Tuesday, April 21, 2009


Leaving Bali just before midnight and arriving in Darwin at 3 o'clock in the morning is murder. I had a spot of bother getting my bag's of apostrophe's through Custom's. As they told me, "We've got heap's of apostrophe's in the country already; we don't wan't any more import's." However, after consulting various regulation's, two senior Custom's official's allowed all my apostrophe's in. But they did suggest that in future it would help if I didn't enter on my arrival card under "Occupation" the words "Apostrophe-NAZI".

Never arrive anywhere in the dead of night and expect a welcome! Darwin Central was booked out. The night porters John Dada and Umit were most apologetic but full is full! So were all the other 24-hour reception places as there are a couple of conventions in town. Anyway, they were all around $200 a night and more!

(Actually, there was a "backpacker-ish" sort of place that had a single, self-contained room for $75, and while the reception-guy's dreadlocks didn't inspire confidence, I was prepared to take a punt but blew my fuse when he wanted to inspect and photocopy my passport as part of the registration process! Inspect my passport? And photocopy it? In my own country? I realised later that this seemed standard procedure in the Top End to catch out illegal immigrants but at the time I considered it an affront to my civil liberties.)

Took a taxi back out to the airport and was determined to catch the first flight down to Sydney. What stopped me was that the next flight out was only on Wednesday. And it would have cost me another $427 on top of what I had already paid. Took the shuttle bus for the second time into town and found a room at the inn - the Poinciana Inn on the corner of McLachlan and Mitchell Streets, to be precise - where Esther, the night-porter - from Kalimantan!!! - even allowed me a very early check-in at 6 am so that I could go to sleep immediately. It's right in the centre of town at the top-end of Mitchell Street which is the entertainment strip of Darwin with wall-to-wall bars, restaurants, and discoes from one end to the other. It's a slightly ageing but spotlessly clean place of the kind that reminds me of hotels in the 60s except that this one must have been built at least ten years later as Cyclone Tracy wiped out all of Darwin at Christmas 1974. At $125 a night it's just a very ordinary hotel. Compare that to the $15 a night I paid at the exquisitely appointed and rather exclusive Banjar Hills Retreat! Saying 'good-bye' to Bali meant saying 'good-bye' to low prices, to immediate eye-contact and friendly smiles!

I have a sneaking suspicion that the owner of the hotel is a German. Although I have not actually seen the word "VERBOTEN", the place has sticky-taped signs everywhere: 'NIGHT-SWIMMING PROHIBITED", 'NO SMOKING IN ROOM - PENALTIES APPLY", "NO UNATTENDED CHILDREN IN LIFT", "NO SPITTING OFF BALCONY", and "PUT LITTER IN BIN PROVIDED".

It's now midday and I'm almost rested and sitting in an internet café called Cheap AZ Travel in Knuckey Street next to SUBWAYS which is half the price of any other internet place in town and where half the world seems to meet as there are people of all shapes and shades living in their own parallel universes.

I've had some Chinese food, or, as the Chinese call it, food. I've also been into Woolworths and bought Swiss cheese, sliced ham, crunchy breadrolls and apple juice, and some traditional soft licorice - all the sorts of things I couldn't get in Bali.

I am now ready to explore the city. First impressions: it's hot, hot, and hot! And it's a huge concrete jungle! No real feel of an outback town or what the Darwin of old used to be.

I was going to visit the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets on Fannie Bay tonight but was told that it won't start again until the 30th of April. I'll be on the morning-flight to Sydney on the 25th, then the bus, then the old CAMRY up to Riverbend - and I'm ready for a long, long holiday at "Riverbend"! Home sweet home? You bet!