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.

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