Darwin, Kakadu, and on to Cairns/Port Douglas

It’s been a wonderful five days in the Darwin area of the Northern Territory. After arriving here on August 4, I went to Kakadu National Park for 3 days and had a great time. Saw lots of animals, including: dingoes, whistling kites (a medium-sized bird of prey), white-breasted sea eagles, freshwater crocodiles, saltwater crocodiles, brolgas (cranes), jabirus (black-necked storks), pied cormorants, rainbow bee-eaters, egrets, herons, darters, brush-tailed bittong, agile wallabies, little corellas (white cockatoos), grasshoppers, dragonflies, wild Timor ponies, cattle, water buffalos, barramundi, magpie geese, Australian brown ducks, pelicans, termites & their huge mounds, and Australian ravens. And while in Darwin, I have seen: possums, flying foxes, geckos, and a variety of birds. So, it’s been a productive animal go-see up to this point and I hope to see more species once I head to Cairns and Port Douglas tomorrow.

In Kakadu, I also saw some fantastic rock art created by the Aboriginals that have lived in the area for thousands of years. No one has been able to accurately date the art, but some sites may have been painted in the 1800s while others (i.e., at Ubirr) may be close to 20,000 years old. We even went over into Arnhemland, the area still belonging to the Aborigines, to meet with some of them and learn about bush survival skills and the Aboriginal culture. They told us several Dreamtime stories and explained more about their rock art. The art in Arnhemland and Kakadu (at both Nourlangie and Ubirr rock art sites) was very impressive and some of the best I have seen. The artists used four primary colors: black, white, reddish brown, and yellow. All the colors were created from natural materials such as ochre, ash, blood, and various plants. The art is often quite detailed and usually portrays animals which were so much a part of the Aborigines’ daily lives.

We also did a couple of cruises on the Yellow Water Billabong of the South and East Alligator Rivers that flow through Kakadu. During these cruises we spotted most of the animals I listed above. It was so peaceful floating along, watching the wildlife all around us. The air was fresh and the blue sky completely clear. On the Yellow Water Billabong we saw a sneaky croc lunge up from under the water to strike with great speed at a jabiru on the bank. The croc came out of nowhere — we never even saw him stealthily hiding under the water. This is why you see signs all over Kakadu warning folks not to get too close to the water’s edge — croc attacks still do occur!

I met some lovely people while traveling in Kakadu and one couple, a man and woman from Australia, gave me my first sample of VEGIMITE with butter on bread. It was actually quite good — better than I thought it would be considering what other Americans had told me about it. In fact, I think it would make a great substitute for soy sauce and it’s full of B vitamins! I wonder if I’ll be able to smuggle some back into the States when I go home…. : >

Today, back in Darwin, I went to the local museum where one can experience the horror of cyclone Tracy, the deadly storm that hit Darwin back in 1974 and killed many people. You can go into a special room that replicates the sounds of the hurricane force winds all around you. The museum also has some very good Aboriginal art on display and a maritime exhibit of ships from Indonesia and the Timor islands just north of Australia off Darwin’s coast. After the museum, I walked through the Botanic Gardens where fountains and Boab trees create a pleasant and cooling atmosphere in Darwin’s otherwise warm and tropical climate. I re-emerged on the other side of the gardens to find myself in the heart of the town’s tourist center. There I came upon a single oasis amidst a sea of expensive (by American standards) restaurants — Woolworths’ !! Thank god for this great big supermarket! It has become my saving grace as restaurant meals in Darwin can’t be bought for less than AU$20 it seems — and we’re NOT even talking anything gourmet — just a basic pasta dish or stir-fry! By the way, EVERYTHING is costly here. I just learned today that the minimum wage in Australia is now about AU$15 (about US$14), so I guess they can afford it. However, I was able to wrangle up some vegetarian stuffed grape leaves, dinner for tonight (frozen vegetable lazagna), and the freshest, creamiest peach and mango yogurt I have ever had considering it was 98% fat-free. (I guess the Aussies certainly do dairy well!) All this for AU$9. Now, that’s more like it!

So, all is going well… in spite of the fact that I have broken my promise not to discuss politics with anyone. In fact, I have already had a few discussions and I am pleased to report that so far I have not felt the great hostility or resentment toward Americans that I usually experience when travelling to foreign lands. The Australians I have met so far seem a bit more understanding and willing to give us the benefit of separating American individuals from our current government… thankfully.

Well, I will have to end this update and get to re-packing my bag for tomorrow’s flight. The shuttle is picking me up at about 5:30 AM for my 7:15 AM flight on to Cairns. I’ll have tomorrow free in Port Douglas where I’ll be staying the next couple of nights. The day after tomorrow I’m scheduled to head out onto the Great Barrier Reef. Still don’t know which cruise operator I’m going with, however, and yet I have reserved spots with TWO different companies! It’s been a tough decision for me mainly because I could not find any cruise that offered all the activities I want to do. But hey… I figure that if a good reason to go with one over another does not present itself by tomorrow, I will LITERALLY flip a coin to choose the winner. Yep. It’s come to this… pretty sad.

Will write more later from Queensland’s coast — Port Douglas or Cairns. Until then…. Laurel — OUT.

Explore posts in the same categories: Australia, My Travels

2 Comments on “Darwin, Kakadu, and on to Cairns/Port Douglas”

  1. Mike Colton Says:

    Sounds like you’re having a great time in Aust! You might find Port Douglas to be expensive like Darwin in terms of restaurants – when I was there I was hard pressed to find reasonably priced eats. However that was 5 years ago now and things may have changed. Cairns had more reasonably priced food options, so you might have better luck there!

    One thing about Aussies is that they are generally pretty good at separating American individuals from the American government. They understand this better than people in most other countries I think mainly because their previous government had many similarities to our current one – some of my Aussie friends have explicitly told me this. But anyways politics are politics and probably best avoided anyways!

    Anyways have a great time and enjoy the Great Barrier Reef – its awesome! Can’t wait to hear more!


  2. Alex Says:

    Your blog is interesting!

    Keep up the good work!

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