TUESDAY FEBRUARY 8 DARWIN
Again, we slept well.
The morning weather pattern seemed to be balmy and really nice, but then there was increasing humidity through the day. It appeared that Cyclone Yasi had sucked the usual monsoon weather patterns to the south.
We both went down for breakfast at the Sunset. I’d decided to be like John and eat a big breakfast, then not have to worry too much about lunch. Only problem was that I wasn’t used to eating up big in the mornings, and could only manage some fruit, juice and toast.
Drove into the centre of town. Finding parking was easy. Went to the Information Centre where I collected some gumpf. We went to the counter to buy Kakadu Park passes – $50 for the two of us. Another traveller there said the highway was flooded; he’d been heading for Jabiru and had to turn back. The sales lady said that if that happened to us, we could get a refund.
Walked the Mall. The shops there still had the same rather kitchy touristy type stuff. There was one fairly good seeming gallery featuring aboriginal art and we did have a little browse in that. The reality of air travel and baggage limits acted as a brake on any impulse buying…..
Had a walk around the historic Star Theatre site. The Star Theatre had been a major venue on Darwin’s social scene, from the 1930’s. It was, as befitted the climate, partially open air. It was largely destroyed by Cyclone Tracey in 1974 – along with most of Darwin! Some parts of the theatre were left, and they had now been incorporated into a little arcade that was interesting to wander through.
We rather had to push ourselves to be out and about as the humidity built through the day.
Drove to Stokes Hill Wharf precinct to have a look around there. There had been more development in that area since we were last here in 2006.
In a pearl gallery/shop there, I bought some dangly freshwater pearl earrings – unusual, and good value with a 20% discount because of the season.
Saw the large Paspaley pearling ship moored at the wharf.
The Paspaley family is synonymous with the pearl industry in Australia, originally working in harvesting wild oyster pearls before WW2, but later developing the cultured – farmed – pearl industry. These days, Paspaley Pearls is a large and diversified business. This was only one of a fleet of pearling vessels they own.
Drove to the Aviation Museum, out near the airport. This was John’s choice – in his youth had been an air force cadet. He enjoyed wandering about, looking at the various preserved planes. I was particularly interested by the Vietnam War featured display.
I was a bit hungry, so wandered out to the car and ate the remains of yesterday’s bread roll, which had been left overnight in the car.
When John had seen enough aeroplanes, he decided we would go to the Cool Spot for a late lunch. But when we got there, I really didn’t feel like a meal, having eaten the roll. John then decided to pass on food as well, and we both had a coffee. Despite the oppressive air, we sat outside to have our drinks, just for old times sake. The Cool Spot remains a favourite of mine.
It had commenced raining in the mid afternoon, so we went back to the hotel. The man on Reception told us that the Ghan was a day late arriving in Darwin, due to floods in SA. It was not getting in until tomorrow, and not leaving until Thursday. I hoped that wouldn’t happen when it was our turn. We talked with him about the road floods. He actually went to the trouble of phoning to check for us and found the highway was still cut at the Wildman River. He said that, if we couldn’t get to Kakadu, we could extend our stay here, for $170 a night. We thought that offer was pretty good. I was most impressed by how friendly and helpful the reception staff here were.
After today’s explorings, it was so obvious that Darwin was a very quiet and different place without all the dry season tourists. I felt we were getting a sense of what it had been like for my various friends who came from Melbourne, back in the late 80’s, to teach at Kormilda, and stayed on for years. I could still see the attraction of the place – just a pity it is so far from Melbourne and family……
Had our evening meal at the Il Piatto restaurant at the Hotel. Italian type food, as suggested by the name. I had a delectable Veal Scaloppini, John had pasta bol! Not adventurous, but he said it was good.
At night, with our balcony door ajar, we could hear the calls of curlews – lovely.
In the early morning hours, there was thunder and lightning, but John was too tired to get up and look.