June 21st-30th, 2001
Reached Darwin today, Australia stage one is complete! Plan to spend a few days exploring Darwin area and an intermission in Colorado before riding from here to Perth.
It kept getting busier as I approached Darwin today. First saw more fences, power lines, side roads and cattle as I cycled from Bark Hut Inn. Some gentle hills as I crossed the Mary River and passed Mount Bundy. A roadside exhibit explained about the Mary River National Park (rocks in this area are 1800 million years old). Another roadside exhibit entited "northern cathedrals" explained some of the large termite mounds in the area.
Next drainage over was the Adelaide River. Here were tours to see famous "jumping crocodiles". Tour operators had conditioned the local crocodiles to jump for pieces of meat suspended from strings. Next tour wasn't for another 90 minutes, so had some banana cake (not on a string) and cycled further.
Many cars were towing boats today. Must be local fishing spots. Also many mango orchards after 60 km. Kept getting busier as came through town of Humpty Doo at km 78. A few kms later and I was back to the Stuart Highway.
Last 35 kms the Stuart Highway was busy with two lanes each way and a reasonable shoulder. Came past town of Palmerston which claims to be Australia's fastest growing town. From zero people in 1981, the town is now 20,000 people.
Around the bend and there was the Darwin sign. Yipee! Nice to arrive after fifty days on the road. Kept going until the Stuart Highway essentially ended and then found a motel for five nights. Approximately five minutes (walking) from center and not too far from the transit center.
This area seems to be a tourist crossroads. Nearby is a lot where tourists are selling/buying used cars. Many internet cafes, restaurants, shops and other places. Time to explore further.
117 km today 10608 km cumulative
I had two and a half rest days to explore Darwin (and a two day trip described separately).
Darwin is an interesting town. The motel was near to the "travelers district" that included half a dozen internet cafes, three or four hostels, restaurants and place where you could buy/sell a car to trek around. Several cars being sold complete with camping gear. Also half a dozen tour booking companies with treks everywhere including Kakadu, Litchfield, Katherine, ...
Darwin was heavily destroyed by Cyclone Tracy (Christmas day 1974). 50-60% of houses in the city were completely demolished or damaged beyond repair. After the storm, town population dropped from 45000 to 6000 and didn't pass 45000 again for two years as the city was rebuilt. Some ruins and few older houses to see, but mostly post-cyclone buildings.
Darwin was bombed 64 times during WW2. Started February 19th, 1942 and continued for 21 months. Beneath the city six huge tunnels were excavated for bombproof oil storage. I visited tunnel #5 which had been turned into a museum exhibit with pictures of Darwin during WW2.
Walking around town are monuments for overland telegraph, early exploration, WW2. The "Lyon's Cottage" an old telegraph station and former home to the Lyons family. Also stopped in to see new parliament house (fancy, built in 1994).
I went to a few museums. The pearling exhibit was interesting. The marine exhibit overpriced and not as good (Townsville Reef HQ was much better).
Aquascene at Doctor's gully is a little place where you can feed fish at high tide. Many fish come up to fetch bread from the tourists. When I was there the tide was at 7.24 meters. This in contrast to 2.25m in the afternoon and 0.6m overnight.
Found a good bike shop to have my bike looked at while I'm gone (replacing chain, chainrings and middle chainring). Some question if they'll get it done in that time (school holidays causing a backload), but easier than taking it to US and back.
0 km today, 10608 km cumulative
From Darwin, I took an fun two day trip to Litchfield National Park with Wildthing Adventure Tours. Litchfield is ~100 km southwest of Darwin and would otherwise have been off of my normal bike route.
Litchfield is a fairly recent park of 5000 sq km. It has a high sandstone plateau where many small creeks drop in waterfalls. During the trip we hiked and swam in six different sets of these falls.
Five other tourists, all from England. Rosie and Emma were at end of a 10.5 month classic backpacker trip, working and traveling through Australia. Rosie's sister Katherine, joined for the last few weeks of travel. Jo and Jez starting a long trip with stay in Bali, a few months in Australia before NZ and other places. Andy was the guide and Charlie was a guide in training.
Adventure started early with flat tire on the 4WD Toyota, but soon on the way again. First stop in Litchfield was Magnetic Termite mounds, built in an orientation within 10 degrees of N/S.
Florence Falls was first waterfall and a chance to look from atop and down below.
We made a longer stop at Upper Tolmer Falls where we hiked into a restricted area with small waterfall into a deep pool. Had a good swim, others a bit braver about leaping off high rock walls into the deep pool. Also had lunch, feeding a few bits to goanna lizard about 50 cm long. The goanna seemed to like cheese best and didn't care for pineapple rind.
Wangi Falls was an afternoon stop. These falls with large plunge pool and a busy popular destination. Another swim and short hike over top of the falls.
We took a hike to Tjetaba falls to view the sunset. Trail largely disappeared after the falls, so cut overland to a high rock to look over sunset. Started walking back in the dark and stopped for a swim at the falls. Fun and cool swim by flashlight in this small pool. Then flashlights for the walk back in new moon.
Evening by campfire with good dutch oven cooked meal and then asleep in the tents. Some chance to play the didjeridoo, a musical intrument made from tree hollowed by termites.
Sunday morning started with walk to curtain falls and another swim. These falls had large curtain of water large enough for us to climb behind, and small pool below.
Our camp was in area owned by aboriginal people and now subject to claim. We stopped at a household and could see more of the didgeridoo making and also aboriginal paintings.
Our last waterfall hike was to an unnamed fall and was Andy's favorite. Not on the normal tourist route, there wasn't an established trail, so walked through the bush. Walked through monsoon vine forest and also scratchy scrub (fun on the knees). Nice small waterfall and a pool for a swim. Had lunch and then climbed around and atop the falls for another swim in a pool up top. On the way up was a butterfly house with many of them flying around
Getting dark as we left the park. Drove along a gravel road, stopping briefly for a large python stretched on the road. Into Darwin by evening.
Overall was a fun trip and Andy was an excellent and knowledgeable guide. Many different little hikes and swims in different pools and falls. Recommend this tour for others visiting the top end.
0 km today, 10608 km cumulative.
A morning to walk through shops in Darwin, check internet cafes and otherwise pack up for trip to Colorado. Took an airport shuttle at lunchtime to Darwin airport.
Darwin airport was full of military and police uniforms. Several flights leaving in the afternoon to Dili, East Timor for UN peacekeeping operations. Most had a small national flag on uniform. The largest contingents were from Australia and Thailand but I also saw Gambia, Jordan, Kenya, Philippines, Portugal and PRC soldiers.
Uneventful five hour flight to Kuala Lampur (KL). KL airport is new and modern. Went through immigration and customs and then came to a "golden lounge" desk where I asked about hotel accommodations. They set up details of a package of hotel + taxi and I was quickly off ~20km away to stay for the night. Next morning back to the airport for an 18 hour trip to LAX (including 1.5 hour stopover in Taipai) and then two hour flight to Denver. In total, ~48 hours of travel including ~24 hours of flights.
Didn't see much of Malaysia, but did notice it is a Islamic
country. Hotel rooms have small arrow pointing direction to Makkah (Mecca)
and Malaysian Airways also showed this periodically on the flight monitors on
the 747. While flying across the Pacific the arrow changed from behind to
ahead, so we passed 1/2 way around the globe from Mecca.
Back in Colorado. Had a few days to rebuild my laptop disk, attend high school reunion, visit HP and wrestle with Frontpage to get web pages working. See July 1st for description of the reunion.
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