Exploring Kakadu!

We woke up at 6 am, got breakfast at the restaurant. I made sure to avoid the vegemite! We left the accommodation at 7 pm, to drop off some people who were signed up for a scenic flight of the park.

Kakadu is a massive national park. In fact it is half the size of Switzerland and the size of Maryland. There are over 10,000 different species of insects, which was quite obvious by looking around. There are lots of wild animals as well, like wallabies, crocodiles, dingos, board, wild horses and more.

While some did the scenic flight, the rest of us headed over to the Bowali cultural center to learn more about the indigenous people. We saw their calendar on a stone. It was not by months, but by seasons, which makes more sense to me. I don’t get the point of month’s of December 21st is when winter starts. Just had an extententional crisis wondering about why we had months on our calendar.

We then headed to an area where there was an indigenous rock art walk. We loaded up on bug spray and sunblock before heading in.

There are ants with green butts running around everywhere. Our tour guide mentioned that if you ate the green butt part, you would get a shot of vitamin C. A few of us tried it and it was actually pretty great. It just tasted like citrus.

There were large rock formations, almost wall like, where we could see the paintings. Because most of the culture is held closely by elders, many of the larger meanings of the stories are not known by people outside of the culture. However, we could glean some basics from the drawings. We saw a wallaby on one, another was about fertility, another about celebration and so many more.

From there, we did a quick hike up to see the larger rock formation from a distance. Mark told us about the small rock on the edge of the cliff. Apparently, within the indigenous culture, you are not supposed to mate with a sibiling. But, a chief did and he symbolically placed a feather up there. Now, there is a rock to symbolize it and remind others not to do what he did.

Here is me at the top!

We headed over towards the yellow water, to have lunch. We had a baguette with some cold cuts. Relaxed for a while and just enjoyed the air conditioning.

We then headed down to the yellow river for our cruise. We were on the billabong river in kakdu, getting a wetlands cruise. Our guide was straightforward and funny. He knew a lot about the waters and the animals inside. Though we couldn’t see any crocodiles. There were definitely a few hundred in there!

They are able to hold their breath for up to 6 hours and slow their heart beat down to one to two beats per hour. In dry season, they layout in the sun to keep warm. But, since it was very hot out, they were mostly sitting at the bottom of the river. We were instructed to try not to fall overboard. But, if we did, we had about a minute before a croc would be after us. Comforting, huh?

There were lots of other wildlife in the river as well. We saw “Jesus birds” who look like they are walking on water, but really they are walking on Lilly pads. We saw some beautiful flowers from a specific type of Lilly pad. This one the indigenous women would harvest for their stems. Not before doing a prayer to keep the crocs from eating them. If they did get eaten, the elders would say they didn’t do the prayer right…

After a long day in 80 degree weather, we headed back to the accommodations to hangout in the pool. A girl from LA bought some yellow tail wine and red solo cups. We enjoyed some laughs over that. We hung out in the pool for a couple hours before heading to dinner.

After dinner, we just hung out around the table and talked about the differences in culture. I love hearing from the aussies on the trip because though they don’t know this part of their country, they know about most everything else. We talked about cricket, politics, differences in candies, stores, restaurants and more. It was funny to hear they even have the bachelor in australia. It is the Australian version, of course. I thought I might actually watch that one! Ha!

We headed off the bed because we once again had to wake up early.

Swimming with Crocs

Day 1 of the official trip started with a museum about the history of Darwin, which is the largest city in the Northern Territory of Australia.

There are approximately 100,000 people in Darwin. It has been rebuilt twice, due to horrific events. The first was a bombing during WWII where the Japanese dropped more bombs on Darwin than on Pearl Harbor. The next was in the 70s, where a powerful cyclone raged through the town on Christmas Day, destroying almost everything in its path. At the museum there was a room where you could listen to a recordering of the sounds from the cyclone, which demonstrated just how devestating the wind was for this town.

There was also a stuffed crocodile in the museum, because, you know, it’s the Northern Territory. The crocs name was affectionately and irconically called Sweetheart. Sweetheart was a large male croc who would guard his Territory in the water by chomping on anything that came through, this included motors of boats. He was accidentally drowned with nets when a group was trying to catch him. A taxidermist stuffed him and while cleaning him out found some sea turtles, the motor of a boat and some pig bones in this stomach. Apparently it was world news when he was killed and the newspapers made wild accustations about how big he was and that he even ate people.

In the museum there was also quite a lot of art, both from aboriginals and Australians. One of my favorite pieces was of the lighthouses in Australia, of which there are many.

From there, we headed off to the main city to get a quick tour, since the town is quite small. I had already seen most of it from my exploring the day prior.

The coach then dropped us off at crocosorous cove, a museum on the infamous Northern Territory crocodiles. I had signed up to dive in with a croc and was super excited to see what it would be like.

Crocodiles have extremely powerful jaws, which have the power of a 2-ton truck, compared to a humans power of a sack of potatoes… Over their lifetime, they may crack teeth, but there is always one ready to replenish the broken one. In total, a crocodile can have over 3,000 teeth in their lifetime. When a crocodiles snaps to get food, there is an incredible snapping noise, just reminding everyone how powerful the jaw is and how you might not want to come up against one in the wild.

My diving time was later, so I got some Thai food at a local restaurant and read some more my Australian novel that my uncle gave me for Christmas called “The Rosie Project.”

A few of us headed in the cove again to get ready for our dive. Most of us weren’t too worried, especially after seeing multiple people go in and be okay. Basically, there was a huge acrylic cylinder which was on a electric pulley system which would slowly drop you into the water environment with the croc. The keepers would then tempt the croc with food to get it close to the enclosure. We had googled to see under water and everything.

I took my GoPro with me to get some footage from within. A few new friends agreed to take photos from outside the tank from up above and from below. We got some great shots…
I still haven’t edited the GoPro footage, but I’m excited to finally get some time to edit everything when I’m on the coach for a long drive.

We headed back to the hotel to wash off the crocodile water and get ready for a night out. Since Darwin is the largest town for the first leg of this trip through the outback, this was our one night to stay out and have fun.

We went to a local place called Monsoon, which was fitting since it was the wet season and always raining off and on. I got the house wine (cab sav, Australia!) and the steak. There are a few difference between US food and Australian food. For one, they call ketchup “tomato sauce” and an entree is an “appetizer.”

We all got to know each other a little better and talked about our flights over and our home countries. There are a lot of aussies on this trip, which is great because we can ask them questions about the country and their culture. But, it reminds me of how I haven’t seen all of the US yet. Just another reminder that I need to do a road trip across the country at some point soon!

Later on, once we had all had a few, there was a call to the dance floor to play a few games and dance. One game involved a carton from a case beer. Basically, everyone had to bend down and pick up the box with their teeth. However, after each round they would rip off a layer and make the top of the box closer to the ground. Basically you were squatting down to get the box. Two girls from our group won!

I was pretty tired, and left with another girl to get some sleep in my room. I’ve got another 25 days ahead of me, so I’m definitely not trying to kill myself early on.

Overall, day 1 was awesome and the group of 18 is great!