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Darwin, Australia...Snake lips and a side of chips

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Welcome to Australia! The home of the friendliest smile and G'Day you'll ever receive. This was not my first trip to Australia, but I can tell you that I was thrilled to be back. This trip takes me around to some new areas of this great country, which I will write about over the weeks. I thought I'd add some perspective as to where Darwin actually is, so here is a shot from Google Maps. My time in Darwin was short and sweet. There is much more to Darwin and the surrounding area than I had time to see or write about.

Location of Darwin in Australia

To say that Darwin is remote would seem somehow unfair. However, it is a long ways away from the large cities of Australia, and I'm guessing that it's not a place that many Australians have been to. This is not a criticism of the town or people, but if you drove from Sydney, it would be about 2500 miles through the outback. That being said, I was absolutely ready to kiss the ground once I stepped onto the Darwin Pier. After months of traveling through amazing and beautiful countries in asia, I was well ready for a familiar language and some familiar food.

Port of Darwin Australia

I thought about putting a footnote by the word "food", because whatever it is, if it's breathing... and they can catch it... the Australian's will make it into a burger. But first, let me go back to my moment of bliss as I stepped off of the boat and into the customs area of the port. Yes, I thought about kneeling down and planting a big one on the concrete flooring, but instead I spotted a local lady dressed in something akin to a Ranger's outfit, who happened to be holding onto an unusually colored snake. It was pastel green and wrapped around her arm. It was love at first site. Not the woman... the snake. I hurried over in my excitement and asked if I could touch it. I watched in amusement as a few other people from the boat began to alter their course of direction away from the snake as they became aware of it's slithering beauty. Now that I had planted the idea in my head, it was time to fulfill my ground kissing obligation, but instead... I let the snake plant a slithery kiss on my check. I have never seen so many women "Clutch Their Pearls" in horror as I saw that day. It was totally worth it!

Port of Darwin Australia

In addition to the snake, there was a baby"Croc" that was being held by another person. It was maybe a foot long. These things are as cute as can be, but very rough to the touch. After I got my fill of this little critter, I stepped out into the open air. The familiar heat and humidity struck me, but it was okay, I was happy. There was a man in uniform who was standing outside of the small building. As we were looking around trying to decide how to get to town, he was kind enough to step over in typical Aussie fashion and tell us that we could get there in about ten minutes by walking along the sea walk and following the signs.

Darwin Sea Wall

If any of you remember the movie "Australia" from a few years back, it's based on this town and area. However, they really only filmed a small segment of the movie in Darwin. The pier to the left, in this next photo, is where they filmed the scene when Nicole Kidman was leaving the boy behind on the ship.

Darwin, Australia

As my travel partner and I walked along the beautiful sea walk, the sign turned us left and up to a building that provided an outside elevator. The elevator took us up to a small bridge crossing and there we were, right in town within minutes.

Darwin, walking bridge into town

Darwin, looks nothing like it did in the movie. Of course time and the magic of film making usually does that to most movies. Before I went to Darwin, I was expecting a dry, desert outback kind of environment. I figured that dust would be blowing everywhere, while we fought off random tumbleweeds blowing by. However, Darwin was the complete opposite. It was a humid, tropical environment with lush green trees everywhere. I know now that if you drive out of town a ways, that all changes, but for the town itself, it was different than what I had expected.

Christ Church Darwin Australia

We began walking down the street and saw small town buildings, churches and the like. After a few blocks, I felt that I had been transferred back to a small quaint town in my native Oklahoma. I don't want you to think that Darwin is behind the times or anything, as it's really quite modern with it's lifestyles, homes, stores and people. The sidewalks were immaculate and well manicured. Darwin takes pride in it's town and it shows.

Darwin Australia

I felt completely safe walking around and there were plenty of friendly smiles as locals walked about. A small promenade area housed some tourist shops and places to buy artwork. Speaking of artwork, one of the galleries I happened into had some interesting pieces that were created by "Real Aboriginal" artists. Okay, I like Aboriginal art, some of it is quite nice, but here's where I get skeptical. The gallery is trying to sell very simple designs on canvas for the ridiculous example sums of $16,000. They try to emphasize that the content is gathered from the natives in the outback, and it most likely is. However, I have a hard time believing that the artists are actually receiving anything even remotely close to that $16,000. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seems that those poor artists are being taken advantage of. They wouldn't let me take any photos of it, so I can't show you.

Darwin Australia

Anyway, we passed a number of nice cafes and restaurants as we walked around. We went into a few shops here and there, and I have to tell you, Darwin is pretty expensive. Darwin is remote enough that I'm sure having anything shipped there costs them a bundle, and that cost is passed on. So, I can't really blame them for that. Later that day when it was time to eat lunch, we decided to stop into a hole-in-the wall cafe. A simple lunch with no drinks or frills was about $35 per person. Now, another option was a nice little "Burger" joint which had an unusual menu. Camel or Croc or Kangaroo burgers..and more, but don't fret, they all come with a side of Chips!

Darwin Australia

I don't have any fancy, exciting photos of the city area of Darwin. It's possible to walk through the town area in about twenty minutest. However, there are plenty of things to do and see throughout Darwin proper, that I just didn't have time to cover. After having our fill of shops, we looked on the city map and decided to walk to the Botanical Gardens.

Darwin Australia

Even though the weather was going back and forth between rain clouds and sunshine, it had decided to get sunny the minute we started our journey to the gardens. If you've never been to Australia, it's important to know that the sun is unusually strong down there. In fact, the UV exposure is much worse than what we get in the states. You can really feel the difference in the sun and even with sunblock on, I still got a bit burnt.

Darwin Australia

We walked past the golf course on the way to the gardens, there were a few people out playing here and there. The grounds were nice, but not easy to photograph due to the glaring of the sun.

Darwin australia

Once we got into the shaded areas, the trees were a welcome comfort. The old trees felt as though they had been there forever. There was a nice long path that continued on most of the way to the gardens. The Golf course ran the length of it also.

Darwin Australia

There were lots of ducks, ibis and wildlife running around in the small park area that lined the course. The birds were funny, I called them the "Fifteen Feet Fowl" due to their habit of not letting you any closer than 15 feet. I tested this as I walked towards them for the better part of the next 10 minutes.

Darwin Australia

What was funny, was this man who roared down the street and zipped into the park on his motorcycle. The whole time, his unusual passenger stayed in one position. I wasn't really prepared, so the shot's a little blurry.

Darwin Australia

Before we arrived to the gates of the garden, I happened to notice a Australian Rules game going on in a field across the street. I don't really know much about the game, but I stopped in fascination and pulled out the telephoto to get some shots. After I uploaded the photos, I couldn't believe what I saw. How fantastic is this? I always knew that Australian girls were kind of tough, but now I know why.

Darwin Australia Rules Game

The entrance to the Botanical Gardens is right across from the field. I can't really give you all the in's and out's of it's history, but I'll give you a link at the end of this post to read more about it. The color of the leaves against the green lawns was beautiful.

Darwin Botanical Gardens

The grounds are beautiful, and have many, many species of plants and trees. The walk from town is not difficult, and took about 25 minutes, maybe less. It's a fine walk if you're in good shape and don't mind a hike, but if you're not comfortable with a long walk and the heat and humidity, then there is a bus line from town that's easy and cheap.

Darwin Australia Botanical Gardens

This old house has some history, I thought it was interesting how well maintained it was. In fact, it was one of the only buildings that survived the 1974 Cyclone, which destroyed Darwin. As far as the gardens go, I believe they are about 130 years old, so the plant and tree life are mature.

Cannon Ball Tree in the Darwin Botanical Gardens

There were some oddities, such as the Cannon Ball tree. I don't remember where this one originally came from.

Darwin Australia Botanical Gardens

I didn't do a thorough investigation of the gardens, but there are some wonderful forest like trails that run through the grounds. There are different areas that are grown for specific species of the world. If you like plants at all, then it's well worth going there. Also, it's free. Can't beat that.

Darwin Australia Botanical Gardens

Overall, Darwin is not your typical big city mecca, but it's quite pleasant. It's seems that a number of people have retired there and enjoy a leisurely life by the ocean and not far from some amazing National Parks. Apparently, during certain times of the year, the area becomes quite busy with vacationers who like to relax at the beaches and enjoy the town.  If you're there for a few days or more, then you can see the "Charles Darwin National Park", the "Litchfield National Park" and I suspect some nice fishing on some nearby lakes. There is an active sailing and water sports community there. You can even rent  boats to take out on your own. Also, if you like museums, HERE is a link to find out more.

Darwin Australia

I have to tell you that out of the many months that I've spent and the many places that I've been to in Australia, virtually anywhere you go there, you will find the people to be quite wonderful. Of course there's always a nut or two in the big cities, but Australians, by nature, seem to have a respect for each other and life that shines through. These people are generally kind, helpful and will look out for your best interest if you have questions or need directions. Even in large cities like Sydney, people are warm and welcoming. And my favorite... Australians have the best sense of humor. They love to laugh and seem to come up with the most brilliant observations of humor.

Darwin Australia

I wish I had a lot more to say about Darwin, but it was a short visit, so I didn't get the proper time to fully experience it all. There are a few more pictures of Darwin in my Flickr album HERE, and a link to the information on the George Brown Darwin Botanical Gardens HERE.


Anonymous said...

Luther, Found your blogspot link on the Sun Princess Roll Call for the 29 July cruise. As a Darwin resident of 40 years I thank you for your very kind comments on our great city. You must have missed the Northern Territory Library in Parliament House on your walk up from the lift from the wharf. We have a lot of cruising people visit the Library and we are always on the ball as to when the next cruise ship is to be in port. Next time you are in Darwin call in for a free intenet or wireless and say Hi.
Regards Gaynor

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