We’ve been in Darwin for nearly a month now, a break in our journey which we hadn’t planned. One of the good things about being in Tipperary Waters marina is that there is a lot of yachties here who have sailed across the top of Australia and down the east coast of Queensland at least once and many of them several times. Therefore there’s a lot of advice and experience around and the advice is to wait for the SE winds to abate a little or swing around to the NW (which would be even better) before trying to head through the Torres Strait. This usually happens in the last quarter of the year and most people plan to leave here in November/December. So here we are for at least another 6-8 weeks!
Darwin’s not a bad town. Some of the architecture is hideously seventies as the town was almost completely rebuilt after cyclone Tracey hit in 1974. However the city has expanded over the last thirty years and much of the housing and shopping malls are modern cyclone proof buildings, tinny and colourful. It has some beautiful parks with cycle paths (great for running) and wherever you are you can almost always see the sea. There are several good restaurants including one that is apparently rated third best in Australia. We haven’t been there yet – still saving! The talk of the town has been the temporary residence of Nicole Kidman who has been up here filming scenes for her new movie “Australia”. Now she’s moved on and life in Darwin has settled back into it’s normal dry season routine.
The weather is fantastic at this time of year, a permanently blue sky, warm with a cool breeze. The light in the evenings is golden, perfect for photography. A couple of weeks ago we hired a car and spent a few days in Litchfield National Park, we had a hankering to see red dirt instead of blue sea! The park is about 150km inland from Darwin and we drove in on a dirt road from the north. The bush is dry and dusty with short, scrubby eucalypts, a few tree ferns and the odd termite mounds.
It becomes most colourful after a fire when the bright green new growth begins to sprout up out of the black ashes. Litchfield Parks is famous for it’s gorges and waterfalls and the first evening we took a dip in the Wangi Falls. The water was breathtakingly cold but we plunged in (yeah right, we gingerly edged our way in!) and managed to swim across the pool to the last remaining rays of sunlight and warmth in the gully. I couldn’t believe how cold it was that night. We were sleeping in a glorified tent (a “safari” camp) with a duvet and a couple of blankets! Brass monkey weather!!
The next day we saw just about all Litchfield had to offer without a four wheel drive. It was a Saturday so most of the waterfalls were so crowded you were lucky to get a parking space. In fact you were probably unlucky as the swimming pools were also incredibly crowded and noisy – better to just move on. We found one quiet spot at Green Ant Creek where we walked a couple of kilometres up to the top of the Tjaetaba Falls.
It was a peaceful spot with a beautiful view. We left the park on Saturday afternoon and had a night in a town called Batchelor,
so called because it was built to house the workers of the nearby uranium mine. The mine closed and now the residents lead a pretty quiet life but we managed to fine a warm welcome and a great feed at the Butterfly Farm restaurant.
More from your correspondents in Darwin later!!