Northern Territory: A Trip of Firsts – Part 1

I have spent nearly three weeks in Australia’s Northern Territory where I have seen the most amazing nature. Quite unintentionally, Australia is becoming a trip of firsts and as Phil Collins sings there is something exhilarating about the first time you ever do something, a sensation that can never be repeated.

In Kakadu National Park I went camping for the first time in my life and on my way to the showers I saw my first wallaby, it was so near I could almost touch him as was the white crested cockatoo that was feverishly trying to get a few drops of water from an outside tap. My favourite was the path that led to the bar which was lined by 5 foot hedges and every time I walked through a vast number of butterflies would fly out of their hideaways in alarm onto the path forming a living curtain. As the days went by I saw more wallabies and chuckled every time as they ran at the sight of our van. I had never before seen wild horses and these were in the company of foals which made it the more special.  Or freshwater crocodiles which are quite timid and smaller than their salty cousins who eat them, hence the timidity. Or ants that when you cut off their heads taste lemony…I passed on that one…

At Ubirr I saw colourful Aboriginal wall paintings. I loved hearing about “the dream time”. The story of the creation of the land, how the mountains, rocks and sky were formed, stories that tell the history of the land and culture. I found particularly enchanting how some seemingly simple stories have a deeper meaning of how to recognise a location or what to eat in that particular location. And then right at the top of all the rocks, the most spectacular views of the plains appeared.

Deanne a very nice Aboriginal girl gave us a traditional welcome which consisted of her drinking from a cup filled with billabong water and spitting on the top of our heads while saying “Cul Cul” which means welcome. Apparently this ceremony varies from group to group and in one the locals don’t wash for several days and rub water on their armpits which is then rubbed on the face of the one being welcomed. So as these things go being spat on was not too bad…

I had assumed that all Aborigines had the same traditions and language but far from it. There are now about 150 languages that still remain and the culture is as diverse as it is in Europe. We learned about the different tree uses and crafts and how society is changing. Whereas some of the elders may still simply rub a piece of berry from a tree to numb the mouth and with the help of a kangaroo bone pull a tooth out, as Deanne said, most of the younger generation just go to the dentist.

I cruised along the Corroboree billabong which was just beautiful, most of the water covered in water lilies. This billabong has the largest concentration of saltwater crocodiles in the world. They are there, you just can’t see them, perfectly camouflaged in such a few inches of water. The guide who took us onto the billabong cruise pointed to two cabinets at the front of the boat and told us that was where the life vests were…”they are not going to be much use in croc infested waters, but if you want to wear one, go ahead”. No point bothering then, is there?

Corroboree Billabong, Australia

Corroboree Billabong, Australia

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