Around the World With the ArvaMonts
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(Clicking on an image below will bring up a larger version of it.)
Since we have been to Australia before, we've seen Melbourne and Sydney and we've snorkeled on the Barrier Reef. So this time we headed first for the Top End and the Red Centre.
The Top End is the north central part of Australia - it is the Top End of the Northern Territory. Have a look at this map if you are having trouble visualizing it. The Top End is in a tropical climate, so it has basically two seasons - wet and dry. Guess what season we were there - yep, the wet! This means that it was both hot and humid. Unlike some places you hear about, the wet in the Top End is not predictable. It doesn't always rain at 3 pm, it rains whenever it feels like it. You have about 15 minutes warning - if you are paying attention, because about 15 minutes before a big storm hits the humidity gives just a bit and you can detect a coolish breeze. Strangely, even in the wet, the Top End has more hours of sunshine that most other places in Australia.
The Northern Territory has many large national parks. The one we chose to go to is called Kakadu.
Kakadu National Park
Kakadu is a huge expanse of undeveloped land and comprises escarpment, billabongs, rivers, marsh, grassland, woodland and more. Unfortunately, during the wet, much of this diversity is hard to reach, because of all the water! And water represents danger in these parts, given the estuarine crocodiles (aka salties) who inhabit these waters. There are also many different animals to see here. And there is history - this is aboriginal land and there is evidence of long aboriginal inhabitation of these parts.
Read that sign carefully! This is Croc territory - we weren't heading that way!
This looks like grassland, but really it is marshland. And in this marchland there were thousands of nesting magpie geese!
We also saw several Agile Wallabies, but they just weren't into posing. There were also several dingoes about, which we initially mistook for domesticated dogs!
Above and left: Jabiru or black-necked stork.
Amphibians and Reptiles
Insects and Spiders
It is hard to appreciate just how big this first spider is. We were minding our own business, hiking through the woods at the base of the escarpment near Nourlangie, when Anika leapt out of her boots and shrieked! She found this guy hanging among the branches just to the right of the path. Since Anika has been taking about Australia being renamed The Land of Snapping Jaws and Shooting Venom, she has been very nervous about spiders, snakes, sea wasps and crocodiles! She was shaking from head to toe, but this spider just sat there.
We watched these bees for a long time. They are tiny, and their nest is a hollow in the fork of a tree. The bees coming in, seem to have very round, yellow rear legs. The ones leaving, however, look just like tiny bees with regular legs. So we deduced that this must be pollen and nectar being carried into the nest.
Look closely, see the grasshopper? There must be hundreds of different kinds of dragonflies in Kakadu! ^ This is a termite nest, built high in the trees, to stay dry during the wet.
A little rock art at Nourlangie.
According to Aboriginal custom, the clan's artist touched up the art left behind. There is evidence, however, that some of this artwork was originally drawn many thousands of years ago.
The library at the visitor centre was air conditioned and they had this cool game, BioViva, which we enjoyed playing, twice!
Northern Territory Wildlife Center
This is a center that houses only animals native to the Northern Territories. We particularly enjoyed the birds of pray show. (Big surprise - I know!)
This is what the rest of the Northern Territories is called! And as you fly into Alive Springs you can certainly see why. From the air it is very red!
We only spent a night in Alice Springs. Then we rented a car and drove to Uluru - four hours down a narrow country road designated as a national highway, with corresponding speed, through desert land with road trains as moving obstacles. (An Australian road train is a semi pulling up to 4 trailers!)
Arriving in Alice Springs
Yannis approved of this caution, aged people crossing sign, allowing ready access for seniors to the
Old Timers Museum!
Yulara or Ayers Rock Resort
This is a planned resort just outside the Uluru/Kata Tjuta National Park. There is no accommodation inside the park. Strangely, there isn't really that much to do in the park either. There are 3 walks at Uluru - around the rock, up the rock and then a wimpy nature walk out by the cultural centre. Kata Tjuta suffers from the same problem. Two walks, one into each gorge, with the valley of the winds walk possible when it isn't too hot or too windy.
The scientific theory of the origin of Uluru and Kata Tjuta, which is clearly articulated next to the aboriginal explanation, is that the two rocks were formed in the runoff plain of the mountains to the north many millions of years ago. The two formations have different compositions, because they are the result of the run off of different parts of the mountains. Uluru is a solid sedimentary rock, while Kata Tjuta is made of a composite rock, many pieces of which have fallen off making hiking more challenging. When the two were geologically lifted, the Kata Tjuta lifted straight up and has since been weathered, while only a small section of the rock that makes up Uluru is above ground, and that section was folded and currently sits perpendicularly to the way it was formed. This is why you can see vertical striations in many of Yannis' photos. They say that Uluru extends for five kilometers underground!
Our friends the Knoxes traveled around Australia in the nineties,
and we think they left us this little message
in the sunset viewing parking lot at Uluru!>>
Anika was not thrilled to be hiking around Uluru, but thought she should
just get it over with. She was so far out ahead of us that a couple of
rangers in a Jeep flagged her down! After that she waited for us. It
is true that we made a strategic error. First, we started walking much
later than we would have liked. Second, we walked clockwise, beginning at
the base of the hike up, so that we could walk in the shade for the second half
of the walk. Unfortunately, by the time we reached the part that was in
deep shade when we started our walk, it was basically in full sun. By that
time it was around noon! The whole walk took us just under four hours;
four hot, sunny, sweaty hours! (It was hot sunny and sweaty everyday for
the four days we were there! Of course the morning we departed it was cool
The aboriginals ask that you don't climb Uluru, but we did not have to decide whether or not to climb, because the wind and heat closed the climb the entire time we were there. Here is the start of the climb.
The first time we had a kitchen in months - hurray, let's make pancakes! Tasha cooks while Anika studies.
Next competition: How many flies are sitting on Yannis and his backpack in this photo?
From Australia we flew to New Zealand.
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