Snake handling and four-hour downpours in Darwin
This week my journey across Austrlian took me from Sydney to Darwin. The first thing that hit me was the sudden blast of heat and humidity.
I had been told before I left that I would be hitting Darwin at the start of its rainy season. I didn’t fully realise what they meant by ‘rainy season’, however. I was taken aback when over the space of just 20 minutes the temperature dropped, the sky fell dark and the biggest storm clouds I’ve ever seen rolled in.
I watched how the locals behaved as I attempted to take shelter. Most of them started to close up shop and go home but, as it got heavier and heavier, I witnessed two massive local lads just walk out and sit on the street benches in the middle of the pouring rain, sit back and enjoy the downpour in its entirety.
It lasted for four hours solid and it was as warm as ever when it stopped. I later found out that the shopkeepers close up because they can’t tell if it will take one hour or seven hours before it finally lets up and that there’s no point staying open during this time because as long as it rains, there’ll be no custom.
When I arrived back to the hostel I was greeted with people searching for information and putting up posters of a female backpacker who was missing. She was last seen with a man two days before and this brought home the safety side of travelling again. I felt sorry for her and what her family were going through.
The next morning I was picked up in the small group for a three-day tour of Kakadu and Litchfield national parks – both a couple hours from Darwin and both taking up the area size of around 30,000 square km.
Some of the many waterfalls I saw on this voyage
Our guide, Ian, was an expert in these tours and arrived in a 9-seater 4×4, towing a custom built trailer with everything anyone would need being out in the wilderness. And I mean the back of beyond here. No phone coverage, no people and no internet! Completely away from civilisation for three whole days.
We could only take select routes because of rainy season but an added bonus of all the rain was that Darwin’s rivers and falls were in full flow. But first we had to go see the jumping crocs on Adelaide river and while waiting to board the boat we took turns holding a pet carpet python – under the guidance of Ian, who is a trained crocodile and snake holder.
It was my first time to hold a snake and it was a little strange as it was soft and warm, unlike what I had expected but class at the same time.
Crocs and cane toads
By this time the boat was ready and we headed out to the muddy water in search of crocs. We came across loads just swimming up and down the river. To get them jumping the crew tied loose pieces of meat to a stick and bobbed it on the water until the croc swam up to it and, as they raised the meat, the croc used the power of its tail to jump out of the water as if it was grabbing a monkey out of a tree. Phenomenal power.
Following this we headed west and deeper into the bush. On our last shop stop I grabbed the paper and you wouldn’t believe it but the missing female backpacker had been found. Later I found out that she had scored with the guy she was seen with and had gone back to his place.
The next day they both decided to go on a day trip but she told nobody and her over-excitable friends panicked. When she didn’t answer her phone they had thought the worst and went to the police, who cautioned them for wasting their time after the truth came to light. Showing stupidity is the man factor in the majority of bad travelling stories you hear.
Later on we trekked up Nourlangie Rock and Ian brought us off the beaten track to show us some original aboriginal cave paintings. On the way back we stumbled across a totally black wallaby, which Ian informed us was extremely rare and in 15 years he had only seen one before.
That night we set up camp but due to the weather, and the excessive mosquitoes, we couldn’t sleep under the stars. It turned out grand though, even with the onslaught of cane toads that have overwhelmed the northern territory.
Originally, Queensland introduced 103 of them to try get rid of the cane beetle that was destroying crops but the frogs took over and bred worse than rabbits. Now they have multiplied into millions and have become a plague across the two states. They are attracted to porch lights and are deadly to the local wildlife due to their poisonous glands causing death to anything that eats them.
So, with no natural predators they have thrived and the locals now play games of how many they can kill. Even the government has tried to fight them off by bringing in a law to collect a certain amount of them and get a six pack of beer but nothing seems to be working.
The next morning we started out on a six-hour trek through the bush in 35C heat, discovering different waterways, gorges and magnificent waterfalls. We ended the night with a true Australian barbeque, when Ian cooked up some buffalo and wait for it . . . kangaroo — which turned out surprisingly tasty. It reminded me of beef with a hint of a liver taste through it but a lot more succulent and tastier.
Our last day on the trip started was overcast and as we passed back through civilisation to get to Litchfield’s we stopped at the Adelaide River Inn, where Charlie, the actual buffalo that Crocodile Dundee turned into at the start of the film, is stuffed and displayed in the bar. This was complimented with the scene of the old buffalo bulling cars that the farmer used to round up the massive beasts with on the plains.
I just couldn’t get her started
The heavens had just opened so after rushing back to the jeep and just starting to dry off while moving to the last stop all of a sudden Ian slammed on the brakes and immediately ran from the jeep.
Not knowing what was going on I jumped out the back to see if there was anything I could do and then I noticed he had just missed a 3.5m wild snake that was in the middle of the road.
As Ian grabbed her I called the others out to see and still in the sopping JOE t-shirt Ian instructed me on how to hold the head (so she couldn’t strike) of the non venomous olive tree python correctly. I then got a quick pick and walked into the bush to release her and save her from being killed. It was a totally unique and impossibly planned experience.
When we returned to the city to end the week of we hit the local night spots and met up with some Clare ladies. This was topped by a visit to a local picture hot spot ‘Dick hard drive in fannie bay’ just north of the city.
Well that’s about it for this week, until the next time . . .
See you after kid,