Saturday, September 30, 2006

Back in Darwin

12th - 16th of September 2006

The night we came back from Kakadu, i went to the Vic with Sandra and Claire, the worlds happiest Belgians, where we met up with JJ, a really cool guy who works as a S.W.A.T. instructor back in Germany and Mark, one of the few Americans who has a passport! Kinda crap that we were the only ones from our group who showed up, but we had quite good fun anyway. Later on we went to Shenanigans, and Irish pub near our hostel, where we ran into "Club Germany", Volkmar, Sebastian and Thomas from the group. Good times...

Next day I didn't do a whole lot... Hung out with Sandra and Claire, lazed by the pool and enjoyed the weather. On Thursday I decided to go to the Mindil Markets again, this time with Stephen, a Swiss guy from my Uluru tour, and his cousin. Saw eMDee again (I actually videotaped them as well), plus another didgeridoo band. On my way out of Maleleuca (my hostel) I suddenly saw two faces I had seen before in the reception... Two girls from my home town in Denmark! Camilla and Pernille from my year group in high school... How weird is that...! Turns out they actually both work at the Vic. Thought I saw a girl who looked like Pernille in the bar the other day, but I didn't really take a closer look since you run into people who look like people from home quite often. But what do you know... It's a small world after all :)

Friday I decided to go to the War Museum of Darwin to learn a bit of history. Jumped on a bus and went way to far... Oops. Waited for the next bus going the other way and jumped of "near" the War Museum, which turned out to be quite far away from the bus stop. But what... No rush, so I started to walk along the coast, enjoying the view. Eventually I reached the East Point Reserve, a conservation area with a swimming lake, the war museum, wallabies etc. I kept walking, walking and... walking. I started feeling really dehydrated and couldn't believe I hadn't made my way to the museum yet, so I decided to ask a guy who was unloading some stuff from his car. Turned out that I was going the right way, but I had another two miles to go. Crap, I thought, and asked if there were any buses or other forms of transport. No buses, but then the guy offered me a ride to the museum in his smashing BMW 540i! How cool is that - he wasn't even going that way. Turned out he had done quite a bit of travelling himself, and he gave me a lot of good advice and recommendations about travelling in Asia. Sweet as!

By the time I was at the museum, I only had 40 minutes left before they shut. I went in anyway, and for once, had a exciting and fascinating experience in a museum! For once, it wasn't the typical dry exhibition, but a good mix of artifacts from the war, for instance an old Nazi flag, a Japanese soldier's Holy Bible, bombs, small and big weapons etc. Saw a bit of a really good video about the bombings of Darwin, composed of illegal film clips from the actual war. Pretty good museum!

As they didn't have busses going the other way either, and I didn't meet any nice Aussie who offered me a lift, I started walking back. The walk was more enjoyable this time though, since it wasn't so bloody hot and since I walked on the beach this time. Heaps of rocks to check out, boats and a brilliant sunset view (have a look in the gallery for more good sunset photos), which made the 8-10 km walk practicable.

Saturday morning I packed all my crap and went for a last dip in the pool before I had to make my way to the airport. I met quite a few Danes as well, so I thought I probably had picked the right time to leave Darwin - didn't come to the other side of Mother Earth to meet Danish people :-)

Bye-bye Darwin - I'll be back!

Friday, September 22, 2006

Kakadu National Park

10th - 12th of September 2006

After a couple of relaxing days in Darwin, it was time for my Kakadu 4WD tour!

First thing we did after a bit of gravel road racing was jump on a boat for a cruise on the billabongs of Mary River Wetlands, where we saw crocs, both salties and freshies. Other than the crocs, the billabong had an amazing concentration of wildlife, mainly birds. After lunch we headed towards Nanguluwur art site to have a look at some really cool aboriginal rock art. My favorite was this one, a rock painting with a whitefella drawn with his hands in his pockets. Then we climbed Ubirr, a big cliff sorta thing with an awesome 360 degree view! Since we had the view of five different types of habitats, the scenery changed completely from one side to the other. After collecting firewood, we set up our swags and got a fire going at the Jim Jim Falls campground.

Next morning we went for a bumpy 4WD tour across a river to Twin Falls. We went for a bit of a climb, which was a bit of a challenge for me, since I was wearing flip-flops (my shoes are still in Adventure Tours' lost property box somewhere). Eventually we made it to the top and had quite a good view. We stayed at the top of Twin Falls and went for a short walk to a nice little swimming spot. After yet another walk, this time down the hill, we jumped on a boat for a short river cruise to the bottom of the 70 metres high Twin Falls. After a couple of group photos, we headed back and drove to the bottom of Jim Jim Falls, the highest straight-drop waterfall in Australia (about 200 metres). As you can see on the picture, there isn't much of a waterfall to see as it dries out in the dry season :O) It was still worth going though, because there was a huge pool at the bottom. On top of that, Andy (our guide) had promised to show me a couple of cool spots for cliff jumping! Climbing the rock to the point you jumped from was a bit scary, but the jump was definitely worth it! JJ, a German guy from our group, took a photo of me when I jumped, but I'm waiting for him to e-mail it. We also had a visitor when we were sitting on the rocks enjoying the sun - a little tree snake.

Next day we went to Barramundi Gorge, the coolest swim spot I have ever seen! It had a little pool where you could dive in and swim though a hole to pool next to it and even better: More cliff jumps!! The one I'm doing on the picture is about eight metres, it had a five meter jump as well... and as Andy showed us... a ~20 metre! Maniac :O) Take a look in the gallery for videos. We spent a couple of hours at Barramundi Gorge, having a wicked time! Just before we headed back to Darwin, we stopped to take a look at a massive termite mound, about 70-80 years old.

Sadly, good times came to an end, and we had to make our way back to Darwin. I had a brilliant time in Kakadu, our group was great and Andy turned out to be quite a cool guide in spite of the fact that he sounded like the donkey from Winnie the Pooh when he introduced himself the first morning :O) Kakadu is definitely on my Australia top ten!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Jumping Croc Cruise

9th of September 2006

Zac, Nick and I had decided to go on a Jumping Croc Cruise, since it sounded pretty wicked...!

We left Darwin about lunchtime and headed towards Adelaide River on the Crocodile Express bus, which has the highest concentration of crocs in Australia! We had a few stops on the way. First one was at some massive dams, which are actually a part of an old abandoned rice growing project! Long story short, a few decades ago, the government wanted to show the bloody Asians that they weren't the only ones who could grow rice, so they started this HUGE project (see the hill ranges in the background? That's how far the dam goes) - a couple of large dams which created a swamp-ish kind of thing. Then they started planting rice like the Asians, but it turned out to be a big flop, since the wet season drowned the rice (an example: the rivers rise more than 16 metres when the wet season starts!), the rice started rotting before they packed it etc... Eventually they gave up and left the dams as they were, and it actually ended up as a massive wetland for all sorts of water birds, crocs etc. So for once, something manmade did the wildlife a big favour. I'd say we saw about a billion birds...

Next stop was a little exhibition, which explained a lot about the ecosystems in the tropical NT etc., and had a great 360 degree view. 2 minutes later, we arrived at the river! Before we went on the boat, we said hello to a couple of snakes! The one I'm playing with on the picture is a Carpet Python called Mat... Muahahahaha... Pure Aussie humor!!! They had a Diamond Python called Neil (like Neil Diamond) as well :O)

Finally, it was time to jump on the boat! And we were lucky, since we were a small group of people, we went on a lot smaller boat, which meant you could pretty much touch the crocs... In case you were tired of one of your arms or so :) Didn't take more than a couple of minutes before the first croc was approaching. What they did was attach a piece of meat to a string on a stick, and then use it to make the croc try to grab it, as shown on the video. First one actually got bored and took off, but most of them managed to grab their dinner doing a jump. Quite amusing! The concentration of crocs on the river was crazy. They were all over the place, both on the banks and in the water. We got really close to a four metre big fella who was too busy sun tanning to move. They also fed kites by throwing little pieces of meat up in the air to make them catch it - impossible to take photos of, but it was quite interesting to see how they caught their "prey" each time as if it was the easiest thing in the world. We got a bit of a bonus when a sea eagle was flying above us, fighting one of the kites. The guy with the food managed to make it dive for a free steak - wauw. On the way back, we met a 70-year old croc, named Hannibal the Cannibal by the locals. He was about six metres, which is PRETTY big, since they grow to an absolute maximum of 7 metres. Scary animal, but fascinating at the same time. Just think about the fact that crocs have existed on earth for more than 200 million years! That means that these guy's great*100000-grand-parents was hanging out with dinosaurs... Crikey!


4th - 9th of September 2006

Still one city left to explore before leaving Oz - up in the tropical north... Darwin!

First morning in Darwin I followed Henriette to the bus terminal at 6:30, since she was going to the wild west coast with Stuart from our Whitsundays boat. Bid her farewell and went back to bed for a couple of hours :O) I only stayed two nights at Chilis, the hostel we checked into when we arrived, since Maleleuca, another hostel across the road, looked so much nicer! And it was! Most likely the best hostel I've stayed at in my 7+ months in Australia. It was brand new, had lockers and other nice facilities, nice staff and an awesome deck area with two pools, a tub with a waterfall, bar etc.! Soooo nice.

Darwin turned out to be one of my very favourite cities in Australia! It's probably the best place to do nothing... Spent quite a lot of time just hanging out, laying by the pool and that sort of thing - not the worst thing to do in 33 degrees, which we had pretty much all the time. Even at night the temperature rarely dropped to less than about 24 degrees, so you could jump in the pool at night as well - awesome :O) I was in the same room as Nick and Zac from my Uluru tour, so I spent quite a bit of time with those two crazy Kiwis. We had a really funny old guy in our room as well! - A surgeon from Cape Town who worked for The Flying Doctors, had served during the war in Vietnam etc. - so we heard quite a few crazy stories etc. You do meet some quite interesting people when you're travelling :-)

Darwin has a place called the Vic which does $1 meals for backpackers... So as you've probably guessed already, none of us could be bothered to cook! The meals were quite rubbish though, they looked a lot better than they were, and they were a bit too small. We found a solution quite quickly though - another pub, an Irish one nearby, did (better) $1 meals as well. So what we did was go for the $1 meal both places. Quite clever, aye?

One day I was on my way to the gym, for the first time in quite a while, but as I had left my shoes on the Alice to Darwin bus (they fell of my backpack), they wouldn't let me use the free weights in thongs. Damn it. Instead I decided to go to the Royal Botanical Gardens which was close at hand. Though the gardens weren't that extraordinary, it was still a cosy little spot. Quite peaceful. And by walking around the park and all the way back to our hostel I managed to get a bit of exercise anyway :) One afternoon Zac, Nick and I went for a walk to see some of the WW2 historic spots. Not that much to see, but we learned a bit about what happened to Darwin during WW2, saw some oil storage tunnels from the war (that they didn't manage to finish before the war ended) etc.

Twice a week, a big night market takes place on Mindil Beach, where people watch the sunrise, buy all kinds of useless souvenirs, eat great food or watch some of the artists. Clearly, my favorite was eMDee, a band who mixed didgeridoo (four of them actually) with bass, drums, a bit of vocals etc.! I've seen similar bands before, but these guys just did it so much better. Probably because they had four didges, and therefore were able to play four different notes instead of one. In fact, I liked it so much I bought one of their CD's. Sweet.

Just realized that I didn't really take any photos in Darwin... Boo!

I'll tell you a little fact instead: Darwin was named after a famous brain... Charles Darwin, who was a passenger on the boat that dropped the anchor off the coast of north Australia many years ago. Happy now?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Just realized that I've deleted the comments on the Kakadu post as a had to repost it... God damnit!!! Eeeeeeeeeeeeeidiot $#%@#$%$#!!!!

The Gympie post is updated as well, with new pictures and video.

Another update to fill a bit of the gap... Press the link or look below the Kakadu post.

Alice Springs to Darwin

2nd - 4th of September 2006

To make our way from Alice Springs to Darwin, we had decided to jump on another Adventure Tours tour, the 3-day Alice Springs to Darwin bus, which kind off breaks the normal bus journey by doing a bit of sightseeing on the way, rather than just constantly driving for 24 hours. This meant we had to get up early again though... Argh.

For the first time, we had a female guide/driver! A pure Aussie girl with strong accent, nicknamed Arnie because of her big biceps...

First stop on the programme was the Tropic of Capricorn, where the tropical zone starts! This being 6:55 in the morning, I still felt a bit cold, even though i had one leg in tropical climate! But our worries about cold weather was gone, as we were roasting on our next stop, Barrow Creek. This place had a bit of a sad history - in the first decades of white mans time in Australia, the owners of the telegraph station were trading groceries for sex with the aboriginal's wives, this being a normal article for abo's, who were used to share their wives. Eventually though, the whitefellas stopped paying their part of the deal, and they ended up getting killed when the abo's took their revenge. This is when the real sick part of the story begins - the government sent some psychopath sheriff to "sort things out" after the two murders, and he and his men ended up killing more than a thousand aboriginals. What's even more sick is that he did this several times in his career, wiping out entire aboriginal tribes, and that he ended up retiring with a public servant pension... Barrow Creek is also about 10 km from the place where a backpacking British couple got pulled over and shot at by some crazy idiot a couple of years ago. The guy got killed, but the girl managed to escape, and last year Maddock (forgot the murderers first name) was finally convicted for the murder. Like I said, quite a sad history... Barrow Creek did have really cool and cute donkey though :O)

After hours of driving on long and straight road (the road on the photo is 40 km long without a single curve), we had lunch at a silly place which claimed to be the UFO capital of Australia. Next stop after lunch was the Devils Marbles, an area with massive round red rocks, some of them split in two by erosion. Devils Marbles has one of Australia's most famous photographic spots - the Devil's Balls. After a badly needed swim in a dam in some country town, we arrived at the Banka Banka cattle station where we camped for the night along with a really ugly turkey!

Next morning we climbed a hill and Arnie showed us a sign that proved the remoteness of Australia. Next up we had lunch at the Daly Waters Outback Pub, a crazy place with a lot of funny signs (my favourite was: ANGLE PARKING - any angle mate!, which, of course, I didn't take a photo of... doh). Classic Aussie humor! We went for a quick dip in the pool at the pub as well. Second dip was in the thermal pools at Mataranka... Nice and hot... As if we weren't hot enough already. It was a really nice spot though. A few poms and I went for a swim in the river as well, which had both cold and hot spots, since the water from the thermal springs ran into it. Dan, one of the poms, made a great effort of splashing and yelling while we swam up the river to scare the crocodiles away. Though I didn't see any, the river did have crocodiles in it, but only the relatively harmless freshwater crocodiles (which only grows till about 3,5 meters and feed on fish). After eating ice cream etc., we kept on going towards out stop for the night, only interrupted by Arnie hitting the brakes as a massive water buffalo almost blocked our road (didn't manage to get a proper photo before he ran of).

Our last day started of with a bit of river canoeing on Katherine Gorge. I haven't got any pictures, since I don't have an underwater housing for my camera. But it was quite a beautiful little spot, and the canoeing was quite cruisy. Instead of carrying the canoe across the rapids we reached after about an hour, we went for a walk swim in the river. On our way back, we met two familiar faces carrying their canoe across a rapid - Zac and Nick from our Uluru tour. It's funny how you always meet the same people completely random places when you're travelling... Anyway, we were going really slow on our way back in our eager to spot a freshwater croc, but all we managed to spot was a lot of fish and a little turtle :) What I did take photographs of was a couple of wallabies and a really funny bird. Now, the funny thing about this bird is that it collects random stuff with a specific colour and hides it in it's nest, in this case it liked the red cap from my Coke bottle, whereas it got really pissed and removed some blue stuff some other guy placed in it's nest. How weird is that!! :-D

Our last swim took place in a pool with a little waterfall! We swam across to the waterfall for a bit of a massage by the hard pouring water. Even though the fall was only about 5 meters the current was quite powerful - you literally got pushed away when you approached the front of the waterfall. Good fun! Last stop before Darwin was the pub at Adelaide River, home of an Aussie celebrity - the buffalo from Crocodile Dundee! Unfortunately, he died five years ago, but they decided to stuff him. After about another hour or two of driving, we arrived in Darwin...

This tour was definitely a really good way of making a hell of a long drive managable - both H and I enjoyed the tour as we saw some quite cool stuff on the way and had some nice travelling companions. Not bad...

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Yep... Yet another massive gap in the blog! Deal with it :0)