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Back in Darwin

Written on: Thursday September 4th, 2008

A journal entry from: Around The World Without A Plane

I was told by a guy I got chatting to outside of Domino Pizza waiting for my Hawaiian Sunday Pizza to cook one Sunday evening that the inhabitants of Darwin consume more alcohol per person than any other city's population in the world. If you've ever visited Darwin you'll completely understand this. I looked this up afterwards and it's true, Darwin is in the Guinness Book of Records for each of their 128,000 people contributing to drinking nearly 25 million litres of beer, over 2 million litres of wine and over 5 million litres of spirits in one year. In my second stay here in Darwin I reckon I almost matched these figures.  Despite enjoying the luxuries of sleeping in a bed for the first time in almost a month rather than on the hard, pebble littered ground, with an inflated goon bad for a pillow, I hadn't planned on being in Darwin for two weeks again. It had taken its toll on me the first time around and so the plan was to meet Ben here a couple of days after I had arrived, start to look at 4x4's and then by the end of the week have purchased a suitable one and spritely left Darwin for the isolation of the west coast. The plan didn't work out that way. For starters Ben's job took him longer to get finished then what he had first thought and so he didn't end up arriving in Darwin until the following Wednesday. Secondly there weren't anywhere near as many 4x4's for sale as there seemed to be the first time I was here, just two weeks earlier.  On the upside as soon as I arrived back in Darwin I got lucky and happened to be sharing a dorm room at the very sociable Maleluca hostel with a nice bunch of people, who had very quickly worked out where to go and who to know in Darwin to get by from day to day as cheaply as possible. Matt and Carter, two of the biggest freeloaders I've ever met, had somehow or other got a job at the University, but I never actually found out what exactly they were getting paid for. All I know is that every day they would watch a different couple of movies and on one particularly day just went to work and slept until their boss came back at about 4pm to tell them they could leave. The whole time Carter had been in Darwin he hadn't for one night paid for a bed. His bags were left in my room with Matt and Amy, a Canadian girl, where sometimes he slept, otherwise he would share a bed with his girlfriend, another Canadian named Brittany or use the key he had for another hostel to go in and check whether on that particular night in that particular room there were any spare beds. Matt and Carter had an abundance of vouchers for free meals every night at the notorious backpacker bar and club, The Vic and as both Amy and Brittany worked at one of the biggest nightclubs in town they were also able to get vouchers for cheap, sometimes free drinks there. The abundance of new friends (our group grew every day) and freebies meant that although I ended up stuck in Darwin a lot longer than I had again planned for, I had a great time. I very easily fell back in to the habit of waking up and having a jug of beer over breakfast. Staying in Darwin for a short time really makes you understand how easy alcoholism is to fall prowl of, it's an easy choice. Not that I came anywhere near becoming an alcoholic, those people go to meetings, I was just a drunk! Every night we'd head out and we had some fantastic evenings there, the highlight being what was going to be a quiet night at the Vic taking part in their pub quiz ended up in us getting involved in the obligatory games that supplemented the trivia, doing particularly well and ending up winning the entire thing, entitling us to a very welcome bar tab. Another big night ensued. One of our team, a Welsh lad named Larson carried the baton home for us, after Matt had got second place in the race to blow up a balloon to make it explode and Carter and I had demonstrated our exquisite agility at getting in to different sexual positions for a forth placed ranking, while Larson needed big points to keep us in front in the scavenger hunt. He was apprehensive about going up at first, but we shepherded him out and he did the team proud. There were 11 teams to begin with and the host would ask for a certain item to be brought back. The last team to bring that item back would be eliminated, and so the rounds would continue thus. For the first five rounds relatively common items were requested such as a lighter, a beer mat, things like that and every time Larson managed to get back just in time to be the second to last one there, scrimping by. Guaranteed of at least some points, Larson had made it down to the last four and had to get a pair of men's boxer shorts. None of us were yet plastered enough to just whip off our boxers in the middle of the pub so all 4 competitors wandered pleadingly around the bar. Two guys somehow managed to get a pair, when all of a sudden a complete stranger approached me smiling from ear to ear and said "You guys need some boxers do you?" He didn't even wait for an answer, but ran off in the direction of the toilets and within 30 seconds came jogging back clutching a pair of box polka dot boxers and thrusting them in to Larson's not so welcoming hands. Down to the last three and things just got tougher for Larson. Next up he was required to get his hands on a girl's knickers. Brittany was with us and had already given Larson her bra from an earlier round that he was now wearing on his head, but understandably was reluctant to strip off her remaining undergarments in the middle of the bar and so with one of the other finalists also unable to encourage any female to go commando it was down to a simple game of Rock, Paper, Scissors. The Welsh man pulled it out the bag and went with a simple rock tactic against his competitor's paltry scissors progressing him to the final round. It looked like our luck was about to strike out, the last round required the last men standing to be the first up at the front to kiss a girl. Larson's rival, a tall, well built confident Irish lad stood up at the front, raised his arms up and arrogantly beckoned any girls to come up to him. His arrogance backfired on him though and he thankfully got no takers. Meanwhile Larson, a good enough looking guy, but I'm sure he won't mind me saying, not exactly a woman magnet stood helplessly at the front. He glanced up at our table and quite surprisingly appealed over to Brittany who was perched on Carter's lap at our table. What happened next gained both Brittany and Carter great respect, but I'm not sure I would've been happy if it was my girlfriend. Brittany looked at Carter, jumped off his knee and ran out to the front and proceeded to make out with Larson to cheers and applause from all around the bar. That was just the beginning of what turned out to be an enormous night. Determined not to waste my time lying in the gutter the whole time I did actually force myself out to explore Darwin a little more this time. There's a lot of history here with the role that the city played in the Second World War and sadly a lot of tragedy too. Darwin has twice now been almost completely rebuilt, once destroyed at the hands of the same Japanese fleet that attacked Pearl Harbour in 1942 and the second time in 1974 when Cyclone Tracey wrecked havoc in the city over the Christmas period. Both down at the wharf and at the Darwin History Museum there are good exhibits that kept my attention away from the beers to sample on the Wall of Wisdom. The History Museum has a sound booth that you can walk in to and stand in in complete darkness and listen to a recording of what the hurricane would have sounded like when it battered the Northern Territory coastline. A ferocious noise that in the light would have made the hairs on your arms stand on edge, in the darkness it made me make for the exit rapidly. Darwin also has what they call the Deckchair cinema, for self explanatory reasons. There are deckchairs that you sit to watch the cinema, how aptly named. It's an open-air theatre under the stars where we went to watch The Dark Knight and quite wonderfully timed with the full moon rising behind us, just as Batman appeared in the movie for the first time, a bat flew from its perch in one of the nearby trees right across the screen. How's that for advertising! The other big sightseeing draw in Darwin and indeed in most of the NT are the crocodiles. One afternoon, Matt, Amy and I went for a quick visit at the Crocodillus Park just a few doors down from our hostel. It's funny to think that just 100 metres from where I was sleeping every night, were a whole host of Jurassic sized reptiles who'd simply love the chance to run riot through the dorm rooms. There's a pool adjacent to one of the crocodile tanks that you can get into and swim that looks as if you're in the same tank as the gigantic salt-water croc, perfect for a photo opportunity. After all this revelry Ben did eventually arrive in Darwin, but with the lack of vehicles on offer we had problems. We did find a really nice Toyota Landcruiser for sale, but the sellers simply wouldn't budge from their over-valued price, determined to make back what they had paid for it and some. After three days of deadlock on negotiations Ben and I finally changed our plans. Ben agreed to buy a car off somebody else he'd met and I'd arranged to take a Toyota 4x4 Bushcamper on a relocation deal to Broome. On the Monday morning when I picked up the camper and returned back to town to load it with my bags and Matt and Amy who had decided to join me on the roadtrip, we ran in to Ben who was sitting disconsolately in our base at the Wisdom bar. The extremely weird guy that Ben was going to buy the car off had that morning decided he didn't want to sell it after all, which fortuitously meant that instead of three to Broome, we were now a jolly foursome!