With the latest 22 hour bus ride I'm now quite sure I've spent more time in the last 6 months on buses, trains, planes, cars, boats, bikes, camels and elephants than I have in my entire life. Actually the 22 hours wasn't that bad at all and involved some delightful rest break stops in the towns of Tennants Creek and Katherine where the locals give you that "You don'ta come from round here do ya now?" feel, if you know what I mean. We arrived in Darwin at tea time on a Saturday but didn't do too much as I was expected up at 5.30am the next day to begin our 4WD tour to Kakadu national park. So up at 5.30 I was and quite fresh with it - I was getting used to these ridiculously early starts now.
First stop on the tour was to an aboriginal wildlife centre which was a bit dull but next up was the jumping crocodile cruise and this was more like it. Before the cruise started we had tea and toast at the entrance area, surrounded by killer croc newspaper headlines and folders full of news-clippings covering various stories of people that had been eaten by crocs - I think they were trying to create a mood. The cruise lasted for about an hour and a bit and we went down the Adelaide River armed with big pieces of buffalo meat. The crocs love buffalo meat and it wasn't long before a few of them were trailing our boat. So where does the jumping come into it I hear you ask? Well the buffalo meat handlers (for want of a better name for them) would hang a piece of the side on the end of a fishing line and the crocs would rise vertically out of the water with almost their whole bodies out of the water, snapping away at the buffalo meat. Amazing feat of physical strength, I really don't know how they did it. This happened 5 or 6 times and I got some really good video footage of it too. Did I mention that they were all between 4 and 7 metres long?
On arriving at Kakadu national park, we had lunch before venturing on to a place called Nourlangie rock for a walk around and a look at the aboriginal cave art. Before I came here I knew the place for one thing only, that it was the setting for Crocodile Dundee and the scenery matched up pretty perfectly to what I remembered from the film. In the evening we set up our overnight base at a place called Gagudju where we had spaghetti bolognese (see previous blog entry to sum up my reaction to hearing that this was on the menu). Wasn't that much to do at the camp, couldn't really go for a walk anywhere because of the potential of crocs being about, so we played cards with the rest of the group including sh!thead played using Danish, Dutch and English rules. Towards the end of the night our guide, Justin, headed of with an aboriginal guy to look for possible trails without crocs for the following morning. He said he'd be 20 minutes but after an hour and half he still hadn't turned up. Just as we were planning our potential route out of the place though, he turned up - methinks he'd been secretly boozing or smoking.
In the morning we were up before sunrise for breakfast and a drive down to a place called Yurmikmik where there was a trek down to a place called the motorcar waterfalls, where we were allowed to dive and swim into the very fresh water. I inquired about how the falls got its name to be told by Justin it was named so because a Chinese bloke used to drive his motor car to the falls - hmnnn, epitomy of the simply named. Following this we went to another water fall where there were signs up saying don't swim because of the danger of crocs, but we ignored this and went swimming there anyway - only after Justin insisted it was safe though of course.
After lunch we were heading back towards Darwin, first stopping at the Adelaide Inn where the actual buffalo from Crocodile Dundee (you know the one, the one that stays in the middle of the road until Mick Dundee sends him to sleep with his fingers) is stuffed and stands in the corner of the bar. Then we stopped of at yet another aboriginal art centre (been to a few of these now) and earlier in the day we had been told that the main aboriginal actor from Crocodile Dundee was from this region and that he was still doing big films including just recently a film with Julia Roberts. So imagine my surprise when the mega-star himself walks into the art centre ..... drunk, looking very shabby indeed with big beard growth, demanding booze and bad mouthing the art centre owners. Ahh classy.
Back in Darwin our group went out for a joint meal in some bar, don't remember its name, and between the 2 teams we'd split into, managed to win over $120 of bar tab in the pub quiz. And with 2 pint jugs of beer at $7 a pop, it was very happy days indeed. Needless to say we all had hangovers the next day and spent most of it searching for cool places to get away from Darwins heat and humidity. On my final day in Australia I went to the state museum which was nice but particularly good was the section exhibiting stuff from cyclone Tracey which near enough destroyed Darwin on Christmas day 1974. There's even a room you can go into to hear recorded sounds of the cyclone - very eerie, glad I wasn't in it. Then I had a walk up to Fannie Bay just for the photo opportunities before finally heading back to the city centre for dinner and a bus to the airport for our 00:40 flight (who on earth flies at that time of the morning - me).
And that was the end of Australia. I thoroughly loved the 10 weeks here and I had all my preconceptions of the place totally overturned. The people are warm and friendly, the weathers pretty damn good (most of the time), and the scenery is amazing with so many contrasting places. Oz is definitely on my "Must do again" list.