We headed up to Darwin after a few days in Katherine, stopping off for a couple of hours at a place called Edith falls. A large waterfall and fresh water lake, hidden in the forest. It was supposed to be safe to swim in the lake as we were too far inland to see crocodiles but I was not convinced so stuck to exploring from dry land.
We carried on Northwards until we reached a little town called Pine Creek. The town itself was not really worth mentioning, but I will post this short extract from the AM Sow, an Australian radio show from 2001;
“HAMISH ROBERTSON: Now to what could be seen as the revenge of the Christmas ham. The small Northern Territory town of Pine Creek is being overrun by feral pigs, and the residents have come up with a unique competition to get rid of the pests.
As Mandy Taylor reports, the pigs are causing total havoc, and have even attacked the local police station.
MANDY TAYLOR: In the dark of the night, the 400 residents of Pine Creek, a mining town about 200 kilometres south of Darwin, are waking to the sounds of feral pigs ravaging their gardens. And the pigs have really pushed the point. One of the yards under attack belongs to the local police station. And Constable Tony Williams says the garden was an award winner before the porkers moved in.
TONY WILLIAMS: The pig came in from the bush to feed on the mango plantation. The mangoes that they didn’t pick, dropped to the ground. The pigs eat them. Once they were eaten, the pigs just moved further into town.
Police-wise, we’re not impressed at all. They put a lot of effort into our garden, which won Garden of the Year in the government category in town. And, yeah, it was decimated. It’s a public safety issue too. If a child or somebody of that nature approaches a pig, a pig will, if it’s in the wrong sort of mood, can do an enormous amount of damage to a child.
We’re not talking about plague proportions. We’re talking about a rogue group of pigs.
MANDY TAYLOR: And, like Constable Williams, the people of Pine Creek have had enough of the pig invasion.
Rod Haines is one of the residents who have come up with a novel idea of feral animal control.
ROD HAINES: Oh, well, we’re going to see if we can find the biggest wild boar in the Territory through a competition we’re going to have over the four days at New Year’s Eve weekend. We’ve got a great prize as well. There’s $1,300 on the biggest boar. It’s going to start on the 29th at seven o’clock, and the final weigh-in will be on New Year’s Day at midday. We’ve got a band and bits and pieces on on New Year’s Eve night. So, you know, we’re going to have a big hangi and that, if we can get a spare pig.
MANDY TAYLOR: People from all around the Top End are already showing a lot of interest in seeing the new year in with a bang in Pine Creek. In fact the Territory’s Shadow Attorney-General Peter Maley is a keen pigger. He’s even featured a few times in a shooting magazine feature called Bacon Busters. And he’s right behind the wild pig hunt.
PETER MALEY: You’re getting up early with your friends, you’re going out bush, and you’re on the flood plains, the geese are flying overhead. It’s just a wonderful, wonderful morning. You find a few pigs, hopefully at a spot where you can get the car to, and you humanely as possible dispatch the large ones.
MANDY TAYLOR: Are they dangerous?
PETER MALEY: Indeed. I’ve been chased a few times by pigs. If you’re on foot, go for the nearest tree. But if you’re really, really unlucky and you’re on your lonesome on a flood plane, and it sounds pretty silly, but you sit on the ground, and with your feet you just kick him away – or you try to.
HAMISH ROBERTSON: Northern Territory Shadow Attorney-General Peter Maley ending that report from Mandy Taylor.”
Not content with the inauguration of the feral pig hunt, tiny Pine Creek has now extended the repertoire of this hunting extravaganza and it is now known as “The Pine Creek Pig and Pussy Hunt”. This new competition includes sections for feral pigs, feral cats and cane toads. For more information try this web site. In 2004 the toad catching champions caught 303, but only 4 cats were killed. Pussy is scarce in a town like Pine Creek.
Anyway, we stayed in Pine Creek long enough to eat a burger and drink a can of Coke then continued on towards Darwin, passing through areas of dry forest and areas of dry desert plain, spotting the odd kangaroo on the horizon and little else. We passed through the delightfully named town of Humpty Doo, stopped for petrol and cigarettes at Noonamah and rode into Darwin.
We stayed for a few days at a camp site on the outskirts of the city, just off the Stuart Highway, which had gone from a lonely, empty, desolate road to a busy, four lane highway flanked on either side by advertisements for fast food chains.
The wet season was beginning to take hold and the warm, dry weather was becoming increasingly punctuated by torrential downpours of tropical rain in the afternoon and evening. On one such occasion I had driven into the city to find a backpackers hostel to stay at and left Faye at the camp site reading a book. Upon my return a couple of hours later I found her sitting on the grass, having stuffed as much of our stuff as she could fit into the pup tent we had erected next to the van. She was soaked to the skin and quite angry with me. It had poured with rain in my absence. Unfortunately for Faye, in the centre of Darwin it had been bright and sunny and I had no idea what was going on back at the camp site.
The wetter weather brought with it not only humidity and rainfall, but also sand flies. These little buggers don’t bite like other insects, instead they pee on you. Their urine irritates the skin and leaves a small, red, itchy mark. I got caught by a couple of them. Faye on the other hand looked like they had given her a golden shower.
As a result of this we headed into Casuarina where there is a huge shopping mall to see if the chemist there had anything to soothe the itching. Within moments of entering the chemist Faye was whisked out the back by a flaming homosexual who had taken pity on her. There is a surprisingly vibrant gay scene in Darwin, particularly considering that it is the kind of place that in America would be referred to as a “Hick Town”. He gave her a selection of creams and ointments, all of them free of charge and sneaked her out of the shop before his supervisor caught him.
While I had been in the city earlier that day, I had found a hostel where we could get a double en suite room for $25 a night, which was a bargain, so we drove a few miles up the highway to Mitchell Street and checked into the YWCA run Banyan View Lodge.
It was a weird place, frequented by a lovely, but weird group of characters. These included Blue, who was a tiny, stone deaf old guy who often got lost in the grounds (which weren’t very big). There was Baz who looked like he was in ZZ Top, Andy who was relatively normal, and his son Terrence.
Terrence was a lovely little boy of around three years old. He had lived the early part of his life in an Aboriginal community with his mother but she had beaten him and Andy had taken her away. As a result, he spoke only Gaagudju, the language of his tribe in Arnhem Land. Andy spoke only English, so although the boy could speak, he still couldn’t communicate with his dad. He had picked up the phrase “Oh, shit!” however, which he frequently used.