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Friday, October 27, 2006

Foto Friday: Birthday Boy

Someone has a birthday today, which means he is home from work, hanging around bugging me again.

In retaliation, I get to post this picture:

Katherine Gorge, N.T., Australia, Aug. 2000Katherine Gorge, N.T., Australia, Aug. 2000

Here we see the famous explorer Sacageekwea in full Pommie-Seppo tourist mode.

Well, for anyone else it would be, but he dresses like that at home, too. No floppy hat, but he makes up for it with Hawaiian shirts and sandals with his socks. (Back off, ladies. He's all mine.)

N.T., for the shut-ins among us, stands for "Northern Territory", aka the Top End of Australia. We went there after visiting Uluru on the advice of my Australian boss, who urged us to see Kakadu National Park. "It's bigger than most US states!" he said. Wow!

That sounded kind of funny, so I checked it out, and he turned out to be absolutely right! That is, in some alternate universe where the US never expanded beyond the original 13 colonies, and the South succeeded in seceding. (Kakadu is about the size of New Jersey.)

Katherine Gorge is not in Kakadu N.P., but quite a bit south. We drove down there, which enabled us to experience the famous speed limit-free Stuart Highway, and partake of quaint local customs such as not getting squashed by road trains and avoiding roving psycho murderers.

It's a little hard to see in the picture, but Niles is standing on cliffs overlooking the river. We went on a tour boat with a couple dozen other people, but there were many people out on their own, paddling down the river in canoes -- despite the obvious presence of crocodiles. (The crocodiles could be detected by a glimpse of their eyes or snouts above the water, and by the signs saying CROCODILE NESTING SITE: PISS OFF at certain points along the shoreline.)

These were freshwater crocodiles, and so (nominally) harmless. Occasionally, they told us, they did get dangerous "salties" in the river. These they laid traps for: cylindrical metal cages baited with a dead pig. (Or tourist, in season.)

During the dry season, the boats can't get all the way up the river, so you have to keep getting out and scrambling over rocks to the next boat. This would be OK, but the river was very low and there was sometimes a drop of two feet (looked higher to me) between rocks and river. This sort of thing was not made clear at the beginning of the trip. It's a wonder no one broke anything. My knees would never stand for that sort of thing, nowadays.

When the picture above was taken, our group had clambered up the cliffs to a waterfall-fed pool above the river. This is a charming idea, recalling romantic visions of secluded jungle spots where Tarzan and Jane might canoodle. Not so romantic with pasty tourists and screaming Spawn of All Nations along, however.

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