Farewell Darwin

Thrifty have provided us with a brand new car with plenty of room for our bags. Very comfortable which is good with the Gibb River coming up.

Coffee , ✅ , lollies for the driver and we farewell Darwin.

Entrance to the Cemetery

First stop is the Adelaide River War Cemetery. Like all our war graves this one is well set out and maintained with gardens and shrubs at each headstone. There are 434 burials.

We were looking forward to the swimming at Edith Falls. And we weren’t disappointed. It’s got some beautiful grassy areas leading to several entry points into the large water hole. Only Jill & I went in and we were so pleased it did. The temperature was just perfect.

Bathing beauties

The sign said there were no crocodiles so we believed them. We paddled and swam around a small island and passed the waterfall on the other side of lake.

People were floating around on noodles and one lady was paddling a canoe.

It would make the perfect place to stop for a few days if you had a caravan. Peaceful and safe.

The cafe at Edith Falls

After changing we drove the 20 minutes into Katherine.

Lunch was a tasty wrap from The Finch cafe. We just made it before they closed and took took it to the park adjoining the information centre.

We headed out if Katherine past the Tindal airbase to the Cutta Cutta Caves. Jill had found this tour of the caves and booked ahead.

James at the entrance to the caves

They are millions of years old and still growing and changing. Cutta Cutta in Jawoyn means lots of stars. The Jawoyn people wouldn’t enter the cave but believed the bats gather the stars and take them out at night to put up into the sky.

Inside the caves you can see sparkling limestone formations of stalactites and stalagmites and five different species of bats including the rare ghost and leaf-nosed bats.

Views inside the caves

There are also brown snakes, spiders and other varieties of the eco system. James our guide assured is they hadn’t seen any snakes for awhile.

You can walk deep into the cave along metal walkways. The caves are closed during the wet when the flood!

The air inside is hot and humid. Unlike other caves there are no openings so no air can circulate. It gets hotter and more humid as you walk in.

An hour was enough and I felt for James having to do around 5 tours a day. Breathing that stale air wouldn’t be good.

Back to Katherine and a 5 pm check in to our hotel Contour a big but we’ll planned hotel with a large pool and an outdoor restaurant.

We passed this old engine near Katherine

So another full busy day

Museums of Darwin

Today it was back on the tourist trail to see three museums on our list.

First up was a walk out along Stokes Pier.

It curves out around the bay across from the waterfront park. It was hot walking but lovely and cool as we entered the Royal Flying Doctor building. It’s also home to a display about the bombing of Darwin in 1941.

We’ve been to RFD museums in Charleville, Alice Springs, Longreach and now here. All great displays of such a wonderful service. Here there was a virtual display. Fantastic! For the plane flying and then the bombings of Darwin. I love these 3D headpieces.

Steve in his 3D zone!
In 3D land!

There was a RFD plane which brought back memories of my son’s flight from Cambodia to Thailand after a bad accident. Although that wasn’t a RFD plane it was similar.

Next stop…… the Museum of Darwin. We caught the bus. Seniors free ….. thank you very much! but our navigational skills let us down and we got lost going from the bus to the museum ! We walked and walked in the heat until , passing Darwin High School the grounds man saw us, took pity and gave us very good directions. He asked did we need water! Like we were explorers lost in the desert! I was hoping he would offer us a lift!

We made it …….somewhat hot and sweaty.

The explorers looking for the Museum!

It had some very good displays. The animal life of the NT, a cyclone Tracey room and a meeting with Sweetheart – the huge croc – 780 kilos, 5.1 metres and around 80 years old. They tried to capture him to bring into a crocodile enclosure but in doing so he died.

Never smile at a crocodile!

A little further out through Fannie Bay was the military Museum. Another good display with a film about the bombing of Darwin. We now feel very informed on that piece of history.

By now we were ready for a cold drink and a sit down. The Trailer boat club had been recommended so we made our way there and it was a great spot. Lots of tables all facing out across the water. We couldn’t pass on an Aperol Spritz – it’s the colour of a magnificent sunset.

We watched the sun sink & enjoyed some seafood.

It took us back to another shared sunset with the Wilsons in Santorini!

Good Morning Darwin

Our day had a alarming start to it. At 5am there was a loud beeping noise. Awaking suddenly I thought we had a bird in the room!

No it wasn’t………. it was the fire alarm outside our bedroom. We all came stumbling out half asleep to both alarms beeping loudly. And this was meant to be our sleep in day after two early touring days.

No fire. So we quickly rang reception. “Send help we called.” Jill appeared with a broom and Steve thought she was going to do a little sweeping. No, it was to push the off button.

It took at least half an hour of ear piercing alarm before the maintenance man arrived and removed the battery !

After a cup of tea we headed back to bed for another 2 hours sleep.

A little treat this morning. A lovely walk back to the waterfront precinct where we had dinner last night. This area really has added a lot of life to Darwin.

There are gardens with lovely seating and lounges, restaurants, a wave pool, a protected swimming area, a very long jetty out to the Royal Flying Doctors, and new apartments.

The swimming area
The wave pool
Looking toward the long jetty with the RFD

We enjoyed brunch and a little people watching before continuing our walk out to Mr Barra for prawns for dinner.

We decided on a quieter day. The Wilsons have been out touring Kakadu and are ready for a ‘down’ day.

We got very hot walking so headed to the pool for a swim and another walk up to Mitchell Street and to seek out some street art.

We finished the afternoon on our verandah having a few cool glasses of Prosecco and beer and playing cards! Great fun

Let’s hope we don’t have the alarm go off again tonight!

Litchfield NT. Waterfalls & Waterholes

Another early start. Touring is not for the lazy! A 7am pick up at our apartment for day out of Darwin to Litchfield National Park and a swim at the falls.

Our driver Mel arrived and we went to a few pick up stops and suddenly the bus was full. A big group off the Ghan joined us. I hope they haven’t got covid. Most were wearing masks!

The driving was good along well maintained roads. Mel gave us a little introduction and then in an hour we arrived at Batchelor for morning coffee. The coffee was good.

Batchelor had a big uranium mine which has closed and the town is more an area for camping and a jump off to Litchfield.

Next stop was a viewing of the giant termite mounds.

They are generally a honey coloured mound until they’ve reached the end of their life they become grey.

Litchfield is a favourite waterfall & water hole for swimming.

There are 120 steps down – all steel steps with a rail so quite safe. There is an alternate route a 15 minute flat walk which crosses the stream several times.

We decided to walk the steps down and walk the track back yet dry out.

Good decision.

There were two falls dropping into the waterhole and easy steps down into it.

It was delicious! Cool but not cold. Under the waterfall it was like a pins & needles massage.

Beautiful in the water.

We were told there would probably be a few saltwater crocodiles around but they wouldn’t bother us. Ok!

Fortunately no scary sightings.

The walk back along the slate path was just lovely. Shaded and quite tropical it criss crossed the creek and back to the car park.

Wangi Falls was our next stop and it’s a beautiful little oasis. Access to the swimming hole is easy. Only problem is there was at least one big crocodile spotted recently and there has to be at least 21 day without sighting a croc. So no swimming.

It would be great to have a swim. It is very beautiful. The walk to the outlook was easy.

Lunch on the verandah of the cafe was fine.

Last stop : fish feeding at Howard Springs.

Howard Springs became famous as a good place to do quarantine during covid. Perhaps not in summer. But the weather today is absolutely beautiful.

It’s a lovely little place with beautiful gardens and a fish sanctuary where we did some fish feeing. Lots of turtles, barramundi and all other types were plentiful in the water.

Tiwi Islands. A land of smiles.

An early start today with an Uber pickup to take us to the Cullen Bay ferry terminal. We’re off to the Tiwi Islands.

Tiwi is made up of Melville Is, Bathurst Is and nine smaller uninhabited islands. There are about 2,500 people living in the two main islands.

If you’ve seen the movie Top End Wedding you will recognise it. That’s where the wedding took place!

It took 2.5 hrs by Sealink Ferry to get there but it was a very comfortable ride. It’s interesting to note the foot wear of locals and tourists alike. Thongs!

We were greeted at the dock by Bibian a 38 yr old local. He was just lovely.

Bibian outside the Museum.

After a warm greeting we made our way to the cultural centre for the Welcome and Smoking ceremony. Some locals welcome us with smoke and dance. They had us up walking around the smoking iron wood leaves.

Tiwi is known for it arts & crafts – they are bought from all over the world. So we moved into the art shed and were given a lesson in screen printing.

Choosing one of the screens was like a sport! It was the quick or the left behind. I was checking the screens out and decided to wait for the screen I wanted. This proved to be an advantage. I got to see what people were doing. The colours they choose and how to best apply the paint.

Steve’s turtle on a t shirt.
Jill also used the turtle. Chris the crocodile
I waited and chose the all over pattern of animals.
I was very happy with mine!

I had one of the most helpful guys help me. He had quite a sense of humour and was full of good advice.

While the finished products were drying we were able to explore the gallery showroom. Lots of carved birds decorated the floor and we walked around seeing one if spoke to us. Or rather squawked.

The printed fabrics were gorgeous but not being a sewing expert I passed on that.

Lunch arrived and it was fresh and lovely. We sat at the mahogany tables and I thought how I’d love to have one of those at home and the stools. They were just stumps carved with a face and very comfortable.

Our finished screen printing flapped in the breeze and we’re just about ready to be ironed and packed.

Next door was the carving shed with a man called Mario telling us about the paint and how they make the colours. The ochre is a yellow when found but after heating turns orange. The black he said ‘comes out of a can!’

The bird we selected had been carved by him.

The bird you’ll find in our home

We walked through the streets ready to explore the village. it’s one of two main villages in the island.

The school is very neat and well cared for. And is next door to the museum.

The museum is small but contains a lot of photos of early days on the missions on the island. It tells stories of it part in the bombings in 1942 in Darwin during the war. The Japanese planes were seen flying over. There was a cartoon style film explaining what happened with some very cute graphics which downplayed the seriousness of the bombings and the ship that was sunk off Darwin.

Bibian gave us a good run down of the tribes / families. There are 28 tribes with four groupings. Bibian is a member of the Pandanus group. The families don’t intermarry.

Outline of the family groupings

If you’ve seen the movie Top End Wedding you’ll know the church used for the wedding. We climbed the timber stairs into the airy shuttered church beautifully decorated with paintings.

We made our way back along the waterfront to the jetty for our 2.5 hr trip home

This time the ferry was full. Lots of the local aboriginal people, families who squished into seats together, spread out on the floor and caught up on some sleep. The trip was quite rough in some patches but it didn’t seem to worry anyone.

A quick turn around after we arrived back at 6.15 and out to Tim’s restaurant. It was just around the corner and was set in a very busy courtyard. Food was good but slow arriving. I found myself eyeing off the little crocodile swimming around a small tank.

Darwin- Arriving at the Top End

Excitement this morning as we headed to the airport. Once again Brisbane was grey & rainy. We left home in short sleeves carrying sun hats as Darwin our most northern capital is still hot.

The plane was crowded and nearly four hours of wearing a mask is not fun!

Darwin is a very different capital. Even from the air it appears laid back , tropical , slightly dusty, low level buildings, a bit of the Wild West feeling about it …..and lots of water. Bays, beaches, rivers – all of them unsafe for swimmers. This is the outback – by the water.

Stepping out of the airport the heat feels tropical. I love these airports. Small, casual , lots of greenery and lots of thongs. That is the footwear of choice.

A very long taxi queue had us on the Uber app which worked well and we reached our apartment around 3pm.

The Argus Apartments are huge but a little tired looking. But the bed is good, it’s cool,the view is great and it’s big enough for 4. Our friends Chris & Jill are at Kakadu and will join us tonight.

We unpacked changed into more tropical clothes- shorts & tshirts and went exploring. What struck us at first was how empty the streets appeared. No one around. Like a sleepy Sunday… but it’s Thursday 3.30. Coming up to peak hour.

We searched for somewhere to eat something light. Lunch was served in the plane but at 10.30am I didn’t feel like sausages.

The very busy mall.

We walked into the mall. It was not crowded. I’m fact we barely saw anyone. After walking into an arcade we found a cafe and had a berry smoothie. We didn’t want to fill up because tonight we are heading to the Mindel Beach markets. They are famous for their food and flaming sunsets.

We walked to the waterfront and found a few of the older buildings in town.

Cyclone Tracey back in 1974 flattened most of Darwin. It was Christmas Eve and 71 people died There are just a few buildings left. One being Lyon’s House one of the only stone houses in Darwin. It was used during WW2 by the Americans. Darwin was bombed during the war and again suffered a lot of damage.

Lyon House. Today a museum

Across the road another old building Admiralty House today houses a restaurant.

The streets have some great trees providing pedestrians with some much needed shade. And there is some great street art to catch the eye.

We found a Coles for a few supplies and a Liquorland for some refreshments. A few mini bottles of Prosecco and some beer. Steve needed to show his ID to buy the alcohol. Later he realised he’d bought Zero alcohol beer! Not sure that will be a taste pleaser!

After dropping our supplies back to the apartment we caught the bus to the markets. The Gov here in the Northern Territory provides free bus travel for over 65’s. I knew there were benefits and this is one !

The markets are set under shade tree along the beach. The food handicraft and clothing stalls run for around a kilometre. And they were super busy. If you visit Darwin these markets are a must. The food is a reflection of the cultures which make up this northern tropical city. Asian, including Chinese, Vietnamese, Sri Lankan, Thai, Greek, Italian even the Aussie crocodile burger were attracting big lines. The smells were incredible. A heady mix of spices and bbq along with a dose of sweat.

People were buying food and drinks and heading over the low dune to sit on the beach. There seemed to be a no alcohol policy so the blenders were whirring madly making smoothies and juices.

In a crowd this size it’s hard to know if you should be wearing a mask. Covid is everywhere in Australia at the moment and we are trying to avoid it for our holiday. So far so good.

The build up to sunset was filled with anticipation. Crowds were sitting on the beach picnicking on their food stall delights. Children played, local aboriginal people sang as we all looked over the ocean watching as the sun dipped and its colour changed.

Watching the changing scene was magical.

When the sun disappeared the crowds did as well. After a hearty round of applause then it was …..Back to the markets for more food.

There was music and children playing in the candlelight.

Back to the apartment by bus and a glass of Prosecco to welcome Jill and Chris.

Plans were discussed about our trip to Tiwi Island tomorrow. And so our adventure begins.