Password Protected Journal Index:
21 March 2001
Happy Spring Equinox. All over the world today it's twelve hours
of sunlight and darkness, equally, including Antarctica, the North Pole,
and everywhere else. There is one place in the world where it never changes
from twelve on and twelve off, the equator. Darwin lies at 12 ░ S latitude,
so it is in the tropical zone and not very far from the earth's bulging
belly. The difference between the light regime in summer versus winter
around Darwin must not be more than an hour or so, hardly noticeable.
When I go out into the morning air, it is as warm as it was at 1:36 a.m.
when I retired, about 80░F. And it is sticky muggy. I write until check-out
time (10:00) then get on the road I cruised last night. I stop at Nourlangie
Rock to see the Aboriginal rock art there, but am put off by the busloads
of tourists. Even though this is the "off-season" there are plenty of tour
buses with Europeans, mostly, traveling. I squeeze between the groups and
take some digital photographs of the rock art while the bus drivers are
giving their speils, then press on. Soon I begin seeing much more reptile
activity on the road in daylight than I ever saw last night. A large goanna
sits in the middle of the road. Then another, and anotherů. From Nourlangie
Rock to Pine Creek I see so many I lose count. They are of two species,
the water monitor, Varanus mertensi, and the ________, Varanus _______.
Sixty kilometers from Nourlangie Rock I see a black whipsnake in the
road. I come to a screeching halt, jam the emergency brake on, jump out,
and haul ass after him, but he gets away in the spear grass. These whip
snakes are fast, especially when they have warmed up in the heat of the
morning sun. I am encouraged that I might get to interact with some snakes
this morning, only if I can catch them. Then a road-cruiser's dilemma happens.
I see a snake on the road shoulder just as a Land Cruiser is approaching
me, so I can't stop easily until I pass the snake and the on-coming vehicle.
I spin the car around but the snake is long gone. It was different looking,
more robust than most I see, and light brown. I go down the road cursing
under my breath. More goannas, no more snakes, until I reach Mary River
Roadhouse where I gas up and have fish and chips at 1:05 p.m. and try to
catch up in my journal.
After Mary River Roadhouse, I drive on to the Stuart Highway and have
to stop for a talk with myself. I am at a crossroads in my journey in Australia.
Should I turn south and spend a few days road-cruising some remote roads
in the interior or should I get myself into Darwin to find out about continuing
my odyssey. I have been on the road now for 71 days. Believe it or not,
I am getting tired of it. When I discover that I have now caught and handled
25 species of Australian venomous snakes, 15 species of nonvemonous snakes,
and I realize that this is a poor time of the year to be trying to catch
snakes here, I decide to work my way back toward Darwin so that I can check
on my flight to India tomorrow. Maybe I have accomplished enough with Australian
snakes for this trip.
My path takes me near the Grove Hill Hotel, an old historic site hereabouts.
It lies 20m down a dirt road off the Stuart Highway, but it also lies in
the heart of the Pine Creek goldfields. And they sell large gold nuggets
here at good prices. I have a successful side-trip, then get onto the road
I cruised three nights ago and drive all the way down it to see what the
habitat looks like. It is rolling hill country with lots of rock outcrops
and open eucalypt woodllands right up to the road edge. I can't miss another
opportunity, so I cruise up and down it until dark. I see several goannas,
but no snakes. Then, just before sundown, the frilled lizards come out.
I pile out of the car after one and just make it to the tree it tries to
go up in time. I grab my prize and have a great time taking all the photos
I want of its beautiful frilled neck display. The frill has red, white,
brown and tan tones in it, very pretty to my eyes, but supposed to be threatening
to a predator's. Then there is the gaped-open mouth showing bright yellow
color inside. Quite impressive. The sun sets while I am taking my photographs.
Tonight makes up for last night. I see a live northern death adder at
7:35 and take photos. Then a children's python at 8:27, about two feet
long. Next I see my first moon snake, Furina ornata, a common snake that
I should have seen by now. It is a small thing, about 20 inches long, and
quite thin. It has lovely reddish color on its back and sides and a white
belly. The head and neck are black but set off by a red band, ego the name
"ornata." Then, at 9:38 I see a three-feet long olive python and photograph
it, too. Snake activity seems to slow down after that, so by 11:00 when
I haven't seen anymore, and I am too sleepy to keep the car on the road,
I pull off down one of the very few sideroads and settle in for the night.
There is a nice motel about 30 minutes away with the best price I have
seen in the Northern Territory, but I elect to save $25 US and take my
chances in the cramped car. It seems to be threatening a thundershower,
so I am too lazy to get out my tent and have a good stretch-out. Besides,
I fall asleep as soon as the engine is turned off.