I know what you might be thinking at this stage, “How Bloody Long Is This Journey Nanna?!!” I’m pretty sure it was only ten days but I appear to have made it last for weeks instead. I promise you this is the last bit, the very end, well The Top End to be precise, as it is colloquially known in Oz
Monday 13th July, 2009 – Evening – Back on The Ghan for the next leg to Katherine and then Darwin. We had been shedding clothes since Adelaide (because it is colder in the Southern States!! Good God people what did you think was the reason you mucky lot), and we were looking forward to the warmer weather of winter in the tropics. After many more miles of endless desert sands we started to see the odd parrot (badly phrased I know, makes it sound like I’m about to launch into a Monty Python sketch), to be more precise, black cockatoos, huge termite mounds and palm trees.
The next day we arrived in Katherine and all filed off in various directions for the many available afternoon tours. At this point I have to hold my hands up and admit that I made an irredeemable mistake the night before on The Ghan. As I’ve mentioned previously I can be severely lacking in the bravery department and I hesitated too long in trying to decide on a helicopter ride over the Gorge. Would you believe, that despite the seemingly improbability of it being fully booked the next morning (considering the demographical weighting of our passenger list), it was in fact chock full of seniors by the time I’d spent the night psyching myself up for confirmation of a brave choice in the a.m. I am genuinely regretful that the hubby missed out on what would have been an incredible flight because I was the one dithering around like an old Nanna, and I wasn’t even a Nanna yet back then……but the sedate boat trip down Katherine Gorge to see more rock art, crocodile traps, and stunning scenery was still a fantastic experience.
The onward leg to Darwin finally brought sight of a river with water in it after a week of seeing only dry dirt; I felt a bit like Burke & Wills, though without the urine drinking of course. At one point I was woken from a lovely little nap in my cabin by the unmistakable smell of a bush fire, it didn’t last for long, but the train had the faint unmistakable whiff of smoky eucalypt and hot metal for an unnerving time afterwards.
Last night on the Ghan and last shimmy up the ladder onto my shelf, Spidey fashion; I’m sure that bottle of wine is not fooling you for one minute that this was a classy manoeuvre, but the rule is, what happened on the train stays on the train…..and there is no Fight Club……apparently. (I’m just checking that you are actually reading this far and/or are still awake).
Late Tuesday 14th – Darwin. I was very sad to be disembarking for the last time (or ‘de-train’ as they announced over the tanoy??!). Darwin is a small place, its distinguishable features mainly being the resident navy ships. It was a lovely 30 degrees with sea breezes, (in summer they have 40’s and 90% humidity) and the place was very friendly with a very chilled out laid back feel to it.
We seriously considered another coach trip to the Kakadu National Park…. but instead the hubby did a crocodile cage of death swim (allegedly) at Crocosaurus Cove
It takes all sorts I suppose, and I’m married to one. The thought of accidentally gulping any of this crocodile poop soup made me gag. It’s just being plonked in a Perspex tank into the same rancid water to look at crocodiles……I was looking at the same crocodiles in dry and bacterially sound conditions. I just don’t get it.
A tourist from New South Wales totally trumped us both anyway; after taking a wrong turn (probably another moment of insanity involving the old ‘I like my directions to come without any common sense and therefore have a GPS), she drove right past a warning sign and straight off a ramp into a crocodile infested river. She did get out alive and managed to swim to shore as they circled, but the headline caption of her submerged vehicle in the Darwin Times sums up life there better than I ever could: “Meals on Wheels”. In kinder column inches she was described as a stupid southern tourist. The folks up North are built of all the bits of brave that I’m missing.
In an attempt to improve his survival skills and tick some more boxes my husband indulged in buffalo and crocodile kebabs from the Roadkill Cafe – “You kill it we grill it” at Mindil Beach markets. The air was heavy with….shall we say, ‘happy scents’ in this night market, which may have accounted for the bewildering sight of hundreds of people setting up chairs and picnic arrangements on the beach to watch the sunset; something of a spectator sport it would seem in Darwin. They even cheered as it dropped below the ocean; we joined in of course as it only seemed polite.
This was the perfect end to our trip before flying back to Brisbane the next day. As our 40th birthday present to ourselves it was well and truly worth every cent, and I really hope that at least one person who has never been to these places and reads these posts gets the opportunity to go out and see them for themselves, because nothing I say here can ever really do them justice.
Everyone in the modern, technologically bombarded world should go at least once, to somewhere
remote, vast, overwhelmingly breathtaking, and completely out of mobile signal range,
and yes, even blog posts.
No offence, but please get lost………..so that you can find yourself again
(even if you have to go via Adelaide to get there)