The Wettest Place on Earth!

Trip Start Jan 27, 2010
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of Australia  , Northern Territory,
Monday, April 12, 2010

Our first interaction upon arrival in Darwin went like this:

Anita: Hello! Can you please tell me how much your dorm beds are and if you have
any available?
Big Guy: Twenty six dollars.
Anita: So you do have beds available then?
Big Guy: (Sighs) Yeah.
Anita: Alrighty…do you have off-street car parking?
Big Guy: Nup.
Anita: Hmm…in that case can you suggest anywhere in the CBD where we can park 
without having to pay?
Big Guy: (Lolls head to the right to indicate the CBD) Out on the street on weekdays at night, 
and on the weekends, I dunno, get creative.
Anita: Right. Well thanks for your time.

 I won't waste my time or yours complaining about the slew of bad hostels and much worse service than the above that we encountered on our search for a bed, but suffice to say it went on for some hours and it was a less than impressive start that ensured our excitement for Darwin was short lived. And unfortunately it got worse. Everywhere we went (except for the lady at the Tourist Info Center and a cashier at Big W) we were treated with apathy at best and it seemed that aside from service industry workers, the only other people in Darwin were backpackers- and most of them were of the horrible British variety.

Couple that with not much to do that wouldn’t empty the hip pocket and we were at a bit of a loss as to why anyone bothers to come here or in fact why the city is even here. Sure, Australia has a lot of army based up here to show we have a presence on the northern border, and for tourists it’s preferable to fill up and shop in Darwin than Katherine, but aside from that?

Anyway, enough about Darwin except to say we did have a few good beers, got organized and quickly on our way.

Next stop: Kakadu, which unfortunately turned out to be a bit of a waste of time too. At least this time it was no one’s fault- unless you have someone on which to blame the weather. It all came down to a late wet season that closed off practically everything worth seeing.

When we headed out we knew we couldn’t get up to Ubirr and that the waterfalls were off limits except from the air, but there were a number of wetlands open, hiking trails and lookouts. Within 24 hours all but the Nourlangie Rock area and two lookout areas were closed to everyone. Yes, even to those in 4WD with a snorkel.

So we looked at it as a $50 road trip (the National Park now charges $25 per person) and made the best of it. We had a great hike to a lookout and through the huge red rocks that house ancient Aboriginal rock art at Nourlangie and made use of the gorgeous pool at the hotel/caravan resort in Coolinda.

Our evening was a lot of fun too. Our neighbor in the budget room block was an older guy called Pat and we offered him a beer (or four) and ended up chatting away for hours on end. He is a contractor pest controller who works up in the territory for a month or two at a time from his home in Innisfail, Queensland. He has seen many remote places and met a lot of interesting characters, which made for some good yarns. He’s a great bloke. As we retired for the night he gave us his mobile number and told us to give him a shout if we were ever around Innisfail again and he’d take us out to the reef on his boat for diving and fishing.

The next day saw us pretty much drive out of the park and on to Katherine. We did stop for one hike in the morning, but after seeing the "extreme danger" sign regarding crocodiles, I didn’t want to be anywhere near the area. In my defense, I did say that I would do the hike (seeing we were going up), but I didn’t feel comfortable being around the base of it or returning to it and on that Matt grudgingly (he was disappointed in me because it was unreasonable) decided to abandon the hike.

We did drive out to Edith Falls just north of Katherine though and did a hike up to the lookout and the falls, which was really lovely.

After that it was on to Katherine to get the oil changed on the car, gas up and spend a night in the most ghetto hostel yet (it was still far too hot to camp unfortunately) before heading to Western Australia the next day. It was a shame we missed out on Katherine Gorge, but the weather the next day was terrible, so we nixed it and headed on to the west in hopes of milder weather and more stuff to do than we got in the Top End.

Looking back, we should have headed south at that Tennant Creek – Darwin sign on our drive from Queensland and gone to Alice Springs instead of the Top End. It would have meant a little backtracking to get over to the west, but I really think we would have had a much better time. Oh well, hindsight is 20/20…and at least now we know what we weren’t missing!!
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