Archive for October, 2003

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2003

Day 1

I was collected for the safari at 6:30 AM, with my body clock still fairly screwed up having gone to bed at 5 the previous morning. Apart from me there were 12 other people on the bus, apologies to any of them who are reading as I can’t remember all of their names, or if I can I can’t spell them. Anyway, our guide’s name was Luke, and he was incredibly enthusiastic, which was really cool. Also there was a middle aged couple from Denmark, 4 indian girls from england (3 of whom were optometrists), two japanese girls, a hungarian girl who was studying in melbourne and a swiss girls, as well as Luke’s mate from the east coast where he used to live.

First stop was a nature reserve with a large pond. In the pond were turtles, which were quite cute, and barramundi - a fairly large game fish, which people fish for in this area.

Second stop was the Fogg Dam, which is a nature reserve. We were hoping to see crocodiles but didn’t. We did see a huge monitor lizard, or goanna, and a smaller lizard. We also saw wallabies from the coach. While driving to the next place, Luke suddenly stopped the coach and jumped out. He ran up to a tree and came back holding a frill-necked lizard which had been holding on to the tree (as they normally do).

We then went to the Annaburroo Billabong, and swam around a bit while Luke set up lunch. After lunch we went on a cruise in the Mary River, where we mostly saw birds, but did manage to briefly see a couple of crocodiles before they disappeared underwater.

In the evening we went to the Point Stewart wilderness lodge to camp for the night, here there are permanent tents, which have mesh sides so it is not rediculously hot, although it is still very hot. We had a BBQ dinner, although the australian idea of a BBQ is more a sort of flat grill plate where you fry food rather than a grill over charcoal. In the evening we went to an Aboriginal corroborree, which is a sort of singing and dancing around a fire thing. I ended up taking my shirt off and being painted with charcoal paint - I thought I might as well, although I didn’t want to attempt to play the didgeridoo.

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2003

Day 2

We had to get up early, at 5am which is before sunrise which is at 7. My body has given up on trying to have a normal sleep pattern so this was not a problem for me, it was also quite hot so sleep is difficult. Breakfast was cerial and toast, I tried veggemite on my toast, which is the aussi equivalent of marmite. It wasn’t bad, but I prefer marmite as it has a bit more kick to it, and Luke tool the piss out of me for preferring marmite. He also took the piss out of the girls for referring to flip-flops, which the australians call thongs.

We met Dolly, who is a tame wallaby who hangs around the camp, and that was really cool.

We set of at around 6 for the Kakadu national park, which is absolutely huge, at around half the size of Denmark, apparently. It was here that Crocodile Dundee was filmed, I will probably be insufferable next time I watch the film, saying ‘I’ve been there’ at every opportunity. Most of Kakadu is savannah, with fairly short trees and grass, there are also flood plains and wetlands, which are dry at the moment as it is the dry season. Finally there are monsoonal vine forrests around creeks and huge sandstone escarpments in the east.

The first stop in Kakadu was Ubirr in the east of the park. Here are a lot of aboriginal art sites - there are a lot of rocks as it is on the edge of escarpment country. The idea of aboriginal art is that it is the doing of the art that is important rather than the result, meaning that when it is finished someone else usually does their own art over the top of it. It was hot at Ubirr, but fairly dry unlike Darwin which was humid, and it was good that we got there early before it got too hot. We then climbed up to a lookout, which gave a spectacular view over the park, with the flood plains looking like a scene from Jurassic Park, although without the dinosaurs.

After lunch we swapped the coach for a 4WD truck and went off to Barramundi Gorge, or Maguk. After a fairly tiring climb up out of the vine forrest we got to some plunge pools higher up. We didn’t go to the bottom pool as there was a fresh water crocodile living there and although they are normally fairly shy this one has been a bit harassed and has been known to attack people. We swam in the upper pools, and Luke showed us some underwater tunnels, one of which went between two different pools. I swam through the tunnels, which is quite scary as you have to go down quite a way and whn you get through you suddenly realise that you are at least 2 meters under water.

We went to the next camp for dinner, and we chatted with the guy who ran the site, who was complaining about the Aborigines. Basically they get a lot of money from the government to set up schools and housing, which he claims they waste and don’t get anything done. They also get a lot of money as a lot of land was returned to them and they now charge rent to the people living there. I get the impression that this pisses off a lot of people.

After dinner some of us went on a night time walk down to the yellow river to look for wildlife. Luke managed to catch a filesnake, which lives in water and has rough scales hence the name. You can see the crocodiles in the water by shining a light at them, their eyes glow red in the light. These crocodiles are the salt water type, which do attack people, so we didn’t get too close to the water.

Wednesday, October 22nd, 2003

Day 3

We took the 4WD truck to Jim Jim falls, deep in the escarpment country. The route there was along a fairly mental 4WD track which bounces around all over the place and was great fun. We listened to 70’s cheesy music on the way.

Jim Jim falls is at the end of a gorge, with almost vertical 200m sandstone walls on either side, and was spectacular. Luke tells us that the sandstone is around 1.8 billion years old, and this explains why most of the area is fairly flat as it has had a long time to erode. There wasn’t actually any water going down the falls as that only happens in the wet season when you can’t get to them as the whole area is flooded. We swam in the plunge pool at the bottom of the waterfalls, which is incredibly deep.

Unfortunately we couldn’t go to twin falls, also in the area, as the rangers thought there was a salt water crocodile there so closed the falls for safety. The only way to get to twin falls is by swimming up the creek.

After lunch, the people who were only on the 3 day tour left for darwin - that was the 4 indian girls and the 2 japanese. The rest of us went to Gunlom falls, and set up tents there. We climbed to the top of the falls to the upper pools and swam there, and watched the sun set. The area is still rocky, but is a lot more rounded than the area near Jim Jim.

In the evening there were a lot of flies, which was really annoying, but luckily there were no mosquitos. It was very hot so sleep was quite difficult.

Wednesday, October 15th, 2003

I am now in Darwin, after a horrible midnight flight which got me into Darwin at about 5 in the morning. Luckily the first hostel I tried actually let me have a bed at that time, so I got a bit of sleep, although I ended up getting up at around midday so I don’t know how I will manage to get up at 6 tomorrow for the safari thing.

Darwin itself is fairly uninteresting, as everyone told me before I went there. I can’t tell the difference between the backpackers and the locals at the moment, I get the impression that the locals don’t spend all their time in the sun like we do when we go there. I expect all the really tanned people are the backpackers who have been there a long time. I really can’t be bothered with getting an all-over tan, so I will be wearing clothes and lots of factor 30. Most of the time.

Wednesday, October 15th, 2003

Additional: it’s absolutely pissing it down outside. I suppose that’s a consequence of the tropical climate.

Tuesday, October 14th, 2003

Now in Brunei, had long flight and didn’t sleep much so I decided to spend the night in a hotel rather than the hostel. Tonight I fly to Darwin, with the flight leaving at 11pm, so I guess I won’t get much sleep then either.

Brunei is very interesting, although that is probably because it is my first time in south-east asia. I definitely feel like going back to the area - an Australian I met recommended Borneo as being not too full of backpackers, unlike Thailand. I expect it is similar to here, as Brunei is a small place stuck on the top of Borneo.

The capital City, Bandar, seems to consist of a few blocks of large concrete buildings all very close together, with a whole load of other stuff a lot more spread out. Across the water there is a village of buildings built on legs going into the water. There are a lot of very ornate buildings built by the sultan, I think each sultan tries to outdo the one before as there is a mosque built by the 28th sultan which has 28 domes, and one by the 29th sultan (the current one) which has 29 domes and also 29 pillars and 29 of various other things.

Tuesday, October 14th, 2003

Now waiting for a flight to Darwin, it is about 10pm here and my flight is at 11, getting into Darwin at 4 in the morning. Have had an interesting day wandering around, although I think I have probably seen most of what there is to see without leaving the city or going around loads of museums. Didn’t make it to the theme park, as I think it is quite far away.

The only museum I went to was the royal regalia musem, which has all the stuff they use in the official processions and things like that. The whole thing seems to have been built up over the years to show how much money they have as a lot of gold is used. Interestingly you have to take off your shoes before you go in.

I also saw the village on legs, some parts of which look a bit run down, but I got a tour on a water taxi through the middle of it and there are some very smart bits, with big schools and a police station, all connected together with little bridges. There is also loads of rubbish in the water, which is a bit minging.

I also spent much of the afternoon waiting for it to stop raining, in tropical downpour manner, but at least the rain cooled things down a bit.

Sunday, October 12th, 2003

I will be setting off on my travels today, with the flight from heathrow at 1:30p, a nice civilised hour. This arrives in Brunei at 1:25pm on monday, and I have to decide whether to try to sleep on the plane and end up going to bed 8 hours early the next day of not sleep and go to bed 16 hours late. I doubt I will be able to sleep much on the plane anyway so it doesn’t matter. A day’s stopover in Brunei, then on to Darwin in Australia, arriving at around 4 in the morning.

I don’t know much about Brunei, apart from it being ruled by a benevolent dictator with lots of money from oil. Apparently there is not much to do, althoug there is supposed to be a theme park. Might go there.