SUNDAY FEBRUARY 6 TO DARWIN
An early start was needed. There was packing to finalize with last minute items.
Breakfast was only a coffee for me – I was a little apprehensive, mostly about the drive to the airport. There was a time when traffic in Melbourne on a Sunday morning was really light, but no more.
Our flight was scheduled to depart at 2pm and we were to have our baggage checked in by 1.15 at the latest. I had printed off our paperwork at home, which made it easier at the airport.
My little car was deposited at Jetport Parking at 11am, their bus had us at the airport at 11.15. All quite seamless. Baggage for our Jetstar flight was not being accepted until midday, so we sat and read the Sunday Age.
Our combined baggage weighed in at 40.3kg, but no fuss was made about the surplus .3. My share of it was 17kg; in our family I am the economical packer!
Going through the security check was the usual three-ring circus act that we’d experienced in 2006-7. John had to take off his belt and shoes – and try to hold his trousers up. His metal hips set off alerts. Whilst waiting for him to get through, I scored an explosives check – a new experience for me. How conceivable was it that a would-be terrorist would come in the guise of a 65 year old grandmother with a somewhat bumbling partner?
Bought lunch. I had a herbed pizza roll, John had the same with cheese and a container of chips. We both had coffees – the best part of the meal, by far.
Our plane was late arriving from wherever, by 30 minutes, so we left Melbourne 20 minutes later than scheduled, but arrived in Darwin on time, at 4.50 CST – so the flight lasted four hours.
I had paid extra when booking the flight, for seats with extra leg room, by the emergency exit. They did have lots of space, but no window to look out of. I was annoyed that this fact was not made clear in the booking blurb. As it happened, we travelled over thick cloud all the way – more Yasi aftermath – so wouldn’t have seen much. Another annoyance was that I could have taken a bottle of water on board with me, despite all the prior information suggesting otherwise.
The flight was smoother than I’d expected, given the prevailing weather conditions across the continent. The staff were pleasant. The refreshments that were served were eminently forgettable.
Our plane was continuing on to Ho Chi Minh City, so baggage came off quickly.
Once out of the terminal, we were hit by a wave of hot and steamy air. with that hard-to-define but pleasant smell that I associated with Darwin. John was somewhat taken aback by how thick the humid air seemed. I had been here before in the Wet Season, but he hadn’t, so it was new for him. It felt like the temperature was around 30 degrees and the humidity well up the scale.
A taxi conveyed us to our chosen accommodation at Sky City – the hotel associated with the Casino, but one with frontage to Fannie Bay and the Timor Sea – and hopefully where John would see his storm displays. We were allocated Room 307, which gave us an outlook to the ocean view, to the Star City groomed lawns leading to the beach, and also a glimpse of the pool.
The hotel had a series of inner open air atriums, so that from the lift lobby, we walked internal balconies to get to our room, past tall palm trees and other tropical vegetation growing in the central atrium. That was a great effect – one did not feel shut in, like in normal hotel corridors.
Our room was pleasant without being ultra luxurious: big enough, clean, but there was only one armchair. The balcony was tiny. We could stand out on it to look at the view, but it was not big enough to sit out on in any comfort.
A message was waiting when I turned my phone back on, from my former boss, who had just arrived in Darwin – where he spent a lot of time, and had a base. He was suggesting we might catch up for tea. We were not in the mood for group socializing, so I ignored it.
After unpacking and settling in, we went to the Dragon Court Chinese restaurant in the hotel, for dinner. The meal was lovely. John had a duck dish, I had crispy pork belly and we shared fried rice. Indulged in a bottle of crouchen reisling. John – whose mindset was still anchored in frugal caravan travel – was a bit uptight at the overall cost of the meal, especially as the bottle of wine was $34. But it was our first night and thus warranted a little celebration in style, I thought.
Went and looked at the Casino part of the establishment, and briefly played the poker machines, giving ourselves a $10 cap each, and both taking a small profit, rather than ploughing it back into the machines.
We did not stay up late – it had been a long day – and our bodies were still operating on Melbourne time anyway.