Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Litchfield National Park

This is backdating a bit as I wait for my plane to Bangkok, Singapore Airport has free, fast wi-fi. I must be in the Northern Hemisphere.

On my last day in Australia I was given a car to “self-drive” out to Litchfield National Park. Litchfield is one of the big national parks in the NT and I was glad to not have to spend another day seeing crocodiles ( no offense crocodiles). The drive out was pleasant, I put on y headphone and listened to about a third of my Grateful Dead compilation as I drove down dusty half barren roads. Got to see myself one of those nifty “road trains” as they call them in Oz. Basically a Mac truck with not one or two but as many as four or five trailers behind it. Rumor has it they get even bigger on the empty highways that bypass the nation, but I can’t say for sure. I only say four. Lucky I didn’t have to pass one, I don’t think my little rental Hundai could have made it.

It took over an hour from Darwin to even make it to Litchfield and another twenty or so minutes in the park to reach my first destination, the magnetic termite mounds. In short the park is enormous and it is by no means the biggest one in Australia. The Whole of the NT is over a million square kilometers, yeah that’s right Wiki it if you don’t believe me, it’s massive. Did I mention that Darwin, it’s capital is only just above 100,000 people? That should give you an idea of how empty the land is, empty of humanity that is.

Now the magnetic termite mounds, for those of you who have not obsessively watched David Attenborough’s The Secret World of Insects are a made by a type of grass eating termites that build their rather large communal homes to face along north to south lines. This means that they can save on heating costs, during the morning as the sun is rising and heating up on side of the mound they all move to the west, in the evening they move back again. There are specially designed channels that move hot and cold air throughout the mound and there are even chimneys. Termites are smart as (there’s an Aussie phrase for you, not a typo).

So I went and saw them. They looked like big looming tombstones all lined up facing the same way, grey in color all on a field of grass, it was a little strange. There is another type of termite in the area, Cathedral termites which build really enormous mounds. Here’s a picture just so you can see how big. Juts think that’s made of bug spit and dirt, makes our skyscrapers seem much less original.

I got back in the car and drove another 20 minutes into the park to Florence Falls. There was a pleasant if warm hike to where the plunge pool was. People and their families were gathered in the crystal clear water, green algae and red and orange rocks making a beautiful juxtaposition of color. I stuck my legs in and enjoyed the cool water moving against me for a while before I myself ran out of water. Running out of water isn’t something you want to do in the NT, it can kill you. It was getting late anyhow so I mossied back to my car and drove the almost two hours back to Darwin.

My last meal in Australia was pie, just like it was for Fiz. It was hard to track down as the sun was setting and everything in Darwin except the bars seems to shut at 5pm. Find one I did though and I thought of my first meal in Australia, at a Pie Face on Swanston St in Melbourne that I passed every day on my way to work.  I remember how relived we both were to be back in the 1st world after Fiz’s near-death food poisoning.

I was amazed this morning, at 2am when my flight took off how relived I was to be leaving. Australia has a strange and powerful energy, one that I don’t think novices should tangle with, one that I probably tangled with too long. There is a wildness to it, it’s not quite malicious but neither is it friendly. Its tricky to describe because it’s a tricky kind of vibe, it slips through the fingers of your mind when you try to pin it down. There is something about it that I always felt distinctly ill-at ease with. It was fairly easy to ignore in the city but out in the open outback, it was in it’s element and I have to admit, it scared me a bit.

As I flew off the continent I couldn’t help but breath a sigh of relief. Asia and I get on well. I love Asia and it, well it tolerates me fairly well. My plane is boarding. Got to run!

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