Sunday, 22 June 2014

Darwin Part 2- All the touristy things that are awesome.

Darwin Sunset
The second part of our Darwin week started with Fiela and I dithering about what to do that day... Water or wildlife park? Shopping or museums? Markets or Jumping Crocodiles? After some heated too-ing and fro-ing, we decided on driving down to Berrry Springs and its Nature Park, the actual springs at Berry Springs, maybe drive another 80kms one way to Mandorah a town on the opposite side of the harbour from Darwin, see the 12volt fridge man about our ailing Waeco and get home in time for the Mindil Sunset Markets. Dream big Uys's, dream big.

Excited much? Look out Territory Nature Park!

The drive down to Berry Springs takes about 45 minutes and takes you passed a massive stock yard with lots of roadtrains and forlorn looking cows, most likely export bound, and the odd WWII memorial.

When we arrived at the Territory Wildlife Park I had few expectations, thinking it would be a quick stop before a swim at the springs and the thousands of other things we seemed to have planned for the day. But I was blown away immediately by the price alone at $26 per adult with kids under 15 free. Coming from the Irwin family's Australia Zoo territory on the Sunshine Coast, where  a day out needs to be carefully budgeted, this seemed like a bargain. Surely there's a catch? Nope, just an awesome wildlife park with some awesome displays.

A long neck turtle.

We walked in and had lunch while the kids played in the playground, then listened to a quick talk on long neck and yellow neck turtles (apparently it's turtle week?!), with Marguerite and Caesar able to have a quick
Patting aforementioned turtle. More exciting times for the Uys Huis and their blankies...
 pat of them. Then we jumped on the 'train' up to the Aviary. Instead of being just one big bird cage, we walked through a series of smaller ones, each showcasing bird, reptile, mammal and fish species in the habitat where they can be found. The billabong habitat was perhaps the most interesting because you could see the fish underwater,  but there were also excellent savannah woodland, dry rock and monsoonal forest aviaries, just to name a few. We got to the main aviary in time to listen to another ranger talk on some of the birds there. We got to look at brown Curlew up close and thus demystified our own demons in regard to this species (if you've never heard a curlew, their nickname is 'murderbird', and gives a fair sized  clue as to their loud call. Quite the sleep disrupter in the middle of the night!), a tawny frogmouth, doves, orange breasted lorikeets and more. A highlight was throwing live millet worms to the birds. Marguerite was all over that.

Part of the aviary, the monsoon section. A sensor lets off the most enormous thunder clap as you walk in
and then 'rain' pours over the roof.

The Billabong aviary.

Fish up close in the billabong aviary.

Next stop was the birds of prey talk. This was pretty impressive, with eagles using rocks to crack open emu eggs, jabiru soaring over with their enormous wingpsan, barn owls, white crested eagles... It really was a fantastic and informative show and it all happened a few metres in front of us. Afterwards the kids got to pat a rufus owl and look at an eagle's next closeup via some stairs.

Eagle cracking open an emu egg by throwing a rock at it. Quite amazing!


We also went to the nocturnal house, but as you're supposed to  be quiet and move slowly so as not to disturb the animals, we didn't see much. So onto the aquarium, which was awesome. Fiela saw a size barramundi, the only one thus far on the trip- let's all hope he gets one soon because the moping is outrageous. And the rest of us saw fresh water sting rays (in a walk through tunnel, the rays gliding over head), turtles, all kinds of fish in all kinds of water and temperatures, and a 4 metre saltwater crocodile. It really was very good and for our children it was amazing, their faces pressed up against the glass and screaming in excitement. The fish weren't returning the love but then they probably get that all day so perhaps it's all a bit ho hum.

Patting a Rufus Owl.

Not sure who loved it more, Fiela or his Mini Me...

Then it was home time, but not before the dingoes came out and we got a close look at them too. We'd spent almost 5 hours here in this enormous park and seen so much wildlife in such varied habitats, it really felt like we'd kicked a touristy goal!.


Feeling pretty tired, we realised we really only had time for one more activity, which would definitely have to involve alcohol, so we drove back to Darwin and straight over to the Mindil Beach Markets. There are a few stalls selling the usual kind of asian inspired clothing and homewares, but the main draw card is the amazing food+live entertainment+red overwater sunset = complete Darwinian experience. Unfortunately we missed the sunset, too intent on stuffing our faces with the next tasty thing to eat. Oh well, we'd just have to come back and do it again on Sunday!

We spent a day doing some shopping at Casuarina, a centre with some pretty snazzy shops along with all the usual suspects like BigW, Kmart etc... Next stop was the Darwin Museum which was excellent. Again the focus was on the fauna of the Northern Territory, but there was also a fantastic exhibit on Cyclone Tracey (which flattened the city in ) and its after effects. I had no idea that most of the city was airlifted out, and 1974) there was a dark sound room where you could listen to what it would have been like as the cyclone ripped apart your house. Scary! The museum also housed a stuffed crocodile named 'Sweetheart' (Territorian humour at work), a 5 metre male specimen who had been terrifying the locals by attacking the propellers of their boats. Poor misunderstood Sweetheart never actually killed anyone, but people are pretty uptight about their tinnies so he had to go. The musem also has a great kids activity centre right next to the cafe overlooking the sea and serving awesome food (we had the pancakes with pistachio butter; everything else coming out of the kitchen looked yum too).

Stupid curlews... They look so harmless and nerdy, but they scream  absolute bloody murder.

Having only two nights left in which to view the sunset over NT waters, we went straight from here to the Darwin Yacht Club, mostly because I'd gotten a tip from a local that the food was better than that at the Ski Club with the added bonus of a playground. Fiela was annoyed, loving the Bali style bar they had at the Ski Club, but you can't beat a fancy pub with somewhere for the kids to play (I think I'm turning a bit bogan...). And just to prove it really was THE place for sundowners,  who was sitting front and centre but the Braggs. So ended our second last night in Darwin, having drinks and lovely food with great company, watching the sun dip firey red into the Arafura Sea.

NT Sundowners.

Our last day was spent cleaning out the camper trailer, stocking up on food and drinks (keen to avoid another Normanton-esque markup next time we need nappies and the like) and washing washing washing. By mid afternoon we were ready for the recreation centre at Leeanyer. This park had a massive playground,  skatepark, water play park, massive lagoon style pool and three water slides reached by climbing up about five flights of stairs. It was pretty awesome  even though Marguerite was really starting to feel the effects of Caesar's virus. Fiela and I had a great time on the slides, though I'll admit to a fair bit of screaming the first few times down- those tubes are a lot smaller than I remember. Ha ha!

Some of the crowds at the Mindil Beach Markets.

We headed for our final Darwin experience: trying to get a sunset photo at Mindil for the second time. Fiela and I managed to control ourselves, and we watched that sun dip into the sea along with thousands of others- geez it's a popular thing to do on a Sunday.

OK, I forgot the camera the day we went to the Yacht Club... It's all same same but different ;)

Oysters and Sundowners with the crowds.

And so ended our week in the last city the Uys Huis was likely to see until we neared Perth in a few months time. Darwin is an awesome little city: a holiday destination in its own right. And we'd shopped, eaten with the hordes and played ourselves sick. It was time to get this show back on the road and get back to nature. Next stop: Litchfield National Park.

Mindil Beach on a Sunday.


Red Wren

Owls looking cute and menacing all at once.

Tawny Frog Mouth

Orange lorikeet

Live millet worms

Birds of prey lady and owl


Crap Jabiru photo

Majestic eagle photo.... Whatever I can't remember all their names.
Ha ha. You're still reading????

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