Our Diary Australia - Part 7

No - we haven't fallen off the edge of the world, although sometimes we think we're at world's end. Following our arrival in Darwin, and after a boring and tedious trip across the "Top End", we couldn't face continuing on to the Kimberleys, which sound much the same except for the addition of a few gorges, and stunning anchorages, enormous tides and devoid of people.

So a boat meeting was held and we decided that if we could both find work that we enjoyed then we would stay a season, top up the cruising kitty and get ready to leap off the end of the world.

How has this panned out? What we didn't expect was how much fun Darwin is! This is difficult to understand as the climate sucks - three seasons:

  • "The Dry" which lasts 6 months - NO rain, yes, none at all! And temperatures cool down to about 28c for 6 months;
  • Two months of "build up" - 90% humidity, 36 degrees, thunder storms, huge clouds;
  • "The Wet" which lasts 4 months - torrential rain, dramatic thunder storms and cyclones!

My theory is that Darwinians figure that the climate totally sucks - so let's have some fun! More on that later…

Darwin is booming economically. It is host to a large number of capital projects mainly driven by a $17billion natural gas project, lots of mining nearby and other government funded projects. Unemployment is around 0.5 % so to satisfy this workforce demand, large numbers of workers are "fly in/fly out" which has led to accommodation and skills shortages.

Now, you may think that Darwin, being a capital city, it is a teeming metropolis - think again! The Northern Territory, which is about the size of Germany or Texas, has a population of just 250,000 and 90% live in Darwin. This translates into lots of facilities and not many people to use them. It also means a small village temperament - you can stand in the supermarket and chat to the mayor, or have a beer with the Chief Minister. It also means you are likely to bump into someone you know when you get out, so have to be on your best behaviour most of the time…

So how are we coping in this free and easy society? After passing her accountancy exams, Christine has become financial manager for a large (local) hospitality company. She looks after two pubs, four hotels and is currently building two more. Most of the rooms are already booked out for the next 3 years for the corporations doing the major projects! I'm contracting for a company in the marine logistics business, mainly looking after their subsidiary in East Timor, nothing exciting there. We are still living on Poco, bought a car and commute 5 minutes per day to the office. Traffic jams are unheard of!

So what of Darwin life? Darwinians survive the wet season mostly by partying at the local hostelries, holing up in air conditioned homes and watching the rain fall. Luckily we have joined the local Dinah Beach Yacht Club, which holds wet season races. I have managed to crew in these which brightens up every other Sunday (tides are a problem!).

When the rain stops Darwin bursts into bloom - concerts, shows, events, every weekend. Iconic places like the "Deckchair Cinema" set up showing movies every night on the water front. This is like watching a movie in someone's back garden, complete with beer and barbeque. You can catch a film, under the stars, with fireflies twinkling and the odd Possum wandering around. We are told that sometimes a visit by a wayward snake causes a bit of a commotion! Sitting out over the beach watching the sunset and picking up a meal at the asian-style Mindil Beach Market is also a great pastime. Beaches here are different; yes there are broad, white sandy beaches, warm water, the odd surf - however the water is often occupied by crocodiles, jelly fish and other nasties! So, swimming is constrained to the swimming pools!

This year's highlights so far:

  • Symphony in the Park - Darwin's small orchestra boasts two world-class harpists and we enjoyed hearing The Wetlands Suite composed by Cathy Applegate for the Darwin Youth Orchestra. Each piece was introduced with an explanatory narrative which enhanced the expressive music.
  • Live music nearly every night at the Dinah Beach Yacht Club - just a covered arena, a bar and bistro - and good company. You'll find us there most Friday evenings.
  • Christine got to go to Ladies Day at the Darwin Race Week - had to buy a fascinator for the occasion!
  • Darwin Turf Club Ball, 2,000 people sitting down to a silver service meal under the stars, next to the beach followed by a day at the races; Ascot eat your heart out! An aside - Darwin race track is unique - many years ago, some bright spark came up with a solution to solve the dust problem caused by galloping horses. He decided to spray the course with used motor oil! This practice continues today, so jockeys, horses and some spectators get covered in the black oily mess after each race!

And, of course our trip to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Penang to celebrate Rob & Jas' wedding in October! More on that in the next instalment…