Northern Territory What to Expect

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Traveling with Children in Northern Territory 
Tennant Creek, Northern Territory, Australia
One hundred kilometres to the South of Tennant Creek, my brief stop for the night, is what must be one of the most photographed attractions Australia has to offer - The Devil's Marbles. Aboriginal legend has it that these massive round boulders standing mysteriously on their ends and scattered around a small area of the desert are the eggs of the Rainbow Serpent, a spiritual being who helped to create the world in the Dreamtime by forcing up the land from below to create the mountains and terrain. The Marbles provide welcome shade from the burning sun, as long as you can cast off the niggling thought that the one next to you is about to fall over and squash you flat, and the odd Goanna can be seen darting in and out of the shade if you stand around long enough. This is also one of those truly spiritual places in Australia where you really do have to sit down on the edge of a rock and just go "wow" - I'd like very much to know what it's like here with nobody else around, with total peace replacing the clicking of camera shutters and kids laughing and screaming as they try to knock the boulders over. If you've seen Billy Connelly's World Tour of Australia, this is where he suddenly decides to take all his clothes off and dance naked around the rocks while people watching at home regurgitate their lunch. To each his own. Upon first inspection, there seems to be no logical explanation for how these perfectly round granite boulders come to be standing here, clearly worn away from beneath by ancient forces, right up until the point where they are about to topple, and then left alone as a puzzle to visitors for centuries to come. Of course, there's probably a perfectly good geological reason why they look this way, but that would mean that the Rainbow Serpent story wasn't true so I don't want to know. Actually, in recent years the Australian government has done something of a U-turn on the issue of Aboriginal rights - these days, and quite rightly too, the Aboriginal culture is taken very seriously and everything is being done to put right the mistakes of times gone by. The Devil's Marbles are considered to be sacred by the Aborigines, so you can imagine that they were just a little annoyed at the beginning of the 50s when one of the marbles - and remember that these are believed to be the eggs of one of the creatures who created the world - was plucked away and put on display in Alice Springs without anybody thinking to ask what the local tribe thought of the idea. This, to me, is a bit like somebody walking into a graveyard, digging up your grandmother and putting her on display in the natural history museum. In the last few years, the "egg" has been returned to it's rightful place in the desert and has been replaced in Alice Springs with a large boulder which somebody presumably found by the side of the road. If there are four things you must see in Australia, forget the Opera House and all that modern junk and head straight for the natural marvels - Uluru, The Devils Marbles, The Barrier Reef and Wave Rock in Western Australia, among others. I'll be getting to Wave Rock later in this trip.

You can read my complete travel journals at www.offexploring.com/globalwanderer and www.offexploring.com/globalwanderer2
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Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
The itinerary for my last day with the AAT Kings tour group changed totally at breakfast this morning when the news surfaced that the entrance to Litchfield National Park was flooded and that we could no longer visit the park or go swimming at Wangi Falls as planned. Mike had been given a report by his boss early this morning that the road into the park was under nearly two metres of water, and had been getting half hourly updates throughout the night - but the latest news was that the water level, although dropping, was still at over a metre and that the road was likely to remain impassable for some time. On board the coach, Mike and Lisa explained that they had discussed the situation, considered all the options and decided that we should go instead to somewhere called the Territory Wildlife Park in Berry Springs, forty Kilometres outside Darwin. This resulted in a number of people with a collective mental age of about five mumbling under their breath and storming off the coach in a huff, claiming that their entire holiday had been ruined and that they wouldn't be going to no boring wildlife park, but the rest of us accepted that there's not much anybody can do about the weather and we headed off towards Berry Springs for our unexpected excursion. Driving out to the Wildlife Park didn't take long, and AAT Kings paid our entrance fee as the storms had stopped us from being able to visit a Crocodile farm yesterday which we had already paid for. We were met by a girl at the entrance, who was altogether too chirpy for that time of the morning, and she explained every tiny detail about how the park worked before handing us all maps and booklets repeating everything she had just said in case we hadn't been listening. Which most of us hadn't, being still asleep. The park is divided into sections representing the three major habitats of Northern Australia - Monsoon Rainforest, Woodlands and Wetlands. Each of these areas is either a self contained environment supported by the creeks, rivers and forests of Berry Springs, or is contained within a geodome or indoors where environmental conditions can be simulated year round. It's all quite impressive, and the management obviously think they're a smaller version of Disneyland as they've even laid on a "train" that trundles around the roads picking people up from out the front of each environment and dropping them off at the next. My main complaint about the day, if any, is that we had to be back at the coach at the ridiculously early time of 12.15, which didn't give us anywhere near enough time to see everything. Why do coach tours do this? We've already paid to get in and the coach isn't using any petrol while it sits in the car park, so why don't they just leave us in the park all day where there are plenty of restaurants and cafes to keep us happy until evening? It's a mystery to me. My favourite area of the park was the aviary - I could've spent the whole day there. This is something unlike anything you've seen before - instead of having birds crammed cruelly into tiny cages with hardly enough room to perch, this place was nothing short of an opportunity to observe the birds going about their daily business. A wooden walkway started at ground level and raised me slowly upward, higher and higher into the rainforest, right up to the canopy where it zigzagged in and out of the trees with birds zooming past my head and landing on my arm if I decided to stick it out. Multiple habitats have been created for various avian species, and every now and then the walkway would lead me into a sort of hide in the sky, where I was able to sit and watch the birds through giant windows looking right out into the forest and often right into their nests in adjoining trees. Eventually, the walkway led me into a huge space-age biodome which was totally cut off from the rest of the forest and through which the treetop walk continued with jaw droppingly beautiful tropical birds flying everywhere. Even when I finally left the biodome, the walk continued through monsoonal rainforest for some twenty minutes before it gently began to slope back down to ground level and finally emerged back onto the road. I really wanted to be five again, so I could get away with screaming "Go again, go again!" For those wishing to experience birds which are more likely to eat you than sit on your shoulder, the park also offers two Birds of Prey shows daily. A couple of handlers stand in the middle of a large grassy area surrounded by a wary looking audience while various Kites, Hawks and Eagles zoom over the crowd with an average headroom of about three centimetres to grab food out of the hands of anybody who happens to have been foolish enough to bring any. The handlers, who are also clearly accomplished comedians and have the crowd in the palm of their hands as all Australian showmen seem to do, make it quite clear that no attempt has been made to train or tame the birds - they simply know where the food is. Nevertheless, Birds of Prey really don't need to do much to look impressive - just the sight of an Eagle soaring majestically out of the distant trees when called, narrowly missing the heads of small children who shall remain emotionally scarred by the experience for the rest of their lives, and grabbing a small piece of meat out of the handler's outstretched fingers before vanishing over the horizon again is enough to impress anybody. Afterwards, various Hawks and Eagles could be found sitting on logs around the outside of the green snacking on great lumps of meat and looking up occasionally as though to say "Yeah? You looking at me?". We were advised, just in case any of us were suffering from terminal stupidity, not to stroke them. Myself, I wasn't even going to look at them funny. In the aquarium, there is an underwater viewing tunnel which runs underneath a billabong (1) in one of the habitats and I was able to get the closest I have ever been to a really mean looking Saltwater Crocodile - albeit on the other side of a sheet of glass. The sign said that Salties can reach speeds of up to forty kilometres an hour on land, so I'm sure he could've taken a run up and smashed through the window if he'd really wanted to eat me anyway - or at least, that's what I'll be telling people when they ask about my brave encounter with a croc. Today has been really relaxing, and I'm really glad we didn't go to Litchfield as planned as this has turned out to be a great day out. The best thing about the Territory Wildlife Park, as far as I'm concerned, is that there are no animals in cages - the Kangaroos and Wallabies seem to just be wandering around in a massive conservation area, quite happy. They seem to be quite ahead of the pack in Australia when it comes to the things that actually count for anything - the environment, animal welfare, Aboriginal rights. In fact, Australia is one of the most forward thinking countries I've visited on my travels, and it really shows. This evening was the last that the AAT Kings group would be spending together - I'm off Westward and the others are all going their separate ways or flying across to Cairns to join another tour heading south. For a farewell meal, we all trotted off to find a nearby restaurant and ended up in an American chain called Sizzlers, which was certainly an experience. For some reason we were expected to line up upon arrival, as though this was a roadside truck stop, and only after having ordered and paid at the till were we approached by a waitress who provided us with cutlery and showed us to our table. The main problem with this arrangement, of course, was that several of us decided that we wanted a desert after we'd finished our main course - this required lining up all over again and confused the hell out of the waitress who was waiting at the end of the line and couldn't quite get her head around the fact that we already had cutlery and a table! Half way through our meal, we were interrupted by a commotion at the next table. It appears that a young mother had taken it upon herself to change her baby on the dining table - yes, you did read that correctly - and this had upset the management somewhat. Australian hospitality might be a wonderful thing, but it does have its limits.

(1) Billabong is an Australian term for a small lake or pond, often empty in the dry season.

You can read my complete travel journals at www.offexploring.com/globalwanderer and www.offexploring.com/globalwanderer2
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Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
As a kid I lived in Darwin after Cyclone Tracy demolished the entire city and it was being rebuilt. I returned to visit 20 years later and enjoyed it. Try a croc or emu burger in the main town mall and head out of the city to spot some water buffalo. There are some good swimming holes... no crocs... not too far south of the city. Don't try the Croc Dundee trick... the buffalo are likely to charge at you. Watch for snakes too. Locals are extremely friendly especially if you shout them a beer.
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Women Travelers in Northern Territory 
Daly Waters, Northern Territory, Australia
As we all boarded the coach after breakfast this morning, the radio was predicting a tropical storm for the "top end", which is what the Australians imaginatively call the part of the Northern Territory we're heading into now. Our main stop of the day was scheduled to be a dip in the famous thermal springs at Mataranka, and this was to involve a walk through the forest, so the idea that we were heading into the middle of a storm didn't strike me as particularly auspicious - but up here, you usually just accept things like storms and floods as inevitable, shrug and hope for the best. We stopped for lunch at the Daly Waters pub, voted the best wayside Inn in the Northern Territory. It is also Australia's remotest pub, a fact which has clearly only served to add to the attraction of the place. People actually drive hundreds of kilometres out of their way just to visit Daly Waters, either because somebody has told them about it or they've read about it in a book somewhere - but whatever the reason for stopping by, few are disappointed by what they find. The pub isn't actually on the Stuart Highway, which means that the coach had to turn off and drive along a bumpy track to reach it, but this just adds to its remoteness and somehow I feel it would lose a lot of its charm if it suddenly found itself next to a main road. As well as being incredibly remote, Daly Waters is also able to lay claim to being Australia's oldest licensed public house, having been established in 1893. It has everything I would expect from an outback pub - there's a verandah attached to the front that looks as though it could fall off at any moment; a sorry looking dog baking in the mid-day sun, with just enough energy to lift an ear and raise an eye as I walk past; locals sitting around in huge floppy hats sipping beer and telling each other that nothing has happened today. But what makes Daly Waters unique and draws people here from all over the world are the things you wouldn't expect. Our coach captain had been teasing the women on board all morning that the staff at Daly Waters expect all female visitors to donate an item of underwear for them to hang over the bar - upon arrival I have to say that many of them were relieved to find that this activity was entirely voluntary, although there really is a fair collection of bras and panties tacked up over the bar which have been left behind over the years. The walls are covered from top to bottom with photos of visitors sitting around, posing, or taking part in regular events and live entertainment which the pub lays on. There were football scarves, badges, stickers, dirty (in both meanings of the word) posters, foreign flags, beer mats and other assorted stuff stuck to every surface. This, as you can imagine, gives the pub a real international feel. In fact, several beams are covered from floor to ceiling with coins and banknotes from around the world. I don't think there was a single bit of free space anywhere to stick anything new, so I assume there must also be a massive storeroom somewhere so that they can remove old stuff and replace it with new offerings on a regular basis. Outside the front of the pub is Australia's remotest traffic light, in perfectly working order, serving absolutely no purpose whatsoever other than to make people point and say "What the hell?" Out the back, there is a small collection of cages in which birds of various varieties are kept as pets and also serve as entertainment for visitors if there's any time left after spending a couple of hours reading everything on the walls - one of the parrots seems to have taken a particular taste to lager and refuses to drink anything else. And make sure you don't forget your swimming trunks, because this is the only pub I've ever seen with its own swimming pool! Staff at the pub, as is often the case in outback Australian watering holes like this, are made up of a combination of local characters and backpackers looking for work on the way through. Sometimes, you'll strike up a conversation with the girl behind the bar and discover that she was just travelling through on her way somewhere else and liked the place so much that she decided to stay and work for a few months - and to be honest, in a place like this with tourists heading through every day, you're never going to be lonely and you'll always be meeting new people. Getting to Daly Waters isn't a problem - most of the Australian tours come here either for a couple of hours or to stay in the adjoining motel, there's a small airfield the size of a postage stamp down the road which has the cheek to call itself an international airport and believe it or not there is even a Helipad out the back just in case you have your own helicopter in the garage.

You can read my complete travel journals at www.offexploring.com/globalwanderer and www.offexploring.com/globalwanderer2
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Gay/Lesbian Travelers in Northern Territory 
Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
It sounds funny, but go to Darwin in the "suicide season" (summer) as hotels are cheap, tourist attractions are uncluttered, the seedier characters stay off the streets, and Kakadu looks awesome at that time of year!
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Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia
Ein Schoggifondue im Outback? Aber sicher, im Keller's gibt es weitere feine Koestlichkeiten aus der Schweizer Kueche zu probieren. Mhmm...
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Tennant Creek, Northern Territory, Australia
there is a lake north-east to tennant creek. cool water, trees, breeze... stop for a swim. it is worth it. but it is not allowed to sleep over there and there r rangers that takes care people will listen to it... we were asked kindly to leave
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Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia
Well i got stranded there for 2 weeks, and got annoyed with it there. when i finally come to the day of leaving i had to pay $1500 on my bloody jeep. Gutted.
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Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
stay away from the wet season
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Dangers & Annoyances in Northern Territory 
Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
It sounds funny, but go to Darwin in the "suicide season" (summer) as hotels are cheap, tourist attractions are uncluttered, the seedier characters stay off the streets, and Kakadu looks awesome at that time of year!
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Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia
Ein Schoggifondue im Outback? Aber sicher, im Keller's gibt es weitere feine Koestlichkeiten aus der Schweizer Kueche zu probieren. Mhmm...
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Tennant Creek, Northern Territory, Australia
there is a lake north-east to tennant creek. cool water, trees, breeze... stop for a swim. it is worth it. but it is not allowed to sleep over there and there r rangers that takes care people will listen to it... we were asked kindly to leave
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Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia
Well i got stranded there for 2 weeks, and got annoyed with it there. when i finally come to the day of leaving i had to pay $1500 on my bloody jeep. Gutted.
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Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
stay away from the wet season
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Northern Territory Health 
Mataranka, Northern Territory, Australia
After lunch, we headed straight for the Mataranka Hot Springs. Unfortunately, by the time we arrived there was a sign outside reception saying that they couldn't let anybody go swimming because the tropical storm was due at any minute. Nevertheless, we were still able to walk along the narrow path to the springs to take a look - although this wound through dense forest which was flooded and covered in bog in places so the journey involved quite a few unplanned excursions through the trees and getting covered in mud. Being a tropical area, the trees were alive with literally thousands upon thousands of Fruit Bats, all hanging upside down from every tiny twig or branch. The sky was almost blotted out by their little furry bodies, although unbelievably they blend so well into the background that you might not even notice them until somebody points them out. Of course, there's always one idiot in every group and our resident show-off was obviously unable to resist the temptation to clap loudly - this, of course, sent all the bats shooting into the air at once accompanied by the deafening noise of ten thousand tiny wings beating and the screams of several fellow travellers. The thermal springs are hidden away in the depths of the forest, and the natural hot water is so clear that you can see the mud at the bottom. I really have no idea why we were allowed to walk through the forest but not permitted to actually get into the pools, given that we wouldn't have cared much about the oncoming storm while up to our necks in hot water. In fact, there were already a few people bathing, obviously having arrived before the ban, and no sign of anybody telling them to get out. It struck me as quite unfair, and if our coach driver hadn't reduced the time we were staying to virtually nothing because of his wish to get the hell out of there before the storm struck, we probably would've got in anyway and stuck our collective tongues out at the management. It all looked very inviting - the trees hang over the pools, giving the springs a real back to nature feel. I dipped my foot in the water and it was the temperature of a hot bath, so I'm already trying to work out how I can get back here in the future to see what I've missed. Mind you, apparently the springs are considered something of a romantic destination, newlyweds and lovers being unable to resist the urge to come here and make love, so do I really want to get in there? Back at the gift shop, I had just enough time to buy an ice lolly - which they call ice pops over here, since lollies are what they call sweets - before the heavens opened up and the expected tropical storm arrived in Mataranka. It absolutely chucked it down as though it hadn't rained in centuries, and we all tore back onto the coach with our coats pulled over our heads. Those of us eating ice lollies must have looked quite strange in the pouring rain, but remember that the rain is warm up here and it doesn't get any colder just because it's raining. Several minutes later we arrived back at the highway, by which time the sun had come out and it was as though nothing had happened. But would the driver turn the coach around and go back to the springs? Would he heck.

You can read my complete travel journals at www.offexploring.com/globalwanderer and www.offexploring.com/globalwanderer2
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Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
doar eije ginne winterfrak nodig zu ;) !!!
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Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia
Stear well clear of the Aboriginal people.  
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Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia
Drink lots of water!!!
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Maningrida, Northern Territory, Australia
Maningrida is as google will tell you, off the northern coast of Arnhem Land in North Australia.  One of the things that I do remember is that although the coast is beautiful, unfortunately it is very dangerous to go into the water because of the box jelly fish, one sting from which, I believe can kill.  Shame.
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