Friday, September 17, 2004

A Top Top End End

Today is my last day in Darwin and the Top End, the northern part of the Northern Territory. Yesterday I travelled to Litchfield National Park. I wrestled with a 3-year-old crocodile and won, although it wasn't too hard because he was only about four feet long and he had a rubber band around his jaws, which is a rather unfair handicap for a crocodile. I walked around a termite mound that was three times my height, even though the termites themselves were no bigger than the number 8, and they tasted like lemon peel. (I ate some of them.) There were other termite mounds, the magnetic termite mounds, that were smaller and gray. The field was filled with them like a vast bush graveyard, and they were all perfectly aligned north-south. I went to a waterfall where there is a cave and in the cave there is a hot spring that keeps the cave warm, and this unusual arrangement allows a colony of rare orange bats, that are particular about temperature, to thrive. The bats are rare, in fact, because there are not too many caves that have built-in heating. I went to another waterfall - a very high one - and jumped in and swam around, and then to another waterfall where I also got in and swam a bit, and then yet another waterfall, a series of them, where I was too tired to swim and I just sat in the rocks and let the water rush over my shoulders. I went for a cruise on a river filled with hungry crocodiles, and the people on the boat dangled bits of buffalo over the side of the boat on a string and the crocodiles literally leaped out of the water in sometimes inaccurate but nevertheless astonishing attempts to get the buffalo bits. Some of these crocodiles were 16 feet long. I watched the sunset over the Timor Sea, and then I went to a night market. People were selling didgeridoos and jewellery in the shapes of insects, tie-dyed clothing and crocodile-skin hatbands. There was a food stall featuring emu, kangaroo, crocodile, camel, and wallaby kebabs, as well as witchity grubs. A man named Mick was cracking two whips to a toe-tapping rhythm. There was a fire-juggling show, a one-man band, a Baha'i information booth, and a farmyard petting zoo where over-excited toddlers were let loose on geese, goats, ducks, chickens, and rabbits. There was also a beautiful beach. Darwin's youth seemed to be sulkily enjoying themselves.


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