The last Oz post….

Certainly for the forseeable future. Darwin airport has entered the 21st century and also now provides free wireless. This will seriously help me stay awake until my flight boards at 2:45am.

I tried to use up all the credit on my Australian Vodafone SIM before I left, but unless I start waking people up, it isn’t going to happen. I have almost $60 left and nobody to harass with it! Still, I didn’t “pay” for it as such – for $50 you get $230 worth of credit so it’s not technically money wasted.

So I’ve waved byebye to two Czechs, an Irish girl and a Franco-German at the hostel, a Netherlander at the Vic and a French girl at Gate 2 around 10 minutes ago. It’s all “goodbye”s right now! Happily, two friends in Singapore are expecting me tomorrow/today which will help to offset the balance.

Well, that’s it for Australia. A pleasant, relaxed, inexpensive few days to round off what must be approaching 5 months in total over three visits. It’s been a blast and I will definitely be back. There are so many things I still want to do:

Perth to Darwin or vice versa
Adelaide to Alice or vice versa
Diving on the Ningaloo Reef at Exmouth
Diving off Darwin
Townsville / Magnetic Island
More surfing at Byron Bay
Everywhere north of Cairns

I’m sure there are more!

Thanks, Oz. See you around…

Darwinian catch-up

Darwin’s become one of those places where I just chill and catch up with people. Spot on as the forcoming few weeks are going to be hectic beyond all belief. As a result, not a lot’s gone on but I may as well bore you all and give you a quick rundown.

Katie’s sorted herself with a house so she’s checked out of the dorm. Hopefully she starts work on Tuesday. Sad to say that as a fully qualified vet (with two degrees – smart girl) working 5 1/2 days a week plus emergency call out she earns less than a nurse on a 4-day week. Good to hear nurses are well paid here, shame vets aren’t up there as well.

Esther may be checking out very soon as one of her friends has gone to the UK for six months and he needed to rent his house out. Needless to say, a private abode without people waking you at 5am while they pack bags is worth the extra money. Add in the enormous DVD collection, huge telly, popcorn and hot dog machines… no-brainer!

Delphine re-appeared from her mammoth Adelaide to Kakadu trip. In tow were a bunch more French people, several of whom I’d met in Adelaide. As happens, people crossed paths on the various small tours that made up the long-haul one. There are essentially three tours left in Australia that I want to do: Adelaide to Alice Springs (3 days); the Northern Territory parks (up to 10 days); Perth to Darwin (21 days). Plus a trip to the areas north of Cairns. There’s $3000-worth of touring there. Ouch.

I managed to contact a diving company, Darwin Dive Centre and had a great chat with Dave who works there (and probably runs it). Really nice guy – someone who obviously loves his job. It turns out that the diving around Darwin is surprisingly rich. Around 20 wrecks both in the harbour and outside, an underwater mountain, huge fish and huge schools of those fish, non-threatening sharks, undisturbed reef… I am so going to have to come back. Sadly, the tides right now aren’t good for diving, so I won’t have a chance to get underwater again before I fly.

The only really annoying thing right now is that one of my wisdom teeth is having a wander around at the moment, so the left hand side of my mouth is in permanent agony. I’ll let it be (bar ibuprofen) until I get to Singapore. If it’s still swollen by Thursday, I’ll sort a dentist out there. Much cheaper than the ones here and they’re really good.

Tomorrow I’m going to mail a package home including my snorkel and mask. I’m going to have to skip Borneo as I just don’t have time, and my rucksack’s full to bursting – literally. I’m going to have to stitch it before I get on the plane on Thursday. The mask comes in a large box and that’s not helping. For the sake of one dive in Israel, I’m not going to lug it around any further.

That’s pretty much it so far. A couple more days and I’m off to Singapore again. Then the rush begins. No more planning ahead, no more comfy food, no more relaxed days!

Back to Darwin… and counting down to leaving

Friday the 13th – what a day to fly! Which may explain why my flight was moderately empty. It’s also my mum’s birthday, so maybe everyone else was having a party for her.

Mel wasn’t in a fit state to drive (or walk, come to mention it) at 6:15am, so Matt drove me to the airport. My last impression of Mel is someone lying in bed in a semi-coma, apologising for not being able to get up… so I remember her as someone who parties far too hard, which is no bad thing!

We made it to the airport with ten minutes to spare and I rattled off a blog post or two while I waited. Yay for free wireless! Quantas called me on board shortly afterwards and we took off dot on schedule.

I’d not had time for breakfast when I left the house, so it’s a good job I was with the only non-budget airline in Oz as it meant I got fed. It was still the cheapest flight I could get. Air fares here are barmy. A really cute little girl in the seat in front kept playing peek-a-boo with me and that helped while the time away, as did ploughing through another Grisham and snoozing for the last hour.

Darwin was as hot as I remember it, and the shuttle bus had me at the Cav within 15 minutes. Quick check in and back in the old favourite room 36. Esther was out at work and shortly after I started sorting my things out I met Katie, the only other person in the dorm. She’s a vet from the UK looking at settling here and in a fluster about trying to find a house to live in.

The kitchen at the hostel is out of order as they’re refurbishing it. It was supposed to re-open today, but is now scheduled for tomorrow. We’ll see… I argued with the reception staff as I’d not been told this and they were only dishing out free dinner vouchers for the Queen Vic, not lunch ones. As I budget 50c for lunch (beans on toast!), this means a big increase in expenses as eating out is much dearer. We ended up with five meal vouchers which should take us past when the kitchen is available again. Hopefully that will balance things out.

The rest of the day went predictably and Darwin-y enough. Down to the pool at 5:00, Esther back from work (lovely to see her again), the Vic for (free) dinner, back for a quick change and then out for a few beers. Shennanigans was our chosen venue as the Vic itself was a little quiet. A covers band was playing some decent tunes, the beer was cold and the company good.

Between lack of sleep and five pints of Coopers Pale, I enjoyed a good night’s kip!

Definitely heading for Singapore this time

OK, after the delay and all I will be flying to Singapore in a little over 12 hours. I have some plans for when I get there and, depending on the weather, I’ll also take a coach/boat trip to an island off the East of Malaysia for some very cheap diving. Details, as ever, will be on here as and when.

I’ve pretty much chilled the last couple of days, as planned, had a wild night out at the Vic and then got an invite to Sharna’s “official” 21st birthday party. Thanks to her for that – it was pretty much close friends and family so it says yet again how welcoming and friendly the Aussies are that she asked me to come despite only knowing me a few days.

I’m currently hidden in my room (that I’ve checked out of…) using free internet that I’ve only just discovered. Grr. I could have saved around $30 over the last few days, but hey-ho. At least I know for next time. The band I saw at the Vic on Friday are due to play here this afternoon so I’ll likely head down and watch them if they’re allowed to play louder than the volume on the multitude of TVs showing the cricket. After that, a swim, a shower, some dinner and then to just kick back and set my alarm so I don’t miss my airport shuttle at half midnight.

A quick “thanks” to Esther, as well, for being such a cool dorm-mate over the last week!

Next update will be from McD’s near my hostel in Singapore, assuming they still do the free wireless!

Goodbye, again, to Koala Country and I’ll be back sometime to see the West!

Lazy(ish) day

 I was up fairly early this morning, around 7:30, as Esther has an early start for work – she’s the Dutch girl I probably mentioned earlier who I’m sharing my dorm with. I’m an early riser anyway, so this suits me.

I’d decided that I wanted to go to the museum today. It’s nearby, kind of, and free. The last time I was in Darwin, I actually walked past it when I went for a stroll along the beach but I didn’t go in. It is quite a walk from the city centre, so I opted for a bus this time.

As far as museums go, it’s quite a small one. Having said that, what they do have is rather nice and they do seem to change the exhibits and displays round fairly often. When I visited they had a display of Aboriginal art, predominantly from the local nation, a collection of stuffed native animals, another sizeable display detailing the evolution of many of the creatures, a boat yard, cyclone exhibit, huge display of Aboriginal basketwork and a crocodile called Sweetheart.

Sweetheart is a permanent exhibit and his (yes – “his”) story is a sad one. During the 1970s, he became well known in the area for attacking boats and even capsized a couple although nobody was ever hurt. There are verious theories as to why he did this (the noise of the engines mimicking a territorial croc grunt is one) but otherwise it’s simply not normal behaviour. Eventually, by 1979, he was considered too dangerous so a trap was set. Full marks to the Aussies who were going to shift him to another location rather than just shoot him.

Sadly, things didn’t go exactly to plan. After being caught and drugged, Sweetheart got tangled on a log and the anaesthetic administered also didn’t seem to work correctly and the big croc died before they could get him out of the river. So, they stuffed him and put him in a museum as a fine example of his kind. He’s 780kg and 5.1m long – and still isn’t as large as salties get.

 The cyclone exhibit is also eye-opening, giving details of a huge storm – Cyclone Tracy – that hit Darwin around December 24th/25th 1974 and which pretty much demolished the entire city. The before and after aerial photographs are particularly shocking, though the “worst” part is a pitch dark room where a recording of sounds of the cyclone battering the city is played at full volume. A sign on the door warns that it could be upsetting to people who remember Cyclone Tracy. Well, it scared the willies out of me.

If you go, allow about 2-3 hours depening on whether you’re a browser or a looker. It’s on bus route 4 from the city centre and costs $1.40 each way. You can walk it as well, though I’d guess it’s 40-60 minutes’ walk in baking heat from the CBD.

In the afternoon, I did my old Brisbane trick and headed for the library to read comics. And Lonely Planet Guides. And play on the X-Box. Yes, the library has an X-Box you can book for 30 minutes sessions for free. Their collection of Lonely Planets is also superb and they’re in the reference section so can’t be checked out. Ideal for travellers like me!

I did pop online again later on as many of you are likely aware, and my email is down to a more manageable level. After that, a quick dip in the pool and off out for dinner with Sharna, the birthday girl from the Vic.

Getting in the mood for the next 2 1/2 months, we went to a place called Nirvana which sells Thai, Malay and Indian food. Good stuff, too, and very reasonably priced. The only complaint I had was the usual restaurant issue of never seeming to want to sort the bill for you, so we were late leaving for the cinema and missed the first couple of minutes of Borat. I laughed a lot at this film, but feel really rather guilty about it. Amazingly, it actually gives Jackass a run for its money in the insensitivity and disgusting stakes – I can understand why the Khazakhstani government wanted it banned!

After that, a quick drink with Sharna’s mates and then we each headed home. Me with an 8am rise, Sharna with a 5:30am one. Ouch. Posted by Picasa