Darwin Horse Races

I was back to traveling solo, but thankfully, I had my Airbnb hosts and a friend who was still in town. I also met some great people at the horse races who welcomed me into their groups without hesitation.

Days 408-409

I woke up feeling better after a rough night of goodbyes, but still didn’t feel like myself. I left my bedroom to use the toilet, and Brian, the Airbnb host, was in the living room. He told me that he and Amy planned on going to the mall in an hour, and I was welcome to hitch a ride with them because it was about 15 minutes away. 

I felt terrible that I didn’t talk to Brian and Amy much when I arrived. I had to rush off to dinner, and my mood that day was so depressed that I couldn’t muster the energy to be my usual energetic self. Brian and I briefly talked in the car, and his wife, Amy, didn’t seem to know much English. I wondered how they communicate. 

At the mall, we split up. I went to K-Mart and bought a pair of shorts, a shirt, and some cheap shoes. The next day was a holiday, and the Greyhound station where I needed to pick up my suitcase would be closed until Tuesday. The holiday was called Picnic Day, and I asked Brian what it was. He said it’s basically a day off, like our Labor Day. They purposely schedule it on the weekend of the horse races, and it’s only in the Northern Territory. 

I walked around the mall, feeling drained. There’s something about the mall that gives me a sick feeling. It reminds me of many years with my ex-husband. We’d shop around, going to stores, getting snacks, and maybe seeing a movie. It’s a life that seems so foreign to me now. It’s a life I don’t want again. I instantly get this feeling of “stagnant relationship” when I’m in a mall. 

I ate some lunch and then sat in a massage chair to relax. Shortly after, Brian and Amy were ready to leave, so I hitched a ride back home. I spent the afternoon writing about the ten-day adventure tour. Writing always helps me process things. I figured it would be better to write while it was fresh. 

At 5:00 pm, Brian told me that Amy made dinner, and I was welcome to join. I didn’t have much of an appetite, but I joined them. Brian told me that he used to be in the Navy, but now he works as a supervisor overseeing electricians. He had four more years until he retired. Brian was married for 30 years and had two grown children from the marriage. Around six years ago, he got divorced. It was amicable, and they’re still friends. She kept the main house, and he took the vacation apartment. 

Brian told me that Amy is from Hong Kong. She didn’t speak much English, but she was very sweet. She ran two nail salons on the east coast of Australia and lived there most of the time. Amy was in town to help Brian with a surgery that he was getting on Tuesday. I saw their wedding pictures on the wall and wondered how they met. They seemed to be making a long-distance marriage work just fine. 

After dinner, I went back to my room to write. I wrote, cried, and processed. Then I took a shower and went to bed. I tossed and turned again, unable to sleep well. I had so many regrets with Damien. I was angry with myself, and I desperately wanted to tell him how I felt.

The next morning, I felt slightly better. Sometimes I just need to cry and let it all out. I was still thinking about Damien, and I was upset that I had no way of contacting him. I called the tour company and asked if I could have his number to see if I left a foam mattress pad in the truck. It was missing, but I was pretty sure I left it at the last campsite. The woman told me that she couldn’t give out their numbers, but she’d send a message to Damien about the mat. She told me that either she or Damien would call me back. 

I didn’t want to ruin my time in Darwin, and I was told the final cup horse races were going on that day. I got dressed, thankful that I bought a pair of shorts and a shirt the day prior. 

I got a ride again from Brian and Amy. They were dressed in nice clothes, which made my jean shorts look too casual. Thankfully once I arrived, I saw people dressed in both casual and formal attire.

It was hot and humid, with hardly any breeze. I left Brian and Amy so that I could walk around and check things out. It was crowded. There were plastic, rectangular tables with chairs under large tents, but the tables were full. There were bars, a couple of food booths, and betting areas. I bought some fish and chips and talked with a guy at a betting window.

There were several races that day (around nine to ten), with the cup being the final race. I placed a $15 bet for the upcoming race and continued walking around. I bought a beer and ended up at Brian and Amy’s table. I tried to cool off but continued to sweat heavily.

Linda, who I had met on the ten-day tour from Broome to Darwin, showed up, so I met her in the middle section. Linda was with her hostel roommate, Annabel, and a few guys from Melbourne who she had met the night at our final dinner. I said hello to James because I had met him two nights earlier as well. James was 35 and was in Darwin with friends for the horse races. They introduced me to their other friends. 

Annabel was a sweet, short, 20-year-old German girl with long blonde hair. She had a working tourist visa and spent several months on a farm tending to animals. At first, it was tough because she was alone for a month and new to farming. She ended up really enjoying the farm and showed me pictures of a one-day-old cow. Annabel used to believe she needed to be with someone to be happy. But traveling solo has shown her that she doesn’t need someone and can be happy alone. After her farm work, Annabel traveled from Adelaide to Darwin with a tour group. 

Linda told me about how crazy the guys were. The night she met them, she went with James to a gay club because he likes how fun they are. They ended up doing cocaine, which was her first time. She said they spent a ton of money and then said that the guys told disgusting stories about women they screwed in the past. 

I was disgusted hearing the stories – weak men who abused drunk women and took advantage of their insecurity. Linda insisted James wasn’t like that, and he thought the stories were crazy too. I thought Linda was too good for them. Hours later, two of the guys showed a video to one of the guys I was talking to. They tried to hide it from me, but it was of a woman in a g-string and no top, doing something sexual. Their whole mentality disgusted me. 

The races were about every 40 minutes, and I bet $10 on most (except the first one, $15). Unfortunately, I lost each race except for one when I bet on American Muscle. He came in third place, and I won $14.50.

For each race, I lined up at the fence to watch the action up close. I loved seeing how fast the horses raced by and feeling the rush. Before one of the races, I was at the fence and met a woman named Emma. She appeared to be in her 30s, was very fit, had medium-length blonde hair with a slight curl, a hat with flowers on it, a big smile, and bright blue eyes. She looked like she walked out of a magazine.

Emma was lovely, and we became fast friends. We joked about our inability to place smart bets. She was from Brisbane, was visiting her brother in Darwin, and also wanted to see the races. After watching our horses lose, Emma asked me if I had a group to go back to. I told her I had some friends nearby that I had met up with. She walked me over to her brother and uncle, and we all had a great time chatting.

We placed a bet together, and then she met the group I was with. We went back to our separate groups, but I was happy to have met her. She was a fun, beautiful woman who brightened my day. Emma’s positive energy was a reminder that I’d be okay as I continued to travel solo. 

The heat from the races, and the beers, were making me tired. Linda’s group had found some chairs and put them on a section of grass near the walkway. A band started to play after the races finished around 6:30 pm. Annabel told me that she was also tired. We talked about our travels and life lessons, and then she said she didn’t care for the guys in our group. I agreed, and we conspired to leave.

Meat pies instead of hotdogs

Around 7:00 pm, Annabel and I got in an Uber and headed to an Irish bar in downtown Darwin. With her large, innocent eyes, Annabel told me that she wasn’t comfortable hanging out with the older guys, who were in their late 30s to early 40s with some gray hair. I laughed and told her I was 39. She was surprised by that and I told her I also felt like those guys were creeps, so no worries. 

At the Irish bar, I met a few guys who Annabel knew through her tour and hostel. We went to the bar to get drinks, and she said, “The guy with bright blue eyes is making me crazy!” I laughed, and she told me that she was happy that I was there with her. 

I talked with Bert, a 30-year-old from England. He met Annabel on their tour, and he was a nice guy to talk with. He told me I looked cool, leaning on a tall, narrow ledge wrapped around a pole. I assured him, “That’s how I roll.” We were outside by a DJ playing music and people that were dancing. On the other side of us were dining tables where people were eating dinner. I was enjoying all of their company, but I was also tired of the same bar scene. I went for a walk down the street to see what else was around. 

As I walked past all of the bars and restaurants, I couldn’t help but feel frustrated. It seemed like every guy was a carbon copy of the next. They look similar, they act similar, they are boring, and they are predictable.

I went back to the bar and hung out with Annabel and Bert for a while longer. They were genuine people who I felt comfortable around. At 10:00 pm, I was tired and took an Uber back to my Airbnb. 

I never heard back from the travel company or Damien about my foam pad. I figured he was ignoring the request. I knew I wouldn’t be able to contact him by phone. However, Suzanne had told me which airline he was flying (and the layover city) the following day. Darwin is a small airport, so it was easy to find his flight. I had no other option, so I mentally prepared to find him there. 

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Post Edited By: Mandy Strider

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Throughout her wild 3-week journey backpacking 220+ miles in the California Sierra Mountains, Christy encountered freezing temperatures, pelting hail storms, and losing her way, but found trail family, incredible views, and experiences that would change her life forever. Hiking up and over ten different mountain passes gave Christy a lot of time to think about why her nine-year marriage was falling apart, gave her the chance to truly embody her individualism, time to make new friends, and the strength she would need on and off the trail. Her life could never again be the same.
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