Friday, July 16, 2010

Darwin and surrounds

We arrived in Darwin and headed straight to a caravan park we had already booked. It was the closest one to the city, and even though someone said it was very noisy with the planes going overhead, it wasn’t too bad as far as city parks go.

There was a man staying in the next door site – no car. He kept us awake with his shocking smoker’s cough, then he would get up in the morning and sit on his chair with coffee and cigarettes.

We had our car booked in for its 10,000k service so we were up early to drop it off. On the way we stopped to look at rooftop tents for the car, so we can leave the van and go off 4wdriving. We walked from the service place into the city on the next mission to find me some good sandals. Well, that was a disappointment! The CBD in Darwin is very small, and there were no specialty sports shops there, so I was starting to get desperate! As we arrived at the appropriately named Smith Street Mall, we saw our first traditional aboriginal performance. The sound of the didgeridoos sent shivers up my spine, it is really quite haunting – it was great to see. We had travelled through thousands of kilometers of outback Australia, but our first real experience of Aboriginal culture was in the city centre!!!

I had an appointment to have my hair cut and coloured in the afternoon, and the young girl there told me that the best place to shop was the Casurina Shopping Centre. So after Randall picked me up we headed there – a huge shopping centre out of town – and – Yay! I got myself a pair of sandals. So I can go walking without having to wear my runners.

We decided to treat ourselves to a nice breakfast while we were in Darwin, so headed into town quite early. On the news it said that Julia Gillard was in town, sadly for a funeral of a young soldier killed in Afghanistan. As we arrived at our breakfast place, we saw her go past in her car with the Australian flag on the front!

We got a rooftop tent fitted as well – it is very impressive. Katie has decided to come and stay with us for a few days near the end of July, so she will have a bed while she is here. It would be too squashy for her to fit into our little van, so it has worked out really well.

After a few days in Darwin, we headed off to Litchfield National Park. Randall’s second cousin and his wife are travelling around like us, and we arranged to catch up with them at a caravan park just out of the National Park, called Pandanus. It was a lovely relaxed park, not arranged in strict order at all like some, and the people who ran it were very friendly. We enjoyed drinks in Penny and David’s motorhome, then had tea at the bistro. The live music sent us back to the van after tea – a bit loud to have a conversation.

Our friend Alf, and his son Bradley, from Melbourne, arrived here too! We arranged some accommodation at the park for them and they arrived late morning. We had lunch and headed off to have a look at the park. Alf has been here before, so he knew all the places to look at. It is all very pretty. One place that would have been lovely to swim at was Wangi falls, but it had been closed for swimming supposedly because there was a crocodile there. Alf and Randall reckoned it was a myth. The powers that be just wanted to control the number of people swimming there.

We swam at a place called Buley Rockhole. That was wonderful – it was a very hot day and the water was just right. There were lots of little rockholes to swim in, with waterfalls between and there were lots of people there. We were amazed at how many people were diving in – to us cautious ones who would be checking for underwater obstacles first.

We ended back at camp for a swim in the pool, then tea at the bistro again. We had a night cap outside the van, and Alf was stirring us up about our rooftop tent. We had set it up to make the bed, and test out a fan that Randall had bought. Alf called it the Rialto at Pandanus, and said it must be the only tent that needed planning permission to be put up!!!

The next day, Alf and Bradley headed off, as did Penny and David. We also packed up and headed into Litchfield National Park to find a camp spot near one of the swimming holes. It was not easy to find one, but we managed to get a site near the Buley rockhole, that we had enjoyed so much the day before.

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