Tropical festivities in the NT

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With word that our eldest son would be arriving into Darwin two days earlier than expected, we had some longer days of driving to get there from Alice Springs. The Stuart Highway north of Alice is a lovely straight stretch of road, and had been cleared a few metres back from each side of the road. The dressed up cathedral termite mounds were very entertaining, and the fresh green growth after the rain added to the kaleidoscope of colours in the landscape.

We didn’t get away from Alice till nearly lunchtime, so the 500km trip to Tennant Creek had us reluctant to set up camp when we arrived. A cabin stay was called for, and the airconditioning was a relief that meant most of us got some sleep.

Tennant Creek to Daly Waters was another 400km stretch, and with longer days of driving combined with heat and humidity, Paul & Kirstine made the decision to use some of their meagre savings to have the family stay in cabins. It took the pressure off needing to set/pack up camp in difficult weather conditions, and meant we could enjoy the journey despite the hours being spent in the car to get us to Darwin in time for our son’s arrival.

The Hi-way Inn at Daly Waters was truly enjoyable. The staff hadn’t had a service dog stay before, but one of the managers was totally up to speed on the law, and expedited our check in process. The new cabins were beautifully appointed, and the tree frogs came out to feed from the insects attracted to the outside lights after dark. Thoroughly entertaining!

Katherine was the destination for a couple of days, and by comparison to the longer days we’d had to drive in the lead up, 300km was a pleasant change!

The Knotts Crossing Resort were so welcoming and didn’t question Luna’s presence at all. Very professional staff! The family rooms have two queen beds, a set of bunks, and a kitchenette. Perfect for us. We were told that this time of the year in Katherine is also known as “suicide season”, not only because of the build up to the wet season rains, but also Christmas being difficult for many in town. Seeing security guards at the supermarket and police at the liquor stores, was an eye opener but sadly nothing new to us after our visit to Alice.

When we left Katherine for Darwin, it was with a sense of excitement and anticipation. It was a destination that everyone had been looking forward to, another city so far away from the heavily populated areas of Australia, that it’s easier to fly there than drive.

Darwin didn’t disappoint. Beautiful infrastructure, clean and tidy, and quiet (due to the mass exodus of government staff over the Christmas period), we explored and marvelled at the lush gardens, and coloured waters of the Timor Sea. Our accommodation for the stay in Darwin made a serious dent in our savings, but was very worthwhile. Hidden Valley Tourist Park is delightful. Quieter in the wet season, there were still a few families in the villas for the festive season. Front verandah, lounge, kitchen, kids room with 2 sets of built in bunks, and a king sized bed in the master bedroom, it felt thoroughly luxurious. We effectively “moved in”, and settled on the verandah to watch the the rain that started just after we move in the last bags.

Eldest son arrived just before midnight, and the kids were super excited to wake up the next morning and find him in his bed.

We’d already decided to step back from the pressures of the trip for a bit and enjoy being a complete family again. Visiting the amazing Darwin Military Museum and its Defence of Darwin exhibit was so worthwhile. The Museum’s Cyclone Tracy exhibit was surreal, and the kids first experience with a natural disaster. The photos, the sound booth with actual recordings from the cyclone, and a huge twisted metal girder that once stood tall and straight till Tracy’s landfall, were confronting but fascinating. Darwin has obviously rebuilt, and grown in population, but it remains the smallest state capital in Australia, with a population of only 146,000 (round figures).

Crocosaurus Cove was a treat for us all. Paul had been determined to see a saltwater crocodile in the Northern Territory, and this was a safe way to ensure that this happened! Luna was welcomed without question. Some of these prehistoric creatures are leviathan in size, and truly marvellous as well as inspiring fear on a primal level. Having one open its eyes to look directly at you with its toothy maw open, is a singularly spine chilling experience! Luna wasn’t sure what to make of them, but was fabulously well behaved, even in the reptile house where every inhabitant was wide awake and active! Had she been allowed, she would have jumped in to swim with the kids in the tank next to the juvenile salties too. It would have been interesting to see her reaction to them being close to the kids, albeit separated by a massively thick piece of perspex.

All too soon our stay in Darwin was over. We slept long and late, we rested, we played tourist, and enjoyed every tropical storm that arrived in the afternoon. We fell in love with this resilient city, which has risen from the ashes of World War II bombings by the Japanese, one of the worst cyclones in Australian history, and has bounced back. It is inspiring, stunning in the warm wet season rain, and completely worthwhile visiting. We’ll be back!

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