"Besides all the deadly things, this is a wonderful place"
14.10.2010 - 18.10.2010 32 °C
I have just returned from Darwin, slightly tanned I hope, and in a very good mood.
In Darwin there are amazing beaches: long and sandy, with purple water, and totally empty. That is because one can't swim in the water. As Morganne, the girl i travelled with, joked: "besides the box jellyfish, the crocodiles, the sharks, and the cyclones, this is a wonderful place to live."
The weather is very warm and right now is the pre-wet season so it was very warm (29-34 degrees) and rather humid. As Morgane said on the phone one morning “It’s 7 am and I’m sweating to death.” I was surprised however, that it wasn't more humid, but it turned out that we were lucky, the rain season had started early. We therefore had occasional showers of warm rain, but humidity wasn't bad and all trees and bushes were gorgeously green, the grass was strong, and there were wonderfull flowers, both wild and domesticated, everywhere.
We went to Litchfield National park. Our host had a 4W car so we could get of the paved roads and go to the less visited areas. Even the roads themselves were beautiful; the road are really red there and go on til they dissappear in dust and the green of the trees, the treetrunks were black at the bottom and white at the top and the leaves were intensly green. Above it hang a dark blue sky.
We saw termite mounds of two kinds, one that builds really high towers (called cathedral mounds) and the other that builds strangely tombstone shaped mounds. When you see sevaral of them standing together it really looks like a graveyard sa they are all standing in the exact same direction. These mounds are built on a perfect north-south line, and are very thin in the east-west direction to even out the temperatures over the day. The flat broad sides catch all the morning and evening sun while catching very little of the burning midday sun. Isn't it amazing?
We got to an area where strangely shaped blocks of stone had withered so that it looked as though a gigant had piled them up on top of each other. It reminded me of stories of lost cities. We continued to an old homestead and had to drive through water to get there. By one of the water covered areas there were even crocodile warning signs since saltwater crocodiles get in there during the heighth of the wet season. We crossed it without problem however (it was only 40 cm high now) but a little bit along the way we had to cross a pool of water that went over the top of the front of the car. We got through it but then the car died. We were stuck in the forest with the flies and the heat and ages away from phone reception and at the end of a 4w track.
We did what any sensible people would do in that situation: we had lunch and then we practiced shooting. Finally we heard a car coming and hitched a ride back to one of the main areas where we could borrow the park ranger's satelite phones and call for a friend of our hosts. While waiting we spent the time swimming by a waterfall in one of the designated swimming areas, free from crocodiles. I'm not a big bear drinker but when the friend, John cane after two more hours and had brought frosty cold bears, I was really happy to drink even a lager!
John came with his sweet indonesian wife and helped us out of our predicament. He had a big new 4w and pulled us out from the lonely road without any problem. When I have seen bik cars like that in LA and other big cities I have allways found them silly and rather childish. These cars drink a lot of fuel and are just ridicolous in a city, but here, on a possibly crocodile infested mud track, with water up to the windscreen they are in their right element. Our car started up as soon as we got back in the dry and we drove back together, on the way however we stopped at a pub along the highway to have a drink. The highways in the Northern Territory are not very big and it felt more like driving on a country road. This feeling was strongly reinforced by the pub which reminded me of every redneck pub i have seen in movies. The waitresses were rude, the place a little shabby, and the men by the pool table foul-mouthed. We sat out on the poarch and watched the rain when we noticed a sign by the enterance door: "Strippers every thursday between 7 and 9 pm" together with a badly drawn girl. Morgane and I just looked at each other.
To me the most amazing thing we did was to see wild saltwater crocodiles. We went on a little boat tour on Adelaide River where they fed crocodiles from poles. The crocodiles had to jump up out of the water in order to catch the food. It was impressive!Many of the big crocodiles we saw (all around 4,5 meters I beleive) had injuries. Two missed a leg and one had a chunk taken out of its tail. It turns out that crocodiles are canibals and eat less able crocodiles if nothing easier is around. I don't think it's very often that they try to eat their fellow crocodiles though, cause I learned that they have great patience. They don't try to take an prey unless they are sure that they can get it. They have been known to lie around for hours while people swam until that one individual that they have set eyes on gets into a perfect position. Then they strike. If they point something out as a prey they will remember ir and they will chase it. Maybe the perfect chance dosent come today, or tomorrow, but one day that wallabee or pig will come down to the waters alone, or be slightly apatr from the group, and the crocodile will remember it. However, human attacks are rare so there is no need to worry. The most resent human that got killed by a crocodile was a young guy who went swimming in Adelaide river, a river known for its large croc population, alone and completely drunk at 03.00. He had it comming.
Oh, and the other amazing thing, I picked a mango! Just of a tree along the road where we were walking one day. It was warm from the sun and smelled so strong of mango. We were on our way to the botanical gardens when we found it and waithed with eating it untill we were well there. I found a table under a tree and cut it with the plastic knife I allways carry around when travelling (in the little bag of salt, pepper and a spoon or two) The other girls (there was an italian girl too) found me a little amusing or silly for being so excitied by a fruit, but as soon as they had tasted it they stopped. It was the most fantastic mango ever! Sun warm, perfectly ripe and without pesticides.
To continue on the theme of food, We went with our host to the wharf for dinner one day. It was still to hot to be in the appartment though all windows and doors were open. At the wharf however a sothing breeze came in and we sat overlooking the water. Morgane and I decided to try some exotic meats and had a plate with kangaroo, waterbuffalo, emu, and crocodile. We were all excited ofever it and our host laughed at us - he did that a lot as we got super excited every time there was a bymp in te road, a cool flower, or a crocodile sign. Anyhow, the food was tasty. The kangaroo was not so interesting but not bad either. It's a very gamey meat, like moose, and I got a feeling that skewers was not the best way to cook it. I suspect it would be delicious cooked in another way though. The buffalo was Morganes favorite, mine was emu, so tender and soft. Very creamy and with a nice taste. Both of us rated these two meats as number one and two. The crocodile ended up at the bottom at the list, it was really cool to try but rather tough, It felt like eating very though chicken but with and aftertaste of fish. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't good either. We also tried our hosts breaded barramundi, a local fish that is sold for fortunes in Sydney and Melbourne. It was...fish.
The observation of the week:
It was used to beleive, and it still says in most books, that saltwater crocodiles can grow to about 5 meters in size. But this fact was established when crocodiles were almost extinguished and there weren't very many crocodiles around. Today the crocodile population is back at almost pre-colonial levels with between 100.000 annd 200.000 adult saltwater crocodiles in Australia. A crocodile of 8.6 meters was recently found in the river we cruised on. The people working there said that the newest facts indicated that crocodiles can get up to 9 meters long, and heavy to fit that!
As I'm back in Melbourne, working and studying, and trying to find a new tennant for our spare room there won't be any new blog entry for at least two weeks now. Have a good time.
More about crocodiles:
More about magnetic termites: