Crocs and Hard Knocks in the Northern Territories, Australia
Crocs and Hard Knocks in the Northern Territories, AustraliaReport Abuse
Kakado National Park butts up against the southern coast of the Van Dieman Gulf in northern Australia and is probably the only way a person would ever get to see this wild and dangerous area. Yachts rarely if ever visit the rivers that debouch into it: the evocative East, South and West Alligators and the Wildman. In the rainy season, which is called The Wet in the Northern Territories, much of the land is under several meters of water. We visited during the beginning of The Dry, the remaining (European) season being The Build-up. The traditional owners of the land, the Aboriginals have nine seasons. These describe the cold season, the humid season, the monsoon season and they tell the people when to burn off the land; the beginning of the dry season, so that fires don’t get out of control and damage the trees. As they say, “The earth I never damage. I look after. Fire is nothing, just clean up. When you burn, new grass coming soon. That means good animals soon.” We drove through recently dried lowlands where a smoking inferno raged around the Paper Bark Eucalyptus. In the twilight it was a scene from some apocalypse.The singular point of focus in the northern Territories, at least for visitors, is the crocodiles. Most of us are not used to living in close proximity to large animals that enjoy humans as a part of their diet; and it is admittedly un-nerving. Crocs typically run 3 to 5 meters long and would weigh from 200 kilos up to a ton. They are wily stalkers of prey, often lying under water for as much as an hour, before exploding up onto the riverbank and pulling some unfortunate back with them. Their skull and jawbone are massive heavy crushing tools, known to splinter the head of a feral pig. Swimming is absolutely out of the question anywhere, except possibly in the indoor pool at the Holiday Inn. Simply going near the water’s edge at a billabong is life threatening. The crocodiles were hunted to near extinction until 1972 when they were declared endangered. Since then they have rebounded wonderfully, as you would expect from a species that has prospered for the last 200 million years. Locals in the Territories have lived with and swum with crocs since they were young, and with no great problems. During the period of protection, though, the crocs have grown consistently larger, and humans consequently appear a more and more meal-sized creature. A couple of people get taken each year; German backpackers are having a bad time of it these last few years. One result of this trend is that photographs of wetlands or anything estuarine have ample amounts of foreground in the composition. Of course the crocs really take your mind off the snakes, which freed us from worrying about the sharks and so forth. Never a dull moment…Irene and I are ready to set off for “Indo” as the Aussies call Indonesia. Moose is in a high state of repair, which is to say that we are getting close to the point where we target cosmetic things, varnish, paint, whipping line ends and such. We have a neighbor in this marina who is apparently compulsive obsessive about cleaning the boat. Everyday she does a full eight hours of polishing; if they ever go to sea again I don’t know what she’ll do about the water spots. I’ll bet she’s got the end of her whipping twine whipped!We had a miscalculation on our wine stores and inadvertently bought 65 liters too much, so Irene had better get cracking before the expiry dates arrive. I mentioned before that I’ve taken up brewing beer, which makes sense on a boat. My first batch, some sort of Aussie fighting pilsner, was a success and I’m currently waiting for a sparkling ale to reach the 4 week maturity period. It costs about 20 cents to make a bottle so it’s a brilliant combination of thrift and gluttony.On the subject of gluttony last night was the introductory barbecue and cocktail party for the 110 yachts that will participate in the Darwin to Kupang (Timor) Rally. The organizers provided an open bar, which is brave behavior indeed considering the guests. The bar was eventually drunk dry and we joined the exodus, taking a ride with a couple from a catamaran called “Out of the Bag”, which, as cat names go, is marvelously subdued. They took us to a party where a Viking longship was being burned. We arrived to find the ship a smoldering hulk, apparently this year the archers, with the flaming arrows, had been “kept off the piss” until their services were required. The year before the ship couldn’t be hit because of the state of inebriation of the bowmen. You can imagine the party; there were men in fur tunics with horned helmets carrying axes around. Apparently the residents of this marina do a theme party every couple of weeks. The last was mermaids and sailors; it must have been tough for the girls flopping about in a fish-tail bottom. Today my hair hurts and the situation has not been alleviated by the fact that I spent the morning going through rubbish bins looking for a piece of scrap aluminium for a project. I’m looking forward to a meal of meat and potatoes with a cold bottle of Duff to cap off this day. Perhaps, in retrospect, these will be fond memories to take out of Oz and into Islamic Indonesia.