|Northern Territory (Darwin) (February 16 - 22 February, 2002)|
We stayed in the town of Darwin for two nights. The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory
has some excellent
displays on Cyclone Tracy, which flattened Darwin in 1974, a collection of
boats (including a boat used by Vietnamese boat people), some pictures of
the war (Darwin was bombed by the Japanese in WWII), as well as a good collection of stuffed animals and fish,
and some preserved jellyfish. It was the 60th anniversary of the 1942
attack while we were in Darwin, and there were lots of memorial services and
re-enactments of the bombing, with busloads of survivors being
taken from one place to another.
Next stop was Kakadu National Park, a world heritage site for both cultural and ecological reasons. Some of the aboriginal rock paintings date back 20,000 years, and the park itself is one of the world's premier wet lands. We drove to Jabiru and stayed at the All Seasons Frontier Kakadu Village. The Arnhem Highway was closed due to flooding, so we had to drive the long way. We ticked another few animals off our list in the park: we passed a few kangaroo's and dingoes (who howled at night just like wolves), as well as some dumb birds that were in no hurry to get out of our way. When the birds finally did move, they would typically fly towards the car or directly away from it... except of course we were traveling at highway speeds. Mark, the teenager, has dubbed them "Stupid Birds", and luckily we only gave a glancing blow to one of them. The excellent Bowali Visitor Centre in the park introduced us to Aboriginal culture in the area, which we followed up with a visit to the equally good Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre.
We left the park and stayed overnight in Pine Creek at the Pine Creek Diggers Rest Motel, where the owner fed hundreds of lorikeets and galah's at 8 in the morning. Chloe and Mark happily woke up to watch. We drove to Litchfield Park and saw a frilled lizard sprint by on two legs (!). With intermittent rain, the weather was not the best but we did take a quick look at Wangi Falls and the Buley Rockholes (a series of natural swimming pools formed by rocks in a stream).
We still have not seen any wild crocodiles. There's signs on
every stream, billabong, and river warning about the potential presence of
crocs, but crocs are elusive at this time of the year. I suppose it was a
little out of desperation that we drove along Arnhem Highway to the Adelaide River
crossing in order to take a "Jumping Crocodile Cruise". At least we
were guaranteed to see some crocs!
In retrospect, we have visited Darwin at the wrong time of the year. We knew we were coming here in the wet season, but we thought that would mean we would just be here in the rain - which as 'Vancouverites', is no big deal. As Chloe says, "wetter is better". However, we seemed to be one of the few tourists here. Many tourist activities don't happen during the wet season, and there really isn't a lot to do.
We did see our first Road Train. These are regular trucks that pull up to three full size trailers behind them. They can weigh up to 180 tonnes, be 55 metres long, and have 58 wheels. Passing them requires planning and about a kilometre of empty road.
We spent our last day in Australia quietly in our hotel in Darwin. Our flight to Bali is at 10:45 in the evening. The kids did some homework, I updated the web site and Sarah read. We went for a short visit to Aquascene at lunch time - all the stale bread in Darwin makes its way there to feed the mullet, catfish and milkfish at high tide.
I think we're all looking forward to Bali. We've been in Australia for about 7 weeks - its a long time to be a tourist in one country. Off to Bali.