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Archive for the ‘Life and all that jazz’ Category

Late week I was left with a really nasty feeling in my mouth.  Had a disturbing phone call that we should all sit up and take notice of.  Went something like this:

Caller:  Hello, have I reached (my address)?
Me:  Who is calling?
C:  This is Nadine.  Is this (my address)?
M: Nadine, where are you calling from?
Nadine: (Name) Finance Company.
M: How did you get this number?
N: Is this (my address)?
M: Why do you want to know?
N: We are trying to trace a near neighbour of yours.  (Name of person) at (their address)

Well, the alarm bells were screaming in my head by this point.  I felt like my privacy had been breached, but was SURE that the other person’s privacy was breached in a big way.  I do not know this person, but I now know that a person by that name lives at that address and that they have a finance company looking for them – assuming then that they are experiencing financial difficulties.

Little to say I was incensed!  After a few more attempts at getting me to divulge whether I knew this person, knew if they were home, had seen them recently etc, I quite disgustedly rang off.  And jumped straight on to a telephone search engine to look up the company address.  And surprise surprise, it wasn’t exactly easy to find.  Had to dig quite a bit, finding out along the way that a submission had been made to the ACCC by their parent company when it bought out the debt business.  Anyway, get a number I did in the end.  And rang it, to get this:

Person: Hello, (their name) speaking
Me: Have I reached (company name) Finance
P: Yes
M: I would like to speak to a Senior Manager
P: With regard to?
M: A breach of privacy.
P: You can talk to me.
M: What is your name please.
P: (gave his name again)
M: And what is your position please.
P: You have reached the Compliance Department and I am the Compliance Manager.  I also deal with complaints.
M: Is it usual for a Manager to answer an outside line with only their personal name and not even the company name?
P: For me yes, how can I help you?
I then went on to relay the conversation I had just had and my concerns and he promptly told me that they were acting within the industry guidelines.
M: What guidelines would they be?
P: Those laid down by the ACCC and ASIC.

Now, good friends operate a Hervey Bay Pawn Shop and I helped them to set up their procedures required by ASIC for financial operations that came in to effect last year.  I happen to KNOW that a serious breach of privacy had occurred.   Despite my protestations, the person (won’t breach HIS privacy by using HIS name!) assured me that they were acting legally.  When pushed for information on how they came to use my phone number and address, he finally told me that they had undertaken a Mirus-online search.  I demanded that he remove my address and phone number from all the records they hold and not to contact me again.  He told me he would and when I enquired as to how I could be sure, he told me he would put it in writing to me which I agreed that he should do.

Still not satisfied, I began to think how I take this matter further.  I have a pretty good idea of how government agencies operate, but have to admit, wasn’t sure where I should start with this one.  In the end phone the local member of parliament’s office.  We discussed the issue and between us thought the Privacy Commissioner in the Office of the Information Commissioner or maybe even the Ombudsman were the place to begin.  Turns out that the Qld Privacy Commissioner only deals with privacy issues with dealings by government departments, but the very helpful lady there told me that the Australian Information Commissioner did handle issues with companies as well as federal government departments.  So the next phone call was to them.  Suffice to say, there was agreement that the third party’s privacy had been breached, but I cannot make a third party complaint, but as my name was NOT ONCE used, it was felt that mine was not breached.  As we are listed in the WHite Pages, and that product is a SALEABLE item (yep, the databases of our info are passed around), then I had no recourse.

The next call I made was to Mirus Online – on a number that we eventually found after a lot of digging on their website.  The poor girl who answered the phone had no idea how bad her afternoon was about to get and after repeatedly stalling me when I asked to speak with a Manager, finally transferred me when I explained to her that she did not get paid enough to have to deal with people as angry as I was!  That did the trick.  The ‘Acting Team Leader’ who then took the call assured me that all my information was in the public domain – you know, every time you re-direct your mail and neglect to tick the privacy box, every time you enter a competition and neglect to tick the privacy box, yada yada yada, we collect that information.  This is of course despite me assuring her that none of those applied to me.  Suffice to say, they have our info – and much more than just the basics.

When quizzed as to whom they SELL the listings, I was assured it was just to Debt Collection and Management agencies and companies seeking information for marketing purposes – HELLO – I guess that means almost anyone who really wants it.

Sure, you can opt out – give me your email and I will send a form.  By now I am really pissed off.  NOT BLOODY LIKELY.  Is it on your website?  Yes, look for the Suppression Form.  Of course, their website does not have any such form, nor does it have a search function.  All it does is refer you constantly to their phone number.  So I suggest that we all contact them and demand that our information is purged from their listings.  Go to their website (sorry, no link – not helping them in any way!) and then go to the About Page and choose the Privacy tab.  The phone contact is in Melbourne, but the 1300 number just gives recorded messages with no choice for this sort of issue.

GRRRRR

On a much lighter note, we came together on Sunday to farewell Meredith with an afternoon tea.  I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed getting back in to the baking – it has really been a while since I did any real quantity! 
Although she and Andrew will be living only a couple of hours away in Mt Perry, and they will return frequently, I know how the contact will lessen with time.  Sad to see her go, but happy that there will be less time on the road between them now.  They have become very dear friends over the years.  Au revoir dear friend – let’s keep in touch!

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You know that awful feeling that you get in the pit of your stomach when you receive an ‘official’ government letter?  Well, I have had cause twice recently to wonder and on opening the letters have discovered that big brother is indeed alive and well and watching (out) for us.

I have always thought that its  bad manners to discuss with a lady her age, but oh no – there it is boldly emblazoned on both the letters –
Dear Maria (hmm – very familiar given that I don’t know this person from a lump of coal) – Congratulations on reaching 50!  Congratulations my arse – so what – we all get there sooner or later.  And then proceeding to tell me of the possible decline of my health and offering all the screening tests under the sun!  Hey gently guys, gently – many people start to feel a little fragile around that blessed 50 number!  Yep, BB is watching us all…

And that throw-away comment I made a few weeks ago about the loss of Spring was a tad too quick.  This week we have been sweltering in Summer temperatures with the last four days reaching the high twenties – and with little relief in sight!  Still, we shouldn’t complain – at least we are coming in the warmer weather unlike our European friends who can only look forward to cold and colder!!!

Busy getting ready for the departure of good friend Meredith who is heading west to the tiny community of Mt Perry and her hubby Andrew.  Wonder what the weekend will bring?

😀

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We have woken each morning this week to the heavy all-pervading smog of thick smoke.  Not that unusual for this time of the year – they often back-burn the state forests and sometime also on Fraser Island, but this year it is heavier than usual.  The very wet summer last year meant that many of the local sugar cane farmers could not harvest all their crops and were left with a lot of stand-over cane.  This grows thick and full of thrash (outer leaf) to the point where it becomes a thick, matted mess that doesn’t allow the sunlight to penetrate to the ground – and that means that the ground doesn’t dry out.  And the way they deal with it is to burn the cane, something that doesn’t happen too much in a good year much these days.

Hence the smoke.  And of course, where there is smoke, there is increased particles in the air. And of course when this occurs, you get the most amazing red moons rising.  With the full moon this week, the nights were just stunning! 

Reminds me of our trip out from Beijing to the Ming Tombs, with the pink moon just dipping to touch the horizon on our left and the red red sun just having emerged from the horizon on our right!  When we asked our guide about why the sun was red that day, he looked at us most quizzically and said “Today?  The sun is red.  It is always red!” And no matter how much we tried to explain, he could not comprehend that the sun in fact is not red, and that he was always looking at it through a pollution haze.  I felt really sad for him.

Its been a great week.  Monday night saw Don and Catherine visit.  We love their annual stop on their way north or south – they are great company and there are always plenty of travel and family stories to share.  Of course the topic of conversation with any of the family at the moment is the upcoming wedding of Michael and Carline in Jamaica.  We are all frantically trying to find ways to get there!

Last night was our annual fondue party.  Now, this is often a big affair held downstairs with upwards of 6 + fondues and often 30 – 40 guests.  But this year we decided to just go intimate.  So 8 of us sat down first to a Neuchâtel Fondue (cheese fondue to the uninitiated!) then to a Chinoise Fondue (thin slices of meat cooked in broth).  These were followed by a Spiced Dark Chocolate Fondue and a Caramel Fondue (requested by Shayne!)

We dipped sourdough bread and mixed vegetables (mushrooms, asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, baby sweet corn and potato) into the cheese.  Now, that cheese was the best.  I buy the Fondue blend from Fromart Cheese where they take all the effort out, selling pre-grated, blended packs of  cheese suitable for fondues.  We ate the lot, and yes, we even scraped out that small round disc of baked on cheese from the base!  Then we sat back as chicken, beef and pork simmered away in the broth.  I had made the most amazing chicken stock for the broth earlier – well worth the effort!  These were accompanied with home-made tomato and piquant sauces. Mmmm.  We drowned them with glasses of Vicars Choice Sauvignon Blanc, a lovely Torres Spanish red that I was given for my birthday and an Eaglehawk Cab Sav.

The dessert fondues this year were also great – served with sliced bananas, whole local strawberries at their peak from Boswell Strawberries, marshmallows, cubes of the last piece of pannetonne from last Christmas and for a fun touch, with part mix soft lollies.  Yep, were good – not a single drop of either left!!!  To match them we drank Moscato, some of that magical Francois Peyrot Pear Cognac and more of that rocket-fuel Caol Isla whiskey.

James phoned this morning with another food distributor that sells all the chemicals need to prepare spherical foods – goody goody – more new toys!  And Antony and Amanda are looking forward to Monday when they collect their new car.  Yep, a great week!

And to cap it all off – it is our darling little Mathilda’s first birthday.  I am waiting for Michael to get home from volunteering at the Maryborough Military and Colonial Museum and for Gen to wake up after a nightmare night shift so we can Skype with her and mum and dad, Steph and Felix, loudly singing Happy Birthday.

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This weekend was the annual Technology Challenge Maryborough here at home.  It is hard to believe that it was ten years ago that this iconic event began and my involvement began in earnest a year later. 

These days I am a volunteer and do not need to put in the 96 straight hours that I once did!  It’s great to see the thousands of young people converge on the site, renewing old friendships and making new ones and all the time competing in teams that bear none of the dog eat dog attitude that we see so much these days.  Yes, there is much to be proud of.  And with the community of Maryborough out in full force to support it with every service club, the scouts and many sporting groups helping out, this is the City at its best!  Michael has gone down to marshall one of the corners today and I take on the graveyard shift at Admin from midnight tonight!

With the arrival of September coming the start of the preparations for Christmas.  Don’t groan – at least this year I am on time!  When we were in Brisbane last week, one of the purchases at the wholesalers was the bulk dried fruit for the fruit cakes.  It has now begun its journey into drunkenness with the first of a bottle of rum and brandy added!

Winter continues its late visit to Queensland with the temperatures plunging again last night, although not as cold as the 4 degrees on Sunday morning at 5 am – just an hour before my shift at the Technology Challenge Maryborough finished!

My aunt and uncle from Newcastle are visiting tonight and so I have spent a couple of hours preparing rolled pork belly stuffed with prunes and pistachios, potato and celeriac mashes, veges and a bread and butter custard with a difference – made from the last of the panetonne left over from last christmas!  You should smell the house just now – amazing!

Plans are now being considered to go to Jamaica for the wedding of my brother Michael and his lovely fiancee Carline.  This event was a big surprise for the whole family – and I think even Michael has surprised himself somewhat.  The Caribbean is not somewhere that I have actively considered before, but I’m liking what I see in doing some research!  Quite a few in family are going to try to get there – so it should be a blast.

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Our last day in Darwin was a quiet, relaxed one.  James had the day off and we spent it lazing in the cool of the air-conditioned unit, experimenting with the Gellan Gum and preparing for a seafood feast to beat all feasts that night!

Now this Gellan Gum is something else – you heat the liquid that you want to set, add the Gellan and cook for ten minutes to activate it and then take it off the heat and pour it into a tray or mould to set.  It sets at room temperature and sets quickly – like in minutes! 

James’ first attempt was to juice a pineapple and set that – and we all know how difficult it is to set pineapple juice.  It did not set hard, but still firmish and held when put on a spoon.  It was also a little grainy in texture – and it was then that James found out that you needed to cook the Gellan!  The next attempt was to make some chocolate sauce and when he was finished he gleefully carried a 1 cm x 4 cm strip hanging between his fingers across the room to me.  Much, much better – no grain, no altered taste and definitely set!  No fear, it melts in your mouth.  Very interesting – I can already think of a number of applications and am planning a few surprises for Christmas!  James generously (it is $100 a kg) packs me 200g into a takeaway container to bring home.  Now, how do I handle this?  I pack it in to our suitcase and fully suspect that we will be asked all sorts of questions when we go to collect our bags at Brisbane Airport on the way home!

We make a trip out to Cullen Bay to get some sunset photos while James finishes dinner preparations.  It was superb – bugs, scampi, prawns and octopus with lots of lemon grass, ginger, garlic and eschallots.  A caprese salad and banana and mango salsa!   James’ mate Nick comes over and joins us and we eat on the patio.  Or maybe I should say that we feasted like kings until we were less-than-elegantly stuffed!

Dessert followed – Italian gelati and sorbets from Trampoline – a kiosk set amidst the restaurants on the concourse below us – yu-um.

Monday dawns with the announcement of the official end of  ‘the dry’ and the start of the build-up to ‘the wet’. I have woken with a headache and put it down to the noticeable change in the air pressure.  It is going to be a busy morning with packing, linen washing and car washing.  We use James’ phone GPS capability to get us to a car wash and join the queues of people trying to clean the red dust and bugs from vehicles.  Takes a bit of elbow grease.  Before we know it, we are needing to make fast tracks to return the car to the airport prior to our flight back east.

We make it on time, only to discover that our 1:35 pm flight (which incidently I though departed at 1:00 pm) has been delayed and is now expected to depart at 2:05 pm.  Nothing much to do, but sit it out.  At least the airport terminal is air-conditioned!  There are hundreds of people here and the booking agent tells us the flight is full.  Time passes slowly, but before we know it, it’s time to say goodbye to James.  It was so wonderful seeing him in his home environment – he loves Darwin and has no intention of ever leaving.  Me, its too hot and humid for me – even in the dry.  Visits will need to be restricted to July and early August I fear!!  In this photo, James’ apartment is at the edge of the peninsula to the right of the photo.

And so back across the big open land we travel.  There is more cloud today and so our views are npt as clear.  Once we clear the clouds, there is an amazing level of smoke haze that is visible as a distinct line below us as we travel the clear skies above it.  We move from the greener channel country with all its snaking rivers and tributaties into the drier western Queensland where there is the occasional convergence of watercourse and human-courses – all very vivid from high above.

And as we move east, the day deepens all too quickly into the inkiness of night.  No longer do we have late sunsets.

Thankfully Anne collects us at the Airport.  We have landed late and it is 6:30 pm by the time we have collected our luggage (without incident incidently – what about that white powder?) and get t the pick up zone – us and the thousands of other commuters.  Ugh – now I remember why I hate the city!!

Brendan has cooked hand made ravioli for dinner tonight – we are really being spoiled and this is followed by an amazing raspberry and Pernod gelato that Anne has made – Oh. My. God.,  it is amazing!  We sit up chatting and it is 11 pm when Anne and I crawl off to bed, happily snuggling deep under the doona.  Michael sits up and tries to calm down Brendan and Beth’s amazingingly energetic second (cat) son George.  Anne has both sons back at home with her at the moment.  Brendan and Beth are extending their Queenslander in Ipswich and at the moment it is without water or power while it is raised.  Michael has returned home while he finished the last six months of University (Journalism).  It is good company, what with Mick off in England again visiting his family.  I love visiting them – they the gloves of comfortable old friends – you feel snug and safe in their care and company.

All too soon, morning is nigh and I drop the uni students off and Anne to the bus stop en-route to a meeting with the Fundraising Manager at the Wesley Hospital.  That done, Michael and I head for the wholesalers for our quarterly stock up of all things providorial that we can’t get in provincial Maryborough.  Cheeses and coffees, meats and pastas, biscuits and fruits.  We had planned to continue on to Ikea, but when we realise that we have spent much more than we anticipated AND the car is full, opt instead to come straight home.

This is when the WHAT THE? moment hits.  WHO TURNED OFF SPRING?  While I am enjoying the lower temperatures and humidity, the cold strong winds and the plunging thermometer are not called for.  In the space of a week we have gone from 37 degrees to 17 degrees.  Not fair.  Not fair at all!

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While we have been exploring this magical land, we have been lucky  enough to visit the first five of the seven regions of Kakadu. An excellent description of each can be downloaded from the ABC radio podcasts at http://www.abc.net.au/local/stories/2010/03/16/2847217.htm.  We are continually reminded of the role of the original owners and custodians of this land in managing and safe-guarding it for future generations – that is us.

We are in for a bigger day today!  This morning we were up super early – although we haven’t been able to book in for it, late last night we decided to try to get on the dawn cruise at Yellow Water.  This is the time of day when the birds are stretching and the crocodiles getting ready to retire after a night’s hunting.  We depart the Kakadu Lodge before 6 am and are soon screaming along the highway to try to make the 6:45am cruise.  The needle occasionally even creeps over the 130 kph limit!  We make the head of the walkway out to the boat right on 6:45 but have passed a sign that says tickets can only be purchased at the resort – bugger.  Michael dashes down to the boat to plead our case, but it falls on deaf ears.  Bigger bugger.  I am really really disappointed as this means we are going to lose two hours out of our day and will have to rush other areas. 

 Anyway, there is nothing for it, we have missed the boat in the very true sense of the word!  We drive around to the resort and catch a few more zzzz’s in the car, albeit rather uncomfortably. 
The next cruise starts at 9 am and we are determined to be on that one!

Tickets firmly in hand, we make the decision to leave the car at the resort and catch the courtesy shuttle to the boat.  Although it is only 8:30 in the morning, the sun is rising quickly and the heat already has considerable sting.  Again, there are only 12 people waiting – a mix of young traveller and more mature wanderers. 

As we arrive at the jetty for the second time in the morning, we are greeted with hordes of people streaming off the boat that has just pulled in again.  Wait a minute – there is another boat pulling in as well. Wow, about 100 people have crammed in the two boats for the cruise.  Hmm, maybe it wasn’t so bad missing that one after all, as the 12 of us and our guide push off into the morning.  The light is amazing for photos – still low enough in the sky to minimise harshness in photos, but bright enough to highlight everything that we are drinking in with our eyes.  This is truly a most beautiful spot.

No sooner than we had moved away from the jetty, we spied the first of many crocodiles – sneaking in close to where two men are launching a boat.  Pays to be on the lookout up here – something that I suspect you learn very young!  And crocodiles were not the only wildlife on display.
We could see the waters beneath the boat teeming with fishes – mullet and barramundi where two James named, while the billabong and river banks and rushes were supporting thousands of countless birds. 

And what an array there were – from ducks to cranes to the magnificent Jabiru (or black-legged crane as it is now more accurately called) sunning its huge wings, to the tiny Blue Kingfisher (Australia’s smallest at 5- 7 cm, and second smallest in the world) to our second largest bird of prey – the Sea Eagle.  Our guide was busy snapping away here telling us that in all the years he had been guiding, he had never before seen one walking around on the ground.

And to top it all off, a herd of water buffalo fresh from mud-wallowing paused to take a gander at us before they quickly darted into the protection of the bamboo thickets.  Yellow Water Cruising 

The vegetation is varied and lush and within months, will be fully under water once the wet season fills this watercourse with another 12 – 20 metres of water height!  All too soon we are back at the car park to rejoin the bus back to the car.

From here it is off to Nourlangie to have a look at the first of the local Rock Art galleries.  There is something special about the primordial recordings of thew traditional land owners as they leave their stories and laws for those yet to come.  Just as we were wowed by the primitive cave art in Europe, these too conjure up images of pre-historic beings intrinsically in touch with their world.  And not for the first time, I wonder at the enormity and the insignificance of man in his place.  The figures are simple, but the messages are strong and unmistakable.  We need to give greater credit to those who went before us for their ingenuity in finding ways to leave their mark.

Michael takes a walk up to one of the lookouts to get a view of the rock wall that houses the artistic works.  Nourlangie is well-known for the amazing display of colours that are displayed with the setting of the sun.  Too bad we don’t have the time to wait to see it this visit – but the camera battery died and we are resorting to the camera in his phone!

And then our next stop is Jabiru to get some bread from the local baker so we can enjoy our deli purchases.  Given that it is now Saturday after 2pm, we can only hope that they are still open – yes, they were and had a nice vienna loaf which they happily sliced for us.  If we want to make Ubirr we will have to hurry now.

Ubirr Rock Art Site lies just to the west of Jabiru, about 40 kms off the Kakadu Highway.  It is nearing 3:30 pm when we get to the car park where I gleefully discover that the closest lot of the artworks is a mere 300 m walk. Here we find the important Rainbow Serpent painting and I am waiting for Michael and James to return from a climb to the top of Ubirr Rock when a ranger appears to give a talk on how the aboriginals used their artwork to tell their laws.  There are too many photos to insert, so tak a look at this PowerPoint of some of them  Ubirr Art Site.

The sun is heading for the horizon by the time we finish listening to the Ranger.  It is now after 5 pm and although the sunset from atop of Ubirr Rock is supposed to be one of the best sights from within Kakadu, we don’t have time to wait.  We have a long drive back to Darwin ahead of us.

So we head back to the car and the Kakadu Highway and watch the sun finally slip beneath the earth’s influence as a huge red ball of fire amongst the trees just after 6:30 pm.

It is almost 8:30 pm when we pull in to the car park under the building in Darwin and am truly tired, but oh-so-glad that we made the effort to see this fantastic part of Australia.  You know, during our two days out there, I couldn’t help but feel as though dinosaurs would run out at us at any turn!

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So when James got his days off, we headed to the east and Kakadu.  Now this is one serious trip.  All the literature tells you to make sure that you keep your vehicle fuelled all the time – I wasn’t sure whether to be alarmed or not.

We headed out about 8 am and made a stop first at Parap Fine Foods to take a gander and get a few nice things to take with us.  One of the problems James has is that working sometimes every day, he doesn’t get much of an opportunity to scour the local food providores.  I can tell you (as most of you would know) that I was happy to oblige!  Local Buffalo Mozzarella, Spanish Manchego and some French Camembert were joined with Cinnamon Dried Figs, Chilli crusted turkey breast and some Pastrami along with a lovely Pumpkin Bread and Coriander Salsa.  Yu-um.

Next stop was at the local TNT office to collect some Gellan Gum that James had ordered.  Those who watch Heston’s work or even Masterchef may have heard of it.  Then finally we were able to hit the open road.  Open road – now that is an apt description!  As we head away from Darwin and through Humpty Doo (yes, that really is the name of the town) we pass huge mango plantations.  The first fruits are just now ripening and being picked – most propbably to be sent to the southern markets and all those slobering consumers who want all fruits all year round!

Kakadu National Park is enormous, covering 20,000 square kilometres of the Northern Territory to the east of Darwin.  We had booked accommodation at Jabiru – part of the eastern most section of the park.  It is a 3+ hour drive from Darwin – without stops.  But of course, stop we did . . .

Our first stop is at the Window on the Wetlands Centre near to the Adelaide River.  This is the first opportunity we have to get high and above the floodplain to gain some sort of an understanding of the relationship between this land and the water that is its lifeblood.  Dave, the indigenous guide is a wealth of knowledge and helpful and friendly to boot.  He fills in missing information when we have a question, offers hints and tips and makes a booking for a cruise that we want to get to. The displays are excellent and explain the former and current uses of the floodplain that in the past have carried experimental crops of sugar cane and rice.  There is a lone water buffalo in a purpose built pen – they monitor the numbers wandering across the lush grasslands so that a careful balance is maintained.

From here it was just a short drive to the Adelaide River where we stopped to join a cruise on the lookout for CROCODILES.  And yes, we found plenty.  We were lucky enough to see all three of the large dominant males in the area – Stumpy, Bogart and Rambo, along with a whole lot of their female girlfriends – about 30!  Some were taking the warm air on the banks, but many were in the water.  And they are deceptive staying deep below you until they reach you – and then then just appear.  When they go under the water, they reappear seconds later quite a distance away – man they can move fast in the water!  The cruise we were on feed the crocs so that you can get an appreciation of how they can jump and what a real threat they might be.

Me, I’m happy to sit near the centre of the boat.  We had  joked with the captain when he asked during the safety briefing where our nearest exits were and we pointed out over the side of the boat.  His suggestion was to don life vests and wait until he had rammed the front of the boat on the nearest bank.  Not sure that even that is safe given the number of crocs we saw on the banks!

Duly educated, after a 1.5 hour feeding cruise we landed safely back at the jetty and began the now 2 hour long drive deepinto the wilderness.  The landscape doesn’t change much as you drive east – lots of rivers, creeks, channels and tributaries – all with the obligatory danger – crocodile signsa in about twelve languages.  The plants are presominantly pandanus, kapok and acacia.  Again, the soil is not all that rich and the grass cover is patchy.  At the moment, much of the land is burnt following back-burning operations either by the local Aboriginal tribes, of the Parks rangers.  I can’t say that I have ever noticed before just how totally the Australian gum trees burn.  And they must burn hot.  There are the powdered skeletal remains of trees, pure white and outlinging the shapre of the fallen tree perfectly lying on the blackened earth on to which it fell.  Quite eerie to look at!

And eastwards we continue.  Michael and James snooze on and off and when he is awake, Michael, sitting in the back continues to read Edward Rutherfurds’s novel New York – he is ploughing through it!  Its not too long before we enter into the Park proper.  Michael and I have had to purchase a $25 per person pass and I had assumed that there would be someone at the entry to check it.  Nope – guess they are just hoping that most people are honest!

We arrive at Jabiru just before 5 pm, take a quick whirl through town and then head over to our accommodation for the night Kakadu Lodge.  Jabiru is a small settlement with just over 1100 residents counted at the 2006 census.  In the Dry Season however, the population swells, primarily with the grey nomads – retired people traversing Australia in their caravans.  The Park is large and much of it laid out in concentric circles – yes, Canberra’s influence can be felt even right up here!  Our cabin is compact, but large enough for a night.  There is a double bed in the bedroom and a pull out sofa bed in the lounge ready made for James.  AND the air-conditioning is on – bliss.

Unpacked, we head over to the pool area and the bistro for dinner – we are famished and could eat a camel!  Turns out while that is not on the menu, Michael chooses Kangaroo and James Duck while I opt for a gourmet chicken burger.  The meals are surprisingly very good and decent sized portions. Michael, ordering the meals meets a Scottish lass who promptly tells him that Neil and Carol at the Bowmore Hotel on Islay are selling up – OMG what a small world it is!  It certainly doesn’t feel like two years since we were there.

So we return to our beds pretty weary after a long day on the road and just a little in awe at this big land up here!  Its not long before I hit the sack while the boys sit up and watch telly!

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