Strictly: Straya – Part #3

Last post I promised you a plague of locusts, and so here it is, a plague of locusts. Swag camping night 3 and we’d travelled a few hours from Uluru to Kings Creek Station. Already I liked Kings Creek a lot more, there weren’t any ants, it wasn’t (quite) as hot and our kitchen area didn’t seem to be sheltering the whole country’s quota of bugs. Or at least, it didn’t until it got dark and the locusts came out. On our drive to Kings Creek we’d managed to kill a good dozen or so locusts who flew straight into the front of the bus, so it was stupid of us to think that that would be our only experience of them. And when it got dark, oh boy did they make a resurgence. On our first night of camping the bugs simply fell on us from above or happened to fly past far too close. The locusts, on the other hand, made a point of trying to fly straight into us. Having a locust suddenly and unexpectedly fly into your chest is a little bit like having a rock suddenly and unexpectedly thrown at you, it hurts and you’re more than a little surprised. Now multiply this by an entire evening and you can imagine just how much fun we had being repeatedly terrified by dive-bombing insects. The only consolation was that we had a fire and so, hopefully, more than a few locusts met their sorry end after scaring the life put of someone. This is more or less the end of the outback bug ordeal (except for the flies, who were a constant source of frustration) with the exception of the day we left Yulara and I opened my backpack to find an absolutely massive millipede in it.

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One marble

We finished the outback leg of our trip in Alice Springs, the only place out there that can really be considered a town, and did exactly nothing while we were there because it was stupidly hot. We did lose some of our group, whose trips were coming to an end, which was really sad and also marked the final leg: Alice Springs – Darwin. Day 1 of leg number 3 started as all great outback adventures seem to, with a 12 hour drive that ended at what maybe the kookiest pub in the world. As you can imagine 12 hours in a bus isn’t really worth writing about, although we did make a brief stop at a very smelly lake which, regardless, was nice to swim in, and another at The Devil’s Marbles, a rock formation which seems gravitationally impossible. The pub in Daly Waters, though, was quite a sight. Confusingly, after being in the middle of an outback summer, in less than a day we’d entered monsoon season in the tropical north and so the pub was pretty much deserted. I don’t really know how best to describe it, except to say that it was filled with pretty much everything (old bras, hats, police badges, ID photos, random items of clothing, pictures, cardboard cutouts, you name it, it was there), covering every possible wall and surface, and that it served really good burgers.

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Pre the glorious waterfall at Nitmiluk

I don’t think a single day went by, from Quorn up to Darwin, when we didn’t have a swimming pool, or when I didn’t eat an ice cream. I think I swam more and ingested more ice cream in that two week period than I have in the last two years of my life. But when it’s over 30 degrees and humid most days there’s really not a lot you can do except swim and eat ice cream. On our journey from Alice to Darwin we didn’t just get to swim in swimming pools, however. On two glorious occasions we also got to swim in waterfalls. Swimming in waterfalls is super fun, it’s kind of like being in the sea but without the constant terror that you might accidentally float out to sea at any given moment. The first waterfall we swam in, at Nitmiluk National Park (formerly known as Katherine Gorge) was little and accessed by a slightly terrifying climb across rocks and through trees. We were also told, categorically, to go near no other water except for the waterfall because we might be eaten by crocodiles. In fact, this was the general refrain for pretty much the entire third part of the trip. The second waterfall, at Edith Falls, was bigger and better. It had currents created by the falls meaning that you could ride some of the smaller rapids down through the rocks. It also made it quite hard to swim and, thanks to the current, I managed to get stuck in a hole in a rock for quite a while. Still, it was really good fun.

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Edith Falls. Just out of shot is the hole I got stuck in for a good five minutes

The main part of our trip up North was to visit Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks. Kakadu was hot and humid (obviously) and we got to learn about various aboriginal creation ‘dreamtime’ stories which was fascinating. Litchfield will remain forever a mystery to me, because it rained, and rained, and rained, and rained, and we didn’t go. The first day it rained we ran out of petrol about 2 minutes from the petrol station and had to wait to be saved by a nice mechanic. This wasn’t even our first breakdown, so you can imagine we were all old hands at it by this point. In the middle of the outback, on the same day we mowed down a load of locusts, we blew a tyre and had to wait in whatever shade we could find for the boys, all obviously shirtless by this point, to fix it. Not that the girls wouldn’t have been perfectly capable of doing it, our tour guide Wease was an integral part of the team, it’s just that the rest of us had absolutely no idea how to go about changing a tyre and the boys seemed to enjoy it so much. So, anyway, I digress. It rained so much that the roads into Litchfield got washed out and, rather than enter the park we made an abortive trip to a butterfly farm and ended up at the Northern Territories Wildlife Park. We did see some wildlife in the park but it rained all the while we were there, so the majority of the animals were hiding. We also got very wet and stayed very wet when we rolled into Darwin, and it continued to rain all afternoon, and all night, and all the way to the airport at 3am when the shuttle bus had to take an alternative route because the road was flooded.

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 Aboriginal rock art depicting Namarrgon (the stick figure in the circle on the right), the lightning god, in Kakadu. A special type of caterpillar, only seen when it’s about to storm, are said to be Namarrgon’s children who he returns for when there is lightning.  
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Nourlangie Rock, said to be where Namarrgon resides, in the Escarpment Country on the edge of Kakadu 

 

So there you have it, my great outback adventure. It started with ok weather, turned into the hottest place known to man and ended with 24 hours of solid rain. I just had my fingers crossed that Cambodia, the next stop on my great adventure, would be a bit drier but not quite as hot.

 

Leah Out X

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