Lands End & The 3 Musketeers (Kakadu & Litchfield)
Moving on from the Yellow Water River, I continued East towards an area of Australia that seemed, to me at least, to be the place to go. Not Bondi Beach, not The Gold Coast or The Barrier Reef, but Arnhem Land, a huge swathe of Top End land sparsely populated by indigenous communities where I’d have to get a permit just to be allowed in. First though I popped into the Kakadu information centre and read up on Kerry McLoughlin, a very unfortunate fisherman who met a very messy end at the hands of a typically huge croc on the banks of the East Alligator River, despite trying to defend himself with a can of beer. The entrance to Arnhem Land, and this precise spot was exactly where me and Gumdrop where headed. An interesting read it was, as was the history of the region and its stunning geography. I continued on to Jabiru, a remote indigenous settlement close to the border with Arnhem Land where, true to form, the heavens opened and drenched the land once again. I headed off walking and found the impressive Nourlangie Rock, with its spectacular views East and centuries old aboriginal art work covering the walls in every sheltered enclave. I pulled off the road and parked up for the night somewhere deep in croc country and next to a pleasant looking riverbank, but with the intense heat and humidity, storing food was becoming ever more a problem. Slowly, I was reducing my menu to packets of instant rice and gallons of water, which quite often went over me in a futile effort to keep cool. Sleeping was near impossible, and I no longer even bothered closing the doors, so the mosquitos were on the rampage. I stuck it out, only to find in Jabiru that it was going to take 3 day to get an Arnhem Land permit, a bit of a blow but my mind was soon made up regardless. I drove on anyway to the East Alligator River to assess Gumdrop’s chances of making the crossing at low tide. The river was rising constantly as the rains arrived and, even though mighty Gumdrop would no doubt have battled through my latest challenge (well, maybe), we faced the very real possibility that the crossing would be closed behind us, leaving us trapped in Arnhem Land for 4 months… This would have put rather a dent in my schedule.
“It would be a shame to get this far and turn back though” said the voice in my head
“After all, you’ve got your multi coloured safety hat, and you’ve found another big stick, it fought the rhinos off in Nepal” it continued.
I thought about this for a moment and decided that maybe yes, I could fight off a 4m crocodile with a big stick, it would be surely more effective than a can of beer. Then the second voice interrupted
“Ashman. Did you actually fight off a rhino with a big stick, or did you really just wander around the jungle with a big stick in your hand and not find any rhinos?”
I reversed Gumdrop back up the slip way, turned round and headed back West. Arnhem Land would have to wait until next time.
Heading back West I passed through the amusingly named Humpty Doo, before arriving at Litchfield Park, another of the Top End’s impressive features. I meandered through the giant magnetic termite mounds before setting up camp for the night near Buley Rockhole. Here, I made my latest new friends, the 3 Italian musketeers Arturo, Teodore and Barbara. Fine and friendly they were too, so much so in fact that they immediately climbed my list of Spaniards that I instantly liked, until I felt compelled to begin a list of Italians just for them. We splashed around the very pleasant pools and waterfalls scattered around Litchfield for a couple of days until eventually, it was time to head north to Darwin, civilisation, and with Xmas approaching, spoil myself with a dorm bed.