Australia Travel Diary
22 June 2002
Australia's Northern Territory (NT) in winter makes an
indelible first impression: the clean smell of eucalyptus mixed with the smoke of
half a dozen bush fires; the hoarse "ock, ock" of the Torresian Crow; but most
of all the harsh relentless glare of the tropical sun in a clear blue sky. Standing
in the sun feels like being too close to an oven.
Today I flew into Darwin, at the "Top End" of Australia, and
rented a campervan. During the next month I'll drive around the NT, down to Alice
Springs, and into Western Australia. The little Britz van has all the amenities: a
bed of sorts in the back, a propane stove, sink with running water, and a small
refrigerator. My first stop is Woolworth's, the main grocery chain here, where I
stock up on two weeks of comestibles. One of the other patrons has a baby kangeroo
peeking out from within her denim jacket.
Too quickly the sun sets. I'm motoring south in the dark, nervous about driving on
the left side of the road, no idea where to spend the night. What to do? Just
in time comes a sign, "Boomerang Caravan Park, next right." Caravan park
is Aussie for campground. It also has a little cafe, grocery store, and petrol
station, not to mention the swimming pool. Boomerang is my headquarters for the next
23 June 2002
One of my first stops is Fogg Dam, a famous wetlands
area, great for waterfowl. All are new to me; however, the star is a Rainbow
Bee-eater, gracefully hawking insects just above the marsh. Bee-eaters evolved in
Africa and spread into Europe and Asia. Only this species reached Australia.
Found throughout most of the continent, they retreat northward in winter, and are now one
of the most abundant birds here. After a while even this beautiful bird becomes
"just another bee-eater."
24 June 2002
The cultural side of camping is not neglected at Boomerang. Tonight under a full
moon we enjoy a reading by Waldo the bush poet. The spirit of Robert Frost can rest
26 June 2002
Driving east of Fogg Dam, I see a signpost for Leaning
Tree Lagoon. A rough sandy track runs 500 m to a charming little lake teeming with
wildlife, no one else in sight. With the van I'm pretty much self-sufficient, so I
pull in for the night. A more idyllic scene could not be imagined. On a grassy
verge across the lake a dozen red kangaroos putter about; above them in the eucalyptus are
a noisy flock of Red-tailed Black-cockatoos. Hundreds of Magpie Geese line the
shore, constantly complaining. Comb-crested Jacanas, Masked Lapwings, Straw-necked
Ibis, Darters, Little Pied Cormorants, Black-necked Storks - all the NT waterfowl are on
display. With a cold glass of James Boag premium in hand, I enjoy the show as the
sun sets and stars of the Southern Cross begin to appear. Now this is camping!