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On Walkabout At: The Pearl of the Top End, Darwin – Part 13

Back to Darwin

After spending the day at Litchfield National Park we had to return our campervan to the Britz dealer in Darwin. It only takes about an hour to make the drive to the Britz dealership from Litchfield, however I had to stop to take one last picture of these amazing ant mounds. I never thought ant mounds could be so cool:

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Once we got to Darwin we had some problems locating the Britz dealer since I was unfamilar with the area. I drove around for about 45 minutes before I found the place. Something to keep in mind when renting a campervan is that you have to turn it back in very clean. Campervans are not like rental cars. The outside of the rental van has to be washed and the inside sweeped out and cleaned including the toilet and shower. It is actually quite time consuming and a pain. We spent about four hours the night before cleaning the campervan for turn in the next day.

Anyway after waiting in line, completing the turn in, and waiting for a taxi; we only spent two hours at Britz unlike the half a day we wasted when we picked up the campervan when we first got to the Top End. The taxi cab took us to the Best Western and we proceeded to do the mountain of laundry we accumulated during our touring before getting some rest. However, before getting some shut eye we made sure we checked out the spectacular sunset over Fannie Bay from the park across the street from our hotel:

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The next day we woke up ate breakfast at the hotel and then proceeded to walk around town. You would think that Darwin would be a bit of a frontier town considering how isolated the place is. Just think the nearest major city to the south of Darwin is Alice Springs which is about 840 miles away and this city only has about 15,000 people living in it. Any of the major cities on the Australian east coast are all over a 1,000 miles away.  To the west there is no city of any substance. In fact Indonesia is closer to Darwin than any major Australian city. Darwin is actually located geographically closer to Jakarta than Sydney. The isolation of Darwin in Australia is really quite incredible when you think about it.

Despite this isolation Darwin is not a frontier town by any stretch of the imagination. Some locals I talked say that not to long ago the term frontier town was very true, but now tourism has really shaped the city for the better. The downtown area is filled with new buildings, hotels, bars, restaurants, and shopping areas. The city is very well laid out and easy to get around. I was very impressed with how well designed the city was. The city was actually constructed twice within the last 60 years. The city was first reconstructed after World War II after the Japanese bombed the city 64 times killing a total of 213 Australians.  Some people may remember these bombings from the horrible movie Australia.

Many of the settlers back then moved inland to Katherine to escape the Japanese attacks, but the Japanese even bombed Katherine during the war as well. Littered throughout the Top End are the remains of old allied air fields that were used during the war by both the Australian and US Air Forces to fight the Japanese from. The second time the city was rebuilt was after Cyclone Tracy leveled Darwin on Christmas Day in 1974 killing 66 people. The rebuilding after the cyclone was definitely well planned and successful judging by the beautiful city Darwin is today.

During the day we had time to kill in Darwin, so my wife and I decided to focus on the historical sights and do some shopping before heading back to the hotel. Darwin is filled with many old historical buildings including this building housing an old Darwin pearling company:

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I had a local tell me that Darwin has such a large population of ethnic Chinese because they came to Darwin to work for the pearling companies. Another old colonial building that survived the cyclone is the Brown Mart which has now been turned into a theatre:

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Here are the ruins of the old Darwin town hall that did not survive Cyclone Tracy:

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There is lots more to see in Darwin such as the Northern Territory museum, a few World War II sites, as well as the fisherman’s, wharf which has a number of seafood restaurants. We decided to get something to eat in the small Chinatown area which wasn’t to bad. If you are not into the historical and cultural sites; Darwin is filled with many strip clubs and bars that cater to the young backpacker tourism scene if that is what you are into. I’m married with a receding hairline, I don’t think I would fit in to well in the Darwin club scene though judging by the ages of some of the people hanging out in those clubs, I could be wrong.

Anyway the next day we got up early and I hailed another taxi to get us to the distant Darwin train station. Once again we payed the $40 dollar taxi fee to get to the train station and waded through the crowds to get our bags checked in and wait to board the Ghan. As you can see from the picture below, there is not much to the Darwin train station, but it was good enough for just two trains a week from the Ghan:

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Below is a picture of the train engine that would be pulling us this time:

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Overall we had a great time in Darwin and the Top End. The area is really scenic and was definitely worth every bit of money and time we spent to go and tour there. It was nice to escape the daily grind of work to go and hang out with the laid back Aussies of the Top End. If you are traveling to Australia and want to experience the Australian bush Crocodile Dundee style than the Top End is the place to go. You won’t find people or an environment like the Top End in any other place in Australia and should be a must see for anyone taking an extended tour of Australia.

Anyway it was time to load up and begin our journey back home to Victoria:

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Click to go to Northern Territory Holiday Journal Archive

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