The second epic post in as many days to conclude the story of my spring break journeys, and hopefully you’ll have actually read my first post and will be fully sick of me by the time this is over. But let me pick up where the story left off, and we can move on with the details of my travels.
After having packed and gotten ready the night immediately after return from Heron Island, I was able to look forward to the bounty of sleep that I had coming to me after continuous pre-8AM wake up times that I’d had to face down the entirety of my time at Heron. And so it was that I got to sleep in all the way to…9AM! YES! It would have been later if I had not had to run to the post office, but then, what can you do? We (we being myself and Rob, the only two cast members for this little trip) were all set and ready to go, with a cab waiting for us to take us to the airport. The funny thing about vacations is that you can plan and plan for them and think they’ll cost a certain amount of money, but the funny thing is that you get hit with all these unexpected little things that you have to pay for. Like cab fare…I probably spent something like $50 in cab fare for the trip. I mean, as a college kid that has limited funds, that’s not exactly peanuts when you’re trying to stretch a budget. And so it was that fun little things like that would go and pop up, and once again I’d have to hit an ATM. I don’t think that I would ever truly enjoy myself on a vacation because I would freak out about the amount of money in unforeseen costs that I would have to spend. It’s killer.
So we’ve arrived at the airport (uneventfully, unlike the last time we were at an airport), and even for a midday flight, the Aussies seem to know what they’re doing in terms of being efficient. That whole “arrive two hours before your flight” thing that we have to do in the States is essentially null here…although the security wasn’t quite as rigorous, which was a bit of a concern, but then, what can you do? Having over an hour to kill in the airport, Rob and I decided to go cruising for food, since we knew that it was unlikely that we would be eating again until 5PM…so we went on a hunt for scones. Since I’ve been here, there have been few things that I’ve appreciated as much as the Australian tradition of having “morning tea”, which to me is an excuse to go and chomp down on some scones, with cream, which sounds unhealthy and probably is, but is delicious, like a sweeter, lighter form of butter. It’s amazing. So Rob and I went off on our little hunt and after the first place had scones, I turned up my nose, trying to find a place with a better price. And so the search continued, but place after place either didn’t have them, or they had just run out of them. Meaning that we were going to have to return to the place that started off the search, hat in hand, and humbly ask them for their overpriced, dry scones that were ultimately disappointing. Time well spent, for certain.
At any rate, our flight left at noon, and having been refueled, we set off for the terminal to be seated for what would be a 4 hour flight…since I’ve been here, I’ve had to do more flying than ever before in my life. I know that they say that flying is statistically the safest way to travel, and that driving a car is much more dangerous than flying on a passenger jet would ever be, but sometimes I can’t help but feeling a little bit nervous. To be honest, at least when you’re driving a car you at least feel a little bit of a sense of control, even if you don’t actually have all that much. When you go and fly, you’re doing something that nature never intended you to do, and you’re putting your lives in the hands of someone else, and I think it’s that which ultimately causes the unease that I have when stepping onto a plane. Really though, the only two times I ever get nervous are taking off and landing. Once we’re into the air, I’m completely fine (although extended periods of turbulence aren’t exactly my idea of a fun time).
I had brought a book with me, The Devil’s Teeth (a nonfiction book about Great White Sharks off the California Coastline), for a read on the plane, but was ultimately tempted to part with $10 for a little personal TV on which I could watch movies…and so I did, watching “Defiance” on the way there. Not a bad flick, it did the job to get me into Darwin. Before we knew it, we were landing and getting ready to disembark, entering the city of Darwin.
First impressions of Darwin? It. Was. Hot. I mean within five minutes of getting off the plane and walking off onto the terminal, I was already starting to feel the beginnings of sweatiness. Remember when I was complaining earlier about how hot and humid Brisbane was when I first got here? Darwin makes Brisbane feel like Montreal. You can ask Rob about how much I was bitching about the heat within 10 minutes of leaving the airport…it wasn’t pretty. Within the hour a change of shirt would have been justified, but due to a lack of wardrobe, if we changed shirts every time that it was necessary, we would have been naked by the 8 hour mark.
We were the first to be dropped off at our hotel, the fantastic Holiday Inn Darwin (as opposed to the fancier Holiday Inn on the Esplanade, which was literally right next door…ridiculous), and due to jet lag and general laziness, we spent the first 3 hours of our time in Darwin getting acquainted with the room. More specifically passing out on the beds and looking at the pay per view movie options…$17 per. You could go out and buy the damn movie for that much…and probably buy your own popcorn and soda to boot. After waiting around for Rob to get ready and listening to my stomach rumble, having only eaten the scone all day, it was finally time to go out and hit the town, praying that the fact that the sun was lower in the sky would buy us less heat and humidity. Well, it did. But only barely.
Being hungry, you would have thought that we were going to just drop in on the first restaurant that we saw. And you would be wrong, because deciding on the restaurant was probably more difficult and contentious than deciding on buying a car. Rob insisted that the first night out should be a good place; I was just starving and didn’t care…well, didn’t care in the sense that we weren’t eating Chinese food or really any asiatic food…I wanted something substantial. The argument would have been settle five minutes in as we both saw a place we liked: Shenanigan’s, but as we approached, we noticed a sign on it with horror: Closed for renovations. So the fight was on, with each of us going and shooting down at least 3 places apiece before it started raining and forced us to make a snap decision.
One of the places I had ruled out before was “Wisdom” because it was a bar, and I didn’t think the food there would be fit for a dog to eat, much less us. But with the skyline rumbling threatening and not wanting to do Chinese, I agreed, and we went and got a beer and sat down with a menu. It was at this point that we discovered the fascinating dish known as the “Territory Platter”…a fitting name because we were in the Northern Territory. The price tag was $28, and it was…an appetizer. For that kind of money, we were expecting it to be a massive platter that would be more than satisfying for the both of us, and so Rob and I proceeded to order the two cheapest things on the menu: a burger for Rob and a bowl of pasta for me. Now you might be wondering why we dropped almost as much as our entrees combined cost for an appetizer. I say that it comes with the territory…my parents have always told me that I’ve had the culinary range of a teaspoon since I was 6 years old (mainly because I hated Chinese food growing up and they were always a bit bitter about that), but it was on this night that I was out to set the record straight and prove my parents wrong, once and for all. The “Territory Platter” comes with three different kinds of meat on it: emu, kangaroo, and crocodile. If my parents can say that they’ve ever eaten three different exotic animals in the same meal, then I’ll never complain about soy sauce again…but I went and conquered that culinary mountain, and I have to say…for eating weird animals, it was actually pretty good. Just disappointing in the size…when you say “platter” on a menu, it’s expected that there’s going to actually be a substantial amount of food on said platter. This simply was not the case, as essentially Rob and I split 3 kebabs. Fortunately, our entrees were sufficient to satisfy our hunger.
Over the course of the meal, several beers were consumed (and one large glass of cider, which was fantastic, by me), and talk swung to politics and other deep conversation of that nature. It was a good dinner, I thought…good (weird) food, good conversation, good drinks…and so we left the Wisdom bar and walked off into the night. Rob had every intention of going back to the hotel, but I convinced him to come out to a club called “Discovery”, to see if we could meet anyone our age and so I could show off my fantastic wingman skills…or lack thereof. So there we were, dressed in completely casual clothes in a country that will deny access to those not wearing a nice shirt/pants combo, and tried to get into this club…and they let us in. We’re just that charming and good looking, no? Actually, no. Because it was a Wednesday night and the place was a ghost town. Darwin, you have to understand, is not like Sydney or Melbourne. While it’s probably the biggest city in the Northern territory, that’s not exactly saying much. I would estimate that it’s the size of Framingham back home, which is depressing. Plus, it appeared that there was no one under the age of 30 living in the damn place, which meant that making friends was not going to be easy. So we got our one drink and decided to leave the club (literally there were 6 people in the club, and we were two of them and the bartender was another), and walked back to the room.
Having had our dreams of going out to a club ruined, the night was close to being viewed as unable to be saved, when the golden beacon of salvation came through in a massive wave of nostalgia. Depressingly, our hotel room only got 13 channels, meaning no ESPN or channels that we could watch movies on…but what it did have was Nickelodeon. And what Nickelodeon provided us with was a blast from the past, with Nicktoons from the 90’s…Hey Arnold, Angry Beavers, Ahh Real Monsters…it was like being shipped back to 1998, and it was enough to keep us enthralled, reliving the glory days of our youth…or maybe just the days of our youth without the glory. Either way, we were hooked.
The next morning was the second of the two days that we were actually able to sleep in, and we took full advantage of it, seeing as the next three days would all involve wakeup times of before 6AM (two of them intentional, one of them not so much). It was our second and last day with free time in Darwin that wasn’t fully booked, so we went and set off into the heat of the city to take advantage of it. Having gone and spent a good deal of money feasting on the weirdest creatures Darwin has to offer the night before, a cheap lunch was viewed to be in order, and my new addiction, Subway, was the spot we decided to hit. I get the same thing every time I go there, it’s spectacular, especially in light of the fact that Australians are in love with Cheddar cheese and I have at least have one or two other options for cheeses (although cheddar remains one of the options…damn Aussies and their cheddar fetish…) Anyway, my new favorite sandwich is the footlong ham and turkey, with old English cheese (underrated cheese…it’s not bad at all), lettuce, carrots and southwest sauce. Toasted. It’s quite addicting.
After hitting the cheap lunch, the time was decided to be spent hunting down souvenirs, and I managed to find secondary gifts for my parents, sister, and girlfriend (one that I think she’ll be thrilled to get and is going to remain a surprise, dammit. Because I’m horrible with surprises). But sadly, Rob wasn’t able to find anything he liked, and decided to go all-in for the gift for his father and himself. I’m actually kind of impressed at the determination and fearless cash-throwing he did…we ended up walking around for half an hour looking for the place he wanted to end up: Di Croco. You might be able to tell what it sells from the name, but in case you need a hint, it’s the skin of an animal that is big, nasty, and likes to eat people. Also known as saltwater crocodile. And as the salesperson made her pitch (after being coldly rebuffed by me, who gripped my wallet so tightly that my knuckles turned white, in hopes that money wouldn’t come flying out of it), I was stuck half an hour waiting on a couch and staring at ridiculous, $500 croc skin hats and wondering “Who the hell wears croc skin hats?”) And so it was that Rob fearlessly walked into the crocodile’s den of high-end croc skin leather products and walked out the proud owner of two authentic crocodile-skin wallets and half a grand (in US currency, mind you) lighter. I immediately suggested that if he was freely tossing the money around like that, that he should pay for the night’s dinner, and was immediately given the finger.
After the much needed shower (the day had consisted of literal buckets of sweat coming off of us, only to be doused by a massive rainstorm on the walk back to the hotel, we decided that it was time to, for one night, live like kings. Money was not going to be an object, as at this meal we wanted to fully enjoy ourselves without looking at the price tag. We felt that a quality seafood dinner was in order, and went off to Cullen Bay to find it, where the top seafood restaurants were recommended. It being early (and possibly also because it was Darwin, which may have a population of 15), we walked into the restaurant “La Beach”, and were immediately given the best seat in the house. Actually, it was a little bit awkward…the table was clearly intended for a romantic-type dinner, with a full view of the ocean sunset and the table being rather small. We swore that there would be no longing glances, and the bromantic dinner was on…first order of business was the ordering of drinks, and as no one was around to give us shit for them, we went for drinks that were…well, not exactly hardcore man drinks. I think Rob’s was called a “La beach sunset” or something like that, and I got a grasshopper, which I have positively no regrets about because it was without a doubt the most delicious alcoholic drink I’ve ever had. So naturally, halfway done with this $14 drink, I knocked it and spilled like a quarter of it…typical. But even that wasn’t going to ruin the ambiance of the dinner…I wasn’t kidding when I said it was the best seat in the house: we got a clear view right over the water and got to see the boats silhouetted against the sunset…it was stunning.
The appetizers of garlic bread and the soup of the day (barramundi and prawn chowder, I think?) arrived after like half an hour, and was just about as fantastic as we had imagined it would be. One kind of irritating note, though. Here, the Australian waiting economy is not tip-based…you’re not allowed to tip your waiter/waitress. As a result, the service tends to be a little bit more lax, and that means that waiting for your food is almost a given when you walk into the restaurant. Raised on the American dining industry, this can get to be a little stressful, especially when one is hungry, and I was a bit antsy while waiting for our entrees. For the record, to show that I was not about to be stingy, I went and ordered exactly what I wanted…which happened to be the most expensive thing on the menu: the “Chili Bugs” for $51. Now, before you go off and start vomiting, “Bugs” are what they call their version of lobster here….the only difference is that they don’t have claws, and, as I would find out, don’t taste nearly as good. Rob went for the “catch of the day” which was a red snapper. I wasn’t sure how they were going to prepare it, but almost died when I saw that they actually brought out the full fish, complete with skin, skeleton, and eyes. The eyes were the killer…they were all milky and glazed over, and I was naturally disgusted. But not as disgusted as I was when I told Rob I’d give him $50 if he ate them, and he said “hmm…$50?” and I immediately retracted the offer, as the tone told me everything I needed to know. That he would do it. And then my big expensive meal would have been for naught because I would have vomited all over it.
Part of the fun of eating the meal was the actual consumption of it (which was alright, but not as good as I was expecting, as I happen to love lobster and was expecting it to be as good), and the other part of it was watching Rob try to work out a plan of attack for eating his meal. He eventually needed my help, as he’d eaten one half of the fish but didn’t know if he should flip it or battle through. I pulled on the tail to take a closer look…and the skeleton came with it, thus solving Rob’s crisis.
After battling through the entree, the only part left was the dessert, and the pressure was on to end the perfect meal with the perfect dessert, and it was here that I made my fatal mistake: I ignored my gut instinct to go with the berry meringue, and instead got the Bailey’s flavored cheesecake, based on my historical love of cheesecake. Sadly, though, the Bailey’s flavoring threw me off, and I was thoroughly dissatisfied with the way the meal ended. This in addition to the half hour it took to actually get my hands on the check. The final damage: between the two of us, we had burned $160 on the meal, by far the most expensive meal that I’ve ever been a part of. But ultimately, there were no regrets; I had wanted to feel like a king while eating, ignoring money, and so I had. For that meal, I felt like I had all the money in the world, and was able to completely enjoy myself in a way that I likely won’t be able to again for quite some time.
After dinner, the call was made to cab it back to the hotel room, as it was clear that we were going to need some early-ish rest to prepare ourselves for the epic fishing trip that awaited us in the morning. And what better way to accomplish this than by settling in to watch another round of Nicktoons? Our stomachs full and our minds put at ease by the nostalgia, we were out by 10, prepared for the day ahead.
The 4:20 wake up came way too soon, but then, 4:20AM wake ups always do. Stumbling and cursing, we prepared ourselves, got showered and packed our sunblock for a day out in the billabongs of the Northern Territory, a trip that would last us all day and take up all of our energy. At roughly 4:45, our guide Nathan showed up in an SUV with two other guys and we were packed in, ready for the two hour drive to get us out into the wild, where the crocodiles swim freely and (hopefully) where the fish were jumping. Prior to our departure, however, Rob and I had been hit with a rather nasty shock: going in, we were planning on being cheap bastards and were going to take full advantage of the continental breakfast that the Holiday Inn provided, under the logical assumption of “well, it’s a hotel continental breakfast…of course it’s free”. Nope. Not free. $20 a head…the horror. What kind of backwards country is this?! No free continental breakfast?! Stunned by culture shock, Rob and I piled into the SUV and made the drive, fully distraught. To make matters worse, the truck stop we went to in order to get food didn’t even have scones, even though a sign said they did.
Eventually, though, the drive ended and by 7AM, we were hitting the water, in a fishing boat that was much smaller than I was expecting, and thus was quite nervous to be riding in. Maybe I just have a thing about riding in small watercraft, I don’t know. Either way, in spite of our recent experiences with the heat, nothing we had done prior to this boating trip could possibly have stacked up to the amount of sun exposure that we were facing, and it wasn’t likely to let up for the entirety of the day. I was literally diving for the sunscreen every 15 minutes, praying that I wouldn’t come out of the day looking like a lobster…I even wore a hat for the majority of the day, something that I completely abhor because I hate the way that I look in hats most of the time. But after having my scalp get burned at Moreton Bay, I was taking no chances, so the baseball cap stayed on, and my skin was even whiter than usual.
We got out onto the water (with me consistently scanning the river for where I should swim to if I should fall in, and then realizing that it probably wouldn’t save me), and picked out our lures for the day. I picked a silver and dullish looking one, figuring that going realistic was the best bet, and sure enough, half an hour later, my line was the one that got the first bite. I was ready for battle, and the man vs. fish fight was on, with me pulling and reeling with all of my might, dragging the fish closer and closer to the boat until it was close enough to get with the net. My first catch: a juvenile barramundi, which earned me a handshake from Nathan and a slap on the back from Rob. The fish was about a foot and a half long, but was just short of being a legal catch that we could take back with us (not that we would have, as we had nowhere to go and grill it up, and didn’t really want the overpowering dead fish smell in our hotel room), so we tossed it back. This first catch was my most impressive and the biggest of the day for me. And so the day of fishing continued: I also caught the second fish (which was much less exciting…a catfish that made these weird noises up until we let it go), and the day pressed on, with us continuing to keep our eyes open for crocs (apparently they’ve learned to hide from fishing boats because people used to shoot them from the boat. Hence the crocs will dive underwater when they see the boat coming). The fact that we couldn’t see too many of them wasn’t exactly comforting, and the rule was established that no one was allowed to reach over the side of the boat for any reason, as apparently a tourist got taken while washing his hands over the side a few years ago.
Sadly for us, it seemed that we had picked a bad date to come out for the fish: the season wasn’t optimal for fishing and it seemed as though they were hiding among the roots and were too shy to come out. Nick and Tim, who were the other guys with us on the trip, took to casting instead of trawling, which was what Rob and I were doing. I felt pretty bad for Nick…the whole day came and went and he didn’t get a single fish, and by the last hour had given up even trying. Tim was the second most successful (behind me), having caught a juvenile barramundi and a pretty good sized Saratoga as well. Rob ended catching a tarpan and a catfish, and at the end of the day, I had caught…wait for it…seven fish. While the number was impressive, what I caught outside of my first catch was not…4 catfish, 2 tarpan, and the barramundi. Still, it was a pretty good haul. And then, on the way back to shore (at around 5PM…yep, we had literally spent almost the entire day out on the water), we saw a 4 meter crocodile on the shore, sunning itself. And in probably one of the most insane moves I’ve ever witnessed (and this coming from the guy who went swimming with sharks at feeding time), Nathan pulled the boat up to the shore and went and approached the crocodile, which saw him coming and instead of doing what I would think crocodiles would do (a.k.a try to bite his face off), the croc dashed for the water and dove in, running from Nathan. The reason for this may have been explained, as we saw that the bottom jaw of the croc had been partially ripped off, presumably from another croc, and was just hanging off of the croc’s face. It was simply stunning. By the way, the pictures from this trip and all of my Australia trip can be viewed on my facebook profile, so go ahead and check them out.
After the long drive home and reminiscence of the day’s events, we said our goodbyes to Nathan, Nick, and Tim, and re-entered our hotel. Instead of running for the room and passing out, however, it was decided that the best course of action would instead be to go and, fully clothed, make a dash for the pool. And so we did, and the word “refreshing” doesn’t adequately do it justice. It was like finding an oasis in the desert. After drying out, it was decided that a night of Nicktoons was in order (because the nightlife in Darwin is, in fact, that dead), and around 8:00, our stomachs started rumbling, so we ordered pizza to be delivered to the hotel from Domino’s (nothing like a little bit of Americana to end a fully Australian Outback experience). And so we sat and watched TV and waited. And waited. And an hour and a half later, I turned to Rob and was like “this is ridiculous. Call them back and see how much longer it’ll be”. Rob calls and is asked for his name and order, so he gives it, saying that we already ordered. And wouldn’t you know it, but the person he ordered from never put our order in, and so it was another half hour before the pizza arrived. But the silver lining was that we got free garlic bread and half off the price of the pizzas when it finally did arrive. It turns out that I’m not the tank that I used to be…back in the day I would be able to take down a whole pizza by myself (as unhealthy as it is), but times being as they are, I can only do 3/4 of the job…I’m losing my edge in my old age, sadly.
Sleep was imminent because we had another early wake up for the next day, as we had booked a day tour of Litschfield, which is the area outside of Darwin, and promised to go and take us to all sorts of waterfalls for swimming, lunch, and a jumping crocodiles tour, all of which sounded quite appealing. I’ll use this blog as a forum for my formal admission of guilt: I screwed up the time that we were scheduled to be picked up: I had heard 5:50, but apparently it was supposed to be 6:50, so when my alarm went off at 5:30, Rob was none too pleased, even though I swore that it was the right time. A phone call to the organizers of the day disproved my vows, even though I’ll swear to the day I die, I heard the woman say “5:50″. So there it is, Rob. I’m sorry.
Anyway, we were up and ready to go for the tour, which consisted of something like 16 people, and we were driven off to a ranch to go and finalize payments. It was here that my current profile picture was taken, as a juvenile saltwater croc was being kept there and we were allowed to hold and take pictures with him…”Snappy”, his name was. Cute name for something that will eventually grow to be like 15 feet and is a born killer. Holding him though, I expected his skin to be rigid and tough, but it actually was surprisingly soft. It was weird, holding something that would eventually want to eat me. But soon the paperwork was finished and we were off on our way, with the first stop a waterfall we were allowed to swim at, which was excellent, because even at 8:30 in the morning it was already hot. Although this shouldn’t come as a surprise…
And so it was that we ended up at “Florence Falls”, which had two spectacular waterfalls that we were invited to swim over to and wash ourselves in. I was enthusiastic about this, but out of nowhere Rob decided to grow a vagina and claim “cramps”, and so I was off on my own, swimming for the falls. If I learned anything from this day, it was that you have to respect nature, or it will come back and bite you in the ass. And so it was that at one point I was forced under by the current generated by the falls, and didn’t make that mistake again. After retreating to the safety of the shallows, I rejoined Rob, who was under attack: a school of fish (that Rob and I labeled incorrectly as “goddamn piranhas”) was going and dive bombing him at every chance, and now that I’d returned, I wasn’t spared…soon the little bastards were nipping at my heels as well. This led to my retaliation of trying to catch one of them, and thus they eventually backed off and swam to find easier prey.
After briefly drying off (but remaining in our swimsuits), the trip continued, next to a series of rock pools, called the Buley Watering Hole, at which the waters were shallow and the currents were strong. It was here that Rob and I met a girl around our age (stunning! In Darwin? THEY DO EXIST!) from Canada, who had spent the last few years of her life just traveling the world, picking up odd jobs to sustain herself and going and living in Europe, Australia, and South Asia. Talk about an idyllic lifestyle…I thought that people only did that in books… It’s so strange, I mean, I know why I go to college, it’s so that I don’t have to live day-to-day picking up odd jobs, but to say that the idea of traveling the world like that isn’t tempting would just be an outright lie…she’s probably seen more in her travels than I will my whole life.
Anyway, in the process of relaxing at this watering hole, I went and tried to navigate myself upstream, which pretty much meant my clinging to rocks against the current and trying to pull myself up. It’s not a very comfortable way to travel, and I ripped a fingernail in half trying to do it. Meanwhile, Rob in his smugness, was perched on a rock and commenting on how hard he was going to laugh when I got swept off by the current downstream, which ended in this waterfall that, while a fall wouldn’t be fatal, it probably wouldn’t have felt too nice either. And wouldn’t you know it, but within 30 seconds of his little comment, I lost my grip and went flying down the rapids, bruising my ass on my way down before finally catching ahold of a rock prior to going over the waterfall. It was like the scene of a bad action movie: me clinging desperately to a rock and pulling myself over to side, where the current was weaker. Meanwhile Rob’s laughing his ass off and I’m holding my hand where the fingernail was ripped, cursing.
Sadly, this area was the last swimming area that we were allowed to go in. We would have been able to swim in the next area (called Wangi Falls), which was absolutely stunning, but someone had seen a croc swimming there a few weeks before, and thus it was off-limits. I couldn’t see any crocs, but then I suppose that’s the whole point…the waterfall itself was a thing of beauty, though, and I was sorely disappointed that we couldn’t go in for a swim…it was reaching midday and the temperature was rising once again.
After this excursion, we had one more before the jumping crocodile tour, and that was to an area with literally no shade and no water: we were off to go and look at the massive termite mounds, which are literally 40 foot high piles of termite shit, in which termites live in ant-like societies, complete with workers, soldiers, and the queen. It was pretty impressive, and standing next to it, I felt small and insignificant, next to the massive pile of termite crap. And at this point, I was also starting to sweat profusely, which was incredibly uncomfortable. There were several types of termite mounds to look at, with the “Cathedral” Style being the most impressive, and the magnetic termites building their mounds according to polarity being the weirdest and hence the ones that are unique to Australia.
Finally, the attraction that drew us to this particular tour in the first place was upon us: the crocodile tours whereupon the crocs would actually jump out of the water. The tail of the saltwater crocodile is so strong that it can actually propel the croc all the way out of the water in a vertical leap to reach food. Not only this, but our tour guide said that he’s seen crocs eat 10 foot bull sharks. That’s right…the reason why I would be terrified to fall in the Brisbane river is viewed as prey here…fantastic.
The guard rails of the boat (which sat nervously low in the water) were set up, and I graciously allowed Rob to go and sit on the side that closest to the water and therefore the crocodiles. So we kicked off, and were warned not to stand up on the boat when the croc was on our side, because they will actually try to jump into the boat and snatch us if we give them a target…this was a rather sobering thought. So I sat planted into my seat and took my pictures from a distance. How was it? Do you remember the scene from Jurassic park where the T-rex was being fed the goat? I would imagine that it was pretty similar to that, except that we actually got to see the crocodiles in attack mode. Full extension, all of the way out of the water, snapping at the meat on a stick. They came right up to the side of the boat, too, eying each one of us as the next victim before accepting the offering given to them by the guide. The largest that we saw was 4 and a half meters, a croc called “George”, but sadly for us, we missed the 6 meter “Hannibal” who was about the same length as our entire boat. It’s just the same to me…I’m quite happy to have all of my limbs and livelihood.
After this uncomfortably close encounter with these massive reptiles, we all piled back into the van and drove back to Darwin, where we were set to go and enjoy a champagne sunset complete with fresh prawns (my favorite). When we got there, I was positively starving and was a prawn-eating machine. Seriously, I barely even spoke in between each prawn. Looking back, I probably shouldn’t have eaten so many of them due to what we ended up having to have for dinner options, but I regretted nothing at the time. Unfortunately for us, the sunset was ruined by a bunch of clouds, but after all we had experienced on the day trip, the day was far from ruined. Facing a 4AM wake up for a 6AM flight in the morning, drinking that night was out of the question, and a Spongebob marathon had effectively ruined any chance for Nicktoons, so we were stuck in a dilemma. However, I was able to break the stalemate by suggesting we go to the casino and try our luck, and Rob, being just as bored as I, agreed.
So we dressed casual (which led to us not even trying to get into the nice bar/club they had “Sandbar”, although honestly I doubt there would have been anyone our age in there based on what we were seeing in the casino) and strolled out onto the floor, where I was faced with the problem I’ve been faced with every single time I’ve tried to go to a casino in my life: logjams at the blackjack tables. I mean honestly…how is it there is never more than a single spot open on the table? If this happens consistently, don’t you think that they’d open more tables up? But no…and this prevented Rob and I playing together. So instead we decided to do shifts, and I went first. $50 was the limit that I set for myself, and after some successes, I’d wanted to go and try to ensure that I actually came out ahead tonight. The first dealer was excellent: lady luck was on our side (especially the guy to my right) and I was quickly up $50, after a daring double or nothing bet that played out in my favor. At one point, I think I was up $125, and was feeling good about myself. I had wanted to leave the table when I hit a cold streak, but I wanted to save the seat for Rob. However, he decided he wanted to go and make a phone call to his folks, and within 5 minutes of his leaving, I started going cold, the dealer changed to the luckiest bastard in all of Darwin, and I started bleeding chips, holding out to try and keep the seat for Rob. Finally, after 20 minutes, I couldn’t hold out any more. I made one final desperate bet, won, and got the hell out of there, letting Rob’s seat go to whoever wanted it. At the end of the day, though, I had a total of $150 in chips, meaning a $100 profit and, even more excitingly, meaning that overall for Australia, I’m in the black! So if nothing else, I’ve learned being here that blackjack is the game for me.
After this victory and after having had a disappointing run at the buffet (which was a downer because of all the prawns that I’d eaten ahead of time), it was back off to the hotel for a final time to get packed up and ready for checkout to get to the airport at 6AM. I was sad to leave the hotel room, as the beds had been comfortable, the pool had been refreshing, and the Nicktoons had been entertaining (in a nostalgic kind of way, of course). But here it was, we were off and ready to go, and even though we wanted to shoot ourselves at the 4 AM wakeup time, we managed to drag ourselves up and out to get to the cab on time for the airport.
This time, there were no scones to be had, and we were essentially in a zombie-like state throughout our wait for our flight. I took the opportunity on the flight back to catch up on my class reading assignments, and Rob once again rented another one of the little TVs (I’d seen all that I’d wanted to on the flight there, anyway), and it was back to Brisbane once more. We arrived back at 10:30, and had the good fortune of having our bags out fast (mine was the sixth bag to come out…I’m pretty sure that’s a new personal best. I had almost freaked out on the way there because my bag was literally the last to come out from the baggage claim). And so we hopped back in the cab and I was drained of my last $20 for the trip, crying as I parted with the cash, and before I knew it, I was back at UQ and ready to face my hell week of having to write a paper in three days and having an exam to end the week. Fun times.
I have more to tell you about this past weekend, but I’m so burned out from this post that it’ll have to wait. Hope that it was worth the read…it took me like 3 hours to write.