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Bali - Darwin 4 January

We had an estimated 7-hour flight to Darwin ahead of us, so got up at 4.15 a.m. to take the taxi to Denpasar airport.  We arrived there at 6 a.m., planning to take off at 7.30. In spite of having called the tower the day  before for details, a lot of time was wasted in trying to locate the briefing office and the terminal services office where the fees were to be paid.  In the end we found the terminal services office in a small building that looked like a public loo, opposite the domestic terminal.  They wanted to keep Flemming's only copy of the flight authorization for Indonesia.  And they didn't have a photocopying machine.   If we had to go down in West Timor (our alternate) due to weather, it could be useful to have a copy.  There was no photocopying machine to be found  anywhere at the domestic terminal so Ray  walked the 400 m. to the international terminal to locate one.  Flemming paid the landing and parking fee of US$ 94. The briefing office could only be accessed from the apron side, and in spite of pilot shirt, stripes and air crew card it was only after the head of security arrived that he managed to gain access through an opening normally meant for luggage!! Once departure formalities were completed we took another taxi to the security gate and were driven to the plane in the airport utility truck .  Then it was another half-hour wait before the fuel truck came.  As a result of all the delays, we finally took off almost an hour late at 8.20 a.m.

After that it was plain sailing all the way to Darwin.  There were some CBs around but nothing on our track.  Three hours into the trip we were over West Timor, and then it was just sea between there and Darwin. For about 2 hours we had to communicate with Brisbane center on the HF radio, then about an hour before we reached Darwin we made contact with them via the VHF.  It was great to hear our first Ozzie controller's voice!  We had a tailwind for the first half of the flight and a headwind for the last part, with a resulting flight time of just over 6 and a half hours.

Superstitiously, it wasn't until we'd touched down that I allowed myself to express my thoughts about our luck with the flying weather.  We've been a third of the way round the world already and, so far, haven't had to delay our flights due to weather or had any scary moments.  Let's hope the luck holds!  We still have the Pacific to cross during the hurricane season....

Now that we were on terra firma, the next challenge was dealing with the immigration and quarantine officials.  We had been warned by other Earthrounders that they can be an unfriendly breed.  But Ray said, "If you do as you're told, it should be fine".  And he was right.  Before leaving Bali, Flemming had notified  Customs of our ETA so that they could arrange for the quarantine people to be there.  On arrival, one is not allowed to open the cabin door until the quarantine officials have given the word - so, considering the suffocating heat inside the stationary plane,  it is definitely a good idea for the officials to arrive pretty swiftly.  As it was, we waited at least 5 minutes for them to show up.   But instead of the expected gruffness, the official actually apologised for keeping us waiting.  He handed us the spray can and asked us to "disinfect" the cabin with a couple of spurts.  It was as simple as that - no sniffing dogs, no nothing!

After that we followed him into the terminal to complete the formalities and pay the quarantine fee of US$37 and landing fee of US$10. By the desk, I noticed a leaflet entitled  "Compliments and complaints".  One could actually comment on the Customs and Immigration Service!  I wonder if this existed when the previous Earthrounders came.

Formalities completed, we taxied the plane over to the aeroclub.   For the first time since we left Geneva at the end of October, we are now free to fly on the day and time we like!  Asia was fascinating, but now we are happy to be back in "flyer-friendly" country.

By this time, we had worked up a considerable thirst.  We knew that fellow flyer from Geneva Colin Johnson and his wife Audrey had arrived from Adelaide that same afternoon.  They were with Audrey's brother Greg who lives in Darwin with his wife Jackie.  Greg had kindly accepted to take delivery of some visual charts of Australia that we'd ordered over the web while in Singapore.  We joined their party at the sailing club and downed several beers with them.

Greg was also kind enough to book us into a one-bedroom Serviced Apartment at the Cullen Bay Marina.  This is an ideal arrangement, particularly for Flemming and me.  Ray has to sleep on a sofa bed in the sitting room but he says it's quite comfortable.  There's a washing machine, ironing board, kettle to make tea and even a swimming pool.  And, most important, there's a comfortable table on which to set up the computer!  The only problem we saw on arrival was that our plugs didn't fit the Ozzie sockets.  But even that was easily remedied as the reception had an adaptor for us.

We are also within easy walking distance of the marina where there are several good eateries.  We finished the day at one of them.  After a couple of months of wisely sticking to beers in Asia, Ray decided to join us in drinking a good bottle of Australian Sauvignon blanc, which evaporated so fast that it got extended to two bottles!

We made up our minds to spend 3 nights in Darwin, spending the first day getting organized and updating the web site.  The second day, we hired a car and drove to Adelaide River Crossing.  It was great to be driving on good wide roads in an almost brand-new airconditioned Corolla.  The scenery was not as interesting as Bali, of course, but we passed by a large mango plantation and saw many more birds than we did in the whole of SE Asia.

We arrived at the River Crossing a comfortable half-hour before the river boat cruise left to see Jumping Salties (the local name for saltwater crocs).   The crocodiles jump up to crunch on raw pig's head that is dangled from a pole and string at a tantalizing distance from their nostrils.  It's all a bit of a circus really, but fun all the same.  I don't know whether the WWF would approve of the exercise, but at least the crocs don't come to depend on this as their main source of food.  There are plenty of fish for them in the river.   We also saw a number of brown kites that swooped down to catch in mid-air the food that was thrown to them from the boat.  We were reminded of the time one of them swooped down at Flemming in Ngorongoro (Tanzania) and snatched his chicken wing out of his hand.

On our way back to Darwin, we visited a crocodile farm.   Again, we arrived just at the right time, about 10 minutes before feeding time.   There are fences all round to keep the crocs from the visitors, but to feed the beasts, the keepers go inside the fence - one carries the feed (whole chickens complete with feathers), and the other carries a shotgun and a big stick just in case.  The crocs crawl out of the water to receive their rations.  As soon as the feeding session is over, the keepers get out pretty sharply.  I wondered what would happen if the gate latch got stuck!  After that,  the very informative guide took us on a tour of the farm and  we saw several huge males, some of them about 5 metres in length!    Apparently the whole farm contains about 14,000 crocs.  The guide told us that the crocs that are "harvested" for their leather and meat are shot individually at the abattoir in a humane manner, generally at the age of 3 years.

Flemming started to feel feverish while we were on the boat tour and by the time we returned to Darwin, was running a 39.2 C temperature.  According to the instructions given to us in Geneva, the early symptoms of malaria can be similar to those of flu, so we decided to call the hospital.  They told him to come and see them to do some tests.  So Ray drove us to the hospital and he was tested for both malaria and dengue fever.  We weren't given the result of the dengue fever test, but the malaria test showed negative.  However, that doesn't necessarily mean that he is in the clear, so they asked Flemming to return in the morning for another malaria test.   Meanwhile he was to remain indoors in an air conditioned room.  Otherwise, if he got stung by a mosquito here, and he had malaria this could risk spreading the disease.

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Flying over West Timor

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Adelaide river croc safari

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Jumping croc

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Looking for crocs on Adelaide river

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Open wide!

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Freshwater crocs at the crocodile farm

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Farm salties being fed whole chickens

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Freshwater croc

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After 3 days in bed, Flemming needed some medicine!

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