North, now forever always

16 February 2017

The Next Bit: 2100 kilometres skirting around the Kimberleys to Kununurra, east through Timber Creek to Katherine, north to Pine Creek, north east to Jabiru where I say Hi! to Scott and Evelyn and leave most of my stuff, before the last two hundred and sixty to Darwin where I dispose of the Prado.

1702 Broome-Jab-DRW route
The Next Bit: 2100 km via Scott and Evelyn in Jabiru, then to Darwin

I call Mainroads and are told that the road is open, “with caution”, but that the bridge over the Fitzroy River is expected to be closed for “some days” in a couple of days. Obviously, I leave tomorrow.

22 February 17

At Roebuck Plains I fill up, get a coffee and snap the road information sign. Indeed open. I snap a number of other signs too. There is an art-instillation of signs to bewitch the traveller as they head towards Willare: road-information, fire-awareness, anti-garbage awareness and a number of others.

The Big Excitement, I confess to, is what happens when I get to the Fitzroy this side of the Willare Roadhouse. There were a few pools under some of the bridges four month’s previously but the various channels of the Fitzroy took nine kilometres to cross and the overall floodplain was twenty kilometres wide. All dry back then. Seeing this in flood is something I am looking forward to.

One hundred and fifty kilometres, Broome to Wilare Roadhouse. A day and bit ride. An hour and half drive.

The Fitzroy does not disappoint. Twenty kilometres before the main Fitzroy River channel just shy of Willare Roadhouse there is a vast ocean of brown muddy water bedecked with bright green trees. It must have cost Mainroads a veritable fortune to make this section of the Great Northern as close to Fitzroy-proof as possible. The fine asphalt surface is several meters higher than the surrounding plains. Berms and ditches branch off from the road at what must be cleverly thought out angles, presumably to reduce the floods getting up too much friction against the dyke of the road itself.

It takes forever to pass the flood plains. Admittedly I’m driving pretty slowly breaking a dozen different road-safety regulations by regularly driving on the wrong side of the road to enhance opportunities to take viddies. Random Australians in those outrageously LOUD long sleeved ‘fishing’ shirts emblazoned by spectacular images of leaping wide-mouthed fish with a brutal lure pierced through its mouth surrounded by sponsors and promoters for whatever icon fishing-competition (a form of culturally endorsed mass-slaughter and bio-genocide that horrifies me and yet seems perfectly acceptable to Australians) the shirt represents, have parked in equally road-safety defying places, half on the asphalt half half-way down the dyke towards the brown water now rushing through a culvert in which the intrepid loud-shirted Australian is fishing. The brilliant blue sky creates a pop-art festivity about the scene. All that bright brown water. All those bright green trees. That sky. The absolute blackness of the shade below the canopies. Them loud-shirted and very bright Australians. Huge 4WDs randomly parked obscuring half the road. Countless kites and falcons circle and twist and turn above, complementing the scene. There is nothing subtle about it all. It is bright, the colours primary. Beautiful.

I enjoy the broad smile indeed grin on my face as I cruise along, slaloming between the 4WDs at less than twenty kilometres an hour. No way am I gonna race past this spectacle.

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The Fitzroy River is expected to breach the bridge tomorrow, closing the highway for several days. Glad I got across when I did

The water under the Fitzroy River Willare Bridge is but a meter or so below the road. I guess there’s even more water expected tomorrow, to raise the level until it is flowing over the road. Every year, pretty much, the same thing. The amount of sediment carried out by the Fitzroy River must be phenomenal. It’s one reason Derby does not attract tourists based on its pristine beaches and water front. The Fitzroy creates perfect conditions for mangroves and thick deposits of mud and silt.

Coffee from Willare then ever onwards. Ten kilometres further, turn right, continuing on the Great Northern abandoning Derby, the scrubby little-sister to Elegant Broome, to its fate a further forty kilometres north. Only the dedicated tourist would make that forty kilometre diversion. If it weren’t for the southern end of the Gibb River Road terminating against Derby Highway but ten kilometres from the town, Derby could quite literally disappear into obscurity and be mentioned in the same breath as Atlantis: “Yeah, Derby, swallowed by mangroves and lost forever” and no one be the wiser.

Two hundred and twenty kilometres after the turn-off I enter Fitzroy Crossing. I take lunch and try to imagine my father and brother and their lives here in the late seventies. Cob lived here for a decade or so before moving to Derby and starting his family. Twenty-plus years in two-Nowheresvilles better known for the roads leading away from town than for anything in the towns themselves. It is little wonder my brother is an ‘interesting character’, the influences acting upon him to live here well before it finally got on the map, a Lost World in the iconic Kimberley landscape, are beyond my comprehension.

It’s a thousand kilometres between Broome and Kununurra and the inestimable Nic of the Kimberley Croc Backpackers. An Australian would drive this before morning coffee break. It’s gonna take me two days. Halls Creek is not far ahead. I think about staying the night there but can’t figure out why I’d do that rather than pick a random Wild Camp. In fact, as I study Hema’s map of the Kimberley I realise there’s a rest area halfway between Fitzroy and Halls Creek.

Having ridden around a huge swathe of Australia on a bike I’ve developed a good eye for ‘opportunities’: water supplies, wash- and cool-down waters, camping areas, random areas of interest. And I am more than sure that the track leading off to the right to a clump of trees leads to a Place of Interest. It’s the wet, right? Pretty much every brook, creek and river is in flood. Trees grow along river banks and in creeks and brooks. Local Heroes would know the best places for a dip or more. Even though it’s still early afternoon I need a camping area. No harm in checking this one out.

It is a beautiful and clearly croc-free brook, with bright clear water running over cascades before hurtling off a short waterfall. It’s irresistible. A jacuzzi in the cascades attracts me the most. I strip and lower myself into the water. Not only is it bright and clear it’s damned near hot. The pool is just big enough for me to stretch out fully and shallow enough that can lie in sublime and warm relaxing comfort with the water pouring over and around me. My own natural spar.

I can handle this for quite a while. Maybe I should camp here. I get out and check camping opportunities. In truth, no matter how beautiful the brook the small parking area not only lacks any shade it’s also strewn with garbage and the ground ill-suited to a small tent. It’s also about one hundred metres from the road. Every vehicle driving past will see my camp, which increases my sense of vulnerability, as well as it’d be noisy. Rroadtrains prefer to travel at night and are hardly subtle quite vehicles. Sadly I realise I’m gonna have to travel on.

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Dramatic Landscapes abound

Ngumban Cliff Rest Area has good large shady shelters over the ubiquitous concrete picnic table. The view, them Cliffs, may not be spectacular but are nonetheless very impressive, across the climb of the Great Northern up the Ngumban pass and over the plains stretching forever. Aside of a dude with a caravan camped well away from the shelters I have the place to myself. It’s not even 1400, so it’s hardly surprising.

A large shallow pond clearly has ‘bathe in me’ written all over it. I plan my run for the day. Down the pass and onto the plains? Or along the access track to the micro-wave tower I can see waaay over in the distance? I opt for the tower.

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Another run, in the rain no less, and another bathe-in-puddle. Very pleasant actually

A hire-car pulls in. Although there are three other shelters bereft of occupants my Britz couple decide to join me in my shelter. Rod and Jenny are but three days on the road here in Australia and provide light-hearted comedy as they try to set up their roof-top tent. Adding to the theatre is the drama of a rainstorm rapidly approaching. They make it just as the rains start.

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Camp # I don’t remember any more. The shelter was dead handy given the rain

The micro-wave tower lies four kilometres from the shelter and the rain is incessant. The access track starts well defined and rapidly degrades into two tire tracks with the seed stalks from the native grasses towering above me wet now from the rain. I’m soaked and covered in grass seeds. Bush cockroaches abound on the track, driven out by the flooded ground or driven to be out by some primordial instinct, whizzing around in agitation as I thunder past trying to not land on one.  The rain has stopped by the time I return. Rod and Jenny are sitting in the middle of the shelter to avoid the rain.

More vehicles have arrived. Two separate groups of three young women backpackers setting up tents in shelters. It is certainly a weak point of such rest-areas. They lack suitable space to put a small tent. Hence we end up in the shelters which removes from other travellers use of the shelters for what they are actually intended.

The pond is warm and shallow, a mix of hard pan base and a thin layer of ultra-fine silt. I get out of easy visual sight of the rest area, strip and are grateful I can rinse off the sweat and by lying prone I can actually get under the water. A very pleasant experience.

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Beautiful sunset over plains

Back at the shelter I too set my tent up under its broad canopy, chatting to Rod and Jenny. Their excitement is infectious. I enjoy the beer they offer me. The rains return and we all hit the sack early.

23 February 2017

I’m the first to leave the rest area in the morning.

I’ve an easy day, planning to stay in Kununurra and catch-up with whoever remains at the Kimberly Croc Backpackers.

It’s only an hour or so before the Mary Pool rest area turns up. ‘Pool’ eh? Godda check this out. ‘Pool’ hardly does the large body of water justice, with a broad shallow flow across a concrete causeway. A large shady camping area. I almost regret choosing the Ngumban Cliffs Rest Area. Mind you the toilets are fetid and haven’t been cleaned in a goodly while. I elect to shit deep among the trees. It’s a good place for a bit of breakfast though.

Tanami Road turnoff. Can’t resist. Sure enough the Tanami is closed to all traffic. Must be hard for the communities of Bililuna, Balgo and Mulan, being for all intents and purposes isolated from the rest of the world for what must be weeks every time the wet really sets in.

Halls Creek turns up. Three days I spent here cleaning me and my equipment from the fine dust of three weeks riding the Tanami Road.

Not far from Halls Creek I cross a bridge with a large river under it. There’s a track leading off to the Little Panton River rest area on the right and it’s pretty clear this must lead down to the waters. Another large river flowing over an old road. It’s hot. I can’t resist, I’m gonna have a dip. Carefully. In the corner. Godda be damned close to Croc Country by now. Afterall, there are Freshwater Crocodiles just north of Fitzroy Crossing at Winjana Gorge which is hundreds of kilometres west and south of me. There’ll be something in here. But I’m gonna have a dip anyway.

It’s not a pleasant camping area. The Mary Pool Rest Area certainly has the edge there.

Back on the road I pass the turn off to Purnululu, now closed and a short time later come across the big fat boab-tree that I photographed waaay back in August 2016 as I barrelled up the Great Northern in the back seat of Scott and Evelyn’s enormous Toyota Landcruiser Monster. This time however it has a huge canopy of dark green leaves. Impressive.

Another coffee at Warmun Roadhouse. Back on the road, ever north.

Finally after over three thousand kilometres I reach the end of the Great Northern, which continues to the left to Wyndham. But I go right, on the Victoria Highway towards Kununurra and beyond.

Sure enough Nic, he who has ‘Fuck Off’ emblazoned across one forearm and who is the most non-politically correct person I’ve come across recently all of which resolutely fails to mask a very good and indeed empathetic nature, is still involved with Kimberly Croc Backpackers.

In the two weeks I hung around Kimberly Crocs six months ago at least four cars got broken into. Having parked the Prado in exactly the same spot outside the backpackers as the other cars it strikes me that my brand-new Prado full of stuff stands out flashing a bright neon-sign of invitation in comparison to the other somewhat more dilapidated vehicles backpackers tend to drive. Five dollars later I park it securely behind the gate and can now relax.

The usual gaggle of backpackers, the vast majority new though some still here that I met before– they claim they’ve gone and returned since  late August 2016 – all performing those jobs immigrants ‘steal’ from the locals who strangely enough when these are jobs available never seem to want to do. An enjoyable night.

24 February 2017

East-north-east from Kununurra I enter that odd bit of Australia no-one ever talks about, the bit between Kununurra in Western Australia and Katherine in the Northern Territory. A five hundred kilometre stretch along which the hapless traveller leaves the well promoted and bountiful attractions, tourist sites, cultural and natural phenomenon, ancient and more contemporary history of The Kimberleys or The Top End and enters a veritable Black Hole of … I dunno! I don’t know anything about what’s coming next. As far as I can tell I switch off cognitive travel-tourist mode and enter the Dark Arts of mindless thoughtless driving and get it over with as I take on that five hundred kilometres.

Every other bit of Australia has some kind of folklore attached to it: The Gulf Country, The Great Ocean Road, the Cape (York, that is), even the South Coast Highway (“golden outback meets … stunning white-sand beaches” http://www.westernaustralia.com). The only other non-bit of Australia I can think of is the four hundred kilometre Twilight Zone stretch of the North West Coastal Highway between Karratha and the turn-off to Coral Bay and Ningaloo Reef. Even there there’s a host of mining towns and remote beach locations just off the North West Coastal. But the Victorian Highway between Kununurra and Karratha? I didn’t even know the name of the highway till I checked the map, that’s how insignificant and lacking in identity this bit of Australia is.

It doesn’t even get its own geographical nomenclature, at least not on the ‘popular’ maps we mere-mortals use when discovering Australia. I’ve just driven through the Kimberley Plateau, according to the map below, and shall soon skirt around western Arnhem Land. But the name for the next five hundred kilometres bisecting a vast area stretching from a coast against the Timor Sea a hundred or more kilometres to the north to the Tanami several hundred kilometres to the south remains unknown.

Map Oz geographical areas
Voodoo Nowheresland, a 3-way sandwich between famous and iconic areas. But I need to know …

Now I know you’ll imagine me hurtling along the Victoria Highway mulling this over and you’ll think “He’s not going to be able to let this go is he?” and the answer is “No, of course not”. And then you’ll imagine I’ll turn to Cortana on my Nokia-Lumina-Microsoft phone, hands’ free of-course, and using the superlative telecommunications infrastructure set up by Australian’s visionary government, I’ll ask “What is the geographical name of the area I’m currently driving through?” knowing full well that Cortana will use location-based services to pinpoint exactly where I am, then trawl through the internet to find the answer.

Or, equally plausible, I travel through time until I’m safely not driving a thundering great beast but am sitting enjoying a cold drink, connected to that superlative telecommunications infrastructure set up by Australian’s visionary government and I search online myself to find the answer. Once I find the answer I travel back through time until I’m once again driving a thundering great beast.

You got it … it is neither Cortana’s abilities nor time-travel that’s the problem. It’s the lack of ‘superlative telecommunications infrastructure set up by Australian’s visionary government’ that means finding the answer to Where Am I? is more difficult than it should be.

An obscure Governmental Agency nestled deep under the Department of Environment and Energy – never a good sign when a government links two often diametrically opposing philosophies under the same Department – called the National Reserve System has a section called Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation for Australia (http://www.environment.gov.au/land/nrs/science/ibra) whose function is to develop a “national and regional planning framework for the systematic development of a comprehensive, adequate and representative … system”. Under ‘maps’ I find my answer.

I am driving through the Victoria Bonaparte region which lies atop the Ord Victoria Plain with the more widely known, indeed famous Tanami Desert to the south. Check out the map below:

IBRA bioregions_ Australia
Department of Environment & Energy, Interim Biogeographical Regionalisation for Australia map. It tells me the name of the region I’m driving through: The Victoria Bonaparte Region

It’s good to know someone somewhere cares enough about this area to name it. I feel much better now.

Perhaps unsurprisingly as I head east the river valley I’m driving through belongs to the Victoria River. In which there are crocodiles since I actually see one when I check out the bridge to the military’s Bradshaw Training Area.

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Victoria River. How do I know there are crocodiles in this river? Simple, I saw one. No swimming in rivers anymore

Barrelling along, tall spear-grass creating a canyon thinking ‘Should an animal decide to cross the road I’d have next to no chance of seeing it coming’. Later, still barrelling along still through the spear-grass canyon I notice a large animal up ahead determinedly making its way down the low hill towards the road. A horse. Spear grass is tall. A horse is taller. And I realise that if I continue under a Do Nothing Scenario my Prado and that horse will neatly intersect in about twenty-two seconds. I apply the brakes. Not quite fully but let’s say with a certain apprehension. The suicidal horse breaks out of the spear-grass canyon with a metre to spare cutting in front of me on the Victoria and we both chug along at a respectable thirty kilometres an hour before the horse heads back in the spear-grass.

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In the Territory by now. The Great Northern given way to the Victoria Highway as I head north east from Kununarra through canyons of spear-grass. Anything could pop out from the grass and I wouldn’t see it comin’

Not often am I in charge of a large powerful vehicle whose technical capabilities vastly exceed my abilities to use them. There are countless little floodways with water running across them. I decide I really should see what happens if I hit one of these without first slowing down. Floodway of choice is a little dip across which a creek runs, but a couple of meter’s wide and shallow. I hope. Line up the Prado, two handed grip on the wheel, right foot hovering above brake-peddle, maintain cruise-control settings and hit the water.

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Hmmm …

The Prado does emerge victorious, no aquaplaning nor spinning around nor one side of the Prado digging in lifting the wheels of the other. On the other hand it was quite like but fortunately not the same as hitting a wall. And that’s but a shallow narrow creek. Hmmm … don’t think I’ll do that again.

At Timber Creek’s roadhouse I take a break eat some lunch and enjoy a coffee.

The valley is quite spectacular since the Victoria River has cut a broad valley through a plateau. Thick green tropical forest dominates the valley, with deep red rocks of the plateau’s cliffs towering above.

Two hundred and ninety kilometres further I arrive in Katherine where a cop jokes “You must have driven quite a distance to need all that coffee” as I carry a number of disposable coffee-beakers to the bin before getting myself yet another. “I find coffee better than beer when driving” I quip back. The cop and the guy he’s talking to advise me not to drive at night due to the risk of animal-car interactions, including crocodiles, apparently. They reassure me I should be able to make Pine Creek, one hundred kilometres up the road, before darkness really sets in. The idea of hitting a large crocodile doesn’t bear thinking about.

As I enter Pine Creek the fine local police pull me over for a random breath test. Fortunately they are testing for alcohol not caffeine so I have no problem. Except … “The insurance on your vehicle expires tomorrow” I’m told. Errr … what? Even though it is a hire car I, as the driver, bear sole responsibility for ensuring the vehicle has valid insurance. It may be Friday evening but once the police let me continue I call Chris of Advance Car Rentals to find out what to do. Fortunately Chris answers and reassures me that the insurance is paid for automatically. He’ll get back to me tomorrow to confirm.

Pine Creek roadhouse, who also manage the caravan park, is closed when I get there shortly before six, so I find a spot and set up for the night. It starts to rain as I pitch my tent. Dinner’s a fairly basic affair since the rain is coming down so hard the cooking and eating area is getting pretty wet even though it’s under a shelter. A BBQ of sweet potato aubergine and zucchini. I figured the BBQ can deal with the spray and the veggies sort of get steamed. Tastes great.

Early to bed listening to the mad drummer having a go on the tent’s fly.

25 February 2017

Scott came off night shift yesterday. No point in an early start since he’ll be enjoying a well deserved sleep in. However I made the mistake of suggesting I could be in Jabiru around midday. Midday comes and goes and I’m still an hour or so away, winding my way along Kakadu Highway.

I get a message asking me where I am. In my interactions with Australian’s, like my brother, I’ve realised that a ‘may be’ or a ‘could be’ or some other similarly vague prediction of when I could maybe possibly perhaps be somewhere on a given day at a given time is taken as gospel. Fortunately Scott’s easy going and he’s not busting my balls. I reassure him that I’m soon there – after first stopping the Prado to write the text message.

Chris calls and reassures me that the insurance is paid. At least that’s what he tells me. How would I really know? I revel in the placebo affect and simply believe, because I’ve been told, that the insurance has indeed been paid and the fine police of the Northern Territory are not going to arrest me and impound the vehicle.

It’s impossible not to like Scott and Evelyn. Easy going, generous, adventurous, welcoming, fun (though sometimes I don’t get Scott’s jokes, like I don’t get many Australian jokes), all round very good people. Scott has phenomenal skills with the camera. I make no secret of trying to learn a new trick or two every time I catch up with him. Scott’s blog can be found at scotthmurray.wordpress.com.

Due to long term plans I’m going to be in and around Darwin for the next few months, staying with Scott and Evelyn during the bounce between arriving from one mini-adventure and departing on the other. I unload stuff I’ll need for the next six months’ worth of adventures and settle in for an enjoyable evening. Since I’m on a mission I can stay only one night.

25 February 2017

The Prado duly depleted with but a bag for a couple of days in Darwin I venture off again. Three hours later I drop the Prado off at Advance Car Rental which happens to be right next to Dingo Moon Backpackers, my residence of choice whilst in Darwin.

26 February 2017

Julia an American traveller I first met in Kununurra six months ago is staying in the now defunct YHA buildings right across from the Dingo Moon. The YHA has moved a kilometre closer Darwin’s centre on the same street. Julia’s performing a caretaker role. Large cruise ships pop into Darwin every-now-and-then disgorging hundreds if not thousands of eager Darwin Discoverers only to find they’ve increased the city’s population by at least 15% and discovered there’s not a lot to do in Darwin centre. It’s a modern city. An Australian modern city, designed around the supremacy of The Car and even though surrounded on three sides by the waters’ of Darwin Harbour the main street in downtown Darwin, Smith St along which traffic is interrupted for two hundred and sixty pedestrian-mall metres between Knuckey Street and Bennett Street is remote from any possible social interaction with that water. All the main bars, restaurants, shops and retail establishments either front onto Smith Street or Mitchel or Cavanagh all of which run parallel to each other according to the fine elegant grid format Darwin’s fine designers thought appropriate with no view over anything except asphalt brick glass and concrete.

Unsurprisingly the cruise-line operators pointed out the obvious: We have thousands of eager Darwin Discoverers discovering there’s nothing to do, nowhere to spend their money and almost nothing redeeming about Darwin. Do something or we’ll quit coming.

Unsurprisingly Darwin’s authorities decided to try something. Julia, Samantha (friend of Julia), Julia’s boss and myself are wandering around that something: a market. Set up on the Smith St mall and encompassing everything from art both First Nations and non-indigenous, fine couture and fashion, pop-fashion, junk fashion, a plethora of food options from the ubiquitous chips through to vegan smoothies, a variety of artisan hand-made feel-good health products (I bought some Natural Wonders Intensive Repair “organic intense hydration with olive leaf and licorice [sic] extracts” hand & body cream) to the more macabre display of bits of crocodile body parts and products. It’s clearly working, lots of people out, the shops on the mall staying open late (it is a Saturday). Great vibe. Hope they make it a permanent occurrence when the big ships come. We eat our various choices of foods from the market in the shelter of a building whilst watching a typical Darwin downpour cause havoc.

03 March 2017

Scott and Evelyn arrive brutally early in the Dingo Moon Backpackers to pick me up. I’ve almost got both eyes open as I peer myopically at them. It’s not even 0800. Even with Scott’s prodigious driving skills and slight disregard for the guidance issued on highly reflective signs along the side of the road, to do 260 kilometres before 0800 in the morning means “Four thirty” “Why on earth did you get up at that time?” “Night shift, it’s when I’m awake” which is true. “You could have forced yourself to lie in y’know”. He laughs “Yeah, but I wanted to get the Cruiser in early to fit the cage frame on the back”. No, ‘cage frame’ does not mean Scott and Evelyn have some kinky fetish thing going on with the Monster. He’s talking about the all but-ubiquitous frame which cover the tray areas behind most of Australian 4WD ‘ute’ cabs.

No point in being in Darwin unless advantage is taken of shopping possibilities. The Toyota’s tray is full of food and drinks. And a swimming pool. Yes, in Australia you can turn up at your local Target department store and walk out with a swimming pool complete with all fittings, pump and filter for less than 200$. Sure, it’s about a metre deep and three in diameter but it will revolutionise dealing with Jabiru’s mix of relentless heat and relentless wet heat. All of us look forward to enjoying Matso’s alcoholic ginger-beer whilst chilling out in the pool.

There’s also no point in a drive back from Darwin without checking out Fogg Dam. Built six decades ago to provide water for a proposed Humpty Doo – yes there is a locality near Darwin that’s actually called Humpty Doo – irrigated rice project. “The project failed and left Fogg Dam as a great gift for the community” according to foggdamfriends.org.

Now a spectacular wetland where a myriad species of water birds can be spotted, terrapins seen – I caught one last time, various reptiles like the large sand goanna I saw here also last time, and reputedly both salt- and freshwater crocodiles, although as with Kakadu despite many visits I’ve not seen one. Friends of Fogg Dam’s does inform me that “the 2.2km long dam wall is closed for walking due to a potential risk of crocodile attack” so someone takes it seriously. It’s a great place simply to stare out over the vast wetland and watch all the birds and bugs whizzing around and imagining what’s hidden deep in the reeds and grasses and waters but a metre or so from the viewing platform.

Fortunately Scott has the camera, lens and skills to get excellent photos of a small selection of the birds we saw. No way my tiny Olympus Tough can take a photo of the birds which’ll do them and this blog justice. It has other skills, like surviving me and cycling Epics. My personal favourite is the spoonbill. A mix of brutal efficiency and comic behaviour combined with outrageous good looks and superlative ergonomic design as they march several abreast through the shallow water moving their necks and heads in quick sideways motions drawing the lower bulbous part of their beak through the sediment and reeds liberating little critters to be sucked up and consumed. I love watching them.

04 until 14 March 2017

It’s settle in and prepare to leave time. I’ll be on a plane to Bali late evening on the 17th and will eventually arriving in the island of Bunaken off the northern tip (y’see – it’s all about going North with me) of Sulawesi where I’ll actually stay put for nearly eight weeks!

Aside of preparing and packing – less is more, for I am going to a tropical island, I help in assembling the pool and take on the responsibility to clean it daily with kitchen sieves since we forgot to get more suitable cleaning equipment when in Darwin. It takes at least an hour to clean the pool from the blossom and leaves from the huge tree which provides the pool with the shade we need to be able to chill in it. Everyday. I don’t mind. It’s a form of meditation.

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Me and Evelyn enjoying the pool

I go running around the lake. I run to the swimming pool and do laps. Day 1: 2000 metres. Day 3: 3000 metres. Day 7: 4000 metres. Then I run back. In the high heat and high humidity of a Jabirunian wet-season I find that 2000 metre return run (plod, let’s be honest) after thousands of metres of swimming quite demanding. I am grateful to get in the little pool and clean it.

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Day 1: 40 laps, 2000m Day 4: 60 laps, 3000m Day 7: 80 laps, 4000m Getting ready for 2 months diving and beach life on Bunaken, North Sulawesi, Indonesia

No point in a wet-season without the odd night-trip to see if we can find some crocodiles (none. For There Are No Crocodiles In Kakadu, as I wrote in a previous post https://cycloaustralis.wordpress.com/2016/06/16/kakadu-where-there-are-no-crocodiles/), and snakes. Of which we find several, none over a meter long, none dangerous. Mostly Olive or Water Pythons. Cute as.

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Me and a small olive python. Caught a bunch of small snakes during our nocturnal hunt. All harmless

Nor is there a point in a wet-season unless we try fishing. The stories are told of the barramundi bold a meter or more taken from a storm flood disgorge from a bridge a culvert or a puddle muddy bold told stories but stories only myths urban for try as I might the bridge the culvert the puddle muddy no barramundi a meter or more or a meter or less or any fish at all.

Was fun trying though. Next time.

Max

Jabiru 14 March 2017

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