Australian outback, Alice Springs and Darwin

At the completion of my stay in Sydney, I took the train to Adelaide. It was a night train, and the route was over the Blue Mountains. I probably missed a lot of nice scenery, and the ride was so bumpy that I got practically no sleep. Taking a train across Australia is a worthy adventure, but if you can afford it, get a sleeping berth.

In Adelaide, I switched trains and boarded the fabled Ghan for Darwin. The name “Ghan” comes from “Afghan” because of the role Afghan camel drivers played in the early exploration of inner Australia.

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Leaving Adelaide, I noticed many abandoned houses among the farms.

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After a while, the landscape turned from agricultural to sparse woods and desert.

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I saw many kangaroos and emus, but they were far away from the tracks, and my camera lacked enough zoom to capture them.

At one point, the train crew announced that we would be passing the “Iron Man” monument, which…

… is a unique monument marking the site of the one-millionth concrete sleeper laid on the stretch of railway line between Tarcoola and Alice Springs.  This track section was one of the most difficult to construct due, in part, to the harsh and unforgiving climate of Central Australia.  The new line was completed in 1980, replacing the old wooden sleeper line which was continually ravaged by white ants and floods.

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It’s amazing that I was able to get a decent photo of this monument as we whizzed past it. To do so, with the rudimentary camera I was using at the time, should count as one of the great feats of photography!

When we arrived at Alice Springs, we had a four-hour layover. Four hours is just enough time to explore the town and area. I had befriended a Dutch girl on the train, so we explored the town together.

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There were quite a few Aboriginals in Alice Springs who were lounging outdoors in small groups.

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These women saw me with my camera, and asked me if this was the first time I’d seen Aborigines. They were kind enough to pose for me.

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Alcohol is a serious problem among the Aborigines. This was obvious to me, even during my short visit.

We were strolling through a park – and I decided to sit down next to a couple of Aboriginal fellows. They told us about where they came from, where there are “too many emus” (I think he meant “many emus;” he didn’t speak standard Australian English). He said he was from the desert in the southwest of Australia.

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If I look hot and sweaty in the photo, that would be because it was like a blast furnace in Alice Springs. This is probably why they get very few tourists during the Austral summer.

And the heat did not abate when we reached Darwin, except that now there was humidity to deal with as well. But I’m not complaining; if you travel to these places, this is what you should expect.

The change of scenery, as we approached Darwin, was dramatic.

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I noticed large termite mounds.

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The hostel (more like a hotel) I stayed at in Darwin featured a swimming pool, and I figured I could use it to escape the heat. No dice; even the pool water was warm. Showering helped – for about five minutes, and then I was dripping with sweat again. I soon discovered that wearing a shirt around here was not a good idea.

You might point out that Darwin is on the coast, and that a person can take a dip in the ocean. Not if you value your life; the box jelly fish can get you!

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This is another reason Aussies vacation in the “Top End” mainly during the Austral winter, and not during the summer. But the locals seem to have acclimated just fine. I saw college kids carrying on outdoors fully clothed. I guess you get used to it after a while – or move somewhere else.

I took a day tour while in Darwin. It included a hike in the rain forest, a tour of termite mounds, a visit to a crocodile farm and  some time at a beautiful swimming spot – where the water was actually COLD.

Here are some rain forest, and swimming hole, photos.

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This bird may look cute and harmless, but it thought nothing of swooping down and stealing the chicken sandwich right from the hands of one of the Japanese tourists. Is it possible this bird still holds a grudge against the Japanese for bombing Darwin during WWII? Or maybe it just likes chicken sandwiches.

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While hiking through the rain forest, I felt something funny on my foot, but thought little of it, since I was wearing shoes and socks. But, upon my return to civilization, I discovered an engorged leech attached to my foot. It was, of course, engorged with my blood. I pulled it off and flung it far away. I’m sure it went “splat” somewhere. The wound didn’t hurt, but it did bleed for a long time due to the leech’s secretions.

Incidentally, the name of this park is Litchfield. So I got bitten by a leech in “Leechfield!”

At the time of this journey, I was squeamish about what I ate, so I declined the crocodile meat at the farm. But the Japanese tried some. They also had no problem tasting the green ants, that make their home inside termite mounds. Apparently, they taste like lime. Here’s one of the largest termite mounds.

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We caught a fleeting glimpse of a pack of dingoes crossing the road. The driver/guide yelled “DINGOES!” and then they were gone. So, contrary to some rumors, there are dingoes in the north; it’ just that they’re elusive.

I also took a “jumping crocodile cruise” while in Darwin.

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As mentioned, the Japanese bombed Darwin during WWII.

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In hindsight, I should have allowed myself more time in the Northern Territory, in order to visit Arnhem Land.

On my last evening in Darwin, I wandered the city. In the distance was a park bench where some Aboriginals sat. One woman’s voice was so loud, people probably heard her from miles around. Her speech was unintelligible to me, except for her frequent use of the word “fucking.”

As I departed Darwin, on my way to Brunei, I shot this photo from the air.

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