Amazing sunsets, jumping crocodiles, balmy weather, and the Legacy Ladies made my visit to Darwin, in Australia’s top end, an experience of a lifetime!
The weather in Darwin is similar to our own in South Florida, but at times the sun seemed a bit more intense. We were lucky enough to time our trip with the dry season but just barely. The rainy season kicks off in October, and when it does, many of the territory’s festivals and markets cease until its end. Darwin offers up everything that I used to imagine about Australia as an American who never visited. That is everything but Kangaroos. Since visiting Darwin, I learned that Kangaroos aren’t found in the top end, but we did manage to get more than one glimpse of their close cousin the wallaby. We also succeeded in making every single one of our five days in Darwin an adventure, and although our first day was mostly lost by the time we arrived, the incredible sunset made up for it.
Our hotel was one of the tallest buildings in Darwin’s Central Business District (CBD) and our room on the 24th floor overlooked the bay providing the perfect vantage point to watch the sun disappear over the horizon. We spent the majority of the first day exploring the CBD while sampling the eats and drinks of the city. Mostly drinks actually… According to the iPhone, Chris and I logged more than six miles the first day. The majority of those miles as a result of our walk to (and from) the casino which was a considerable distance. Chris’s idea, not mine. (Heheheh) As far as casinos go, I wasn’t impressed, but the property it sat on was right on the beach and offered stunning views. By the time we walked back to the hotel we were both exhausted and still fighting jet lag. We watched the sunset and made it an early night knowing that a trip to the Territory Wildlife Park was on for tomorrow.
Initial plans for Darwin included a car rental, but I was adamantly against the idea since neither one of us had ever driven on the opposite side of the road. Chris relented last minute, which made me happy, but the lack of transportation led to a dilemma when it came time to visit the wildlife park located 45 minutes away in the Australian bush. We could either hire a driver, take a cab, or skip the park altogether. The first two options were both expensive, but not going was never really an option. We opted for the cab and halfway into our ride it occurred to me that it might prove difficult to find a taxi that would take us back, but when I asked the driver he assured us that we could call a cab from the park. Forty-five minutes (and $100) later we arrived!
I was excited to trek through the park and learn more about the Australian bush and its wildlife. Mostly I wanted to see the saltwater crocs, and by this point, Chris was sick of hearing about it. The park was big, and within it were habitats and their unique wildlife. Guests had the option of exploring on foot or utilize a train-like vehicle that circled the property and picked up passengers at stations along the way. We opted for the train and caught the first show, which was the feeding of the crocs.
The croc show was definitely worth watching, but they weren’t the fearsome salties, which was a bit disappointing. It didn’t take long to learn that the flies were more vicious than the crocs! Not only were they big, the size of a penny almost, but humans seemed to be their preferred food choice. After the first bite, I spent the majority of the day cussing and swatting away anything that buzzed and looked like a mini pterodactyl. Flies aside, the park was definitely worth the trip. We attended the birds of prey show, croc feeding, and then walked the remainder to ensure we saw everything before catching the train thingy and heading back to the main entrance. Like any other attraction, a gift shop and small food court abutted the exit. I ordered a bit of lunch for us while Chris asked the gift shop attendee to call us our cab.
A look of disbelief overtook the clerks’ face when Chris enquired about a cab. I could hear her say, “Do you know how much that will cost?” We both chuckled, and Chris explained that we arrived the same way and were fully aware. She called the cab and let us know that it could be upward of 45 minutes before they arrived. We settled in for the wait when a large group of seniors, all female, entered the snack area. There had to be at least 20 ladies, and they were obviously out for a fun day.
Thirty or so minutes went by when the gift shop/food lady popped over to say that she was unsure whether or not the cab was arriving. She went on to tell us that a group of women had come via bus, and perhaps they’d have room for us to join them on the trip back home. Chris and I were both a bit “shy” about the idea, but the clerk went over and asked one of the gals, and she readily said, “yes.” It’s a good thing too because the employee later told us that, “if” the cab arrived, it would cost upwards of $250!
We both felt a bit awkward about this ride sharing thing. Finally, when our embarrassment subsided, we opened up a bit and exchanged some laughs and idle chat with the gals. A few of the gals came by and said “hello” and they were really going out of their way to be friendly and welcome us into their fold. By the time the transport arrived, I had chosen my “date” for the ride home, and we all boarded the bus.
The bus ride was literally fun! We learned that this group of women was called the Legacy Ladies, and they came together for functions twice monthly. The entire bunch treated us with more kindness than I had ever received from a complete stranger(s) in my life. Their destination was a city just outside of Darwin, and our plan was to catch a cab from there and continue home. That wasn’t going to happen, though, because the Legacy Ladies had arranged for the bus to drop them off and then continue the trip to deliver us to the door of our hotel! At one point before the trip, we asked if we could give them some cash to offset their cost, and one of the gals smiled and said, “No, just pay it forward.”
Sharing a ride with the Legacy Ladies is an event that I will never forget. A random act of kindness with no expectations aside from a simple request to, “pay it forward.” Australia often reminds me of the things that I forget in everyday life. Things like sunsets, nature, the importance of kindness, and appreciating the company of others.
Our final days in Darwin would prove to be just as spectacular as the beginning. I finally got to see my saltwater crocs, and not once, but twice. Ironically, the crocs weren’t the highlight of my trip, rather it was the Mindle Beach Market. The market is held twice weekly and only during the dry season. It attracts scores of people who come to peruse the food vendors & “pop up” merchants, enjoy entertainment, and watch the magnificent sunset from the beach. Hundreds of people gathered for one magical moment, and it was a moment that I will never forget. It was that glimpse of Australia that I had dreamt of as a child based on the movies and shows, but this was real, and I was there experiencing every bit of it with the person I love. A great writer has an ability to bring the reader into an experience, but nothing I write will ever actually capture what I felt then.
Australia… Traveling here started out as a “possibility” back in late 2013, and by 2014 it became my reality. Since then it’s strangely become a second home for Chris and I both. We seem to find a way to reconnect, not only with one another but with humanity. It’s a chance to recall the little things in life that aren’t so little after all. Things like kindness, friendship, family, fun, and the natural beauty that surrounds us every day. Now, if we could only learn how to stop forgetting. Thanks for the reminder Darwin! It’s time now for a new adventure, and this one occurs in Melbourne. What makes it even better is that we get to share it with my niece, Ashley. A trip that Chris gifted so that she might experience a lesson of her own. He’s always giving that way…
When I travel, I like to look out for the little lessons that life offers. This time around I learned that a little bit of kindness can, and will, make a difference in someone’s life. Sometimes it is another person’s, other times my own, and in some cases both. I owe the Legacy Ladies for this reminder, and in looking back, I also owe my family, friends, and Chris for reminders gone unnoticed. Thank you, God, for allowing me to remember.
Enjoy the mash-up video of Darwin! You’ll see the market, sunsets, and some of the entertainment we enjoyed at Mindle Beach.