Hold onto your Akubra and take a wild ride around the Top End!

Hold onto your Akubra, (if you don't have one, get one) and take a wild ride around the Top End of the 51tC4cPWjML._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_Northern Territory with Annie Seaton in her fantastic adventure/romance novel "Kakadu Sunset." It should come with a warning - Beware of crocodiles and sharks!

There are crocodiles a plenty in the waters around the Wold Heritage listed National Park, but there are also plenty of sharks waiting to bite around the Parliament of Darwin.

If you have ever been to Darwin and Kakadu or ever wanted to explore this wondrous site, Annie Seaton will take you on a wild ride of exploration and discovery to delight,  entice and thrill. She supplies enough suspense, drama, a tinge of romance, complex yet believable characters, as well as a dose of current political viewpoint along with debatable environmental issues. Annie Seaton has obviously researched not only the location thoroughly, but also everything to do with flying helicopters and the disastrous results of mining so close to a world heritage national park.


I found her descriptions of the area took me back with fond memories to my visit of Kakadu and I couldn't help laugh when she even included the phrase "Kakadon't" that I have heard so many times before from people who have visited when it has been far too hot and humid. I also enjoyed her snippets of Darwin after spending two years there myself. It's amazing that a brief mention of a street name or suburb can spark  the flooding of good times shared with new friends in a town that became home for a short while. Yet these descriptions did not distract from the pace of the story telling, for me, they enriched it all the more. The lookout at Ubirr over Arnhem land, Yellow Waters sunset cruises, the Crocodile Hotel and Jabiru, not to mention the suburb of Cullen Bay, Darwin, these are all so familiar to me.

The main character, Ellie Porter, is the local helicopter pilot, raised on a mango plantation next to the national park, but when her father suddenly died, the farm was sold and the family left the Territory, all except Ellie. Her heart belonged to the Territory, she could never leave this pristine area. On a return flight to base after a dramatic rescue, Ellie spots digging near the back of the old property, just near the border to the park. Her curiosity and fear for the possible destruction of her beloved land lead Ellie into all kinds of trouble. Can she learn to trust the new pilot who desperately wants to keep to himself? The romance between the two is an obvious one however the characters are endearing enough to make you want to see them come together. The villains are so nasty you can't wait to see what punishment Annie has in store for them. The inevitable crocodile scene is brilliant! I found myself almost punching the air with delight! "Yes! Got him!" This by no means gives away the ending or what happens to the main antagonist. For that, you will have to read "Kakadu Sunset" yourself.

A compelling story of love, loss, ancient land,  and current political issues. Told among striking scenery and woven around complex characters, "Kakadu Sunset" is a story that will take you on a wild ride through the Australian Outback. If you have ever been to the Northern Territory it will bring back delightful memories. If you have never been, it will only inspire that spark to travel the open road. So hitch up the caravan, put on your hat and shorts, drink a cold beverage and dive into Annie Seaton's "Kakadu Sunset" before the wet season and the storms roll around once more.




Crocodiles are never to be taken lightly. This photo was taken from our Yellow Waters River Cruise. Copyright Sandra Bennett

We Drove a Sunburnt Country Part One.

Stockman's Hall of Fame, Longreach Qld.For six days, three states and over four thousand kilometers we drove across a sunburnt country from Darwin at the top end of the Northern Territory south/east to outback central Queensland and down through the back of NSW to Canberra and home to our quiet little cosy country estate.. Along the way I couldn't help remember and recite a famous Australian poem that we were all taught at school (and loved) when we were young :- Dorothea Mackellar's "My Country."

I love a sunburnt country, A sunburnt country of sweeping plain and far horizons. A land of sweeping plains, Of rugged mountain ranges, Of droughts and flooding rains. I love her far horizons, I love her jewel-sea, Her beauty and her terror- The wide brown land for me!

We packed up the car and said goodbye to our view of the jewel sea, in this case the Arafura Sea as it enters Darwin Harbour. Within minutes we were in the harsh dry outback of the Northern Territory. Flat sweeping plains as far as the eye can see broken only by the occasional rugged mountains and an abundance of termite mounds so numerous it is impossible to count. First stop, Pine Creek, a tiny old gold mining town with nothing much open on a Sunday morning, so it was non-stop then to Mataranka for a promised legendary Mataranka pie. Another really tiny outback town, it's main claim to fame being the autobiographical novel "We of the Never Never" by Jeannie Gunn and immortalised in the 1982 movie with Angela Punch McGregor in the leading role. Set in Mataranka, the book was written about the authors life and experiences moving to such a harsh and isolated area in 1902 when women, albeit white women, were not seen to be on the land or help their husbands on outback cattle stations. The relaxing hot springs at Mataranka. A pleasant reprieve from the hot desert sun.If you spend an afternoon swimming in the local thermal springs you can then partake in a cool ale at the local watering hole while watching the legendary movie. We didn't stop long enough to do this as we had previously experienced the Mataranka hot springs in all their glory on another occasion. Over 1,100 km and and 12 hours after saying goodbye to Darwin we finally pulled in for the evening at Barkly Homestead, and yes, believe it or not, we were still in the Northern Territory! When travelling in air conditioned comfort it is easy to forget just how hot it is outside, (particularly as we approach the summer months in Australia and the "build up" in the NT) that is until you open the car door and step out into the furnace. It was 7:00 pm and yet still 45 degrees C with a formidable burning hot wind.

Avon Downs police station in the middle of nowhere.Day 2 we set of bright and early before the heat set in and began our journey well. We planned to cross the border into Queensland and reach Mt Isa in time for morning tea. Should have known all good plans always go astray. As the sun and heat rose and we cruised through the sweeping plains gazing at the wonder of the far horizon, we came around a sweeping bend in the road and over a "flood" bridge only to find a pot hole in the middle of the road almost the same size as our car. Too fast and too dangerous to swerve we hit the pot hole and hoped for the best. Sure enough we blew out the front right tyre. Not a problem! Just pull on over to the side of the road, unpack the bags from the boot, lift up the flap and look inside to where the spare tyre should be. Were my eyes deceiving me? We have a brand new car and NO spare tyre! Who would have thought? It may have seemed naive of both of us not to check before leaving Darwin but we both assumed a new car would come equiped with a spare tyre! There we found ourselves in the middle of the outback, heat rising every minute, and not a soul in sight for miles. "Not to worry" said hubby, "I'll wave down the next truck driver that comes along and get him to radio for help."

That was real successful! Turns out in the heat of the outback CB radio signals don't reach futher than 10 km at most. The nearest small town was 70 km away and Mt Isa was still 300 km ahead. Not to worry, don't despair, believe it or not, just 200 m further up the road was Avon Downs Police Station! Who would have believed it! In the middle of absolutely nowhere stood a police station! We limped the car up the road and found the local policeman just opening up shop for the day. His response, "So the pot hole has got another one has it?" He helped us organise a tow-truck into Camooweal, 12 km east of the NT border into Queensland, population 300 (on a good day when all the indiginous folk are in town to do a head count) so the tow truck driver told us.

What do you get if you cross a kangaroo with a buffalo? The Buffaroo at Camooweal. A buffaroo of course!

It stands proudly outside the Camooweal Roadhouse. The story goes that one evening a couple of truckies were having a drink at the local pub and began to discuss who were tougher, Queenslanders or Territorians! The more they drank, the more vocal they became, the Queenslanders insisting their kangaroos were tougher than the territories buffalo. It didn't take long before the idea came to pass that the strongest of all would be a cross between the two. It just so happened an artist was listening to the conversation and drew a sketch on a coaster. Before he left he showed the bartender and asked if they would like one? A few weeks later to the towns surprise a special delivery arrived. The Buffaroo now stands pride of place for all to see as you arrive in the sleepy outback town.

Instead of reaching Mt Isa by the intended morning tea break of 10:00 am we finally arrived at 5:00 pm, just in time to call it a day.

I'm on Foot......Again!

Here we go again! Three weeks into living in the tropics and no physical means of transport except my own two feet! I can generally walk a fair distance and it certainly is much flatter here than the hills back home, but the humidity makes me feel like I've hit a brick wall generally halfway to wherever I am going. So I decided it was time to consider buying a car. There is no point transporting my car from home up here as I will need it there on my return visits.

Now we find out the true meaning of NT in Northern Territory. Every car I considered was not available to drive away, as they say, Not Today, Not Tomorrow, Not Tuesday, Not Thursday, Next truck or maybe Next Train. You see everything you want in the Northern Tebaht busrritory has to be shipped up by road train  or rail from down south and it appears that is always months away. The waiting begins!

It reminds me of rubber time in Thailand where nothing ever happened in a hurry, everything was either "mai pen lai" never mind, or "mai me" no have. A shrug of the shoulders and all would be good.....eventually.

I persisted with walking or using baht buses for a while in Thailand, it seemed easy enough, or so I initially thought. For the uninitiated a baht bus is kind of like an old blue ute with a roof over the back with two long seats either side that you climb into and hang onto for dear life.  One is expected to barter with the local currency, Thai baht, for the fare to wherever you want to go.  This was fine during the wet season or the really sticky humid season, but didn't work out so well during the tourist season.

Off peak season I knew exactly what my fair should have been to take me from our expat compound down to the main street of Pattaya to shop, then return, 20 baht each way, fair enough I could agree to that. However once peak tourist season hit the baht bus drivers get greedy and suddenly want 100 baht, I don't think so! There are three prices in Thailand, Thai, expat and tourist price. I'm not a tourist, I'm here for the long haul!

One day I refused to pay their asking price, I bartered in my best Thai, but baht bus after bus continually drove off, they could pick up the tourist dollar and make a lot more. I was getting anxious, the school bus was due home any moment, I needed to be home for my boys. A Thai on a baht bike had been observing the interactions and stepped forward to offer me a lift home. 5 baht on the back of his motor bike and I would be home in 5 minutes.

My husband had always warned me never to get on the back of a baht bike. Far too dangerous, he always said. They weave their way in and out of the traffic with no concern for the passenger. I stood their considering my options for a split second, hubby didn't need to know and I was desperate to get home. Like a rebel I reluctantly agreed, he smiled and helped me onto the back of his bike, reached around to pull my arms tight around his waist, it was obvious how nervous I was, and we were off. I took a deep breath and didn't know whether to close my eyes but the driver was to my surprise slow and careful.

It took a few weeks but eventually the guilt inside me rose and I confessed to my husband. Within the next week I had a car and a driver. A friend for the rest of our stay in Thailand, someone I not only trusted my life with on the roads but my children as well.

My husband knows me well enough after all these years that when I say I need transport, he had better do something about it. So the car is ordered, we now play the waiting game, come on August and we'll see if the car actually arrives here in Darwin NT.


They Call This Winter?

Sunset 1I find myself here in Darwin in the so called "dry season!" It is winter everywhere else in Australia. While my family pile on more jumpers, watch the fog roll in as they rise, light the fire each evening and prepare for the usual neighbourhood bonfire this coming long weekend, my husband and I have landed in the Top End, a place where winter doesn't really exist. Everyone here tells me that we are lucky to have arrived now while it is "cool" so that we have time to acclimatise before the "wet season" hits but my clothes are already sticking to me every time I leave the air conditioning. I find it somewhat reminiscent of our two years in Thailand some twenty odd years ago. Tropical climate, humidity, palm tree lined streets, tiled floors, even to the extent that the stairs in our rented house are awkwardly unexpected heights. I keep finding things in the house that don't work or kitchen utensils not supplied. It is amazing how inventive with the cooking you can be when you don't have transport to just pop down to the shops to pick up a missing item. I feel like I an an expats wife all over again but someone forgot that Darwin is still in Australia! The only difference is that this time I don't have three babies desperately hanging off me for love and support. Sunset 2

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining. My husband is gone by 5:00am and doesn't return til 6:00pm 6 days a week so I have plenty of time to myself to contemplate my writing. That is when I can get into the swing of things. We have only been here a week and so far I have been busy setting up the house and admiring the amazing view over the ocean. I admit I can waste a bit of time staring out across the bay watching the yachts sail past. I thought the kangaroos on my property back home could be a distraction but I'm finding the sea quite a draw card. The sunsets have been stunning! Each evening they have provided something new and spectacular, the ash cloud wafting across from the Indonesian Island of Bali has certainly added to the intensity of the colours.20140528_182701

So, I need to make a plan. Walk first thing in the morning, early, really early! Before the heat and humidity get to me. I am older than what I was twenty years ago after all! Swim a few laps in the pool to cool down, you can't swim in the ocean, too many crocodiles, sharks and jellyfish! (I do want to live). Then I'll still have a few good hours at my computer to check emails, facebook and finally WRITE!

One of my projects I'm considering writing (as well as my children's books) is  "Snippets from Thailand, an expat wife's memories." Would it make interesting reading? What do you think?