Crocodiles, ants and pythons...
24.08.2012 -25 °C
I haven't really had a chance to update the blog since we got here, so now there's loads to say!
Our flight out from Heathrow was pretty uneventful- everything was on time, and we managed to sleep a lot of the way, although the sun was up by about 1am by our body clocks. We stopped over in Singapore for a few hours to change planes to get us to Darwin. The airport seemed absolutely massive and we didn't even bother to leave the terminal we were in. It was nice to walk around a bit to stretch our legs, although we were both a bit dazed by the time changes- it was dinner time when we landed. The second flight was a bit more uncomfortable, but on the bright side there were eyemasks and ear plugs which we made full use of!
We arrived in Darwin at about 4.30am, and pretty much breezed through security and customs- I'd been expecting it to be much more difficult than it was, so it was a relief to make it through without any delays. Once we arrived, Bri (James' sister) picked us up and drove us back to her place to sleep for a couple of hours before we headed into Darwin for a day of mooching around. I couldn't believe the noise the birds started making at sunrise- I'll never complain about the dawn chorus in England again!
For the rest of the week we were staying at Stevie's place (James' brother), so we went out there on Tuesday evening. Wednesday was a day of trying to sort out James' driving license and a bit more mooching, this time around Palmerston which is about a 20 minute drive from Darwin.
On Thursday, I was treated to the delights of swimming with crocodiles! James took me out to a place called Crocodylus Cove in Darwin, where we spent some time in the 'cage of death'. It's a perspex box attached to several chains, which is winched along a track and into several different crocodile enclosures. Bri had very helpfully told us that it had dropped off of the chains a couple of times in the past! It fills with water so that you can swim alongside the crocodiles- a pretty unnerving experience when you're asked where you think the crocodile is, can't see it, and then you look down...I absolutely loved it though! We didn't get any photos of us in there, but we took a few photos of somebody else doing it, and got some other good pictures from around the place. In the evening we headed down to the night markets on Tindil beach, which was an interesting mix of clothing/trinket stalls, food stalls and various entertainers, mostly using fire.
On Friday night we went down to the sailing club in Darwin to celebrate Bri's birthday- the sunset was beautiful, and it was lovely to meet everybody and have a few drinks.
Saturday was spent lounging at a beachfront bar, followed by watching some hockey in the evening. I'm having a go at playing some hockey tomorrow, which should be interesting considering that I haven't picked up a hockey stick for about 10 years!
On Sunday we drove out to a beautiful waterfall and pool in Litchfield park- it was definitely a highlight of the trip so far. The drive out was really interesting- there were hundreds of termite mounds along the way, and they were huge. The scenery was amazing- not like anything I've seen before and definitely more interesting than I imagined. The pool itself was right at the bottom of a waterfall (or was it a cataract, Dad?!), and led off to a stream along the gorge which was filled with trees. Apparently in the wet season you can't get down to see it because the river level rises so dramatically. It was a beautiful place to spend a couple of hours. I was also talked into eating an ant's bottom, which was odd! It tasted very sour- I don't think I'll be replacing chocolate with ants any time soon. Getting back to the car was a challenge, as there were lots of steps to climb! The view from the lookout point at the top made it less painful though.
Monday was another brilliant day- we booked to go out onto the river and see the jumping crocodiles. There are lots of companies which offer these boat trips, where the wild crocodiles have learnt to go to the boats and jump for food. We decided to get the bus out so that we didn't have the job of trying to find the right place, and it turned out to be a great decision- the bus driver gave a bit of a commentary as we drove out to the river, and took us via a dam which was built for a rice growing project. Apparently the rice growing project didn't go to well, as the wet season was particularly bad that year and the rice ended up in the sea...but the dam makes a great place for seeing some of the local wildlife, particularly the different birds. He told us that it's a particularly dangerous place at night, because there's a snake population suited to the 8 tonnes of Dust Rats per square kilometre...
So after a drive through a town called Humpty Doo (you couldn't make it up) and via the dam, we arrived at the river. The walls of the office were covered with crocodile related headlines, none of which were particularly reassuring given that we were about to go out on the smaller of the two boats! But we did get on (after a short cuddle with a python named Medusa), and it was incredible. I didn't expect to see that many crocodiles, but they really do seem to have learnt to associate the boats with food, and they were quick to come swimming up to see what was on offer. Seeing them jump was pretty frightening- they push themselves out of the water with their tails, which is pretty impressive when they weigh as much as they do! When they snap their jaws shut there's a loud popping sound- they bite with a force of about 2.5 tonnes. I was pretty glad we'd done the cage of death before we went to see them in the wild...ignorance really is bliss!
More about the rest of the trip to come tomorrow.