Mataranka to Darwin via Kakadu National Park
Friends. They arrive in your life and make the world around you shine. Old or new, they are lovely to have around. A day is made brighter with a call or a visit. A connection with like-minded people creates branches of friendship that stretch out and over the vast distances of Australia and the world. I sit currently with such people; one drawing, one writing and one playing guitar, and I am happy. Listening to the strumming of the guitar, I am transported back through our journey thus far and remember all the amazing people we have shared time with.
It has been a long time since our last blog update and so many amazing experiences have been lived. For the sake of time and chronology (and my blog writing sanity) I will continue from where we left you all those weeks ago.
Mataranka proved to be the oasis we had imagined. We soaked our bodies, ingrained with red dust and bone shaken from the corrugations, in the thermal waters of Bitter Springs. We also drank copious amounts of tea, ate loads of food, and shared stories and ideas with our new friends and fellow cycle tourists Liz and Scott. The time we spent together was inspiring and it was really hard for us to say goodbye to them on the morning of our departure north. As we have learnt, goodbyes between friends aren’t forever, they are just breaks between cups of tea or beers together.
After the hard riding of the last few weeks, it was great to be back on bitumen again. With the help of a tail wind we easily covered the 105km to Katherine by lunchtime. Along the way I found a set of fairy wings and the Green Fairy really was able to fly. Being in the vicinity of abundant and reasonably priced food for the first time in a month made us a little crazy. We spent forever in the supermarket stocking up, and fighting our way amongst the hundreds of nomads who are as good at driving shopping trolleys as they are at driving caravans.
Our initial plan was to stay the night in Katherine, but the vibe in town was all wrong. So after a lunch of Nutalino sandwiches and half a watermelon, we rode 20km towards Katherine Gorge into a headwind. Just before we collapsed from fatigue, we came across a nice little camp spot by a creek and were treated to the kindness of Mick and Cynth, and the cheekiness of their dogs Freckle and Trouble. We washed the day of cycling off with a cool dip in the creek and the six of us settled into a shared dinner and a fire by the moonlight.
We spent the next day relaxing at Katherine Gorge. We walked to the lookout and were treated to the spectacular view of the first gorge (there are 8 altogether). We then swam in the river, had a picnic and meditated in the gardens, and topped our visit off with an ice-cream and a cold beer at the café. By the time we cycled back to our camping spot we were hot again and had to have another dip in the cool water. That evening we had another relaxing night by the fire and crawled into our tent full of food and happiness.
The next day was one of those everyday days; cycling 120kms, shopping, eating, drinking and being woken at 11pm by drunken old bogans abusing us for having left our stuff on the table next to our tent. I think it was the first time someone has threatened to “piss on me for being ignorant”. Thankfully we laughed our way through their disrespectful behavior and still managed to grab a few hours sleep before heading off towards the stunning Kakadu National Park.
Exploring Kakadu was the best way to spend our last week on the road in Australia. As we rode, we felt an ancient and vibrant energy coming from the land, and it infused us with a sense of joy and connectedness. After the heat of the morning, it was refreshing to spend the afternoon shaded by forest, relaxing by a waterfall and rock pools. We pretty much had the whole place to ourselves and it was magical reading, napping, meditating and dipping in and out of the cold water. We both went exploring and I was again reminded of how adventurous Jude is when she popped up on the sheer rocky cliffs above the waterfall.
We would have loved to explore all the paths and sights of Kakadu, but being on bikes and with a semi-limited time frame, we had to choose a few select spots to ride into and explore. That day we gazed on the beauty of the south western plains from the Bukbukluk lookout and then returned to the dirt roads to ride into Maguk Falls. It was well worth the ride and we ended up spending two full days at Maguk just because it was so spectacular. We walked into the falls and marveled at the big pool below huge rock cliffs. We swam to the base of the falls and sat on a rock ledge nearby. We had been told that the top of the falls were worth exploring and as we had missed the hidden path we decided to scale the rock walls to check it out. It was awesome, and we spent the day swimming, exploring and relaxing around the rock pools that lie in a canyon of rock that has been carved smooth by millions of years of water and debris.
We also spent our time in the lovely company of Dave and Cath. We talked travel, cycle touring, festivals and all the other important issues about life and living in our times. In addition to great conversation, they spoilt us with foods that we have done without on the road – cheeses, figs, a fully cooked vegetarian breakfast with poached eggs and good wine. What luxury!
From Maguk we toured through different parts of Kakadu exploring billabongs, lookouts, rivers and escarpment. We spent hours admiring the Aboriginal rock art that has been there for thousands of years and learnt more about the lives and culture of the different Aboriginal groups that continue to live and care for country in the Kakadu region. It really is one of the most incredible places I have been, and we only experienced a small part of it in one season. We have promised ourselves that we will come back a few more times to experience more of the beauty and spirituality that the area radiates.
It is 255km from Jabiru to Darwin, and with both of us excited to get there, we made the decision that we would do a massive 2 day push. We saw heaps of birdlife in the floodplains and waterways, crocodiles in rivers big and small, bushfires that covered kilometres of the road in smoke and ash, and the worst drivers on any of the roads we have experienced thus far. A swimming pool and a couple of beers were required on the first night after an epic 135kms. The final day into Darwin I think we were both running on adrenaline and nothing else. The little signs that countdown the kilometres were greeted by the dinging of our bells and yells of excitement as we cycled the last 120km to Darwin. We kept our energy up by singing the Crocodylus song that we created whilst riding through croc country, thinking about the family we would soon be seeing and by fantasizing about all the awesome things we would soon be doing. We were very excited as the last 20km into Darwin was along bike paths, the easiest entry into a capital thus far. By lunchtime we had taken the photograph with the Darwin velodrome sign – we didn’t get a ‘Welcome to Darwin’ sign on the bike path, and were kicking back in Karl and Claire’s tropical garden drinking a beer thinking we have made it! We have cycled over 6000km from our house in Melbourne, to Karl and Claire’s in Darwin. It still feels amazing, exciting and surreal! We would like to send a BIG THANKYOU to all the people who have made our journey through Australia the awesome adventure that it has been. Your kindness and friendship will forever remain in our hearts, we wish you the best for your life journey and we look forward to the next time that our paths cross.
All my love,