Day 246-252: Alice Springs/Darwin
Trip Start Sep 12, 2004
57Trip End Jan 05, 2006
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Fantastic lay in after all those early starts around The Rock, managed to get the check out extended to 11am but was a little too leisurely about it all and ended up finally handing back the key about half 11, luckily it's a nice chilled hostel and the owners are cool. Went into town to do the diary for the last week which took bloody ages and ended up rushing around to get some food for the train and a book to read. Drop off at the station was gonna leave the hostel at 3pm and just made it back in time with about 10 mins to wolf some lunch down and chuck together a chicken roll for later, Bret & Daz from the Adelaide tour were also getting The Ghan. Mads the Danish boy was also at the station, there's only two cheap seat carriages so B & D were in mine and Mads was in the next one up.
Left on time just after 4pm, train was pretty comfortable tho not exactly perfect for a nights sleep so should be fun, carriage was full and I was sitting next to an English girl, never did get her name either. Read the book I bought; Arthur C Clarke's '3001: A Final Odyssey'...can always rely on Arthur for a good read. Listened to some tunes and had a little snooze, next thing I know it's about 7. Majority of the evening was spent in the lounge car which featured some distressing fabric on the seats but was comfortable enough. Played cards and had a few bevvies with the boys....we played Shithead, haven't played it for years and then all of a sudden it's the game de jour. Jayde and Laura from the Adelaide tour were also on board so had some chit chat with them.
When we got back to the carriage only the night lights were on creating a blue eerie glow, bit difficult to get comfortable trying desperately not to touch, fall on, lay on or breath on the girl next to me. No blankets or pillows were supplied so used a towel instead, didn't need a blanket coz all my man-muscle seems to keep me nice and warm. Plus I was at the end of the carriage near a door so people coming and going with associated door closing noises, somehow and at some point I managed to fall asleep.
Woke up quite a lot during the night moving around trying to find a new position and attempting to revive dead limbs after sitting/laying in awkward positions. 7am actually came round pretty quickly, had a shower just before we arrived in Katherine, didn't even have enough time to have something to eat before being chucked off the train. They never mentioned that you couldn't stay on it whilst it stopped at Katherine, we were chucked off at 8am and the doors wouldn't be opening again until 11.30, 3½ hours to kill in the middle of nowhere, and the station has no facilities at all and the town is 7km away. They do offer various tours to kill the time and a bus shuttle to get you to and from the town but of course these cost actual money. The boys had the bright idea of walking into town, probably spurred on by all the walking they'd done in the last few days. I got swept up in it and joined them....however within 30 minutes we could still see the station and enthusiasm waned dramatically. After we passed some roo road kill with eagles swooping around above our heads, Mads, fearing that the eagles might try us next, gave up and headed back to the station. About 10 minutes after him and with no sign of civilisation in sight I turned back too leaving B&D to carry on.
I passed Mads who was reading a book under a tree by the road side with his top off as you do, I just carried on back to the station. Must have got back about half 9 - only 2 hours to kill! Read my book and within about 30 mins all the boys returned. So we went back to the failsafe plan of a game of cards to kill the time. We never saw Katherine but judging by other people's comments there's bugger all to see there anyway.
Train left at 12.10 where I managed a little siesta till 2, girl next door wasn't in her seat so managed to spread a little which was lovely. They put a movie on in the afternoon, 'You've Got Mail' so that killed a couple of hours, didn't hear the last 2 minutes coz they decided to make an announcement over the end of the film, well I guess we all know they lived happily ever after. Arrived into Darwin on time around half 4 and god was it hot when we stepped of the air conditioned train, low 30s, big difference from Alice. B&D were staying at The Cavenagh and said it had got a good rating on a website, as I hadn't made any arrangements I just went with them and Mads took the lazy option too. Free shuttle took us to the hostel.
Checked in asking for a 4 bed, $25 a night, got to the room and there were 8 beds in it, but it had 2 doors so 2 room numbers. Cheeky buggers were charging the same money too, complained but the desk guy just had a 'take it or leave it' attitude. Had paid for 2 nights so looks like I'm stuck here till then. Looks like it used to be a motel, it has a big pool in the centre, frankly you could have been in Majorca, nothing about it said I was in Oz, not my sort of place really. Had a little snooze to de-stress myself. The hostel was even more dingy at night, must have been all of 10 watts in the light bulb in the room, loads of lights not working on the landings and in the kitchen, kitchen had barely any equipment, a crockery and cutlery set cost a $5 deposit, no hot water or washing up liquid to clean stuff with either - the place is an absolute shithole, first task tomorrow is find another hostel.
Met up with the boys in the evening for cards and a box of vino, the hostel has a bar but thought a trip to Woolies Liquor would be a better idea. They closed the outdoor area at 11 and none of us had the energy to go anywhere else so just went to bed.
Couldn't be arsed to pay $5 for a crockery set so just had a banana for brekkie, bathroom is like a sauna too so you're sweating when you get out of the shower....gggrrr, rubbish hostel. Wandered around the 'city', bit small and the main shopping street is tiny which is very depressing, have discovered that there's a massive shopping centre out of town so a trip there will be happening at some point. Found a nice cheap net cafe so spent a bit of time trying to find another hostel, also tried to upload pics from the last couple of trips but wouldn't work on the machines...boooo! Had some lunch and nipped into the Medicare office to find out how I go about getting some drugs, they told me about where the dealers hang out and how much the going rate for crack is which I thought was nice.....well actually what I wanted to know was how I get my prescription drugs as I've only got about 20 days left, annoyingly it's going to cost money whereas in the UK I'd be getting them for free; $50 to see a doctor, and $28 for the prescription.
Wandered along Mitchell St in the afternoon which is where most of the backpackers are, narrowed it down to 3 but popped into the Melaleuca on Mitchell which is all brand new but $30 a night according to the website, however using my good looks and charm I managed to get a week in advance at $23 a night, and in the end, once the woman got her sums wrong she ended up charging about $21 a night which is marvellous. It's a fantastic hostel, clean, great facilities; shallow pool, deep pool, spa complete with waterfall, big rooms, lockers, oh the list is endless. After the shithole I'm in at the mo it's heaven. So paid up and moving in tomorrow. Staying for a week coz it's too much of a rush to get the Darwin to Cairns bus on Friday, need to relax for a bit, you know this travelling malarkey is hard work.
Found another net cafe where I managed to burn some pics to disk but still couldn't upload. Had a delicious nutritious meal of baked beans with Worcester sauce and parmesan cheese for dinner coz no point buying food if I'm moving tomorrow and didn't wanna cook in the skanky kitchen, quick chat with Mads then to the room where I got chatting to a German bloke who's doing the Kakadu thing tomorrow morning. Went to sleep all excited about leaving the skank hole tomorrow.
Checked out on the dot, practically ran to the next hostel. The sheen was slightly taken off when they put me in a room which was an unbelievable mess, there were 3 long stayers in it and as is usual with long stayers they kinda treat the room like it's their own and chuck stuff everywhere, wasn't an ounce of room on the floor....so went back to reception and got moved to a very nice 6 bed with only 2 other blokes in the room which was spotless, much nicer - why didn't they put me there first? One bloke was in the room sleeping and it would appear his feet and sandals could have done with a blast of industrial odor-eater, the smell was pretty rank, but frankly I didn't wanna move again so put up with it.
Having already sweated like a bitch walking with my massive backpack between hostels I went for a jog. Not really the best time of day, high 20s and the sun burning down, it was bloody hard work but still managed to do 30 mins, tho it was practically a fast walk by the time I got back. Took a dip in the gorgeous pools and spa afterwards. Room is lovely and cool even without the air con on, it's north facing so doesn't get the sun beating down on it all day. Finally got all my pics burnt to CD, posted home and uploaded this afternoon so you can see all the exciting things I've been doing.
In the evening I went to the Mindil Beach Sunset Market which kinda tells you what it is. Stalls with arts and crafts, performers, food stalls, entertainment, etc. All very nice and good way to kill a couple of hours in the evening. By the time I got there it was dark so missed the sunset bit, gave into temptation and had some of those little mini Danish pancake things with ice cream and I won't list the various toppings I had on them...ooops! Mads called whilst I was there to see if I wanted to go to The Vic bar with him as it was 'Search for a Model' night, and no not male models :O( Happily tagged along tho obviously my enthusiasm for watching women in bikinis wasn't as great as Mads'. As the evening progressed and he was mentioning the women he fancied and asked who I liked, etc, I just couldn't be arsed anymore and told him I was gay. Totally unfazed and not bothered, said he did wonder but wasn't sure - god knows how he would have guessed :OS
I stayed with him till about 1am, they were stretching the cheesy search out a little too much and hadn't even made it to swimwear yet, so I left Mads to enjoy the rest of the evening and buggered off home.
Bloody marvellous nights sleep, all nice and quiet, comfortable beds, no loud snoring and aircon on to keep it cool. Morning was spent practically doing bugger all, read my book a little, had brekkie, etc. Chatted to one of the roomies - Brendan, smelly feet bloke - jokingly commented on his feet which luckily encouraged him to dump his old sandals and go buy a new pair, smell gone, yay! Met up with Mads after lunch to help him burn his memory cards to CD, he'd never done it himself before bless him, always got the shop to do it. Wandered to a couple of doctor's surgeries so I could make an appointment to get the script for me drugs, Mads also needed to sort some vaccinations as he's off to Indonesia soon. I got an appointment for next Tues so I can get all that sorted before I go off to Cairns.
We had a late lunch at my hostel as it's obviously the best venue in town, then split up coz I needed to get my hair cut. First hair cut since before Easter!!! Did consider doing the whole growing it long thing but frankly when it starts to go curly I simply can't do anything with it, so had it chopped off back to the usual and it felt fantastic. Killed the rest of the afternoon by wandering around the NT Parliament and State Library, they have international papers there so caught up with some UK stuff in The Times. Of course the Kylie thing is everywhere, tho there's more coverage here about how bonkers the UK papers have gone over it, The Sun devoting 7 pages to it or something, whereas here it's been a few simple articles. Had a cup of tea (note: no cookie! ain't I good....) and read the paper and went back to the hostel.
Got chatting to the other bloke in the dorm who's name I've forgotten. Late 30s having a break in Darwin, lives in the Tiwi Islands which are off the NT coast and comes back to civilisation every now and again as the islands are quite remote and pretty basic. Snuck some illegal alcohol into the hostel. It has a bar so you're not supposed to bring stuff from outside onto the premises but bugger that, the bar is cheap but not cheaper than getting it from the bottlo. Secreted my cans behind my stuff in the fridge, they sell the same booze at the bar so I can wander around drinking it safe in the knowledge that they think I bought it from them....cunning ey?
Watched a bit of AFL on the big screen outside then decided to get showered and go out for a night on the gay tiles. Darwin has one bar and one club, so just like being back home. Went to the bar and swore that I recognised one of the 2 guys who walked in just before me, turns out he was a barman at the Midnight Shift in Sydney travelling round with a mate. Paul, as was his name, is from Chelmsford and his mate Jason from Sydney. Chatted and hung out with them for the rest of the night. The bar was dead, hardly anyone there and a bizarre venue, it's called The Railcar and unsurprisingly it actually is an old railcar which looks like it's just been plonked in someone's garden with some tables and chairs scattered around. Then this big drag queen walks in says to me "Where do I know you from?" and I'm like "Er, I doubt you know me from anywhere".....turns out she served me at the Melaleuca, he works at the bar by day. Do remember thinking the barman was a homo and even saw him being given a wax by a couple of staff behind the bar this afternoon....now I know why.
We didn't stay long, wandering off to the supposed gay club - Throb (nice name) - about half 11. Well you had to play spot the gay coz there weren't many around, seemed to be loads of women and straights which was very upsetting. Had a good night tho, couple of games of pool which I almost won and the rest of the night was dancing, drinking and watching the local crazies. We all lost each other at some point and I wandered home just after 3, won't see those guys again as they're flying off to Cairns at 5.30 this morning.
It's Eurovision day in the UK and I'm gonna miss it...boooo! It's on SBS tomorrow night but somehow I don't think they'll have that on the big screen at the hostel. It's also cup final day too...yawn....but they are showing that on the screen at 11pm tonight, doubt I'll watch it somehow. Did have good intentions of going for a jog this morning but with the late night and mild hangover I stayed in bed till 10. Chucked a banana down me neck and showered before wandering off to the NT Parliament to go on a free guided tour of the building at 11am. Although it sounds dull as dishwater I found it interesting, tour guide was very knowledgeable and not a complete dullard like opal tour woman. The building itself was finished in 1990 and is very cool, nice bit of modern architecture and interior design with all lush granite and wood. Didn't know that NT isn't actually a state but a self governing territory, which apparently is different. Good way to kill a couple of hours.
Back to the hostel for some brunch of muesli and yoghurt - dead healthy me. Bumped into Jayde and Laura who wanna move hostels so were at Melaleuca, showed them around. Dorm is very quiet now with just me and Brendan in it, unless we get some newbies today, tho I'm liking having a 6 bed between 2 of us. Bumped into Bret and Daz this afternoon back from their Kakadu tour, they're gonna do the FA cup thing tonight tho we might get together for drinks first. In the end met the guys at The Vic around 10, had a few drinks and some pool and left them to watch the match while I went off to Throb again. Just as rubbish as last night, should've saved the money.
Very lazy bastard this morning lying in until 11am. So to compensate hired a bike for the afternoon and cycled about 15km. Plenty of cycle tracks along the coastline, this won't mean anything to those not familiar with Darwin but went from the city to Cullen Bay, along Mindil Beach, then Parap and finally on to Nightcliff and back into town along a different route, also did a little lap of the city to take a look at places I hadn't walked to yet. Took about 5 hours altogether with a few stop offs and was a real good ride, tho on the way back I was beginning to wish you could take bikes on buses. Real warm day, probably about 32°C again so topped the tan up a bit. Jumped in the pool at the hostel when I got back....that was luuuuuverly, great way to end a sweaty day.
Had some dinner, Bret and Daz texted to say they were gonna go see Star Wars if I wanted tag along, decided to save it til tight arse Tuesday. They popped into the hostel for a quick goodbye drink afterwards. Their off to Cairns on the plane tomorrow morning at some stupid hour, being picked up from their hostel at 3.30am!! So obviously didn't stick around too long, will probably catch up again in Cairns assuming they're still around when I arrive. Early start tomorrow for the day tour to Litchfield so had an early night too.