Friday, 16 October 2009

Tropic thunder

So, here I am in Darwin at the start of the dreaded "build-up", and I'm bearing up well. Actually, having been told that, as a bloody Pom, I'd die in the heat, I'm pleasantly surprised - judicious spells in air-conditioned shops aside, I'm more of a mad dog and out in the midday sun (plenty of sunblock, water and a hat my constant companions, of course).

In fact, Darwin is great all around - I love the tropical weather and plants (there's a coconut tree outside my window, for heaven's sake, plus little geckos running over the walls and making great cries), and there's plenty to look at, as long as you do it languidly. I've been over the botanic gardens, which have all those tropical rainforest plants I've only ever seen in glass houses before, and along one of the many beachfront walks to the art gallery. This, as well as having another good Aboriginal art collection, also has a chilling section devoted to Cyclone Tracy. I knew that the city had been badly damaged by Japanese bombs in 1942 (there are memorials dotted all over the city), but didn't know that it was also razed to the ground by this cyclone on Christmas Day 1974. The newsreel footage is devastating, and there's also a sound booth with a recording made by an intrepid clergyman as the storm was raging - in the darkness it's absolutely terrifying. Truly, Darwin is a testament to resilience.

It's also closer than most places to nature - notably of the crocodilian sort. Today I headed up to Crocodylus Park, to watch the salties [salt-water crocs] being fed. There's a mix of rescued and rehomed crocs there, many with horrific injuries sustained in territorial disputes. The really horrible part about this, from a human perspective (or from mine, at least) is that they can heal themselves. So not only can crocs hear your car pulling up near to their waterhole, smell you, see you (particularly at night) and sense you through their skin, but they can also generate a powerful antibiotic to recover from astonishing wounds. No matter what my guide says on the trip to Kakadu/Litchfield (starting tomorrow, 6.30am), I'm not going to risk swimming in any waterholes! Particularly at the end of the dry season, when there's less water about for us to be fighting over - the salties can have it, with my blessing. They're cute when they're little, though - I have a picture of me cuddling a baby one (its mouth safely taped shut for the tourists). Not as cute as the turtles, however - no cuddling, sadly, but the long-necked one in particular was absolutely enchanting, like some Disney cartoon.

1 comment:

  1. Must tell you how much I am enjoying your blog. Stuck here, not feeling great, I can escape with you (in my head!). Do hope you continue to enjoy every bit and I shall continue reading with great interest,