We’re on our way to Cairnes and behind so we’ll combine a biggish earlier route into one long post. Apologies.
The track, 1200 miles. (note: Australians use the word ‘track’ to mean a dirt road. Here on this blog it’s used in GPS language to mean a formalized route). The ‘top end’ is what Aussies call the top part of Australia, where Darwin is
First, to Fitzroy Crossing. Termite mounds all day. We’ve bought a light book on termites to find out more about their importance on the plains. More on this subject after I’ve visited a very special species in a couple of weeks
We stayed at the roadside Fitzroy park. The biggest fanciest place we’ve ever seen on the road here. Not so fancy inside, but veryw welcome. It’s on stilts because the water level rises 30 feet, over the river banks and floods the countryside during the wet season. The wet season is far more dramatic and with much greater consequences than we had imagined. A complete transformation of the landscape with huge consequences for the wildlife. I’m going to get a chance to see it if I don’t speed up
Needing to get back on the dirt for a while, but uncorrugated only (reasons below) we continued out into the country a bit ending up in a small aboriginal town where photos looked unwelcome. A beautiful ride
To the larger town of Kununurra where this bridge dams the Ord river. There’s a big agricultural story here. Also a dividing line here between fresh and saltwater crocodiles (freshies and salties, like sunnies)
One arm of the lake, the largest artificial lake in the country. Although when dammed in 1971 it flooded some traditional aboriginal lands, it’s now home to 25,000 crocodiles, 26 species of native fish and 150,000 waterbirds (from wiki)
Which looks like this, a typical northern town of 250 people, 200 aboriginals and 50 whites. It had a great bar and I like the choice of music the aboriginals picked on the jukebox and the way they danced. I also liked that they’re huge Aussie rules football fans and everything in town stopped and they crowded into the bar for an important game. I don’t understand the game yet except they send a massive army of players in tight outfits out onto the field which is oval shaped and they’re super hyper. Aussie rules football is absolutely huge here. Normal season play seems to have the audience equivalent of the play-offs at home. They call it ‘footy’
While we’re at it:
Servo = gas station
Traino = train station
Arvo = afternoon
Freo = Freemantle
I like these:
Q: Would you like ice cream? A: Heaps please!
Q: Would you like chocolate sauce on your ice cream? A: Lashings please!
We grabbed an air-conditioned (they all are) cabin in the RV park again as we have given up on camping in the heat for the time being. This is not me being a pussy: locals are staring at me in my black Klim suit and asking me in a seriously concerned voice “aren’t you too hot?” all day. The problem isn’t just that it’s hot: The main problem is outside of roadhouse zones there’s little or no shade. You get radiated on from roadhouse to roadhouse with maybe one or two shade trees in between.
I’m very lucky: outside my cabin this bird is busy building a house out of sticks. This is a big deal in Australia and they’re proud of this incredible animal. I’ve had the common nests pointed out to me every day this week
This Bower bird’s courtship behaviour is unique (wiki). It’ll finish building an enclosed home like this then gather up shiny objects like shells, coins, anything it can steal that’s shiny and put them on the floor of the house. The female picks the male with the nicest house and best/most shiny things
I hear that evening that the Victoria River that passes next to the town is stuffed with crocodiles and that someone got eaten close to here just the other day. As it happens the owner/manager of the campground/cabins has an aluminum boat parked right out front. So I ask him if he’ll take me out on the river. He doesn’t do boat trips for travellers so I suggest a fair price and he stuffs a cooler with beer and off we go. He tells me some incredible stories. For instance the one thing that creeps him out a bit is when he’s out fishing and a giant croc parks under his boat, waiting for him to make a mistake. He says the crocs are bigger than his boat and as he’s trolling for Barramundi fish (more on this later) the croc swims along underneath with its giant tail weaving out behind the boat. The guy who got eaten made just this mistake, reaching over the boat’s edge. He was taken in front of his wife and daughter. Yikes.
Into town. For some reason it doesn’t grab me after excellent Timber Creek, so we keep moving. I liked Timber Creek: an unadorned roadhouse, small mostly aboriginal population, a beautiful river, trees and birds, and an air-conditioned cabin.
Later, into the big, hot, isolated Darwin everyone in the world has heard of. A town where the big fruit bats in the trees maybe outnumbering the people 1000 to 1, but who knows. The sound they make at dawn and dusk is incredible
And another nice story below. We’ll write about Darwin after we’ve thought about it some more. It’s a great town and for once the bars don’t close at 10. On Tuesdays they don’t close until a more respectable 3
First stop, the Adelaide River just out-of-town. The story here is that if you dive off the relatively short bridge in the middle you won’t make it the 100 feet to shore no matter how fast you swim. You will, with 100% certainty, be eaten by a crocodile. So we had to see this river. But unfortunately we couldn’t stop on the bridge – signs saying stopping is forbidden which we would have ignored but there was occasional traffic and no foot lane.
And there by good luck was a huge ‘slide’. A slide is what crocodiles make when they haul themselves up a mud bank to their favorite spot. This was a huge one and if you click on it you’ll see the claw marks are sharp and fresh. So we waited cautiously for a while for the croc to appear. But no
So the next day we went off to a famous place called Crocodylus to see the breeding farm. I forgot to ask why this is necessary since the croc population is growing fast since they’ve become a protected species. And as someone said there are more wallabies to eat than the crocs will ever be able to deal with so the population is forecast to grow rapidly. Current research show the average size is going up too.. The breeding pens
Then we wanted to see a big snake. And as much as we don’t like zoos or parks we head off to a large facility in the country where we can see things we might not see as we travel. The park is a long walkway in the forest and through a half-dozen pavilions
And in one pavilion they have a monster sized croc in a big billabong-modelled environment with a glass wall. Hopefully we’ll see one this size in the wild. He’s about 18 feet long and we had a staring contest like this. He looked murderous
Our appointment time for Lucinda comes up. Normally long distance riders are shown straight to the bike-lift when they ride to a shop, but the only dealer who can work on Lucinda had all the staff away on training and we had to wait
And here is one of the three things that concerned us on the Gibb corrugations. Lucinda developed a huge creaking sound that I couldn’t isolate. And the titanium pipe is parting up front. We incorrectly assumed they were related problems and the pounding of the corrugations had shifted something we couldn’t find. The third problem was that I wasn’t on top of the electrolyte story and hadn’t been feeling 110%, but that’s been resolved with little packets you stir into water that the road workers use.
We never determined why the pipe was parting but speculate the spring is strong enough to hold it there. The noise was because the rear Ohlins was dry and needed kindness. Even though I had it serviced in NZ. So we did a full service and fitted new tyres but left the big changes we need for Melbourne, where there’s a shop that does custom work
At risk of making a political observation I think Australia is a great country for Canadians in particular to explore. More on this another time.