Midnight Oil may have been the reason to visit Darwin but after spending 6 days in this sun drenched town, it offered up many other gems. As I was learning about the ‘Top End’ capital I marveled at its resilience as it’s fought back from devastation four times in its history, Cyclones in 1897 and 1937, the Japanese air raids in World War 2 and the brutal Cyclone Tracy in 1974.
And you soon work out you are just along for the ride, it’s the heat, terrain and the wildlife that controls this town, and looking out from the deckchair over the ocean with a beer in hand you see there is nobody, and I mean not one person in the water, its’ surreal. The crocs, jellyfish, sea snakes and blue ringed octopuses make sure of that.
I had my own wildlife adventure after I caught the bus to Parap, a northern suburb. The Laneway Specialty Coffee Café was on my to do list, the hotcakes are incredible by the way; afterwards I was meeting Swami at the Military Museum about 4 kms away.
A decision needed to be made, should I push or catch a bus or taxi? It was hot, about 33 at that point, but I thought the best way to see Darwin is on the streets, so pushing it was. Its funny what the mind does to you, the paranoia, only after pushing a block through suburbia, I went past a house with lush greenery covering the footpath, a barking dog nearby and hearing ‘rustling’ noises on underneath fallen bark sent my delusions into overdrive, it’s a snake, no it’s a baby crocodile, I looked back at the bus stop, is this a good idea?
I soldiered on for another 2 kms to Fannie Bay and after a bottle of water and a nice chat with the owner of the local bakery I headed toward the East Point Nature reserve where I came across the sign that read “Crocodiles inhabit these waters”, “walk along the foreshore with caution”, Ok, now my spidey scences were tingling, the path is right next to the foreshore.
I’d come too far to turn back now and pushed along the path, my head on a swivel, waved to a few Aboriginal folks who waved back, kept hearing random noises, watched a bearded dragon scurry up a tree and finally arrived at the Military Museum half dead with some form of heat stroke.
Was it worth it? You bet. The Museum was incredible, with interactive displays, tanks, cannons and all the history of what Darwin went through during World War 2. Also, visits to the Art and History Museum and the newly developed Waterfront area full of restaurants gave us a real sense of the area.
Also spending time downtown you really feel there is a transient element to Darwin, backpackers dropping in for a few months, tourists for a few weeks and city dwellers for a few years wanting a different life, it all adds to the mystique.
A melting pot of characters such as ‘Steve’, a South African/Kiwi we met at the Casino who was a ‘medic’ on a cattle station but also gambled horses at the Casino and had served in 3 different armies. Also, ‘Mike’ the Federal Policeman who playfully pulled out his badge when Cam jokingly told him ‘we were going back to the room to cook some meth’, we all figured he was shadowing a shady character we met at the bar earlier in the night.
Then there’s the lovely lady behind the counter at the Military Museum who told us she came home one night, stepped on something, turned the light on and found out it was a massive snake, she also told a story of a fisherman who was throwing a net into a nearby creek when a croc leaped out of the water and proceeded to clamp down on his head, with the help of the net he got free and took himself to hospital, only for the nurse not to believe him until they pulled a crocs’ tooth from his skull, crikey.
Mindil Beach Markets had its own cast of characters, a night market run twice a week it has food trucks, jewellery tents, a field where you can try cracking a stock ‘whip’ (which a ten year old girl did very well by the way), an hourly performance by ‘Emdee’, a didgeridoo/drum combination that I was transfixed by, there’s also the ‘Roadkill Café’ where I had a delicious crocodile burger and you can watch the sun setting over the ocean, it was all so Darwin.
Then there was the reason we were all there, Midnight Oil, the powerhouse Aussie rock band with a rich history and connection to the land, the Aboriginal people and its traditions. I’ve never seen the Oils live and the bottom line is they were fantastic, from our vantage point in the front row we got a sweaty Peter Garrett hug when he came down to the barrier mid song. The band was tight and electric as they entertained us with 25 songs and two encores; they were well worth the trip.
We only really scratched the surface of the Northern Territory but if Darwin is any indication it’s an unforgiving land full of wonder and beauty with a cast of characters that reflects its history, it’s a land that will seduce you, just watch this.
— David Hall (@letsrolltennis) October 1, 2017