on the run, on my own: going troppo
Before I landed in Darwin, I knew I was going to love it. I have always been the kind of girl who rooted for the underdog and, when it comes to Australian cities, I think it’s safe to say that Darwin is the underdog. Maybe it hasn’t got the beaches that Sydney has, or the cool vibe that Melbourne has, but I believe that Darwin definitely holds its own as the most interesting of Australian cities.
First up, Darwin is pretty much the most dangerous city I’ve been in – for no reason other than the critters. Everything can, and probably will, kill you. The taxi driver who picked me up from the train station was relishing in reciting his well-practised speech on all the deadly creatures that live in the Northern Territory and, more specifically, Darwin.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’ve heard this before. When anyone comes to Australia they are told that everything will kill them. Sharks will get you if you go paddling; there’ll be a snake waiting in your rucksack and, if you somehow manage to survive that, there’ll be a Redback in your knicker drawer. But you soon come to realise that this isn’t true and that the Aussies are probably laughing at the poor little tourists who are scared of anything with more than four legs.
Except in Darwin. The risks are real and you’d better listen to the warnings because if not, you’re pretty much going to get eaten. I was taking a leisurely stroll along the coast near Mindil Beach when I followed the path down and over this little bridge, surrounded by trees and water I couldn’t see the bottom of. Basically the perfect place for a crocodile to be waiting to pounce.
Out of all the deadly Australian animals, crocodiles frighten me the most. First, they look evil. Like dinosaurs – but worse. And second, have you seen how quickly they move? They lie there pretending to be logs and then, just when you think you’re safe… SNAP.
And they’re apparently everywhere up here. Oh, and jellyfish. Let’s not forget them.
Of course the thing that actually attacked me was probably the lamest of all the animals in Australia: the midge. I swear I’ve been bitten by midges before in France but Australian midges, like all their animals, are hardcore. I’ll spare you the vile details and, don’t worry, I will not be attaching a photo but I’ll just say that the doctor I saw (after the pharmacist practically frogmarched me to the practice) actually winced when I took my Band-Aids off.
Trust me to be eaten by the least cool of the Australian animals. I don’t even have a good story to tell.
The other thing that Darwin has are Australians that actually dress for the weather. When I was in Sydney and it was twenty-something degrees, I was aghast to see people wearing thick woolly tights and winter coats. Now, I know that it’s winter in Sydney but it’s twenty-something degrees! Although this is coming from the girl from Manchester where twenty-something is beer garden weather.
In Darwin, however, thongs, singlets, shorts and tattoos seem to be the dress code for everyone. The climate is basically two seasons: “wet” and “dry”. It’s (supposedly) the dry season at the moment, which makes me anxious to how I’d fare in the wet when I’m classing this as humid. The temperature pretty much stays at 33 degrees and if it dips below 30 degrees, it’s cold. I thought I’d acclimatised to the Aussie heat pretty well while I’d been in the country – until I came up here and have been trying to work out how few layers I can get away with wearing in public.
I think my favourite thing about Darwin is the sunset markets on Mindil Beach. Just over the sand dunes, you can peruse craft stalls while snacking on anything (or in my case, everything) you want. There are fire shows, star gazing and, perhaps the best thing, a bloke called Mick who lip syncs to songs while he whips the ground around him in time to the music. You haven’t seen anything until you’ve seen Mick and his whips.
Since I’ve been in Australia, I seem to have managed to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I missed the Finke Desert Race in Alice because I was in the Outback; I missed Darwin’s Beer Can Regatta because I’m currently on a mango farm (more on that in my next article!) but I managed to time Territory Day perfectly.
Territory Day is the only day that fireworks are allowed in the Northern Territory and, in between fancy yachts, fireworks are set off over the Timor Ocean. We got front row seats, sitting on a blanket with a bottle of chilled wine, surrounded by great new friends, belly full of delicious food…
I don’t think there’s much better than sitting on the beach with a chilled bottle of wine, surrounded by great new friends and watching the fireworks.
I feel like I’ve only seen half of what Darwin has to offer because of time restraints and the fact that my feet were twice the size they should’ve been (thanks to the midges) but I can’t wait to see the rest.
Armed with bug spray. All the bug spray.