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Kakadu & Darwin

After the cold, red centre, we are now at the hot, humid, green top end. This is a very special part of Australia, and probably a part that the average visitor doesn't see. The little angel on my shoulder says, that's because it is so far away from anywhere. The little devil on the other shoulder says, that's because there's nothing to see up here.

The top end has two main attractions - Darwin (the city) and Kakadu (the national park). Kakadu starts out interesting because it is so big. But alas, there is not much to do there except a couple of walks that are often closed. We left Kakadu with the impression that it probably had the lowest excitement / size ratio of any national park we have ever visited. This is in no way meant to be negative - after all, national parks are here to preserve what's in it, and not to excite the visitor. We still had our share of naturalist excitement by spotting the first kangaroo that was reasonably close and still alive (to spoil the party, it was not really a roo, but a wallaby - but they are so similar that it would be wrong to make a big story out of it here).

wallaby.jpg

(Disgression. We've seen hundreds of roos in the past two months, but they were almost exclusively dead. At one point during the long drive in the outback, we played a little game to make the drive less boring. I would count the dead roos, and Rahel would count the cars that came the other way. Although Rahel "won" by a narrow margin, I still counted 38 dead roos. We played that game for about 100 km, and then it just got too depressing to continue. One dead roo per 3 km is just frustrating. End of disgression.)

Another interesting animal was this spider. It is a Golden Orb Weaver (Nephila maculata), sometimes called the Giant Wood Spider, for obvious reasons. I spotted this one while we were attempting to go on a walk in the national park. Every walk has some signs posted at the beginning of the walk (the usual "crocodiles have killed people bla bla bla..."), and as I was reading the sign, I noticed that there was some silk attached to the sign. As I slowly turned my head to the right, I realized that I was standing right in front of a giant web spider, about 3 meters wide. About 1 meter away from my head, there was this huge spider. If Rahel hadn't pointed out that the walk was closed (indicated by another sign about 5 meters away), I would have walked right into it. It's the biggest web spider we've ever seen. It is most famous for its web which seems to be the strongest spider web on the planet - so strong that small birds can get caught in it. Some tribes in Papua New Guinea consider it a tasty snack. Yummy.

spider1.jpg

After spending three nights in Kakadu, we decided that we had satisfied our interest in national parks and drove back to Darwin. Now, Darwin starts out as an interesting city - it has been completely destroyed in 1974 by a cyclone named Tracy. 95% of the buildings were basically wiped off the surface. In a tremendous effort, the Darwinites rebuilt their city from scratch. We were therefore expecting a very modern city, but when we came here the first time, we had to realize that 1974 is actually quite some time ago, and Darwin is far from looking like a modern city. It rather looks as they haven't built much since 1974. But on the other hand, it has a lot of laid back charm which we quite enjoy.

Another thing that is ever present in Darwin is the second world war (WWII). After a little reading on the subject, it became clear why this is so, and why, as we wrote before, there are so many WWII memorials along the Stuart highway. The reason for the interest in WWII is that Australia was actually attacked by the Japanese in 1942, and the attacks occurred almost exclusively in Darwin. Because the Japanese were quite successful in invading the countries north of Australia, Australia thought that its time had come, and the an invasion was imminent. In a hasty effort, the Australian government sealed the Stuart highway to Darwin to accelerate the transport of troops and goods (hence the memorials). So in one sense, WWII was a major reason to connect Darwin to the rest of the country.

We are now enjoying ourselves being lazy, reading, hanging out at the beach, enjoying the sun at a constant 33 degrees. We're flying to Singapore on thursday night, but before that, we will write some closing remarks on our trip to Australia.

Oh, and since some people have requested a picture of me surfing: I must admit that we haven't any. But here's what it looked like (it's so close it could be the original):

surfsup_13.jpg

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on June 26, 2007 1:45 AM.

The previous post in this blog was The outback.

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