Australia Travel Diary Van & termite mound (49184 bytes)

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.
Rainbow-Bee-eater (58085 bytes)    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 few days.

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 easy.
Little Pied Cormorant (44459 bytes)




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!

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