The Top End

West of Darwin our first regular haunt is Keep River, a beautiful and fractal landscape on the Territory side of the WA border. We originally visited there in July 1993, and have been back frequently, yet the actual area we have physically explored remains minuscule because exploring such exceptionally craggy terrain on foot and without proper equipment is difficult. The challenge on arrival is to find an opening large and clear enough to put down. One landing had the helicopter almost completely engulfed by the surrounding vegetation.

On a later occasion, finding a landing place was proving difficult till we came across a burnt-out valley. It also proved an ideal campsite, clear and easy to get around, but more importantly the after effects of the fire were quite beautiful. The remaining spinifex were little blackened tufts of stubble, just beginning to re-shoot, and hidden amongst the stubble were tiny black grasshoppers, perfectly camouflaged. The regrowth was bright acid-green, spreading away along the sandy floor of the valley and looking in the distance like a soft carpet. A fine deception given the spinifex at Keep River is so prickly.

In recent years we have visited Gregory National Park and the Victoria River area. In one region, from the air, the limestone formations protrude through the surounding landscape in a broad curving band like a river, with an accompanying army of pre-historic looking boab trees.