Sept. 19, 2013
The reality that we have missed summer hit us hard as we exited the Darwin airport at 1 AM today and the temps were in the high 70’s. Today the car thermometer read 33 C. which is 91 F. We are definitely not used to this heat! But it is nice to be wearing our shorts, t-shirts and sandals!
After a short night of sleep we were at the Darwin Visitor Information center just before 9 AM. We got lots of good info and decided to do a walking tour of this section of Darwin, looking to find a cafe for brekky. We were successful!
Darwin has an interesting history and its recent history involves devastation and recovery. In 1942, Japanese planes bombed the waterfront and large sections of the city. After the war, Darwin rebuilt itself and was enjoying life as a laid-back town that attracted lots of tourists and vacationers. Then on Christmas Eve 1974, Cyclone Tracy completely wiped Darwin off the map. Everything in sight has been built since 1974 with the exception of a few very sturdy stone buildings from the early 1900’s and some of the military fortifications. Darwinians are survivors!
We walked along the waterfront areas and toured 2 of the oil tunnels from WWII. We watched the action at the public wave pool. We walked through a closed-street shopping mall area. We were working up a sweat! The Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory was our next stop and it was excellent ( and air-conditioned!). Entry was free and we enjoyed the diverse display of indigenous art, both old and new, an interesting exhibit on the animals of the Northern Territory, with emphasis on all the ones that will kill you, and a gallery featuring photos, news articles and first person accounts of Cyclone Tracy. It was all well done and if we had paid to get in we probably would have thought we got our money’s worth!
More driving to and walking through local parks completed our afternoon. This is the end of the Dry season in Darwin and the grassy areas are very dried out looking. However it is spring and the trees and flowers are doing their thing and putting on a good show!
Our evening entertainment was to go to the Mindil Beach Market, something that we read about in a couple of travel guides. It happens every Thursday night during the Dry season and includes food vendors, craft vendors, jewelers, live entertainment and lots of local flavor! After checking out all the non-food vendors ( more than a hundred) we browsed the food vendors to see what we might want for dinner. I choose a large cup of fresh pineapple and a wood-fired pizza. Jim got a plate of paella, which was arguably one of the busiest vendors. The food was tasty and we ate quickly because the sun was setting and we wanted to see it from the beach. Imagine our surprise when we walked out from the market, over a low sand dune and saw thousands of other people sitting on the dunes or in the water waiting for the sun to set! Apparently the market kind of stops for the few minutes before and after sunset! Everyone was on the beach! The sun put on a good show and we returned to the market, where the energy level had been kicked up a notch. As we started to walk back to the market we looked up to see the full moon ( or close to it) rising through the palm trees! We wandered around the market again and watched several bands perform as well as a guy playing with fire! It was a great evening and the place to be in Darwin!
Tomorrow we drive east to Kakadu National Park where we will spend 2 nights. We have booked an all-day, 4-wheel drive “adventure” tour in the park, which should be interesting. I don’t know what the Internet situation will be in the park, so I’ll post a blog when I can.
Cheers from the Top End!