Ubirr

sights / Other

Lonely Planet review

Ubirr is 39km north of the Arnhem Hwy via a sealed road. It'll take a lot more than the busloads of visitors to disturb Ubirr's inherent majesty and grace. Layers of paintings, in various styles and from various centuries, command a mesmerising stillness.

Part of the main gallery reads like a menu, with images of kangaroos, tortoises and fish painted in X-ray, which became the dominant style about 8000 years ago. Predating these are the paintings of mimi spirits: cheeky, dynamic figures who, it's believed, were the first of the Creation Ancestors to paint on rock. (Given the lack of cherry-pickers in 6000 BC, you have to wonder who else but a spirit could have painted at that height and angle.) Look out for the yam-head figures, where the head is depicted as a yam on the body of a human or animal; these date back around 15,000 years.

The magnificent Nardab Lookout is a 250m scramble accessed from the main gallery. Surveying the exotic floodplain, watching the sun set in the east and the moon rise in the west like they're on an invisible set of scales gradually exchanging weight is humbling to say the least.