The Kimberly had been calling my name since I had lived in Broome: the hard red earth, warm nights and blazing days, the drastic weather, the sheer size and emptiness of it all.
With only a few weeks left on my visa, I had to accept that my great adventure was coming to an end. It only felt appropriate that I spend some of that time exploring the untamed north – the Top End.
I flew over from Cairns and spent two long days in Darwin to rest and recuperate from three weeks living out of a tent. I suppose it was bound to happen at some point, but I was surprised to find myself in a place I had to work to enjoy. Darwin was hot and stale, too much of a ‘real city’ to feel in place in the outback. As I walked around town, the sidewalks were empty, the dry gardens and the lagoon were devoid of people. It was as if I was walking around in the world’s warmest snowglobe. The only part of town that had any activity was a block full of hostels and tourist attractions. I spent most of my time revelling in the hot shower, solid bed, and blessed air conditioning.
At 4:30am I woke before my alarm. Packed and ready to be picked up, I got lucky that another person on the tour was staying at my hostel. Despite having called the company a few days prior to confirm my pickup, the information had not made it to paper. I could have missed the enitre trip!
Our first stop was Edith Falls. From the empty parking lot it was a 1-kilometre walk uphill, passing nothing but blackened tree trunks and dry yellow scrub. Eventually we crested that final hill and waiting for us was oasis: swimming pool and water fall.
We took off our shoes and hobbled gingerly over the searing rocks and the slippery-smooth ones beneath the surface of the water. The pool below Edith Falls is not cool and refreshing, but a bathtub: easy and welcoming to sink into. I swam directly under the falls to sit in the alcove behind and found myself struggling, exhausted and breathless once I was in there (and this was just a tiny waterfall!) No one wanted to get out of the water to make the hot trek back to the bus, but we had a long drive ahead.
On the way to Katherine Gorge we stopped at a what was once a nicely wooded stretch of road, now stripped clean of leaves by a fire. It was time to begin the daily tradition of the ‘firewood collection game’. The goal was to wander off the road and collect as many burnable pieces of wood as possible (without twisting an ankle or being bitten by something poisonous) and then form a human chain to get it all on top of the bus.
Late in the afternoon our bus arrived at Katherine Gorge in time for a quick swim.
After fawning over the agile wallabies in the park, we passed a most concerning sign: a crocodile warning. Our tour guide assured us that this late in the dry season, all the crocodiles had been trapped and moved downstream, unable to return until the rains did. That didn’t stop us all from screaming bloody murder when he grabbed someone’s leg underwater.
We cooled off and played games, climbing the logs jutting out of the river, getting to know eachother and watching the cliffs surrounding the water glow red.
Our camp for the night was an established site, one of the only ones we would encounter. As I strolled the backcounty surrounding us, watching the sun go down and wallabies dart across the path, I was awed again by how empty this whole massive corner of the country is.
Away from the chatter of the camp I could have been the only person left on earth.