A Crocodile Hot Dog?

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Oceania » Australia » Northern Territory » Darwin » Mindil Beach
July 18th 2021
Saved: September 11th 2021
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We wake to a text from our friends Peter and Teresa telling us that they've been watching a news report saying that we, yes, Issy and me, have brought COVID to Darwin. We're not quite sure why squads of heavily armed guards haven't broken down our door yet. Issy rings Teresa in a panic. It seems that Peter saw something on the TV about COVID fragments in the local wastewater and thought it might be amusing to give us a scare. If we weren't properly awake before we certainly are now. I start planning an appropriate level of revenge. Letting down the tyres on his van wouldn't seem to be even close to cutting it....

We head off to the Darwin Military Museum out at East Point. There's a heavy emphasis here on the World War 2 air raids on the city. The first and most devastating of these was on 19 February 1942; more than 250 people were killed and ten ships were sunk in the harbour. This was only the first of more than 100 such raids on Darwin and other places in the Top End in 1942/43. My father was a career soldier and was here during during the first and a number of the subsequent raids. I don't remember him ever talking about it much other than to say that the devastation was much worse than was ever reported in the news down south. I suspect this was probably to avoid panic that we were about to be invaded. Most women and children had already been evacuated before the raids, and no one was allowed to move back here until 1946. Many never returned. The museum is excellent. It includes an audio-visual presentation on the air raids, complete with flashing lights, and booming sound effects of sirens, low flying planes and anti aircraft fire. The display continues in the gardens adjoining the main building - large collections of military vehicles, weapons, uniforms and other memorabilia. We climb onto a massive gun emplacement, and then down steps to view more museum items housed in the rooms underneath it. There’s another similar emplacement in the park across the road. The setting is all very peaceful, and seems to be the total antithesis of the horrors of war.

We continue on to the northern suburb of Nightcliff where I lived when I was here in 1980. I remember the name of the street that the apartment was in and that it was across the road from a school. We drive up and down past lots of apartment blocks that would seem to fit that description, but none of them look all that familiar. It seems that as is probably the case with the office block I worked in back then this has also gone the way of the dinosaur.

We wander along the wide and seemingly endless sandy expanse of Casuarina Beach. We see signs warning about the dangers of swimming here due to marine stingers, even in the dry season. There don't however seem to be any similar warnings about crocodiles. I comment to Issy that there weren't any warning about not falling down the steps on our way onto the beach either, so maybe some things here are just taken as a given. There's certainly no shortage of hazards here, signed or not. I remember walking along here in 1980 and watching on in horror as someone dashed out of the shallows to narrowly avoid getting one of their legs lopped off by a stingray. There are very few people on the beach and even fewer willing to brave the hazardous water. Some are hiding from the sun in deep indentations in the colourful red cliffs behind the sand.

We share some observations about life here. Virtually all the wait staff in the cafes and restaurants we've been to so far seem to have foreign accents. I'd thought that a lot of youngsters who were here on working visas when the pandemic hit got into financial strife when they lost their jobs, because they weren't eligible for any of the benefits payable to permanent residents. As a result I'd thought that most of them had gone home. It seems that I've either got this wrong, or most of our country's illegal immigrants have now decided to set up shop here in Darwin. .... and whilst it's not quite Amsterdam, we do feel like we're at constant risk of being run down by the orange electric scooters that seem to be available to rent here on every second street corner. If what we've seen so far is anything to go you either don't need a licence to drive one of these, or if you do the licence testers get a large bonus for everyone they pass whether they can actually drive one or not.

We meet up with Peter and Teresa at the apparently famous weekly Saturday night Mindil Beach markets. The whole area is packed and appears to be full blown party central. There's the usual offering of food and handicraft stalls, plus a live band, a puppet show, people twirling fire sticks, and a huge crowd around a gent playing the didgeridoo. But the biggest show in town seems to be the sunset; a football stadium sized crowd lines up on the beach to watch it. ... which brings us to another observation about life here - the tide range is massive. The tide's out at the moment, and boy is it out. I'm sure there must water out there somewhere, but it's a bit hard to see in the distance in the half light. It looks like Issy's not sure what to eat so she settles for a slightly interesting choice - a crocodile hot dog. The look on her face suggests she's unlikely to ever order another one.

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