Friday, August 13, 2010

Darwin, Australia - August 13, 2010


The last thing we expected was six weeks in Darwin, Australia, but here we are. At times it has been agonizing. Tom’s sciatica was very incapacitating and had us wondering whether we would ever set sail again. The electronic equipment that failed us on the way into Darwin still isn’t back to perfect either. However, we are feeling ready to move on and we hope to make our date to meet Amy in Indonesia August 23 – on the boat.
Darwin is hot and sunny in this, the dry season. Every day into the 90’s with low humidity. It’s time for outdoor markets, cafes, cinemas, and concerts which are especially lovely in the evening. We travelled to Kakadu and Katherine National Parks with Eve and saw lots of crocodiles (from the safety of tour boats) and rocks and giant termite mounds. The land was mostly flat, dusty, and covered with low green trees and bush that were turning brown with the season, with an occasional billabong (that’s a swamp).
A motley group of 130,000 people live in this regional capital of the Northern Territory. Darwin is a center of mining and fishing and Aboriginal culture and services. We’ve encountered people from all over the world living and working here (there is an acute labor shortage) – East Timor, India, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, China, Japan, Malaysia, Pakistan, Nepal, Indonesia, Liberia, Ghana, Ireland, France, Holland, and many more. Crusty men with unbelievable beards – long, straight, curly, fuzzy, ratsy, twisted, beaded, braided and spaghettied. New agers and artists. Backpackers stopping to earn some money. Darwin is very remote, very expensive, very unique, and feels like it’s on the frontier. The front page of the newspaper features crocodile attacks, deadly auto accidents, and the ravages of alcohol abuse.
Darwin was named when the crew of the Beagle arrived here, long before Charles Darwin became famous. The city has been destroyed several times. Ten weeks after Pearl Harbor, the Japanese bombed Darwin, where an Allied naval flotilla had gathered. There were 62 air raids over the next several months. The city was evacuated, ground forces and the airfleet were dispersed inland, and the war propaganda machine kept news of the devastating attack from the general public. This was the background of the recent movie “Australia”. In 1974, a huge cyclone hit Darwin, flattening old stone buildings and wiping out vast tracts of housing. The place has since been close to completely rebuilt.
And that’s it for Australia, we hope. Looking forward to moving onto the next country. Without the other 107 boats in the Sail Indonesia Rally who left July 24. With new crew - Richie from the UK.

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