MistyNites

My Life in Motion

Archive for the month “March, 2018”

Rottnest Island

When I stepped outside to be greeted by a grey, overcast morning, I was a little disheartened. But with a ferry to catch there was no time to waste on disappointment, and so I hoofed it down to the Fremantle wharf near the mouth of the Swan River. It was a busy sailing with workers, locals and tourists all in the mix. In just 25mins, the Rottnest Express whisked us out onto the Indian Ocean and across to one of Western Australia’s gems: Rottnest Island. When I first read about it, I discovered that it was home to a marsupial creature that I hadn’t heard of prior: a quokka, and out on the island, they were effectively a guaranteed sighting. I’d booked a deal with the ferry company to get a day’s bike rental with my ferry ticket, and this opened up the whole island to explore at my leisure. I was certainly going to make the most of it, and it didn’t take long for the island’s charms to grasp me firmly. What followed was the highlight of my short but sweet Western Australia explorations.

Arriving into Thomson Bay, there was a flurry of activity as supplies for the island and bikes for the tourists were unloaded. After saddling up, my first port of call was the IGA food mart to get some edibles for the day. It wasn’t until I came outside that I realised I had walked right past a quokka, and having spotted one, I suddenly realised there were many others. Whilst I tried to remain casual about the whole thing, there were several people kneeling and lying down trying to get selfies and close ups with the inquisitive creatures, and it was hard to resist joining in. I succumbed eventually, as they were more than eager to come up close, and it left me feeling excited for the day ahead.

 

I cycled along the Thomson Bay foreshore towards Kingston Barracks. I had tried to book a night here but unfortunately they were closed for the season, and the other accommodation on the island was outwith my budget. So I was eager to cover as much distance as I could before the evening ferry back to the mainland. The barracks themselves didn’t hold my attention for long, but nearby there were more quokka nibbling on the verge, and further round there was a peaceful and deserted little beach.

 

There were plenty of other cyclists, but it never felt busy or overcrowded, and there were several routes and directions to choose from. Following the coastline, I reached Henrietta rocks where a walkway lead down to a rock-strewn beach and a shipwreck lay sticking out of the water a little off shore. I read that it was a good place to snorkel, and I had planned on going in for a nosy, however there was not another soul in sight, and with my track record of sea swimming, I was nervous about going on in my own with no witnesses. I had an internal argument for many minutes before eventually moving onwards.

 

Skirting along the expansive Porpoise Bay, I took a detour out to Parker’s Point where I nabbed a picnic bench to have a snack. There was a cute little beach down the steps from here, and I was excited to find a mother and baby quokka asleep in the bushes nearby. After watching them in silence for a while, I sat back on the bench and opened up some of the food I’d bought. Suddenly, one of the quokka that had been asleep, shot out of the bushes at the sound of the wrapper and not only came right up to me, but started trying to climb up my leg to get to my food. Clearly they’ve been fed in the past, and had a clear association of food and humans, but whilst I stood my ground and gave her none, it was an incredible experience to have her sit right by my feet and watch me intently. Eventually she realised that I wasn’t giving in, and with the food finished she wandered off.

 

Still hungry, I opened another packet of food and out shot a mother and baby to play the same game with me. I was busy trying to join in the game of quokka selfies, and failing badly when a couple from New South Wales joined me. We chatted for a while as they ate, the quokkas again paying them a lot of attention, and as I readied myself to move on after a while, two large king skinks were spotted near the verge.

 

It had been hard to leave that spot, but there was so much of the island to see. By now, the cloud was well on its way to burning off and it was actually turning out to be a gloriously hot and sunny day. As the road continued to follow the coast, there was a consistently beautiful outlook to be had. Round a few bends was Little Salmon Bay and then a beautiful stretch of white sandy beach that curved round Salmon Bay. Considering how beautiful a beach it was, there was only 1 family on it, the kids splashing around in the shallows. Had I had the benefit of more time, I would have lazed on this beach for some time, but with time marching on, I too had to move on.

 

A little further along the road, I took a turn-off onto one of the inland roads, back-tracking a little to take the road to Oliver Hill. Despite the road winding up the hill to the remants of the World War II battery, I was dismayed to see a sign at the bottom saying you couldn’t cycle up. I’m still not sure why this was the case, but I ignored it for half the distance, then dumped my bike in the bushes before marching up the rest of the way, sweating in the heat of the day. After rounding the bend, the slight gain in altitude provided a sweeping view across the large expanse of Serpentine Lake which stretches out towards the island’s airport.

 

At the battery itself, it is possible to do a guided tour into the tunnels, but I wasn’t really fussed about this, so just wandered around the hilltop and a nearby path to soak up the view. From here, there was a view across to the Wadjemup lighthouse and back towards Thomson Bay. Inside one of the guns there was a pair of swifts flitting in and out to a nest. Outside the gunnery, a little train stop marks the end of a railway line that takes people to the battery from the Kingston barracks.

 

Reunited with my bike, I cycled to the shore of Serpentine Lake before back-tracking to the coastal road I’d left before. At the next turn-off I headed towards the lighthouse. A pretty white-washed lighthouse, I parked my bike up and wandered up to the base to discover it was possible to pay a small fee to be taken up by a local guide. On such a beautiful day, I thought it would be worth it just for the view alone. The small group had to squeeze into the increasingly narrow space as we climbed the circular steps up towards the light itself, and a door led out onto a terrace where despite a bit of wind, there was a 360o view over the island. I was enjoying the view immensely until I looked down to see someone walking off with my bike, and then I couldn’t get back down the lighthouse fast enough. I was immensely relieved to discover that my bike was still there and I had confused my bike for a similar looking one.

 

The view from the lighthouse had made me realise how much ground I still had to cover, so I was quick to get back to the main coast road and pedal the distance to the Neck and onwards to the West End. There were a few more people around now, but even with the regular passing of other cyclists, it still didn’t feel overcrowded. There was so much choice of bays and beaches, that everyone seemed to be finding their own wee spot of paradise. At West End however, it was a little busier. On the bus route from Thomson Bay, there were people milling around waiting for the next one.

This was supposed to be a good location to see seals, but unfortunately there were none to spot whilst I was there. After taking a look down at the cliffs and bays that lined the coast here, I sat myself down at a seating area to have a late lunch whilst staring out to sea. Incredibly, I saw two passing humpback whales, which although quite far out from the coast, were still very recognisable, and after all my luck whale watching in Queensland, I couldn’t believe that I was seeing them again on the opposite side of the country.

 

It was quite a beautiful spot to hang out, but it was the busiest part of the island aside from the wharf, so eventually I pushed onwards. The peninsula had a few side-tracks that I took, winding my way back towards the Neck. I found a viewing spot overlooking Mable Cove and Eagle Bay which I had to myself, and then back at the Neck, I took my time passing the white sand of Rocky Bay. The beach here was long and expansive, covering a large section of the northern aspect of the peninsula and neck.

 

Once back on the main section of Rottnest Island, I took the road that headed round the northern coastline, and this brought me first to Stark Bay which was the far end of the same beachfront as Rocky Bay. As much as I was enjoying the sunshine, I was exceptionally hot and sweaty, something that makes suncream application a rather messy affair. Further along the northern coast, was a little turn-off to City of York Bay, and as I’d been at all of the beaches so far, I was tempted to go for a swim and hang around for a bit. There was simply too much choice, and not enough hours in the day.

 

After spotting another quokka mother and joey at the side of the road, the beautiful Catherine Bay was next and after this, I took a detour down to Parakeet Bay which was both stunning and absolutely deserted. A hot and sweaty mess, I decided that this would be the perfect spot for a swim, and took my shoes off to wade into the water. Luckily I did this before getting changed, because as it was September, the water was frigid and my hopes for a cooling dip were dashed. I paddled for a while then wandered across the sand looking at the quokka and seabird tracks that swept across the beach. The sand was a beautiful white colour and the beach was backed by a small dune, making it the perfect rest stop even without the swim.

 

After a while, I rejoined the northern coastal road, passing part of the large Lake Baghdad. The Wadjemup lighthouse stood proud on the hill at the far side, and before I knew it, I reached the settlement of Geordie Bay, a cute little place with holiday homes overlooking yet another gorgeous beach. There was a small store and cafe here, and I took the opportunity to grab refreshments before it closed. Beyond here was a loop leading around the Geordie Bay to Longreach Bay and an area known as the Basin where there were yet more quokkas.

 

Shadows were beginning to stretch across the ground as the sun lowered, and as sunset approached, I picked my way through the holiday park to Bathurst Lighthouse which overlooked Pinky Bay. This turned out to be a popular spot to watch the sunset, with people appearing on the beach and by the lighthouse, many with picnics and wine to watch the approach of dusk. It was yet another beautiful sunset, and I watched the sky change colours before returning to my bike in the growing darkness. Suddenly there were quokkas everywhere, and whilst the light was no longer amenable to photographing them, there was no shortage of them to look at as I meandered back to the wharf at Thomson Bay.

 

Everywhere was closed up for the night with the exception of the Rottnest Hotel. Being a Friday night, it was packed, and I had to forego getting a meal due to the long wait time, instead settling for a cider in the beer garden. It was amusing to watch the quokkas and their joeys move through the sea of feet in the beer garden, and I was immensely sad, though tired, when it was time to pedal back to the wharf to catch the ferry back to Fremantle in the darkness. I’d definitely covered as much of it as I could in one day, thanks to the bike hire, but with the World’s cutest marsupial and a plethora of beaches and bays, Rottnest Island definitely deserves far more time.

Incarcerated in Fremantle

It’s been close to 16 years since I headed off on my first solo adventure, and over that time I’ve stayed in a myriad of accommodation, often hostels, across 6 continents. Many of these places are a blur: forgotten blandness that served no more purpose than to give me a pillow to lay my head on at night. Then there are those that have stuck in my mind, either because of the premises itself or because of a strong memory that it is attached to it. Whilst looking around for a place to stay in Fremantle in Western Australia, I decided to make use of my YHA membership and stay in the hostel that was attached to Fremantle Prison. The hostel itself has been converted from the former Women’s Prison, and as such, the dorm rooms are old cells, and the social areas the old exercise yards.

From the train station near the Swan river, it was a bit of a slog through Fremantle’s streets to get there. I checked in and walked straight round to the prison to inquire about their tour options and decided to splash out and get the all-tour pass. With 4 different tour options offering a variety of styles, these are the only way to access the prison beyond the entrance courtyard. First up would be the torchlight tour that night. The prison ‘guard’ recommended I visit Old Shanghai for dinner, what was effectively a large shed containing a selection of Asian eateries. Whilst my food choice was disappointing, it was a great atmosphere, the place packed full of families and friends enjoying a weekday get-together. Thoroughly satiated, it was time to head back up the hill for my tour.

Built in the 19th century by the convicts it would contain, it remained open as a working prison until 1991, although its condition during those later years of use brought some controversy. It later achieved heritage status, and is now open to the public. My evening tour was to be conducted completely by torchlight, and so followed tales of some of the interesting characters that graced its cells, and warnings about the ghosts that have been seen wandering. Even the former Women’s prison where I was staying is reported to have one. We wandered through a couple of the cell blocks, the kitchen and exercise yards, and round to the hangman’s gallows. In the darkness, this was a rather uncomfortable place to visit, although I guess that’s the point. Afterwards, I found a convict board at the hostel, and did my very best impression of an inbound prisoner.

 

With the 4-tour pass valid for 12 months, I was told most people spread the visits out, but the next morning I was booked to spend the day at the prison completing the other 3 tours. I seemed to amuse a few of the staff there. The morning tour was at a civil hour and so I was able to escape to the main street of Fremantle to get a coffee and muffin from a couple of the area’s recommended eateries. Back at the prison, I was 1 of only 3 people that had signed up to do the Tunnels tour: kitting up and descending into the depths below the prison. After a safety briefing and donning up in protective clothing, a harness and a life jacket, we were ready to go, heading down in pairs down the 20m drop via 3 sets of vertical ladders. The immediate section of the tunnel system was dry and we wandered through, crouching where necessary. When we reached the lower sections which are flooded, we each boarded a little boat to paddle our way through the labyrinth. The tunnels were built by convicts, and I could only imagine how miserable it must have been to work down there day after day. We weren’t able to go into some sections as the air was deemed unsafe, and at one point, our guide told us to turn our flashlights off and navigate in the pitch black. It was difficult not to feel unnerved, trying not to bash into the boat in front whilst not being left behind, following a voice to make sure you took the right turn and grabbing onto the limestone walls to feel your way through the darkness. With the lights turned back on, we passed a cockroach running up the beam, and eventually we headed back to where we’d started, and began our paired ascent back to the surface.

 

We got taken up to the guard tower at the back of the prison which came with its own ghost story and then we were done. After lunch in the prison cafe, I joined the lunchtime Doing Time tour with the same guide I had had the night before. We covered a mix of sections that I’d seen in the dark the night before, and new sections I hadn’t been to yet. We were told about life in the prison and what it would have been like to be a prisoner during the various times throughout its years of use. Finally, immediately after finishing, I found myself to be the solo person on the Great Escapes tour, which being an introvert was a little on the awkward side for me, but my guide regaled me with stories about some of the exceptionally crazy attempts that had been made by convicts desperate to escape. The vast majority failed but it was fascinating listening to what incarceration had driven these people to attempt. This last tour took me into a section of the prison that no other tour had, and by the end of it, I could confidently say I’d covered a large percentage of Fremantle Prison.

 

After changing clothes due to the heat of the day, I spent the rest of the afternoon wandering through the main streets of Fremantle, zig-zagging back and forth to see what I came across. There are some pretty buildings dotted around the place and I followed a trail of these round to Bathers Beach on the western coast. Even on a weekday, there was quite a crowd here, and as the sun set over the Indian Ocean, there was a choice of vantage points to watch it from. Sunsets and sunrises are so regularly missed during my day to day life. In fact, if it wasn’t for travelling, I could probably go a whole year without seeing a single sunrise, and only seeing sunsets at the weekend. But when I’m on holiday, or abroad somewhere new, they take on a whole new significance for me, and I had seen so many of them on my great Australian Adventure.

 

Once in darkness, I was lucky to get a table at the very popular Little Creatures Brewery. My view whilst I ate was overlooking a replica Tall Ship which was moored up right next to the brewery. With an outdoor deck and a children’s sand pit on site, there was a nice vibe to the place. Heading back to the hostel afterwards, a large Ferris wheel lit up the nearby park, and I took an indirect route back to visit the Ben & Jerry’s ice cream parlour that I had spotted during the day. Finally reaching my hostel, I noted the lack of ghosts, and settled in for a sleep ahead of another early start. But my reward for this early rise was what turned out to be my favourite place in my brief foray into Western Australia.

Terra Australis – Western Australia

In a country as big as Australia, navigating distance also means navigating time. Leaving Darwin behind in the Northern Territory, I flew west towards Western Australia (WA) which was an hour and a half behind the city I’d just left, two hours behind the city I’d started my adventure in, and five hours behind my hometown of Christchurch, New Zealand. Australia likes to confuse things by not adopting daylight savings in every state, so the time differences between states have a seasonal fluctuation. I landed in Perth, the biggest city and state capital of WA and sat on the bus into the city as the sun set. I walked through the city streets to my hostel in descending darkness, eager for a good night’s sleep. Aside from my immensely enjoyable night at sea on the Great Barrier Reef, I had had a plethora of disturbed nights due to the activities of my roommates in shared hostel dorms. I was booked into a dorm room once more, but was pleased to discover there was an available private room to upgrade to. I stepped inside and jumped on the double bed, only to soon discover that the room was overlooking the multiple train lines that headed into Perth’s main train station, and with every train announcing its arrival with a horn, my initial elation dulled slightly as the reality of repetitive train noises sank in.

After an obligatory night in doing laundry, I fell asleep with ease, only to be awoken early by the morning trains tooting below my window. There was no point lying in, and with blue sky above, I got up, checked out and headed out amongst the city workers heading to their day’s employment. I was headed towards Kings Park and the Botanic Gardens within it. I had a particular route in mind, but got a little way-laid, stumbling upon the Barrack’s Arch and then Jacob’s Ladder which was a steep collection of steps which had a surprising amount of people running up and down it for their morning exercise. Beyond here, the entrance to the park was only a little further, and before I’d even made it to the Botanic Gardens, I had fallen head over heels in love with Perth. Kings Park itself is massive, and the views back to the city centre and across the Swan river were stunning. Past a few lookouts, the large war memorial stood proudly on the hilltop against a blue sky. Nearby was a popular cafe and a gift shop which I made the most of by buying some unusual souvenirs.

 

With the mercury rising and the sky remaining blue, it was time to explore the Botanic Gardens. There are a myriad of routes to take through the gardens, and the entrance was marked by a light-catching sculpture that bus loads of tourists crowded around for photo opportunities. Despite being a weekday, the place was mobbed. I opted to take the long loop around the upper aspect of the gardens first and was rewarded with a stunning array of plants and viewpoints as well as wildlife. There were birds I’d never seen before and couldn’t identify, rainbow lorikeets, and a lizard I’d never seen before either. The route took me across a beautiful glass arched bridge also and below me a school party walked on one of the lower trails.

 

Cutting through a woodland section where the light through the branches created a beautiful dappled effect, I made my way back to the garden entrance via a lake with a fountain. This fountain pattern changed over time, and the lawn around it was littered with people enjoying the beautiful weather. After watching the cycle of water, I headed through a wilder section of the gardens with reams of colourful flowers in great swathes spreading away from the footpath.

 

After grabbing a snack at the cafe, I took the clifftop walk which skirted past the Botanic Gardens, and followed the river at height into the depths of Kings Park. This took me under the arched bridge and once away from the Botanic Gardens was a much quieter trail to follow. In fact I stumbled across three furry creatures at the side of the track which I think are bandicoots but I’m not completely sure. It was turning out to be a great place to spot wildlife even although I was still within the city. Eventually the track ended at a lookout and I cut up into Kings Park which was more arid in comparison to the lushness of the Botanic Gardens. A myriad of walking trails cut through the bush and with my park map, I found myself in the far corner of Kings Park at May Drive Parkland.

 

By now it was well into the afternoon and I was starving so a late lunch was in order, and the cafe here was still busy. Nearby a children’s play area and zones to explore lay around a small lake. It was still really hot under the baking sun, so I took my time shade hopping, wandering around the parkland before cutting up a long length of cut lawn back up an incline towards the DNA tower. A metal lookout structure designed to look like the helix of DNA, the view at the top wasn’t quite as good as I had hoped, with the city of Perth a little hidden from view. It had also started to cloud over by the time I’d reached here, and the haze that was forming was a little disappointing.

 

A nearby nature walk followed by a meander through other sections of Kings Park led me in a drawn out way back to the top end of Kings Park, where I trudged my way back to the hostel. After a fantastic day cruising around the incredible inner city green space, it was now rush hour, and I had to join the crowds of people in commuting across the city. Retrieving my luggage, I dragged it to the nearby train station which had woken me up early with its comings and goings, and found my way to the very busy platform to take me to Fremantle on the other side of the Swan River. I’d read so many recommendations to spend more time there than in Perth itself, but frankly my first day in Western Australia had set me off well for loving the place.

Darwin Delights

During the Top End’s dry season, the Mindil Beach markets run weekly, and having been recommended a visit, I was sure not to miss out. Returning to Darwin from Litchfield National Park, I asked to get dropped off there instead of my hostel and the place was buzzing. The sun was still up although lowering and there were crowds packed into the market itself as well as draped across the sand, which was now cool enough to walk on, many of them parked up with edible delights to watch the sunset. There was so much choice for food and the queues at many of them were long. Seeing as I was at the seaside, I opted for fish & chips, and was sadly disappointed with my choice. Nevertheless, I ate what I could stomach whilst the sky turned from orange through to red. Over three weeks into my Australian adventure, I’d been utterly spoilt with sunsets.

 

After the sun dipped below the horizon, I returned to the market which was amazing. Aside from the food stalls, there were some incredible craft stores, and I drooled over a lot of the stuff, wishing I had a big enough house and a lot of money to own it. I ate ice cream, and dutch pancakes, and drank iced tea as I meandered. I was told that Europeans are a great lover of Indigenous artworks, and true to my roots, I saw beautiful painting after beautiful painting. I was determined to find myself something made by an Indigenous artist that was transportable and affordable, and eventually gave in and bought an expensive satchel made by an Indigenous artist through a Co-op. It is so beautiful and was so expensive that I’m actually reluctant to use it, but it came with a photo and bio of the artist that made it. At the outskirts of the market there was entertainment in the form of fire juggling and whip cracking. Having gone round and round the stalls, darkness was now upon me, and being on a backpacker’s budget, I walked past the taxi rank and walked the streets of Darwin back to my hostel.

 

I had one final full day in Darwin and it was yet another scorcher. In fact the sun symbol displayed on my phone’s weather app for many days ahead on the forecast, and my whole time in Darwin had been a fairly steady 35-36oC. Despite the heat, it was going to be a day of walking. I headed to Cullen Bay marina, the picturesque and upmarket part of the city down the hill from where I was staying. There were some boaties eating and planning their race, and I people watched in the outdoor seating area of the cafe, against a background of boats. Nearby, a life-sized statue of a crocodile stands with its mouth agape, a friendly reminder that this is croc country. There are some boutique shops here and the Sea Link ferry to Mandorah on the far side of the immense harbour, and the Tiwi islands leaves from here.

 

I followed the path round the coast and back up the hill to a wasteland patch of grass that overlooks Mindil Beach. A black cockatoo strutted about near the top of a walkway through bush, down the hill to the beach. I walked as far as the bridge at the casino where more black cockatoos were causing a ruckus. Mindil Beach was deserted, partly because it was a weekday, and partly because the sand quickly gets too hot to walk on during the day. After admiring the view, I retraced my steps, happening upon some unusual birds as I returned to the bush.

 

I found myself back at Bicentennial Park, where I’d wandered on my arrival in the city a few nights prior. Overlooking the expansive Darwin Harbour, there are a myriad of viewpoints to look out from. I took my time, ending up at the war memorial and the lookout over Stokes Hill wharf. Round the corner from here is the Supreme Court, the Christ Church Cathedral, and the Smith Street Overbridge which crosses over Kitchener Drive a few stories below, and ends up at the Darwin Waterfront precinct where there is an incredible view and a lift that takes you down the drop in altitude.

 

On the hop-on, hop-off bus two days prior, I had spotted the WWII tunnels that dove into the cliffside, and had decided at that stage that I would go in them before leaving. However, now that I was here, I wasn’t overly fussed, my stomach demanding attention instead. Nearby, I took a table at Chow!, an asian restaurant. I regretted sitting outside as it was unbearably hot, but the food was incredible. I had seen laksa on menus everywhere in the city, and finally got hold of one to eat. I chose roast duck laksa washed down with a chilled cider, but between the hot weather and the spices in the soup, I was sweating buckets.

 

Winding my way to the end of the Stokes Hill wharf, I spotted a ray in the water below. I followed it for a while before it disappeared, and I pressed on to the recently opened joint venture of the Royal Flying Doctors Service (RFDS) and the Bombing of Darwin museum. I knew a little about the RFDS already thanks to an Australian soap called The Flying Doctors that aired in the UK when I was growing up, however like the cyclone that destroyed Darwin which I’d learned about at the Museum & Art Gallery of Northern Territory, I’d never heard about the bombing of Darwin that occurred in 1942 during the Second World War. On entering the museum, I was guided to a virtual reality headset experience which was incredible, and placed you right into the thick of the action via an animation. Although the exhibition was small, the videos and holograms meant it was easy to pass quite a bit of time here, and I was impressed with how well it had been done.

 

After indulging in some ice cream, I returned to the Waterfront Precinct and went to the Wave Lagoon. I’d made it here later than planned, and had somewhere to be in the evening, so I had only 40mins to enjoy the place. I couldn’t believe it when I saw someone in the pool who I’d seen regularly on my Queensland travels, and I managed to make an idiot of myself several times trying to get myself into the rubber tubes that are provided to ride the waves. I was only able to experience one cycle, and would have loved to stay there longer: the water was so refreshing. But I had booked myself on a sunset cruise and time was marching on.

 

I raced back to the wharf and boarded Sundancer, my sailboat for the evening. There had been a few options for cruises in the harbour, and I went for a mid-range price, which had included canapes and a glass of champagne in the price. However from the moment we left the wharf behind, not only was there a constant service of delicious nibbles, but the champagne was free flowing. After all the heat of the day, and the hours of walking, I found myself relaxing and frankly getting rather merry. I’m not a regular drinker, or a big drinker, but it felt great to let my hair down, and every time my glass ran dry, I was more than happy to accept a top-up. I did take photos of the passing scenery at the beginning, and then later as the sun was setting, but I spent quite a bit of time chatting with a fellow passenger, as well as sunbathing, and stuffing my face. I was positively pissed by the time we returned to the wharf which made for an interesting walk back to my hostel. Needless to say I woke up with a wicked thirst.

 

My flight out of Darwin wasn’t till the afternoon, so I had one last morning in the city. Long before I’d even booked my trip there, I’d heard about a place in the city where you could cage dive with crocodiles. Upon discovering of its existence, I told myself that if I ever made it to Darwin, I’d do it. Unfortunately, I had underestimated its popularity and didn’t bother to book ahead. When I was in Cairns, a few nights before leaving Queensland behind, I’d gone on the website to discover it was booked out for my entire stay. I was gutted. Nonetheless, I decided to spend the morning at Crocosaurus Cove, effectively a crocodile zoo, right in the heart of Darwin’s city centre.

I’m not a fan of zoos or aquariums, so didn’t have high hopes for the place, but it turned out to be bigger than I expected. I spent a good bit of time in the reptile house looking at the scaly creatures that inhabit the Northern Territory. The crocodiles outside were huge and included Burt, the crocodile star of Crocodile Dundee. I got to feed some juvenile crocodiles and watched as people took part in the cage-diving experience that I had wanted to do. Whilst I always leave these places a little sad at the enclosure sizes some creatures are kept in, it was still an interesting experience.

 

But finally it was time to collect my luggage, and jump on the shuttle to the airport. By the time I’d queued to check in my luggage, I didn’t have long to wait. At my gate, the flight was called and they requested row after row, but mine was never called. The gate emptied out and I sat there waiting and wondering. Suddenly, they announced the gate was about to close and I shot up and ran over. The ground staff crew gave me a curious look as I’d clearly sat there all along without boarding. I’m assuming I missed my row being called, but nonetheless, I was on my second domestic flight of my great Australian adventure, and another new region awaited.

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