Thursday, 19 June 2014


 I don't think I've ever had a hangover as far reaching as this. It seemed to infect every part of my being, every corner of my world and every person in it. Sydney had been a magnificent break from our campertrailer and the environs of the Northern Territory, but it had left us all feeling weary in a number of ways: physically, emotionally, mentally and financially. Tired from late nights and big days, heartsick at saying goodbyes to both sides of our family,  over the navigational hurdles of personalities (both human and metropolitan) and concerned about the frequent ATM withdrawals we'd been making and the consequences of this on the next leg of our trip. Yes, the excesses of our week in Sydney had stretched us in every sense; even our waistlines were feeling the pressure.

The Tannie/Nana/Poppy Hangover in full effect.

The flight back had been a tag team event of who would comfort  Caesar (sporting a fantastically intense cold), and who would tell Marguerite to pipe down. We waited forever for our bags, then forever for a taxi, then it took forever to set up the campertrailer and forever for the kids to realise that no, Tannie Karen, nor Stefan, nor Nana nor Poppy, not even the Braggs were going to turn up anytime soon. The Uys Huis was having a fairly massive bluuuurggghh moment.

On the plus side, in our absence the nights in Darwin had cooled off to a pleasant 23 degrees, and now it was only the days we had to sweat through. Or snot through with Marguerite catching Caesar's bug very quickly: good bye full night's sleep.

Oh but it was far from all bad, no need to feel smug about the crap time we were having just yet!

The park along the city cliffs overlooking the bay.

We decided to stay for a week in Darwin,  hoping to complete a few administrative things as well as some sightseeing.  Our windscreen had a crack in it (courtesy of a road train all the way back in Katherine) from one side to the other, with shatter marks appearing more and more numerous with every bump in the road. So we spent one afternoon getting that fixed and going for a walk through the city. Darwin is the most compact and accessible of any state capital I've been to. The city centre is only a few blocks,  surrounded by green parks and cheap all day parking. Peak hour lasts for about 15 minutes and everything seems reasonably priced (an extremely welcome change from Sydney,  where walking out the front door costs money and travelling five kilometres is quicker by foot at almost any time of the day).

Looking out over the bay.

We took a walk along the park facing the bay with all the World War II memorial plaques and I was struck at how this 'outpost' of Australian culture was probably the most intimately connected to the rest of the world and its events in many ways. People belonging to over 50 nationalities live in Darwin; it's closer to Indonesia then its own country's capital and this is the only place in Australia to feel the physical explosion and terror of World War II bombs. And thanks to the mining boom there's a definite feeling of affluence despite the vast numbers of people sleeping under trees.

A gun salvaged from one of the bombed naval ships during WWII.

That night we lobbed gratefully into the Braggs' camp who were in the caravan park down the road for hamburgers and catchups. Caesar launched into his refrain of "Gaye! Gaye! Gaye!" and Marguerite was all over the iPad- Braggy luxuries we'd lived without for a few weeks...

Darwin's  city shopping mall, complete with kids' playground.

The next day we'd booked our Prado in for a service, so caught the bus into the city (I admit, I had a nervous twitch- public transport so soon!) and had a look at which bus tour we'd do of the city. They have a red open top (like the ones in London and every other big city in the world), an old army transport bus (complete with a slouch hat wearing guide!) and the touristy aqua-bus... you know, those awfully touristy ones that go on the road and then turn into a boat?? Of course the latter was our pick of the bunch and we dutifully paid the $36 per adult to get on Reggie the Crocodile Bus and take the Darwin Tour.

The Tourist Trap and Marguerite.

We learnt a few cool facts about Darwin:
 - 125,000 head of cattle are exported live out of Darwin per year.
 - 300 crocodiles are caught in the harbour and off the beaches every year. The bigger ones are taken to crocodile 'farms' while the smaller ones are 'processed'.
 - There is no more room to build in the city, so all new buildings are going up up up.
 - Mangroves are a protected species in the Northern Territory, so no building is permitted on the foreshores of Darwin.

The Mindil Beach. Absolutely deserted on a 34 degree day.  

We also drove passed the Darwin Ski Club, where they do actually water ski.

Further proof that constant tropical heat is dangerous for your health- the nuts at the Darwin Ski Club.

Loving the small crocodile skull.

Anyway, we drove through town, had a cruise around the beaches up to Cullen Bay and back. It was a nice little tour, and since the kids could get up and run around while we were on the water and officially a boat, the two hour time frame wasn't too painful.

Captain Marguerite, taking it all in her stride.

Two attempts at driving up onto the sandbar opposite the Ski Club proved for naught. Why would we try to drive on a sand bar?  "Because we can!?" says the guide... ??!!

We walked down to the Waterfront area where new looking restaurants look out over the only safe sea water swimming enclosure in Darwin and a much more sterile wave pool. We had the $15 lunch special at a restaurant called 'Cruise' or 'Ebb' or 'Wave' or something to that effect, enjoying the included beer, the view and the couches so much that we all nearly fell asleep! But instead we got back on the (now packed full) bus, went for a swim in the caravan park pool and marvelled at the snot coming out of our children's noses.

The Uys Huis, seconds from snooze time.

Bikini carwash. Didn't know whether to laugh or indignantly write the newspaper a letter...
And prayers of a sort were answered... The grandparent hangover was dissipating but Fiela and I were still finding our 'calm' parenting style, such was the shock to our system at having full responsibilities of child rearing thrust back upon us. So emerged Cheryl, the most loving and thoughtful grandmother type you could want camping right next door to you. Her husband Marius was also lovely, and Caesar wore him down with exclamations of "Truck! Ook! Truck!!" (really who could resist??). They probably don't realise that their extra eyes and calls to get off the road saved our children from infanticide.

Devil Child.

And as we slowly found our Uys Huising feet again, Darwin continued to offer more and more to keep us interested.

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