Friday, April 12, 2013

Darwin, Northern Territory, Australia

12 April 2013

We're adjusting to Darwin: a little bit slower, a little bit hotter, and a whole lotta humid going on.  No mosquitoes, though - I'm not sure if there aren't any puddles here, or if the thousands of bats we hear in the trees each night are eating the mosquitoes before they can bite us.  

We're definitely enjoying the heat, though - such a welcome change for these displaced adopted Virgin Islanders who froze in New Zealand!  

The daily temperature right now in Darwin, up in the Top End of Australia, is about 30 Celsius a day.  That's about 90-92 degrees for all you Farenheit people.  No idea what the humidity is, but it is definitely here.  Not so much that walking is difficult, or like moving through a cloud of moisture.  But definitely humid.

So we've been exploring, walking in different directions and getting our bearings.  Darwin is a small town, with an interesting CBD - there doesn't seem to be any industry here other than tourism.  (We know all about that, that's the main industry in the VI, too!)  There are tour operators, fishing charters, crocodile-quariums (I don't know what else to call them - reptilian zoos?  croc and snake visits?) - and the usual hostels, hotels, motels, restaurants, cafés, souvenir stores, clothing stores.  Darwin and the area is all about the environment - lots of deep sea fishing, or tours to explore the beautiful national parks surrounding the area, or the usual hiking and camping.  And of course there are all the places to house/feed/clothe/amuse these visitors.  Many of whom are young people, from all over the world.

We've been trying to find a camper van for the next week or two, but it seems most things are either booked or sent elsewhere, since this is the beginning of the dry season around here.  We're looking at other options, such as maybe renting a car, or just staying in Darwin and taking day trips.  Or some of the two-day trips, but we aren't sure we want to go on a camping kind of a trip.  Because there are crocs.  Big crocs.  There are daily reports in the newspaper about crocodiles in places like, oh, hanging out in a park under a picnic table.  Or the 4.25 meter (as in about 12-14 foot long) crocodile caught.  Or the couple of crocs hanging around schools (hoping to eat little children?).  Or the dog-eating croc who was terrorizing a community - two large crocs were shot in that neighborhood, but they aren't sure if they got the right crocs.

Anyway, with these daily stories, as I said we aren't too sure we're willing to go off camping.  Because in addition to the friendly crocs, there are snakes.  And spiders.  And a bunch of other stuff that really is just out there to kill you.  So we may go the less-adventurous route and do planned trips with tour operators.  Because, well, we really don't want any close encounters with anything with giant jaws or poisonous fangs.

So we've been researching, contacting companies, gathering information.  And planning our time away from Australia.

I know, it seems odd that we need to leave Australia before we've seen everything we want to see.  Our visa is good for twelve months in country, with the stipulation that we leave the country every three months.  We figured Darwin, being up north, was a good jumping-off spot for southern Asia or the Pacific Islands - and we thought maybe Singapore, or Bali, or something like that.

We went to a travel agent.  Sat down, and explained that we needed to leave the country by the last day of April.  And that we really didn't care too much where we went, because we're just travelling.  That we thought maybe Singapore, Bali, somewhere - as long as it wasn't a really pricey place.  So what did she recommend?

She laughed.  We chatted.  And we all agreed that Singapore or Bali were probably the best places to go with - so we said sure, let's do Singapore.  We've never been to a city-state before, so, well, why not?  

We are now proud owners of tickets to Singapore, leaving at the end of April and coming back in mid-May.  We even have a booking for a hotel - nothing fancy, but a little bit outside the main downtown part of the city, in Geylung - and yes, if you know Singapore, this is the vibrant multicultural trendy area, which is also the red light district.  Should be interesting!

So we're set for our time out of country.  We just have to figure out how to best explore the several national parks around here - Kakadu, Litchfield, and the Gorges.  And see some crocodiles - from a distance.

That's our excitement - planning, and getting things accomplished.  In between walking, exploring, trying new foods, and chatting with both local people and other visitors.

Oh, and the occasional pokie machine - I played a game called Fifteen Lions, where the aim is to get three rows/five columns of lions - and I managed to get fourteen lions on the game - so while I didn't win the grand prize, I was only a bit short of that.  A nice little win (well, a nice big win! but not a giant win!) on this machine.  Especially since this was a 25 cent bet!  No one in the pub had ever seen anyone get so many lions on this machine, and people came running in to see - one lady took a photo, as did I - because all fourteen lions were running and leaping on the screen, and roaring away!  It was really impressive!  Of course, I hugged and kissed the machine when I realized I had won so many lines of lions.  (These machines have straight as well as zigzaggy lines, so this was a win of 17 lines!  Crazy machines!)

We also learned a new Aussie word - hoon.  A hoon is a bad driver.  (This was in a headline - Hoon drives car into neighbor's front yard fence.)  There are actually anti-hoon laws here in Oz.  So that hoons (and one presumes hoonies) don't go out hooning.  I guess.

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