The Top End...Darwin

Trip Start Apr 05, 2011
Trip End Nov 15, 2012

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Flag of Australia  , Northern Territory,
Saturday, October 15, 2011

Whilst it sounds clichéd Darwin is simply a big country town, the vibe is relaxed and casual. Our time in Darwin was a little disjointed; we had a few nights in a hotel last month on our way to and from Howie's funeral (we stored the caravan at Kununurra and drove unencumbered to Darwin) and then of course we drove back into Darwin with our accommodation right on our tail.

Whilst our hearts weren’t really into exploring on our first visit, it was so nice to be staying in a hotel right in the centre of town.  We’re not sure if it was because we had just been in such remote areas or if it was from living out of the van for so long that we were like hillbillies when we got to the hotel room!  We were so excited to have large white fluffy towels, big comfortable beds and soft carpet underfoot.  We made the most of our location and Rod delighted in showing me around his old haunts… funny the Museum and Art Gallery didn’t rate a mention!

We dined out in Mitchell Street, walked around the Darwin Wharf Precinct, took a drive over to Cullen Bay and the Darwin Sailing Club all the while planning our itinerary for when we came back to spend more time.

On our return some weeks later with the big white beast following closely behind us we camped out at Berrimah; around ten kilometers from the city centre.  From our site we looked out over a Flame tree which was ablaze with colour (that was Rod’s line!).  Behind our van we had a tree laden with berries and whilst we were inundated with birds coming to feed on them we also had these intriguing little Ta Ta lizards scurrying around on the ground.  The Ta Ta lizards are so called because you often see them with a front leg in the air mimicking a wave goodbye.  It really is entertaining to watch and they had us captivated for hours.

We found the weather in Darwin to be pleasant sitting for the most part in the low thirties, a nice relief having been in areas where the temperature hovered in the high thirties and even hitting forty a couple of times.  We made the most of having access to a large pool, taking the opportunity to cool off with several swims each day

We visited Stokes Hill Wharf, which far from the derelict area it was years ago when Rod would arrive by sea, is now home to an array of eateries. The vacant blocks of land adjacent now home to the Darwin Wave Pool, towering apartment blocks fill the once baron skyline whilst at ground level they house trendy restaurants, bars and retail outlets. 

On Thursday night we visited the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets; a Darwin institution, it was well patronized with the paths awash with tourists.  The stalls sold a variety of wares including apparel, accessories, souvenirs and art.  With the season drawing to a close the stall holders appeared eager to clear as much as they could before wrapping up for another year.  The food stalls were doing a roaring trade and offered a wide variety of international dishes with a strong Asian tilt.  We however opted to continue a little further along the waterfront and have dinner at the Darwin Ski Club watching the sun set over Fannie Bay. 

It was a gorgeous location; sitting by the water, a welcome breeze sweeping by offering us relief from the earlier heat of the day.  The tall palm trees framing the large orange sun as it descended and set over the bay.  In the foreground there were a few keen fishermen having their last casts of the day… We couldn’t help but feel relaxed.

We visited the Northern Territory Museum and Art Gallery, taking particular interest in the Cyclone Tracy Exhibit.  Having vague memories of the news footage from the time, it was amazing to see the collection of photos, press articles and correspondence.  We were able to stand in a sound booth and hear actual sound bites that had been recorded as Tracy wreaked havoc over Darwin.  It must have been the most terrifying experience for those that had to endure it.  Hard to even imagine where to start to recover and rebuild when such devastation sweeps through such a highly populated area.

We took a walk through a photographic exhibition and admired the large collection of indigenous art on display, finishing with the Telstra Art Award entries.  Delighted with having had such an enlightening cultural experience we finished our time in Darwin with Friday evening drinks at the Darwin Sailing Club; along with half of Darwin!  Like the Ski Club, the Sailing Club sits along the Fannie Bay foreshore.

Once again we were entranced by the stunning sunset… I don’t think we’ll ever get tired of looking at these northern sunsets.  The sun becomes the most vivid orange, like a fire ball as it floats softly downward and as it starts to descend over the horizon it takes on this odd shape, like a balloon being squeezed… Words just can’t relay the magic we experience every time we witness this phenomenon.  It really has to be seen and to be believed.

We couldn’t leave Darwin without experiencing a Rodeo and as luck would have it we had found one at Noonamah, just south of Darwin.  The Noonamah Tavern Rodeo… and with a caravan park having recently opened adjacent to the tavern it was all just too good to be true!

We were there early and with the park being new, it really was a haven in which to relax with its beautifully manicured lawns and well maintained gardens.  We took to the pool like ducks to water and had it to ourselves for the most part of the day.  We met a lovely couple who were working out on a cattle station about three hundred kilometers south west of Noonamah.  Whilst isolated, their three children are getting first class schooling and have embraced the chance to be free to ride their bikes and play outside with few restrictions.

 With the evening descending upon us we got organised and wandered next door.  We believe this was their fifth rodeo of the season and whilst the crowd had dwindled from the three thousand they had spoken of, there would have been upward of fifteen hundred.

We climbed up to the top of a mobile grandstand, from where we could survey the unfolding scene before us.  There were cowboys and hay bales everywhere, the atmosphere was electric!  The anticipation and excitement was being built to boiling point by the commentators as they introduced all the riders of the night.  Road trains roared along the Stuart Highway in the background as we watched and cheered throughout the bull rides, bare back bronc rides, saddle bronc rides and of course the ladies barrel race.   We were lucky enough to have a retired bull rider sitting beside us so he was able to share some of his knowledge with us throughout the evening.  He was a real character as you could imagine.  It really was a fantastic experience and we couldn’t help but get caught up in the excitement.

When the scheduled events were over one of the riders accepted a challenge to ride a bull by the name of Salt and Pepper.  Well the poor bull rider was dumped in a second.  Then Salt and Pepper who clearly does not suffer fools would not leave the arena.  They let a herd of cattle back into the arena and endeavored to round them all up to no avail; Salt and Pepper was not joining the herd, he was in no way shape or form interested in any other cattle

The horsemen came back into the arena and tried a stock whip before many failed attempts to lasso him, still no joy.  Salt and Pepper just stood placidly watching them all, not budging.  I am sure I saw a glint in his eye alluding to the fun he was having, this was his game!  About forty minutes into it they brought in a couple of farm trucks and tried using those to round him up and out the gate… he outsmarted them every time…  Over an hour later, the wheelchair bound owner came into the arena, put some hay in his lap and Salt and Pepper nonchalantly followed him out the gate!  The crowd erupted into raptures of applause… Countless cowboys, countless ideas and all it took was a little food.  Classic!

With the arena attractions finished, the band flashed up and played to the wee early hours.  Next door Roy Bell’s Boxing Tent was full as local punters tried their luck against Roy’s prize fighters… not my cup of tea, however it was popular with the locals.  When we had had enough it was nice to be able to just stroll back to our camp and sit outside listening to the music play on as we once again marveled at the starlit sky.

Having thoroughly enjoyed our time in Darwin it was now time to head back out into the country and visit Kakadu.

Highlights of Darwin: 

-          A few nights of luxury in a hotel!

-          Sunsets over Fannie Bay

-          Noonamah Rodeo

o   Salt and Pepper!
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Daz on

Hi guys, loving reading every blog - crafted with such care and attention - down to the different sign off on each e-mail notification. Just brilliant. Rocket, you just missed the annual statement mail out - you must be guttered!

Val S. on

Good reading... still!!! The bull story.... could write a few lines with that one, but lets just say it put a smile on the face!!

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