A Step Into The Top End
Humidity that beats down the weak, simplicity that strips away the pretentiousness of everyday life, and a wild tropical heart that pounds in your veins the moment you step foot in the Territory; Darwin is place of its own.
You must go there with your adventure pants on, or you risk languishing at the foreshore (not a terrible fate) or seeing only the touristy pub scene that floats on the surface.
There is so much more to this city, and much of it lies in its surrounding natural wonders and wildlife.
A good measure of a city I tend to find is its public transport and local paper.
Catching one of Darwin’s many air-conditioned buses around the town gives you a good cross-sectional glimpse into the population.
At Casuarina Shopping Centre (the NT’s biggest) I hopped on the number 10 bus and headed for the city.
The driver was a short man with fast, aggressive movements, who looked like an angry doll behind his huge wheel. He had the alarming habit of speeding up to red lights, slapping on the brakes, and shouting at anything that was not his bus.
I asked an Aboriginal girl sitting behind me what it was like living in Darwin. She had a smooth voice that would sound good on radio, and told me she had just moved there from Perth and was liking the relaxed vibe.
From one relaxed spot to another!
I told her the cane toad had reached Western Australia and we chatted for a while on the craziness of the small driver who was careening us around corners.
There are far more Indigenous Australians in Darwin than elsewhere in Australia and yet there is still a certain segregation apparent.
Also though there are many lovely examples of the melting pot of cultures in the town, including Indigenous and non-Indigenous.
At the doorway to the Cas shops long legged Indigenous guys hang out and bounce an AFL footy, talking in their quick, rolling tongue. They look like they were built to run, and I feel very stump-legged and sluggish as I pass.
I’d love to see them in a game.
Hopping out in the city I am met with the same hot rush as when you open an oven door. I love it, and savour the feeling before I head off to the ABC’s headquarters to visit my old tutor.
Which brings me to the top end’s media…..aaah the NT News.
Ridiculed for its ridiculous front pages, I actually think this paper is ingenious and innovative.
Not only do headlines such as “Best man left bleeding after being hit in head by flying dildo” and “Frog struck down by lightning” and of course “Why I stuck a cracker up my clacker” sell papers, they have made international headlines and resulted in a profitable series of stubby coolers, shirts and posters of NT News front pages being sold.
Not a bad turn of events in the ‘dying’ newspaper trade.
Relaxing at Nightcliff beach with a copy of that day’s NT News it was nice to have my mood buoyed for a change, instead of sunk, by a paper’s front page.
Unfortunately the main news of the day was that Tony Abbott had just become our Prime Minister, a decision not every Aussie was stoked about, as evidenced by the “Australia needs an Abbot proof fence” stickers adorning rubbish bins at the Parap markets.
Still, not even Mr Rabbit can get you down when you’re in the top end, and I headed back to my sister’s place to snooze in a hammock in a bikini, eating a mango and catching the breeze from her high level Territory house.
One must-do while you’re in Darwin is the Adelaide River jumping croc cruise. The scariest title must go to Brutus: five metres of prehistoric, flesh-crushing male croc whose slow advance towards the boat chills you to the bone.
It’s incredible to see the sheer hulking size of these animals up close. Our tour guide was extremely cheeky and I was giving back some smartass banter until Brutus crashed into the side of our boat while lunging for meat…..and I was pretty quiet for the rest of the trip!
It’s a place that reminds you you’re alive. Rough around the edges alive.
In short, Darwin you bloody beauty!