Thursday, 7 June 2012

Crocodile Rock

Whilst the UK was whooping it up with Jubilee celebration street parties and river pageants we flew up to Darwin in the Northern Territories, right at the tippy top of Australia.  We went from a shivering Melbourne to toasty temperatures up north!  Lovely!  We were staying with friends and it was great to catch up with them and also see where one of our sons lived and worked a few years ago. 

We left Melbourne on a beautiful blue, sunny day.  We hadn't seen one of those for some time so it was a bit of a wrench!  However, we were heading for the heat of Darwin so we coped!  I was able to take some photos from the plane.  I have enhanced the colour of these a bit but it gives you an idea of how red the interior of Australia is.  Iron gives the wonderful colours you can see in the rocks and soil.  
We crammed a fair amount into our long weekend.  Here are some photos and a little chat about what we did.

On Friday morning we walked through the botanical gardens with its wonderful variety of flowers and leaf forms.  The flower in the first photo is from the cannonball tree!  The flower is positively prehistoric to look at and produces a fruit which is the size and has the appearance of a cannonball.  All the flowers grow on bare stems at the base of the tree and all the foliage is at the top.  Quite a bizarre tree!
I love these palm leaves - a pretty soft grey colour and fan shape.
The gingers were beautiful.  They are a slightly different type from the rhizome we use in cooking but I have used these lovely waxy blooms in flower arrangements.  
There were crazy tree trunks!  So glad I didn't know about the snakes, including a python, which are on the loose in the gardens..... they could have been lurking around this tree.  In fact they probably were!  If I had known that at this point you wouldn't have seen me for dust and pebbles!
Colourful crotons.  Unattractive name but a very showy shrub.  They come in a number of colour ways!
And Moringa oleifera, the drumstick tree.  Every single part of this plant is edible and highly nutritious, so much so that they plant them in refugee camps in places like Afghanistan to ensure there is something worthwhile to eat.  I tasted the leaf and it wasn't particularly interesting but the flower had a little nip of horseradish to it.
On Saturday we visited the excellent Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.  We were not allowed to take photographs inside the building but there were impressive displays showing local birds, reptiles and sea creatures, rocks and gemstones, fishing boats used in the seas between Australia and the Indonesian islands to the north, and of course a lot of Aboriginal art.  

There was also a big exhibition cataloguing the catastrophic cyclone of Christmas Eve 1974.  In a small blacked out booth you could listen to a recording of Cyclone Tracy as it tore across the rooftop of a church - it was absolutely terrifying so goodness only knows what it must have felt like, knowing that it was raging away outside and wreaking unimaginable damage.  In town we saw this description of what befell a local picture theatre during the cyclone.
On Sunday morning we had a wander around the area where we were staying. It was lovely and our friends apartment has a great view from the balcony across to another bit of coastline and out to sea.  The sunsets were wonderful.   
We enjoyed looking at the front gardens and properties which back on to the water.
There was also some dragon boat racing which was good fun to watch!

On Monday we were driven out of Darwin in the direction of the Adelaide River to enjoy the delights of the jumping crocodiles!!  Before we met up with them we visited the Wetlands Centre which gave wonderful views stretching as far as the eye could see.  The wet season in the Northern Territories has just finished so there was still some water lying around.
This is the paperbark tree which sits with its feet in the water.  I had a quick look at the Wikipedia entry about this tree because we have seen them in town too.  It is a very interesting plant and certainly has an amazing bark.  The second photo is one I took in town where the trees were much more substantial than the ones shown below.  If you press the tree trunk it is soft and squashy with all its layers of paper thin bark.
Onward and upward from the Wetlands Centre and the delights of the jumping crocodiles awaited. I was not overly thrilled at the prospect of being so close to these scary creatures.  I am not a fan of reptiles of any sort, with the possible exception of frogs.  Anyway, our hosts bought the tickets and off we went down the Adelaide River on this little number -
I felt there was a faint air of the African Queen about this trip.
Anyway, meet the locals who are quite a talented lot!  This chap looks amiable enough,
and when invited
can jump rather well
and will then languidly slip away upstream.
But don't be fooled by this amenable behaviour - he's got your number ....
Our constant companions during our voyage along the Adelaide River were the kites.  The raptors swooped around above and behind the boat.  I am not sure what they expected to achieve but they provided quite an aerial display and their shadows on the water were quite fun.  I'm always interested in shadows!

After our close encounter with those formidable killing machines we needed a drink so we stopped at the Humpty Doo Hotel.  Yes, there really is a place called Humpty Doo.  
It's a classic, old style roadside Australian pub.  The menu was different - I hope you can make out the dishes on offer ...
and the local clientele was interesting too.  I was a little surprised not to see a load of Harleys lined up outside!  
This was quite an eventful day and we really felt that we had had a very good taste of the outback, albeit quite close to civilisation!
We flew back to Melbourne on Tuesday morning.  It takes 4 hours to fly from one end of this country to the other!  Darwin seems like another world - to start with it's warm and tropical.  Down here in Victoria it is cold and definitely feels like late autumn, early winter!  The shops are better though!  More of those in another post coming soon!

1 comment:

  1. What a great trip. Thanks for the tour. Glad to hear that somewhere in the world it is not raining ! It's not stopped here in Hertfordshire for weeks it seems..and blowing a gale this last 24 hours.