So, I will try and make this letter somewhat shorter
than the last monolith. I'll see how far I get...

I believe that I last left you in Perth once again. I
flew back to visit a friend after finding out that the
Kimberley Region was flooded after the cyclone, and I
had nine days free before our next tour left Darwin.
I spent a few days on Rottnest Island which is a
beautiful retreat for Perth's well-to-do. They have
the smallest kangaroos called Quokkas, this is the
only place in Oz that they have survived being eaten
by other "feral" animals like cats and dogs. They
were very cute. After two days of cycling around the
island not seeing another soul, I was ready to fly to
Darwin and see people again.

Giovanna had flown to Sydney for a week so it was back
to travelling on my own for this period. After being
together every day since January, it felt a little
strange at first, but then I was amazed at how many
people I met when on my own. So off I set for the
airport and flew 3 1/2 hours to the northern most city
in Australia.

Darwin is a strange place. The heat was unlike
anything I've ever experienced. It was as humid as a
bee's nest and around 32 centigrade every day. The
real bite was that the temp didn't fall in the
evening, so it was still 32 when you were having a
beer at 10pm. This whole atmosphere made me feel
quite lethargic and the mere task of getting changed
to go to the hostel pool felt like hard work.

I lazed away a few days there, and was very happy to
see Giovanna's face again when she arrived.
Darwinians are not the most well-mannered people. One
day I was by the pool, when i noticed 4 guys just
staring at me incessantly. When I asked if they had
ever seen a girl sunbathe before they answered, "oh,
we were just checking out your scars, you f***ing
yank!". This was not my only nerve-racking incident
with the locals.

Our next trip took us to Litchfield and Kakadu
National Parks. Kakadu is UNESCO world heritage
listed and is generally recognised as the location
where Crocodile Dundee was filmed. We spent three
days swimming in cool rock pools with cascading
waterfalls, hiking through mangrove swamps, checking
out indigenous rock art, learning aboriginal hunting
techniques, and generally trying to murder as many
mosquitoes when the sun went down as possible. Oh,
and trying to sleep in a pool of your own sweat was
also a tool I picked up on this trip....so hot, and
sleeping in canvas tents under the stars.

The highlight of this trip was going on a cruise on a
saltwater crocodile infested river. The guide honked
huge chunks of meat over the side of the boat and we
sat and watched the live version of Disney's "jungle
cruise" as the crocs came and jumped out of the water
up to six feet to chomp on chicken carcasses. Quite
incredible. One croc came very close to crawling up
the side of the boat, we all screamed and checked for
missing limbs after. People still get eaten by crocs
in the Northern Territory, our guide had many gruesome
stories of cocky fishermen who thought they could
safely wade across the river.....

By this point in my trip, I am really starting to love
Aussie humor. And the stories the people who really
live out in the bush love to tell. Stories like:

"crikey, mate, you should have been out on the piss
with us last night - there was a lugger came in with a
1 1/2 meter saltie and just had him there thrashing
around on the floor while we's were tossing 4x ! "Fair
Dinkum?" "yeah, bloody oath, mate!"
Roughly translated: a guy brought a croc into a local
bar after catching it out fishing....(he had photos to
prove it!)

It amazes me the things that are everyday normality
out here.....

After Kakadu we returned to Darwin for one night, and
then it was the gruesome prospect of three days on the
Stuart Highway.....1500 kilometers of red dust, red
dust, and er...red dust, all the way to Alice Springs.

Luckily for us, our driver, Tex, was hilarious and
often had me checking that my spleen was still intact
by the end of the day. Tex had been tour guiding for
a few years after an accident on a cattle station in
the Northern Territory left him unable to ride horses
anymore. He certainly gave us a lot of insight as to
what life is like for thousands of (mostly men)
Aussies who choose this way of life; living and
working in remote and harsh "cattle stations"
(ranches, as we know them) that are often double the
size of Switzerland. They work 14-16 hours a day, in
blazing heat, go days or weeks without showering, and
only make about $250 a month. It is a life full of
testosterone, bravado, and beer, and these men
generally exude all three in excess.

We stopped in a tiny town called Daly Waters for
lunch, population 15. However, there was a beer
festival for all the cattle stations within 500 miles
or so, and the place was swarming with cowboys, or
"ringers"/"Stockmen" as they are known here. Going to
the bar to get myself a beer was quite an experience.
The place reeked of cattle, leather, and sweat, and
I'm not sure I've ever felt more like a "prize cow to
be roped in" as I did then. I was leered at from
every corner; there were no women around! When I went
to pay, some of the cowboys were getting their tickets
for the festival; a guy in front of me opened his to
find 3 free condoms inside, which he openly expressed
approval at finding. It left me wondering if they were
also rounding up women from a 500 mile radius and
bringing them in by the truckload for the event.....?

After three long days of driving, we arrived in Alice
Springs. We had slept under the stars in swags, seen
golden orb spiders the size of your palm, gone on a
tour of an old gold mine, had our photos taken in the
middle of the highway, peed in the red dust when there
were no toilets and marvelled at the bright green tree
frogs that lived inside when there were, met weird and
wonderful characters in a "town" that claimed most
extra-terrestrial sightings in the southern
hemisphere, had photos posing by the weird "devils
marbles" rocks formations, swam in water tanks at
cattle stations that put us up for the night, and
driven many many kilometers. We all partied pretty
hard that night in Alice, we deserved much beer. We
danced the night away, and dreaded our 5am departure
for Ayers Rock the following day!

I'll leave it here for now.....the trip to Uluru
deserves its own letter. Thank you to those of you
who have read up till now.....I do love sharing my
experiences with you all!

Please write, I do try and respond to each and every
individual email I get! And I'll be back in the
states in under two weeks!

Catching a bus to Hervey bay in 30 mins, take care for
now...
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