A hop, skip and a jump south of Bali and I find myself in the city of Darwin, the capital of Australia’s Northern Territory. My flight out of Bali was an emotional one. It marked my separation from Asia, which had been my home over the past 18 months. Australia would mark the end of my life in cities I didn’t understand, people that I could not communicate with…I was now returning back to Anglo Western culture.
I arrived in Darwin at some insane ungodly hour. It must have been 3am or something…I was greeted by the airport shuttle bus woman who was a chain smoker and had the thickest bogan (aka white trash Outback) accent. I was dropped off in “downtown” Darwin to discover that my hostel was locked up! I hopped over to the adjacent hostel who let me in and said I could sleep on their pool lawn chair until 7am when my hostel opened up for business. My first memories of Australia where trying to sleep on a lawn chair while staring up at a full moon and wondering if any poisonous critters were lurking in the dark.
After an annoyingly irritating “nap under the stars,” I was awakened by the early morning sun. I dragged myself across the street and checked into my hostel. The girl who checked me in was a SIGHT to behold. She also sounded incredibly “hick’ish” and it became very clear to me that the many jokes about Darwin are well deserved. People in Darwin don’t exactly go to the Opera…these folks hunt kangaroos for fun and ride 4×4’s to the Bottle O’ (liquor store).
After a well deserved morning nap I woke myself up and walked around downtown Darwin. I visited the parliament and enjoyed their free internet access. I then walked back into town and dedicated my afternoon to organizing a tour of Kakadu National Park. I spent the evening hiding in my hostel from the intense tropical rains which thrashed on the streets. I found myself clinging to the book in my hand. For some reason I was scared to talk to all of these Anglophones. I think I had become so used to being the unique English speaking white man that being surrounded by Anglophones for the first time in ages I actually started to cave a bit. I woke up early the next morning (you know at the crack of dawn, before the sun came up…the insane hour that all travel excursions start).
My guide for the day was a fat Aussie with a thick accent who was decked out entirely in khakis cargo attire. We would leave Darwin before sunrise and arrive back in town after the sun had set. It was going to be a long day.
Kakadu National Park is located 170 km east of Darwin. The name Kakadu comes from an aboriginal floodplain language called Gagudju. Kakadu is the largest National Park in Australia, containing 1,980,400 hectares of land (roughly the size of Israel) and contains one of the highest concentrated areas of aboriginal rock art sites in the world; the most famous examples are at Nourlangie Rock and Ubirr. Nature and wildlife abound in this area, which is known for its level of biodiversity. Wholly aboriginal owned land featuring towering escarpments, wild coastline, savannah woodlands, lush wetlands and prolific wildlife.
On our way to Kakadu we stopped at a famous little outpost that for many years has been a rest stop for those commuting through the Outback. The place was decked out with aboriginal art work and plenty of taxidermy animals. Once at the Park we visited the Park’s most famous aboriginal cave paintings and did a wee hike to view a few of the areas beautiful mountain peaks. We then headed to the Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre which helped paint a picture of this areas spiritual and cultural history to its Aboriginal peoples. Our last excursion had us hopping on a river boat where we spent the next two hours puttering through the Parks famous wetlands where we encountered a wild array of odd looking birds and crocodiles.
After a hot sweaty day of exploration of the natural world I was eager to hop back in my air conditioned bus for the six hour bus ride back to Darwin. We sped along the highway and as the sun was setting I witnessed one of the most beautiful sun sets! We were zooming across land which was as flat as a pancake and wild on both sides. To my left I could see a purple, crimson red and orange sun setting behind a boldly blue cloud. To my right I could see a massive thundercloud thousands of miles away. I stared at it intently watching as a blanket of rain sped across the Northern Territory…and followed me all the way home to the little town of Darwin.