In my last post, W1702 – Cairns cancelled, I described how my girlfriend Carol and I missed out on our planned tour from Cairns by scenic train and cable car, and instead went to see the ship’s doctor and got medication for our chest infections.
We then had three days at sea, while we sailed around the north-eastern corner of Australia to our last port of call in that vast country, Darwin in the Northern Territories. During these says at sea Carol and I continued to rest as much as possible while the antibiotics started to take effect. Meanwhile I had cancelled off my planned tour in Darwin, which was to another wildlife sanctuary, as I had unexpectedly already visited one from Townsville (see W1702 – Townsville tour).
I was awake, dressed and up on deck early the morning we sailed into Darwin. Originally we weren’t due to dock until 1pm, but the Captain had worked his magic, and we were due in port two or three hours early, meaning we would start passing the coastal islands as the sun came up. In fact the sun was a little shy that morning, but I still enjoyed some fabulous cloud-scapes:
After our usual lovely breakfast taken pool-side, Carol and I went to the “pointy-end” of the deck to watch us sail into port. It wasn’t an epic sail-in, but we still enjoyed watching the approach, and the ship manoeuvring itself against the quay. Just before we made contact, they realised that one of the huge inflated fenders was in the wrong place, and when the shore team failed to drag it into position they had to bring in a small tug to push it into place:
Soon all was well, and we were correctly docked and clearance given to go ashore. It was another very hot and extremely humid day, Darwin being well within the tropics, so rather than rushing ashore we decided to rest in the air-conditioned cool of the ship for the rest of the morning, and venture ashore after lunch.
I am very pleased to report that not only did Carol and I feel well enough to go walkabout in Darwin, we also felt strong enough to walk from the ship to the city centre and back too. There was a well designed walkway between the two, which ran along the waterside for a while, before heading through an attractive area with shops and cafés around a park area. Outside one of the shops Carol spotted this really cute sheep:
The walkway then took a lift to the top of one of the buildings, from which an air-bridge crossed a busy road at tree height, ending at a park on the edge of the city centre. On the edge of the park was the Anglican Cathedral, which was an interesting mix of the old and the new. The original church on the site was damaged in the second world war, and after being rebuilt it was almost totally destroyed by Cyclone Tracy on Christmas Eve 1974, only the porch and gateway remaining. The striking new building cleverly incorporates the original porch into it’s design:
Passing the cathedral we continued into the main shopping precinct, which had a fairly modern 1970s appearance, and therefore was rather uninteresting, lacking any historic features or buildings – another legacy of the cyclone. In the centre of the precinct was one of those fountains where multiple jets of water come on and off apparently at random:
We stopped at a café in the precinct, Carol was able to enjoy an ice cream, which sadly I am no longer allowed – I had to settle for a nice cold bottle of water. From my seat I could see a statue partially hidden by some trees which I went to investigate. The statue was of John McDouall Stuart, who devoted his life to finding a route from South Australia to the north coast:
In the window of a mall on the opposite corner of the precinct I spotted some painted kangaroos. Going inside to investigate, I found they had been done to raise money for charity, much like the rhinos and zebras that my local zoo, Marwell, have used in recent years:
On the map provided by the ship, we had noticed a Chinese temple marked, so we diverted our route back to the ship to investigate. This is all we found, surrounded by the inevitable modern buildings:
We then found the city park, and from there we took the air-bridge and lift back down to the port area:
In the park area below there was a sculpture amongst the trees, but we were rather baffled by it – was it supposed to be trees or hands or what?
The natural palm tree was much more attractive and interesting to me:
We then returned to the ship, for a much needed cool shower and rest before dinner. Later as we were leaving dinner, someone asked Carol if she had seen the amazing sunset. We both rushed on deck, the sunset was almost over but still very dramatic:
It had been a delight that we finally both felt well enough again to go ashore under our own steam and explore another part of this huge country. However it remains that we ended up seeing and experiencing far less than we planned or hoped, so I am sure we will be back to Australia before too long to try again.
Postscript: The following evening at dinner we became aware of some amazing colours in the sky and reflected on the sea. Fortunately I was not having dessert that night, so made my excuses and rushed up on deck with my camera. Again I could have done with arriving earlier, but the sunset I saw and photographed was still breathtakingly beautiful:
For the first time in weeks I am now up to date with my blog! Tomorrow we will be visiting Komodo Island, hopefully to see the dragons that live there – this will be the subject of my next post.