Locums for a Small World Blog

One place. Six seasons. A kakadu of species.

Posted by Saralynn White

Twin Fallas in Kakadu National Park


The seasons in Australia’s “Top End” come in two distinct flavors: torrential wet and mud-cracking dry.
However, Kakadu National Park—the centerpiece of the Top End—sees seasons of such varied extremes that
the aboriginal inhabitants have divided the year into six distinct seasons: Gudjewg, Banggereng, Yegge, Wurrgeng, Gurrung and Gunumeleng (we won't ask you to pronounce them).

The year starts with the scent of blossoming paper barks overflowing into thundering waterfalls and dazzling lightning displays, then trickling into billabongs (small lakes) overflowing with feathered creatures and more. Kakadu has nearly 12,000 square miles/19,312 kilometers of spectacular wildlife habitat, including high-stone plateaus, rainforests, flood plains, mangrove-fringed estuaries, and coastal beaches on the Arfura Sea. The rugged, isolated nature of Kakadu means there are so many species that some have yet to be named by modern science.

Flowering Paperbark

australia kangaroos by lake 123rf

Teeming with wildlife, you’ll find 60 species of mammals including kangaroos, wombats, dingoes, possum, bats and dusky rats. The Park is also famous for its reptiles like the awesome and dangerous Australian saltwater crocodiles (salties) that patrol many of the Park’s waterways. Watch for large monitor lizards (goannas) and colorful frill-necked lizards, too.

Kakadu is also a bird-lovers paradise. Billabongs that spring up during the wet seasons attract all kinds of activity from the stately Jabiru, to the aptly named Jacana or “Jesus” bird—so called because of the way it seems to walk on water. Osprey camp out atop termite mounds, Forest Kingfishers perch on branches above the still waters begging to be captured on film, and magpie geese congregate by the hundreds of thousands.

Mangrove in Kakadurock-art-australia

There are a lot of ways to experience Kakadu, depending on the season. Private cruise lines like Yellow Water Cruises are a great way to get up close and personal (safely) with some of the Park residents - especially the salties. There are also four-wheel drive safaris, camping and backpacking excursions, and for the truly laid-back adventure, car trips are a popular item, too. But the best way to experience Kakadu is the way the Aboriginals have for 40,000 years—on foot. You'll find a wide variety of paths and bush walks, from short and easy to those for the seriously fit. It's up to you.

The Aborigines here in Kakadu are descended from the longest continuous surviving human culture in the world. In fact, the name Kakadu comes from the mispronunciation of Gagadju, the name of an Aboriginal language spoken in the Park. Renowned for the richness of its Aboriginal cultural sites as well as its natural values, Kakadu is a recognized World Heritage Site.

Sunset over Yellow Water Lagoon, KakaduA jicana walks on a leaf in Kakadu

They say change is the only constant in Kakadu. One Park ranger says, “At different times of the year you see completely different scenes.” But you already know that because Kakadu is up there on your life/bucket list—along with a locum in Australia. Just plan ahead. The Park covers a lot of ground and the seasons bring different experiences. Currently (and pretty much through March), the park is enjoying the Gudjewg (rain) season, and what they call "knock 'em down storms." The floodplains are starting to fill, waterfalls are flowing, native vegetation is vibrant, and dramatic storms and sunsets are common.

To start planning, sit back, put in your earbuds and take an audio Tour of the 7 Regions of Kakadu in the theater of your own mind.  

Topics: Kakadu National Park, Bird watching in Australia, Yellow Water Cruises

You can't rain on Dr. Starkey's locum parade (well, maybe during the wet season)

Posted by Saralynn White

By Kathryn Starkey, MD, and Molly Evans

Dry season at the Top End of Australia

G'day All!

We are currently enjoying Kathy’s seventh medical locum assignment and have adapted quite easily to our new location at the Top End of Australia.

As the cockatoo flies, we are closer to Papua New Guinea and Bali than Sydney! We arrived at the beginning of September, which is toward the end of the dry season. During the "dry", the weather is near perfect with warm temperatures and very little or no rain, so we're enjoying sunrise swims at the local Nightcliff Beach pool, sunset bike rides along the foreshore path, and alfresco dining at our beachfront condo (pictured at the end).

Everything seems perfect, except for the ever-looming “wet” season. The locals speak of a constant vigilance: Keeping mold and mildew from invading your home, leather shoes from disintegrating before your eyes, and restaurants and businesses from closing their doors. Once the monsoon or “tropco” rains do arrive, it’s more difficult to get around. The rains make rivers impassable and some areas inaccessible. During the "wet", the flooding also cuts off many remote bush communities (we're noticing an increased AborA wet season storm over Darwiniginal migration into the area). Alongside the rain, there are wild electric storms that turn the sky into a spectacular light show. Having survived hazardous snow blizzards at home, it should be interesting to live through this coming weather pattern.

Molly and Kathy, Litchfield National ParkWe’ve also been busy exploring both Darwin City and the surrounding National Parks. A few weekends ago, we enjoyed a relaxing day at Litchfield National Park. The Park is known for two things: Its 2-meter tall termite mounds that point north-south (to minimize sun exposure) and its waterfalls with their beautiful, cool swimming plunge pools. We enjoyed swimming at Wangi Falls, but as the floods arrive, so do the Saltwater Crocodiles or “salties” (be crocwise)!  

A "Salty" captured on film by Dr. StarkeyTo celebrate Molly’s birthday, we cruised Corroboree Billabong, which is part of the Mary River Wetlands and adjacent to World Heritage Kakadu National Park. The Park is huge and exactly the same size as Ireland. Aboriginal rock paintings here have been dated to 20,000 or more years old. Kakadu also boasts the largest concentration of saltwater crocodiles in the world - and the birdlife here is fantastic! Ibis, Brolga, Jacana, Egrets, Herons, Kites, Sea Eagles, Whistling ducks and Magpie Geese can be seen gathering among the
flowering lA flowering water lilyotus lily. There are also large flocks of Jabiru.

Kathy is busy at work seeing patients and supervising/teaching the younger doctors in training at a large public hospital. Patients arrive from the far corners of the remote Northern Territory, which stretches for miles and is 2 ½ times the size of Texas - with a population slightly less than the city of Buffalo (226,000 people). Imagine traveling that distance for medical care! Darwin has an interesting World War II history, having been bombed by the same Japanese fleet several weeks after Pearl Harbor. It is also the most modern city in Australia, as 80% of it was destroyed by Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Day in 1974 and has been newly rebuilt since then (more about the city in another letter home).

All in all, we are happy and once again so grateful for this opportunity to work, travel and experience! For now, we have PBS and a few NFL games to remind us of home (go Bills!). Molly is also very happy with a new pet chameleon that wandered into the condo. Staying dry for now...cheers!

Temporary Territorians,
Kathy and Molly

Dr. Kathy Starkey, an OB/GYN, and her partner, Molly Evans, have chosen locum tenens as a permanent lifestyle. Their adventures have taken them to New Zealand's North and South Islands, the Caymans, Western Australia, the small Australian state of Tasmania and now the Top End of Australia. We love to tell their tales here (read more stories from Kathy and Molly). Watch for future installments here, and if you haven’t subscribed to this blog yet - do it now!



Topics: Kakadu National Park, Litchfield National Park, Darwin City, Dr. Kathryn Starkey, Molly Evans, Top End of Australia

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