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Willis's Walkabouts Newsletter 42, May 2009

Predictable? Our bookings are never predictable but this year wins the lack of predictability stakes hands down. For the first time ever, we may finish up running more off-season than peak-season trips in Kakadu. Read on to see what's still available and much more.

Willis's Walkabouts

In this issue

Computer Crash - Did we lose you?

In late April, our email program crashed and we lost nearly two years of emails. Our back ups weren't perfect and we were unable to recover emails sent to us from 1 through 24 April this year.

If you sent us an email during that time and didn't get a reply, your email must have been one of those that got lost. Please send it again (if it's still relevant). I apologise for any hassle, but things like this are almost inevitable for any business which depends on computers - all the more so in places where the power supply is as insecure as it seems to be here in Darwin.

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Availability and Special Offers

The following trips are probably the only ones with space available which will run between now and August. I have to say probably because I may be able to reschedule a family trip in early July.

At this point, we have bookings on only three other Australian trips this year. The first and third are now definite departures.

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2009 Overseas Trips

2009 is the year to go! In real terms, the airfares have never been cheaper. I expect the crowds in the popular places to be lower than normal. When I recently checked the availability of the guided wilderness trails in Kruger, the number of places remaining in October was something like ten times higher than at this time last year. Things could hardly be better. But ...

We have only three bookings on each of the following two trips. They each need five to guarantee departure. If we don't get another two soon, they will be cancelled.

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2010: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

The Good

The Bad

The Ugly

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Disappearing Wildlife

The Australian ran an interesting story about disappearing wildlife in northern Australia recently. It was called Creatures' rush to extinction in the Top End.

It makes interesting, but somewhat depressing reading. We never did see many of the small nocturnal animals mentioned in the article, but the sudden drop in the numbers of goannas and freshwater crocs since the arrival of cane toads in Kakadu has been dramatic. The suggestion that some development could increase the chances of survival of some species is an interesting one. I'm not sure it would work, but, given what's been happening, I wouldn't automatically rule out anything which might help.

Bad as the Top End news may be, at least we had a reasonable idea of what was there. The Pilbara has only just had a major survey done for the first time, The Pilbara Region Biological Survey 2002-2009. This website doesn't say a lot, but you may be interested in a quick look. It also gives links to the DEC books on the region.

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Not So Disappearing Flora

This is a happier subject than the one above.

The NT Field Naturalists Club website has some good information about what actually does exist. (As stated on their home page, their web address will change later this year).

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What To Do In Darwin

If you have a few days to spare, there is a lot to see in Darwin and surrounds, but first a word of advice.

Accommodation in both Darwin and Kununurra is both fairly expensive and in high demand in the peak season. Some places book out months in advance. If you are coming up, book your accommodation as soon as you can. Now the good stuff.

Many people know that the Tourism Top End website has good information about tours and accommodation. Not so many know that it has a lot more. Have a look at their page for locals. Click on their links to things like "Brain food for kids" or "Top Ten Kissing Spots" (I think we could add a few). Why should the locals have all the fun?

Darwin is flat. The dry season weather is near perfect. It has a great network of purpose build cycle paths which make it one of the best places in Australia for cyclists. I couldn't find a single listing for all the places which hire bicycles, but a Google search for "bicycle hire Darwin" will get you a good list.

Want more ideas? How about one or more of the following.

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Our New Website - Update

The new website mentioned in our last newsletter is continuing to develop. The more feedback we can get before it goes live, the better it will be. If you have ten minutes to spare, I'd appreciate it if you could look at two photo galleries, one from the old website and the same one on the new draft website.

The Old

The New

Do they take similar times to upload?

Which do you like better and why?

Any suggestions for improvements will be gratefully received.

You can answer the above by replying to the email sending this newsletter. Our current website has had a major change. The Darwin based host since it went live back in 2000 has closed up, unable to compete with larger organisations. I've moved the website to another server which should make for greater reliabilty and faster downloads. Please let me know if you have any hassles with logging on or if you find any broken links.

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Dehydrated Foods

We use more than 20 different kinds of dehydrated vegetables in our meals. Some of these we buy in bulk, some we dry ourselves. Although we have never had a problem with storing these, changing food regulations may force us to change the way we pack them for the trips. As much as we dislike using excess packaging we may have no choice. Not only that, the cost of our packaging may increase twentyfold. Ouch!

We need to be able to properly seal our food bags rather than tie them off as we do at present. We've looked at various vacuum sealers. They are all fairly expensive and all require special bags which cost far more than the bags we use now. If anyone reading this newsletter has any suggestions for a less wasteful and less expensive alternative, please let us know.

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EPIRBs and Toxic Waste

The old style EPIRBs went out of service in February this year. I've got a great collection of them. Does anyone have any idea what, if anything, they might still be used for?

Old computers, monitors, printers, sat phones and EPIRBs all contain toxic chemicals. I'd rather not simply drop them at the tip, but it appears that there is no local recycling service here in Darwin. Shipping them south could be expensive. Suggestions?

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Stop Press: Marsupial Lion Found in Kimberley

The first convincing example of a marsupial lion found in rock art to date, the find suggests that early Australians and marsupial lions co-existed. It also hints at what marsupial lions may have looked like. Painted in red ochre, the image depicts a large four-legged animal, with a strong, prominent front limb poised for action, protruding claws and stripes running the length of its back.

Read the full story and see some photos here. If you have an interest in Aboriginal Art, Australia's prehistoric fauna or both, this is well worth a read. The interest in the image is the fact that it shows Thylacoleo, the marsupial lion, which is not to be confused with the Tasmanian tiger (Thylacinus) of which there are many examples in north Australian rock art. There are some marvellous fossils of Thylacoleo at the Naracoorte Caves in South Australia. For background see Introducing Thylacoleo carnifex.

Many thanks to Martin Wardrop for sending me the article. His website Aboriginal Art Online not only sells Aboriginal paintings, it also has a wealth of information about Aboriginal art and culture.

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Special discounts - combine them and save even more

Book now and save! As in the past, if you are one of the first three people who quote this newsletter when booking any Australian trip within two weeks of when we sent it out, you will get an extra 10% discount on any trip where your total discounts are 10% or less. You'll get an extra 5% off if your total discounts are 15% or more.

Note 1. There has to be a limit. The maximum total discount on any trip is 35%.
Note 2. This offer does not apply to trips where the special offer specifies no other discounts apply.
Note 3. It's amazing how few people take advantage of this offer. You have to ask to get it.

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News About This Newsletter

Once again, I've put in a lot of time updating the email newsletter list. I do my best, but I make mistakes. If I've made a mistake with your listing, please accept my apologies, let me know and I'll fix it for next time.

This newsletter is sent from rrwillis@russellwillis.com. If you would like to continue to receive these newsletters, please include this address in your "friends list" so that it isn't blocked.

We don't want to add to the mass of email spam. If you don't want our newsletter, please send us an email and let us know. We'll then delete your name from our newsletter list.

Our email address is walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au.

Note. The program we use to send this newsletter has an automatic delete at the bottom. Clicking that link will delete you from the mailing list on the server but it will not delete you from our main database. If you want to be removed from all further mailings, please send an email to walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au.

If you know someone you think would enjoy this newsletter, please forward it to them.

Best wishes to all.
Russell Willis

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Willis's Walkabouts, 12 Carrington Street, Millner NT 0810, Australia walkabout@bushwalkingholidays.com.au

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