Feeling at Home in Darwin

Days 413-414

I was in Darwin in the Northern Territory of Australia for two more days. I wanted to explore a bit of the city, so I walked around downtown. The city was clean and had a great combination of city and nature. I passed a park that had a festival going on. Then I crossed a pedestrian bridge to a beach where people could swim, croc free, thanks to some barricades. 

The humidity made me sweat like crazy. I decided to rest at an outdoor restaurant with tacos and sangria for happy hour. Darwin gets extremely hot and humid during their monsoon season. The monsoon season was quickly approaching, so the heat and humidity came with it.  

On my way back towards downtown, I stopped at the outdoor festival. Now that it was evening, lots of people were eating food from the booths and food trucks. String lights were strewn above a band playing live music, making it feel whimsical. 

I wandered to the outdoor theatre and waited in line to buy a ticket to Rocketman. They stopped selling tickets, saying it was full, but they’d sell some more tickets if people didn’t show up. I waited patiently in line with a few others, and I was able to snag one of the last tickets! I sat outside in a plastic lawn chair and enjoyed the movie under the stars. 

The next day, I walked down to a reptile house that had crocodiles, snakes, and all sorts of creepy crawlers. Some of the crocodiles were medium-sized (about the size of ones I had seen in the wild), but others were massive! They even had a clear plastic circular cage for people to swim with an enormous crocodile. I watched two girls inside the cage as a crocodile, at least twice their size, circled them. 

The sign in front of one beast read, “Watch out ladies! Burt may be a famous movie star but he’s got a killer reputation with women. At 5.1 M and weighing 700kg, Burt is our oldest and most famous resident. Burt was captured at the Reynolds River in 1981 after a string of attacks on cattle. He then starred alongside Paul Hogan and Linda Kozlowski in the original Crocodile Dundee movie, along with a host of documentaries and awareness programs. Around here though, he is more famous for his habit of attacking every female who was keen to become his mate! This is why Burt is now a confirmed bachelor at 80 years old.”

I browsed through, checking out the venomous creatures and predators. Here are some things I learned:

  • The Inland Taipan snake’s typical venom yield could kill approximately 100 people. It is considered the world’s most venomous snake, but there are no actual deaths recorded. The snake lives in such a remote area; there aren’t any people around. There are a few reported bites from handlers, who fell gravely ill. 
  • The Western Brown Snake is movement driven. The faster a movement, the faster a reaction. 

Towards the end of the exhibition, there was an opportunity to pet a baby crocodile. A woman was holding the baby with his mouth taped shut. I touched his skin, which felt soft and a little slippery. 

This little guy was 1.5 years old

Once I finished seeing all of the animals, I hopped on the Hop-On/Hop-Off bus to see the surrounding areas of Darwin. I enjoy these because I also get a chance to plug in my headphones and learn about the city. 

  • Darwin’s population is 120,000, making up most of the Northern Territory, which has a total of 223,000 people. 
  • Darwin is known as the Gateway to Asia because of its proximity.
  • Japan bombed Darwin in February 1942 in two raids with 188 warplanes due to its strategic location and port. It is often referred to as “The Pearl Harbor of Australia.”
  • The hospital was bombed in that attack, nine days after it opened. 
  • On Christmas day in 1974, Cyclone Tracy struck Darwin, destroying 70% of the buildings. It was estimated that the wind speeds were up to 250 kilometers (160 mph). The hospital was destroyed once again.
  • The harbor in Darwin is the largest in the southern hemisphere. It’s eight times the size of the Sydney harbor. 

I got off the bus at the casino and gambled for a little bit so I could enjoy the air conditioning. After eating lunch, I walked around a beautiful paved path under trees that stretched along the ocean. There was an area connected to the beach, so I walked on the sand for a little while. It was in the 90s °F (35 °C) that day and very humid. 

I got back on the bus because I needed to get to the other side of town for a sunset boat cruise. As I sat on the top deck, I noticed a guy walk up and talk to the driver. Then he walked back towards a bench. As we pulled away, I realized it was Andy! I met him on a rock climbing and abseiling tour a couple of weeks earlier and then ran into him in Broome. I sent him a text message, and he confirmed that it was indeed him. We agreed to meet up for a drink later that evening. 

I arrived at the pier and ordered a beer while waiting for my boat tour. The birds stalked everyone, scooping up any food they could get their hands on. 

The inflatable boat was medium-sized, just a single level, and all of it open to the air. There was an umbrella overhang protecting us from the sun. I was seated at the end of a row next to three women: Michelle, Dee, and Paula. Michelle sat next to me in her sleek black dress and beautiful earrings. She had short blonde hair, reminding me of a high-level woman that worked at the last company I worked for. 

The women appeared to be in their 50s and were from Melbourne. They had come to Darwin for the horse races and a girl’s weekend. It was their first time there, and they wanted to escape the cold in Melbourne. Michelle told me how her son went to the U.S. and Canada for five months and loved it. His favorite place was Lake Louise in Canada. 

We all drank wine as the boat raced around the ocean. The city was to our right and the open ocean to our left. The boat was going so fast that we couldn’t talk much while it was racing away. 

The boat stopped, and the crew picked up box dinners for us at a restaurant off the ocean. We each got fish and chips. There was a tray in front of me like on an airplane, so I pulled it down to eat my dinner. Next, we stopped at a sandbar to walk around and watch the sunset. 

I walked along the sand, enjoying the views. A girl in her 20s who was part of the crew asked if I wanted a picture taken, and then we started talking. She was originally from Tasmania but grew up in Darwin. She moved to Perth for four years but recently came back to Darwin. I asked her what Tasmania was like because I planned to finish my trip there. She described it as being a good place for older people and that it was beautiful. I told her about the U.S., and she told me not to spend much time in Sydney because it was just a touristy city. 

We got back on the boat and raced towards the harbor. The sunset turned into a beautiful purplish color and then a deep orange. The air had cooled slightly and the wind felt great!

Once the boat tour was finished, I walked towards downtown. The outdoor festival was going on, and I met Andy there. A band was playing live music inside a large, circular tent. Andy and I didn’t have wrist bands, and the concert was almost over. We asked a woman if we could just go inside for the last ten minutes. Andy convinced her to let us in, and we sat in the back on some bleachers. I walked to the bar to get us some drinks, but the bartenders didn’t want to serve me because of the lack of a wrist band. However, I was successful in talking them into giving me a beer. 

Once the concert ended, Andy and I walked to an indoor/outdoor bar for a beer. It was great running into him again. He told me about how he drove through the Kimberley region and did some hiking. I told him about the ten-day adventure tour

Andy was in his early 50s and had been working remotely while traveling. He lived on the east coast but flew to Perth and rented a car. He was only supposed to drive up the coast and a little bit inland, but he ended up driving all the way to Darwin. Andy was torn on whether he should leave the car in Darwin and fly home, or drive it back to Perth and fly from there.

The rental car company would charge a $3,000 fee if he didn’t return the car to Perth. But driving back would be 4,667 kilometers (2,900 miles), going through the outback and Nullarbor. The gas is costly in the bush, and so are the motels. Andy asked me what it was like driving through the center and the Nullarbor, so I told him that overall, I liked it, but it is a lot of driving through nothing. Getting to see Coober Pedy (an underground town) and Uluru were worth it though. After thinking about it, he ended up driving the car back to Perth. 

Andy and I talked all about life and how to live it. He had retired early and was working with his investments. He had the opportunity to travel around Australia for a bit and was really enjoying it. Andy was a very fit and active guy, and his adventurous spirit inspired me. He also had encouraging words for me about quitting my job and traveling. I told him what it was like and the things I had done. The more he encouraged me, the better I felt about where I was at in life. 

Andy and Me

My friend Austin, who I had met up with two days before, ended up at the bar. He joined us for a little while before joining his friends. It was the perfect way to spend my last night in Darwin. Even though I had a hard time saying goodbye to my fellow travelers on the adventure tour a week earlier, I made friends at the horse races and my Airbnb. Then I was able to meet up with friends like Andy and Austin. It helped me to remember that I’d be okay. Australia was feeling like a home – I was randomly running into people that I knew, making the world feel a little smaller. 

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Published by Christy

I quit my corporate job and sold my house in Los Angeles so I can travel and write. I grew up in St. Louis, MO and moved to the Los Angeles area after college. I worked in the business world for 15 years. Follow along to see pictures and hear stories of people I've met along my journey so far - driving to Alaska.

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