Friday, July 25, 2008

July 24, 2008 - Darwin, Australia

Daily controlled burns create amazing sunsets

After two and half months in Vanuatu, one of the least developed places we've ever been, we arrived in Australia with two weeks to get ourselves and Mata'irea ready to drop off the grid again. Between tackling our work lists during the day and catching up with old and new friends at night, we've been running hard since we arrived here a week ago. We are wiped. But the long hours have paid off. We've got a boat full of food and booze, a freezer full of meat, cabinets full of clean sheets and boxers, fresh oil in the crank cases, full diesel, unleaded and propane tanks, shoulders aching from Typhoid and Hep A boosters, Indonesian Social Visas in our passports, unread books on the shelf, and an envelope stuffed with Indonesian Rupiah. After we pick up our fresh fruit and veggies at the market on Saturday morning, we'll be good to go.

Darwin has been a blast. We could easily have spent a lot longer here than two weeks. As the woman who cut my hair our first day here said, "Darwin is a party town in a matchbox." There is something happening every night of the week. After work, the tables that line the sidewalks in front of bars and cafes fill with workers pouring out of offices and from construction sites. Longshoremen and construction workers sporting florescent vests and dusty Blunnies (Blundstone work boots) rub shoulders with office workers in their smart suits and shiny shoes. As the night wears on, they move to different venues to continue the festivities. It is a hard drinking town. But there are a few weekly events that are family friendly. Every Saturday morning the Parap market is filled with locals shopping for fruits and vegetables, and snacking on crepes, satays and laksa (our new favorite thing - an aromatic Malaysian noodle soup, lavishly garnished with seafood or meat, chiles, herbs, limes and veggies, all of which is swimming in a rich coconut broth - delightful). The food stalls reflect the refugee populations that have settled in Darwin - from Greeks to Vietnamese boat people to East Timorese.

On Thursday and Sunday nights, the scene moves down the road to Mindil Beach, where twice as many food stalls compete for space with stalls selling any kind of Northern Territory souvenir you could possibly want - and several you wouldn't want. We're assuming here that none of you want a kangaroo scrotum gear shift cover for Christmas, but if we've got that wrong, just let us know. An hour before sunset, the market fills as people select their dinners from the stalls. Then they wander down to the beach to watch the sunset.

Who knew pollution could be so beautiful?

Darwin is a city on a human scale. It is a town big enough to host big events, but small enough that everyone can take part. Those events run the gamut from low to highbrow. A week before we arrived, the whole town turned out for the V-8 races. The day before we came in, the annual beer can regatta was held. 3,000 people lined the beach to watch people race boats that they constructed from beer cans - some more seaworthy than others. The pictures made us really wish we'd been here for it. Two days after we arrived was another big event - Ladies Day at the track. At first, I couldn't figure out why all the stores in town had fantastic headgear on display. Then we learned that most of the women in town had been spending the past few days visiting hairdressers, spas and boutiques to get all dolled up and go show off their best outfits to each other at the horse track. Later this month is the Darwin Cup Ball, which is the largest outdoor ball in the Southern Hemisphere. It is almost enough to make us want to stick around. But Indonesia beckons.

No comments: