|After Litchfield we attended an event back in Darwin called the Beer Can Regatta; it's an annual thing in which crowds of Australians get drunk and build boats out of empty beer cans, as well as compete in various events such as kayak races, etc. We only stayed for about 30 minutes—enough to eat a lunch of peanut butter and jam on corn cake sandwiches and tim tams, and to buy delicious tropical fruit smoothies.
Side note on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches: most of you probably know this, but these are purely an American delicacy. I asked a good number of the people we met if their culture eats peanut butter and jelly, and why not. The most often given response was no, because it's not tasty to mix savory and sweet flavors. When questioned about chocolate covered pretzels and peanut butter and chocolate, same outcome of upturned noses. Interesting.
We then drove to Kakadu National Park, probably the Northern Territory's most famous area (besides Uluru, that big red rock ("monolith") in the middle of the desert). It has rocks, it has Aboriginal rock art, it has swamps, it has crocodiles in swamps, it has birds, it has it all. Again, we camped; this time we arrived after dark at the campsite. Having learned our lesson at Litchfield, we gathered firewood along the road while it was still light. And by "gathering firewood" I mean straining against actual limbs of fallen whole trees; Cristie made a spectacular break by jumping on a tree branch and then falling over when it gave way. On the way into the park (which, by the way, is ridiculously huge) we saw red-tailed black cockatoos, a dingo, a bush fire, and many "beware of crocodiles" signs. The only available site at the campground was right next to the road—since we had to drive past all the others to get back to it, we noticed that all the other people were in campervans: Interesting. Perhaps there is a reason for this? Or just a coincidence. Yes. Coincidence. We pitched our tent by headlight, ate dinner (sausages, onions, corn), and went to sleep.
Apparently the stress of being in the sole tent in a place inhabited by lethal salt-water crocodiles got to me, and apparently the stress manifested itself in me sleep-talking that night.
Me (urgently): hey. Hey. HEY.
Cristie (sleepily (she gets very blasé in her sleep)): What?
Cristie: Rebecca, are you saying hey for any particular reason?
Me (indignantly): YES.
I had no recollection of this in the morning. We soon found out that there was a billabong roughly 50 yards from our tent—literally right across the road. The camp manager was an Aboriginal guy who I might have suspected was on speed if I was cynical like that. He constantly talked to whoever was around, and if no-one besides himself was around, he was comfortable talking to himself. Cristie interrogated him on the subject of crocodiles.
Cristie: So, how close is the billabong?
Johnny: (indicates how close)
Cristie: And there are salties in there?
Johnny: yeah, there's a big one and a few smaller ones
Cristie: Do they ever, would they ever come into the campsite?
Johnny: Nah. They'd come about up to the edge of the road, but no further.
(Cristie and I look at each other: remember how our tent is right next to the road? This is not very comforting)
Johnny: Unless they smelled a rotting buffalo corpse on the other side of the campsite, then they'd walk right across and drag it back to the water.
(Even less comforting)
Cristie: But they'd never attack us in our tent?
Johnny: Nah. The water is their territory.
Sidenote: For the past day or so we'd been seeing the following headline on newspaper stands: Crocodile Stalks Family in Tent. Thus, we are not so sure about Johnny's claims.
Day 2 in Kakadu: We spent about an hour in the morning at the visitor centre. They have some neat exhibits—hands-on things for kiddies about the ecology of the area. Then we booked a scenic flight and a dawn river cruise. The scenic flight was really cool, although we were both more than slightly queasy afterwards. It was neat to see the patterns of different natural formations and plant-life from the air. We saw one area closer than most people do, because it's sacred due to an important creation god residing in the peak. No-one is allowed anywhere near because all would break loose, apparently. Next up was Ubirr, an Aboriginal Rock Art site, which was chock full of People To People students, old people on holiday from Melbourne, German tourists, and backpackers.