Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Going bush

Here in my car
I feel safest of all
I can lock all my doors
It's the only way to live
In cars...

Hehe - good old Gary Newman. I hadn't thought of him in years, and then he shows up twice in the same day - first in my book (Perfect Skin) and then on Territory FM. And this particular song was so apt, as I have spent a long time in my rental car while here in Darwin. On Sunday (Day 4), I drive for several hundred kilometres through the bush, found a town made entirely made from concrete and painted a drab brown, then drove for several hundred kilometres more. Thus was my obligatory trip to Kakadu - there's lots of bush, and its hot, and the town of Jabiru shows its origins as something built to accomodate mine workers. I am sure that if I had taken a tour, or even a four wheel drive, so that I could explore off the tarmac, I would have seen more, but my impression of Kakadu is that its main importance is spiritual, for the aboriginal inhabitants. To be honest, I'd rather leave them in privacy rather than be yet another ignorant tourist. Anyway, the driving was pleasant, although it would have been even more so had I had a vehicle a little more exciting than a late 90's Corolla.

After Kakadu, I took the Arnhem Highway for a change of scenery, and yes, it seemed to offer more in terms of tree varieties, actual hills for the road to pass over and curves requiring some attention. It left me less than an hour from Katherine, so in an exploratory frame of mind, I went south: it is not a pretty town, and I was too late for a Katherine Gorge trip. Lesson learned: don't be too proud to take a tour when they can get you further than you'll be able to get under your own steam. Coming back was a little bit nervewracking for a while: I have heard horror stories of hitting kangaroos and had seen a few bodies as I drove around. I believe they are most prone to come onto the road around dusk, and that was rapidly approaching, which left me with a dilemma. Do I drive really fast to keep the daylight but possibly not see any kangaroos lurking about, or do I drive slowly and find myself in the dark? As it happened, I drove fast, it was dark, but other vehicles were travelling and I never saw one kangaroo on that stretch, dead or alive.

One thing left puzzling me concerns the flies up here: what do they do between tourists? I can understand places where lots of people stop, they're kept pretty busy, but I was stopping where it was highly likely anyone else had, just randomly to have a smoke or answer a call, and instantly there'd be a couple of flies buzzing around. Why were they there? What were they doing? How did they even know to come annoy me? Mind you, I have developed a technique for making sure I don't end up with a car full of them. When I am about to leave, I open the car door, chuck in anything I might be carrying, back up ten foot or so, shake myself down to get all the flies off, then throw myself into the car. Perhaps it is just as well I am travelling by myself!

Speaking of travellers, I finally saw Borat on Saturday night. I don't know whether sales are still up there in the States, but the theatre in Darwin was maybe a third full. Those who were there were, however, deeply appreciative. The woman in front of me was shrieking within seconds of the thing starting. I had a lot of fun watching it, and really don't know which was my favourite bit - possibly the southern hostess's look of disgust when Borat shows himself to be not quite toilet trained. I think its one of those films that ought to be a cult classic, much more deserving of having people repeat taglines from it than, say, Team America.

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