Tuesday 12 October 2010

Australia Adventures: 19. Meetin' an Aborigine, Darwin Bush Air Rescue and Swimmin' with Crocs

Hello from Australia's Northern Territory!

I'm finally here, the vast, rugged and edgy province of this great continent's 'Top End'. As this blog shows, I'm extremely interested in the mechanics of Indigenous communities in each country, which is my main drive to travel and explore this world.
Like I say meeting the REAL people and not just the safe and secure chocolate box experience that cushions many travellers. The Northern Territory to me is the gateway to understanding the foundations and culture of the 'First Australians' so without haste, I left Brisbane on Australia's fabulous no frills budget airline 'Jetstar' to get me to Darwin.

I wanted to fly to Darwin before the summer monsoon arrived which should be coming about now - alot of the businesses close at this time because there's less tourists visiting up here - but that also means cheaper flights!

So Darwin.... is HUMID with a capital 'H' man! its like a hairdryer on you all the time, which was quite a shock coming from the dense coolness of Brisbane. II moved into a backpackers at the end of the main street which was surrounded by fallen mangos from the trees (I heard Mango juice will seriously burn you) I decided that this was the ideal place and opportunity to get a genuine perspective about The Aboriginal culture of Australia which is one of the most ancient civilisations in the history of the world. I decided to take a trip with an Aboriginal guide Tess for the most authentic experience, revealing the secrets of the Territory's outback from a 'Marrathal tribe' descendent of the very people who first inhabited it. She drove us out to a wildlife park, the smell of eucalyptus oils for the leaves totally invigorates you. We watching bird flight demonstrations and tutoring me of bush medicines and ancient remedies. I came to learn that the Aboriginal people are genius people. They can survive on the bush lands if stranded for over a year and know all the right plants or bush tucker to eat and use as medicines. It's really fascinating, visitors are missing out if you don't involve yourself in these rare opportunities - I couldn't say no.  

Here are some fascinating facts about the Aboriginal people of Australia.

  • All tribes have their own provinces so 'Dreamtime Stories' continue on to the next tribe but only know their province is just the beginning, the middle or the end of their story
  • Aborigines all follow the same law that dates back 40,000 years ago
  • Burning bark of a tree and giving ash to an aborigine, they can use as chewy tobacco
  • Burnings are quite frequent in Aboriginal Territory
  • Fan pans are used to make dilly bags
  • Most of native Australian animals are eaten by Aborigines
  • Wearing mats were wrapped around Aboriginal women when they are menstruating and go into hiding
  • Aboriginals would use spears to hunt fish
  • Aboriginal ceremonies occur for men and women when they 'come of age' and the time has come to 'stop being silly'
Our next stop was get out to the Litchfield National Park in the 4WD, but getting out into the desolate bush lands, we had an ickling something was up with the car. Before we lost phone signal we turned back on the red dust just in time before the car got totally screwed and the brakes buckled - we were stranded in the bush!

Tess checking out the engine...

Unable to remedy the problem with the car, Tess had a back up plan - a bush rescue helicopter!, we had to wait for approximately an hour on the road side in the sizzling heat of the bush, entertained by more of Tess' extensive aboriginal stories while we waited for the helicopter to come find us in the bush!

It was pretty exciting getting air rescued, like being in a television show, waiting in hope for the sound of humming and watching the little yellow bee like copter hovering over us. We even got a scenic flight over Darwin back to the casino in town and flew through a rain cloud which was pretty awesome. But unfortunately the day panned out next as expected but I will be returning to see Tess again and get out to Litchfield in the future....complimentary of her tour company, now that's great service...but always the adventure I'm after... 

                                                          Our saviour!

Flying through a raincloud - waahoo!

If you're mind is like a parachute, it will keep open and that way you'll be able to reap the benefits of taking the initiative and go and see what the city has to offer. I ventured around to the Mindu Markets, an occasional night market on the beach magnetising visitors to sample the musical, food and artistic delights of street performers and market stalls - then the rains came and disrupted the whole thing, leaving me scampering around to find a taxi back to the backpackers. Darwin has also been the forefront of some horrendous cyclones of the past, with the local museum offering you a simulation and education exhibit on the worst cyclones to hit the Top End City. Darwin is also the only place where you will see the biggest saltwater crocodile that ever lived, safely tucked up in the museum affectionately named 'Sweetheart' since the 1970's.

'Sweetheart'....maybe not when he was alive though...

Darwin prides itself on its darling Crocodiles....so much that they've actually got an attraction in the middle of the city where its riddled with crocodiles... really...its called 'Crocosaurus Cove' on Mitchell Street. I only really like what you call 'interactive' museums and I highly recommend this one. The cove is really informative and the crocs on display are HUGE!! at least 4 metres and over but all having affectionate names there's Burt, Denzel, Wendell, Chopper, Harry, Houdini and Bess. You can get really up close and personal with these guys, I mean really...

They have this thing you can do there called 'The Cage of Death' you pay a big lump of money ($120)to be lowered in this underwater tank to go face to with the big crocs themselves - that's if the crocs can be bothered to actually come and check you out.

A highlight of mine of the cove was swimming with the Crocodiles (ok, I didn't really swim 'with' them, but I shared the water and had a glass pane seperating us so I could be nose to nose to them). I later came to learn they are extremely clever and they jump high! I got to fish feed the baby ones which was quite an experience in the 'Fishing For Crocs' enclosure lets you attach a piece of meat to a fishing rod and tempt the 50 juveniles to jump up (Don't forget Terri Irwin did it by hand). Great idea.

Pretty big jumpers...

Tomorrow, I'm up early to take a day tour to Kakadu National Park and will pressing on to a town south named Katherine to visit an aboriginal art gallery.


With Lonely Planet Guide Australia 

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