"It's the territories, Mate. You gotta toughen up."
-Darwin taxi driver
Darwin is the capital of the Northern Territories, referred to as the Top End. It's very jungley, though we arrived at the end of their dry season. As I understand it, it's pretty much always hot, but half the year it rains a lot and half the year it doesn't.
The place we stayed in Darwin was really cool. The bedroom was indoors with air conditioning, which kept Rob alive, but the bathroom was a separate room outside and the kitchen and living area were also outdoors but under a high roof. A great way to live outdoors in the tropics. Nights and mornings, I really enjoyed sitting outside reading while listening to owls, watching the birds (parrots and what looked like a black chicken with a mohawk) and listening to the somewhat alarming rustling in the bushes which sounded like a large animal but which, I was informed, was probably a bandicoot. It was a fair walk to get food, so we didn't eat as much while we were there, probably a good thing.
|Rob sleeping in jungle|
|Spencer and I waiting to be attacked by bandicoots|
|Spencer hiding from bandicoots|
We took a taxi to our jungle house from the train but that was about $40 so the next day we braved the confusing bus system. I had been chatting with a local man on the bus. He told us where to get off to get to the museum but we immediately had our plans go astray because:
- It was the wrong stop and,
- As soon as we got off the bus I realized that my phone must have fallen out of my pocket.
Of course, my phone was the only one with an Australian calling plan on it, so we couldn't call for help. After dithering about with a fair bit of weeping and wailing and a few cutting remarks by Rob about checking pockets, we decided to just wait 40 minutes for the next bus. When it arrived, I told my tale of woe and he called in to the station. The phone had just been handed in, so now we had to get THERE. We went into town to the stop we'd planned on, noticed that the stop was right by the library (so we could get back eventually) and then had fun walking all over town trying to find a taxi. It was 96 degrees and very humid, so our tempers were fraying a bit before we finally found one. He took us to the bus station to get my phone, so, in the end, my little mishap only cost us a couple of hours and $30 cab fare; it could have been worse.
We then went on to our original destination, the Defense of Darwin Museum. This very cool museum details the bombing of Darwin by the Japanese shortly after Pearl Harbor. They had a lot of interesting material on Australia's role during WWII. When we were finally ready to venture back to the bus, we ran into another snag as signs pointed us to two libraries in two different directions. One was the Darwin Library and the other the Northwest Territory Library. To make a long story short, we chose the wrong library, took the wrong bus, got off at the wrong stop, and had a very very long trudge in the heat before we made it back to our beds that night. Touristing -- it's great unless it just isn't.
The next day we had a similar tale to tell of long walks and missed busses and sore feet in pursuit of adventure and souvenirs. At the end of the day, we were through being intrepid. We took a taxi back.
For our last day in Darwin, I talked Rob into taking one last tour. (At this point, Rob was getting REALLY tired of busses.) Our tour bus picked us up close to our place and we headed off to the Adelaide River to see the crocodiles. You should have seen our guide. Bearded and wearing a knife worthy of Crocodile Dundee, Pat was the quintessential bushman. He carried on at length, not only about crocs ("Soon as ya stop thinking about 'em, you're dead.”), but also about everything else. ("That sunscreen'll kill ya too. Don't know what's in it.") Pretty much talked non-stop the whole time. Rob found him annoying but I think it was just part of the bush experience. Loved all the parrots in the trees and crocodiles jumping out of the water, much cooler than a zoo. Then we headed off for Litchefield Park where we swam in some water holes that they've chased the crocs out of. We learned about the magnetic termites, who build their mounds exactly oriented East\West, and Cathedral Termites who build the tall mounds we've been seeing since we arrived, and wood-eating termites who eat sheep. Just kidding. I'm pretty sure they actually survive on tourists looking for a taxi. (I find that I experience psychosomatic itching as soon as someone says the word, “termite." It did not help that the area was swarming with little black flies. Hiking around in the sun, every extra pound I've gained screamed at me to pant like a dog, but I was afraid I'd be swallowing the little buggers next.) We saw lots of water buffalo, more crocs in the various waterholes, and a huge brush fire on the way back. In fact, all our clothes still smell like a campfire. Tour munchies at sunset were giant termites. (They tried to tell us they were shrimp but I'm no dummy. Shrimp are golden brown and never far from their natural environment- cocktail sauce.)
|Rob thinking about joining termites|
|Searching for a bus stop in the bush|
|Rob LOVES Public Transportation|
|Magnetic Termite Mound|
|Termites heading for the barbie|
|Australian version of Eastern Washington and California|
|Rob swimming in certified croc-free water|
Nants ingonyama! bagithi Baba. Sithi uhm ingonyama. Siyo Nqoba. Ingonyama nengw' enamabala. Whoops, sorry, that's the Lion King. This is sunset over Darwin.