Published: October 10th 2006September 26th 2006
Melaleuca on Mitchell
"Survival of the fittest" doesn't appear to apply to Darwin hostels
I was in Darwin purely as a base for my tours to Kakadu and Litchfield. Given that such tours probably constitute a large chunk of Darwin's tourist income, I was surprised at the lack of proper outdoor stores for the purchase of things like hiking boots. Due to this, I had to make do with replacing my pinching hiking shoes with a pair of trainers.
Unfortunately I made another poor hostel choice, which made it 3 out of 3 as far as Darwin hostels were concerned. This one was clearly for party people, as evidenced by the 24 hour noise from the poolside lounging area. Despite a fairly high turnover in my dorm, one constant was that none of the other occupants seemed to think that coming to the dorm at 4AM meant that the main light should not be switched on, nor conversations conducted at normal volumes.
Other minor irritants were a squeaky bunk complete with squeaky mattress, a smelly guy who managed to spread the contents of his luggage across the floor within about 3 hours of moving in to the dorm (and who had an argument with the other 2 occupants because he wanted the main light left on at 5AM so that he could read), and a chap who invited 3 of his friends round to entertain themselves with what looked like a crack pipe (though what knowledge I have of such things has been gleaned purely from TV.) When I walked in on this latter scenario, I immediately walked out again and went for a coffee, hoping the problem would go away in the meantime. It did, but the guy then insisted on showing me 2 large photo albums of his hunting exploits. The photos were mainly images of dead or dying wild boar, with assorted bloodied hunting dogs wearing body armour. The guy reckoned he was one of the top hunters in NT, which I can believe was no idle boast given the scores of dead bodies littering the pages of his albums, not to mention the Deliverance-style friends who accompanied him.
On a more positive note, I managed to fit in a visit to the NT Museum. Amongst the exhibits was a stuffed saltie, name of Sweetheart (from its home in Sweet's Lookout Billabong rather than being sweet-natured), that had been targeted for trapping and relocation after it had developed a liking for nibbling on fishermen's boats. Unfortunately the creature was accidentally drowned in the trapping attempt, but its preserved carcass sits proudly in the museum, causing many (including myself) to marvel at how large these things can grow to be.
There was also a very interesting exhibit about Cyclone Tracy, the tropical storm that had levelled Darwin on Christmas Eve/Day 1974. Apparently the wind-blown spray in the harbour had stripped paint from ships berthed there. The exhibit also contained a darkened room in which you could stand, visionless, while an audio tape recording made during the cyclone was played. The dominant sound was not that of wind, rather that of numerous pieces of metal scraping along the ground or borne aloft on the gales and clattering into anything standing in their path.
I'd been glad to see Kakadu and Litchfield, but the constant heat and humidity of Darwin were really beginning to wear me down (and were placing an intolerable burden on my anti-perspirant supplies). Thus the thought of the dryness of my next destination, the Red Centre, had some major appeal.