May 2008

  • Cover Page
  • Map of Trip-2006.
  • Map of Trip-2008.
  • Map of Trip-2009.
  • Map of Trip-2010.

  • My mate Jules and Me
    On the 16th May we celebrated the half way point for our stay in Wadeye. Boy has that time come around quickly. The thought of leaving in 13 weeks is actually a little sad and not something we are looking forward to. In saying that, as much as we love it we are not sure we would actually want to stay much longer . It will be time to move on and experience another place, another culture, another chapter. We do have a few plans for the remainder of the year and have even started to plan for 2009. Talk about organised. More about that another time.

    So what have the Parfitts been up to for May. So far this has been our busiest month by a country mile. We started the month with a road trip to Darwin to pick up the car and camper. Originally I had planned to fly in and come back on my own. Then Lesley, one of the managers out here offered to drive us in, but unfortunately only had room for three of us, so we planned to leave poor Alex behind to stay over with one of his friends. Then only a few days before we were to leave, our neighbour told us she was driving in, same day and staying at the same place. They had plenty of room in the Troopy so now we could all go. Alex and myself left at the crack of dawn in the Troopy and Chris and Harry left at lunch time, in the comfort of the Landcruiser. It actually worked out well as I was able to book into our cabin at the caravan park, and go over to the storage shed and get the car and the camper out before Chris and Harry arrived.

    The road to Darwin

    The trip into Darwin was very interesting, and for us to actually make it there was a miracle in itself. We had planned going in on this particular weekend about a month prior, as it was a long weekend. We booked our accommodation well before the road in was even open. In fact the Daly River Crossing only actually officially opened the day before we made the trip. The road from Wadeye to the Daly, while not in good condition, was able to be traversed. Then 2 days prior to leaving Alex picked up a vomiting and diarrhoea bug, and of course we all expected to get it next. So by some miracle, or good old Parfitt luck, the road opened, we didn't all get sick, and we found a way of getting us all in for the weekend. It was also good that we all got to see the damage that the wet does to the roads, and to see the Daly River. I won't lie, we were very excited about getting the car back. The freedom to get around without having to humbug people, saving the storage cost, and just getting into town after 3 months was truly exciting, and something that only people who have lived remote could understand.

    The trip to Darwin (405km) took about 6 1/2 hours (normally about 4 1/2 hours). In places the road was washed away and a real 4x4 challenge. The most exciting and somewhat scary bit was actually crossing the Daly. While the water was only about 500mm deep, it was flowing at an amazing rate. The Daly crossing is a large causeway about 100 metres long, with tunnels underneath for the water to flow through. The reason that so much water was flowing over the top of the causeway and with such force was because the tunnels underneath were blocked with sand and debris from the floods. That caused the water to virtually hit a brick wall and then rise up creating a big bow wave and therefore a high flow of water over the crossing. To say I was a little concerned was an understatement. Windows down, seat belts off, low range and off we went. The relief of making it to the other side was immense. Only a few short months ago the crossing had 18 metres of water flowing over it. At its flood peak, the volume of water flowing over the crossing is equal to the capacity of Sydney Harbour every 24 hours. That is a lot of fresh water running out to sea. Only a few days after we made the crossing a Troop Carrier was washed off during the crossing. Nobody is sure exactly what happened but they most likely hit the lip on the edge and over they went. It is actually hard to see where the road over the causeway actually is with all that water, so I can see how it could happen. It must have been very scary as there were little kids in the car, and people had to duck dive into the car to get them out. The car sat in the river for over a week before being dragged out, and was then towed back to Wadeye. The people actually live across the road from us and the car was in good condition except for the windscreen that was punched out by the force of the water. To my amazement they drained out all the oils and diesel and had it driving down the street the next day. Not bad.

    Daly River Crossing Daly River Crossing Troopy in Daly River Daly River Crossing Daly River Crossing Coming back from shopping in Darwin

                                                         Daly River Crossing

    Saturday was our only real day in Darwin and it was horribly busy, doing all the jobs and shopping that we had to do, not only for us, but also for others who gave us a shopping list. Chris was still doing the grocery shopping at 8-00 pm and then we had to pack it all into the camper. Sunday we hit the markets at Rapid Creek to get some fresh fruit and vegetables, pick up a passenger we had to bring back with us and then off to a few more shops for those last minute things.

    The trip home was a real ordeal, partly due to the fact that we didn't get away from Darwin until 12:30pm. Then we stopped at Adelaide River and at the Daly River Pub, which I thought would be something really flash, as everyone talks about it, but turned out to be a dirty old demountable with as much appeal as a monkeys butt. The camper traveled really well on the 200kms of rough dirt (from the Daly to here) and did not get one speck of dust inside. The outside was another story, so covered in fine bull dust that no paint was visible. Nothing that a quick hose won't fix.

    The dry season is now well and truly upon us. While this means you can get out and about more, we really miss the wet already. The wet is so dramatic, so imposing at at times so threatening, but always different. Rain has now been replaced with constant smoke caused by all the burning off, and the lush green grass replaced with dust. The dry is so predictable, nothing but absolute blue skies, blue skies and blue skies. At times we feel as though we now live in a different place altogether. The two seasons really are like chalk and cheese.

    Dilly bag making  Dilly bag making Dilly bag making

    But in saying that the dry really allows you to get to those places that are totally isolated for 6 months a year. Already we have been to Old Mission, Redcliff, Fossil Heads and of course our town beach. Old mission, the place of the original settlement is only a 1/2 hour drive and is on the coast overlooking Docherty Island. I can see why they chose the site as it is pristine, unspoilt and absolutely beautiful. The reason we went was to take a few of the local ladies who needed to collect some hemp to make 'Dilly Bags'. Chris has become a regular on these bush excursions as she loads the car up with local ladies (and a million kids) and heads off. She is turning into a bit of a bushie, taking off into the wild blue yonder without backup - secret women's business she tells me!!. They strip fibres from either the leaves from Fan Palms (thithimampe) or Hemp plants (other places also use Pandanus) and then roll it on their knees into long strands that resemble thin rope or thick string. They then dig up the roots of special trees that are boiled up and used to dye the fibres prior to weaving into the Dilly Bags. They traditionally use 4 colours, mustard, orange, white and burgundy. We regularly take out Juliette (who works at the clinic) who is renowned as the best Dilly Bag maker in town, and we are hoping to get one that she makes. Unfortunately just because you drive them all over the countryside does not guarantee you a bag. We know of people who have been waiting 4 years and still have no bag to show for it. Fingers crossed. If no luck before we leave it will be off to the Art Gallery to buy one. Won't quite be the same though. It is much nicer to have a personal connection to your purchase.

    Our Timothy Dumoo
    On the subject of art. Last month I mentioned that we were hoping to get a painting by our very famous artist that lives across the road, Timothy Dumoo. Well we are pleased to say we are now the very proud owners of one of his paintings. We are 'over the moon' with it and in a way it has made our visit to Wadeye complete. I can see that after our 3 years traveling is over, we will have enough art pieces to fill a small house.

    The local beach is also worthy of a mention. It is only a short drive from town and is as good as the best beaches that Australia has to offer. Endless white sand and shells to burn. A barbeque at the beach watching the sun set over the Timor Sea has become a regular event, with the whole place to yourself. Now you don't get that very often these days on an Australian beach. We have never been to the beach and had to share it with one single other person. Not bad hey! Unfortunately there is no swimming due to crocs and stingers, although some do and some even surf out there. Another great spot to watch the sun set is Air Force Hill. This hill is only a few kms out of town and looks out over town, the river system and out to sea. It is called 'Air Force Hill' as, you might have guessed, because it is used by the Air Force to put mobile radar units on, in time of conflict. There is a bitumen road all the way to the top with huge concrete pads and tie downs for the radar units. While they are not using it, we surely do. Great view, no sandflies, a gentle breeze, good company and a fire raging. It also has the added advantage of no sand in your food, unlike the beach. We might even drag the camper up there one night , just for a change of scenery.

    Fossil Heads is another beautiful, totally unspoilt beach just under an hour's drive from home. The traditional owner, who I know well, is a great bloke but unfortunately very unwell. When visiting any of these areas you have to get permission from the traditional owners, so working at the Clinic and knowing all these people is a real advantage. As we walked along the beach, admiring the magnificent coastline, what filled our minds was how few white fellas have had the privilege of actually seeing this place. Permission to enter these areas is not given to everybody, so we felt very privileged. The number of white people who have seen  this area is possibly only in the hundreds, so you can see why we felt very special. It is these experiences that we will remember forever and is what will make this trip so special. The huge red sandstone headland, rock pools and amazing rock formations was a little overwhelming and difficult to take it all in. Unfortunately photos do not do it justice, so you will have to take our word on this one.

    Fossil Head Fossil Head Fossil Head Fossil Head Fossil Head Fossil Head                            

                                                                                Fossil Heads-Approx 45 minutes from Wadeye

    Redcliff was yet another experience. We actually went out with one of the traditional owners, Juliette, who I mentioned before. This is a little further away from home and is renowned as the 'mud crab capital' of this area. The area is extremely pretty and would have to be the nicest coastline we have seen yet out this way. They first took us to a spot on the Moyle River and I had a go with our new bait casting Barra Rod. Now I was told these reels are a little difficult to get used to due to the 'bird nesting' of the line that can occur when casting if you don't control the reel with your finger. Well about every third cast I had the mother of a mess with a bird nest big enough to house a sea eagle. I guess with a bit of practice I will get it sorted. I am not sure what the locals thought of this bloody silly white fella with the flash new rod. You can imagine though!!!

    Next they took us a few kms to the ocean for a bit of crabbing. The tide was nice and low and the mangroves exposed. All we needed was a long straight stick and dirty clothes. Well at least they were going to end up dirty. We have never crabbed like this before and it was amazing. You find a small pool of water that apparently the crabs dig. You poke around with your long straight stick and find a tunnel. You then shove the stick down the tunnel until you either hit the crab or he grabs at your stick. Then the fun begins. Now you must understand that we are out on mud flats at times knee deep in smelly, sticky, slimy glue that they call mud. You then stick your arm in the water and shove it down the hole where you know a big crab with big claws is hiding. I am not sure why you would actually do that!!!! Then you get down and dig a hole on top of where he is hiding and surprise him from above. Well that's the theory. We collected four crabs for our trouble, none of which we got to eat as our local guides snavelled them all. Fair enough I guess. He was the one with his hand down the hole. The experience was all we wanted. It really was a hoot.

    Redcliff Redcliff Redcliff Redcliff Redcliff Redcliff

                                 Redcliff- Approx 1 hour from Wadeye

    We also watched as they cooked a catfish on an open fire after pulling its guts out through its mouth (charming), watched them collect and eat mangrove worms and tried green bush berries. The mangrove worm is long, fat and slimy and is  pulled from the trunk of a dead mangrove tree after you have bashed the tree and kicked it over. They seem pretty keen on these slimy guys, of course offering me one. No thanks, I will wait for the crab. Well that never happened!! We cooked up a great barby for lunch, offering our guides some white fella bush tucker, sausages on bread. With sauce and onions of course!! It was then time for a walk around the headland that consisted of sandstone sculptures rising out of the pristine white sand. The colours were vibrant with caves big enough to park your car and caravan in. Such a beautiful landscape. As we were standing there, looking out over the in-coming tide, a huge croc just leisurely swims past. No swimming here white boy, I hear Basil say. You're right there sunshine!!

    Better than a crane
    So other than sightseeing, what else have we been up to? It has been a very busy month for visitors. My mother came up to visit for 10 days and had a great time. As she arrived one week after we bought the car in, she actually got to see heaps and am sure this will go down as one of her most unusual holidays. She spent time in Harry's class, helping with reading and riot control, went to the pool, walked the streets and visited Old Mission, Fossil  Heads and went out in the boat. Now there is a story. We were a bit worried about how we were going to get her in the boat once it was in the water. We thought maybe it was best to get her in while the boat was on dry land. I had numerous ideas, forklift, cherry picker, Telstra chopper, but we settled on a ladder. Mum climbed into the boat at home and then sat there like the 'Queen of Sheba' as we drove through the streets to get to the ramp. We had a good day out and took her back to Old Mission, via the water this time and explored the local waterways. The rest of her time was spent reading and resting which is what holidays are all about, as well as doing the dishes, which got me out of it yet again. The boys were so excited to have nanny to stay, these really are special times for them. As for nanny snoring all night, with Alex having to come out and sleep on the lounge, that part we won't miss. She sounded like a single cylinder 'Lister' engine chugging away all night. Next we had Anne, Chris's sister come to stay for a week. Once again she got to see some of the local area, and again got me out of the dishes. Next to stay will be the mother in law in the first week of June for a 10 day visit. Hopefully that will also get me out of the dishes. Small price to pay for my company!!!

    Chris and Tanya
    In the middle of all that I flew to Darwin for three nights and attended a Pharmacotherapeutics Course. This will be very helpful in doing my job out here more effectively, and will be very useful in WA next year as it is a compulsory qualification to have if working in a remote setting. I really appreciated being given this opportunity and as I have already said on a number of occasions, NT Health is not a bad organisation to work for. A temporary employee being offered an expensive course to attend is impressive. You could do a lot worse, believe me.

    The last weekend in May we are off to Daly River to attend the Merripen Festival. We think it is an arts and crafts, sport and music festival, but of course we could be wrong. It has a good reputation and we are looking forward to a weekend away in the camper trailer at last. More about that next month.

    So that's May. Hope you are all well and not freezing as winter descends upon you. It is still hot up here with shorts, tee shirts and thongs being our standard dress. We still have the air conditioners going all day, on COOLING. Cheers until next month.

    How Many Roads Must A Man Travel Down Before He Admits He is Lost?