HI, it’s me Nina… We (Jim, Wools and I) went with K and Ellen to town.. but after we couldn’t find decent wifi (not even in McDonalds) we were fed up.. and the weather was almost unbearable.. so humid and hot and since the town was a concrete jungle of buildings there was baraely a breeze so we.. (the 3 of us) decided to return to the ship and jump in the pool where we spent the rest of the afternoon.. But here is K journal insert for all to read…
Darwin, the capital of Australia’s Northern Territories, is named after the famous Charles Darwin, who himself never landed or visited here. The ship on which Darwin sailed, however, (including his voyage to the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador) as he gathered the data that eventually led to his publication of “On the Origin of Species”, his magnum opus and the volume that spawned the theory of evolution, the HMS Beagle, did sail the waters of Northern Australia and did land in Darwin, and I believe one of the captains of the HMS Beaglegave the city its present name.
Darwin is a lovely town located on the ocean that has much of the ambience we felt 3 years ago when we were in Cairns. The downtown part of the city is spread over an area of, perhaps, 6-8 square blocks and includes the Parliament Building, Supreme Court, and Government House (where the offices and home of the chief administrator of the Northern Territory are located). A wonderful Northern Territory library exists inside the Parliament Building. There are a number of wonderful galleries that specialize in aboriginal art. Most of the buildings in Darwin (Government House is an exception) are relatively new as the city was devastated in the 1970’s by Hurricane Tracy and subsequently rebuilt.
One thing that I should mention is that crocodiles are a big part of the local culture in Darwin. The Adelaide River, which runs just outside Darwin, is the home to salt water crocodiles, the largest of which has been recorded at something like 30 feet long and weighing well over a ton (the “average” size is probably 12-15 feet long). The crocs live in the salt water portion of the river and, understandably, are a big tourist attraction. Tour leaders on boats attach large chunks of meat to poles which are hoisted some 10-15 feet over the surface of the river and tease the crocs to come get the meat. After several attempts, during which the tour leaders quickly raise the meat beyond the croc’s grasp, the croc finally jumps nearly straight up out of the water, so it looks like he is standing on his tail, and gets the meat.
The local newspaper NT Times always (meaning virtually every day) carries at least one story about crocodiles; on the day we were there, the NT Times carried no less than 5 stories about crocs on its first 6-7 pages. Souvenir stores here sell plush stuff croc dolls, Croc-like shoes featuring biting crocodiles with “google eyes”, a floating croc head meant to be placed stand-alone in a swimming pool or other similar place in order to scare the bejeezus out of swimmers, something called “snappers”, which is like G-string thong underwear for a guy with the front part of the G-string in the shape of a crocodile’s head, and with a flap that when lifted, looks like the inside of a croc’s mouth. Beautiful crocodile leather belts, with the leather nearly 1/4″ thick and with the spiny knobs on the skin, were for sale (@ only $195 Australian), croc leather hatbands with smaller spiny knobs (@nearly $40) and croc leather bookmarks with tiny spiny knobs (@ $10-$15). There was also in the city a salt water croc show for $79 which, if you want to upgrade and spend $150, gives you the privilege of being placed in the “Cage of Death”, which is a caged plexiglass enclosure that is lowered into the water in which the salt water crocs are, and lets you observe them from underwater. Insurance not included.
Darwin was the only city on the Australian mainland to be attacked by the Japanese in WW II, and this event is commemorated extensively throughout the city in various ways.
We began our Darwin “walkabout” by stopping at one of the old surviving buildings known as Lyon’s Cottage (I don’t know the significance of the original building or its name), which today houses a cooperative dedicated to publicizing, fostering and advancing the work of aboriginal artists.
We got some fantastic photos of the work that was there and were told that this cooperative deals with the Northern Territory aboriginals, who are native to this area. Their art work seems to be even more primitive than the art works of aboriginals from other parts of Australia, in that the NT aboriginals seem to use larger blotches of paint as decorative elements in their works, particularly their portrayals of humans, animals and spirit figures, than we had seen 3 years ago when we were, for the most part, in Southern Australia. There the art works seemed to be composed of many colored dots formed into “space fillers” located around traditional aboriginal symbols. The symbols, taken together, tell stories, but the spaces between the symbols are filled with decorations that are mainly in the form of colored dots (sometimes the colors also represent seasons or moods). Anyone with OCD would find it heavenly to paint these dots – the rest of us would end up in a loony bin.
From the arts cooperative we walked through Darwin’s Bicentennial Park (in honor of Darwin’s Bicentennial), which has beautiful flowered trees, until we reached the cenotaph, a stately memorial to fallen Darwinians of WW I and WW II and a memorial to all the Australian units from Darwin who participated in the two wars. Further on down the road running along Bicentennial Park was a covered area dedicated to telling in brief, with sign-like story boards of text and photos, the story of Darwin, from its early beginnings to the present day. As the temperature was in the low 90’s F (mid-30’s C) and the humidity was palpable, the shaded esplanade area provided a welcome pause in our walkabout. (K is nuts it was way too hot and humid.. that’s the first time I have ever heard K say that weather like this was palpable.. maybe he will be used to it by the time we settle down in FLA??!!!)
Crossing the street from Bicentennial Park we came to the Supreme Court Building for the Northern Territories, and perpendicular to that building, to the Parliament Building. The Supreme Court Building had its name inscribed on it, so we knew immediately what it was, but the Parliament Building gave no indication of what it might be; above its main entrance it had only a symbol made of what looked like bent stainless steel (and which turned out to be the provincial coat-of-arms for the Northern Territories) that looked like two kangaroos. Ellen asked out loud, “I wonder what this (second building) is?” and I replied, “Well if that one is the Supreme Court, this one must be the Kangaroo Court”, and she cracked up. We took photos of both buildings (the architecture was very interesting, and the surrounding landscape beautiful) and then went into the Parliament Building to look around.
We had originally planned to complete our walkabout in downtown Darwin in 2-3 hours, and then take a bus to an outlying area where there was supposed to be an excellent museum of natural history that was part of a Northern Territories Museum Complex. However, as we began in the Parliament Building it became apparent to us that we would not finish here in time to visit the natural history museum and make it back to the ship’s shuttle by the appointed time.
After passing through security, we began in the lobby of the Parliament building, which is simply a large open room, with more sign-size posters on the supporting pillars that (again) told the story of Darwin from earliest times through the present. There was also a display of the NT flag that had been found after the attack on Darwin in WW II. It turns out that Darwin was the only city in Australia to be bombed by the Japanese in WWII. The bombing came in early 1942, only 2-3 months after the bombing of Pearl Harbor. (A movie account of the bombing of Darwin by the Japanese is found toward the end of the 2008 film “Australia” with Nicole Kidman.) At that time Darwin was still a pretty small place, and the Japanese apparently scored a direct hit on the Darwin Post Office, which seems to have been the center of the town and its activity. (The present Parliament Building is built on the site of that Post Office and still preserves a section of the old Post Office wall that has been incorporated into the new structure as a memorial.) From there we went to the 3rd floor of the building, which was where we were able to enter the Visitor’s Gallery and look down into the Chamber of Parliament and see where the Provincial business is conducted (they were not in session as this was a Saturday). After viewing the Chamber of Parliament we went back downstairs where we discovered the “find” of the day – the Library of the Northern Territory, located in the Parliament Building.
And what a find it was…in addition to being a historical and research library, there were also a number of fascinating permanent exhibits. First was a black-and-white photo exhibit of what life was like in Darwin and vicinity from around 1885-1925. The photos hung on the walls of the research section of the library, and all you had to do to take the “self-guided tour” was to walk, look and read. And if that wasn’t enough, all the photos are online on the website of the Northern Territory Library.
Then there was an early maps exhibit. The first maps of Australia and of the Darwin area were made by the Dutch, who came to the area in the 1600’s as traders and who therefore needed and made navigation maps, later cartographic maps, and who also gave Dutch place names to locations in Australia that are still in use today.
Next came an exhibit of aboriginal artifacts that the library had collected and/or purchased with donations. While the artifacts were not old, they were incredibly interesting. A librarian there granted our request to open the glass doors of the showcase that contained all the artifacts so that we could photograph them without getting a glare off the glass. She also gave us a kind of guided mini-tour of some of the Library’s non-literary artifacts, including a huge, hand-made quilt that told the story of Darwin’s history by people who actually inscribed parts of their own personal histories on patches of the quilt.
And finally, an exhibit on architecture and architects (this was the changing exhibit), where we spent only about 15 minutes, having spent so much time looking at the other exhibits in the Library. The Library also had a lot of free published information, including a large color catalog on glossy paper of their major 2012 Australian Artists exhibition. They had two catalogs left, and Ellen and I each got one.
With only an hour and a half until it was time to catch the shuttle back to the ship, and with the weather outside warm and sticky, the only reasonable thing to do in such a situation was to get a tall, cold draught beer from a local pub, which is exactly what we. The old Hotel Darwin had closed many years ago and had been reopened as a kind of saloon that was around for many years, but recently the saloon had been sold to people who wanted to restore the historic Hotel Darwin to its former glory, and just last month the restored Hotel Darwin, complete with old-time pub, was reopened to the public. We went in and had a quick look around. The ambience was 1890’s hotel saloon-like, but there didn’t appear to be much variety in beers. Ellen had the name of another pub recommended by Lonely Planet, so we decided to walk there as it was also on our way back. We went in, and there must have been 20 different beers on tap, none of which either had heard of. So we asked for some samples of different beers, which the bartender was happy to oblige. Between us we probably drank over a pint of beer in samplings before settling on a pint of exactly the same beer, a full-bodied golden ale, which was just what the doctor ordered on a hot, humid day like that. After each chug-a-lugging the bottom inch of our beer glasses, we agreed that one was enough and that it was time to return to the ship’s shuttle. We returned via the Smith Street Pedestrian Mall, where we noticed for the first time that all throughout the mall sidewalk brass disks had been embedded that showed the history and people who made Darwin’s story. There must have been 30-40 such disks, and Ellen photographed all of them before we returned to the shuttle and got onboard ship.
Our next stop was supposed to be Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, but apparently there have been some disturbances there that call into question the security of the place, so Holland America has scratched that from the scheduled itinerary and has substituted it with a visit to Hamilton Island, a part of the Whitsunday Islands, off Australia’s central east coast (Whit Sunday is the 7th Sunday after Easter – not sure what its importance is in Christian tradition); the archipelago island group was so named by Capt. James Cook in 1770 when he sailed through the so-called “Whitsunday Passage”). It’s a 3-day boat ride from Darwin, and we are told that Hamilton Island is essentially an exclusive tourist resort island run entirely by a private company. However, we are hoping this will give us an opportunity to swim and snorkel in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef (something we weren’t able to do when we were in Australia previously), as Hamilton Island is fairly close to the Inner Barrier Reef. More fun to come? Let’s hope so……
What I love about Australia (Nina here) is that the Aussie’s have the best sense of humor and adventure..
Anyone for a pair of Crocs???
and the cutest babies!!
Next stop : Hamilton Island, Australia…. instead of New Guinea.. “Security Reasons” we were told…
Hamilton Island is a lovely resort but will talk about it on my next post..
Posted all my posts from the lobby of this great hotel!!!