WE RETURN to our trusty train for the final leg to Darwin. The trip on the Ghan has lived up to all expectations, we have met some wonderful fellow travellers, gotten to know the ever friendly staff and dined in style in our Queen Adelaide Restaurant.
As we pull into Darwin the massive length of the Ghan dominates the station. The first thing I notice is the weather, that dominant humidity you expect this time of year was not there. It seems the rains of last week have stopped and a gentle dry heat greets us instead.
The next day we go exploring and spend a day on the hop-on-hop-off bus. It takes you to all the major attractions, 12 of them in all. The must sees are the Botanic Gardens, Northern Territory Museum and Art Gallery with its high quality displays of Aboriginal art, Navel Museum with its display boats including those used by boat people, and a must see the story of Darwin and the massive destruction of Cyclone Tracy.
Next was a stop at the Military Museum. The interactive displays are incredible and do not miss the Defence of Darwin Experience. It’s a full on audio-visual telling the history of the bombing of Darwin, the massive Japanese attack and the Australian response to the devastation wrought on Darwin by the bombings.
There is a lot to see out of the city, so we took a trip to Litchfield National Park, where you see Monsoon Rainforests, termite mounds in abundance and waterfalls that will astound you. This time of year during the wet season the falls are running at full steam. Indeed with the heavy rains of recent weeks the falls are so huge. At Wangi Falls the water has broken its banks flooding into the surrounding park. The swimming hole is closed due to the volume of water and it’s time to keep an eye out for saltwater crocodiles.
The story repeats itself at Tomer and Florence Falls but they are spectacular. Many say this is the best time of year to see them and we are lucky, last week Litchfield was closed because of the high water levels.
Now the termites, millions of them, have toiled over the years to build the mounds and they cover a vast area looking like tombstones. The mounds of the magnetic termites named so because they all face north-south so as they catch the least amount of hot sun during the day. Other mounds, known as cathedral mounds, are huge, tall edifices reaching for the sky.
It’s been great to visit Litchfield even though most of the park is still closed. We had booked to go to Kakadu as well but it’s closed completely.
Now for something different…crocodiles. We visited the Crocodylus Park, a crocodile park and zoo combined.
It’s situated 15 minutes from Darwin and was first set up 22 years ago as a research centre by Professor Grahame Webb and his team to carry out research and conservation techniques on crocodiles. It later became a crocodile farm and is now a park and zoo.
The zoo contains lions, tigers, baboons, ocelots, meerkats, birds and native animals. While we were there we saw crocodiles being fed, jumping up from their breeding pens to catch the food.
They also have a boat cruise out on a manmade lake filled with crocodiles that jump up out of the water to snatch food offered from the sides of the boat. It’s quite spectacular seeing how far the ‘crocks’ come out of the water just at the side of the boat where you are sitting. It’s estimated there are over 20,000 crocodiles on the entire complex.
While in Darwin a visit to the underground oil tunnels is an eye opener. Built during WWII, originally there were to be eight of the massive underground storage vaults to keep oil supplies safe from the enemy, but only five were complete before the end of the war.
They are huge and you can walk through them…an incredible achievement in construction.
But the big one not to be missed is the Stokes Hill Wharf Military Museum and Royal Flying Doctor Service. They have a virtual reality (VR) presentation. You don your VR headset and off you go into the war. You are surrounded 360 degrees up above and below by the bombing of Darwin Harbour. It’s incredible. One minute you are in the harbour with bombs raining down on you, the next you are up in the air flying along fighting the Japanese.
I was so impressed I sat through it twice.
Darwin is an incredible city with so much to see and do and the food is fantastic I have never tasted such mouth-water dishes, and the people are so friendly. On the street people say hello as you pass by. Well done Darwin; a great place to be.
I would like to thank Doc Brown of Travel Managers Shepparton for arranging everything, well done Doc.
Until next time,