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and Photos by Sandra Scott
The Top End of the Down Under city of Darwin is Australia’s tropical
destination. Take a few days to enjoy the city’s laid-back ambiance
with strolls along the esplanade, stop at the old Telegraph building to
learn about the area. Each day at high tide the fish come to feed at AquaScene.
For decades milk fish, catfish, and mullets show up for a free feed. Out
in the water an occasional manta ray competes for attention by showing
off its white belly.
Most people use Darwin as a stopping point before heading off on
“safari” into the area featured in the movie “Crocodile
Dundee” - Litchfield and Kakadu National Parks. The area is a vast
expanse of treed grassland cut by tumbling streams. Our Safari guide,
Jonathan Mogridge, a Steve Irwin-type, picked us up and off we went on
an Odyssey Safari making our first stop in Litchfield National Park. One
stop was at a field of very impressive termite mounds. Some are like cathedrals,
others are called magnetic and look like tombstones. There are so many
it looks like a cemetery.
Then it was off to Florence Falls and a refreshing dip in the plunge pool.
We viewed Tolmer Falls from above as swimming is not allowed because the
caves are home to some very special and rare bats. On to beautiful Wengi
Falls, which are actually one small and one large falls where swimming
is not allowed for a variety of reasons. The water currents are dangerous
when the water is high, and the salties, the dangerous crocs, sometimes
make it that far up river. What if Crocodile Dundee wasn’t around
to make a dramatic rescue? It isn’t worth the risk
After a refreshing soak in one of the pools at Buley Rockhole, we head
along Stewart Highway with a stop at Adelaide Inn in Adelaide River to
see “Charlie” the water buffalo mesmerized by Crocodile Dundee
in the movie of the same name. He has passed on and is now stuffed and
stands proudly on the bar. Our final stop for the day was Pine Creek,
an old Gold Mining town.
In Kakadu, a World Heritage National Park the size of New Jersey, a boat
takes visitors up the Yellow River, which during the Wet (December to
March) is in flood stage so it is more like an inland lake. The scenery
is beautiful but there nary a croc to be seen as they spread out over
the flood plains during the Wet. However, visitors can stay inside a croc
– the Gagasju Hotel in Jabiru, built in the shape of an 800-foot
Nearby at Nourlangie Rock, a cave shelter, used for 20,000 years up until
the 1960s, there is plenty of cave art. It is really quite impressive.
Viewing the rock art in the cave visitors will develop an appreciation
for the Aboriginal culture that is over 60,000 years old.
The land is Savannah – a lot of grass and trees. The amazing thing
is the animals seem to be few and far between. Sightings of dingoes, frilled
lizards, wallabies and some really colorful birds are likely, however.
From the Top End it is a three-hour flight south to the Red Center of
Australia. The monolithic Ayers Rock, Uluru to the Aborigines, is one
of Australia’s icons. The Songline Tour starts O’dark thirty
in an upscale all-terrain vehicle bounds over the dirt road to a rise
in the land. While the stars fade the guide cooks “damper”
(wonderful tasting bread) over an open fire. While it is cooking the he
relates Aboriginal stories, sketching in the sand to make a point. After
the sun rises the reds of Uluru become brighter. A drive around Uluru
follows as we look for scars in the rock that are part of the Storylines.
Hurried tourists often overlook another nearby sacred site - The Olgas,
or Kata Tjuta, huge rounded pillars of red rock. It is an easy hike along
the Windy Gorge Trail. An evening tour includes sipping champagne while
watching the setting sun change the color of Kata Tjuta from brilliant
red to dusky gray.
The Spirit Ancestors, during Dreamtime, created Kakadu, Uluru, and Kata
Tjuta. They formed all the earth’s features and when the world was
finished the Spirit Ancestors turned themselves into rocks, billibongs
(pools), and other natural features. Consequently, Uluru is more than
a big rock, it is sacred and contains Storylines that are intricate explanations
of geology, mores, and history, plus provide a sense of continuity with
the past. The Aboriginal rock paintings are like blackboards where the
Songlines were taught, some date back thousands years. To climb the sacred
Uluru is to go against the wishes of the Aboriginals.
After leaving Ayers Rock, a three-hour bus trip with a change of buses
at a dusty spot along the way, brings one to King’s Canyon in time
to watch the setting sun turn the mountain range a brilliant red. The
cabins have Jacuzzis with picture windows looking out on the rocky outcroppings.
There is time for a morning hike to “The Garden of Eden,”
a spectacular, narrow gorge with 300-foot walls before heading back to
Alice Springs to catch the legendary Ghan train.
From the Red Center of Australia the legendary Ghan train travels
arrow straight south for 20 hours though the barren and desolate Outback
to Adelaide. The Ghan is named for the Afghani-led camel trains that pioneered
transport to the Outback. In Adelaide spend a delightful day touring the
city and the seaside resort of Glenelg with a volunteer from the Adelaide
Greeter program. It is a free program and a great way to end a trip from
the top of Australia to the south.
For more information check www.voyages.com.au,
(prices on these websites are quoted in Australian dollars).
Also, check www.nttc.com.au
or call (800) 369 6863.
For the Adelaide Greeter program, check www.adelaidegreeters.asn.au
Photos by Sandra Scott
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