Thursday, May 5, 2011

Swimming in Crocodile Creek

Our penultimate day on MV Orion ended with a breathtaking swim in crocodile territory, and we survived. Don't be impressed, we were swimming in a fresh water pool inaccessible by crocodile... and what a relief to throw off our clothes in the 27 deg C heat and splash around like excited kids. I headed straight for the small waterfall crashing over bulging rocks and let the water pour down all over me. Wonderful to finally dunk under the water and be immersed in some of that aquatic terrain after days of Zodiac jaunts, but no swimming. The Kimberleys' biggest drawback is its oldest and wiliest inhabitant...yep, the croc of course.
Apart from a gorgeous afternoon in the water under a benevolent and shining sun, there was the added sensory delight of a saxophonist to make us bluesy, and the aqua bar, complete with salty margaritas. This may be pioneer country, but rest assured, we are not slumming it...
On another note, I loved our Expedition Leader's one-hour talk in the morning on the theme 'Why Australia does not have Monkeys'. Rivetting stuff which taught me a lot, and made we wish for more of such erudite and entertaining lecturers in my life. I feel I understand a bit better about how the world works, and have discovered a new scientist, Wallace, to rival Charles Darwin. It's too long to explain here, but suffice to say, I was enthralled and a teeny bit wiser for the talk!
Another highlight of the Orion tour was the cabaret review held the penultimate night, starring the Orion crew, playing flute, guitar, macarena and dancing, even stripping! Hilarious, touching, talented, was lovely to see "ordinary" folk transformed into performers with panache.
Must sign off, the holiday ends and Qantas calls. Adios for now, au revoir le Top End!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Rugged, ancient and subtle

It’s our 9th day on MV Orion, and only my third post. In a lazy way we sailors have been too busy to bother with the outside world. While we’ve been at sea this past week there’s been a historic Royal Wedding and the routing of the ultimate bogeyman, Osama Bin Laden, but none of us have sighted a newspaper in days, nor switched on a television screen. Today we made a foray into Talbot Bay where natural beauty beckoned in all her glory.
I felt poetic and longed for a well-thumbed copy of bush verses – “I love a sunburnt country” and musings of similar ilk. Who wouldn’t feel moved by the vistas and landscapes we saw on our outing today? Undulating ochre and black outcrops in aspics of aquamarine, sapphire and algae-green; soft, long grass bowing in the mildest of breezes; scribbles of cloud wafting across an intense blue sky.
The weather has been idyllic: warm but not oppressively hot. Cut the Zodiac motor and sit still for a while as you listen to the occasional trill of a kingfisher piercing the silence and you begin to feel the heat beat down. Then we move again and nature’s air conditioning recommences, lulling one into another reverie. Comrades click wildly at the slightest sighting of an osprey, sea snake, wallaby or termite hill. Me? I’m a child of Africa. The “wildlife” here is far, far too subtle and sparse for me. I prefer to simply drink in the vast, impressive vistas. I will not be here again; nor will I see something so rugged and ancient again anytime soon.
And so much water everywhere, yet not a puddle to swim in. If there’s one constant yearning, it’s to swim in the luscious lagoons that lap temptingly around every corner. But it’s not too be: every now and then, a harmless looking “stick” turns out, on closer inspection, to be a croc, floating serenely for a moment on the water’s surface, its pale green eyes staring at us curiously as a film flicks backwards and forwards across its hooded orbs like a camera’s shutter.
We watch as it propels itself backwards and dips languidly below the water’s surface, reappearing moments later with its corrugated jaw pointed skyward and yawning open as it gulps down its gullet whatever is caught there for dinner.
Aboriginals and crocodiles: these are the hardy survivors of thousands and thousands and thousands of years. The Kimberleys is their terrain and us? We are merely trespassers.