In and around Darwin

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.

Travel tip

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.

The photos

Me hanging out on a Darwin city street:

In and around Darwin

In and around Darwin

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…

In and around Darwin

In and around Darwin

… don’t!

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:

In and around Darwin

In and around Darwin

Here’s The Mall on Smith street:

In and around Darwin

In and around Darwin

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:

In and around Darwin

In and around Darwin

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:

In and around Darwin

In and around Darwin

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:

In and around Darwin

In and around Darwin

This debonair traveller took a close look at the strangler’s roots:

In and around Darwin

In and around Darwin

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:

In and around Darwin

In and around Darwin

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.

In and around Darwin

In and around Darwin

Outside Darwin there’s a tiny place with the picturesque name of Humpty Doo. (Yes, really.) Close by we spotted these eery constructions:

In and around Darwin

In and around Darwin

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:

In and around Darwin

In and around Darwin

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:

In and around Darwin

In and around Darwin

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:

In and around Darwin

In and around Darwin

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.

In and around Darwin

In and around Darwin

Drift down to the beach, just the other side of the stalls, and watch the sunset.

Me doing just that:

In and around Darwin

In and around Darwin

That’s all for today dudes.

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Jumping crocodiles near Darwin

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

Peg, the TC and I have all been in Darwin, in Australia’s “Top End”, for the past week. The TC, bless her cotton socks, booked herself on a Spectacular Jumping Crocodile Cruise. As is her wont, she took me along. I consented to pose in front of the bus for the obligatory snapshot, then retreated to the safety of my book nestled deep in the TC’s bag. Peg was nowhere to be seen. She’s a very together type of gal and knows when to keep herself out of harm’s way.

My impressions? The Northern Territory’s salties are horrifyingly beautiful.

Travel tip

Believe it when they tell you not to put your arm out over the side of the boat.

The book I’m in

Past Caring, by Robert Goddard. Definitely a “the thot plickens” type of book. This worm recommends it whole-heartedly.

The photos

Me and the only type of jumping croc that I allow anywhere near me:

Jumping crocodiles near Darwin

Jumping crocodiles near Darwin

We were lucky enough to have the one and only Rod as our bus driver and guide. He knows a great deal about the bush, the swamps and the history of Darwin. I was sorry when the tour ended, because he’d only been able to relate a fraction of the stories he knows of Darwin and surrounds. The photo below shows us driving over the dyke at Fogg Dam. Rod told us all about the doomed Humpty Doo rice project, of which Fogg Dam is part. People built the dyke to control the water in the Adelaide River wetlands, so that they could grow rice. Alas, after the first big wet season most of the rice ended up in the Timor Sea. Did you notice the crocodile toys on the dashboard? We were very soon to see the real thing!

Jumping crocodiles near Darwin

Jumping crocodiles near Darwin

A pretty little Jacana bird wanders through an idyll soon to be shattered:

Jumping crocodiles near Darwin

Jumping crocodiles near Darwin

A late-blooming Lotus lily lures and lulls the unwary:

Jumping crocodiles near Darwin

Jumping crocodiles near Darwin

But wait. Take a closer look at those low-lying dark humps at the middle right:

Jumping crocodiles near Darwin

Jumping crocodiles near Darwin

Oh yes, the TC has spotted her first crocodile.

Next stop, the reception room for the Spectacular Jumping Crocodiles Cruise:

Jumping crocodiles near Darwin

Jumping crocodiles near Darwin

Then out onto a reassuringly solid-looking boat:

Jumping crocodiles near Darwin

Jumping crocodiles near Darwin

Gotcha! We walked straight on through that boat and onto the much more intimate craft that would ferry us around the croc-infested banks of the Adelaide River:

Jumping crocodiles near Darwin

Jumping crocodiles near Darwin

The TC, of course, was delighted. So much more real. So much more opportunity to get close to the crocs. Better photographs. Yada yada yada.

Sure enough, we were but a couple of metres off the mooring point when this charmer hove into view:

Jumping crocodiles near Darwin

Jumping crocodiles near Darwin

That was when yours truly, the Travelling Worm, huddled deeper into my book and did my utmost not to attract the TC’s attention. It’s at times like this that she’s apt to whip me out and parade me in front of whatever’s going on, to snap that killer photograph. (Aah, bad choice of words on two counts, worm!)

From this point on it’s all go:

For the faint of heart, here’s a still of the same crocodile:

Jumping crocodiles near Darwin

Jumping crocodiles near Darwin

For the tender of heart, here are some baby crocodiles. They’re hatchlings, about 6 inches long:

Jumping crocodiles near Darwin

Jumping crocodiles near Darwin

Aah, so cute! Beware, mum is not far away:

Jumping crocodiles near Darwin

Jumping crocodiles near Darwin

Isn’t she gorgeous? Here’s the video:

So, if you ever see a footprint like this:

Jumping crocodiles near Darwin

Jumping crocodiles near Darwin

Then look out for a poser like this:

Jumping crocodiles near Darwin

Jumping crocodiles near Darwin

Now I’m back home in the arms of my loved ones. Drool has had his nose put out of joint by my tale of creatures more prehistoric even than he. Peg is, as so often, my anchor:

Jumping crocodiles near Darwin

Jumping crocodiles near Darwin

That’s all for today dudes.