In a nutshell, this week entailed learning some about Aboriginal culture and seeing cave rock art, as well as seeing so many birds, reptiles, amphibians, waterfalls, sunrises/sunsets, vast outback landscape, and, having opportunities to swim in a multitude of water holes.
Loren and I started the week with a free day in Darwin. We walked the Esplanade, where we saw our first Black Cockatoos in the wild. We also found Darwin’s magnificent Tree of Knowledge.
With a couple of other travel mate friends we who had made from the Adelaide to Alice Springs part of the tour, I visited the MAGNT museum while Loren repacked for our upcoming second week of touring the outback. Then we watched the sunset from the popular market at Mindil Beach. The market is also where I snapped my first photo of a Galah – also known as a Rose Breasted Cockatoo – I think its wings were clipped as it was a prop for a photographer’s booth… but, I have a much better photo of a Galah in the wild coming up below…
The next day Loren and I joined our six travel mates from Alice Springs and welcomed six new travel mates with our ebullient guide and his understudy.
They first took us to an Aboriginal settlement. Here we were told the Dreamtime story of Turtle Woman and her creation of the natural world. Then we were welcomed with a bit of billabong poured over our heads. We were not allowed closer than 5 meters – yards, to the water because crocodiles were believed to be present. Next we were offered an introduction to some of the native trees and their uses, and, had a demonstration of didgeridoos, punishment sticks, and body paints made from natural resources. Last we had a show of spears, and were invited to try. My practice throw landed just short of the wooden kangaroo target, prompting our host to joke that he would want to hunt with me. What an honor!
Driving to our next destination we saw 2 Emus together in the wild, and were informed how very lucky we were as it is unusual to see them in Kakadu National Park. And, we soon saw our first Salty – saltwater croc, in the Northern Territory.
We then had an Aboriginal guide from Arnhem Land take us on a Guluyumbi cruise along East Alligator River. This river was misnamed by a European surveyor who spotted crocodiles. Rather than correct it, those who decided retained the name for historical significance – there are no alligators in Australia. Our guide stopped at one point and gave another demonstration of spear practice. Then we also hiked together to a sacred cave to have an explanation of ancestral Arnhem Land rock art. It has been sad to learn on our Journey how the indigenous in Australia were unrecognized and considered fauna – yes, animals – until as recently as 1967 when they were acknowledged as people. I learned that in their language, Gamak means thank you, and Bobo is bye – see you again.
The next morning Loren and I opted to take the scenic flight for views over the Arnhem Land’s Jim Jim Falls, Twin Falls, Double Falls, gorge and escarpment. It was too dangerous to follow our original itinerary to visit these falls by ATV bus, as the water levels were too high.
Afterwards we visited more cave art where I spotted a huge spider in its web. Later we took a group photo beside a termite mound, and, at the end of the day I captured a photo of a Galah posing with its crest raised.
The next morning at Motorcar Falls Loren took the opportunity to swim, and this is where we saw a long neck turtle. I was unable to snap its photo underwater as the sunlight interfered. I later joined the group for a dip in Gunlom Falls’ pools before we left Kakadu’s taste of the tropics. Here we bade farewell as planned to four of our newest travel mates. The rest of us continued on to Nitmiluk, also and formerly known as Katherine Gorge. In the morning we had a cruise through the Gorge at dawn, which was a spectacular and peaceful time. Here we also saw some fresh water crocodiles.
Again I joined the group for a dip in the water at Edith Falls’ rock pools, where we saw more unique wildlife. Then we were off to Litchfield National Park and cheerful sunrise.
We visited the many Litchfield waterholes, creeks, and waterfalls at Buley Rockholes where I swam to sit underneath one of the falls, and, Florence Falls, where I swam out far enough to feel the rush of air and water on my face. We finished our tropics tranquility tour by stopping to see Wangi Falls, where I actually caught a photo of what I believe is a Rainbow Bee-eater in flight.
Australia’s Northern Territory has often reminded me of parts of Africa as well as Florida’s Everglades for the terrain, humidity and innumerable large birds. The tour most certainly held up to its claim. What is different is that in Australia, I have learned from my newest friends that a Ripper is something big – like a badly scraped knee, and that feeling Pekish means that one is hungry. That last evening our newest two travel mates begged out of our group dinner for their very early morning flight, so that left the original eight of us who had arrived together in Darwin to celebrate our 14 days together of exploring from South Australia’s to the Northern Territory’s raw and rugged natural beauty, in our tail-to-top adventure.
Now, Loren and I have flown to Cairns, in the state of Queensland, where tomorrow we will spend overnight on a live aboard boat to visit the Great Barrier Reef.