I'm now in Darwin enjoying it's winter (32 degrees!) and, more importantly, enjoying the fact that it is the dry season here in the Northern Territory. In the wet season they can get something like 600mm of rain in a day (don't quote me on this as my meteological skills have often been likened to those of Michael Fish!) so the best way to get a shower is just to take some shampoo outside with you I reckon! The main attraction of Darwin, apart from the tropical weather, is the fact that the pubs stay open till late so it is possible to watch world cup games. This meant I had the pleasure/displeasure (delete as appropriate) of watching the England - Trinidad game last night. If I can bring a positive out of the game it is the fact that I was very impressed with Trinidad!
Now I'll try tell you how I've come to be in this part of the world. The area between Broome and Darwin is called the Kimberley and having heard a number of good things about the area decided to book on to a 5-day camping tour. As with all tours and trips I've been on, a large part of the whole experience is the group you are with and once again they didn't dissapoint. There were 5 Sydneysiders (Vivian & the Silver Smoothie, Luke & Katrina and Hannah), a 6 foot 6 Dutchman Bas (who I still haven't managed to get rid of!), myself and our fun, and slighty crazy, tour guide Tony who was prone to the odd Austin Powers quote or two! As you can imagine, with 6 Aussies and a solitary Pome, there was plenty of banter and I feel like I just about held my own. I had to accept crushing defeat though when we were all in a pub watching the rugby union game between England and Australia (34-3, they could at least have scored a try!), the shame!
The itinerary of the trip consisted of camping by night and going to visit gorges, waterfalls and swimming areas by day. I really enjoyed the camping aspect of the trip, possibly more than one or two others(!), and each day we pitched our own tents, gathered firewood and helped out with cooking the food. I learnt how to make a damper, a bit like bread, and by the end Luke and myself were dab-hands at it, the fact that it got burnt notwithstanding! As a small group there was always plenty of food left and I felt obliged to try and minimise the waste which often meant we were eating things like spag bol and stroganoff the following lunchtime!
We also got to see a fair amount of wildlife including crocs, numerous birds of prey, a monitor lizard, a cherubin (a really old lobster type of thing!) and an eel in a cave, obviously! The crocs we saw were only of the freshwater variety and therefore relatively tame and placid, though I wouldn't recommend putting it to the test! We went for some great swims in lovely isolated pools at the foot of waterfalls and once even had to swim across a river to get to a trail which took us to one of the waterfalls. On the last day we enjoyed the two ends of the water temperature spectrum. In the morning we had a lovely bathe in some hot springs, I don't think anyone really wanted to get out, and in the afternoon the crazies: Tony, Bas and myself had a little swim by a droplet waterfall, it was soooooo cold!
Along the way we also got to see a few examples of aboriginal art, some of which dated back some 20,000 years. These drawings depicted people, animals and the spirits in which many aborigines still believe.
At the end of our trip we arrived in Kununurra, from where a number of the group were going to do a flight over the Bungle Bungles (dome-shaped rock formations), and had a final meal together which was good fun. From there Hannah, Ron (the Silver Smoothie) and Vivian moved on a Luke and Katrina went to the Bungles for the day leaving Bas and myself in Kununurra. We booked our Greyhound bus for the following day and that evening we met back up with Luke and Katrina to watch the Australia game. It was pretty tense for 80 minutes with Japan up thanks to a dodgy goal but by the end Australia ran out 3-1 winners. It was a great feeling for them to win and I would definitely say that Bas and myself were bona fide Aussies fans as I felt just as nervous as I would have for an England game!
The following evening we headed to Katherine en route to Darwin and stopped off there for a day. We went to the Katherine Gorge National Park for some trekking and canoeing and it turned out to be a fun but tiring day. It turns out Bas is significantly stronger than me so keeping up with him in my canoe took quite some effort! At one point we tried to ride some rapids and after successfully negotiating the first I forged ahead to the second. I got myself out of shape pretty early and capsized as I was going over the rapid. I had to try and simultaneously keep hold of the canoe, the paddle, my hat and my waterproof container whilst trying to safely negotiate the rapids legs first! Having seen me come to grief, Bas got out of his canoe and carried it around the rapid, glad I was able to show him the dangers of the rapids!
That evening we got the bus to Darwin and the following day I was aching in muscles I didn't know I had but the good thing is the guns got a bit of a work out! Since I've been here I've started registering with employment agencies and have also a three day trip to Kakadu National Park to look forward to. One of the main forms of work you can pick up here in Darwin is pearl fishing so by the time you next hear from me I maybe a fisherman, the job I was born to do I believe! Darwin is a great little place with loads going on and the people are really friendly. As an example, I went into a clothes shop (looking for a plain orange t-shirt for tonight's Holland game, I promised Bas I'd watched even though it kicks off 1.30am local time!) and ended up talking to the Chinese owners for about half an hour about education and the economy. We really put the world to rights, much in the same way as the Silver Smoothie and myself had done before, and I got some fascinating new insights into the 1980s car industry! Sadly I didn't manage to find a plain orange t-shirt anywhere though!
As a final thought, I wanted to mention something I have seen on a number of ocassions here in the small towns of Western Australia. I have observed a number of drunken aborigines wandering the streets or lying on the road at all times of the day. As you can imagine it is a sad sight to see and seems to be a major problem over here in areas of Australia. One would guess that the rapid westernisation and colonisation of Australia has played a major part in taking away their traditional way of life. However, you have to wonder how much you can use that as an excuse for your actions and at what point you take matters into your own hands and try and fight your way out of the vicious circle (I have to note not all aborigines are this way). Obviously I don't know the whole story and what opinion I have formed is just that, an opinion. I would like to look further into the history and current situation at some point in order to better understand it.
Sorry to finish on that note but it seems a particuarly pertinent issue right now in Australia. I hope everyone is well and enjoying the summer.