January 2010

On 2nd Jan Chris & Julia watched in amazement as the monsoonal rains lashed Darwin (62 millimetres fell) while lightening flashed & crackled loudly close by—they had left a very dry & parched garden back home & longed for some of this rain. 

While the Top End receives most of its visitors in the perfect-day-after-perfect-day dry season (May to Oct), those who come during the wet (Nov to April) find that it’s a good time to experience Darwin, Litchfield & Kakadu National Parks without the crowds.  The downside being it can be hot and sticky as our visitors experienced. 

On 3rd Jan we piled into our rental car & headed to Kakadu, via Window on the Wetlands visiting Jabiru (the Holiday Inn is built in the shape of a crocodile) & lunching at Nourlangie on my smoked chicken salad as the flies lunched on us, before viewing some aboriginal art work & climbing to Gunwarddehwardde Lookout.  Our last foray into Kakadu was with our Darwin friends Jeff and Trish in November, at the end of the dry season so it was with real interest we saw how the monsoonal rains had changed the environment.  We booked bungalow accommodation at Cooinda so after moving in, a good part of the afternoon was spent in the pool, and very welcome it was too. The small bungalows with covered balcony's provided shelter from the heavy evening rains for us and a small army of mosquitoes that had gathered under the eves.  Julia and I sat with our Gin and Tonics while Chris & Greg took it in turns to dash 50 metres to the outside BBQ to press the restart button every 20 mins.  Considering the soaking conditions, we enjoyed a delicious meal of sausages, char grilled onions & mash while being attacked by the mozzies—Julia, with whom the mozzies had a particular attraction, couldn’t wait to leave the dining table and dashed inside their bungalow while Greg and I watched the cricket from the comfort of our bed.

Following an early rise and a cooked breakfast we boarded the Yellow Water boat cruise the next morning.  Yellow Water is part of the South Alligator River floodplain & the cruise provides a marvellous opportunity to see the varied bird & wildlife of Kakadu’s World Heritage Wetlands.  Greg, Trish, Jeff & I had walked along the boardwalk some 5 weeks earlier, this was now submerged due to the wet season ‘s arrival.  There wasn’t that much bird life around however our enthusiastic guide pointed out Egrets, Sea Eagles, Pied Cormorants, Forest Kingfishers, Red-winged Parrots & a beautiful Jabiru.  To our amazement a crocodile swam alongside the boat, oblivious to our presence, at about 4 metres in length we certainly weren't oblivious to his.

After the cruise we made our way out of Kakadu National Park to Litchfield National Park, about a 3 or 4 hour drive. This meant quiz time in the car, so I read the questions from the local rag to the 3 players all with their “hands on buzzers”.  Fortunately  our next stop, Pine Creek, was not too far away as none of the participants showed too much talent.  We’d been to Pine Creek in August last year and remembered that we could get a reasonable feed at the Lazy Lizard Hotel, so we did and very pleasant it was too.  Leaving Pine Creek we were now driving on roads we had ridden along within the last six months, and once again, it was interesting to see the change the wet season had made. We past through Adelaide River and on to Batchelor where we’d booked a cabin in the same caravan park we’d stayed at on our last visit.  After a cup of tea and a bit of a walk it was G & T time so we settled on the front porch and again watched the afternoon rain fall and fall and fall and fall.  Chris and Julia were Iron Chefs that night so we were spoiled with Penne Amatricana and salad all washed down with the obligatory vino, both blanco and rosso.  Chris and Julia and Greg and I had been following the television series Lillies and so it was very important the we caught the last episode which screened that night.  After a bit of stuffing around with the television, with which everyone had had a go at getting a picture, we finally managed to get the required ABC1 and sat down, all four in a row, to catch the last instalment.  Very good too.  It rained throughout the night and, again, after a marvellous cooked breaky, we were in the car at 8.15am and ready to tackle Litchfield.  Clearly nature had another view as not far down the road the heavy rains had swollen Aida Creek making the causeway at the entrance of the Park impassable and the prospect of getting out later that day impossible, Litchfield would have to wait until another time.  We drove back to Darwin along sodden roads and across bridges barely above swollen creeks and consoled ourselves with a cup of coffee at Sticky Beaks Cafe while the rain continued to fall.  We needed even more consoling than a cup of coffee so we decided that we should dine out at Darwin’s Tasty House Chinese Restaurant and that seemed to do the trick.

As luck would have it the rain stopped the following day, and after a mooch around town, coffee and an afternoon rest, Iron Chef Chris Kenichi and Julia Hota got chop, chop, chopping in the kitchen and a wok, wok, woking on the Barbie and produced a magnificent dinner of Asian Inspired Prawns.  Don’t ask me what was in it, but it was bloody marvellous!!

Julia and Chris had to go home the following day so we again mooched around town, coffee’d, saw some of the sights of Darwin city before preparing for a dinner at one of Darwin’s best Thai/Indian/Nonya Restaurants, Hanuman.  Dinner was great but tempered not only by the fact the they were leaving, but also by the fact that the shuttle bus to take them to the airport left the rear of our apartments at 3.45am, this to catch a 6.00am flight!  We got up at 3.00am had a cuppa and walked them to the bus stop.  See ya Chrissy, tut ta Ting Tong, see you when we see you, travel safely...

Robin (Mum) arrived on the 14th suffering the tail end of shingles, it had been just over 12 months since we’d seen her last and it was great that she made the trip from Sydney to spend the next two weeks with us.  She quickly slotted into our routine of brekkie, coffee and papers, lunch, afternoon read, crossword with drinks on the balcony followed by a leisurely dinner. No ill effects of her illness were apparent in either her food or booze consumption.  I think we cured her.....Both the cricket and the tennis were on TV and we alternated between the two.  Mum has been to Darwin on a few occasions but there were still things she hadn’t seen and she’d never been in the wet season before.  Parap Markets are on Saturday mornings and so with much chatter about the lack of skills and the deprived nature of her childhood vis-a-vis bicycle riding, we put Mum on a bike we found in the park across the road.  We’d named this bike Lucky and I’m not sure if this referred to the bike or its rider, anyway we set off for Parap some  6 kilometres away.  Mum talked and swerved and swerved and talked all the way. If only we could harness all the wasted energy, global warming would be a thing of the past. After Parap markets we went home via Cornucopia Cafe for coffee and cake and spent the afternoon recovering.  The following day, to recover from all the physical exertion of the previous day, we caught the bus to the Darwin Sailing Club and managed to get lunch just before the most torrential storm hit, by the time lunch was over, so was the storm.  The following week we hired a car and took Mum to Window on the Wetlands and had a fantastic picnic lunch at Fogg Dam where we dined on my Smoked Chicken Salad.  We lunched the following day at Il Piatto restaurant at the SkyCity Casino, and prepared for the arrival of Greg’s brother and sister in law, Rob and Jeanny.  

We had not seen Rob and Jeanny for nearly two years so we were both looking forward to their arrival and set about preparing food and possible tours for the 5 days they were staying. It was a whirlwind few days which included a charter flight over Kakadu Nat Park, another cycle to Parap Markets followed by a visit to the Darwin Museum and lunch at Cornucopia Cafe, a day trip to Litchfield Nat Park visiting the magnetic ant hills, Tolmer Falls, Wangi Falls, and Buley Rock Holes where we swam and had a picnic.  We also found time to show them some of the dining delights of Darwin at Saffron Indian Restaurant, Il Piatto & our favourite, Hanuman Restaurant.  We drove Rob and Jeanny to the airport on Tuesday and Mum, sadly, left two days later. All quiet in the apartment again....

It has been the wettest January in more than a decade thanks to an active monsoon trough that sat across the Top End for most of the month.  Darwin received 623mm of rain (avg 421mm) however most of this heavy rain was dumped in torrents over a few days rather than spread evenly across the month.  The wettest January on record was in 1995 when 940.4mm fell.  The next heavy monsoonal rainfall should start again at the end of Feb with typical Top End weather in between—hot & humid in the morning, slightly cooler in the afternoon, with the odd storm & muggy overnight.  The rain at this time of the year has transformed the place into a lush wonderland dotted with frangipanis every shade of yellow, red & orange—their perfume fills the air & is intoxicating.