voyaging to the tippy-top north
03.03.2011 - 04.03.2011 27 °C
When I first came to Australia, I made plans to visit cities all over the country. Darwin was never on the list.
The thought of coming to the Northern Territory's capital city was intimidating: the tropical weather is unpredictable, the air is sticky with humidity, and it's home to most of Australia's killer wildlife. In March, I was likely to encounter saltwater crocodiles (the biggest one ever discovered here was 7 meters - that's 21 feet - and they're capable of eating animals as large as a water buffalo. A human would be no problem), poisonous snakes (whose population has dwindeled significantly thanks to the uber-poisonous cane toad, which are huge - still unsettling), box jellyfish (if stung, a human will die in about 3 minutes), blue-ring octopus (awesome looking, but also deadly), and of course, the usual eight-legged suspects. Given that Darwin's population is just over 200,000, it was no mystery why so few people chose to live here.
Therefore, I shocked myself by booking an early March flight to Darwin and a 4-day group tour of the surrounding national parks. Uni had just started up for Paddy and his roomies, so it was the perfect time to escape Sydney for some wild adventure. Since two of our housemates had visited the NT just last year, they were brimming with advice and recommendations before I left.
Thursday, March 3
After an hour delay at the Sydney airport, I landed in Darwin around 6 p.m. and was hit in the face with 80+ degree heat and an even higher degree of humidity. I caught a shuttle to the YHA, dropped off my stuff and headed out to grab dinner at a nearby Thai place, but before I'd even made it across the street, the tropical weather stepped in and drenched me head to toe. Thank god I'd remembered to bring an umbrella on this trip, but my Rainbow leather sandals were surely not going to make it home....
Friday, March 4
This was my only free day to explore Darwin, so I awoke early to grab a coffee from across the road and head to the Esplanade. Here are a few of the sights I passed:
- A memorial for the US destroyer, the USS Peary, which was sunk by the Japanese on February 19, 1942. The memorial, a cannon surrounded by flower wreaths, was positioned in the direction of the sunken ship.
- Parliament, a gorgeous white building that I ducked into when the humidity became unbearable. A free self-guided tour provided a bit of background information about settlers' relations with the Aboriginal people when they first arrived in the NT.
- The WWII oil storage tanks hidden from invaders underground, and a memorial plaque for the WWII bombings.
- Stokes Hill Wharf and the Pearl Exhibition, where I learned more about the pearling industry between Darwin and Broome (in Western Australia). Paspaley, the original family-owned pearling business that produces some of the world's most valueable pearls, is based here. (Another fun fact: Lieutenant Stokes was a friend of Charles Darwin's and named the harbour after him. The city later took on his name as well.)
- Walked along the Travellers' Walk, a cool little walkway that recognizes the arrival of travellers from all over the world between 1870 and 1940. A mosaic along the walk is made up of tiles, stones and bits of whiskey bottles found along the pathway.
- The outdoor Deckchair Cinema, which was unfortunately closed until the dry season.
- The remains of Town Hall after Cyclone Tracy ripped through the city on December 24, 1974. Like an idiot, I failed to bring my camera with me, so I don't have a photo of the two remaining walls.
- Cullen Bay at sunset. The restaurants around here were much too pricey for my budget, so I tramped back to restaurant-lined Mitchell street for a more affordable steak sandwich and beer.
For my Darwin photo album, click here.