TOP END TOUR: 22 May – 6 June 2004 in verse
with Philip & Patricia Maher,

by Kay Hahne

Our Top End Tour was super, with Phil and Trish plus six.
We found new species everywhere, we got our daily fix.
We rubbed on sun block, Rid and Deet, by the bucketfuls,
Then marched through Mangroves, braved the heat, humidity, mosquitoes.

Breakfast at 6:30, no sleep-ins were allowed,
We had each place all to ourselves, there never was a crowd!
By 6 pm we’d had it - all tired, wind-blown and weary,
We showered, ate, fell into bed, for our eyes had become bleary.

One eve in Darwin we went forth, Beach Stone-curlews we did not get,
Instead we watched a wedding party photographing as the red sun set.
Then we turned the scope up to the sky to view craters on the crescent moon,
And saw a crescent phase of Venus, before its transit across the sun in June.

While cruising Mary River, Black Bitterns were the go,
And a huge salt water crocodile that killed water buffalo!
The owner’s island picnic spot with fencing all around,
Did not entice our group at all, it did not look safe or sound.

Phil took us on a Spotlight trip our first night in Kakadu,
Lapwings, Stone-curlews, a Pratincole and a Moon Snake in full view,
A Barn Owl sat in the spotlight, four Dingos in a huddle,
Two Spotted Nightjars along the road, we almost gave Phil a cuddle!

Phil led us straight to Sewerage Ponds for ducks, grebes, waders, tern,
And our trip on Yellow Water made other folks with envy burn.
We had the boat all to ourselves, every view was clear
Of Jabiru and Brolgas, and of large crocs we had no fear.

Each day Trish fixed lunch for us, on a gorgeous gourmet platter.
We came like vultures to her tasty fare, to eat and drink and natter.
She booked our rooms, handed out the keys, told Phil "It’s getting late –
You’ve exercised these folks enough, they want tea before it’s eight!"

The Boab trees – aren’t they fantastic! each one’s a different shape.
From Yellow Kapok, when their pods are ripe, a pillow you can make.
The Green Birdflower is oh so green, the Mulla-mullas are fluffy;
The Woollybutt blooms are bright, bright orange, spotting Lorikeets is a toughie.

We took a boat ride on Lake Argyle, on the edge of the Kimberley;
There were White-quilled Rock-pigeons plump and fat on the rocks for us to see.
The Sandstone Shrike-thrush sang for us, and hugged those sandstone rocks.
The Bustards were so many and tall, they appeared in little flocks!

Huge Garden Orb spider webs laced the islands, we gave them wide berth,
We were told a portion of their web is the strongest natural fibre on earth.
The Nail-tailed Wallabies hopped for us so we could see their up-curved tail,
And the Yellow Chats at the eleventh hour, appeared – like the Holy Grail.

We took a flight to Mitchell Falls – well not quite, we didn’t see them,
Except for Neville, King of the Day, who saw Falls and the Black Grasswren!
Some of us were too hot and tired, the boulders were too daunting;
Four others joined the group with Phil, their blackfellow guide was wanting.

The helicopter ride was great, no doors but lots of air!
The pilots are so young these days, have they yet shaved their chin hair?
We saw sun rise, we saw sun set, while we were in the sky.
One more night in Kununurra, then we will say good-bye.

We swam in croc-free motel pools, we ate fresh barramundi,
We bought Power-aid, old newspapers and cold ice creams aplenty.
Farewell to the great Kimberleys, to Wyndham and Lake Argyle.
Our time in Western Australia has surely made us smile.

It’s a long trip back to Darwin; heads nod, mouths agape, eyelids down;
While the rest of us are sawing logs, Phil doesn’t let us down.
"There’s a big Goanna on the left, Whistling Kites above the lake,
But we’ve got to get to Katherine, no more photos should you take."

We whizzed right past that bloated cow, it looked ready to explode;
That’s one place we didn’t hang around, we raced on down the road.
Next was an injured python, with bands and head of black;
Our brave and peerless leader stopped – and flicked it off the track.

Edith River was a pleasure, the water still and clear
With flycatchers, a Northern Fan and Willy Wag we hold so dear.
As we left Pine Creek the grass was ablaze, and a kettle of kites flew high,
Mixed with Brown Falcons and one Wedge-tail circling way up in the sky.

Horst looked dapper in his safari gear, Kay and Rosemary’s legs were a sight.
They are red and splotched and itchy, they couldn’t hold another bite.
Neville’s taken 2000 photos, Lesley’s filled her small sketch pad,
Helen’s notebook is on its very last page, we look weary and our hair’s gone bad.

But haven’t we had such fun on this tour, such colourful sights we’ve spied:
The red ‘round the Partridge Pigeon’s eye, the black and white of the Pigeon—Pied.
The black breast of Rainbow Pittas, the flash of blue on a Kookaburra’s wing.
The purple crown of a Fairy-wren, the chestnut breast of a Mannikin,

The orange feet of the Scrubfowl, white dots on a Star Finches breast,
The subtle grey on a Sea-eagle as it stands on the edge of its nest.
The red comb on the Jacanas as they run along lily pads green,
And the head and neck of a Jabiru with its iridescent sheen.

The white throat and streaks of the Grasswren, the pink crest on a Great Bowerbird,
The bars and bands and spots and splashes, the songs and calls that we’ve heard.
Not to mention the flowers we’ve seen and noted, but the winner, it’s a cinch:
Is the purple, red, blue, green and gold of the wonderful Gouldian Finch!

Kay's trip report on Top End Tour

'People on the Top End Tour' poem by Kay Hahne

AOS trip report