Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Darwin - a day with Crocodile Dundee

Sean suggested while in Darwin I should take the Wallaroo croc tour which he and Michelle took in 2008. What he did not tell me is that I would be spending the day with crocodile Dundee.

yes that is raw pork in his hand

Pat (tour guide) is a native of the northern territories - he grew up in a family of 28 because his parents fostered children including a number of aboriginals. He is a bush man that feels more at home with nature than with people (although you would never know this as he is quite the talker and full of interesting stories). He has lived a great part of his life living in the bush and sleeping on the ground - he told us the first time he went to a hotel he couldn't get to sleep in the bed so he tried the floor and then finally got to sleep on the outside balcony. He was a wealth of knowledge including telling us about the soldiers in WWII defending this region and surviving the living conditions in extreme natural elements.

The day started by being picked up at 7am. First stop was the termite mounds - some of these mounds are 6 meters high with another 12 meters of the mound underground. Termites feed on dead plant material mostly wood. Therefore most of the trees in the northern territories are hollow and the aborginies use the hollow trees to make the didgeridoo musical instrument. There are 23 species of termites in this area (we observed the catherdral and magnetic termites). Termites live about 30 years in very organized colonies generally with a population of several hundred thousand divided into groups (workers and soldiers).

The sculptured termite mounds sometimes have elaborate and distinctive forms - tall wedge-shaped mounds with the long axis oriented approximately north–south. This orientation has been experimentally shown to assist thermoregulation. The column of hot air rising in the aboveground mounds helps drive air circulation currents inside the subterranean network. The structure of these mounds can be quite complex.

Next we went to the Litchfield National Park to take a look at a couple of spectacular waterfalls with sink holes where we took a swim. These fresh water bodies can be home to fresh water crocodiles which are apparently quite harmless to humans - luckily we did not see any and did not have to test this theory! While we were enjoying a swim Pat prepared a lovely picnic buffet sandwich spread for our lunch.

As we walked through the park Pat pointed out some of the local inhabitants such as green ants - explaining their benefit to the environment. Green ant workers hunt and kill insects that are potentially harmful plant pests - in some areas where citrus fruits are grown these ants are used as a pest control.

Pat also explained about the controlled burning practices in the northern territories. The frequency and severity of the fires in grass and open bushland areas can be reduced by carrying out controlled burning earlier in the dry season, when there is less fuel on the ground. Driving through the park we observed areas where burning had been undertaken in the last few days.

Next we were off to the river to find salt water crocodiles. These are the ones that are likely to eat you - Pat has been bitten by a croc. Crocodiles do not have diseases they are extremely healthy and do not get sick. If they loose a leg or arm in a fight their blood automatically clots so they do not bleed to death and they do not get infections. Scientist are looking at crocodiles to help develop a new type of penicillin. These crocodiles are between 4-7 meters long. Crocodiles have strong jaws and do not chew their food but swallow in large chunks which are broken down in the stomach. It is estimated that crocodiles live for 70 - 100 years. Once on the river it was not long before a crocodile was following the boat. Crocodile Pat began to feed the croc - at one point there were six crocs near us and we interacted (well crocodile Pat did) with three. I took the photos below as well as capturing a couple of videos I hope you will enjoy and get a feel for what it was like looking at these creatures so closely.






We spotted a baby crocodile which is unusual but I was not quick enough to get a picture. However I was able to get pictures of other wildlife such as jaberoos (species of water bird) and hawks.


On the tour I met three sisters from tasmania (Kerry, Jenni and Robin). We seemed to instantly bond and it was great to share the day with them.

After the crocs we headed for an place where we could watch the sunset while we satisfied our palates with delicious king prawns complimented by champagne! All supplied by Pat.

My view on the ride back sitting in the front of the van.

Throughout the day Pat told us many different stories especially about the aboriginal people to help us better understand their culture. The one that sticks in my mind is one which shows how cultural differences can lead to confrontation and misunderstanding. In our culture when a family member dies we are granted 2 or 3 days compassionate leave from work to attend the funeral etc. In the aboriginal culture when a person dies the burial process can take 2 - 3 years before the body is returned and buried wherever the person came from. During this period family members are expected to be with the body and help with the process. So when an aborignal asks an employer for leave to attend a family funeral they are asking for something quite different than our culture would expect. In a lot of cases employers do not realize this - they grant the leave thinking it is for 2-3 days and when the person does not show up after that period of time the employer gets very frustrated. Pat said often the aborignal people will come back after the burial process is completed (2-3 years later) looking to go back to work only to find they no longer have a job.

Instead of going back to my budget accommodation immediately jenni, Kerry, robin and I went to a park on the water by their hotel to enjoy the remaining prawns and a few drinks - I won't mention the part where we got busted by security for drinking outside! I headed back to my accommodation around 11pm only to be greeted by fire trucks and the hotel had been evacuated! OMG my passport is in my room! Luckily it was only a case of a fire extinguisher being set off - got into my room at midnight and I was to meet Kerry for breakfast the next morning. It was a very long but extremely enjoyable day - crocodile Pat was the best tour guide and his knowledge and love of the area helped make the day so enjoyable and informative. Kerry, Jenni and Robin were a pleasure to share the day with and I hope to see them in tasmania early next year.

I am hoping to get a flight out of Sydney om June 26th but it looks pretty grim at the moment - keep your fingers crossed for me as I have to make it to San Fran before the 29th to look after Hannah while Sean and Michelle are in Europe.


1 comment:

  1. Well done on posting videos... Love croc dundees voice!!! I could only watch two videos they said others were private!!!

    Fantastic pics- cannot believe how close those crocs came!