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By this Author: jefranklin

Darwin Pt 2

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After a day of touring Litchfield park, we spent today touring Darwin itself. The day was due to start with a visit to Aquascene. This is a closed off bay where (for $7 each) we get to feed hundreds of large fish that virtually beach themselves in order to get fed. The only problem is that it is dependent on what time the tide comes in, for example the other day it was a very unreasonable 5:45am. Today however, it was at a much more acceptable 9am; as if we were going to drag ourselves out of bed at that time. As such, we missed out on Aquascene :)

Instead we did the coastal walk to the WW2 oil storage tunnels, which were constructed when a Japanese attack destroyed a number of the overland tanks in 1942 (they were never used though, as they took 2 1/2 years to build by which time the war was thankfully over). Within the tunnels they have photos taken around Darwin during the war, and it was both interesting to see the "homes" the servicemen made for themselves in limited conditions and saddening to know that governments will constantly call on servicemen to expose themselves to danger on a regular basis. Two months of growing my hair and I am already sounding like a hippy...

After the tunnels, we bimbled to the local marina, where we split a fish & chips for lunch (doing things on the cheap :) and tried spotting a crocodile in the harbour, to no avail. This was followed by us wandering around the town centre for a couple of hours as Heather decided she needed a shopping fix - she only got a singlet though.

The weather in Darwin is much more akin to SE Asia, than say Sydney. As such, the temperature gets to around 35° but the humidity is through the roof. In short, this means the average tourist walks around drenched in sweat, looking as if they had been out in a monsoon. However, every shop seems to have the desire to try and have frost form on the shelves, as they have the air-conditioning set to about -5° or so. The effect of which is that walking in and out of shops is like plunging into alternate hot and cold baths, albeit without the water.

The evening was spent at a marina, eating at a reasonably priced Italian restaurant. Getting there was a bit a bit of a challenge though, as we were doing a coastal walk, which ran close to mangrove swamps. We were on the sharp lookout for drop crocs and saltwater crocs, breaking into runs whenever we heard or saw something dodgy. Heather's sandal strap broke at one point while running, and I am pretty sure her scream was only just audible to humans (dogs & bats wouldn't have had any problems though). Added to this, we couldn't go in the sea due to it being the season for lethal box jelly fish. Such friendly wildlife in these parts.

We had to wrap the night up early as we have a 4am start, and as this is for our flight to Cairns, there's no sleeping through.

Posted by jefranklin 21:19 Archived in Australia Tagged air_travel round_the_world Comments (0)

Litchfield National Park (sorry no snappy title)

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We only have 2 full days in Darwin (some would say that is enough), so today was spent on a tour of the Litchfield National park. Whenever anyone thinks of Darwin, they mostly think of the Kakadu National Park, which is larger. However tours to this are normally 2 to 3 days, which we obviously don't have the time for, and require you to supply a sleeping bag, which we didn't bring along. So the one day Litchfield tour was going to have to be it.The day started with a short cruise on the Adelaide River, which is teaming with saltwater crocodiles and what the locals refer to as "drop crocs". A drop croc is a smaller crocodile that climbs a tree by the water and perches on a branch until some prey comes along, at which point it plunges out of the tree onto the hapless victim. We were told to watch out for them when we were near the water's edge, as they can spoil the cruise. Fortunately, none were perching today.
Instead, we saw saltwater crocs ranging from 3 to 5 metres in length (10 to 17 feet, or so) leaping out of the water at pieces of meat being held out by crew on the end of a rod and line. They were ferocious creatures and it is easy to see how complacent travellers end up on a croc's menu as human sushi. While on this cruise, we saw a beautiful sea eagle (trying to take a picture of it was impossible) and we got to hold a diamond-back python, which was much larger than the snake we had held in Alice.
Next stop was some termite mounds, one of which was about 12 feet tall. Not much else to be said really.
After this, we went to Florence Falls, which we were able to swim in (at the base, would have been a bit painful swimming off the top :). On the way there, the tour guide mentioned that of the drownings that occur in the park, 60% are Irish with Japanese and Korean in second and third respectively. We had neither Japanese or Koreans in our group, but we did have 2 Irish couples. True to form, one of the guys did get into difficulties (nearly taking his girlfriend down with him) and had to rescued by the guide. The other Irish couple didn't go near the water at all, saving themselves from any problems (probably didn't like the odds). Although I make light of it now, it was quite disturbing at the time.
The final stop was to visit Buley rock hole. Basically, this is a feeder to the above falls, and consist of a number of rock pools that are fed by a fast-flowing river. The end result, is that we could sit in a rock hole with high pressure water massaging our backs (while drinking a beer :). Sort of a naturally occurring jacuzzi, as it were.
The evening consisted of a $6 meal at a pub, using a voucher the guide had given us that got us it for free. I think we paid about the right price...

Posted by jefranklin 21:10 Archived in Australia Tagged trees wildlife backpacking tropics round_the_world Comments (0)

Back on the train...

sunny 40 °C

This is going to be a 2-day entry as we are spending most of it on the Ghan again, so I don't think much will be happening.Our morning was spent in Alice doing mundane stuff like packing and returning the hire car. After that we lazed around the pool waiting for our 3pm pickup to take us to the station. When we arrived, I ran up to the front of the train to get a photo of it (stupid idea in 40° heat), although I came to the swift realisation that aesthetics weren't high on the priorities when designing the engines. I don't know, where's the effort?
After a reasonable amount of sleep (thanks to a "bit" of wine), the train pulled into Katherine, which is the largest town between Alice Springs and Darwin. As we were there for 4 hours, we paid the $9 fee to get a lift in to town. There's not a lot to say about it; it's small, it was hot and it was very humid. The great thing is that THERE WERE NO FLIES!!! (or at least not enough to raise our blood pressure). There is one other notable thing about Katherine, running down the main street are a number of tannoys, pumping out music from the local radio station. Nice idea, but I for one don't want Dr Fox pumping out as I wander around Leicester Square.

Eventually we arrived in Darwin and caught the courtesy bus to the YHA (woo hoo! A freebie!) and headed straight out to grab something to eat. We decided on a pub that did $8 jugs of beer for YHA members :) although that night they had free to bingo on, so naturally we entered. In the first round, Heather won a $25 voucher to spend at the pub on food or drinks - that paid for our meal. The second round was $25 cash, which I won - that paid for the rest of the night :) Woo hoo! Even more freebies!

Posted by jefranklin 21:00 Archived in Australia Tagged trains backpacking round_the_world Comments (0)

Wrapping up a Town Like Alice


Quiet one today. We had planned to go to the desert park, to see some animals we hadn't seen (e.g. Dingos) but at $19 each, forget it! Instead we went to the reptile park here (a more reasonable $7 each :) and checked that out. Not too bad value, and we got to hold a couple of lizards and a snake (photos were naturally taken). Other than that, I just went online and caught up with some of my blogging. With no memory stick reading facilities, the entries I made had to be retyped, which helped my touch-typing practice (or at least finding the delete key). With nothing else to report, I suppose some comments about the red centre overall may pad this out ;)
To be honest, I am torn. In general, I have enjoyed the experience however it is not something that I would do again. Everything we have seen has been wonderful (and some things unique, e.g. waterfalls off Ayers Rock due to the rain) but only needs to be seen the once (IMO). Coming back to the same spot is not usually a good use of your money, which brings me nicely on to a bit of a diatribe: Ayers Rock resort and Kings Canyon resort are both owned by the same firm. Additionally, they seem to have exclusive rights as there is no competing backpacker-type accommodation. As such, a backpacker pays a small fortune and gets sub-standard accommodation. I would recommend paying more, and getting something more pleasant, a room does however cost around $230 per night and, based on someone's description, the service is not that great. And no, the owning company is not QANTAS!

In short, I would recommend the Red Centre for all it's amazing sights but I cannot say that it is good value for money.

Posted by jefranklin 20:00 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking round_the_world Comments (0)

There was no sign of Hugo Weaving in a dress though


After yesterday's driving marathon, we had another one today. Instead of driving on sealed roads however, today was spent driving about 250kms on dirt tracks through the middle of the desert. In preparation, we had filled up the petrol tank, filled up all the water bottles we had, bought a 10 litre container of water and stocked up with non-perishable foods. All these precautions are necessary in case we breakdown, as it can be upto 48 hours before you see someone that can help you. Fortunately, we made the drive unscathed :)

At the end of this track, there were a number of picturesque gorges and ravines. Some of these were only accessible by 4WD, so never being one to back down from a challenge I approached these with gusto. A few expensive-sounding bangs and crunches from the suspension (and a few choice words from Heather :), soon had me slowing down from 80kmph I was doing. With a $2,500 excess on the car, any damage was going to be expensive.
At about 4pm, we arrived back in Alice and checked back into the YHA where we had originally started our red centre tour. To round off the evening, we visited the Lassiters Casino. This is famous as it appeared in the movie "Priscilla, Queen of the Desert". We made it an early night because those 250kms (plus a further 300 or so on sealed roads) were knackering, not sure what Heather's excuse was :)

Posted by jefranklin 18:00 Archived in Australia Tagged road_trip backpacking round_the_world Comments (0)

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