Sunday, May 28, 2006

A night out of town

Sorry folks this one is in captivity

Last night we camped at a place called Tumbling Waters. It was just one night but a welcome relief from the drudgery of urban living. It was great to get out of town and stay in such a friendly environment. We hadn't had the tent out for several months and were really happy to be using it again. The landscape out there is beautiful, there are lots of Pandanus and Grevillias and no Gamba grass as far as I could see. There are termite mounds scattered throughout the area and a wide variety of flora supporting the bird populations. We saw a family of Grey Crowned Babblers and some Varied Lorikeets, which always brings a smile to my face. There were a couple of male Raja Shell ducks fighting over a female in the middle of the crocodile enclosure! Wow those guys are determined! As far as I could tell the crocs were too well fed to pay them any mind.

They have a crocodile enclosue where several large freshwater crocs are on display. This may be the only way many people will ever see freshwater crocs if Cane Toads have the impact many people believe they will. I have seen freshies in the wild but imagine they will be harder to find now that Cane Toads have invaded a lot of the great freshwater habitat in the Topend! While canoeing in Katherine Gorge my friend Martin and I happened to see a young croc stalking frogs on the shore at night; there were Cane toads all over the same spot and I doubt the crocodile would have known the difference!

We hope to go back to Tumbling Waters with friends this dry season as it is such an easy place to stay. Next time I will ride my bike and meet the others there. It's about 70km from home so I expect it will take me about 4 hours but how would I know?! I haven't ridden any further than 10km on any one day in the past year or so! Sounds like a suitable challenge!

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Timor Leste
Well things appear to be getting worse in East Timor! There have been more shootings and Australian troops have been sent to help keep order. It is a sad thing that violence has taken place after independence.
Since Darwin received so many temporary refugees back in 1999 I have wanted to to visit East Timor and the Timorese people I have since met. Darwin has had a fairly close connection with Timor, as we are geographicaly right next door. However many of us who live here have no idea what life might be like for our neighbours who live so close. I had planned to visit in July this year but will have to postpone my travel plans until the situation cools down over there.
The Timorese people have so little and have already suffered more than I can imagine. I hope they are able to establish a safe country free of corruption and intimidation; this must be an incredibly difficult task considering their history, lack of infrastructure and limited resources.
Since I have been working in a library I have met Venceslao (Head Librarian) and Jose (IT & Cataloguing) from the National University of East Timor Library. They have both encouraged me to come and visit East Timor and given me some idea of what it must be like to rebuild a library from the ground up. They have a huge task ahead of them and welcome any support that can be given.
If I am able to go there next year I would like to incorporate the visit into my library studies and somehow spend some time with them at the National University of East Timor. This would seem like a far better option for me than just visiting as a tourist with no real purpose for being there. Until then I wish them well and hope that the current conflict can be resolved and the Timorese people can go on to live in peace and build a strong, healthy and free country.

Friday, May 26, 2006

Bear stories

This week we watched two movies about bears and conservation. The first 'Spirit Bear' was a great Canadian film that gave a dramatized version of how a Canadian teenager, Simon Jackson, fought logging companies to protect the habitat of a genetically rare subspecies of black bear. An inspirational story about conservation, and this young guys efforts to protect something truly valuable in the world.

The second film 'Grizzly Man' we watched last night. This film was intense! It plunged us full force into the world of Timothy Treadwell. A man who rejected human society and spent 13 years visiting and living in the wilds of Alaska where he filmed and tried to bond with wild bears. This is an amazing story! I can't begin to discribe this film or how it made me feel except to say that it was intense and that in some way I could relate to the guy even though (or maybe because) he was obviously disturbed.
Venting everything that consumed him on film, his love and his anger, his anxiety, rage and fears, his narcism and his delusions, his dream. I'd love to go on about this film but maybe you should just see it yourself. The filmmaker does such a great job of telling this story that nothing more really needs to be said.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Birds Nesting in our yard

Either a White-gaped or Brown Honeyeater eggs

Either a White-gaped or Brown Honeyeater Nest
(will confirm when I get a good look at the Bird)

One thing I love about living in Darwin is the amount of wildlife that can be found in the suburbs. I live in a unit with a small yard but even there I have found several species of lizards including skinks, dragons and geckos. I have even found a tiny blind snake that was living in a termite mound in the back yard. There are a huge variety of birds and sometimes they nest in the trees around our unit. So far we have noticed Double-barred Finches, Bar-shouldered Doves, White-gaped Honeyeaters and Rufus Banded Honeyeaters nesting in our trees. This has always been a one of the greatest attractions of living in Darwin in comparrison to living in Melbourne where I was more likely to see Starlings, Sparrows and Indian Mynas! I try to imagine what my home in Melbourne would have been like before it was invaded by ferral species. My Dad tells me there used to be Blue Wrens at one time, but that was a long time ago.
When I lived in Melbourne I used to visit the zoo and loved to seen the Curlews, I dreamt of one day seeing one in the wild. In Darwin they actualy call from the park across the road and sometimes nest right outside the window at work! What a blessing to live in such an amazing place!

Sunday, May 21, 2006

RSPCA Million Paws Walk

Looking cool as 'Team Hawaii'

A few of the walkers stopped for a drink and a swim while others were just hanging out for a little friendly conversation as their humans waited patiently.

Sam with an old hero of mine. Norm, star of those 1970's 'Life be in it' adds. It was great to see him out there and looking great for his age.

And they're off...!

The RSPCA run an annual event called the Million Paws Walk.
The event starts at 8:30 in the morning near the cenotaph on the esplanade and involves a short walk with hundreds of other peole and dogs, through the main streets of Darwin. It is a fund raiser but also an opportunity to take the pound dogs for a walk and hopefully find a home for some of them.
We had a great day, there were dogs jumping into fountains, playing and pounding the street en-mass. Some people even formed groups; one imaginative group called itself Team Hawaii and wore Hawaiian shirts and grass skirts (including the dogs).
Our dog Kuta had a great time and didn't even start a fight! I think she could tell she was outnumbered.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

The arrival of the dry season is causing a lot of flying insects to get about. This include the cockroaches! The other night a huge one flew into our kitchen! I was outraged and imediately started looking to find the hole that the little fella got through. You can imagine this might take ages because cockroaches can squeeze through the smallest gaps.
I believe I did find it though and now that the hole has been found, my wife says, it's my job to fix it!

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Darwin to Melbourne in 4 days

A favourite track

Cambrai Pub

Creek Somewhere near Wycliffe Well

A view to the past

Self expanatory

Back in April my Dad and I made an epic journey from Darwin to Melbourne, I then continued on to Hobart solo. The purpose of this trip was to deliver a car, trailer, motorbike and various other gear to my friends Tony and Sarah who had to leave the NT at short notice. This was a great opportunity to spend time with my dad and see some great country along the way.
We met our first obstacle just 2 and a half hours into the trip when we reached Pine Creek only to find that the Stewart Hwy had been cut due to flooding at Katherine. This occasionally happens when there has been monsoonal rain in the Katherine catchment areal. In this case it was a heap of rain dumped after cyclone Larry hit the North Queensland coast on the 20th March.
Dad and I drove back to Darwin and spent 3 days listening to the radio in the hope that the road would be opened. Thankfully for us, and many of the people of Katherine, the flooding was not as bad as the 1998 flood and we where on our way just a few days later. It could have been much worse.
The trip went quite smoothly after that and we saw some truly beautiful country along the way. However I did have a deadline and we needed to make up some time so we averaged a thousand km per day leaving little time for sightseeing.
The Northern Territory is a great place to experience the openness and quietness of this country. One of the highlights of our trip was when we stopped the car somewhere south of Tennant Creek at some very early hour of the morning. The sky was so clear that the stars formed a thick blanket of sparkling white lights which totoal encompassed us. We were enveloped in a panorama of lights from distant constellations. Satellites zipped across the sky as we considered how lucky we were to be able to experience such an amazing view.
Along the way we saw all kinds of wildlife and birds, including, about 60 Wedge Tailed Eagles, a flock of budgies, Major Mitchell Cockatoos, and some Cockatiels. There was quite a bit of carnage, I removed about 10 dead kangaroos from the road, but only did this in the morning before the sun gets to them, by mid morning they can really stink and are often so mangled it's an impossible job. There is an open speed limit through central Australia and one carcass left on the road can result in the deaths of many more animals who come to feed on the carrion. As far as I know I managed not to hit any animals bigger that a dragonfly, (not bad for a 4,000 km + trip)

Friday, May 12, 2006

Last week I picked up an Alleycat bike extension that is kind of a tandem/trailer conversion. One benefit of this is that it allows a child to ride in tandem behind their parent. greater distances can be travelled because the child doesn't have to work hard to keep up with an adult. They can pedal as much as they like or simply free wheel it as Mum or Dad do the pedalling.
I won't be able to use it for a couple of years but have already found a grateful home for it until my daughter is old enough to ride.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Today we visited the Sea Breeze festival in Nightcliff. It was fantastic. Sam Dana and I rode down there at about 3:30 this afternoon and stayed until about 7:00 pm.
There were bands and performers all along the Nightcliff foreshore, we entered the sand sculpting competition and made a dolfin. There were all sorts of sculptures from crocodiles to turtles, a cane toad and even a ute complete with esky and radio.
What a day! There were people all over the place with bicycles and heaps of kids too. It was a shame we forgot to take the camera.