Monday, 6 July 2015

A Bit Of Time 'Living'

Darwin, Northern Territory

Backpackers will at some point find a place on the road to bunk down for a while, often for want of employment and that fabled second year visa. I on the other hand am one of those people who needed a stint back in reality, so to speak; Darwin was where I opted to spend a bit of time ‘living’, but this inexperienced choice was made back when I was getting used to the whole independent thing, but by no means is this regretted. The top end was a good stay, even with the ups and downs, but that’s always going to happen. Think an old woman who wouldn’t accept my accent for Australian and who kept insulting select minorities. I know, lucky.

Darwin, Northern Territory (taken 2011)

2011 was the year I had my first and only stay in Darwin, it being in the middle of my ‘over the top end’ odyssey. Before reaching this point some had told me not to spend too much time there and that I could see the place in two hours; keeping that advice somewhere in the back of my mind I went ahead and booked two weeks at the YHA on Mitchell Street. After my first day I realised that this decision could’ve been made a whole lot better. However, this chapter of my travels taught me an important lesson; to challenge my asocial side. It’s one worth learning.

Darwin, Northern Territory (taken 2011)

The most northern and smallest capital city of Australia, Darwin, was first settled by the Larrakia people who to this day are the traditional custodians. The city itself, originally a pioneer outpost, was established in the 1830s and was named for Charles Darwin by Commander John Clements Wickham of the HMS Beagle. Its placement creates many an opportunity for the would-be traveller; Darwin stands close to Kakadu, Litchfield and Arnhem Land and is quite conveniently near Indonesia and the rest of Asia which is a major drawcard. The population itself is quite diverse so ethnic fusion is in abundance.

I came during the dry season so sunshine was guaranteed but in my foolishness I didn’t take advantage of the before said opportunities; in my defence I didn’t have my passport back then and I still had a month of travelling to consider so my one day tour had to be chosen carefully. With this and other factors weighing me down I pretty much made my time a homestay experience (could’ve chosen a better hostel though). Timing proved most beneficial because the Greeks were holding their Glenti festival where there was much consumption of baklava.

When it came to the people, each one was very different from the last; some had more than enough potential to make it into some written fiction of mine. There was a Canadian who taught me just how serious his countrymen were about ice hockey, a Taiwanese girl I was claiming stalked me (she had a sense of humour about it) and an Irish guy who I now consider a friend for life. Normally I would rely on a tour group for befriending others (remember, asocial) but this was a more than positive step in the right direction. I was learning confidence.

Highlight wise, here are a few things that can take up some of your time; most of which is in convenient walking distance of the city centre. The waterfront is easily reached and is a good spot to lie back and get some sun on your skin; mellow and not over crowded is what it was to me so be sure to add it to your bucket list. It’s enclosed and close to help if needed; Darwin’s waters are famous for attracting crocodiles and box jellyfish. 

Darwin Waterfront, Northern Territory (taken 2011)

Another quiet spot to consider is Charles Darwin National Park where much a reading was done on Tim Winton’s The Riders and Alexis Wright’s Carpentaria. The trees and the views come with a very fresh atmosphere.  

Charles Darwin National Park, Darwin, Northern Territory (taken 2011)

Another stop made was Crocosaurus Cove where you can get up close with massive estuarine crocs (I’m implying that after stepping into a cage they’ll drop you in with the bloody things, thus providing an always appreciated adrenaline rush). This I didn’t have the funds to do but a friend of mine did it recently and gave nothing but praise (I was able to get a video off of her but it's decided not to be cooperative. Many apologies). 

Crocosaurus Cove, Darwin, Northern Territory (taken 2011)

Whilst I would be willing to give it a try, by that point of my travels I was already accustomed to seeing crocodiles in the wild. Crocosaurus Cove is still a good couple of hours that the kids will enjoy, as is Crocodylus Park outside of town. On display are some exotic species also, which were a nice change.

Crocodylus Park, Darwin, Northern Territory (taken 2011)

Trivia nights are a favourite pastime of mine and the pub, Shenanigans where 'racing's in the beer lines', held a good one. Irish guy, Canadian guy and I checked it out and competed as the ‘Dole Bludgers’ but we were bested rather easily; I also dabbled in some dry suds which I wasn’t complaining about. 

Shenanigans, Darwin, Northern Territory (taken 2011)

Another notable place is the Thai restaurant Nirvana which has an inviting music scene, as well as free finger food when the guitars start playing. Before realising the meaning behind the name choice (see the Bangkok post) I was convinced they’d fused the cuisine with the rocker’s name.  

Adding to the night time endeavours I’m happy to say a few words about the indie Deckchair Cinemas down by the water. At the invitation of… the Irish guy, I went along to see the 2010 flick The Way Back (starring Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris and Saoirse Ronan) which I thoroughly enjoyed. 

Deckchair Cinema, Darwin, Northern Territory (taken 2011)

I’ve come across some other tales set in the Russian/Mongolian sector, to which I’ve also developed a liking for so that trip to the cinemas certainly opened a door. They provide dinner and drinks (alcoholic too) but what I valued most was the night sky hanging over us.   

Now for something that I insist everyone should check out, and by ‘insist’ I mean ‘DO IT!’, the Mindil Beach Market. On every Thursday and Sunday during the dry season the market invites all to taste the flavours of Darwin. I made the trip… three times, all of which I enjoyed very much.

Mindil Beach Market, Darwin, Northern Territory (taken 2011)

Performances are frequent and the stalls incredibly diverse; I do remember having a corn cob on the stick and some skewered octopi (it had an Asian taste to them) which I was liking a lot. Some I know don’t care for octopi (these are people lacking Greek heritage I will add) but I find it brilliant. Those skewers were a welcome change from calamari rings. Next to that, the beach is a good spot to end the day. If you’re done with the stalls and bright lights, park yourself on the sand and watch the sky change colour. Just call it one pleasant way of ending things.

Mindil Beach, Darwin, Northern Territory (taken by Camila Bertolazzi, 2015)

Done for now, if you’ve got the opportunity, make the trip. There’s so little to argue about with this top end.