darwin

Darwin Harbour Cruise

News Values

NT News - woman falls out of paddy wagon

NT News - woman falls out of paddy wagon

Although the big news of the day was the Victorian election, the headline which caught my attention today was the banner headline of the “NT News”: “Woman falls out of paddy wagon”. Isn’t it a story you just WANT to read. Don’t you just know it’s going to be a great yarn? Or could it be quite lame? I don’t know because I never got around to reading today’s “NT News”. Not even as I enjoyed a late breakfast in Darwin ahead of my flight back to Sydney.

The only other things I managed to fit in this morning was a swim in the pool (since the sun covered the pool it was actually quite chilly), a walk around the rememberance shrine for the bombing of Darwin between 1942 and 1945, and buying some new thongs. Yes, my old thongs have been getting a little thin, and so I figured if I was going to buy some new thongs, Darwin was probably the place to do it. And let me tell you, there was lots of choice, and the shop assistants were extremely knowledgeable about what was on offer. In the end, I settled on a simple pair of Havaianas, even though the Lightning Bolts were on sale at two for thirty dollars.

I went to the airport a little earlier than I’d planned, simply because of the air conditioning on offer. Darwin today was pretty bloody humid. Thankfully the plane was pretty empty. That still didn’t stop me finding myself behind the type of aircraft traveller I hate most.

“Excuse me. Excuse me. Can you please not lean back so far. Can you straighten your seat”, I said to the man in front of me on the aircraft. Although he gave me a “fuck off” look, and said nothing, he respected my wishes. You just know when you’re going to get one of “those” passengers in front of you. As a general rule, I’ve noticed they come in with lots of bags, they tend to walk down the aisle taking up lots of room, and almost instantly, as soon as they sit down, they immediately put their seat into recline. The fact that this bloke looked like “Comic Book Guy” from “The Simpsons” adds a little to the image I’m hoping to describe of the flight back from Darwin to Sydney. For years I would sit and suffer with these selfish people who, without turning around to look if you’ve got a computer or a meal or something on the tray table, they click the button, and suddenly the aircraft seat is their chez lounge. Having suffered for years , I now challenge people. The nice ones – like myself – who look around and check, and ask “do you mind if I recline the seat” are fine. It’s those bastards who don’t look and, frankly, don’t care that shit me.

Anyway, having chastened him, I enjoyed the flight back to Sydney. And tonight’s just been an evening of election watching. Like the cricket, however, I went with silent visuals from the television and radio commentary from the ABC.

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Cruising in Darwin

I was seated on the top deck of the boat on the “sunset cruise” on Darwin Harbour when the woman next to me asked me where I was from. I told her my story and then asked her about her story. I found out she’d been living in Darwin for a couple of months visiting her “adopted” son, as she described him, who was now living up here. Not an actual son, not an adopted son in the traditional sense of the word, but a young man who’d been part of her children’s group of friends for many years and who became a “son”.

She was born and bred in Canberra, and told me she’d taken a “package” (redundancy package) twelve months ago and has been travelling ever since. She’d spent some time travelling in Europe and had done some mighty outback travel also. She loved Wales, and had an envious couple of weeks in Paris. She’d also driven a four-wheel drive from Canberra across to Ceduna, up into the Territory, and then across to Broome and back.

One of the great things I quite like about cruises and tours is that you get to meet and chat with interesting people like this woman who you might otherwise not meet in life. Often it’s only a brief chat, and the conversations are often of little substance, but it’s nice to connect with people you don’t know and may never see again. And that’s part of the reason why I chose to spend my final night in Darwin on a “Sunset Cruise”.

Work has been a little busy the last few days, and so I declared tonight was “my night”: I’d planned a sunset cruise, and swim, and then later a visit to “Throb”, Darwin’s gay nightclub.

Although I’d previously done a Darwin Harbour Cruise, the one I chose this time was a little different. The other one was on a converted pearl lugger. This one was on a more expensive, had better catering, and was a little more in the traditional style of a sunset cruise. The cruise cost $94 for dinner (drinks separate) and a three hour cruise around Darwin Harbour. The food was good, with the highlight for me being locally-caught smoked Spanish Mackerel.

On a boat which could have held up to 100 people, there was no more than twenty people on the cruise. This meant there was plenty of room to wander around, have moments where you felt like you were the only person on the boat, and other times where you could sit and chat with others. There were a few couples, a few small family/friendship groups, and there was a young gay bloke with his mum.

The views were great: on one side there was the sun setting into the ocean; on the other side there was the formation of a storm over the city. The storm never eventuated, just lots of lightning, as you might expect in Darwin at this time of the year.

By the time the cruise was over, it was quite sticky. And so when I arrived back at the hotel I turned the air-conditioning on (I’m feeling a bit guilty about my carbon footprint for this trip), and then soon afterwards went for a swim.

And then I had a little nap as I waited for “Throb” to open. I felt like a teenager again. You know, staying at home, having a sleep, and then going out to a nightclub.

Eight years ago when I was in Darwin, the city had two gay venues: the converted railway car, the “Mississippi Queen” with its unique style; and the more traditional nightclub style of “Throb”. I discovered on this trip the “Mississippi Queen” closed abut five years ago, which has left just “Throb”.

Drag Show at Throb in Darwin

Drag Show at Throb in Darwin

As you walk up the stairs at “Throb” there are signs which “warn you” this is a gay and lesbian venue, and that you’ll see “men kissing men” and “women kissing women”. It occurred to me that to run a business you couldn’t be an exclusively gay and lesbian venue, and that you’d need to rely on a mixed clientele. There were no problems as far as I could see, except a guy who I thought was chatting me up had his tongue down a girl’s throat half an hour later. Oh yeah, and there was the guy who was a “dead-ringer” for one of my exs who kept looking over and smiling at me in a “come hither” kind of way. “Don’t go there”, I kept saying to myself.

The highlight of the night that was the drag show which started at 1.30am. Over the course of the show there was maybe a dozen people on stage throughout as they lip-synched their way through a variety of camp classics. I guess what I liked most about the show was the “community” feel about it. By that I’m not saying “amateur”, though I’m sure they’re not getting paid much to perform. But I liked the way the shows included men and women, straight and gay, and how they all had smiles on their faces as they danced. It was very refreshing.

As the show finished, and it was 2.00am, it was time to head home to bed.

Darwin Sunset

Another Sunset

Darwin Sunset

Darwin Sunset

Yes, I know what you’re thinking. “It’s another bloody photograph of a sunset. First it was Cairns and now it’s Darwin. There’s got to be more to Darwin, surely?”, I hear you saying. Of course there is, but this trip is a work-trip and most of my time is being spent in work-related activities.

Tonight I went out for dinner with a bloke from work and we spent almost all of our time chatting about radio, with occasional journeys into food and wine. We had dinner at a reasonably newish restaurant on a newish wharf development thingy in Darwin. I don’t know what it’s called but it’s near the Stokes Hill Wharf which, eight years ago when I visited Darwin was about the only thing in the area. Now there’s a massive development with expensive apartments and restaurants.

There are other changes in Darwin too. The great big Woolworths which dominated central Darwin for such a long time – and was perhaps most popular because of the seriously good air-conditioning they had – has closed, with the outside walls now covered in graffiti. Closeby, the Smith Street Mall is currently under re-construction and is looking a little sad, to be honest. Most people shop at Casuarina these days, apparently, reflecting a trend that was beginning when I was here eight years ago. The famous and appropriately named “Fishing & Guns” shop on Cavenagh Street (with weaponry on the roof) remains. I can see it from the balcony of my hotel room, actually.

But more pleasant, in my quieter moments, is looking out at the flatness of Darwin Harbour and enjoying those spectacular sunsets.