This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC) .
Today’s travel notes
Darwin is an interesting place to be. I suspect it’s a city of many faces, depending on when you’re there and who you’re travelling with. One thing is guaranteed: the heat. At 12 degrees south, it’s decidedly tropical. Darwin is in the Northern Territory, at Australia’s Top End. The TC and I were there in May, soon after the start of the dry season. If that’s dry, this worm would prefer not to be there in the wet.
My impressions? It’s a bit warm in Darwin.
If you plan to walk down Stokes Hill Wharf, take your time. It’s a long wharf and, in case I haven’t mentioned it, Darwin is a bit warm.
Another tip for free: Go looking for the crocs. I wrote about them last week.
New word of the day
“Calenture” – a tropical fever suffered by sailors, who think the sea is a green field and want to jump into it.
The book I’m in
DON’T TELL MUM i WORK ON THE RIGS she thinks I’m a piano player in a whorehouse, by Paul Carter. This book is full-on, extreme energy. Paul Carter tells tall tales of his many years spent working on oil rigs in and around Australia. Adventure and danger, funny and nasty, they all rub up against each other in this book. Highly recommended.
Me hanging out on a Darwin city street:
I promised a devoted follower that my next post would tell a tale of peril. Here it is. The TC wanted to show the enormous size of the ivy leaves in Darwin. Note her lamentable lack of regard for my safety. Now you see me, now you…
Truth be told, Darwin city centre is not much to write home about. This picture is taken from the corner of Mitchell and Knuckey streets, looking up Knuckey. It’s all happening, folks:
Here’s The Mall on Smith street:
Darwin is “one of Australia’s most modern capital cities”. That sounds pretty impressive, and even more so when you learn why it’s true. The city has had to be rebuilt twice in recent history: once after the Japanese bombed it in World War 2, and then again after Cyclone Tracy hit in 1974. Tracy just about flattened the town hall (originally the Palmerstone Town Hall). The Darwinites have preserved the ruins, to remind people of that blustery Christmas Eve in 1974:
Tracy was quite a ruthless gal. She holds the record for being the most compact tropical cyclone ever to hit Australia. Indeed, she was the most compact world-wide until Marco in 2008.
Not far away from the town hall ruins, this old man banyan tree stands in Darwin’s Civic Square:
Banyan trees are fairly ruthless in their own right. The banyan starts life as a seed, eaten by a bird and then deposited on another tree’s branch as part of a bird dropping. The banyan starts growing and sends down roots to the ground. The host tree becomes cocooned in banyan roots and branches. Eventually the host dies and the banyan lives on. With good reason, banyans are also called “strangler figs”.
Cyclones and stranglers aside, it’s peaceful around the great banyan now, with birds tweeting and lizards scurrying:
This debonair traveller took a close look at the strangler’s roots:
Later we moseyed down Stokes Hill Wharf. The TC confessed her disappointment at not finding the wharf littered with plaques and other memorabilia related to Baz Luhrmann’s film “Australia”. Between you and me, I will point out that she would have been the first to complain if we’d found hundreds of tourist traps. The wharf is also the place where many Japanese bombs fell during the WW2 attack on Darwin. Wikipedia says that more bombs were dropped on Darwin than on Pearl Harbor. Here’s a view of the wharf today, just before the TC and I started our long walk:
Some of the locals are a trifle scathing of the new suburbs springing up around Darwin. People say the new houses are built without regard for “natural air conditioning”. Evidently the earlier houses were better built to take advantage of breezes. Take it from this worm, there’s precious little breeze to take advantage of. What air there is, is moist and warm. It licks your face like a bulldog’s tongue.
The TC professed admiration for many of the new buildings. The new suburb we saw had direct boating access to the harbour and the Timor sea. Here’s another interesting tidbit, courtesy of this worm: the tidal variation is 6 to 8 metres. That means that the water level drops by 8 metres when the tide goes out. So there’s a system of locks to keep the boats afloat.
Outside Darwin there’s a tiny place with the picturesque name of Humpty Doo. (Yes, really.) Close by we spotted these eery constructions:
They’re about the same height as the TC, about 4 feet across, sharp on top and only as wide as the TC’s hand. They all face in exactly the same direction. Seeing them, you feel restful and tranquil because they’re just there and they’re so neat. And yet, underlying the tranquillity is an unease. They’re weird, because they’re so neat.
They are magnetic termite mounds. The termites build them all facing in the same direction, more or less exactly on the Earth’s north-south axis. Boffins say that the termites do this to keep warm, by catching the sun’s rays. This worm finds it hard to believe anyone would need to catch more warmth in Darwin. Here’s a closer look at one of the mounds:
While we were at an Aboriginal art centre just outside Darwin, the TC was given a baby wallaby to hold. Sally is her name. A car hit Sally’s mother while Sally was in her mother’s pouch. Sally survived and is now thriving on bottled milk and tender loving care of one of the staff members at the art centre. Here’s the obligatory cute snap:
One of Darwin’s “must do” activities is a trip to the Mindil Beach Market. It happens every Thursday and Sunday evening during the dry season:
You can buy all sorts of things there, including dinner. The TC found the food “ordinary”, but she has expressed some enthusiasm for the smoothies. Best of all, though, is to be there when the sun goes down.
Drift down to the beach, just the other side of the stalls, and watch the sunset.
Me doing just that:
That’s all for today dudes.