Driving into the city of Darwin was like a huge breath of fresh air. Finally, after three months on a desolate island, two days in Adelaide, and fourteen days in the outback, we were finally at our destination. I immediately loved the atmosphere of the city. It was a much smaller town than most of the coastal destinations in Australia. With a population of 136,000, the city is close to the size of Lawton, Oklahoma.
Darwin was the only Australian city bombed during World War II. In fact, more lives were lost at the Darwin harbor than at Pearl Harbor. Darwin was bombed just a few weeks before Pearl Harbor. For this reason Darwin has a vibrant display of WWII museums and artifacts. I haven't explored these yet but it is on my list!
The tropical weather combined with the easy-going atmosphere makes Darwin the perfect mix of working and relaxing. I loved that it wasn't overly touristy or crowded like many other coastal cities. I could tell my dreams of working in a sunny Australia city were getting closer to becoming a reality.
Hanging at the Hostel
After parking the car, Maggie and Matthew and I wandered around the central business district in search of a hostel for the night. Fortunately, we had landed somewhere near Mitchell street, which by definition of most travel books and blogs I had read, said it was the hip and young “backpacker” part of town. Within a few hundred meters we were standing in front of a handful of hostels. The third one we stepped foot in gave us a private room with our own bathroom for just an additional $2 each. We were ecstatic. With the worry of another roommate out of the picture we were free to spread out our camping gear so it could dry out.
The second floor of the hostel housed an outdoor balcony that I swear made the other hostels jealous. At any hour of the day you could find heaps of backpackers hanging out on the terrace. Not only was there a partially outdoor kitchen, a pool and a bar, but there was also blood pumping music from noon to midnight every day of the week. Three nights a week there were food and drink specials like free hamburgers on Wednesday, ladies night Thursday and free pizza Tuesday. We were so pleased to be around other people that I think we spent the majority of our first two days on the balcony.
It was here that we met a handful of interesting people. First was Cornelius, a Netherlands chap who would be flying home in a few days. He was a very kind as most dutch are. He had a big smile and curly blonde hair that made his appearance very boyish. He was extremely tall—over six foot—and had long and lanky arms and legs to match. Cornelius was our connection to the other friends we made. He introduced us to Harry, Sophie from the UK, a guy with a lot of tattoos whose name I never caught. For the four and a half days we were in Darwin we spent our days doing very little. Often times we would sit on the balcony with our new friends and talk about anything we could think of. When it would get late enough in the afternoon we would each take turns buying the cheapest pitcher of beer available and splitting it amongst ourselves.
When we weren't socializing, Matthew and Maggie and I were busy booking our flights and accommodation for Bali. Since we had spent next to nothing in our two-week outback excursion, the three of us had agreed to take two weeks to visit the tropical Indonesian island just north of Darwin. Because we needed a few days out to make the arrangements, we used the free wifi and fun atmosphere at our hostel.
We also spent a lot of time catching up on sleep and wandering around the city in search of free attractions—which we did find. We enjoyed a tour of the Parliament House, where we learned a bit of history on Darwin and the government of the Northern Territory. We also enjoyed a walk to the Wharf, where we had the freshest plate of fish and chips for a mere nine dollars.
Mindil Beach Market
My favorite experience was the Mindil Beach Market. This was a farmer's market located near the beach. We loved it. It was like strolling through an amazing art gallery of food and things. You want to stop and take in each unique and bold piece but of course it isn't kosher to taste every single booth. Nor is it affordable.
The food was amazing, though. They had just about every type of food you could imagine: Mexican, Australian, Chinese, Thai, Gluten-free and French Crepes. I really enjoyed the creativity of some of the booths. My favorite was a tent called “Cuffins.” This was a term they used for fresh cakes the size of muffins. Maggie and I had Gyros that tasted so fresh I wondered if they had been flown in straight from Greece that morning. Matthew enjoyed a buffalo hot dog and a fruit smoothie.
Aside from the fresh food, we also enjoyed the shopping aspect. I, particularly found the art booths amazing. There weren't many of them but the ones that were there were quite captivating. One booth was so captivating with bright whimsical oil paintings that I almost impulsively (or instinctively) bought a print. I wanted to desperately but I knew such purchase wouldn't last in my suitcase and I didn't' want to pay another forty dollars to ship it home. I settled on a postcard instead. Maybe I would mail it to my grandparents. Maybe I'd mail it to myself. I'd just read a book about a woman who recorded her world travels by sending herself postcards from each location. I thought that might be neat, even if I only wrote one.
The best part of the Mindil Beach Market is the sunset. The market times are strategically designed around the beautiful sunset that fades into the ocean. Around 6:30, crowds of people migrated just beyond the market to the beautiful white sand of the beach. Here as a group we sat and breathlessly watched as the big orange glow melted into the ocean's horizon. It was a remarkable performance. It reminded me of the sunset I watched in Padre Island on a mission trip. The sunset was so wonderful that we all clapped and cheered afterwards, praising God for his wonderful handiwork.
Just as I was praising God in my heart and wanting to clap and cheer for the beauty of the sun, I heard the crowd do just that. Then, as at the ending of any great performance, there was a mass exodus back towards reality. Only those truly captivated hang around for the credits.