We arrived in Darwin late afternoon and were greeted by heat and humidity like we’d never experienced before. We didn’t check beforehand and found that we’d arrived towards the end of the wet season.
The wet season has its pros and cons. The cons we discovered quickly are that it’s pretty much unbearable going out in the day time as the temperature is about 35 degrees C, but with a humidity of 85%, you have to add 9-10 degrees onto the temperature to get an idea of what it feels like. Added to that, it only cools down to about 29 degrees and 70% humidity at night. So if you don’t have air con and a swimming pool, you’re going to be pretty miserable…more on that later.
The pros are that at about 5pm every day, there’s a tropical rain storm. I’m talking warm pelting rain that comes out of nowhere, goes on for about an hour, soaks everything, and makes it a few degrees cooler. Then the rain stops, everything dries quickly, and there’s a spectacular lighting storm and an indescribably spectacular sunset, probably some of the best you’ll ever see due to the range of cloud types and colours. As the sun sets, giant bats called Flying Foxes (because of their cute faces) start flying around. It’s all pretty surreal.
For the first 3 days, we stayed in a nice little hostel called Dingo Moon Lodge with a private air conditioned room, which was a delight after the Cottesloe dorm. Most days, Peb got some work out time in and I did some editing, then we cooled down in the pool, and then went for an evening walk to watch the sunset from the jetty. One of the days, we took a walk down to Cullen Bay, Darwin’s marina full of swish yachts and catamarans. We arrived just in time for the rain shower and had a coffee on the boardwalk under a big parasol, then watched the sun set from Mindil Beach. We also discovered CineBuzz rewards cards and Cheap Tuesdays, so we spent the first evening in the nicely air conditioned cinema – Focus, pretty good.
Now for the least successful part of our journey so far … We really wanted to see the local National Parks, Kakadu and Litchfield, but there were no campervans available so we thought we were pretty clever hiring an SUV for the next 4 days to camp in. We’ve “car-camped” plenty of times in England and had no problems. What we didn’t factor in was that England is cold and Darwin is crazy hot, so trying to sleep in a car is effectively like trying to sleep in an oven – not so clever. We tried to run the air con to cool the car down, but that used loads of fuel. Plus it’s pretty uncomfortable without camping mats to lie on so we had bad backs. Not to mention, trying to cook everything on a hexi-burner is pretty slow work so we ended up having to find places for dinner most days.
In the first few days, we managed to see Howard Springs, where there are turtles and huge barramundi fish in the main spring, Berry Springs, where we couldn’t swim because of the wet season but looked like it would be an awesome natural swimming hole in the dry season, and Litchfield NP, where we spent the day cooling down in the impressive Florence Falls plunge pool and Buley Rockhole, a series of smaller cascades with rock pools below them – idyllic. We also spotted some water buffalo, a green tree frog, some toads, and some geckos in Litchfield.
However, as the car-camping was working out badly, and we had a Km limit on the car rental, we gave up on trying to go to Kakadu and instead spent a day looking for crocs in spots where they’d been reported recently – the nearest we got was a sign at Manton Dam that a 3 meter saltwater croc had been removed a few days before. We also spent a day in Darwin’s beachfront lagoon where lots of nice little fishies swam around us. You can’t swim in the sea there because of box jellyfish, but the lagoon is separated so jellyfish can’t get in (or “most likely” can’t, as the sign assured us).
We also discovered the Coffee Club, a chain of cafes that do delicious burgers and salted caramel lattes, and bookended our Darwin trip with another cinema night – Unfinished Business, hilarious.