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Monday, September 18, 2017

The Lost Blog - Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia

Friday June 10 - Tuesday June 14, 2016

I didn’t realise that people in real life could have a night like The Hangover.  But as it turns out, all you have to do…. is visit Darwin.  I just came across my notes from my trip to Darwin in June 2016 and realised I'd never posted them!

We left late on a Friday night, arriving at 1am Saturday morning, and checked into our private room in a two-bedroom Airbnb apartment.  The man let us in; he and his girlfriend lived in the other room.  Eager to start our day, we wandered out to the “main drag.”  It’s not a big town.  We were on the outskirts and made it in under 10 minutes.  It was like a scene from a zombie movie.  No life.  A lazy wind drifted through the streets and a couple backpackers drank beers in a outdoor pub.  Where was the action??!!  We did find some pretty awesome swimsuit shops - win!

Turns out you can complete the remaining tour of town in another 10 minutes, so we continued walking and walking along Gardens Road towards the famous Mindil Beach.  You can’t swim in the ocean in Darwin… too many creatures of the deep looking to taste your toes.  So we dared each other in to our ankles, screaming and running back out until the sun started to turn the beach into the colour of hot lava.

We kept walking, taking photos until we reached SkyCity Casino where we tried to convince the bouncer to let us in with international IDs.  She convinced her way but my tattered NYC license they apologetically just couldn’t accept.  Damn.  Those espressos looked good.  So we returned to down picking a rooftop bar with sprinkling lights and some semblance of human activity, Rorkes.  

Photo Credit: Rorkes Website

It doesn’t really get cold in Darwin.  There’s only rainy season, and hot season.  It was hot season but it felt delicious after the chill of Sydney approaching winter, even as night was falling.  We ate our fill of the tasty olives I’ve ever had because the real food was too expensive.  But apparently, budget doesn’t apply to beverages, as we consumed two bottles of frosty champagne.  We realised suddenly that the bar was PACKED!  An older gentleman stopped my friend on her way back with round three, offering up either of his two sons to her.  Uhhhh.  Thanks for the offer?  

We joined them.  Nothing like creeps to make a good story.  The father and sons were decidedly odd but their group of 30 was decidedly fun. Too fun.  Next thing we know, Rourkes is closing down and we are off to Throb, the late night club, complete with stripper poles and strobe lights.

Photo Credit: Throb Facebook Page

I woke up Sunday morning, head-throbbing, my clothes in a sopping(?!) heap, my sandals gone.  I turned to my friend wide-eyed for an explanation but she looked back with the same expression - a mixture of dazed yet impishness confusion.  Well, at least we were alive, right?  

Turns out I wasn’t so lucky.  As we headed to Cafe Eco, our “local” brekkie spot (for the last 24 hours), my right eye kept tearing up.  As we sat through breakfast, nursing coffees, waters, and small bites of omelette, it continued like a leaky faucet.  And then it started to swell.  Unfortunately, while I transformed into an ogre, my friend chattered excitedly about our plans for the day.  She doesn’t get hangovers.  This place does have the BEST food though.

While perusing Ghost Town earlier yesterday, we decided that Darwin proper is empty during the day because everyone is out enjoying the amazing national parks.  So we rented a car and drove 3 hours Litchfield National Park.  Something was wrong with the music so after every Spotify song ended, the iPhone would revert back to her iTunes library, specifically Taylor Swift.  It certainly became the theme song of the trip (whether we liked it or not).

If you’ve done any research on Darwin, you’re probably thinking AREN’T THERE CROCODILES EVERYWHERE?!!  This is true. But allegedly, Florence Falls, our first stop, was conveniently devoid of these dinosaurs by some stroke of magic (because it certainly isn’t electric fencing).  My friend is a natural water baby and was straight into the water swimming out towards the beautiful falls at the far end of the pool.  I watched from the safety of my rock, dipping a toe or two in when I got too hot noting that we could’ve prepared better with inflatables, goggles and water shoes.

Our next stop was Buley Rockpool.  Had I been feeling like myself, this would’ve been my favourite part.  Imagine a series of step pools leading through wild jungle that are so deep a grown man can cannonball into one.  The water was crystal clear, cool and the pools were small so you feel less worried about creatures from the deep lurking in the shadows.  Sadly we only spent an hour there because we’d gotten a late start and the car rental wouldn’t insurance the vehicle after nightfall due to inconvenient jumping kangaroos. 

Our last stop was Whangi Falls.  It was really cool to see so much waterfall variety in one trip…this final one featuring two tall, skinny plumes of water cascading down the sides of deep red rock.  I felt like I was in Indiana Jones.  Turns out in dry season there is a boardwalk through the jungle up to the top of the falls and back down around the other side.  

Brave Americans, we set off into the jungle confidence dripping from our sweaty bodies.  About five minutes into the 45 minute hike, we were deafened by the sounds of the forest.  The animal symphony was like nothing I’d ever heard and it was getting imperceptibly darker with each step.  I tried to remind myself that crocodiles don’t really hang out in dry season, but the small elevation between the boardwalk and the jungle floor was fueling my imagination.  

At the top of the falls (it’s a very easy hike) we were greeted by a blood red sunset.  It was incredible.  Kilometers of trees and bushes stretched out as far as the “eye” could see.  We were held captive watching the vibrant changing colours of sky as the sun lowered closer and closer to the horizon.  It was right as the sun started to tuck behind that I realised… we still need to get down and only had two iPhone torches to light the way.  

I’ve never hiked downhill faster in my life.

We reached the car and joined Taylor in her tragic love songs for the three hours home, tangerine burned into the back of our retinas.  

Luckily we avoided any ill-fated wildlife bouncing across the road on our way home, returned the car and sleepily stumbled to an early dinner at Ruby Vietnamese.  I remember the food being so so good but I could barely keep my one good eye open so we called it a day and headed home.

The next morning we decided to give town another try. We’d heard there was a little man-made beach called City Beach in the Wharf Precinct.  It being a holiday, we were banking on everyone being out to enjoy their day off.  We were right!  The little man-made beach with humming with people drinking coffees, eating takeaway fish and chips or sipping beers from the ring of restaurants surrounding the water.  My eye was still bothering me and my good humour was wearing thin so I spent most of the day napping on the grass.  It was a nice, relaxing ending to our aggressive weekend.

Growing up in small towns all through Oregon, the kindness of the local people reminded me of home.  The climate was drier which I greatly prefer to the sticky humidity of eastern Queensland and NSW and the natural beauty of the Northern Territory’s national parks was breathtaking.  Overall, I would say Darwin won that round as I returned to Sydney, a shell of a human, but I would go back in a heartbeat.  

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