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Posts Tagged ‘Darwin’

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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Hi folks, long time no see.  The year has been a busy one and although I have often thought about posting, I just haven’t found the time to do so – not sure what that says!  Anyway, we are coming to the end of a ten day break in the Top End with son James, and now, I AM finding the time!

We flew up from Brisbane Friday a week ago on the midday flight and seeing first hand the diversity that this amazing country offers.  From the parched dry outback that stretches as far as the eye can see, with dry creek beds and cattle tracks criss-crossing the landscape, to the lush, clear waters where the ocean creeps in to the land in the floodplains of the Gulf of Carpentaria.  Apologies for the muted colours – looking through a plane window does not give the best colour!

Once we got closer to Darwin, over the Northern Territory, lots and lots of fires were evident.  Guess they use this time of the year to back burn as much as they can!

And then we were here, with James gleefully greeting us.  Don’t tell anyone, but I think that he was really pleased to see us!  He has lost quite a bit of weight since his health scare earlier in the year and looks much  better for it.  Once outside of the air-conditioned airport, we were hit with the full brunt of the northern winter – gosh, give me one of our summers any day!

James does not have the whole ten days off – in fact, he works all week until the Friday of the last weekend.  But his work at The Coffee Club, Darwin Waterfront is literally a hop, kip and jump across the forecourt in front of the apaprtment he shares with the lovely Gina.  Very handy – especially I guess, when it is pouring down here as it does for about 5 months a year!

So each morning we head over for breakfast and try most of the choices on the menu.  A lot of the week is spent very lazily and I am averaging a book a day!  I haven’t read that much since last Christmas.  Michael took a walk one day and came back with a copy of Edward Rutherfurd’s latest offering New York and has his head buried deep in this big book.  He is half-way through and for those who know Michael’s reading predelictions, that is some feat!!!

We planned to hire a car, but on doing the sums have decided to wait until later in the week and so, joined a tour company for a day in Katherine early in the week.  An early morning pickup just after 6 am is a rude shock to the system, but as the coach is air-conditioned, it is not too bad to bear.  Turns out there are only 12 of us travellng today – bit different to two days earlier when the coach was loaded to the hilt with 46 passengers!  Must say, I prefer this number.

The trip to Katherine is about 3 hours by road, but our trip is broken into stages with a breakfast stop at Adelaide River and a quick stop at the War Cemetery followed by another short stop at Edith Falls.  We could have taken a dip, but as our stop was a mere 20 minutes, only one fo the group did.  It is a beatiful spot though and you can easily see why it is popular with locals and tourists alike.

One thing that is amazing me as we travel through this small part of the Top End is the ruggedness of the landscape – not sure what I expected, but I got as much of a surprise as I did when we travelled through Broken Hill many years ago.

Yes, the land is wide and open for much of the time, characterised by open savannah forest and healthy clumps of pandannus.  We travel up slight rises from time to time and then we are in very rocky country where there hardly seems enough soil to hold the miserly trees that grow here.  George our driver tells us that we are in fact travelling across the top of a broad escarpment that has been weathered and carved by wind and water since time immortal.  Ah, that explains how you get waterfalls and rock pools (yes, I know I should have been able to work that one out with my love of geograpy – BUT WE ARE ON HOLIDAYS and the thinking is at a mimimum!)

Before long, we arrive at Katherine, the third largest town in the Northern Territory.  We dont stop in town, but head straight out to the Gorge within the Nitmiluk National Park where we are booked on a lunch cruise.  This is where we pick up our local guide Chris.  A member of the tribal clan whose land we are visiting, he could not be a better ambassador for his people, his country or his employer is he tried harder.

He was charming – laid back, a little bit cheeky with the odd joke, knowledgeable and respectful – everything we could have asked for.  Young and genuine, he makes a great tour guide and is very well suited to the job!  Katherine Gorge is amazing for those who have not been fortunate enough to visit it.  At this time of the year the walls of the Gorge tower over us, affording themuch sought after shade from time to time.  You can clearly see the effects of the laying down of the sandstone layers and the weathering that has attacked them since that time.  Truly amazing and beautiful and with fewer than normal of us, at one point we drift quietly and can hear the ghosts of the millenia past whisper their knowledge to us from deep with the chasms and caves amoungst the cliffs.

There is plenty of people using the Gorge – canoeing and even swimming – even with the possible threat of crocodiles!

All too soon, the day at the Gorge is drawing to a close and we head back on to the Coach for the trip back to Darwin.  A 30 min stop in Adelaide River for a Barra and Chips dinner at the Pub that could not possibly be adequately described.  All that was missing was the newspaper wrapping!  Man, I could live on this Barramundi up here – don’t care whether it is fresh or salt-water – it all tastes amazing.  And then we dozed or chatted with each other all the way back.

Yep, an amazing day that continues to affirm why the land we live is is so great!

I’ll share more of our week tomorrow!

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