The Quarantine Camp


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Published: September 26th 2021
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We're still keeping a very nervous eye on the list of COVID exposure sites back home. I wonder what‘ll happen if anywhere we’ve been to does pop up on the list. I’m starting to have nightmarish visions of squads of heavily armed guards breaking down our door and carting us off to the local Howard Springs quarantine facility. I then make the mistake of Googling “Howard Springs” to find out a bit more about what we're in for if we do end up there. It doesn't sound all that appealing. We're not allowed to take any grog there with us for starters, so there go any plans we might have had for spending the two weeks in a drunken haze. I know my imagination might be starting to play tricks on me, but if the aerial photos are anything to go by it looks suspiciously like something straight out of Nazi Germany.

I worked in Darwin for a few months back in 1980 and haven't been back since. I think I was here from early February until June, so I got to experience all its seasonal extremes. The wet season was horrendous. I remember getting off the plane and thinking I'd stepped into a sauna. There was torrential rain every day for the first six weeks, and certainly no sign of the sun. Then there was the thunderstorm season where I remember being woken up out of a dead sleep more or less every night thinking that someone had just cracked a whip in my ear. The dry was just that - blue skies, not a hint of rain, and temperatures of around thirty degrees give or take every single day.

We set off for the CBD. I know I worked in a building in Mitchell Street, one of the CBD's main thoroughfares, and I'm pretty sure it was called the Hooker Building. Just to be clear, it wasn't a hangout for ladies of the night - Mr Hooker was a well known real estate mogul. We wander up and down Mitchell Street looking for it, but it must have either gone or had a facelift. I was a raw graduate straight out of University at the time. The company put me up in a hotel for a week, but then they thought they'd save some money by moving me into a very el-cheapo men's hostel. The clientele was pretty rough, and I didn't get any sleep for the week I was there. The standard trick for most of the inmates was to wander back drunk from the pub at about 2am every morning and jump into the pool right outside my window. The company eventually decided that perhaps they might get a bit more out of me if I didn't fall asleep at my desk every afternoon, so they agreed to let me move into an apartment. I think the hostel was in Mitchell Street too, but there doesn't seem to be too much sign of that now either. Issy's not quite sure why I'm surprised; she keeps reminding me that it was forty years ago...

We head down to The Esplanade which runs along the clifftop on the south west side of town. I remember this as being a bit of a wasteland back in 1980, but it's now wall to wall hotels. I think tourism here might have taken off quite a bit in the intervening years. The hotels all look pretty busy, which is probably no great surprise given it's winter down south, and us Aussies aren't allowed to travel overseas at the moment. There's an attractive park along the clifftop, with a fence and lots of signs warning not to get too close to the edge. I don't think the park was here in 1980, let alone any fences or signs. If you'd fallen off in those days it would have been put down to stupidity or drunkenness, and your best hope would have been that they found your body before a croc got hold of it. We wander down a steep path to the beach. I put my toes in the water, but then notice that Issy's staying well back. She says she wants to make sure that a croc doesn't get me. The clifftop park is littered with stories and memorials of the 1942 bombing raids on the city, including maps of where all the ships were in the harbour at the time of the first attack.

We continue on past the very attractive Northern Territory Parliament Building which was only opened in 1994. It's got a very tropical and slightly Asian style appearance, and is surrounded by tall palm trees. We're finding it a bit hard to reconcile tropical Darwin with the Oz that we're used to down south. The differences could hardly be more extreme.

We catch up for a drink at the Northern Territory Museum and Art Gallery with our very good friends Peter and Teresa from Melbourne. They left home in their van back in May, and aren't planning to get home until October.

We were told when we arrived at the airport that we had to look at the list of COVID exposure sites in Melbourne at least once a day while we're here. I'm not quite sure why. We've had to scan QR codes to get in anywhere for months now, so I'm sure those heavily armed guards I thought about earlier in the day would descend upon us with guns loaded if we'd triggered any alarms. We scan the list. Now might be a good time to get out the defibrillator. I did our regular weekly shop at our local supermarket back home on Sunday; it apparently became an exposure site on Monday. ...and our local KFC is now also an exposure site - it's less than a hundred metres from home. We're sensing that it might be a week or two yet before we can really relax....

I head down to Fannie Bay and wander along the beach to take some happy snaps of the spectacular nightly sunset show. The Darwin Sailing Club which overlooks the beach looks to be very much party central.

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29th September 2021

Breaking down the door
Don't let your imagination run wild until you have to! Lock down rules and guidelines are enough to make you go crazy. Stay safe.

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