Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Day 17/18: Two Days in Darwin

Arriving back in a city again after 2-1/2 weeks in the bush was bound to be challenging. We walked the spritzy waterfront in Darwin just before sunset feeling lost and disconnected. The disorderly fullness of the bush was replaced by tall monuments of steel, a nicely groomed and protected swimming lagoon and a span of restaurants with seriously overpriced menus.

Sixty dollars spent on two orders of fish and chips and two not-quite-ice-cold beers felt like an anti-climax to a fortnight of cooking for ourselves (mostly cold sandwiches and salads) -- a decidedly more thrifty, and healthy, way of feeding the body. But the walk around the waterfront at twilight was enjoyable, particularly with persistent lightening flashing amazing skyscapes in the storm clouds above the harbor.

Our last full day started with a cool sit in the Top End Windscreen customer lounge. The chip acquired on our second day out will cost $310 to fix. Still, it's cheaper than the extra $1500 they were asking for full coverage insurance. On this muggy day in Darwin, this isn't a bad place to hang for a few hours.

Fitted with a nice new windscreen, we head into Darwin for an afternoon of sight-seeing. We start out with another disappointing (too salty) meal at the Asian kiosk on the Stokes Hill Wharf. The view across the tropical bay at least provides some enjoyment. Constructed in 1895, the jetty was a prime target for the Japanese when they waged an intensive air strike on Darwin in February 1943. Few people may know that Darwin received more air strikes and greater loss of lives over an 18 month period than Pearl Harbor experienced. Much of the focus, however, was on American military ships in the northern port.

Next we visit the Museum & Art Gallery of the Northern Territory. Arriving later than intended, we have only an hour to view this amazingly comprehensive museum, which showcases flora and fauna native to the Top End, indigenous art from local Aboriginal communities, a gallery on Alfred Russel Wallace (a colleague of Charles Darwin who contributed significantly to the 'evolution of species' theory), and a fascinating exhibition on Cyclone Tracy, which ravaged Darwin on Christmas Day 1974. The sound box (a 2-metre square room in total darkness) was sensational for providing a first hand aural experience of what a cyclone sounds like when you're in the midst of it.

The Darwin Military Museum was next on our list, but the day was getting on so instead we opted for a walk along the shores of East Point, a delightful nature reserve on Darwin's east end. The setting sun in the west countered by another billowing lightening cloud in the east provided a pleasing finale to our Darwin Day -- and a gentle, if somewhat sorrowful, ending to our eighteen day Kimberley journey.

 The only croc we ever saw in the Northern Territory...

Darwin skyline

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