Northern Territory

CALAMITY, catastrophic caterpillars.

 

Oh dear what a disaster and disappointment. Overnight the kale crop has almost been decimated by dozens of greedy green caterpillars.

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How did they infiltrate through the netting I so carefully put in place?

I’m devastated. Carefully I pick as many off as I can find and feed them to the fish.

Look at the lettuce.

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Despite all my loving attention they are bolting off to seed.

Then I walk round to the back garden and my lovely big Cycad is in tatters. A small blue moth has laid its bugs which are now powering through the fronds.

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With all the rain we have had and the heat and humidity the garden is a breeding ground for all kinds of voracious bugs and beetles.

But there are still some highlights to bring a smile to my face and joy to my heart.

Look at the sunflowers…

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I can see a little ray of sunshine peeping out of the green foliage. So far so good.

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The bat plant loves this hot humid weather and has rewarded me with this amazing flower. 

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In the shade of the frangipani tree the Hoya winds its tendrils around and today I noticed this delicate beauty. The first of the summer display.

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Another Heliconia has come into flower. This is a dwarf variety, I think it is called Red Christmas. It only grows to approximately three-foot where the other varieties tower up to six-foot and over.

Gardening is always a mine field of ups and downs. Challenges and rewards that make gardening an endlessly absorbing addiction.

Finally I would like to show you this strange-looking flower. Can any one identify it for me?

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In August 2012 we stayed in a camp ground in a small town called Pine Creek in the central out back area. As we walked round the town I noticed a lady watering her garden and we hung over her fence chatting.

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It was a riot of colour and stood out from all the other dry, dusty out back gardens along the street.

I commented on the strange-looking red flower growing profusely around her garden and like all generous natured gardeners around the world she gave me some seeds.

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I carefully carried them back home and eventually the seeds were scattered in a pot, then moved into the garden and true to what that generous lady told me, they grew like weeds and are now spreading all over my garden. I did take a note of their name but that bit of paper disappeared.

Can anyone help me?

Thanks to Toni , one of my blogging buddies, I have found out that this plant is cocks comb. this is what Google says

“Cockscomb flowers are also known as Wool Flowers or Brain Celosia, suggestive of a highly colored brain. The flowers belong to the amaranth family, Amaranthaceae. Cockscomb blooms with a compacted crested head 2-5 inches across, on leafy stems that are 12-28 inches long. The flower’s name is suggestive of a rooster’s comb. The Cockscomb flower blooms from late summer through late fall. The Celosia plant is an annual dicotyledon.” (For more information click here)

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Categories: Australia, garden, Goldcoast, Northern Territory, photos, vegetable garden | Tags: , , , , , | 53 Comments

Weekly Photo Challenge : Infinite

In the Australian Outback the road appears to stretch to infinity. The traffic approaches as if rising from a mirage as it floats across the endless Mitchel grass plains.

In 2012 we travelled through the outback to the Northern Territory. After years of drought two good seasons of rain had produced lush pasture, hay making was in progress, we saw the outback at its best. Now a year later it is once more in the grip of drought with no rain for almost a year since we travelled through.

The Matilda Highway

The Matilda Highway

Vehicles floating towards us in a mirage

Vehicles floating towards us in a mirage

That winter we travelled to the Northern Territory to explore Kakadu National Park. Kakadu is considered a living cultural landscape. The Bininj  Mungguy Aboriginal people have lived on and cared for this country for more than 50,000 years. Their deep spiritual connection to the land dates back to  the Creation and has always been an important part of the Kakadu story.

The Aboriginals are the oldest living culture still in existence and their dream time stories say they stretch back to the beginning of creation, into the mists of infinity.

I felt privileged to have the opportunity to explore Kakadu. I felt it had an aura of the ancient Traditional Owners still lingering in the rock art and the tracks and bill-a-bongs that so many years ago the tribes had followed.  Aboriginal people were traditionally hunter-gatherers and moved regularly to   places where resources were plentiful. There were no permanent settlements, but   favoured camping areas were used for many, many generations. Among the temporary   dwellings the people used were stringy-bark and paperbark shelters near   billabongs, wet-season huts built on stilts on the floodplains, and rock   shelters in the stone country.

Arnhem Land, going back into the mists of time

In the distance, looming over Kakadu, Arnhem Land is a place the present day Aboriginal calls his traditional home, a permit is needed for non-aboriginal people to visit here, it is like going back into the mists of time.

We walk along the tracks that the tribes have walked along for thousands of years

We walk along the tracks that the tribes have walked along for thousands of years

We rest near a bill-a-bong and appreciate the beauty and reflections in the fresh water

We rest near a bill-a-bong and appreciate the beauty and reflections in the fresh water

Be ever watchful as the crocodile is also a predator that has been around for thousands of years and will be waiting for the unwary

Be ever watchful as the crocodile is also a predator that has been around for thousands of years and will be waiting for the unwary

The track winds through the rocks formed when the world was young

The track winds through the rocks formed when the world was young

The roots of an ancient gum tree have slowly over many years worked through the rock and clung to life in the surrounding rock

The roots of an ancient gum tree have slowly, over many years, worked through the rock and clung to life in the surrounding rock

When the storms rage and the lightening flashes across the sky and the violent tropical rain falls we can shelter under the ancient rock outcrops, safe and secure till the storm passes

When the storms rage and the lightning flashes across the sky and the violent tropical rain falls the tribes can shelter under the ancient rock outcrops, safe and secure till the storm passes. Stories can be told of the culture passed down from generation to generation. Drawings immortalise the creatures the ancestors saw and hunted

The lightening man, a spirit to be feared

The lightening man, a spirit to be feared

The rainbow serpent who created all things

The rainbow serpent who created all things

Kakadu

Then the sun shines once more and the tribe moves on

Then the sun shines once more and the tribe moves on

Kakadu

Yes Kakadu is a very special place, a spiritual country of beauty. I feel privileged to have spent 6 days discovering it and learning more about the Traditional Owners that have lived here for so long. I hope that their culture and stories can remain into infinity and not forgotten.

Categories: aboriginal history, Aboriginal rock art, Australia, infinity, Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory, out back, photos, post-a-week, travel, Weekly photo challenge | Tags: , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Travel Theme : Shadows

Shadows can be everywhere when the sun shines, and shine it does most of the time in Australia. The heat can be over-powering.

When we travel north it is always a priority to find a camp spot with shady trees. Just outside Katherine in the Northern Territory we knew of a delightful shady camp ground behind the Springvale Homestead. This beautiful old stone building is the oldest surviving homestead in the Northern Territory and has a fascinating history. Click here to visit the post I wrote in August 2012 when we stayed there.

I Googled “Springvale homestead history” to check the dates and facts and I was absolutely amazed to see my post pop up at the top of the list….

So for the theme of shadows that Ailsa of ” Where’s my backpack”  has challenged us with this week I thought I would revisit the homestead and the amazing Indian rain trees that Mary Giles planted in 1879.

Indian rain trees

Indian rain trees

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Springvale homestaed

Springvale homestead

Looking through the archives I came across this photo below, and couldn’t resist popping it in….

A walk into the sunset

A walk into the sunset

 

 

 

Categories: Australia, australian travel, camping australia, Northern Territory, photos, shadows, travel theme | Tags: , , , , | 14 Comments

Magnetic termite mounds, natures survivers

Magnetic termite mound

One last post about Litchfield National Park and this is to show you the amazing magnetic termite mounds. These are nature’s answer to surviving in this very hot tropical climate. Every termite mound in this area is built facing magnetic north and long and thin along the north/south axis. This is to minimise the exposure to the sun.

How amazing, they must have a built-in compass. Click on the link above for more photos and information.

Same magnetic termite mound

 

Magnetic termite mounds

 

When seen on mass the first thing that springs to mind is “they look like a graveyard”… The mounds in the park had a board walk past them and were fenced off, you could not get up close and personal. The ones I photographed with Jack alongside where on the dirt road before we entered the National Park area so we were pleased we had stopped for the photo-op when it presented itself.

Well that is our Top End odyssey. The temperatures are into the top 30’s and the build up is starting, it will soon be the wet, humid, cyclone season so time for us to head out. It has been a very interesting stay up here…

Categories: australian travel, Litchfield National Park, magnetic termite mounds, National Parks, Northern Territory, travel | Tags: , , , , , | 11 Comments

Litchfield National Park

82 km back road in, 30 km unsealed

After 3 days at Tumbling Waters Holiday Park we continued a further 82 kilometres into Litchfield National Park, 30 kilometres of this road was unsealed and very dusty.

This National Park is very different to Kakadu, where Kakadu was mainly flood plain and savannah land and a large part of it burnt bush, this park was smaller and on an escarpment. It was a wonderland of waterfalls, cascading streams, palms, monsoon forest, rocky headlands and woodland areas. It is visually more interesting, lush and scenic than Kakadu. We spent 3 days exploring this national Park. Scrambling over rocky paths leading to the top of the waterfalls. Cooling down in the plunge pools at the bottom of the falls after the hot walk. Strolling along the well maintained crazy paving as it wound through woodland areas, following rippling, cascading streams through the tropical monsoon forest pockets.

Tropical monsoon forest area

Shady Creek walk

Tumbling waters of Shady Creek walk

Cascades

Crazy paving path through the woodlands

The first night we decided to camp at Wangi Falls camp ground, a basic bush camp maintained by the parks and wildlife organisation, $6-60 per person. After a satisfying day of walking, swimming and taking lots of photos we pulled into the camp ground. What a surprise it was full, in fact it was crowded. The Safari camp ground was 5 kilometres along the road, it was a commercially run camp and charged $25 for unpowered site, $35 for powered site, so we booked in on the unpowered, that is where we stayed the night.

Next day it was more exploring of the remaining walks and waterfalls. Florence falls was very popular and had lots of people swimming and cooling off in it. I went in also, I am not a confident swimmer and have a phobia about my head going under water, so it was with great caution, hanging onto rocky outcrops, that I lowered myself in. The rocks were very slippery and when a rather large fish came over and nibbled my leg I decided that was enough cooling off for me…

Wangi Falls walk to top of waterfall

Wangi Falls

Tolmer Falls

Florence Falls

 

The last waterfall was the Buley Rockholes and this area also had a basic bush camp. At 4pm when we drove in it only had one other camper there. So we set the van up and then went for a walk along the stream to the rockholes. It was breathtaking beautiful with rippling cascades of water falling from level to level over the rocks. No one else was in the small plunge pool at the bottom of the last cascade. Jack was quickly in and splashing around under the small waterfall. It looked such an inviting and small pool that Jack persuaded me to come in. It was heaven, not deep, no slippery rocks, no splashing and jumping children, no fishes, I eventually picked up the courage, with Jack’s help, to sit under the small waterfall, it was like a bubbling spa refreshing my body.

It was a full moon that night and as we lay in the van we could hear dingoes howling in the distance.

Next morning we went back with our cameras to catch that magical early morning light.

Buley Rockholes

 

Can you see Jack?

 

That’s me feeling very brave….

 

 

 

 

Categories: Australia, australian travel, Litchfield National Park, National Parks, Northern Territory, photos, travel | Tags: , , , | 12 Comments

Tumbling Waters a hidden park in paradise

Sunrise through the mist

Stephanie, our couch surfing host,told us about her favourite campground on the way to Litchfield National Park. It was Tumbling Waters Holiday Park (click on this link to see photos and a description of it) It was well off the beaten track, 20 kilometres along a side road that was the back way into Litchfield. As this was our next destination we decided to stop at Tumbling Waters on the way. It was one of those unexpected gems that turn out to be a top experience. It was nestled among thousands of palms in a tropical garden setting and it had a pool to cool down in. It even had its own in-house crocodiles, 2 freshwater crocodiles basking behind a wire fence with notices not to let children through the gate.They had a large outdoor screen and every Saturday and Wednesday night a movie would be shown. With glass of wine or beer in hand, take along your own chair, it was a lovely experience to sit under the stars on a balmy, tropical night, smothered in insect repellant, to watch the show. It also had a restaurant and bar. All this for $28 for a powered camp site under the shade of large gum trees.

The Blackmore river flowed past and billabongs and bush walks extended, invitingly out from the camp. We woke at 6-30 and putting walking shoes on went into the bush to explore and have a photo session as the sun rose. It was a misty, magical morning.

Early morning bush walk

 

Cathedral termite mound

 

Spring blossom

 

These tiny star flowers twinkled in the bush

 

Early morning mist over the Blackmore river

 

Hiding in the bush

 

Unknown flower

 

River gums reflections

 

Breakfast time

 

Time can pass and before we knew it we had been out 2 hours and feeling hungry headed back for breakfast. We spent 3 days in this idyllic camp ground. Before moving on to Litchfield National park.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Australia, Camping grounds, Northern Territory, photos, travel | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Back track to Darwin

Smith Street Mall fountains Darwin, can you spot Jack?

We are now 200 kilometres along the Barkly Highway, heading east. Last night we booked into Barkly Homestead campground, home of the thousand budgies (click on this link if you would like another look at them). This morning we wake to a pleasant 18deg and clear blue skies. No regrets about the decision when I checked the temperatures at Alice Springs and it was 1 degree overnight, brrrrr….

So we decide it is time for a day off the road and book in for a second night here. For the past 2-3 weeks it has been all go, exploring Darwin, Kakadu, Lichfield and driving long distances over the past few days. Not to mention procrastinating over the decision. I love travelling but every now and again it is time to stop and recharge all our batteries. This is a good shady camp area and the internet connection is 5 bars. So I am going to back-track and show you some photos and my impressions of the places we have been in the Top End.

Starting with Darwin…

k

 

Smith Street Mall Darwin

Twenty years ago we visited Darwin. My memory of back then was a small provincial city, very tropical, lots of palms and hibiscus, laid back, slow-moving. Some things never change it is still tropical but I was disappointed to see most of the palms had been taken away and replaced in Smith Street with metal sculptures that for me did not give a tropical feel. The fountain was fun and children enjoyed running through it. High rise buildings are dotting the horizon and down town area. Darwin is definitely a city on a growth curve. I read that it is very hard to get rental properties and house prices are on the rise, a sure sign of city growth.

Having said that I still enjoyed the atmosphere of Darwin. The free use of buses for old people, we made the most of that facility and toured around the areas looking at the beaches and outer suburbs. I’ve mentioned the world-class museum and art gallery, but another attraction that is a must do is the Mindil Beach sunset markets.

Hi-rise buildings of Darwin behind Mindil Beach

These are every Thursday and the stalls are set along the beach front. They start approx 4-30 and the variety of things to look at and buy is endless, art work, jewellery, clothes of all descriptions, perfumes, potions and creams to cure-all ills, baskets, Aboriginal art work and of course the food stalls. All nationalities are catered for, you can even buy kangaroo meat and crocodile patties, I tried the crocodile but it was very heavily laced with corn so that was the main taste. Buskers add to the atmosphere and by 6-30 the place was crowded.

didgeridoo artist

 

didgeridoo artist

 

Colourful stall holders

 

Aboriginal busker

 

South American musician

 

Cool chick

 

Jack can always get the good-looking girls to pose for him. This is one of Jack’s admirers of his “happy pants”….

 

 

 

 

 

Just one of the many food stalls

El-fresco dining at its best, bring your own chair…

 

The sun never fails to put on a good sunset show

 

Categories: Darwin, Mindil Beach markets, Northern Territory, travel | Tags: , , , , | 8 Comments

Update on Matilda….

7am I was on the phone to mechanics.

Number one mechanic, “sorry we have a waiting list of 10 days…”

Number two mechanic “Sorry we have a waiting list of two weeks…”

Number three mechanic, “Sorry we can not take you till September 21…”

Number four mechanic “Sorry we no longer do mechanical work…”

Oh dear it was looking as though we would be getting to know Katherine very well….

Then break through, Dave of H & R motors took pity on us and said “Bring her in I will look and if it is a small job I may be able to fix it”

Eventually Dave was able to look inside her and diagnosed a dirty fuel filter and the timing needed altering. He worked his magic on her and $150 later we were purring along. One more night in Katherine and tomorrow we will be heading south through the red heart of Australia, along the Stuart Highway, in the footsteps of many famous explorers.

Our first stop will be back to Daly Waters Pub, that crazy iconic place that we enjoyed so much last stop on the way north. Do not know what sort of internet reception there will be along the track. So I will be back to report our travels when I can. I still have Darwin and Litchfield National Park to tell you about. But now after a stressful day it is time for a glass of wine.

I will just add this photo of a couple of flowers we saw as we explored the National Parks.

Unknown flower

 

Red kapok flower

 

 

 

Categories: Australia, Northern Territory | Tags: , , | 7 Comments

Couch surfing hosts are very special people

Stephanie in her community garden plot

We love couch surfing. It is a great way to meet local people and really get to know an area. Cities always have quite a large number of hosts to contact. Darwin is different to other cities as it is the end of the line for back packers, or in some cases the start. They have bought an old van and travelled around Australia or just along the popular east coast and now it is time to sell the van and fly out to the next destination. What better way to end the Australian adventure than staying with a CS host. Also most of them are very “cash strapped”.

Most hosts get upward of 50 requests a week, so we considered our selves lucky to be accepted by Stephanie, her husband Regis and their adorable young daughter.

The very nature of couch surfing means a host must be a very trusting and accommodating type of person. They are opening their home and heart to complete strangers. The CS hosts we have stayed with around Australia have all been very interesting people. Most have travelled widely and have lots of interesting stories to swap. Generally they are interested in conservation and we have learnt a lot from them.

Stephanie believes passionately in recycling, re-using and conservation. She practices what she preaches in her blog www.frugaldownunder@blogspot  Visit her blog for lots of money-saving tips and ways of making every thing go further. We went to see the vegetable plot they have in the Darwin Botanic Garden, Snake Bean community garden. It is shared and run on permaculture principles by approx 29 people and was a riot of lush, edible goodies. I helped harvest tomatoes, a number of different varieties, eggplant, snake beans, cucumber, rocket, spinach and a number of herbs. All manner of things are collected by Stephanie to be recycled. It was a revelation of frugality.

We were also very lucky to have Regis as our own personal guide for an hours tour around the Darwin Museum. To be given the back ground history and stories behind the exhibits was a special privilege and brought the museum alive for us. Of special interest was the fishing exhibition which Regis had curated and personally put together. I never knew that there were so many different lures that could be used in fishing. Fishing is a passion for Regis and he has a blog on that subject  <theramblingexpat@blogspot>

We spent a week parked in the car port outside the apartment. It had a shade cloth roof that was high enough to push the roof of the van up so we could sleep in Matilda and it was cool in the evening.

Snake bean community garden

Categories: accomadation, australian travel, botanic gardens, comunity garden, couch surfing, Northern Territory | Tags: , , , , | 6 Comments

Jumping crocs

Don’t mess with this baby…

As we left Kakadu and head toward Darwin the excitement hasn’t finished yet. Along the Adelaide River you can take a cruise to see crocodiles in a different mood. This is definitely not a cultural cruise. This is all about the raw savagery and speed of the crocodile. Twenty years ago we saw these crocs and still remembered the power and height they can jump. The tour operator knows each croc by name and they certainly put on a show for us.

Remember the photos of the fishermen in that small boat when we went on the cultural cruise? would you go out fishing if you knew these creatures where lurking around beneath your boat?

Jumping crocs

Categories: Australia, crocodiles, Northern Territory, photos, travel | Tags: , , , | 6 Comments

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