Once more, I am travelling! On the fifth attempt! Postponed several times due to pandemic restrictions and most recently by flooding, Tim and I finally managed to fly to Darwin to begin our long-awaited journey down the middle of Australia via the Ghan.
Darwin’s tropical heat has taught me to never again travel here in the wet season. The rigours of being slowly poached in tropical humidity at least had the compensations of beautiful foliage, excellent dining, a lively street art scene, and me gleefully embracing the touristy trappings of a crocodile adventure park, as well as an actual crocodile!
Not Kakadu (much too wet to trek out there) but one of Darwin’s croc parks, Crocosaurus Cove..
The croc I embraced was very young, which did not prevent it from having developed a resting bitch face to die for and a clear intent to take a cold and sharp-toothed revenge upon me at the first opportunity. Look at that little face! (The croc’s, not mine.)
I am aware my li’l murder buddy is plotting my demise, but I confess I enjoyed cuddling its soft li’l belly and well taped up Jaws of Death. The ranger said that while a croc’s downbite is spectacularly strong they have a lot more difficulty opening their jaws against pressure. So the lesson is… maybe always carry some duct tape? (Maybe this is not the lesson, but it was my takeaway).
I wasn’t either brave or agile enough to attempt the Cage of Death with a full adult croc, like this pair here, but it did look kinda fun.
It’s a good thing that Journey Beyond’s famous train, The Ghan, covers such spectacular scenery (as well as being a delightful travel experience in its own right). I cuddled no more crocs, but met an echidna and visited Katherine Gorge, where I saw Aboriginal rock art that was older than the Egyptian Pyramids.
We continued southward, like we were unzippering the nation. We skirted Alice Springs proper to visit the Desert Park (other groups with more agility and better knees took on long walks) where we met a roly poly hand-raised echidna who at least had a friendlier expression when defeinding itself with spikes.
That night, we stopped in the outback to view the stars. The flaming bonfire made that kinda difficult at first, but a few steps away you could stand in the red dirt and look up to see the smear of white as we looked into the distant spiral arm of our galaxy, the spilled milk of the Milky way which I never saw as a child. The first time I saw it – in Sassafras, walking with Tim – I was dumbfounded. I had no idea it could be seen with the naked eye!
And here it was again. So lovely, despite our imperfect world, and there we were, this gathering of imperfect people, gazing up. Strangers who became friends for a few days, under that beautiful sky.
Now we’re in Adelaide, a nice little town. We popped along to Victor Harbor (it’s spelled without the ‘u’ for arcane reasons) and rode in both a heritage train and a horse-drawn tram.
The massive Clydesdale and several stable-mates take the tram out, stolid and unfussed by much. As one of the handlers said, “I’m not sure I could convince a horse that big to do anything it doesn’t want to do.”
And of course, no matter where I go, Richard III lurks like a panto villian in the background.
Don’t you know I’m on your side, Dickon?
If only I could remember where I saw the place, I could swing by and see if their coffee is to die for, or is better used to despatch enemies. Or at least to ask how they came about the name and where they stand on the nephews business.