Travels 2011 - Darwin
We last visited family in Darwin during an extremely hot and humid December 2008, when we discovered that we had completely lost our ability to properly acclimatise to the oppressive wet season conditions. This time was designed to be completely different. Darwin's weather in August is arguably its finest when the gusting South Easterly winds have abated and been replaced by balmy days of moderately high temps and humidity.
August is also the month of the Darwin Cup racing carnival and its major cultural event - The Darwin Festival. As a consequence the town is bristling with tourists at this time of year making accommodation very difficult to secure at any sort of reasonable price. Luckily we had arranged to park our small campervan in our son and daughter-in-law's backyard for the duration of our stay. They had bought their new house in the mid northern suburb of Jingili about 10kms from the CBD and from our previous stamping ground of Parap and Fannie Bay. On arrival , I could not help myself from visiting our old homes to see what mischief had been made of them - both appeared to have had a bit of a makeover:
26 East Point Road Fannie Bay
22 Charlotte Street Parap
The principal reason for our visit was for our son Ben and partner Sarah's wedding scheduled for 6 August. After living together for the past 15 years and producing two fine grand children, they had decided to formalise the arrangement with some wedding vows. At any rate the date had been fixed many months prior and the guest list included predominantly local friends together with a smattering of family from interstate and from New Zealand. Daughter Amy had flown over from Manila for the weekend.
Like the rest of Darwin, room at Ben and Sarah's house was at a premium and at one stage we had 9 people staying in the place all sharing the single ablution facilities and kitchen - very crowded indeed. However, our hosts ensured that the beer fridge was kept well-stocked so as to maintain some degree of social equilibrium amongst the various friends and family members who crowded into the place during the week preceding the wedding.
Ben & Sarah's home at 25 Mayhew Crescent Jingili
Our immediate concern on arrival was to get our campervan repaired so we could sleep in it rather than on the back veranda and later a tent. I eventually identified a firm who would undertake the task (3 wouldn't) and carted it out to Berrimah to the caravan doctor. It turned out that two of the four wire cables in the winding mechanism had snapped and that the remaining other two were in pretty bad state. All were subsequently replaced as were a number of the pulleys and tracks involved. It took four nervous days and a large amount of cash to see it all fixed and returned to the house for use. In passing, the man advised that he fixed on average about 12 of these mechanisms each dry season and usually the owners had been carrying stuff on the campervan roof!!
With the van now operational we backed it into Ben & Sarah's backyard and generally assisted the household prepare for the big day. There was a variety of tasks associated with catering for the party in the backyard; which included lighting, trestles, eskies, chairs and some prawn peeling to undertake. Suffice to say it all went well and the sunset wedding ceremony on the yacht Alfred Nobel was a highlight. I did manage to take a video of the entire ceremony which has been passed onto Ben & Sarah. Over and above that we did take many snaps of the wedding a sample of which is included below.
Pre-wedding haircut for grandson Tom Pre Wedding drinks at the Cavenagh bar with daughter Amy
Wedding ceremony vessel
Wedding Guests start assembling on board
No these folk are not saluting.........the Sun proved a problem at times during the ceremony
Wedding Ceremony at last
On now to the real party back in Jingili
Finally to the airport for their Honeymoon in Cambodia and Vietnam
It was a relief to get the wedding finally over and try and get back to some good old fashion Darwin 'dry season' living. Many old faces were still about but quite a few had gone one way or another. The biggest changes was the high rise skyline over the CBD, the near monopoly of Thirsty Camel bottle shop outlets and the increased number of what appeared African immigrants or refugees in and around the town.
The RSL was still a favourite lunchtime haunt for a couple of cheap beers as was the local bowls club after work. While old haunts like the Darwin Trailer Boat Club and Darwin Water Ski Club were both flourishing, they seemed to lack a lot of their former charm thanks to recent renos and price increases for both food and drinks. Ho hum......progress, I guess! We did of course still manage to meet up with mates at the Parap Hotel on Saturday lunchtimes while they amused themselves on the punt.
Some old mates in the Fishos Bar at the DTBC
Maria's sisters Pauline and Janette hung around for a few days after the wedding and we managed some time quiet with them. Then I arranged to take Gil Tutty and son-in-law Andrew out for a spot of crabbing - we got a couple over in Middle Arm.
However, when I attempted to take Sarah's uncle Grant out a few days later, we had outboard problems - my fault entirely first flooding the motor and then unknowingly switching the spark plug leads around - put all this down to unfamiliarity with Ben's new motor.
Grandchildren Tom and Darcy resumed school after their parents departed on their honeymoon and we together with Great Grandmother Dulcie Innes and her son Michael did our best to amuse them. For Darcy, this included an outing to the annual primary school science circus Questacon which, I think, he thoroughly enjoyed even tho he was too impatient to read about the scientific objective s of the experiments he tried.
I did have thoughts of launching the family inherited Hobie Catamaran......while I fixed some obvious problems with it, I could not resolve some absent rigging bits and pieces. However, we all had fun stepping the mast albeit a little crookedly.
The yacht will have to remain a work in progress for Ben and Sarah. Meanwhile both boys have become keen and proficient AFL players with their local Nightcliff side.
We did the rounds of the various markets around Darwin including: Parap, Rapid Creek and Mindel.......they have changed little save from their increased popularity and attendant crowds.
Mindel Beach Markets
Parap Village Markets
On one occasion we took the household down to Manton Dam to enable the grand children to be towed around behind the boat and to have a picnic lunch down there. This proved a most enjoyable outing for all concerned.
Michael, sporting his new short haircut, insisted on wearing his 'sexy' purple shorts down to the Dam
Now while Tom was quite expert at this game not so young Darcy whose flotation vest disintegrated during the odd spill, putting an end to his further participation. However, things got worse when Michael Innes tried his hand at 'scurfing' - and we nearly ended up drowning him. Dulcie, on the other hand was very keen to give it a go but was thwarted by her inability to fit into Tom's new flotation vest - she did however, manage to fall out of the boat.
Ben and Sarah eventually arrived home from their honeymoon and immediately began to get their house back into a regular routine. Their return signalled our own need to begin the tortuous preparations for departure - the pack-up would take several days. However, this did not prevent one last golf outing with the WAGS (Wednesday Afternoon Golfers) at the course on the RAAF Base.
Its hard to know how to re-evaluate our old town - there is certainly a push to replace the old languid tropical town with a brash new look not only in terms of its skyline and buildings but also with its attitudes and people who for the most part seem to embrace the new image of a much faster and more cosmopolitan city whose aspirations are more in line with those of southern cities than with their frontier past.
Old Darwin housing
Darwin's new Wharf Precinct complete with convention centre and wave pool
New air conditioned Darwin housing on blocks half the traditional area
Welcome to the new 'Lego land' for Darwin's aspirational newcomers
Richard and Maureen O'Sullivan hosted a traditional AFL Bar-B-Cue prior to our departure. However, the long anticipated clash between the competition leaders Collingwood and Geelong turned out to be very lop-sided affair with Geelong thrashing Collingwood much to the delight of our hosts. It was a good night despite some annoying midges early on in the night. It was also great to be able to catch up with Richard's eldest son Hayden who, as a ship's master, currently works on rig tenders out on the NW Shelf and Timor Sea.
We also managed to a couple of farewell drinks with Mick and Caroline Holdstock at the local Bowls Club as well as with Curly Bradley who was visiting Darwin from her school out at Gunbalanya (Oenpelli).
We also had to bid farewell to our fellow travellers from Yeppoon who had to remain in Darwin until the end of October before they could resume their own travels to Melbourne for Xmas. So we had a farewell drink with them on Father's Day down at the Trailer Boat Club.
By chance brother Christopher flew into Darwin during our last remaining days and we had dinner with him and heard about his impending retirement and move to Ballarat in the not too distant future.
Richard O'Sullivan, Christopher and George Dunne at Buff Club
Despite all these jolly farewells the looming prospect of our drive south was ever present and we both found it hard to steal ourselves to finally pack-up and plan to head home. Proper planning really required us to get out of Darwin first and then develop a strategy for our final weeks on the road.
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