Darwin: A place out of time

November 9, 2009 0
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Having accomplished our Barrier Reef trip, there was little left to do in Cairns. We weren’t terribly fond of our new hostel whose staff were that bit too friendly to seem genuine. It also proved to be a lot noisier, and while they did provide a shuttle bus, it just wasn’t frequent enough to be convenient. As it proceeded to pour rain from dawn to dusk on the final day we were even less inclined to be out and about. It was some consolation during the wet, miserable evening to hear someone else complaining about being out on the Barrier Reef that day. Obviously in the bad weather the crossing was particularly rough and apparently the whole boat was seasick. Always good to know that someone else had it worse than you…

Leaving Cairns, we added a surprise stop-off to our itinerary. We knew we had an 8.5 hour flight between Cairns and Singapore with a ‘technical stopover’. Our airline tickets didn’t expand on the details of that though. When we arrived at the airport and checked in I was somewhat disgusted to find out we’d be touching down in Darwin for an hour or so. It’s not that I didn’t want to stop in Darwin. It was more to do with me asking our travel agent about including a flight to Darwin in our original travel plans. Our travel agent was never very enthusiastic about our itinerary to start with. She had informed me that adding Darwin wouldn’t be cost-effective even if it were feasible. It seems she was either misinformed, or was making some executive decisions ‘in our best interest’. This was the same travel agent who was horrified when I said I wanted to fly into Sydney and fly out of Cairns or Darwin 22 days later. “That isn’t long enough – Australia is a big country you know!”.

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At this point we’re quite aware of just how big all the countries we’ve passed through are. We so could have fit in a couple of days in Darwin! We’re now experts at place-hopping. A funny side effect of doing so much travelling in a short space of time is that while we’re constantly longing to settle in somewhere and take a break from the road… we’re also conditioned to keep moving. Spending more than a couple of days somewhere starts to feel wrong. Seen it, done it, what’s next? Unless you happen to hit on nice accommodation plus a nice area, you’re looking onward towards your next location and wondering what it’ll be like. There’s also the ticking deadline of making your next flight.  Resting is for the very end of the trip. When we get home to familiar and comfortable surroundings where there’s nothing better to be doing anyway.

So Darwin stayed on my list of things to do next time around, but I’m dreading the reaction of my sister who was adamant that we had to visit Darwin to get a taste of the less tourist-orientated areas of Australia that we weren’t going to get to visit on this trip. An hour stopover in the airport isn’t really going to cut it for saying we visited Darwin. Instead, we explored the confines of our transit lounge and purchased enough chocolate to feed the entire plane as we weren’t sure if the airline was planning on feeding us on the leg to Singapore. Jet Star is the Ryanair of Australian skies. We were shocked when they actually did feed us because we were on ‘Quantas partner’ tickets. The generosity didn’t extend to in-flight entertainment so we drained PSP and netbook batteries watching our own material.

The only thing we got to note about Darwin is that it appears to have slipped out of synch with the rest of the world. I was about to update my watch to Darwin time while we were there when I found that it was running 30 mins off every other time zone we were visiting. That was a new one. We’d only ever had to change the hour, not the minutes.  This seemed… wrong. Like entering an alternate world out of time. Before we could really contemplate that, we were called to board again and took into the skies leave Australia behind. Next up Asia for part three of the odyssey.

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