P is for Purnululu National Park (WA)

a-to-z-letters-p

P is for PURNULULU 

Today’s travel excursion takes us over the Territory’s western border to the Kimberley region of Western Australia and Purnululu National Park, more commonly known as the Bungle Bungles. Accessible by a rough 4WD track this site is justifiably famous for its amazing rock formations and wilderness. When my daughter and I drove in some years ago, there were a number of casualties along the road –camper trailers with wrecked axles, cars with flat tyres etc.

There is no resort there so you take in your own gear and take out your rubbish. If you don’t have a 4WD this wonderful site is inaccessible and you’re left with a small aircraft or helicopter flight as your only option. We chose to do that as well, making it my one and only helicopter flight, and what a great one it was! I’ll let the photos show you just how spectacular it is.

The distinctively striped domes of the Bungle Bungles.

The distinctively striped domes of the Bungle Bungles.

As well as the rock formations there are “hidden” waterholes providing shelter and serenity for the country’s original inhabitants, and its more recent visitors.

Seen from the air, the vastness and strangeness of this area is remarkable.

Seen from the air, the vastness and strangeness of this area is remarkable.

Those who have an interest in geology might be interested in a quick read here. It’s worth remembering that despite the relative youth of the nation of Australia, its Indigenous people have been here for over 50,000 years surviving in an often very unforgiving landscape.

A helicopter flight reveals the hidden canyons, waterways and domes of the national park.

A helicopter flight reveals the hidden canyons, waterways and domes of the national park.

Why Visit: To see a truly unusual natural feature and for a wilderness, rough camping experience. This is a seasonal location and can’t be visited in the summer months (the Wet Season).

FYI: There are a couple of maps on my A to Z planning post which will help you to pinpoint where today’s tourist spot is situated.

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

Prawn: don’t be difficult/silly or a pratt eg “don’t come the raw prawn with me”.

Pakapoo ticket* an indecipherable bit of writing.

Pav: short for pavlova, that delicious Aussie/Kiwi meringue dessert

Plonk: cheap wine or alcohol

Pommy: an Englishman (apologies to my northern hemisphere mates!)

Possie: a position/place: somewhere good to sit or eat or camp etc (we got a good possie where we could see the stage at the Xmas carols)

Prang: a car accident (not a major crash) “the kids pranged the car again”.

Why not check in tomorrow to see where Q will take us?

This water channel gives some idea of the force of the Wet Season's rains.

This water channel gives some idea of the force of the Wet Season’s rains.

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O is for the Olgas ( Kata Tjuta) and Open Gardens

O is for the OLGAS

The Olgas or Kata Tjuta, as this rock formation is now known, is part of the Uluru- Kata Tjuta National Park. Kata Tjuta’s more famous big sister tends to take the highest profile but if you’re heading for the Red Centre you should allow time to do both parts of the park. This national park is truly Australia’s red heart and is smack bang in the middle of the country and probably encapsulates the sense of the Outback more than anywhere else.

The Olgas from a distance. ©Pauleen Cass 1994

The Olgas from a distance. ©Pauleen Cass 1994

Kata Tjuta is all curves as each rocky dune looms against the vivid blue of the desert sky. The contrasting colours are magnificent with the green of the Spinifex looking almost lime-coloured on film and in some light. It provides its own dot-painting effect against the vivid ochre red of the rock formation. Tucked among the rocks are hidden spots where the desert animals can live, survive and even thrive. A quiet bushwalker has the benefit of hearing the birds and may even see some creatures as well.

On the Valley of the Winds walk. ©Pauleen Cass 1994

On the Valley of the Winds walk. ©Pauleen Cass 1994

The track through the Valley of the Winds is peaceful and restorative, as well as tiring! This is certainly an experience best savoured in the cooler months of the year when overnight it can be decidedly chilly, especially in a tent or swag. Those hot summer months (about October to April) are best avoided as most people will find them unbearable. Do plan to hang around at the Olgas towards the end of the day so you can see the setting sun light the dunes with varying shades of pink and red. Just magnificent!

068 Kata Juta moonrise and sunset

O is for OPEN GARDENS

Welcome to the garden.

Welcome to the garden.

If you love gardens it’s always worth keeping an eye out for the local Open Gardens events   when you travel – they’re a great Opportunity to see new and different garden designs as well as plants you may not be familiar with.

The 2013 season Open Gardens NT commenced last weekend and we have a feast of Top End gardens to choose from throughout the Dry. It’s one of our favourite weekend activities to visit a garden and have a coffee and cake while soaking up the ambience. You can see my stories and photos from 2012 through this link.

Why visit: To see a unique natural wonder of Australia and the amazing colours, vegetation and animals of the Outback.

FYI: There are a couple of maps on my A to Z planning post which will help you to pinpoint where today’s tourist spots are situated

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

On the turps: big drinking session

Old mate: A NT special gradually soaking into the vernacular elsewhere. A generic expression meaning, roughly, bloke, someone you don’t know. So old mate drove his (Land) Cruiser through the creek….

Outback: Australia’s vast interior. The iconic idea of Australia often completely unfamiliar to its many coastal dwellers. The people are typically unemotional and physically tough and laconic.

Ordinary: not the usual meaning of “normal” but also in the Aussie sense can mean sub-par, inferior, not much good. How’re ya going mate? Feeling a bit ordinary today…

I wonder where the letter P will take us tomorrow? How about back into the Kimberley?

N is for Ningaloo Reef and bucket lists

a-to-z-letters-nToday we’re heading off to the coast of Western Australia, almost to the south-western boundaries of the map I posted here, and about 1500kms from Darwin (at a guess). We first visited the area over 10 years ago and were stunned by just how beautiful the coastline is, and believe me, coming from a Queenslander that’s a big compliment.

You get your first taste-tempter of the magnificence of red cliffs, white sandy beaches and turquoise waters when you visit Broome and it is just stunning visually. However it’s subject to the usual tropical stinger risks during the months ending in “r” just as Darwin is. How do they know stingers can read…that’s what I want to know. Okay, yes they’re the months when it’s hot, hot, hot! (Did you know that stingers can kill, and even if they don’t they really, really hurt? We’re not talking jelly fish here…so don’t be a “ning-nong” and take chances).

The vivid colours of the Broome coast.

The vivid colours of the Broome coast.

Further south from Broome at Ningaloo Reef, this ceases to be an issue. Sharks (of the man-eating variety) remain a consideration almost everywhere on the coast so there’s no point worrying about them too much.  I suspect Ningaloo Reef is one of those places which may be better known overseas than it used to be in Australia. When we visited in 2001, international tourists were much more in evidence than Aussies, except the ubiquitous grey nomads (retirees touring the country in vans/tents etc).

Ningaloo coast

The crystal waters and white sand of the Ningaloo coast.

Just imagine camping on the beachfront and looking out at this magnificent scene. A cold beer or wine, a book, your loved one, and “Bob’s your uncle”, you’ve got the perfect spot for a chill-out. The reef is relatively close to the beach so you can snorkel out to admire the coral and fish and generally have a wonderful time. At night the skies are smothered in stars, the Southern Cross, the Pointers and the broad dense sweep of the Milky Way, all glittering away from urban lights.

It was quite idyllic -until the wind blew a gale that night :-)

It was quite idyllic -until the wind blew a gale that night…

And that’s not all….there’s natural adventures in store as well, though this one does require you to splash the cash, and more importantly to be at Ningaloo in the critical migration months from April to July. Do you fancy swimming with the whale sharks? Huge creatures but not really dangerous because they’re plankton vacuum-ers not man-eaters, but boy are they big! Again we’d known nothing about them until we arrived and since it was the season it seemed important to “give it a go”.

I didn't get a photo of the whale sharks -too busy swimming -but this one in the Georgia Aquarium gives you a sense of scale.

I didn’t get a photo of the whale sharks -too busy swimming -but this one in the Georgia Aquarium gives you a sense of scale, and its beautiful patterning. Image from Wikipedia Commons.

As with the migration of the whales at Hervey Bay in Queensland, the boats work together to let each other know when a whale shark is spotted. There’s obviously a limit to how close the boat can go, so all fippered and masked up, off into the briny deep you leap swimming towards one of these creatures. Best to contain your imagination rather than think just how much ocean is under you, and what else might be swimming in it. Neither of those things bothered me personally but I rediscovered that snorkel masks make me claustrophobic so head down, boring through the water I very nearly ran into the whale shark! Did I mention how big his mouth is? They are amazing creatures, so huge, and they look like they’re barely moving, but try to swim to keep up and you soon find out differently. You can see a YouTube clip here to get a sense of scale (we also have our video of our swim).

Here comes lunch -fresh-caught Spanish Mackerel.

Here comes lunch: fresh-caught Spanish Mackerel.

This really is a great adventure for anyone who loves nature and I can highly recommend it. I’m unlikely to do it again unless I get past my mask-claustrophobia (I think due to chloroform when I was very young). But even if only one of you wants to do the swim, it’s still worth it. After the whale-shark-swim the team caught a large Spanish Mackeral which was on our plates within half an hour of being caught…the only time I’ve seen prawns ignored at a buffet.

Why visit: for the colourful magnificence of the scenery, for the perfect swimming and snorkelling and if you can, for the whale sharks. This is a bucket-list adventure, as is seeing the whales at Hervey Bay. Do it! You surely won’t regret it.

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

No worries/no problems: the ubiquitous Aussie response to being asked to do something or being thanked for doing something. “Think nothing of it” on the other hand is invariably sarcastic ie it really was a lot of trouble.

Nick: steal (kind of appropriate since Australia was founded on convicts who were banished for seven years or life, often for nicking something, not infrequently quite small).

 Narky: cranky, aggravated and somewhat bad tempered.

 Nana: No, not your grandmother, but “doing your nana” means “doing your block”, having a “hissy fit” or losing your temper. It’s pronounced like na-na.

 Ning nong: an idiotic or stupid person.

 I wonder where O will take us tomorrow.

M is for Mindil and to market, to market

a-to-z-letters-mM is for MARKETS: MINDIL BEACH and PARAP

I don’t know about you but I love visiting markets when I’m travelling though I can’t say  buying a fat pig is a prime objective. Without a doubt the markets in the Top End are one of its major tourist attractions. Not that this is the exclusive province of the Territory, or indeed to the Darwin area, as you’ll find wonderful markets in the north of Queensland as well as in Broome in Western Australia.

However Darwin’s varied markets are certainly full of fun and a great passion of the local foodies as well as the tourists. Being so close to Asia, the culinary influences are very evident and there are times you might even think you’ve been transported (ha ha, Aussie convict joke).

Breakfast, brunch or lunch, Parap Market has what you want.

Breakfast, brunch or lunch, Parap Market has what you want.

Mindil Beach is the most popular of the tourist markets even though it’s only on during the Dry Season months, usually commencing on the Thursday evening closest to Anzac Day, 25th April. It can be a veritable Babel with chatter in innumerable languages and almost as many food choices as well.DSC_0603

My own preference is for Parap Markets so all the photos are from there but you’ll see most of the same stalls at both places. Somewhere I have photos of Mindil, but where, that is the question.

Food is the dominant attraction and it’s a cheap place to have a night out with friends (BYO chair, wine etc) and you get another of those Darwin sunsets thrown in for good measure. The glitter of flashbulbs is enough to make you think the paparazzi have hit town. What would you like to eat? From Cambodian dishes to Dutch poffertjes, Thai temptations, Japanese Ramen or Vietnamese snacks, you won’t be disappointed.DSC_1015

Do as the locals do and match your meal or snack with a delicious tropical fruit smoothie…how about mango, pineapple and lime? The young ladies on the smoothie stalls run non-stop for the whole time the markets are on and if you could bottle their serving and order skills Darwin wouldn’t have the dubious reputation it often has for restaurant wait-staff.

Your choice of fresh fruit drink...always popular.

Your choice of fresh fruit drink…always popular.

And since it’s tourist central during the Dry there’s also lots of local crafts like fragrant frangipani soap or crocodile skin belts not to mention the whip-cracker who delights the audiences, or the jewellery and sarong stalls.

I loved this stall with butterfly craft.

I loved this stall with butterfly craft.

There’s inevitably a didgeridoo player to give some local atmosphere. No wonder people enjoy themselves. You may even find some quality Aboriginal craft like the baskets and weavings (below), which I photographed last Saturday with permission. Not inexpensive but there’s a lot of work in these.DSC_0575

The local Parap Markets on Saturday mornings are my favourite, hands down, a manageable size and not so touristy or crowded. Are you after breakfast, brunch, or lunch? You can pick up a samosa, a sushi, laksa, stir-fries or satays on sticks cooked over coals, and those fruit smoothies.

Delicious satays cooked over coals as you wait.

Delicious satays cooked over coals as you wait.

Grab a bunch of beautiful tropical flower for a pittance to liven up your hotel room if you’re here for a few days. Do as the locals do and have a crepe delight from Ken’s Crepes.

Buy a bunch of tropical flowers for under $10.

Buy a bunch of tropical flowers for under $10.

Shop around the many little local craft stalls…lots of souvenirs to be found and you’ll probably find that perfect gift for someone at home, or even for yourself. If you’re staying somewhere self-contained you may even want to buy some tropical fruit and Asian vegetables so you can cook up a storm.

Need to find some tropical clothes? They're here in abundance.

Need to find some tropical clothes? They’re here in abundance.

While you’re at Parap, wander round to Parap Fine Foods, Darwin’s iconic deli with delicious treats in store. 

Love the colours!

Love the colours!

Rapid Creek markets on Sunday mornings are a great place to check out the diversity of Asian fruit and vegetables especially if you’re unfamiliar with them. Don’t forget to take the camera and get some photos while you’re there.

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Why visit: to mix it with the locals, get a great feed at a great price, see the sunset (Mindil) and just plain have fun!

I was tempted to venture down the track to Mataranka or further still to the McDonnell Ranges, for the letter M but I thought you might find the markets more fun.

FYI: There are a couple of maps on my A to Z planning post which will help you to pinpoint where today’s tourist spots are situated.

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

 Mickey Mouse: Unlike the American version (as I understand it), this is rhyming slang for “grouse” and so means something is great, rather than that it’s cheap and rubbishy.

Mad as a cut snake: truly cranky and annoyed.

Mongrel: a nasty unpleasant person ( a worse insult than “bastard” I reckon)

Mate: the ubiquitous Aussie greeting for another person. Increasingly in recent years it includes women. It’s also the ultimate compliment defining a friendship of great loyalty. “G’day mate, how’re you goin’?“  or “He’s my best mate” or “you’ve got to stick by your mates”.

Misery guts: an unhappy, often whingeing person

Magpie: someone who collects bits and pieces (alternatively “bower bird” might be used, both after two Australian birds).

 Mate’s rates: either an official or unofficial price for a friend or perhaps even a local resident.

 Mozzie: aka a mosquito –definitely a word you need in the northern, tropical half of Australia.

 Matilda: a swag, as used by a swaggie (itinerant person looking for work) rather than the modern day camping version. Famously in our unofficial anthem Waltzing Matilda, there are variants depending on which state you come from, but since it started in Queensland I reckon that version has precedence.

Tomorrow’s excursion will take us over to the blue waters off the west coast of Australia…where is it?

L is a long reach into Queensland

RIDING RIGHT ON INTO QUEENSLAND TO…. (in the words of a Ted Egan song)

Brolgas near Avon Downs © Pauleen Cass 2011

Brolgas near Avon Downs © Pauleen Cass 2011

Just for once, today we’re going to head east from the Northern Territory, into Queensland (Qld). Our drive will take us 1000 klicks down the Stuart Highway where perhaps you overnighted at the Three Ways or the Barkly Homestead. Next morning you can take a left turn and head east across  the long open stretch of savannah grasslands that is the Barkly Tableland.

If you like bird-watching, keep an eye out for billabongs and rivers…on our last trip we saw several brolgas who honked madly (strange sound) as they flew away. You’ll be very glad to see those Qld-NT border signs and the rather quaint little town of Camooweal with its old store and the local pub with its wide-verandahs, not to mention that boring old fuel stop and facilities break.

Refueled and revitalised you can now journey on the next stage into the outback towns of Queensland but maybe you’ll want another overnighter: Mt Isa (mining) or Cloncurry? I’m always intrigued to see the similarity between some of the rock formations near Cloncurry and those around Alice Springs. I wonder what ancient geographical event produced those similarities between places so distant from each other?

Taken just south of Cloncurry, Qld this is so evocative of central Oz and the Kimberley.

Taken just south of Cloncurry, Qld this is so evocative of central Oz and the Kimberley. From a distance it can look like a pointillist painting.

Which all begs the question, where are we going and why? Why Longreach of course!

And what’s the big deal about Longreach?

 L is for LONGREACH

Longreach has several claims to fame. As a family historian it’s important to me because my Irish McSherry family lived there for a number of years and I’ve recently learned my great-grandfather was instrumental (ha ha) in establishing the Longreach Brass Band, not to mention the Hibernian Society.

Mr Cassmob has a fascination with flying boats since he flew on Catalinas ex Samarai in the 1960s.

Mr Cassmob has a fascination with flying boats since he flew on Catalinas ex Samarai in the 1960s.

Of course none of you could remotely care about that, but there are plenty of reasons for the tourist to stop for a day or two in Longreach. It’s the place where Australia’s iconic national airline, QANTAS (Queensland and Northern Territory Aerial Service) was established. There’s now a wonderful museum/centre there which if you’re an aviation fiend, you will find riveting. Judging on the queues, the possibility of touring through the on-ground Boeing 747 and 707 is a major attraction for the non-aviation-nuts.

The replica de Havilland D50...isn't she pretty? You can read more here http://www.qfom.com.au/dh50.html

The replica de Havilland D50…isn’t she pretty? You can read more here http://www.qfom.com.au/dh50.html

The other massively important place to visit is the Stockman’s Hall of Fame. If you’ve ever been intrigued by the outback and its legends, or want to learn more about the people who helped develop the outback, this is the place for you. When we first visited nearly 20 years ago we’d been listening to tapes (yes, I know!) of Ted Egan, the Territory’s balladeer as well as former Administrator (think Governor). It was sort of weird to recognise the stories of all these famous stockmen, and women, and then to hear his songs in some of the theatres. One of his great stories is about famous stockman and cattle thief, Harry Redmond aka Captain Starlight. It’s a great yarn which you can read a bit more about here if you’re so inclined.

The Stockman's Hall of Fame in Longreach, Qld

The Stockman’s Hall of Fame in Longreach, Qld

Peter McSherry BW-1And while you’re in Longreach, why not have a look at the old railway station – you might even see Peter McSherry’s ghost.

Why visit: to get a real sense of the Australian outback as you travel vast distances and then to learn how those distances were overcome by the early settlers and aviators.

 FYI: There are a couple of maps on my A to Z planning post which will help you to pinpoint where today’s tourist spots are situated, except in this case where I changed my mind about the post. Longreach is very roughly where a line drawn down from the word “Queensland” and across from “Northern Territory” would meet.

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

Lip : no, not those kissing things on your mouth! Rather someone who gives a lot of cheek or is impertinent. Eg Don’t give me any lip young man (to a small boy)

Long drink of water: again, not what you’d think….this means a tall, skinny person. He was a long drink of water.

Lucky legs: someone with legs so skinny they look like they’ll break off in which case they’re lucky….(have I mentioned how rude Aussie vernacular is?)

Long paddock: the long stretches of grasses outside the fences of properties or cattle stations, public property, used to feed cattle when on the move but especially in times of drought and a way of keep the animals alive.

Long grassers: rather a Northern Territory special this one. Long grassers are homeless people who live in the bush or parks around the place. The consistently warm weather here means they don’t need to huddle in doorways as they do in colder climates, except perhaps when it’s pouring with rain. It’s also important to know that Australia has public benefits ($, housing, health) which make it (comparatively) unnecessary for people to live this way but as with other places you will find surprising people living rough…”there but for the grace of God”.

Laid back: supposed to be the definition of an Aussie, along with their speech which is laconic. Actually Aussies are nowhere near as laid back and lackadaisical as their reputation suggests -surely all those British employers of Aussie backpackers can’t be wrong <smile>

 Larrikin: Someone who’s often up to mild mischief, fun and cheeky.

 Lead foot: Plenty of these in the Northern Territory where we used to have an open speed limit on the distance roads. Even now our speed limit there is 130kph compared with the max elsewhere of 110.

Lair: Someone who dresses to get attention,  a “flash Harry”,

Lousy: nothing to do with bugs, this is someone who is mean with money or goods. “He wouldn’t give you 20 cents he’s so lousy”.

Leak: to urinate (men), regularly heard among the blokes at the bar.

 Limp fish: weak ….he’s got a handshake like a limp fish.

I wonder where the letter M will take us on Monday?

K causes a kerfuffle

a-to-z-letters-kRather than inundate readers I’ve tried to be selective in which places we visit, balancing those that are a bit unusual with the ones most tourist will visit. Today’s choices were “Konflicting” and caused a kerfuffle in my decision-making, so it’s a quick “plug” for each of them.

KATHERINE GORGE (Nitmiluk)

Katherine Gorge is one of the Territory’s iconic sights. The gorge winds through rocky cliffs and progressively narrows. Adventurous travellers can opt to canoe the gorge, and there are levels of access to the famous cruises as well, depending on the individual’s fitness and mobility. Even if you can’t clamber over the rocks that lead between the different levels you will still enjoy your peaceful outing.  Energetic bushwalkers also love the gorge and Nitmiluk national park as there are some great bush walks there….or so I’m told…don’t look to me for advice on that, I’m afraid!083 Katherine Gorge small res

It gets very hot on those rocks, whatever the season, so make sure you,  “slip, slop, slap”  to use one of our iconic Aussie-isms, ie slip on a shirt, slop on some sun cream and slap on a hat”.

084 Katherine Gorge canoe small edit_edited-1

Katherine itself is a mixed bag and many visitors find it rather confronting at times. You’d be wise to stay away from the pubs or you might wind up with a knuckle sandwich. Katherine’s about 300kms south of Darwin. Alternatively if you’re heading north, there’s another three hour drive ahead of you (unless it’s the Dry Season and the highway is inundated with slow-moving caravans –once we counted 100 on that leg of the journey…ugh!!).

Unless you’re “head down, bum up” as we say, I suggest you also stop and look at nearby Edith Falls which is a pretty place for a swim and has a pleasant camping area. In fact you may even prefer this to staying in town. Of course if you’ve won the Lotto or want to splash the cash, you might enjoy the new upmarket resort right in the heart of Nitmiluk.

K is for KIMBERLEY

The Kimberley is the vast top corner of Western Australia. When you cross the NT-WA border you are in the Kimberley and will be notching up the klicks as you travel. It’s spectacular, rugged country with great scenery and wonderful sites to visit, some of which you’ll tour here.

From the red rocks and pointillist vegetation...

From the red rocks and pointillist vegetation…

...to the vivid colours of the Kimberley coast at Broome.

…to the vivid colours of the Kimberley coast at Broome.

K is also for KALKARINGI

If you want to take a different route to the Kimberley you can always head out of Katherine on the Buchanan highway then take a left turn heading down the Buntine Highway. This takes you to Halls Creek via Kalkaringi. Until you reach Kalkaringi the road is bitumen but beyond that it’s unsurfaced and variable depending on when the grader went through last. You can’t overnight at Kalkaringi because it’s an Aboriginal community (with a very famous history for gaining equal pay for Aboriginal stockmen) but you might enjoy visiting their Karungkarni Art gallery (pre-booking is probably a good idea).

The wide open spaces near Kalkaringi from a "secret squirrel" spot.

The wide open spaces near Kalkaringi from a “secret squirrel” spot.

Here’s a photo of some of their artists at last year’s Indigenous Art Show in Darwin. After the long drive by the time you get to Halls Creek you may well be knackered, unless you choose to camp somewhere along the way. Fuel opportunities are limited so make sure you have sufficient to go the distance.

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FYI: Don’t forget, there are a couple of maps on my A to Z planning post which will help you to pinpoint where today’s tourist spots are situated.

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

Kiwi: a New Zealander (after their unique bird)

Knackered: exhausted, worn out from working

Knock off: another one that has to be judged by context: (1) knock off work=to finish for the day; (2) knock-off= a copy eg a dress or an idea/concept

Knocker: someone who has to put everything/everyone down

Kerfuffle: a fuss, bother, fight etc

Kaput: finished, broken permanently

Knickers in a knot: don’t get in a fuss “don’t get your knickers in a knot”

Klicks: short for kilometres, you’ll have done a lot of klicks if you were driving to all my touring spots.

Knuckle sandwich: a punch in the mouth (hence why it’s better to stay out of some pubs)

J is jumping into Jabiru

a-to-z-letters-jJ is for JABIRU

Jabiru is both the name of a bird and also a town in the Kakadu National Park. It’s a stopping point into Arnhem Land, that vast stone country on the eastern side of the Territory’s Top End. It’s also famous, or infamous, depending on your point of view for its uranium mines, Ranger (about to close) and Jabiluka. This link reveals why the local people opposed the white man’s mines for their encroachment into sacred sites and dreamtime storylines. They also knew that some areas were “sickness” areas which they avoided, and these are closely linked with the presence of uranium. Of course many balanda (white people) also oppose uranium mining for its land destruction and its risks.

A Jabiru in a run-off near Jabiru, March 2013. © Pauleen Cass

A Jabiru in a run-off near Jabiru, March 2013. © Pauleen Cass

Jabiru township services the local community and provides health services as well as general facilities such as a small supermarket. It also hosts the Holiday Inn Crocodile Hotel, famous for the fact that it is constructed in the shape of a croc, with its legs providing the steps to different floors and its glowing red eyes at night. Of itself the town is not especially photogenic, so today I’ll be showing you photos of some of the places I mention.

All the sites I mentioned in the C for Cooinda post are easily accessible from Jabiru and a standard vehicle will serve to visit them. You only need 4WD for some of the more challenging places like Jim Jim Falls, Twin Falls or Koolpin Gorge. Although cut off by heavy rain and flooding during the Wet Season, one of Kakadu’s more imposing sites is most easily accessible from Jabiru and that’s Ubirr, home of wonderful Aboriginal rock art dating back thousands of years.

Views of the escarpment. © Pauleen Cass

Views of the escarpment. © Pauleen Cass

Visitors are inspired to see the open-fronted caves where the Indigenous people sheltered during the Wet Season, or Gudjewg in their language, living their lives, sharing culture, and their kinship stories. It’s also inspiring to look out over the vast flood plains, from the top of Ubirr, and to watch a tropical sunset colour the land and turn the colour of the rocks.

If you’re visiting during the Wet (or Dry) you can also do a boat cruise with Gulumyambi Cultural tours (a different perspective from the Yellow Waters cruise) which teaches you more about Aboriginal culture and life as well as giving you an opportunity to see Ubirr in the Wet and to visit a tiny portion of Arnhem Land. I notice the tours get rave reviews on Trip Advisor too.

Jim Jim Falls near Xmas 1998 in full flood. Photo taken on a scenic flight. © Pauleen Cass

Jim Jim Falls near Xmas 1998 in full flood. Photo taken on a scenic flight. © Pauleen Cass

Kakadu touring can be slightly more limited during the Wet as some touring options are cut off by flooding or higher crocodile risks, but there’s a way around this if your budget stretches to it. Why not take a short flight from Jabiru’s airport? In a heavy Wet this is a great way to see the powering drama of Jim Jim Falls in full flow (by the time the road’s accessible, the impact of the waterfall has diminished), and you will also get a quick view of the uranium mines. Most importantly what you will get is a view over the stone country of Arnhem Land, the completely different sense of place from the open bush and floodplains that you see from your vehicle.

On your drive into or away from Jabiru, do stop and have a look at the floodplains, lotus flowers and waterlilies and birds at Mamukala Wetlands, especially in the Dry tourist season as the birds congregate here when other waterholes dry up. You can see my waterlily photos from April 2012 here.

Mamukala Wetlands

Mamukala Wetlands

Why visit: as a base for your touring, to see the art at Ubirr and the views of sunlit floodplains, and if possible, to take a flight over the escarpment.

FYI: There are a couple of maps on my A to Z planning post which will help you to pinpoint where today’s tourist spots are situated.

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

We’re a bit light-on for J Aussie-isms.

Jaffle: a sandwich made with a particular cooking implement, that toasts the bread and contains the filling (cheese/egg/ham/tomato or chop all of them together). Delicious over a camp fire. I inherited my jaffle iron from my grandmother many years ago.

Jackaroo (male) or Jillaroo (female): a novice working on a cattle property. This definition says in training for management but I’ve always thought it was about “learning the ropes” at a grass roots level.

Jag: manage to get something (more or less by luck) eg “I jagged a good spot at the outdoor concert”

Jake:  it’s all good, “she’s jake mate”

Joker: a man, usually a bit of an idiot/said disparagingly, but sometimes just means “some bloke” eg “That joker over there”.

Joey:  a baby kangaroo in the pouch, or a small one that’s progressed out of the pouch.

Take a gander at Geikie Gorge (Djarnku)

a-to-z-letters-gG is for GEIKIE GORGE

On today’s jaunt we’re heading across the Northern Territory-Western Australia border and further west through the Kimberley region to Geikie Gorge or Darngku, about 1500kms. One important thing to remember if you’re heading in this direction is that there are quarantine restrictions on honey, fruit and vegetables, so don’t stock up in Katherine or Darwin before you head off –wait until you get to Kununurra.

The gorge is part of an ancient reef formed in the Devonian period, 360 million years ago. I’m sure you realise I didn’t have this information at the top of my mind and you can learn more about it on this site. The Fitzroy River runs through the gorge and this is where you can take the opportunity for a relaxed boat tour run by the local Aboriginal guides. We did the late afternoon cruise on a camping trip through WA over ten years ago so my memory is hazier than it might otherwise be.

The reflected colours of Geike Gorge near sunset. © Pauleen Cass 2001

The reflected colours of GeikIe Gorge near sunset. © Pauleen Cass 2001

Geike Gorge rocks_smaller

The power of the flooded river on the rocks.

A lasting memory for us is that on our drive back into the town of Fitzroy Crossing where we were camping, we hit a wallaby which the tour guide kindly finished off for the wimpy urbanites. Its leg was broken and it wouldn’t have survived, rather died a painful death as the whistling kites (hawks) were already circling. At least this way it was able to be taken home to be bush tucker for the mob that night.

Ancient rocks compressed.

Ancient rocks compressed.

While in Fitzroy Crossing it’s also worth looking to see what Indigenous art they have for sale at the Mangkaja Arts Centre. The Kimberley is an area of spectacular natural beauty and vivid colours and their art reflects this. There are Indigenous galleries and arts centre scattered through the Northern Territory and I can highly recommend that you at least visit, even if the prices sometimes frighten you half to death. You might be surprised and find something you love in your price range. Certainly they’ve become valuable art investments in the recent decades.

 Why visit: to see some amazing geological formations, a chilled-out boat cruise and a look at fantastic art.

FYI: There are a couple of maps on my A to Z planning post which will help you to pinpoint where today’s tourist spots are situated.

 TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

 G’Day: The iconic Aussie greeting meaning “good day” but apparently remarkably difficult for non-Aussies to replicate.

Gander: take a look

 Galoot*: a silly person.

 Grouse: fabulous, fantastic

Galah: actually a pink and grey bird which tends to do silly things like somersaults on the power lines. When used in relation to a person it also means silly.

 Gurgler: drain eg “that’s money down the gurgler” or “all my hard work down the gurgler”

 Gunna: Aussies have a habit of shortening phrases and names, and just plain slurring their words. Gunna is the equivalent of “going to” or a person who’s also intending to do something but not delivering. He shoulda fixed the car this week but he’s a bit of a gunna.

 Glad rags: fancy clothes. “She must be going somewhere flash, she’s got her glad rags on.”

Garbo: garbage man. Once upon a time he’d jump off the truck, grab the bin, hoist it on his shoulder then run to the truck with it. These days it’s fairly a08utomated with “claws” on the trucks to pick up the wheelie-bins. In rural areas however (see tomorrow), the residents have to take their own rubbish to the tip.

Please visit again tomorrow for an outing a bit closer to Darwin, the rural area with the quaint name, Humpty Doo.

D is for dallying in Daly Waters and the Devil’s Marbles

a-to-z-letters-dToday we’re going to head off down the Stuart Highway, the road that bisects the Northern Territory, north to south. You’ll hear about it a bit more later in the series, but suffice to say the distances are vast. Although there’s a tendency to have one’s motoring head down and notch up the kilometres, there are a couple of breaks worth taking along the way.

DALY WATERS

Around the 600km mark you can take a short right hand detour to Daly Waters. The historic Daly Waters pub is the sort you see in old movies of Australia….timber with a metal roof to flex in the heat and bougainvillea growing up to the roof. Inside, like every bush bar in the Territory, you’ll find quirky displays: in some it’s number plates, in one it’s cop’s badges, others have hats, caps or buffalo horns not to mention undies or foreign currency notes, and some like the Daly Waters pub include all of them!  There’s a great website hosted by the pub so I suggest you go for a short journey over there. I was very interested to learn of the role of the Daly Waters airstrip in early international flying from Australia to the UK.

Bush Pub Daly Waters

Fans of Bill Bryson’s books may have already encountered today’s D places in his book Down Under. Chapters 15 and 16 nicely account for Darwin, Daly Waters and the Devil’s Marbles. I love Bryson’s irreverent sense of humour and his search for a hotel in Darwin was truly (and aptly) hilarious, as is his story of an evening spent boozing in the Daly Waters pub.

If walls could indeed talk then the pub’s bar would have amazing stories to tell of travellers and tourists, soldiers and drovers. Standing at the entry to the treacherous Murranji Track, one of the fierce cross-country droving tracks, there’d have been many hard-bitten drinkers knock “a few” back at the bar before setting forth (always assuming the boss drover let them near the pub I suppose). Ted Egan, former Administrator of the Territory and a bush balladeer sings a song called “Old Paraway” which talks of these hardy cattle men.

Why visit: To get a taste of outback life, see a quirky pub and have a cold drink.

FYI: There’s are a couple of maps on my A to Z planning post which will help you to pinpoint where today’s tourist spots are situated.

A road train near the Daly Waters highway stop. This one is carrying petrol but cattle are moved in equally long road trains. Droving over vast distances is no longer economical.

A road train near the Daly Waters highway stop. This one is carrying petrol but cattle are moved in equally long road trains. Droving over vast distances is no longer economical.

DEVIL’S MARBLES

If you don’t have your mind set on getting to Queensland, you might choose to have a stop-over in the Three Ways or Tennant Creek and from there visit the Devil’s Marbles, now known as Karlu Karlu National Park. I think it’s the contrast between the ochre of the rocks against a clear blue Territory sky that impresses visitors but for Indigenous people it has a broader meaning over centuries of journeying.

From the Devil’s Marbles you’re a mere “stone’s throw” to Alice Springs with under 400kms to drive.

Why Visit: To see a natural wonder.

FYI: There are a couple of maps on my A to Z planning post which will help you to pinpoint where today’s tourist spots are situated.

Devil's Marbles© Pauleen Cass 1994

Devil’s Marbles
© Pauleen Cass 1994

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

First horse out of the gate today just has to be drover given their importance to this country.

Drover: a person (previously mostly men) who moves big mobs of cattle across vast areas of land either to take up new settlement or to take the mob to the saleyards. Other places may call them cowboys but we don’t!! You can read about them more here. These days the drover is a dying profession as road trains transport live cattle to export.

Dunny: toilet, particularly an outdoor long-drop toilet complete with spiders. These used to be in back yards prior to the installation of sewerage systems. Old Aussie “curse”….”May your chooks turn into emus and kick your dunny down!”

Dump: a multi-purpose word. A house might be a “dump” (not worth living in), a teenager’s bedroom might be a dump (stuff flung everywhere) or you might “dump on” someone (mock or mildly insult them or give them too much to do). For example, the teenager cleared up his dump of a bedroom then dumped all his clothes on mum to have them washed.

Desert pee: our family’s name for a facilities-free toilet break. When you do all these bush drives, there’s not always a toilet around when you need one, especially if you’ve been drinking lots of coffee to stay alert. Named after the flower Desert Pea.

Done like a dog’s dinner: Completely destroyed/ demolished or wiped out. Or perhaps just taken out of action by someone else’s behaviour.

 Drongo*: a stupid or silly person. While judgemental it’s not meant as a particularly nasty insult, rather in a “you’re hopeless” tone.

 Dinkum: True Blue/Ridgey Didge or Fair Dinkum all mean much the same thing: a person who is the genuine article and reliable. Sometimes used as a patriotic term.

 Dead as a dodo: the issue is finished, there’s no hope for it to be resuscitated in the future eg a person’s plans.

Tomorrow we’re back in Darwin, looking at some of its historic military history and a relaxing spot for a barbie.