So when people talk about truly being off the grid, I'm pretty sure they are talking about where we just spent the last 4 days in the Northern Territory - affectionately known as the Top End by Aussies. We're talking no wifi, no television, no phones (even for the Aussies other than satellite phones), no nothing and the only way in or out is by bush plane or boat. Regarding that last point, while the trip from Melbourne to Darwin was uneventful (albeit long - 4.5 hours), the flight from Darwin to Bamurru was a bit more adventurous. I had an idea we would be on a smaller plane when we were told that we were limited to two bags in total, each of which could weigh no more than 15 kg (35 lbs), but candidly I'm not sure I expected the plane to be this small - more on that later.
When we landed in Darwin, we left the main terminal and headed over to the general aviation side of the field where walked into the Air Frontier FBO - FBO is probably a bit generous as it was the equivalent of a garden shed (like what they sell at Home Depot and that sit in the parking lot) and was inhabited by a family of aboriginals, one of whom was dressed in a full-on spiderman outfit from head to toe. Can't fault these folks but the odor in the room literally could bring you to your knees. We waited in there while they weighed our bags and then each of us. At this point, we weren't sure if the aborigines were coming with us or not, but we gladly followed the pilot (she could not have been more than 23) through door #2 into the back section of the shed/headquarters where the AC was stronger and the aroma of BO was gone. Given that we could only take two bags, we stored our other 2 bags at the FBO and headed out to the plane. As you can see from the picture, it was not exactly large or luxurious. The best line of the day, however, came from Yates as we started to push back and he asked "Dad - is the pilot really pushing the plane" to which the answer was a resounding "yes."
The flight ended up being just us, lasted approximately 30 minutes in duration and was capped off by a solid landing on a dirt strip at the edge of the property. We were met by an open air Land Cruiser and made our way to the lodge. The property itself is actually pretty interesting - 74,000 acres owned by the Fisher family and home to 6,400 head of water buffalo and 1,000 cattle. They lease the land to a conservationist in Sydney named Charlie Carlow and he has a staff that runs the Lodge at Bamurru Plains. The lodge is comprised of 10 open air tents/cabins (mesh mosquito netting all the way around) that face out onto the flood plain and afford some great views of the wildlife. There is a main lodge with several sitting areas, a swimming pool (only time in my life I've appreciated an above ground pool given that anything else would put you nose to nose with water buffalo, wallabee, etc.) and a dining table where everyone takes meals together.
This last piece actually creates a really neat dynamic and sense of comraderie among the guests as we had an opportunity to meet people from Australia, Canada, Belgium, Italy and England. Even better, is that there were a host of other kids with whom Helen and Yates could play/dine. This was a win/win for everyone and as much as we've enjoyed one another's company, a little break was welcome. Only downer is that we apparently just missed Nicholas Cage who was here with his family and Pippa Middleton who was here on her honeymoon - I'm sure Shea would have injected some life into those conversations.