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Mark's World Tour 2007-08

Day 209: Katherine to Darwin

AUSTRALIA | Sunday, 1 June 2008 | Views [1631]

Celebrating the end of the (very long) road in Darwin

Celebrating the end of the (very long) road in Darwin

Sunday 1st June

It had been a particuarly cold night and I woke up in a foetal position, and with the bed covers over my head and my fleece on in order to to maximise the warmth. We got up in the dark at 06.00 and scampered onto the bus in the hope of getting even slightly warmer than we were outside. The extra hour and a half less of sunlight – due to the time difference gained on entering the Northern Territory the day before – meant that we suffered a bit more until the sun came up.

We drove along the Stewart Highway (the road that connects Darwin with Alice Springs  almost a thousand kilometres to the south) towards Edith Falls, our first stop for the day. We were taken to a beautiful waterfall and, as I had now warmed up sufficiently after the sun had come out and we had walked for about fifteen minutes, I decided to make the most of my chance to swim in the lovely clear freshwater. Some of the guys thought it was too cold but it actually felt very good once I got in. It's a great way to wake yourself up in the morning and the water was so clean that you could drink it up straight from the pool (if you so wished, but I didn't do it!).

After a drive of another hour or two, we came to Litchfield National Park, itself not too far from Darwin. Our first stop was a visit to see the magnetic termite mounds near the entrance to the park. Termite mounds were a very common site on our bus journey through WA and the NT, and these particular mounds had been built so that the surfaces were flat instead of round; the flat sides faced north and south, so as to get the maximum amount of sunlight during the course of a day, and thus keep the termites within it as warm as possible. These termites are so clever and they don't even know it! There were also some huge 'cathedral' termite mounds which stood at about twenty feet, pretty impressive structures when you consider the size of the folk that built them.

Litchfield is full of waterfalls and natural swimming pools, and we stopped next at Wangi Falls, another beautiful sight and where you can usually swim. However, signs had been put up to warn people off swimming due to the recent presence of a crocodile which had been spotted in the waters surrounding the pool. I was glad that I had gotten into the water earlier in the day, as it would have been a pity to miss out on a swim.

After a stop for lunch at Wangi Fallas, we moved on to Florence Falls, an area that we found to be full of other tourists and, presumably, locals who were having some fun and relaxation on a Sunday afternoon. The crowds of people included a few daredevils who jumped from the top of the waterfall, and it was so high that you couldn't fail to be impressed by their combination of stupidity and bravery. It was fun to watch but we didn't hang around to see blood, so we got back in the bus and once again etched our way closer to Darwin.

We were all getting a little stir-crazy at this stage. It wasn't like Darwin had a particularly glowing reputation, but it represented a bit more civilisation and modernity than we had been used to for the last few weeks. The route we had covered was particularly remote, with a few pokey wee towns and the odd roadhouse epresenting the only sign of life for miles around. But I liked the fact that we were miles from nowhere, and we managed to see the 'real' Australia for a few weeks.

We finally arrived into Darwin at about 17.00, and checked into the 'Youth Shack' hostel. We paid about $29 for a bed in an eight-bed dorm and, although it wasn't the best of places, it wasn't too bad and all of us from the Easy Rider bus that arrived that day were put in the same room. We got showered and changed and caught up with Pete & Becky, the guys from Somerset who I had met when we started out on the Easy Rider trip in Perth three weeks before (it had felt like a whole lot longer, but in a good way, of course).

We all met again in Shenanigans Pub, next door to the hostel, and I got the impression that this would be where we would spend a large portion of our time in Darwin. We celebrated our trip from Broome and our arrival in one piece into Darwin with a drink before we went to a quintessential backpackers nightclub in town – called 'The Vic' – for a free meal and a few more drinks. The food was just about edible but it didn't surprise me to learn that they were basically giving the stuff away with free vouchers, just to try and get people in there in the first place and then seduce them with cheap drinks. It was the sort of place where they played games for drinks and you could also win some decent prizes of trips and tours throughout Australia, but it didn't appeal to me hugely.

I wasn't really in the mood for this place, so I left about 22.00 to go back to Shenanigans with the Italian guys who wanted to watch their hero Valentino Rossi in the Moto GP. On our way  into the pub we met Sanne, Sandra and Phil, and we caught up on what each of us had been up to (the three of them had travelled from Broome to Darwin on the Greyhound), before we were joined by some of the other guys we had been hanging out with over the last few weeks: Emer, Sean, Michel, Gemma and a few others. It was good to see everyone again and I left them all to it at about 01.30, before heading back to the hostel for some rest and looked forward to a lie-in the next day. Best of all, there was going to be no more bus, I had finally had my fill of it!


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