It doesn’t ever get very cool in Darwin, you have to seize the day and then duck into the shade, so that’s what we did and our ten days flew by. The park adjoining our deck continued to yield new birds, from tiny crimson finches to orange legged scrubfowl, a brown chicken-sized bird with long stilt legs the color of traffic cones. Nightcliff Beach gave us beach glass for more projects. Further along was the Casuarina Reserve, another lovely walk on the shore. One day we decided to take the road to the north until it ended, which is how we visited the Gunn Point campsite and the Tree Point Conservation Area. These places may not be on the top ten list, yet we saw something new at every one. We ended with an evening at the Foreshore Cafe watching the sun set over the ocean.
In Darwin city, we visited the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territories (MAGNT). We looked at the Australian art and Aboriginal art, the stuffed animals, and a display about the sky and art that blended everything from meteorites to contemporary painting. Not far from the museum, the Saturday Parap Market has lots of food stalls, craft shops, flowers, and even some fruit and veg. Art galleries nearby feature Aboriginal artwork. The best known market in Darwin is the Mindil Beach market. To avoid the drenching downpours of “The Wet,” the market runs from the last Saturday in April through October. We arrived a week too early, but Parap operates all year long and had a little bit of many things. Downtown Darwin is not the most popular part of the region, but we went on an aboriginal art crawl, visiting five different galleries and seeing a lot of artwork. There are so many pieces, and prices are high. We wondered how they will manage to sell it all.
The Darwin area is best known as the gateway to Kakadu National Park, but a visit requires at least one night away from home and a healthy hike in the heat. Instead, we drove out to have coffee in Humpty Doo. With a name like that, it was a must see. Beyond Humpty Doo, we stopped at the Fogg Dam nature preserve, an excellent place for bird-watching. There were crocodile warning signs all along the road, and I was happy not to see one.
For a close up with crocs, we visited Crocodylus Park on our final day in Darwin. Crocodiles are a hazard in this region, but they are also protected. A recent article suggested that Australia’s success in protecting crocodiles has resulted in an increase in crocs as far as New Guinea and Indonesia. Sounds like a mixed blessing. Crocodile breeding is big business and relies on wild crocs to provide lots of eggs. During the egg-laying season, collectors with special permits collect thousands of crocodile eggs from nests and bring them to facilities where they are raised in controlled temperatures, since precise temperature differences result in the hatching of males vs. females. Males are the delicate ones, needing to incubate at around 88° F. Otherwise, hotter or colder, the hatchlings are female. Australia exports both salt water and fresh water crocodiles, and croc skins for fashion products. I almost fell for a croc clutch for only AU$200. Then I thought, When would I carry it?
We had a great time in Darwin and wished we had allotted more time for our visit.