Posted: 28th July 2012.
Sitting anchored in Fannie Bay, Darwin cleared Customs this afternoon and gearing up for the rally start tomorrow morning. At 1100, 130 boats head across the start line then the fleet splits with 100 heading west and 30, including us, heading north east but more on this later.
Darwin, capital of Northern Territories which ain’t even a state but ruled from Canberra. The expectation before arrival was for unbearable heat and an outbreak of body bumps from feeding the incessant mozzies and sand flies. Turned out to be just about the perfect temperature and hardly a bite worth scratching. Reaching 30c during the day and dropping to the mid 20’s overnight. However, the summer or “the wet” as it’s known locally may not be so pleasant. We must have been here about 3 weeks now and still haven’t seen some of the main attractions but know the shops real well.
Dragging ourselves away from boat jobs and those bloody shops we took a hire car with the AV’s (Avant Garde) down to Lichfield National Park to get feel for the outback. Well I’m not about to bore you with a lecture on termites and their homes but these were something different. The two homes we visited were the cathedral mound and the magnetic mound. The former reaches heights well over 5 metres the latter is a wafer thin structure that is always aligned north/south. Amazing structures from an ant like creature.
Next it was on to the Florence water fall and a swim in the water hole below it. Great fun spoilt only by a vicious attack on Colin’s leg. “Bloody big fish just took a bite out of my leg” was heard by the League of Nations swimming in the water hole. Old Col wouldn’t have a kiwi shouting like that if it weren’t serious. Good job we had medical expertise with us in the shape of Glor and Marion, both trained nurses. Turns out the Fresh Water Shrimp can impact a nasty nip to a sensitive pakeha. Bravely, we moved on to the next water fall and then the next one arriving back in Darwin just in time for happy hour. I said to Glor over the first beer, “I’m so over water falls; in fact tonight when I go for a pee I’m not looking”.
Next cultural adventure was to face the jumping crocs. Maybe not the most PC sideshow but one of the most memorable encounters I’ve experienced. So back in the hired limo we head south again. More down to good luck than good planning, we end up on the only single story croc boat on the Adelaide River. The significance of this we didn’t appreciate until the first croc was coaxed out of the water for a free feed smacking into the boat at eye level. Hard to put into words but you got to smell the crocs breath and hear the jaws smack shut. Maybe a picture would help. Our good croc hunter guide also had wild hawks feeding from his hand as we floated down river. He reckoned some of the land bordering the river had never been walked on by humans and I believe him.
Did we really experience crocs so close up, let’s have lunch at the Humpty Doo pub and reflect? Croc, water buffalo and barramundi burgers all on the same plate didn’t help the reality check but we all agreed that this experience was up there. Folk law says the village was named after a local who when asked “ how’s it going mate” always answered “Humpty Doo”.
Ok back to city culture; greengrocer “mate, you taking bananas on a boat?” me “yes, hasn’t hurt us over the past five years” him “think how good it could have been”.
Next shop, after the final shop, again with AV; “just drop us of at Woolworths to purchase the last of the greens whilst you go pick up the boat stamp”. Yes a boat stamp, Indo apparently has a bureaucracy second to none; a boat stamp helps elevate a printed piece of paper to an official document, cute. Back to Woolies and the greens turn out to be more Chardy in green bottles, poor Scally.
Seventh visit to Bunnings; we freely sail the oceans but here we need to be guided around a scissor lift by a ‘team member’ wearing a florescent vest. The vehicle in question has a diver and an electrician on its platform performing the delicate and dangerous task of changing a light bulb. If it wasn’t for the huge mineral wealth Australia would sink under it’s draconian government regulations.
Last night ashore; have to visit the Mindel market. Glor buys a canvas Aboriginal painting. The very Maori looking and sounding guy selling it gives us a story about the warrior heading down the dried up river bed to hunt at the water hole, amazing what numerous dots can portray. We then meet up with more boaties for a drink and market food whilst listening to an incredible sound made by a guy playing five didgeridoos through an amp. Just as amazing was the dancing of the pissed Indigenous People, some managed reflex actions whilst comatose on the concrete. More sad than funny.
Still on the theme of incredible sound, I’ve bought a Ukulele. Not to be outdone, big Col had to buy a bigger baritone version the next day. Marion now also has one as well, the band is forming. “Can you play an instrument?” “no” “you’re in”. Actually the funniest moment occurred even before Big Col got to play a cord. Whilst attempting to tune his new phallic symbol in the wrong octave, string number 2 let go, could be the best note he’ll ever play. I’m now up to page four in the under-fives guide to Ukuleles. Watch out if you have a birthday I’m now proficient in stuffing up ‘Happy Birthday’.
Where are we heading: Indonesia, the largest island nation in the world consisting of 17,508 islands, population 245 million people, the fourth most populous country in the world. The Indonesian archipelago stretches 2,700 miles from the Papua half of Papua New Guinea in the east to Sumatra in the west, and sits on either side of the equator from 10 degrees south latitude to 5 degrees north. The median age of the Indonesian population, 27, the most populous Muslim nation in the world although generally, the form of Islam practiced is moderate (hopefully). So now you know as much as I do, feel clever?
Aussie has been great and we look forward to returning, maybe not on Scally. The wind is up to about 18 knots this morning and forecast to build to 20-30 later today. We leave Darwin at 1100 local time and should be up in Saumlaki in two days time, will try an update on the way.
Paul and Gloria