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.

DSC_1022

DSC_0598

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?

Sunday Synopsis 14 April 2013: A to Z Challenge

A2Z-2013-BADGE-001Small_zps669396f9 (1)Whew, don’t know about you but I started this week on top of the A to Z then it all went downhill with computer problems and other commitments. With so many blogs in the challenge this year it’s certainly a challenge to try to visit a representative sample. I confess there are some that don’t “speak” to me (eg fantasy writing) but then I figure there’ll be others who are right into them.

My Pick of the Week for the past week: Raising the curtain (a serious look at life with a humorous twist)

 I’ve been steadily adding favourite blogs to my Google Reader subscriptions so they’re easy to keep up with.

Here are some of the other A to Zers who I visited this week and enjoyed (if you missed last week’s list why not go and have a look): 

Life’s ride as I see it (motor bike fan on life)

My Rite of Passage (creative writing strategies)

Tossing it out (host Arlee Bird’s posts on music themes)

Tattered Past (Arizona history)

Inspired Life

Lizy Expat Writer

Creative Fog (food and travel)

Kat’s Retirement Journey

Sandy Sanderella’s Musings (as it says, musings etc)

Bob’s Home for Writing
Peanut Butter and Whine (great stories of life and grandchildren and some fabulous art work)
Raising the curtain (a serious yet humorous look at life)

My morning cup of coffee (another addict!)
Travel Bug

Quirkster (photos and travel)(look under Misc tab)

Life is good (co-host Tina writes of her adventures as an immigrant child, leavened with humour).

Where Nature Presides –Kuantan (satellite images around the world)

Silvia Writes (about life)

A2ZMommy and what’s in between (all things ice cream)

Whole Foods Living (healthy vegetable ingredients)

A write a day

Yum! Food Blog

 And a couple of non-“A to Z” blogs I happened across and found interesting:

Diary of a Retiree (great travel photos)

Outnumbered (nice recipes)

I hope you’ve all had a good week blogging and visiting and that this week is productive. We’ve hit the half-way mark, we can make it to the end!!

Thanks to all those who’ve visited my blog, those who’ve commented, and especially those who’ve chosen to follow me.

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.

270px-Kimberley

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.

I is for Indigenous Australians

I is for INDIGENOUS AUSTRALIANS

First off, my apologies but there will be no photographs today as it’s inappropriate to include personal photos here without permission. You might wish to read some of my earlier posts which include references to Indigenous Australians‘ music, history and art.

Like any colonised country, Australia has its indigenous inhabitants, and here they are either Aborigines or Torres Strait Islanders (ATSI). The popular perception is that Australia is a young country but in fact it’s geographically ancient and the Aboriginal peoples have lived here for at least 40,000 years. Given the country’s demanding geography and climate the people became proficient at adapting to their specific environment, gaining an astonishing knowledge of plants and their uses and how to survive in the harshest areas.

Although not nomadic, the Aborigines did move around to some extent with different weather conditions. Their religious structures were built into the story of the landscape and each area has its own Dreamtime story of creation. There were, and still are, complex kinship structures and rules for interacting between kin as well as between tribal groups. You can see the vast array of different groups on this interactive map.

The assumption by the colonisers was that the land was empty and because the Aboriginal peoples were living in an extremely challenging land with climatic extremes they did not live in what the British regarded as settled communities, and there was no evidence of agriculture or building. Not that it would probably have mattered much if they had anyway, after all the British needed to find a new place to “dump” all those convicts whom they could no longer send to the Americas. As with most frontier stories there are many ugly elements from the earliest years with repercussions until today.

Aboriginal Australians, like most colonised peoples, have suffered many injustices, legislatively and more broadly, and were not given the same entitlements as other Australians until the 1960s and 1970s. Their health and education statistics remain significantly worse than for the rest of Australia as do their mortality figures. They have also suffered the removal of children (known as the Stolen Generations) for which Kevin Rudd, then Prime Minister, apologised in 2008. Government strategies to “Close the Gap” remain largely unsuccessful. The complexity of finding a solution to the problems has vexed researchers and governments for many years.

Some of this background is essential for the tourist because even those from Australia’s eastern states will find it unusual to see as many Indigenous Australians, and in many ways the ones they will see are the dispossessed, the long-grassers and homeless, who may have been evicted from their home communities because of excess alcohol consumption or drug abuse, making it confronting to urban Australians in particular.

The Northern Territory has 210,000 Aboriginal Australians and 31.8% of its population is Indigenous. Many travellers take the opportunity to learn more about Indigenous culture and history while visiting the northern half of Australia, either by visits to the various Aboriginal communities, to art galleries or through National Park rangers or centres like the Warradjan Cultural Centre near Cooinda.  Tours are available to places like the Tiwi Islands (a fabulous place to visit) or perhaps a trip to Peppimenarti to look at their art.

It’s also important to realise that many Aboriginal communities are closed to visitors, or require a permit before you can visit or drive through them.  If you are doing a driving tour, you might want to check this site.

TODAY’S AUSSIE-ISMS

Not much variety today.

In the sticks: out in the bush, a long way away. Americans would probably say “in the boondocks”.

Idiot box: television

 

H is for Humpty Doo-dling

a-to-z-letters-hH is for HUMPTY DOO

Perhaps you’ve decided to go to Kakadu National Park for an exploration or a few days R&R. You’ll head south down the Stuart Highway away from the suburbs of Darwin and the satellite city of Palmerston, until you reach what is known as the rural area, broadly centred on Humpty Doo. Visitors seem to find this name incredibly quirky which is kind of fitting since the residents can be pretty quirky themselves. This is the land of the multi-acre block where the spare land is as important as the house, and most residents have the 4WD, the large dog, boat, large shed and often a caravan and/or a quad bike.

You are heading into Road Train country on the Arnhem Highway -be careful before you overtake -they're long!

You are heading into Road Train country on the Arnhem Highway -be careful before you overtake -they’re long!

None of this matters much to the tourist but it does set the scene for the place. Just before you turn off the Stuart Highway and onto the Arnhem Highway and Humpty Doo proper, you might want to call into Reidy’s to buy some fishing lures in case you have fond hopes of catching a barramundi while you’re in Kakadu.

The old railway building at Wishart Siding.

The old railway building at Wishart Siding.

Walk the hundred metres down the road and have a look at the historic old building which used to be part of Wishart Siding, now privately owned, and the memorial to all the railway workers who kept the train lines operational during the war years. With so many railway workers in my family tree I was pleased to see them remembered in this way.

652 Railway Workers plaque

A boxing croc ..have you been drinking?

A boxing croc ..have you been drinking?

If your time in the Territory has tempted you to buy a didgeridoo (as it seems to do for many younger tourists) you can visit the Didgeridoo Hut on the highway junction and check out their range. Or you might want to visit the Country Music Shack, just up the road, to restock your music collection for those hours on the road, or perhaps to get a selection of Aussie country music.

If it’s time to refuel why not pull in and snap a croc while you’re about it.

You really haven’t driven far enough to be too tempted by the “World Famous” Humpty Doo pub but if you feel you must, be warned it’s not exactly a boutique experience.

The so-called World Famous Humpty Doo Hotel.

The so-called World Famous Humpty Doo Hotel.

Humpty Doo is also the source of many of Darwin’s fresh local produce as this is the home of many of the Asian market gardeners who bring their varieties of Asian fruit, vegetables and herbs to the various weekly markets in town. And if you’re looking for mangoes, this is the place to find them in season…the area is replete with mango farms.

Dragon fruit vines -weird aren't they?

Dragon fruit vines -weird aren’t they?

Despite these agricultural successes, Humpty Doo was originally envisaged as the feeder town for a planned rice growing area at nearby Fogg Dam which is now a great sight for the bird-watchers, but do be aware there are crocs in the area….real ones this time.

The mango trees have already had their crew cuts. By the end of the year they'll be laden with fruit and providing shady shelter for the magpie geese.

The mango trees have already had their crew cuts. By the end of the year they’ll be laden with fruit and providing shady shelter for the magpie geese.

If you’re tempted by all this Humpty Doo-dling around, or you just would like to try a stay somewhere a little different, there are also a few B&B establishments in the area. This would leave you free to have a round of golf at the Humpty Doo Golf Course, where I’m told that you occasionally get to tee off among the wallabies.

Why visit: To get a sense of the rural lifestyle in the Top End and its general quirkiness, to pick up a fishing lure or two, or buy a didgeridoo.

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

Humbug: A very Northern Territory word which can be either a noun or a verb. Used when someone is pestering you for something: money/services/goods. It can also be used to mean someone who’s fibbing or telling a lie. For example, “I wish he’d stop humbugging me” or “he’s such a humbug, that’s not what happened:.

Hoon: a speed-demon taking risks, doing burnouts or laying rubber. Speed bumps may be in suburban streets to counteract this silliness.

Hurl: to vomit (also chunder or chuck)

Hang on a tick: wait a moment

Happy little vegemite: A very Aussie expression based on the sandwich spread for which Aussies are famous (rather like the British Promite, I think, but then I’m not a fan of either). This phrase suggests the person is as “happy as Larry” (whoever Larry was!)

Hey: Can be a greeting like “Hi” but also added to a sentence as a weird add-on. They had a good time, hey? Said to be a habit of people from the state of Queensland, I actually think it’s more of a country thing. It can be contagious 😉

Hit the piss: Get on the grog, go for an alcoholic drink (or lots).

Why not visit tomorrow when the topic will be Indigenous Australians.

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.

A to Z Sunday Synopsis

A2Z-2013-BADGE-001Small_zps669396f9 (1)Last year I learned about the A to Z challenge just as it started, so I was “on the hop” right from the beginning writing my stories about places of family importance which we’d visited here or overseas. This left me with less time to read as many other blogs as I’d have liked. This year I had my plan laid out, and some posts scheduled so have been able to do better.

Here are just some of the blogs I’ve visited this week. The temptation for the coming weeks will be to keep revisiting my new favourites at the expense of checking out some others. In case you haven’t visited any of these why not give them a go. So many people are writing wonderful stories based on their experience and expertise -it’s a great opportunity to read some good stories, see some great photos and learn more about so many topics.

Also a big thank you to all those who’ve dropped by my blog and especially those who’ve taken the time to leave a comment. I appreciate each and every one!

Destination Unknown (compare your Bucket List with Kellie’s) I’m a travel nut and love photography so Kellie is my Pick of the Week, even though there are other excellent blogs in the A to Z. I can’t wait to see where she’ll take us next week.

 My family history blogging mates are writing about family history and/or their own travels:

Anglers Rest (touring Australia)

Family History Fun (writing about “a sense of place)

Finding Eliza (wonderful stories of family past and present)

Strong Foundations (how to learn about family history)

 And others I’ve enjoyed: 

Clare’s Working Title (Clare is a newbie blogger with some quirky travel stories -c’mon give her some encouragement!)

Delightfully Ludicrous (humorous take on life)

Pete Denton (about writing)

Quiet Laughter (about the Lesser Antilles and Curaçao)

Surviving Life (mixed topics, great cat photos)

Susan Says (writing)

C B Wentworth is following the muse and writing on a variety of topics.

Castles in the Air (life in San Diego)

Destination: Fiction (favourite images, with stories, from European travel)

Circles in the Sand (musings on life)

A Passion and a Passport (travel experiences)

Write Backwards (motivations for writing)

Tui Snider’s Texas (all about the Lone Star state)

An Expat’s Journal (musings from England)

Images by Dufee (photos)

Magnumlady’s Blog (Ireland and Sligo in particular)

Box of Photos (great photos, young love etc)

Ever Evolving Primate (photos, travel)

Spud’s Daily Photos (Scotland, photos)

A foreign land (Chicago)

A month of blog (a photo a day)

Photography by Kaitlin (learn about photography)

Über Random (comparing Davao in the Philipppines with Winnipeg, USA)
Wanna buy a duck (for dance routines, and that gorgeous cat)

Bronx Tales and Inner Musings (urban stories in 100 words and an image)

Jeanette Anderson (Nature’s beauty)

Lynnerevettebutler (books, film and gardens)

Quite Contrary (an autobiographical tale told with humour)

Grace Grits and Gardening (topics from an “Arkansas farm girl”)