was completely on my own. It was partly cloudy this time and the sight was a little bit different (apart from that same boat over the horizon again), but not less beautiful…
It was a weird feeling to be there alone, like an echo to my very first night in the country one year before in Byron Bay, where I also sat on the beach and watched the sunset by myself. I had lived so many adventures, explored so many places and met so many people during the past twelve months that it was extremely hard to leave all that behind me. I already knew I would come back eventually, but it didn’t make this evening less sad anyway… The emotions of that moment will remain engraved in me forever, and three years later I still haven’t forgotten the deep nostalgic of these very last hours, as well as I never forgot the amazing feeling of liberty of that first night in Byron Bay four years ago. But who knows, maybe will I get another chance to live in Australia again in the future?
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