Arriving in Darwin in the early afternoon we turned up at our guesthouse and were preparing to go exploring the town when, as if to remind us that it's the wet season, a huge storm broke and we were forced to watch it lash down until the evening (from the bar!). We managed to fit in our walking the next day and strolled through the esplanade for the views of the harbour, checked out the Northern Territory Government buildings and, briefly, dipped our feet in the Arafura Sea before the Saltwater Crocodiles had a chance to have some Welsh meat for lunch.
We managed to see most of what we wanted but the seriously humid conditions (especially compared to the dry heat of Perth) here make doing anything a pretty sweaty experience. It's so nice after it rains and the cool air is left behind.
Darwin was a fun town but we were mostly excited to be starting our Oz Experience tour which will eventually take us to Melbourne. The first stop took us to Kakadu National Park (about 100km east of Darwin) where we camped over night. Despite being able to do less than you could in the dry season it was amazing to see the lush green landscapes, giant flood plains and the abundant wildlife that this time of year produces. We were also educated in aboriginal cave art which is common in this area but our highlight of the trip was definately the 'Spectactular Jumping Crocodile' cruise.
Dozens of crocs were attracted to our boat in the hope of grabbing a quick snack and the guides encourage them to show off their jumping skills for us. Our favourite was Hannibal (the Cannibal), who is 15m plus long, a ton in weight, pushing 100 years old and the king of the Adelaide River. A few other crocs who didn't see him behind the boat were greeted rather viciously when he spotted them. It was awesome.
After returning to Darwin for the night we left early the next morning to join the Stuart Highway. On day 1 we trekked in the rain through the beautiful Katherine Gorge to an amazing waterfall pool for a swim and jumping (quickly checked by our guide Johno for crocs!). We camped with our group (who were a pretty cool, sociable bunch) just outside Katherine before another early start the next day. And I (Pug) got to witness Johno destroy a cane toad with a cricket bat! Cane toads are pretty lethal for all other native animals so it's important to get rid of any you see - using a cricket bat is just a personal preference.
A lot of driving was involved as we headed for Juno Farm at Tennant Creek, passing through the townships of Elliot and Daly Waters en route. It's amazing how few people live in this vast expanse of space, but also amazing that people survive in such inhospitable areas. Daly Waters was a random place - a pub in the middle of nowhere in which every visitor leaves something of personal value pinned to the wall (Lara signed the Wales flag for Barry) - alot of character! That night we slept outdoors in SWAGs and watched the stars - it was pretty remote and special - and one of the best nights sleep we've had (luckily no snakes were found in the morning in our SWAGs!).
Our final day before reaching Alice Springs took us through the MacDonnell Ranges (the landscape has changed drastically in the last 3 days travelling from the tropics to the desert) and stopped off for a group photo at the Tropic of Capricorn monument. We also got to clamber about the monoliths of the Devils Marbles Conservation Reserve. They're quite impressive although the accompanying flies could drive you nuts. Attracted to moisture and wanting protein they love to fly up your nose, in your ears and straight at your eyes! Stupid things.
Although alot of driving over the past few days (which has to be expected in such a vast country) we got to play the immensely fun game of bus cricket created by Johno, which Pug won along with Fabrizio (an Italian stallion)! It's pretty skill-less but just involves everyone getting an innings in the front passenger seat until 6 vehicles have gone past and they all count for different amounts of runs. Quite funny though and good way for Johno to get to know all his passengers!
Alice seems like a nice town despite some of it's social problem (murder being a notably high entry on the list). We had to get escorted to the town centre by some council workers today because we were walking the wrong way! whoops. Tonight we hope to climb Anzac Hill for sunset, with our new found little brother Ollie (we feel slightly old in comparison with most of the gap-year students travelling on our oz exp bus - still fun though) and catch up on some sleep before we depart for Uluru and Adelaide (a pick up at 4.50 on Wednesday morning we're not looking forward to).