Australia, Traveling

Adventures in Australia. Part 2 – Jumping Crocs, Adelaide and Mary Rivers

(!) Read Part 1 here.

15th of September 2017

Today we started our adventure with the Jumping Crocs on Adelaide river. The place where we waited for the tour had a country/redneck vibe. Our co-tourists looked relaxed, almost oblivious to the obvious danger behind this tour.

The tourguide, an eager looking man in his early thirties, casually took us to the middle of the river in a medium sized boat. It had a shoulder high metal rail and no other protection. We were told to keep our extremities inside the boat, as they might be chopped off unexpectedly. Great…

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Stumpy prefers the tourists to the pork chops (Photo by Bogdan Nacu)

The guide then started flinging pork chops at the water. The saltwater crocodiles came in one by one to have a taste of the starter and have a look at the mains – us. Stumpy, Plumpy, Bumpy and Jumpy were most likely some of the crocodiles in that river.

Whistling Kites were also quite a sight for sore eyes. We reached a special spot where they were used to receiving treats. As soon as the guide threw diced pieces of meat in the murky waters, a small cloud of dark brown birds came storming down to catch the easy prey. Their shriek gave warning to all interested predators that the feast was in their name.

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Whistling Kites at Adelaide River.

Teia skipped today and I don’t blame her, those toothy oversized pickles were no picnic. I felt a bit shaky after the encounter and could not help but wonder: if those crocs can jump that high after a piece of pork, surely they can flop onto the boat.

Did you know that crocodiles use their tail to propel themselves into the air?

After the adventure with the crocs, we went to Corroboree Park Tavern to have some seafood. The tavern was in the middle of nowhere, with a few old fashioned gas pumps outside and samples of dusty bikers here and there.

Inside they had a bit of everything: a counter for food orders made of plied metal, wooden tables and chairs, red brick walls, a merchandise shop full of crocodile printed T-shirts, cards, books, small “bull-shit” bags, didgeridoos, slot machines, an alcohol shop, top shop shows on TV, slideshows of local tourist attractions, a real crocodile skin, a floating leg (hopefully made of plastic), fish trophees, a jukebox, aboriginals using the ATM, tourists making silly remarks (me), bearded bush men, all under an army of committed fans, running at full speed.

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Corroboree Park Tavern, see if you can spot the floating leg.

After a feast of crab, fish, shrimp and oysters, we went to Mary river for a wetland safari amongst the lillies. From Adelaide river’s Spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruise to Mary River’s Wilderness Retreat we barely drove half an hour, with Corroboree Park Tavern at half the distance. The view at Mary river, however, was very different from our fear stricken tour from before.

Our guide was a middle aged lady, full of passion for wildlife and a great sense of humour. We were immersed in an aquatic paradise, filled with pastel colours of pink, green and blue.

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Mary River pastels.

Our guide slowly slided the tour boat through the deeply rooted, large lily leaves. They were invading our path more and more as we advanced through the, yet again, croc infested waters. The guide’s favourite bird was the Jacana or “Jesus bird”, who got its name from its propensity to “walk on water”, from leaf to leaf. The tiny, red crested birds were very friendly and greeted us without fear.

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Jacana or “Jesus bird” on a lily leaf from Mary River.

Another beauty was the Water Darter, with its long, wavy neck and its sharp, pointy beak. It got its name from the way it hunts for fish, by “darting” into the water and piercing its prey with its beak. This strange bird then hops onto a branch and swiftly bangs the fish against the trunk. Its excuse for this beahavior is either “I’m tenderizing the fish” or “I need to get this thing off my beak”. Either way, fish end up sliding down the darter’s endless throat and into its belly.

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A Water Darter resting after a meal.

We had a quick snack of water lily seeds and stem, which taste a bit like peanuts and celery respectively. Lilies are incredible, you can eat most of the flower, while the leaves serve as a waterproof material. Scientists go crazy about lily leaves as they have so many practical uses.

After the break, we spotted two Jabirus, a yellow eyed female and a brown eyed male, on either side of the river. They looked like couple after an argument.

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Did you know that Jabirus are the arch nemesis of crocodiles, as they have the strength to pierce through the scalp of an unsuspecting croc.

Sea Eagles were by far the most majestic birds I’ve seen on this trip. Their strong nests can be spotted from a distance, buried in the tall gumtrees. These birds also mate for life, which is a great lesson for humanity.

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Wise Sea Eagles (photo by Bogdan Nacu)

Some crocodiles were spotted here and there, with a climax of bringing the boat to the bank, next to a medium sized croc, having his siesta. His tail had its tip snapped off and his eyes were reluctant to greet us. I had a feeling that he was one of the little crocodiles (see Schnappi das Kleine Krokodil) , bullied by the larger, alpha male crocs.

Dad asked if he should jump out of the boat, with a smile on his face. ‘Grab its tail and we’ll all get some nice photos.’ was the guide’s equally playful response.

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Schnappi was not in the mood for photos (photo by Bogdan Nacu)

The evening ended with a beautiful sunset over a few crocodiles fighting over half a dead crocodile. Cannibalism is common amongst these fierce creatures. Just before this free cage match we bumped into three boatmen who were off fishing. One of them had his feet ploughing through the dangerous waters. He laughed when we told him to be more careful of the creatures lurking underneath. Let’s just say he missed quite a show…

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Sunset over Mary River (photo by Bogdan Nacu)

 

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Australia, Traveling

Adventures in Australia. Part1 – Arrival, Humpty Doo and Litchfield National Park

(!) Read Part 2 here.

13th of September 2017

After a rather harsh trip with 12 or so pieces of luggage through Sydney, we caught the plane to Darwin. By “we” I mean Teia (aunt), Cristi (uncle), Bogdan (cousin), Ira (cousin in law), Vero (mum), Nicu (dad), Andrei (brother) and Ana (myself). The trip to Darwin was about 5 hours long, so a bit like flying from Rome to Oslo, but it felt short, given that we were still in Australia.

As soon as we got to Darwin, the hot, humid air filled our lungs, the dry season was on its last foot. Bogdan and Cristi rented a couple of 4WD cars and we were off to our first little holiday home in Humpty Doo, a town close by. The name is like a combination of Humpty Dumpty and Scooby Doo, what’s not to love? Our adress was 62 Origin Close, Humpty Doo, which makes perfect sense, since that was our starting point for all the crazy adventures we would have next.

The house we stayed in was built by a lovely couple, Kathy and Adam. They built this Tropical Oasis in what seemed the middle of nowhere, with a forest at the doorstep. Waking up to a concert of wildlife is definetly an experience worth having in the Northern Territory. The swimming pool, the modern look of the home, the cockatoos flying by, the chickens me and Ira liked to visit (and feed) and our hosts themselves were such a joy!

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62 Origin Close, Humpty Doo house we stayed at.

14th of September 2017

I will try to translate the delirious writing that I did in my travel journal after the first day here, although some sentences might be too cute to leave out. For example “Today we went to Litchfield National Park, a charming, heat filled desert land, full of crispy plants and crazy wildlife. All those lizards!”

Our first stop was at the Magnetic Termite Mounds, where little termites build castles of red earth from north to south (I feel a Gaskell reference coming), in order to regulate the temperature of their home. A field of these architectural feats on a misty day can remind one of a blood curling thriller, as it looks like a cemetery.

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Creepy looking termite cemetery (photo by Bogdan Nacu)

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Dad, mum and auntie next to a cathedral termite mound in Litchfield National Park.

A less gothic relative of the magnetic termites are the spinifex termites, who build majestic cathedral mounds like the one below. Spinifex is a type of plant that grows in sand dunes and arid regions. It produces a type of resin with sticky properties, which helps the termites keep their walls intact.

Did you know? Termites have more in common with the cockroach than with the ordinary ant.

After a scorching experience at the termite mounds, we were hopeful to find a flowing waterfall at Florence Falls. All our sorrows seemed to have disappeared as soon as our feet touched the clear blue lagoon. The fish were kissing our feet and we braved the foamy waterfall.

Our trip to the Northern Territory and Western Australia have given me perspective on how afraid I am of the world. Even a waterfall could suffocate me with its endless blessings. This first waterfall has brought me closer to embracing the wild and letting go.

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Florence Falls in September 2017

After Florence came Tolmer Falls, a croc infested, much larger enclosure of fresh water. We cautiously took photos from the top cliffs and went on our way to Wangi Falls. Since September is towards the end of the dry season, it was no wonder that most waterfalls had dried out. What remains is usually a set of small lagoons, where wildlife flourishes. Saltwater crocodiles can get trapped in such enclosures as the dry season progresses.

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Tolmer Falls in September 2017

Before reaching Wangi Falls, we had a short detour through Walker Creek, where we were hoping to find some lunch. Guess what, all the cafes were closed due to the small number of tourists popping by. We got to a campsite there and feasted on ice cream and cheese instead. Best lunch ever!

What can one say about Wangi Falls to truly describe its beauty? It’s one of those places that makes you wonder whether you’ve made the right choices in life. After passing a misleading sign of Free Wifi, we got to what was hopefully also a misleading sign: Danger! Crocodile Infested Waters. The threat level was low, but it still suprised me how many people were swimming in that lake. ‘They must be german’, I thought to myself, as  most incidents around the Northern Territory involve germans ignoring the warning signs.

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Wangi Falls at sunset

Cristi was the first to brave the swim, Bogdan, dad and Andrei followed. Us women were watching them from a lookout point with mixed feelings. A gum tree full of flying foxes nearby was making a terrible noise. Golden orb spiders were hanging loosely over the dark waters. On our way to the lookout point, a large lizard, shaped like a miniature brontosaurus emerged from the foliage.

I was trying to grasp all of these creatures in my mind, while staring at the waters of Wangi. ‘Do you want to swim?’ asked Ira and my heart sank slightly. I was determined, however, that girls should be at least as brave as boys, so I went for it. We swam together, all the way to the waterfall. We even went into the 3m “jacuzzi” carved into the rock just to prove to ourselves that whatever the boys can do, the girls can do. It was becoming a funny imitation game, but we did it, we braved the swim!

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Brontosaurus looking lizard

After we got out of the water, me and Ira returned to mum and Teia, who had been taking photos of us from a distance. A dark grey snake swam rapidly right beneath the wooden platform under our feet. ‘Good thing we saw this now and not before.’ I thought to myself. It was probably a harmless water snake, returning from its routine 9 to 5 job of taxing fish for stealing coins from tourists.

The sun was ready to set over Wangi Falls, so we took our superstar selfie and plodded home. A wild boar, whom we named Johnny and a bilby with no name (sob) made our cars stop a couple of times. We did some evening shopping, had a barbeque at our tropical oasis house and got to enjoy each other’s company a bit more. Bogdan and Andrei were still jumping drunk in the swimming pool by the time everyone else had gone to bed, full of anticipation for the next day.

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Our superstar selfie at Wangi Falls (photo by Bogdan Nacu)

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