Written by MagdaDH_AlexH on 10 Dec, 2010
Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory and the largest city for over a thousand kilometres, has a population slightly in excess of 100,000. The whole Territory, in fact, has less than quarter of a million, one in three of them of Aboriginal origin. Darwin…Read More
Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory and the largest city for over a thousand kilometres, has a population slightly in excess of 100,000. The whole Territory, in fact, has less than quarter of a million, one in three of them of Aboriginal origin. Darwin feels – and to large extent, still is – a frontier town. Many people who live here seem to be from somewhere else, migrants, transients, adventure seekers and life drop-outs alike. The climate is seriously tropical – with two seasons, the Dry (this is, by the way, a relative term, as the Dry is only dry in comparison to the humidity of the Wet) and the Wet (which is seriously Wet, Darwin being well within the monsoon sphere of influence). The tourist season is in the Dry, and most local activities, from the Darwin Show to the Darwin Race Weekend, take place between April and November too. Even in the winter (or, as it would be correctly called, in the Dry), Darwin is very hot, with the average temperature of around 28C and only a small variation of 4C between the average hottest (February and September) and coldest (July) months. Humidity, however, varies from 25% in July to over 40% in January and February. This is true tropics, more than anywhere else in Australia (it is, after all, four degrees north of Cairns and seven degrees north of Townsville), and the influence – and closeness – of Asia (Port Moresby is as near, or as far, as Cairns; and Singapore is as far as Melbourne) is palpable. As befits a frontier tropical town, Darwin has a serious drinking scene – some would say a drink problem – and it's not just for the uprooted and biologically more susceptible indigenous Australians but for pretty much everywhere here, putting away copious quantities of grog of all varieties is a favourite pastime.In the centre, the revelries centre on Mitchell and Smith Streets, where backpacker travellers and locals alike vie for the title of the most drunk and (mildly, in all honesty) disorderly; but the drinking is everywhere, from the airport cafe to family hotels and everywhere in between. The frontier mentality has probably something to do not just with the huge distance between Darwin and anywhere else (and the fact that it's rather isolated from the rest of Australia) but also with the many disasters that befell Darwin in its history, among others the famous Tracy cyclone that literally flattened the town on Christmas Eve 1974 and Darwin having been bombed extensively during the Second World War. The town was bombed fifty-nine times between 1942 and 1943, and the first and the worst of the raids was dubbed "the Australian Pearl Harbour" - the overall military significance of the raids was smaller, but actually more bombs were dropped on Darwin on the 19th February 1942 than on Pearl Harbour. Eight navy ships were sunk in Darwin harbour and killed and injured hundreds of people.Military Museum, WW2 oil storage tunnels, gun placements and monuments to those who fought and were killed can be seen all around Darwin, and the war seems to be fresher in the social memory here than in any other place in Australia. Modern Darwin lives from mining (like a lot of outback Australia – although Darwin doesn't really classify as outback) and tourism, offering plethora of tours, artificially created attractions and more tours, with crocodiles and Aboriginal sites featuring most heavily. The pedestrianised mall in the centre of town has numerous travel agents and souvenir shops with Australiana of all kinds and indigenous souvenirs and artwork: an Aboriginal painter is sitting on the pavement in front of a gallery, finishing a pointillist work in the Western Desert style. One sees a lot of Aboriginal people in Darwin - 10% of the population is indigenous Australian and it's the only city in Australia where the first inhabitants of this land are visible in any noticeable numbers. It's not always a pretty sight, and it has nothing to do with the ideals of beauty, and everything with the poverty, discrimination and deprivation (not to mention more or less systematic physical and cultural genocide) that the people that are now commonly referred to as "the original owners" have been subjected to for the hundred and fifty years since the European invasion. Things are changing, but the spectre of the original "terra nullis" principle still haunts Australia. The continent was settled without any, even token, treaties, and treated as "nobody's land", while the native population was not even counted in censuses up until 1967. The historic Mabo judgement that admitted land rights to the native Australians was passed only in 1992, and even now there are many circumstances in which Aboriginal land rights can be revoked at a whim or in service of vested political or industrial interests. There are changes, though, and perhaps more of them in the last twenty years or so than in the previous hundred. The very racists resentment towards the Aboriginal population is still, however, a powerful undercurrent in the Australian society and it's quite possible that, as some Australians claim themselves, any family that have been in the country for more than a couple of generations will have either Aboriginal blood in them or Aboriginal blood on their hands, and quite likely both. Close
Written by catsholiday on 17 Mar, 2010
DARWINWHERE IS DARWIN?The Northern Territory is a huge area of 1.35 million square kilometres with a population of only 209,000 and Darwin is the Capital city situated in the far north of this territory. Although Darwin is the least populated of all of Australia’s state…Read More
DARWINWHERE IS DARWIN?The Northern Territory is a huge area of 1.35 million square kilometres with a population of only 209,000 and Darwin is the Capital city situated in the far north of this territory. Although Darwin is the least populated of all of Australia’s state capitals it is by far the most populated city in the Territory. This part of Australia is known as the Top End and this includes Arnhem Land (which is Aboriginal Land) and the Kakadu National Park (Crocodile Dundee country).The Stuart Highway starts at Darwin and runs in an almost straight line to Alice Springs (The red Centre) and then continues on to Adelaide in South Australia. The Highway covers a distance of over 3,000 km and no map would be needed as there are no turns to take!WEATHER: This tropical area has only two seasons the wet and the dry. The wet season from Nov-Apr has high temperatures with humidity and often severe tropical storms and this is the reason for the lush green landscape. The dry season is from May-Oct and has warm, sunny and dry days with low humidity. This is the time that many Southern Australians ( The silver haired, non- working ones) come up North to enjoy the pleasant warm climate in the winter – the summer or wet months are less attractive.HISTORY:Darwin city is a sea port on Fannie Bay which was originally called Palmerston but was renamed after Charles Darwin in 1911 by I’m not sure why really. The aboriginal people native to this area are the Larrakia people and there are still people of this language group living in the area. Darwin was first settled by white people in the 1860s but about half the present population has arrived in the last forty years and includes people from over 50 different countries.Darwin city has suffered a lot over the years. Those who have seen the film "Australia" will have an idea of how the city was bombed and attacked by the Japanese in WWII. Indeed Darwin is the only city in Australia to ever be bombed and there were 64 attacks in total and although there was a lot of damage t was not as destructive as Cyclone Tracey in 1974. It is a tribute to the strength of character of the Australian people that Darwin was able to recover during and after the war despite being so damaged and so cut off from the rest of Australia. MY EXPERIENCE:The last time I was in Darwin was in 1976 for my Christmas holiday when I was living and teaching in Australia. It was only two years after Cyclone Tracey when almost 90% of the city was destroyed and at that time there was still a lot of evidence of the cyclone. Many houses were just floors and stilts and sometimes people had built a small shelter on this as they did not have the money to rebuild. It was even smaller then than it is today both in physical size as well as population.When we arrived in Darwin we were given a bit of a tour of Darwin just to orientate us. Although the population is quite small – only 110 000 but it seemed much busier than Perth. We came in along the coast road from the Airport and then into the city. The harbour was virtually empty as most boats are taken out of the water and stored on land for the rainy/hurricane season. It is not a large cit, more like a town really but it does have a bit of a buzz about it. There a several large hotels, a small shopping centre with Coles and Woolworth supermarkets as well as other shops. There are quite a few pubs and bars and also several restaurants of various kinds – Chinese to Australian as well as two Irish bars – the one we went into even had two Irish people serving behind the counter!MUSEUMWe decided that we would follow in Bill Bryson’s footsteps and go and visit the Darwin museum .Bill Bryson recommended the museum for the stuffed crocodile ‘sweetheart’, an enormous crocodile which had attacked small boats and was becoming a danger to the people of Darwin. They arranged to have this croc caught and relocated somewhere away from populated areas. During the capture ready for his move ‘Sweetheart’ had a heart attack and died so they stuffed him and put him in the museum! Also of interest was a tribute display to the people who went through cyclone Tracey. This included recreations of bits of houses, photos and most horrifying was a darkened room where a tape played a recording that someone had made on a recorder the night ‘Tracey’ hit Darwin, Christmas Eve 1974. Finally Bill suggested looking at a display of ‘Animals that could kill you’ which included preserved box jellyfish. Just out of interest, Australia has the largest number of animals that are dangerous in some way to humans of any country in the world.As we left the museum it started raining and we had quite a walk to get to the bus stop so we got out or kagools and then rushed on. We were nearly at the bus stop when we saw the bus coming so we ran and the driver very kindly stopped the bus and waited for us – it would have meant a 20 minute wait had we missed it. Luckily we made it and sat back to enjoy the ride back to the city. The return fares on the bus from outside our hotel to the museum and back was $8 for both of us. Local pensioners travel free.PLACES TO EAT:There were a huge number of places to eat in the city centre area offering a variety of cuisine. Many of these eating places are along Mitchell Street we ate at one of the Irish pubs, Shenanigan’s on one night and then we found a lovely Thai restaurant called Thailicious which was upstairs and you could sit outside on another night. We had Thai green chicken curry; jasmine rice and Holy basil stir fried beef which was spicy and very tasty. NEAR DARWIN:Heading south along the Stuart Highway, we stopped at the small townships of Batchelor and Adelaide River. The Adelaide River war cemetery is Australia’s largest war cemetery and a sombre reminder of the Northern Territory’s role in World War II. . It was extremely neatly kept and had a section for the armed Services and one for civilians as well as foreign troops too but some of those had been taken back to their own homelands. There were several peacocks wandering round and one was particularly interested in us..The Adelaide River pub is a traditional outback bar very similar to the one in ‘Crocodile Dundee’ and we stopped here for a beer. On the bar was the buffalo that starred in Crocodile Dundee called Charlie – stuffed and looking very real. It was a surreal experience to enjoy a drink with a stuffed buffalo and I felt as though we could expect Mick Dundee to pull up a stool beside us at any moment. Just near the pub is a caravan and camping park and this pub served excellent ‘barra and chips’ so there were a lot of happy campers eating there. (Barra is of course the local tasty barramundi fish)SUMMARY:Darwin is a really Aussie city; it still has the laid back, casual attitude but has embraced tourism in a big way. When I was there in 1976 it was a government town really but now tourism has brought in a variety of job opportunities and the town has expanded rapidly. It is really a base from where tourists move on to explore The Kakadu National Park with jumping crocs and Yellow waters as well as the Nitmiluk National Park with Katherine Gorge and Edith falls. Nearby is pine creek and of course it is the start of the Stuart highway south to Alice and then on to Adelaide. Close
Written by ggcahill on 01 Oct, 2005
Our Great Southern Railways journeys commenced at 10:10pm on Saturday August 20, when we boarded the Overland to take us to Adelaide for our connection with the Ghan. Spencer Street Station looked like a bombsite! (Have they forgotten about the Commonwealth Games next year?) The…Read More
Our Great Southern Railways journeys commenced at 10:10pm on Saturday August 20, when we boarded the Overland to take us to Adelaide for our connection with the Ghan. Spencer Street Station looked like a bombsite! (Have they forgotten about the Commonwealth Games next year?) The carriages were old, tired, and, once under way, noisy! Breakfast was one size fits all! We had bacon, eggs, sausages, and tomatoes with toast and tea or coffee. That was it. No choices! We arrived in Adelaide at 8am. The Ghan was scheduled to depart at 5:15pm but was delayed, as a smoker left the train for a quick fix when visitors were asked to leave. The doors were locked and they then had to work out how to get her back on! (Smoking is certainly a hazard, isn't it?)
The late departure translated into a late arrival in the Alice, 12:15pm instead of 11:55am. It was no big deal really. The service in Gold Kangaroo class and the standard of the carriages was well above that experienced on the Overland. Plastic laminate was replaced with wood panelling and loosely fitting bunks on the Overland were gone. Bunks had secure ladders and locked securely into place to ensure a minimum on rattling. However, if you get a choice, aim for a middle cabin. Those over the bogies get a lot of track noise and more movement.
Gold Kangaroo travellers also received a lapel badge, certificate, and daily newsletter. More important, though, for those travelling direct from Adelaide to Darwin, a lunch visit to the Alice Springs Desert Park was included. We broke our journey for a 2-week tour around the Alice, so we had to get to the Desert Park on our own. Not cheap, but worth the effort!
We met up with a couple that made the journey all the way from Adelaide in the day/night seating. No sleep! We had ordinary food at a premium price, and, with a full carriage of sitters, it was quite noisy. They would not recommend it!
Written by rxshine on 18 Jul, 2003
The three-day two-night tour of Kakadu National Park started with pick up from the hotel at 7am. Our first stop was at the Adelaide river where we took the Jumping Crocodile Cruise. The boat is a two level barge like craft driven by two…Read More
The three-day two-night tour of Kakadu National Park started with pick up from the hotel at 7am. Our first stop was at the Adelaide river where we took the Jumping Crocodile Cruise. The boat is a two level barge like craft driven by two outboards. There are six seats across the beam with an aisle between and an aisle on the outside of each row.
The water level was very high due to the heavy rains so we were told not to expect too many crocs since they were off in the trees in shallow water or breeding. As long as they were not in the boat I didn’t care where they were. At the start of the cruise we passed some trees loaded with more of the Fox Bats. As we proceeded along the river we spotted sea eagles, and whistling kites and black kites. I had never seen the birds called kites before and thought they were eagles. They have a similar flight pattern but are a little smaller. The obvious difference between the kites is the tail configuration. The black kite has a "v" shaped tail and the whistling kite has a square tail. A short distance from the dock we spotted a crock and he spotted the boat. He swam away from the bank and started to follow the boat so the captain stopped the boat and the guide rigged up a pole with about a 2 pound steak attached. When the croc got close the guide sloshed the steak in the water to let the crock know where he was to get fed. When he swam for the bait the guide pulled it up so the crock could not reach it. After about two more tries the croc got the idea and leapt out of the water. He missed so he went around again and this time he got all of his body out of the water except his tail and was rewarded with the bait. That was the last we saw of him so onward to try to find another. All in all we encountered 3 crocs who feasted on raw meat but equally interesting were the birds we saw.
We went to our hotel, the Gagadju. It is run by the park and is in the shape of a crocodile. The main entrance is through the mouth. There may have been an emergency exit at the tail but we didn’t look. The center of the hotel was open to the sky with a nice garden and pool. There were two restaurants one was sit down wait on me type, the other was a pub style with a long bar and bar food. Food was just good. Rooms were OK.
Day 2 -- The weather was kind of overcast in the morning but by the time we got to the airport the forecast looked good, so we took a scenic flight over the park. The airport is in a plains like area with the escarpment off in the distance on three sides. The escarpment looks like the side of a canyon except that it was formed by ground rising rather than erosion. It is a sand stone coast line of an ancient ocean and rises up to 1200 ft in some places.
The flight took us over Nourlongie Rock, an Aboriginal religious site, toward Jim Jam and Twin Falls. Viewing from the plane was great since the pilot went over each set of falls so that both sides of the plane were exposed to the view. We flew up canyons so that we could see the pool at the bottom and up over the escarpment to see the source of the falls and watch it fall over the edge. Lots of previous rain made the force of the falls exceptional. On the return flight we flew over the Gagadju Hotel and noted it’s croc like shape.
After lunch we went to see Nourlongie Rock from the land side up rather than the air side down (from the scenic plane ride). It is surrounded by a nice park with walkways which provide various views of the famous rock. There are many places on the rock where Aboriginal art is still visible. The colors are red , black , yellow and white all made from local rock or berries. Some of the areas are still very religious and restricted from tourist visitation. There were pictographs of Nomargan the lightning god, of birds , kangaroos and people.
Next stop was the Yellow Water Ride on South Alligator. A flat bottom boat was our transportation because the water covered area we toured was like a large lily pond with exotic birds. We saw a Jabaru , a large black and white stork; Darter, a large black egret like; Rainbow Bee-eater, a sparrow size bird with orange, blue green and white feathers and a hooked beak; Comb Crested Jacana or Jesus bird (because it walks on water) , has a red patch of feathers on its head and feet with long toes which allow it to walk on lily pads and aquatic plants; and a baby "Jesus" bird all fuzzy and cute looking for food all by it self. There were also a few Sea eagles which we were able to see very close up sitting in their nests. Off to one side in a large tree we spotted a nest for the Jabaru which looked as large as a tree house platform. Kathy noted the waterscape looked like a Monet painting of water lilies, it was gorgeous. The guide pointed out an 800 year old Paper Bark Tree.
Our stop for the night was the Katherine Frontier Motor Inn. It was the most disappointing place we stayed . The room was clean though. The only saving grace was the fiddler that was playing out on the terrace. He must have been 75 years old at least but he had an excitement in him that was infectious. I couldn’t stand just listening so I requested an Irish song and sang with him. No talent agents rushed me so we went off to bed.
Day 3 -- We had a mediocre breakfast and bussed to a swim at Edith Falls. This time the access to the falls was easy and the water was also very refreshing There were two falls actually one was the result of the recent heavy rains and was termed just a run-off. This was a great place to swim or just sit around and watch the falls. We proceeded to Nitmiluk National Park and took a Jet Boat ride in Katherine Gorge. On the way we saw a gaggle of 20-30 Black Cockatoos in the trees along the road. I don’t know if that is a gaggle but that is how many we saw. The gorge is gorgeous, very photogenic (an interesting derivation of the word gorgeous).
The jet boat was being repaired so we went to the visitors center. While eating we saw a Blue Faced Bee-eater, bird, eating French fries on the verandah. Food must be good here, at least French fries. This park has many hiking trails of various lengths which provide great views of the gorge and waterfalls. It was time to go on the jet ride so we donned our parkas and brought out our water proof cameras and were off. The trick of the jet boat is to make a fast turn and get everyone wet. It works. When there is rough water the driver doesn’t have to work so hard but in our case it was fairly calm. Somehow getting wet on a boat is not something I would stand in line for. Just in case we hadn’t brought our water proof cameras the driver warned us when he would make a radical turn partly to protect cameras partly to keep folks from getting ejected. The river ride through the gorge was great. There were a few rapids to traverse and maybe that is why the jet boat works so well here, small draft. We went by small light brown sand secluded beaches, waterfalls and just a myriad of earth sights. This would seem to be a great place to spend some time camping and climbing, to actually sit on the beaches or look down on river running through the gorge.
Afternoon tea was at a roadside stop with a bar, a restaurant and a coral where we could feed animals. The attraction was "Charley" the water buffalo who was in the Crocodile Dundee movie. You remember, it was the one Dundee stared off the road so he could drive through with his 4 by 4 and the ever pretty what’s-her-name on their trek through the outback. Our day ended back at the Atrium in Darwin.
Day 1 -- The flight to Darwin was fine and as we were picking up our luggage I noticed a girl claiming an Irish drum. I didn’t think too much about it but when we went to get on the shuttle she was there also.…Read More
Day 1 -- The flight to Darwin was fine and as we were picking up our luggage I noticed a girl claiming an Irish drum. I didn’t think too much about it but when we went to get on the shuttle she was there also. We asked her about her travels and she said she was Irish and just on her way around Australia for 5 to 6 months. Her plan was work at a place long enough to make about a months extra living expense and then move on. By the way the round trip shuttle to the hotel was A$7 each. We were staying at the Atrium on the Esplanade. As we approached the hotel we noticed there were tents and stands in one corner of the park right across from the hotel. There was a St. Patrick’s Day Festival going on right in our front yard. And just across the front yard was the ocean. It was a bit damp out and there was another rainbow. The lobby of the hotel was a 7 story atrium with a glass elevator. The center of the atrium was a bar, lounge and restaurant area. A great place to sit in AC and enjoy the indoor greenery and water-way flowing under two attractive bridges. The indoor creek was stocked with colorful carp. There was another restaurant also.
Our room had a remote AC control and three different kinds of pillows to choose from -- soft, hard, and down. After we dropped our bags, it was time to go out and eat, so we went across the street to the Festival and drank Guinness and ate some kind of crepe. There was music around but it was contemporary so we walked around until sunset and watched a beautiful one over the ocean. There seemed to be a time problem when we got to Darwin. A half hour time change took place and no one told us until we figured it out when we set up the wake up call for the morning.
It seems like all hotels have 110 VAC for shavers and an adapter if you need one to accommodate the 220 VAC which is normal AUS. All hotels had in room hair dryers, irons and ironing boards. I noticed another nice hotel close by also on the Esplanade. It was the Holiday Inn Plaza and appeared to have balconies for all rooms which faced the ocean. Might be nice to try it some day.
Day 2 -- The tour to Litchfield National Park was on the agenda. Apparently it starts from and returns to Darwin daily . Note that all tours were buses from Great Sights. They were very accommodating in pick up, bag handling, stopping to take pictures and more. They are highly recommended.
We were picked up from the hotel at 7:30am and our first stop was for morning tea at a small tourist attraction where the owner had a butterfly compound and fruit orchard. We saw some butterflies and ate fresh paw paws, which are like papaya. They were very good. Further down the road we stopped to see some termite mounds. There are two major types the Cathedral type and the Magnetic type housing different kinds of termites. The mounds get to be 8 feet tall.
Next stop was Tolmer Falls where we viewed the falls, but could not swim because the water was too high. Further on was the Wangi Falls where there were caves around the falls. Along the path way were large trees which housed Fox Bats which are about one foot long when hanging upside down from the trees. There were about 50 in some of the trees. They are fruit eating bats not people eating so we were safe. Some of the unique plants are the Pandanus reeds that look like small diameter bamboo and the paper tree whose bark can be stripped and used instead of paper. Which came first, the paper tree or papyrus?
The final stop was at Florence Falls, which was a long walk down 165 stairs to a beautiful pool below the falls that we used for swimming. Access to the pool was from a small beach of rocks on the edge of the stream which led away from the pool fed by the falls. It was very refreshing since it was quite warm out about 106 F. But alas we had to walk back up the daunting 165 stairs to get back to the parking-picnic area. There was some incentive though, we were to have lunch, it was a box lunch but lunch none the less. The food was good and we had the luxury of watching the misshapen Kookaburra bird. Just look at the (correct) spelling of the name and you can imagine that the bird must be weird, it is. The head is about 2/3 rd’s the size of its body, not counting the tail feathers. It has nice blue coloring with a beak that is fairly broad and about as long as the head. It was in prominence in the picnic grounds scrounging food. It was not aggressive though.
We were back at the hotel in time to eat at the Hanuman restaurant on Mitchel Street. It was a short walk and well worth it. The food was a bit spicy but I like it that way. They had a good menu and service was good.
The Litchfield tour was a good exposure to unique Australian landscape including waterfalls, swims in natural pools at the base of waterfalls, and termite mounds.
Written by neeringk on 26 Aug, 2003
Barefoot Aborigines bring a sense of history to the desolate area of Darwin, where they strive to balance their history of living on the land with modern technologies such as washing machines and toilets.
Locals want to drink with you, tourists want to talk to…Read More
Barefoot Aborigines bring a sense of history to the desolate area of Darwin, where they strive to balance their history of living on the land with modern technologies such as washing machines and toilets.
Locals want to drink with you, tourists want to talk to you. Everyone wants to know why you flew halfway around the world to go to spend time in the desert. This place is friendly, strange and beautiful. They don't drink Foster's, contrary to popular belief.