Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Half-lap Day 43: Darwin

A wind came up in the night and I was feeling quite disoriented, couldn’t figure out which way the tent was facing, and I slept quite badly. The weather was much cooler in the morning though, very pleasant. Tony had a sleep in and felt much better when he woke up, although his knee is still quite sore. We had breakfast and pottered around the tent, Tony put the awning up, I had another go at everyone’s hair, we haven’t quite managed to get rid of all the head lice yet. We chatted a little to our hosts then had some sandwiches for lunch.

In the afternoon we drove in to the Darwin Museum. The kids spent a lot of time looking at the natural history part – displays of shells, birds, reptiles, desert animals, Darwin Harbour creatures, fish, dinosaurs, mangrove dwellers – all based on animals that live (or have lived) in the Northern Territory. We moved on then to the Cyclone Tracy exhibit – I loved it when I was here 20 years ago and it was pretty much the same, although equally as moving. Having experienced the strong winds we did in Hahndorf last month, the kids could really appreciate how much stronger the cyclone’s winds must have been to cause the damage that they did.

From there we went up to see Sweetheart the crocodile – a mounted skin and skeleton from a 5.13m crocodile that drowned when it was being moved many years ago. I’d been trying to explain to Millie how long saltwater crocs can get – and seeing the actual size of a big one boggled all our minds. It is hard to comprehend that a living creature could get so big. It was also cool to see a skull replica of the ancient crocodile ancestor which was at least twice as big as the real crocodile.

Caitlin and I wanted to look at the indigenous art section, so Tony took the others to the Discovery Room for kids. The art was fascinating, especially looking at the very different styles from different parts of the continent. In the Discovery room the kids were playing with blocks, the did some drawings and looked at the animals displayed around the rooms. Tony went out to watch a bit of the Collingwood game on his phone, and Caitlin and LiAM and I had fun with a poster where the names of colours were written in a different colour and you had to say the colour of the ink rather than read the word – it was really difficult. Caitlin went to browse the gift shop and LiAM and I played with some cogs and wooden bars on a little tool bench – we were trying to move a bar from one spot to another using the cogs – we refined our design probably 7 or 8 times and eventually got it to work, it was a lot of fun.

We all went to the gift shop then and there were things that everyone wanted but they weren’t specifically Darwin related things, more cool museum toys that we can probably get in the shop at Melbourne Museum so everyone decided to leave them. I still haven’t found any aboriginal art that I like that I can afford, so thought I might buy something from here with art printed on it, after a while I found some lens cleaning cloths that I really liked with a beautiful print, and the proceeds go back to the artist’s community, so I got that.

We had a look at the fish pond, seeing a pig-nosed turtle and lots of archer fish (my new favourite fish) and rainbow fish, then wandered down to the harbour shore. It was pretty exciting – when we left Port Augusta 30 days ago we said we wouldn’t see ocean again until we reached the other side of the country, and here we are! It was so vast and so blue, and the afternoon sun was shining brightly on it – very pretty.

We wandered around on the shore for a while, found some tiny little brown crabs that were so camouflaged we really could only see them if they moved, a shell with a crab in it, a tiny spider, lots of skimming stones for Tony (the water was really smooth), and lots of cool rocks and shells. The kids didn’t have hats on and the sun was pretty strong (less humidity today but still hot) so everyone got tired really quickly. We had stressed to the kids that we don’t swim in the harbour because of crocodiles (and stingers) but there were people tubing and in the water – not something I’d want to be doing.

Happy to be back on the coast
LiAM with crabs and shells
Back to the car and we went for a drive around East Point reserve, seeing mangroves and the sun on the cliffs back near where we were, and the big gun turrets from WWII. Everyone seemed fairly uninterested in exploring further, so I drove us in to the city to have a look around there. It was cool to see places I recognised from last time I was here. We were trying to decide whether to just head home or to have something to eat before we went, and ended up going out to Nightcliff and getting hot chips and watching the sun set over the water. There were so many people at Nightcliff, but we drove a bit past the jetty and found somewhere to park and a spot on the beach that wasn’t too crowded. We sat on some rocks that made a ledge over the beach – LiAM jumped down onto the sand a few times – and ate and watched the sun set and the water change colour continually, it was incredibly beautiful.

Once the mossies came out we headed home, driving back a different way and seeing a bit more of Darwin. Back at the tent we had a quick chat to our hosts then got ready for bed and read a few chapters.

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