SHELLY BEACH SNIPPETS NO. 113 August, 2019.
Patricia Newell-Dunkley photographs by Reginald J. Dunkley
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Greetings from down under where the wild winds of August are still taking their toll. Trees are crashing down and roofs are being blown away in New South Wales, Victoria and Tasmania, while heavy snow is still falling on Mount Kosciusko.
The best place to visit at this time of the year is the Northern Territories or the ‘Top End’ as it is known with the bottom end the ‘Red Centre’. It is a world apart and certainly like nowhere else in Australia, with its tropical capital city of Darwin, and the vast indigenous heartland of Arnhem Land.
Dominated by two seasons, the Wet, November to April, and the Dry, May to October. The Northern Territory is huge and to put it in perspective, it is six times the size of France, Spain and Italy combined.
With warm sunny days and cool nights the ‘Top End’ is the ideal location for holidays, with a huge calendar of outdoor festivals and events, people cruising on the harbour and fishing for barramundi, all having a good time and frequenting the many waterfront restaurants and outdoor bars.
It is also known for its rich wetlands, wild rainforests, and the natural wonders which abound in the nearby Litchfield National Park. With its beautiful misty waterfalls, that cascade into crystal clear pools where you can swim and relax at your leisure.
Iconic magnetic termite mounds, insect architecture to keep cool, and clusters of sandstone pillars at the Lost City. There are hundreds of species of fauna, Wallabies, Sugar Gliders, Quolls and Flying Fox, all easily seen.
It is a bird spotter’s paradise and binoculars should be kept at the ready to sight such birds as the Yellow Oriole, this beautiful tropical singing bird which mimics others is a great favourite, as is the Figbird aptly named for its fruit eating. You will also find the Pacific Koel, Spangled Drongo, Dollar bird, and that well-known Rainbow Bee-Eater, which all inhabit areas close to the waterfalls.
Birds congregate in their thousands in the Top End’s wetlands as well as the saltwater crocodile. There are dedicated parks to crocodiles where you can see these with safety; there is also the Cage of Death in the centre of Darwin city at Crocosaurus Cove on the night club and restaurant strip of Mitchell Street.
This is an extremely popular tourist attraction in which a Perspex cylinder containing up to two people is lowered into a pool that contains a large saltwater crocodile. You are up close and personal for fifteen minutes while the reptile is fed.
Darwin is a fascinating tropical city, modern and extremely cosmopolitan. You can watch a movie under the stars at the Deckchair Cinema; have a three course dinner cruising on Darwin Harbour, board the hop-on hop-off bus to take in the city’s sights. Visit the famous Mindil Beach Sunset Markets
It also has a rich history and you can explore its Aboriginal culture at many excellent art galleries. However, the place to go to meet the artists is the Tiwi Islands. The art scene here is for the purists. Tiwi artists only paint with ochre, body painting patterns at Jilamara, carved birds, painted shells, carved burial poles, and canvasses painted with traditional designs. All carried out with rich earth ochre shades: red, white, black, brown, orange and yellow.
This is high-end investment art and buyers fly in from all over the world and strip the walls, buy up big and fly away with their spoils.
And then there is Kakadu just a three hours drive from Darwin and known as one of Australia’s best-kept secrets. It is World Heritage listed for its natural and cultural values. Kakadu is brimming with native wildlife, there are two hundred and eighty known species of birds and giant crocodiles which can be seen on an early morning cruise on Yellow Water Billabong.
It has some of the best preserved and oldest Aboriginal rock art in Australia. There are rock art galleries at Ubirr, Noutangle and Nanguluwur where you will find records of Aboriginal life over some twenty thousand years. Kakadu has it all – landscapes – waterfalls – rugged escarpments, sandstone outcrops and rainforests. Explore it yourself and discover a whole new world of experiences.
Arnhem Land is a vast area of Aboriginal owned land, beautiful and mysterious and it is located in the middle of Australia’s Northern Coast, and includes Kakadu. It comprises of Savannah Woodlands, Sandstone escarpments, pristine river systems, rainforest valleys, and a coastline teeming with marine life.
This is where some of the largest indigenous groups in Australia live, and have succeeded in maintaining their traditional cultural lifestyle governed by ceremonial laws. Beliefs vary from clan to clan but are generally believed that the land and the people were created by spiritual ancestors, who created the rivers, the water holes, the hills, the rocks, and all living things. They gave each clan their land, their totems, and laws to live by and their dreamings.
They are world famous for their bark paintings and fibre craft work as well as their music with didgeridoos. Access to Arnhem Land is controlled by the Northern Land Council and permits are required to enter.
Here at Shelly Beach all is well, the waves have been gigantic, challenging, and exciting with the aid of strong winds and the surfers love it. Everyone is gearing up for a long hot summer.
The garden birds have grown in numbers with a few newcomers arriving but mostly the colourful Lorikeets. Princess Pixie the Pomeranian needs a trip to the Veterinary Surgeon to get her nails cut and then a nice bath ready for September Spring. All of my bulbs have sprung up and there should be lovely display of flowers by December.
My books “Letters of a Travelling Lady, Wallis the Woman I Love, The Complete Guide to Painting and Decorating Porcelain,” are available from Amazon Xlibris and Crowood Pubishers.