I have been to Darwin about 10 times and never had the chance to venture outside the city, even though I knew of the great adventures just a few hours up the road. Mark Skaife was the same. After all his years racing at Darwin’s Hidden Valley, he’d never taken the time to visit Kakadu. So that’s what we decided to do this year!
We rented a Holden Commodore (what else could we have, with Skaifey in the car!) and at 8am on Monday morning we hit the road for Kakadu. We expected the roads to be rough and rugged, but they were first class and we soon got into the groove of waving to all the other travellers on the way out of Darwin.
As we left the city behind, we passed the famous Humpty Doo Hotel, a legendary watering hole. Beyond that, were the NT’s massive mango plantations. About an hour out of Darwin we took our first break at the Corroboree Park Tavern, another of the famous stops along the highway to Kakadu. Despite being early, the bar was open and tempting. However, we managed to hold back, as we were on a mission to get to the outback!
With the same thought in mind, we then resisted the urge to stop off at the Bark Hutt Inn, planning to save a visit for the trip home.
Just a couple of hours after leaving Darwin, we pulled up at the Kakadu National Park sign, where we just had to have a photo. Our next stop was the impressive Bowali Visitor Centre where we learnt all we needed to know about the area, and had a great little lunch.
Our experience for the day was an Animal Tracks tour. We met up with Sean, our tour guide, and parked the car to jump aboard his 4-wheel drive. Sean’s knowledge of the land and the local people was mind-blowing. Skaifey and I soon realised there was so much we didn’t know about this incredible part of the Australia.
We then picked up our local Aboriginal guide, Patsy – she was such a character! Though Patsy was quiet to start with, once she was comfortable with the group she was full of incredible information and funny stories about Aboriginal history, local animals and bush food. We stopped by a water hole and Patsy jumped out to wade into the water, and grab a water lily.
She opened up the flower of the water lily for us to taste and the little seeds tasted like rice. She then made two necklaces from the flower buds. She put one around Skaifey’s neck, then one around mine, and started laughing. Turns out Aboriginal elders would put these on boys who were fighting to make them settle down! It seemed to work on us – Skaifey was really nice after that!
We ventured down into a creek bed to learn how to dig out mussels, then went in search of bush carrots. We came across a big herd of water buffalo, but kept a safe distance.
On the edge of the wetlands and the bush we set up for dinner, building a fire and watching the most magnificent sunset. Patsy cooked up a feast of buffalo, barramundi and magpie goose along with bush veggies. It was amazing!
That night we headed back to The Croc Hotel for a snooze, before being up early for a trip down the Yellow Water Billabong. Seeing the wetlands and riverways at sunrise was one of the most incredible sights I’ve ever seen. We also came across two crocodiles going head to head as they marked their territory. Catching barramundi proved tough, and despite all our energy and focus, neither of us got a fish on the line – I hail those that have!
By then, we’d earned our stopover at Bark Hutt Inn – a Territory icon. Maria and her team looked after us with great food and refreshments.
Skaifey and I talked about our two days in Kakadu all the way back to Darwin Airport – and we started planning our next trip back! Many incredible images now fill our memories.
Mark’s trip to the Territory was supported by Tourism NT