Darwin, Australia

May 2019

I had not realized that Indonesia and Australia were only a short plane ride apart until I started to search for another adventure while in this area. After a little research and checking into Darwin hotels and prices of attractions I decided to limit my time in Darwin to six days since Bali had more to offer and better prices, yet I could not miss checking out a country I had never been to before.  I also found a visa is required in order to travel to Australia. Obtaining a visa was actually very simple. You can apply on line at the website of the state department, pay $20 by credit card and the visa attaches to your passport. No one ask for a visa when you arrive because it shows you have it when they scan your passport while going through customs.

I arrived late in the evening and found taxis to be the only transportation to the hotel which was my first experience of the high prices in Darwin. The charge for the taxi to go from the airport to the hotel, less than 5 miles away, was $39. Compared to my hometown in Florida that was far more expensive.

Darwin is a small town, population of around 120,000 people. All the people were very friendly and extremely happy to have tourist. I was able to meet and talk with several of the local people and found most all shared the same opinion about their government being very stressed at this time with the value of their dollar dropping on a regular basis. Apparently, their solution to that problem is when the value drops, they raise their prices even more. In my opinion that does nothing to help their much-wanted tourist industry.

Since my time was limited, I booked a tour the next day after arriving to Litchfield Park, one of two attraction offered within a two to four-hour drive from Darwin. Darwin doesn’t offer much locally in the city other than a couple of museums, a few Crocs, and beautiful scenery of the clear blue shores all to be seen from a hop-on hop-off sightseeing bus. If you’re lucky you may see a couple of Wallabies. I was able to see a few but at first site I thought they were small kangaroos until the driver announced the name and that no kangaroos lived in or around the Darwin area.

The trip to Litchfield Park started at 7am taking a couple of hours for the drive stopping along the way to see the termite mounds along with a short stop at a small roadside café before entering the park. We drove for miles and miles seeing nothing but trees and bush and no sign of life other than a fair amount of traffic on Stuart Highway the main road going through the Northern Territory.

Arriving in Litchfield park our first area was a one of the most beautiful waterfalls with crystal clear waters for swimming I’ve had the pleasure of swimming in. We were given an hour to enjoy swimming, walking or enjoying the nature in the park. I chose to have a swim since I’ve always loved swimming in fresh water. The guide assured us of no crocs in these waters. He also gave warning of a fable about the falls stating that women would go there to ensure fertility when they wanted to be able to have a child. I was pretty sure that warning did not pertain to me, so I continued on and enjoyed a swim.

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While we enjoyed the park the driver, who was also a chef at his second job, prepared a delicious lunch for all of us on the tour. That was a pleasant surprise none of us expected.After lunch we continued on with a nature walk and several more swimming holes, being given time for a few swims along the way.

We left Litchfield Park with our next destination to be a boat trip down the Adelaide River and a real live Crocodile experience. Unfortunately, on the way to the River Boat, and in the middle of nowhere, we had a blow-out on the bus leaving the driver and the men on the tour the challenge of changing a flat tire in 95-degree weather and soft ground that would not support a car jack. Forty-five minutes later we were back on the road again, a little scary but thanks to our multi-talented driver all ended well.

Due to the misfortune of the flat tire we were running late for the boat trip. Even though the sun was beginning to go down our tour guide was determined to finish the tour as promised. The bus turned down a winding road into the woods and a swamp like area heading toward the Adelaide river. We were met by Pat, an older guy with a long gray beard, barefoot, wearing shorts, a leather hat and carrying a gun and large knife. He bared a strong resemblance to one of the characters on the movie Crocodile Dundee.

Before being allowed to board the boat, we had to stand at the edge of the woods and listen to a long list on instructions and warnings from Pat about not going off the trail in route to the boat because Crocs could be lying in wait ready to attack. I had to wonder how much of this was true and how much was creating fear to get everyone under his control or else make his tour more interesting or exciting. Since he was the one with a gun and a knife, I really didn’t care whether what he said was true or not. My plans were to stay behind and follow him closely especially since the sun was disappearing as he spoke. In my opinion this was not the best time of the day to take a tour into a swamp looking for Crocs at feeding time.

We went through the trail in pairs as instructed until we were all on the boat which was on pontoons and probably not the most substantial vessel to carry multiple people down a river infested with Crocodiles. One of the Crocs who swam up to the boat was very close to the length of one of the pontoons. One thing for sure Pat provided a good show for anyone who wanted to see these creatures up close and in the wild. We all returned without incident and really some good photos as proof of our Crocodile Adventure.

 

If I return to this area, I will make sure to schedule time for Kakadu Park which is a three-day adventure offering more beautiful areas with an Aborigine experience. Australia is a lot to cover in only 5 days’ time.

Time to leave Australia and go back to Bali for a few more days before my flight back home. I had another first-time experience while leaving this country going through customs. I was pulled aside by one of the agents and asked many personal questions, such as why I left the country so quickly after arriving. I bluntly stated, “because I had to pay $13 for two scrambled eggs, a slice of toast and a cup of coffee, Australia is far too expensive for me”. He continued on with more questions asking where do you get money to travel, what do you do for a living, where did you stay, where are you going now, etc.? I gave more colorful answers to most of his questions and finally he gave up allowing me to pass through. I walked away feeling offended and confused as to why he singled me out from everyone else going through that line, wondering what I did to trigger an interrogation from a federal agent in Australia. It was not until I got back to Bali when I met two ladies from Darwin on holiday that I found out why this happened to me. We were having a long conversation about their country and my visit there. I mentioned to them what had happened with the Federal Agent and they began to laugh telling me  the agent suspected me of being a drug mule. They said it happens often in their country with people coming from Bali who were paid to transport drugs. The fact that I came and went so quickly was what put me under suspicion. I begin to feel a little better about the experience I had and especially thankful for not being subjected to a cavity search. I will definitely remember the experience if and when I return to Australia preparing myself ahead of time.

 

 

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