Names like Kakadu, Arnhem Land, Jabiluka, the Kimberley
have been just that, names, to me,
tucked away in Melbourne.
Names slightly mystical in feel, often emotive in use and always, definitely remote.
Which in a sense they are of course, ‘tucked away’ in the far north eastern tip of this vast continent with me, in the deep south so to speak.
3 573 km apart according to google maps.
So when a spot was offered me on a horse trail through The Kimberley’s, well you can see why I had no choice. 😉😉🐴🐴
Interestingly, anything that involves local travel, is quite expensive and a trip up north dents the bank balance almost more than if I was going off shore. So I felt obliged to ‘do more than just the ride’ and of course dent that balance even more!
But so worth it – every cent.
Darwin, the capital of the Northern Territory is closer to Timor than it is to Melbourne and it feels that way too. In so many ways.
A million miles from Melbourne (okay I know, 3 573 km to be exact) but you get my meaning!
The climate which thankfully is less oppressive than I had anticipated creates ‘a look’ that is distinctive: shorts, sandals of varying descriptions or none at all.
Casual, slightly dishevelled, wind blown, sun swept, almost Californian but without the ‘bling’. Not that there isn’t bling in Darwin, some of the jewellery shops show quite a bit, but the general feel is more frontier town than high end holiday space. A deliberate facade I felt.
Based on The Esplanade, I wandered around the city and took an evening cruise in the harbour.
There was So much to see and learn.
Such as, NASA had a Darwin airport runway which was particularly long, earmarked as a potential shuttle landing spot if ‘things went awry’ internationally and they didn’t want to or could not land in the USA. History shows it wasn’t used – but a good trivia question.
The Aviation Museum has 1 of the only 2 B52 bombers still on show. (lent to us by USAAF)
Amy Johnson was the first female pilot to fly alone from Britain to Australia. She flew from Croydon, south of London on May 5th 1930 and crash landed in Darwin, 18 000km and 21 days later. (crash landing after flying safely for such a distance – another blog awaits !)
Darwin was given the name by a British expedition arriving in 1839 in honour of Charles Darwin who had sailed with them on a prior expedition.
It has a small resident population (101 000?) but fills up during the winter with tourists passing through to a staggering 1.38 million spending over $1.5 bill.
It has a crazy climate of almost only 2 seasons, hot and hot and humid when the rains come between December and March. The hottest month is November, just before the onset of the main rain season when the heat index can rise above 45 °C (113 °F).
It is one of the most lightning-prone areas in Australia. On 31 January 2002 an early-morning squall line produced over 5,000 cloud-to-ground lightning strikes within a 60-kilometre (37 mi) radius of Darwin alone – about three times the amount of lightning that Perth, Western Australia, experiences on average in an entire year!
Darwin has been destroyed and rebuilt 4 times in modern history (who knows how many times before ‘the white man’ arrived).
- In 1897 a cyclone destroyed Darwin (estimated cost UK pounds 150 000 in 1897 terms)
2) In 1937 another cyclone with estimated costs of UK pounds 100 000.
3) In 1942 Darwin was bombed by the Japanese and the military was taken completely by surprise. Most of the ships in the harbour were anchored near each other, making them an easy target for air attack and it would appear no plans had been prepared for how the ships should respond to an air raid.
Interestingly more aircraft were used and more bombs dropped on Darwin than on Pearl Harbour.
Interesting snippet I read:
At 9.35 am Father McGrath of the Sacred Heart mission on Bathurst Island, who was also an Australian coastwatcher, sent a message using a pedal radio to the Amalgamated Wireless Postal Radio Station at Darwin that a large number of aircraft were flying overhead and proceeding southward. The message was then relayed to the Royal Australian Air Force Operations at 9.37 am. No general alarm was given until about 10 am as the RAAF officers there wrongly judged that the aircraft which had been sighted were the ten USAAF P-40s, which were returning to Darwin at the time after reports of bad weather forced them to abort a flight to Java via Kupang, West Timor. As a result, the air raid sirens at Darwin were not sounded before the raid.”
4) Cyclone Tracey devastated Darwin in 1974, killing 71 people, and causing A$837 million in damage (1974 dollars).
And then there is the harbour. And a lovely dinner cruise with strangers who were friends by the end of the evening.
And so a quick visit to an interesting town ended.
But little did I know What an adventure awaited me.
Kakadu and Arnhem Land.