Heather Gives Me a Tour of Darwin

Trip Start Feb 26, 2013
Trip End Apr 15, 2013

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What I did
Burnett House - Myilly Point
George Brown Botanic Gardens
Fisherman's Wharf
Smith Street Mall
Government House
Parliament House
Darwin Waterfront - Port Darwin
Darwin Harbor
Cullen Bay
East Point Reserve
Fannie Bay Gaol
Darwin Trailor Boat Club

Flag of Australia  , Northern Territory,
Thursday, March 21, 2013

Heather and Jeremy were coming into Darwin today for meetings and Heather very generously offered to show me the town.  And that she did, as you can see from my list of attractions.  She picked me up at the Best Western at 10 am and off we went.  I will not be able to document the tour in order and most likely I will not be able to label many of my photos.

A quick synopsis, though.  We started with the shore and visited a number of lovely park areas along the broad expanse of Darwin Harbor and the sea.  We walked a bit at Myilly Point and Heather told me that when she first came to Darwin, she worked and lived at the hospital which was sited there.  There was a set of steps leading down to the water that they called the nurses steps.  Now the hospital is gone and so are the majority of upscale houses that lined both sides of the street on the small peninsula.  The buildings were demolished when Heather was studying at Columbia School of Public Health just before I met her - all, that is, except for the two houses of very wealthy Greek-descent entrepreneurs who had considerable political pull.  It is very odd - a development - Cullen Bay Marina - was put in after new land was added to the peninsula -but the older part where many of the houses had been torn down still has concrete where the houses had been.  It doesn't appear as if anything has been done except tear down the houses.  Heather pointed out an India lime tree with fruit on it from one of the yards and she picked a yellower, ripe lime that we enjoyed in our water for lunch.

We drove past Burnett's House - an example of early Darwin architecture.  The houses were built up on stilts to catch breezes and had lots of louvered glass windows.  The architect of the Raffles Hotel in Singapore designed some of the early Darwin homes.  We also drove through Nightcliff where there were a lot of impressive large houses.  Somewhere we passed the largest house in Darwin.  Did I see more houses of the wealthy Greek family??   I think so.  As we were driving and gazing out at the lovely bay waters and the clouds, some of the clouds were darkening and a storm looked imminent.

We drove into the Central Business District (CBD) past the Parliament House and the Government House.  Heather explained how the territory had an administrator and the country had a governor-general or something like that and that Australia being in the Commonwealth still was nominally governed by the Queen even though all decisions were made in Australia.  Australia sends soldiers to war on its own; it does not have to obey the Queen or Great Britain.  I saw the roof of the Chinese Temple, the Catholic Cathedral and the Anglican Church.  Of these last three, the Temple and the Anglican Church were both pretty much destroyed by Cyclone Tracy, as was the majority of Darwin.  Heather was living in Darwin at the time but away on the day of the cyclone - Christmas Eve.  The story of the cyclone and its aftermath is huge here.  Some of the original stones from the Anglican church and several other buildings were used in their reconstruction, although the Anglican Church just has an entrance way made of the original stone and a modern building to replace the majority of the destroyed original.

We went into one of the downtown malls and then walked along the famous Smith Street pedestrian mall.  There were lots of outdoor cafes set up with sunscreens of various sorts overhead.  Heather showed me the jewelry shop of the Paspaley brother who farms pearls and another of his shops, specializing in sales of crocodile leather goods.  There was a large building seen from the mall I believe that bears the name of the brother that went into real estate.  The real estate Paspaley used to be the wealthier, but now the pearl Paspaley gained ascendency after he moved the pearl farming business to onsite processing, i.e., workers who are stationed in large ships remove the pearls from the shells right at the oyster beds in the ocean.

We drove around to several harbors and bays along the shore, such as Fisherman's wharf, and we walked out onto the Darwin waterfront area with all of its family seafood restaurants.  We also walked in some of the park areas so I could take some photos and at some point we drove out to the East Point Reserve where I saw the WWII gun emplacements.  Along with Cyclone Tracy, WWII is prominent in Darwin history.  Darwin was lightly populated during the war but was subject to bombing by Japanese airplanes - some of the same that bombed Pearl Harbor.  The gun emplacements that I saw, unfortunately for Darwin, were aimed at the sea and couldn't be raised to shoot at the planes.  Despite the real threat, because there were so few people, there wasn't that much loss of life, but there were civilians who were killed.  Heather told me the same thing that Doreen had told me:  the government did not tell the rest of Australia about these bombing attacks for fear the people would panic since Australian soldiers were not available to protect their own country.  It does seem unfair that the Australian soldiers were fighting to protect others while their own country was being attacked.

I am sure the order is wrong, but, for lunch, Heather drove to the Botanic Gardens where she provided a lovely picnic from her super Eskie in the back of her car.  We found a table and sat in the shade of beautiful big trees.  I have forgotten the name but they are covered with pink flowers when they bloom.  But I am here in the wrong season for that.  Heather cut up the lime she found and we had lime-flavored soda water along with salmon sandwiches on sourdough bread, beautiful ripe pears, a piece of chocolate cake and coffee.  Perfect, what more could I possibly want!!  It was a perfect lunch.  It is incredible what a difference shade makes.  The weather goes from nearly intolerable to almost idyllic.

We drove somewhere and did something after lunch, but I probably included it before.  I may be able to do some reordering when I look at my photos, but, then again, maybe not.  It was then time for Heather to go to her meeting so she dropped me off at the Museum and Art Gallery.  Here I spent the next hour plus.  There was a nice mix of exhibits:  Aboriginal art and crafts, a section on Cyclone Tracy, some natural history exhibits.  There was a sign prohibiting photos, so I didn't take any, but perhaps it was only for the art and not the other exhibits.  I did see a flash going off, but thought someone must have slipped.  I checked out their gift shop and they had some interesting things, some music CDs, including the one I wanted that Heather and Jeremy played for me, but they were out-of-stock.  Also, the CDs cost at least $30.  Yikes!

Heather appeared just as I left the building to go outside and wait for her.  She suggested we go for a drink at the Darwin Trailer Boat Club where she and Jeremy go for ballroom dancing.  She described the scene with the music, the lights and the sound of water lapping on the shore.  Oh, yes, one thing I forgot to mention:  Darwin gets 8 meter tides.  You could see on the shore how high the water could rise, and in some cases, water will cross the roads to the other side and flood the grasslands as well as the mangrove areas.  We continued to chat over our gin and tonics and I took more photos of the impressive storm cloud on the horizon.  It moved while we were there and finally dissipated so we didn't get to watch a big storm.  In a way, that was too bad.  I gather that Heather quite enjoys a good storm and it would be fun to watch under a dry roof.  The clouds over the sea had been quite spectacular all through the day we were touring around Darwin.  Now it was time for Heather to go to her second meeting of the day.  Luckily it is a few doors down from my hotel so she dropped me off and we said our second good-byes.  She has been so nice to me during my visit - I could not have had a more perfect hostess and she makes a pretty good tour guide as well!!   Thank you so much, Heather!

Not much of anything to report afterward - just chilling in the Best Western and trying to get organized for an early check-out and departure as I leave the hotel and travel to Litchfield National Park.

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