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”.

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.

2 thoughts on “Cruising in Darwin

  1. We were there about five years ago. You had me checking some things. Yes, Harbour dinner cruise, Throb, Woolworths. The train carriage bar was still there but closed. Apartments now I guess. Our dining companions on the cruise were two ‘old spinsters’. They were tee total, so we drank their wine too.

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