Saturday, December 14, 2013

Northern Territory, Australia

10:50 AM

Australia's Top End wears colors that sing: rust red earth deep blue skies and the folden eyes of watchful crocodiles in the flower-tangled waterways of Kakadu National Park.

But it's the people here who make the place come alive.

We are older than the Pyaramids and older than the Bible. We have had no dictators. No caste systems and no concept of money, says Robert Mills spokesman fot the Larrakia people on his walks around Lameroo Beach.

More than 50 Aboriginal tribes still live in the "NT" and new goverment partnerships have created a respectful  balance in the outback. Visitors can gaze at Rainbow Serpent rock art from one of the longest existing societies on Earth While the artists can live on the land in peace. Frontier town Darwin sports an energetic face-lift, with an interactive history museum a redeveloped waterfront a deck chair cinema and a flurry of cosmopolitan markets.

One oldie remains though: the annual Beer Can Regatta with boats fashioned from leftover "tinnies" of Melbourne Bitter and other brews. Like everything else the event runs on "NT time". Not today, not tommorrow. Next tuesday maybe.

Where to Go: May-July (early dry season) and Agust-September (late dry season) are the best times to visit with clear skies and lower humidity. March to May is rainy, yet ideal for viewing aquatic birds (such as pelicans, egrets and herons) and water lilies and other perennial water plants. Barramundi fishing is best February to April.

How to Get Around: Fly into Alice Springs or Drawin, rent a car and follow a designated self-drive tour. The Northern Territory encompasses 548,265 square miles (more than Texas, California and Colorado combined) and 95 percent of the roads are paved.

Where to Stay: Exclusive Bamurru Plains offers safari-style accommodations (nine elevated, screened in suites with private baths) in a remote bush setting (you can hear the buffalo splashing in the floodplains). The camp is located on a coastal buffalo station (a 25-minute flight from Drawin) and named for the local magpie geese, tens of thousands of which serenade guests each morning Rates cover all meals.

Cultural Tip: When charting a self-drive tour, check to see if your travels will bring you through an Indigenous Protected Area (IPA). Many IPA communities or lands require tourist permits to enter. When visiting, follow the Australian government's IPA visitor guidelines designed to protect and respect the privacy, environment and cultural traditions of indigenous people.
Fun Fact: Even if you can't see crocodiles in a territory waterway they likely can see you. Northern Australia is home to approximately 150,000 saltwater crocodiles and at least 100,000 freshwater crocodiles. The Mary River has the highest concentration, with nearly 15 saltwater crocs per half mile.

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