Coming from the clean and family friendly city of Perth to Darwin was the complete opposite of what everything Perth was. It was dusty, dirty, and crikey was it hot. The contrasting climate, way of life, culture, and interests further highlighted to me how different each state of Australia was, and still is.
It seemed Darwin was an empty city in the middle of the outback filled with miners, backpackers trying to earn some money, or keen travellers ready to hike within Kakadu. So where did that place two broke British 18 year olds? No where. Spending two weeks here was an interesting experience, and although at times we felt like ‘two lost souls swimming in a fishbowl’ to quote Pink Floyd, we really enjoyed ourselves, meeting so many interesting people and learning what life was like in a town in the outback.
Darwin, although a city with a small city centre with little to do but stroll around and see the various Didgeridoo shops, art galleries, the Convention Centre, the Parliament House, and Aquascene– (egged on by our lonely planet guides and feeling the need to fill our endless sunbathing hours with some tourist attractions we went to the waterfront and found a queue outside this tourist attraction called Aquascene which would give us a “full frontal experience of sea life”. What it really was, was us and many other tourists paying an entrance free then paying for bread to feed fish. Goes to show, to not always follow your guidebook.)
Look further than what the eye sees. Darwin is a stepping stone to another world. A world where temperatures reach a soaring 50 degrees, where land is orange and everywhere is filled with deadly animals. Venture off the tourist track for one moment, or even past the sectioned off area of the port, and you will find ravenous sharks, aggressive crocodiles, terrifyingly big spiders, slithering lizards and poisonous jellyfish. We took a Jumping crocodile trip, which was off one of the many rivers in Darwin (and one where people mistakenly swim in many of the time). It was terrifying to see these enormous dinosaur like beasts jump with such force and strength to reach a bait that lifted high above them, which could easily capsize the boat- I don’t know what was more terrifying, the croc or what could happen to the boat.
You must head out to one of Darwin’s national parks, where real adventure and Australia combine. Unfortunately we couldn’t afford a trip to Kakadu park, instead we took a day trip to Litchfield park, a spectacular national park filled with waterfalls and bush walking trails. From humongous termite mounds, to lizards that had a crown of wings around its head, to swinging spooky red backed spiders, we were blown away by how vast and deadly this environment is. Litchfield is beautiful to explore its many rock pools and cascading waterfalls, as well as its trails that take you further into the depth of the jungle- although always go with someone, (the ‘bush’ here is the most dangerous in the world).
If you want to head to a beach to catch a glimpse at a great white or a box jellyfish (no sightseeing for the faint hearted) head to Mindil Beach. Having the beach to ourselves with just mud crabs for company was a surreal experience and gave us time to ponder out onto the vast and empty horizon, until the Mindil beach sunset market began to kick off. I do recommend walking around the market where they have a variety of knick knack shops and food outlets- Roadkill Café anyone? Seriously. They’re slogan is “You Kill it. We Grill it.” Well my nan would say want not waste not!
Not only is Darwin the forefront of nature, but it also acts as the welcoming gates to the Aboriginal culture. Most Aboriginals live in Alice Springs, the centre and heart of Australia, although many come here for work or a vacation. Their fascinating history, beliefs and arts are shown through the many diverse art galleries here and the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern territory, which was really insightful in seeing the culture of Aboriginals and their background. However, like many nations in the world, the minority here, whom are the Aboriginals, suffer much racial prejudice and discrimination creating alack of opportunities and hope for the future. One only needs to glance on the side of the street to see how Aboriginals beg, and how they are treated by locals. Being a tourist, I felt like I had no right to voice my opinions and thoughts on this unequal distribution of wealth, although seeing such suffering will take a toll on those who are equally as passionate about human rights as I am.
Staying at Melalueca on Mitchell Hostel meant we were in the centre of the city nearest all the drinking spots. The main reason why we chose this hostel was yes, the great location but also- the rooftop pool with hostel BBQs and a kitchen (which is essential in an expensive place like Australia for backpackers). Darwin’s night life was crazy and I mean CRAZY. I’ve been clubbing in most of the countries in the world and I have got to say, Darwin’s night life seemed to be fixated around one thing. Sex. Competitions for drunken backpackers such as Babe Nation, Wet Dream Ball (the dress code was: if you’re not naked enough you will be refused entry) Tits Out Tuesday (A more extreme version of Wet T-shirt competitions as there are no T-shirts involved), as well as every venue having a different Ladies night with hot male strippers fuels the already intoxicated backpackers to having a night unlike any other, all in Darwin. You wouldn’t expect it in such a dusty town, would you?