July 11. Mataranka thermal pools. Dark metallic water, warm but not hot, we swam among palm roots and rich loamy smells. Later, under palms and a half moon, drinking my XXXX Bitter and relaxing muscles. A few mozzies, but I’m becoming accustomed to a few, just part of the life. The air is changing now, not just warmer, but more humid, more tropic. These subtle differences in the way we experience our own existence is one of the reasons we are attracted to travel. Such insignificant perceptions become important because they remind us what it means to be a sentient being in a complex world. It is being alive, not just living.
July 12. Katherine. Fruit bats again darkened the skies after sunset last night, by the hundreds of thousands. They flew for a good fifteen minutes. It was an awesome sight, and a bit rare I’m told. The bats are not popular with the humans where they roost. They strip the trees of leaves until they die, and the guano eventually will make the town stink. Often, just as the town fathers are just about to begin shooting into the trees while they sleep, they just up and disappear one evening and don’t come back. Imagine how much wild fruit must be growing on the scrub in the outback to support their immense numbers. Awesome, and I don’t like to use that word much. Crickets are loud here in the trees, and green ants crawl across my notebook, antenna waving. I broke a tooth a couple of days ago. I had to wait a couple of days for the traveling dentist to come to town, but he was willing to make way for a traveler, and the cost was half what I would pay in the US.
We found Grace Newhaven here in town. Grace is the author of Bicycle Fish, a very helpful and popular web site here in Australia, for and about bicycle touring. He has been touring the NT and was looking for us also. We spent the evening talking touring and he is obviously very experienced. He has sun sensitivity, and dresses like I would imagine Lawrence of Arabia would dress, complete with beard. Wonderfully eccentric! Forgive me Grace, but coming from me that is a compliment. He has Claire working to collect information about the Plenty Highway, and the availability of water in Western Australia as we travel. Next day, after a much too short visit, we helped him get his bike on the bus for Alice Springs where he will continue touring to Uluru. We expect to see him again in Adelaide.
Refreshing taste of Green Tree Ants
I finally decided to eat a green tree ant. I’m told the Aborigines find them a delicacy. Bit of a tongue numbing experience when he bit me, and not as sweet as I expected. Very refreshing though, sort of lime flavored. I’ll be quicker to chew next time.
July 15, Kakadu, National Park. Didjabringabeeralong bush camp (real name). We took a bus tour from Katherine to this spectacular tropical park. The best was a boat tour of Yellow Waters and the South Alligator River. The huge sinuous critters you see plying the dark waters and lounging (lurking) on the shores are not alligators, but salt water crocks, a much larger and more dangerous animal. We saw five of them and identified fifteen new birds. The still waters reflected the sunset sky as we returned to the dock and the cries of roosting birds greeted us.
July 17. Darwin. After two days in Kakadu, we were dropped off at the MGM Grand hotel, not where we were staying, but where there was a free swing concert on an outdoor stage by the beach. An image stays with me: cool swing jazz in the stage, a quiet, fairly non-responsive audience sips Victoria Bitter stubbies on blankets. The sun silvers the bay, silhouettes palms and a line of Aborigines who trundle uptown, made insubstantial by the glare. And the music plays on.
We danced a couple, but nobody moved to join us so we went to the Sunday night market by the beach and ate hot Indonesian and cool tropical fruit. The next day we ran into Gary in the post office, went for tea to catch up on his travels. He will stay in Darwin for a week and then fly to Sydney for his brother’s surprise wedding, thus ending his journey to Perth, for now at least. I think he was a bit disappointed, and so were we, but family obligations are important