Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Making the normal abnormal. - Snake Migration

Normal is defined in the dictionary as conforming to the standard or the common type; usual; not abnormal; regular; natural. In the literal sense however Normal is much harder to define and if there is one thing I have learnt from my travels and hosting strangers from around that world it’s that normal is relative to your surroundings. In short, what’s normal for one person may be unimaginable to another.

There is a small creek about an hour out of Darwin which is rich in uniqueness. It connects the wetlands of Kakadu to fresh spring water. As the dry season comes into focus, the wetlands start to recede and everything that called them home leave to find fresh water. This means a plethora of native wildlife heads upstream via this one creek. If you go at the right time you can see snakes, fish, turtles, birds all migrating to a better life.   This creek has been a part of my life in Darwin for as long as I can remember. Back when I was a kid the creek was part of indigenous land and remained unsigned and unnoticed. Huge lizards that once stalked the banks have been decimated by cane toads and it now sports a fancy national park title and the customary “Beware of Crocodiles” sign.

I believe in tourism, much of Darwin relies on the tourist trade, being close proximity to the heritage listed world famous Kakadu national park it really comes with the ‘territory’. But its kind of sad to see such a local treasure now part of the main tourist trail for reasons I don’t understand.

Despite being signed and the road graded there is very little traffic down the area and we had the place to ourselves. I had brought along a mix of locals and travellers to watch the migration that evening. Being a below average wet season the creek was really low so I was expecting to have missed all the fun, the animals having moved on weeks before. Still I was happy to chill drinking beer and talking to my friends.

I was sitting up by the waterfall about 7:45pm watching the tiny fish congregate against the stone bricks trying to make it upstream when I heard the word “Snake!” 

Instantly I rose and made my way to my friend Leigh who pointed a torch into the water, yep that was definitely a snake making its way up-river. So I wade out into the water and grab the first Arafura File Snake of the night. As impressive as it looks for me to walk out in a river on the edge of the estuarine(deadly) crocodile infested waters and pull a wild snake from the depths, it’s really not. The snakes are virtually useless out of the water and they couldn’t bite you even if they wanted to. Plus the water levels are quite low so I was not afraid of running into any reptilian predators. I would not however recommend anyone just jump in the river and catch snakes. Growing up in the NT bush I can identify most snakes on sight, those I am unsure of I would never think of touching. The file snake is quite easily recognisable to me. 

That snake was the first of many and so we sat at the bridge watching them make their way up the river. It was fascinating to watch snake after snake crawl through the small waterfall and over the concrete blocks. I think in total we would have seen approximately 50 snakes in the space of an hour. 

Its great for me to share this kind of thing, especially with travellers. To me it’s quite normal but to them it’s a complete out of the ordinary experience and I love to introduce people to the things that are most important to me. Its nice to see their faces light up in amazement. Well it reminds me of the time I first saw the Rocky Mountains driving out of Canada. It was so different and incredible I was awestruck. Of course after living amongst the mountains for nearly two years it lost a little bit of that magic but every time I see something incredible in Nature it enthrals me completely. And that’s what I love to give to others. Its part selfish because when I can share this adventure with someone else and make them happy, then I am happy.

If you are planning to come to Darwin aim for May and let me show you this treasure.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Thailand: The Final Instalment

My sister and I are horrible at travelling together. One huge issue is that she likes to sleep when I am up at the crack of dawn. Thailand was no exception and since I was up hours before the two of them I wasted a good amount of my days doing nothing waiting for them to wake up. Definitely my fault I should have organised to meet them places and entertained myself but I always forgot and since they had no phones I just stayed in my smelly hotel room reading books. I think I also had more faith in them then I should have assuming that they would wake up at somewhat reasonable hours :P

Two days after full moon we made arrangements to head down to another beach. I was up at about 8:30am after getting a good night sleep crashing about 10:30 the night before. Heather and Sam finally crawled out of bed about 11am only after I finally woke them up. I said we should go to the beach and then eat there they decided to eat before meaning we never made it to this beach until 1pm. On my last day on Koh Phanagan  I spent once again doing nothing.

So we go to the beach which is pretty chilled and relaxed, I decided I didn’t feel like an overnight travel to Koh Lanta since I only had a few days left and instead decided on staying at the beach. After arguments with Heather & Sam where all my frustration from the previous few days boiled to the surface, we fought and I ended up staying at the beach and they went back to HaaD Rin. I know now if I do ever travel with those two stoners again I need to make plans for myself during the days and just hang out with them at night because partying is always great with my little sister! (and sam of course)

That night I sat at the bar and got drunk with my Austrian friend and the bar turned into a little party of people. We played drunken celebrity heads that resulted in shots every time you answered the question wrong. I met a German guy who offered to share a bungalow with me since there was no accommodation & I smoked a lot of weed as joints seemed non-stop around the bar. I passed out at some point in the Austrian guys hammock and woke up next morning on the beach watching the waves crashing in. As I gathered my things to get a ride back to Haad Rin I found the German guy “Toby” just chilling on a hammock and we had breakfast together I promised him I would return soon. I went back to Haad Rin to check out of my hotel and found Heather & Sam deciding to take the overnight ferry to Koh Lanta. I packed up my stuff said goodbye and made my way back to the beach. Toby was MIA so I made myself comfortable on his hammock reading my book before he returned. I set myself up in his room and headed down to the bar again.

I booked myself in for Diving at sail rock supposedly one of the best dive sites in that part of Thailand. However I was to be disappointed. Visibility was low, the waves harsh. At one point I was cruising along about 25m deep when I went to get a closer look at some coral next thing I knew I was all alone. I am quite a new diver especially deep see diver, about 18 dives in total so I did start to panic a little. Even though I was close to three huge ships I just felt so alone. I’ve talked about diving before and the immense feeling you get under the water imagine that when you know your 25m deep and you can see perhaps a metre in front of you. I knew in that situation I had to stay still unless I ended up drifting out to sea and if I still hadn’t been discovered by my guide I would gradually surface. It seemed like hours but was probably only five minutes when my guide returned tapping on her tank. If I could have I would have hugged her!!

Other than that my time in north Koh Phanagan was pretty uneventful. I had to catch a plane by Sunday so I caught an overnight ferry/train to Bangkok. From the ferry we had to catch a bus to the train station which was a bit crazy. It was about 40 minutes long and no seats so I sat on the floor in the aisle getting a numb ass. There were three steroid induced German guys who kept asking me stupid questions they had been partying on Haad Rin for an entire month. Thank fuck I never met them. Arriving at the train station I was hanging out with my Austrian friend and some other guy when we got joined by an aussie girl and south African guy. We drank and ate for the two hours till the train left. I got a sleeper train which was nice. But the steroid german guys were right next to me, I even had to kick one of them out of my bed!! Still I had earplugs and settled down to catch some Zzzz.

Arriving in Bangkok I caught a Taxi to Khoa San Road. I found a place to charge my phone and a bar where I could drink. I started up conversation with an Italian guy who was living in Switzerland. It was a fun conversation but I realised I had to make my way to my CS hosts house about an hour away! This is the problem of couch-surfing. I was having such a good random time I could have easily just gotten a room and gone out with the Italian guy but I had already made a commitment so made my way via boat & taxi to my host. This was taxi disaster #2 & #3 The first taxi took me to the wrong place and the second taxi spent half an hour lost driving the same street up and down and then expected me to pay the cost. I refused to pay the extra and jumped out of his cab and ran away hahaha.

My host was a beautiful local Thai couple who took me to a very local restaurant of Thai Hot Pot. The food was insane it was SO good. I couldn’t eat anymore haha. At the end they paid for me which I had a hard time accepting but it is part of Thai culture to look after guests. Their house was nice and cute.

The next morning Kwan took me to a local market where we got breakfast delicious sticky rice and caramel wrapped in banana leaves and some pork satay sticks. I then left to go to the big famous market for a day full of shopping since it was my last day in Bangkok. I got distracted by the animal section it was full of so many obscure animals. At one point I went crazy in front of some reptile tanks only to see after taking a million photos a huge sign that said “NO PHOTOS” Apparently many of the animals are illegal so they don’t like people taking photos. Well that explained the sour looking store holder. After making it home my hosts made me a delicious Thai Green Curry. I went to bed early, completely satisfied.


The next morning I got up early to get to the airport for Taxi Disaster #4. We went through several tolls and the guy kept taking money off me then I worked it out he took to much and he would return the money. So he starts talking about his medication he needs the money for. I am getting frustrated. Then we get to the airport the cost is something like 300BAHT  and he says that will be 350BAHT.
I’m like are fucking kidding me you already stole maybe 50BAHT off me you get 250BAHT he grins and goes “ok” making me think he stole a lot more money off me. Anyway whatever it was small change to me really and not like I could use the Thai Bahts back in Darwin. So off to my plane and head home to Darwin.

This was written quickly but it’s a few months overdue :P