A Travellerspoint blog

Better Termite Homes and Gardens

Communal living on a grand scale

sunny 30 °C

Massive termite mound

Massive termite mound


As you drive along the Stuart Highway 'up the guts' of Australia, you start to see termite mounds appearing by the road. Homes to millions of termites, they get bigger the further north you go until you see massive ones in the Top End. Then, in Litchfield National Park near Darwin where we went with our friends Lee and Tim and Paul, you see 'magnetic' termite mounds.

The termites seem to have different house styles in different places. All are made of mud, presumably dirt and termite spit mixed. Most mounds are the traditional 'cathedral'-style ones shown above - lumpy with complex shapes. In these, the termites live underground and the mounds are the aircon vents and exit/entry points. We can vouch for the fact that underground living is cooler. We stayed in an underground motel in Coober Pedy and experienced first-hand the lovely, constant temperature subterranean living offers. The Litchfield termite mounds are minimalist in style, blade-like and supposedly magnetic - though Keith would like to see the equations before he believes this! They're aligned with their long axes more or less north-south to allow the termites to move around to escape the heat. They're built on ground that gets boggy in the wet season (our summer) when the termites are confined upstairs.

And a termite garden? Well in the tropics, you need a pool. Here's Susie jumping into one of the Buley Rockholes at Litchfield. It was actually pretty crowded that day. Termites get lots of visitors.
Jumping into deep, fresh springwater at Buley Rockholes, Litchfield NP

Jumping into deep, fresh springwater at Buley Rockholes, Litchfield NP

Posted by kecasumi 11:07 Archived in Australia Tagged landscapes waterfalls animals wildlife outback Comments (0)

Over the top in Singapore

We overshot the Top End and spent 5 days in Asia

semi-overcast 30 °C

Delicious lunch with Johann at Pulau Ubin - so cheap lah

Delicious lunch with Johann at Pulau Ubin - so cheap lah


We've led a charmed life here in Singapore, where our friend Johann not only let us stay in his apartment but took us to see lots of Singapore's attractions.

Shopping and eating is what Singapore is famous for, and it's great. But we have done more than that! Singapore has been a great introduction to Asia for the kids. Almost everyone speaks English but it is also very multicultural, eg. many signs are in four languages: English, Chinese, Tamil and Malay.

What were our favourite things about Singapore? Keith - the trees. Lots of rainforest trees planted along the roadsides keeping things cool(er) and greening the city. Michael - the 4D Shrek movie at Universal Studios on Sentosa Island. "When the spiders in the film fell down, we got tickled on the feet!". Carrie - Pulau Ubin (Ubin Island), an island with a nature reserve a short 'bumboat' ride from the main island. There we saw a more rustic and natural part of Singapore. Susie - the Battlestar Galactica roller coasters at Universal Studies, especially the Cylon ride. "You go really fast, upside down and through the mist". Other faves - Night Safari, Sentosa cable car, Singapore Slings at the beach at Sentosa, Jurong Bird Park, Orchard Rd shopping, church at Hakka Methodist, seeing The Lion King at the Marina Bay Sands.
One of 7 rides for Susie on the Battlestar Galactica roller coaster at Universal Studios

One of 7 rides for Susie on the Battlestar Galactica roller coaster at Universal Studios

Posted by kecasumi 15:25 Archived in Singapore Tagged islands food parks wildlife cablecar theme Comments (0)

Darwin sunsets

Watching the sun set over the sea in the Top End

sunny 29 °C

Mindil Beach sunset

Mindil Beach sunset

At home, the rises over the sea. In Darwin, it sets there. That's lucky really because our big chunk of Australia trip didn't stretch all the way to Perth on the west coast. Darwin sunsets will do nicely.

On two of our first four nights there, we were in lovely locations to watch the sunset. On the Thursday, it was Mindil Beach Sunset Market. You get there, set up your picnic rug, go and buy some Asian food for dinner and eat it as you watch the sun sink slowly over the ocean. Then, once that's done, you shop. It's quite touristy with the car park full to overflowing and some tacky souvenirs among the treasures - but lots of fun. Parap Market on a Saturday lacks the sunset viewing but is more of an authentic local market.

The second Darwin sunset we saw was from a boat cruise on Darwin Harbour. Our friend Lee had organised for a group of us to do a cruise on an old pearling boat, 'Streeter'. We brought wine and cheese and soft drink and chips and again, watched the sun set over a calm tropical sea. It was so warm, we didn't need jackets - usually essential items for boat cruises.

Oddly enough, Darwinites think it's cold right now. Temps are down, especially overnight. One resident even got hypothermia. She was walking to the shop to buy a newspaper at 4.30am in bare feet. The NT News tells the story here.

Keith on Darwin sunset cruise

Keith on Darwin sunset cruise

Posted by kecasumi 21:30 Archived in Australia Tagged sunsets_and_sunrises beaches boats markets Comments (1)

In search of a croc-free swim

Sometimes the crocodiles get the good swimming spots

sunny 29 °C

Up the Creek at Trephina Groge

Up the Creek at Trephina Groge

Now we're in the tropics (the Tropic of Capricorn is about 40km north of Alice Springs), we love a good swim. The days are warmer and as you go up the Stuart Highway from Alice Springs to Darwin (where we are now), the nights get warmer too.

There are some lovely swimming holes in the East and the West MacDonnell Ranges near Alice Springs. We waded in the creek at Trephina Gorge and the waterhole at Simpson's Gap (brrrr!). But you couldn't wade in a creek near Darwin. The crocs would be waiting!

Fortunately, an hour south of Katherine, Mataranka Thermal Springs pump out 30.5 million litres of warm (34 degrees C) water every day. The area was formerly part of Elsey Station, where the classic Australian book 'We of the Never Never' is set. Pastoralists swam at Mataranka, and later, soldiers based in the area in WW2. No doubt, Aboriginal people have swum there for millenia. No crocs here and a lovely place to swim, surrounded by palm trees.

Disappointingly, Edith Falls, just north of Katherine, belonged to the crocs the day we visited. Early in the dry season, park rangers haven't got round to checking for crocs so they keep everyone out until they do. In Darwin, they outwit them by building wave pools!

Croc-free, clear, warm water in Mataranka Thermal Pool

Croc-free, clear, warm water in Mataranka Thermal Pool

Posted by kecasumi 08:53 Archived in Australia Tagged landscapes waterfalls outback Comments (0)

A visit to Alice Springs School of the Air

Susie talks about lessons she saw in the world's biggest classroom

sunny 27 °C

Susie with the metal 'quilt' outback students made for ASSOA's 60th anniversary on 8 June 2011

Susie with the metal 'quilt' outback students made for ASSOA's 60th anniversary on 8 June 2011

Alice Springs School of the Air (ASSOA) is a school that communicates with students online and through videoconference. The School of the Air is for people who are a long way from a school they can attend. ASSOA has been around since 1951 when they used radio, but only in the last 5 years they started using videoconferencing for lessons.

The School of the Air does very well in the NAPLAN because they have no-one to distract them. The School of the Air is in Alice Springs. Normally the kids are sent two weeks' worth of work as well as library books and art packs. Every student has someone who helps them with their work when they are not online or videoconference. Most kids are way out of town. They range from kinder (transition) to Year 9. Read more about ASSOA by clicking here.

Posted by kecasumi 17:55 Archived in Australia Tagged outback schools Comments (0)

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