Thursday, May 7, 2009

Our excellent adventure

None of us had ever been to the Northern Territory for more than a few days. Even then, it was only me and I’d been there on business, no real time to tour and in any case not recently.

Darwin is almost unrecognisable from 10 years ago, much less from the scenes of wreckage that Cyclone Tracy left 35 years ago. It’s an interesting, cosmopolitan city. All the restaurants are proudly badged with one ethic cuisine or another – Turkish, Indian, Thai, Italian etc. The pubs are open air bars and there is a real pulse to the place. There’s a real racial mix to the population, as well. Along with the standard white Aussies, many aborgines are visible, plus Chinese, Vietnamese, Indian and even African faces.

I’d always thought Canberra was pretty multicultural, but Darwin leaves it for dead. The developing countries I’ve been in usually have something of a mix, especially in the expatriate population. The UN in particular draws its field staff from a wide range of countries. In Darwin, however, you get the feel that these people belong here.

We took off from Dili at an ungodly hour and arrived in Darwin, only to find that rental cars were like hens’ teeth. Apparently all the rental companies are getting ready to sell of their present fleet and very few were available. I’d had no luck booking on the web, but we travelled hopefully and the wonderful woman on the Hertz desk managed to wangle us exactly the car we wanted. Hooray!

One bad thing about Dili is that although you can get most things, the prices are hideous. It is seriously cheaper to buy what you want, fly it back to Dili paying excess baggage prices and duty at the other end rather than buying it in Dili. So we hopped into our rentacar, drove to a huuuuge shopping mall and did in about 2000 bucks worth of purchases. We are still going to have to get it through NorthAir, Customs and Dili Customs, which should be entertaining.

Just Add Water attempted to have her dive gear fixed, but the guy who had taken it apart in Dili had even done that wrong so she didn’t have the crucial bit. An hour later she had a whole new subunit, and she’ll install that herself. Next time, she’ll bring home the right bits and get it all fixed.

We collapsed into our room with our booty in the midafternoon. The first thing we did was to haul out our empty bags and fill them. Yes, we arrived and we packed. Nobody promised normal, alright?

After dinner, we returned to the room and watched Spicks and Specks and the Gruen Factor and laughed ourselves silly, so much so that Just Add Water was worried that we might have disturbed the next door neighbours. I reflected that it was more calming to hear a whole family giggling like maniacs than fighting like savages. A bit, anyway.

Next day, we were off to Kakadu.

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