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Published: September 8th 2014
Armoured Hospital Vehicle
We passed this vehicle as we were going into Darwin. Note the full battle gear on the men. Looks more like a tank than a hospital vehicle!
Leaving Mary River at 10am we set off for Darwin and drove straight to Robbie’s Reserve, about 20kms south of the city, right next to Darwin Prison. On the way, we passed quite a few quad road trains carrying sulphuric acid for the mines; a military tank on the back of a truck; and an armoured vehicle with a soldier in full battle dress sitting up high and easily visible at the front. They must all be part of the military exercises we heard about from Geoff for “Operation Kakadu”. We’d heard loud explosions and machine gun fire during the night so the target must have been quite close, just outside the National Park.
The Robbie Reserve Caravan Park was very much like a Showgrounds, despite the name, so was cheaper than most parks in Darwin by $15 a night. We had to open (and re close) a large gate before we could enter, to keep horses inside the grounds. It had grass but every time the gusty wind blew it still picked up a lot of dust that blinded me and made me cough. All the vans were parked around the perimeter fence so we found a spot
with some shade and as far from the Stuart Highway as possible. It took a few frustrating goes to get into place between two large trees but we were finally set up and had some lunch.
While we were eating, a number of military aircraft roared out of the airport nearby, including a C17 cargo plane, a Neptune offshore tracking vessel and three fighters that quickly shot high into the sky, afterburners ablaze. There's certainly plenty of activity for this exercise!
The day was heating up fast as we arrived in the city and found the Visitor Information Centre. 330
C here feels hotter than 360
C back in Kakadu! Fortunately, they sold ice cream tubs and ice cold water at the Centre, which helped cool us off as we found out what we should see while here. We then walked through the Mall to see what shops were around. Most were already shutting, at barely 5pm, but we did find a Camera Shop where we both bought more memory for our cameras, mine an SD card and Barry some digital video tapes.
As we walked along, we noticed an Aboriginal man weaving drunkenly past nearby.
View of Darwin across the Darwin Waterfront towards Stokes Hill Wharf
This was taken from a 5th floor walkway to the Waterfront from the road.
He also noticed us and decided we were his friends (actually he kept calling us Mum and Dad) and saying he loved us. It seemed he had just been released from the lock-up at the Magistrates Court and had been celebrating. He kept cuddling us in ever stronger group hugs (until I felt as if my neck would be dislocated) and kissing us on the cheeks. He seemed to want some help but we couldn’t work out what. This went on for more than 5 minutes, with us wondering how to extricate ourselves without upsetting him, as he seemed harmless. Finally, he asked if we would like to go for a beer. Barry cleverly replied that he drank water. He asked us to come and have a beer but I reinforced the idea by saying that we didn’t drink beer, only water. He immediately let us go, muttered something and walked away. I think he had wanted us to shout him more celebratory drinks but he’d definitely had enough!
After all this excitement, we made our way back to the ute to drop off our purchases and headed across the raised walkway to the Darwin Waterfront for
Bombing of Darwin
This graphic tribute to the victims who died on the wharf during the bombing of Darwin on 19th February 1942. It stands next to the Stokes Hill Wharf Car Park.
some dinner. I was feeling the heat and my knees were suffering by the time we made it across but we found it was much like Melbourne’s Docklands – very upmarket and expensive. Barry spotted a wharf across the water with lots of people and cars on it and remembered that Ros had told us of a cheap but good area there for food. We returned to the ute and drove there. The car park was packed but we were lucky enough to come up to a mobile home that was just leaving and had a nice big space that would fit the ute beautifully.
On the way to the food court at the end of the wharf, we passed a very colourful but graphic mural depicting the bombing of Darwin during the Second World War and further along was a ship’s wheel which was a memorial to all those who had died during the bombing, both on land and at sea. We will probably learn more about all this at the museums tomorrow.
We got to the food stalls and started to choose what to have but Barry noticed that most were cleaning up,
Large Fish Feeding off Stokes Hill Wharf
One appeared to be a small shark. They were all battling each other for the food scraps being thrown down by diners.
at only 7.45pm. One shop said on its sign “Open from 11am to Late”. Darwinians have a very strange idea of what is late! We did find one place still cooking and had some very delicious Barramundi, chips and salad washed down with ginger beer. We could see all the city lights across the water while we ate, which looked lovely.
After our meal we went to see what everyone was looking at the edge of the wharf. Some people had been sitting at tables there and were throwing chips and bread over the side. When we looked down, we could clearly see a mass of large fish and one small shark quickly snapping up the goodies. There were a few really large Moonfish, all flat and stripy, and lots of Trevally. They were easily visible because there were lights under the wharf shining on the water where they were feeding. We watched, fascinated, for a while until they turned out the lights under there and started dimming the ones on top, too. We took the hint and left.
Back at the van, it was a lovely relief to have a cool refreshing shower.
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