Thursday, July 3, 2014

Darwin Days

Today is our 102nd day since leaving Cairns and beginning our travels again, and, this is close to the 102nd version of this post that I have written. Usually, a big break in my blog posts means I am either out having a great time on some grand adventure, don't have internet access, or, most commonly, both. This time, I have none of those excuses. 

We've been in Darwin almost two weeks and very comfortably parked at my sister-in-laws house in the Darwin suburbs. It is school holidays, a desperate time in Australia, so it is nice to not be dealing with crowds, hoons, yobbos, and the ubiquitous camp-fire. Darwin is actually cooler than other places we have been in the NT (Kakadu, Katherine, etc.) no doubt due to its coastal location. Our good luck continues as, not only are we comfortably parked, but we have got loaner bicycles. True, the one I have borrowed tilts my pelvis into an anatomically inappropriate condition and is near to permanently crippling me, but, being able to ride a bicycle all around town, instead of driving, is fantastic. 

 Dripstone Cliffs

Right at the top of Australia, Darwin is currently in a resources boom with a big off-shore gas project generating good jobs and income. The city itself is spread out over a fairly large distance for the size of the population as the middle of the urban area houses the airport and some Commonwealth Defense installations. Many people in Darwin live to the north in outlying suburbs. The striking thing about the suburbs is the gating. Everyone has a big gated and locked fence around their house. It all feels vaguely reminiscent of Papua where all hell breaks loose every night and you make sure you are behind the security fence of wherever you are staying well before dark. Apart from the obnoxious cracker night, Darwin actually seems quiet and peaceful, so I'm not sure if the fences are really necessary. 

I think we have seen most of the sights to see around Darwin (I include only the sights I'm interested in seeing as, being clinically averse to shopping, I have no interest in wandering around Darwin's many popular markets, or visiting the zoos/wildlife parks). We've been to Causarina and East Point Reserves, we have kayaked off Lee Point in the Timor Sea (rather boring), we have cycled all around Cullen Bay and downtown Darwin and the waterfront. The Museum is excellent, Fannie Bay Gaol not bad, the Botanic Gardens, smaller than found in many Australian cities, but pleasant for an hour's ramble. I've hiked the short tracks in Holmes Jungle Nature Park, and scoured the city and suburbs for decent bouldering. In other words, I am ready to move on. Doug however, has a big stack of work to get through and would like to stay over the coming weekend. Which, really is fair enough as I don't have to worry about many of the things Doug does. 

 Bouldering at the Dripstone Cliffs

Finally, a note on bouldering in Darwin. It's interesting, which means, it's kind of good, kind of bad. Darwin is flat and has virtually no exposed rocks, apart from a few slimy rock reefs uncovered at low tide. The only cliffs/boulders/bluffs around are along the waterfront. There is a small section of cliff near Nightcliff and another section at Casuarina (the Dripstone Cliffs). The rock at both areas is some kind of clay/chalk/dirt mix that is incredibly friable, as in, every second or third foot or hand hold will break when you weight it. Otherwise, the bluffs (I can't really call the Dripstone Cliffs "cliffs" as they are only about 3 metres high at most) are reasonable for bouldering. They are pocketed, mostly undercut, and made slimy and sandy by twice daily immersion in sea water (Darwin has big tides). 

While you wouldn't want to climb up and top out (undoubtedly you'd come off when three or four holds broke, possibly all at once) you can traverse back and forth a foot or two from the ground (soft sand to fall on) so that when the inevitable happens and your holds break, you don't have far to fall. Downsides are the copious amount of sand that gets stuck to your shoes (a small brush helps but if the sand is wet you just have to climb with wet and sandy shoes), broken glass at the base area (yobbos) and the slimy nature of the rock. On the plus side, you don't need chalk - just brush some of the flaking chalky rock onto your hands, and, after an hour or two of bouldering, you look like an aboriginal art-work as you are daubed all over with red, orange and white ochre paint splotches. All set for a corroboree.

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