Up North on Anzac day
24.04.2007 - 29.04.2007 22 °C
Loved it got back a week ago and just finished the article for publication late May. Great timing with the end of the wet and the opening of the night markets, the season is getting going now. Get on a scooter to get aorund - fantastic fun and by far the easiest way to do it.
Darwin Summary IMO
Museum, East Point Military Museum just for the curators right up, Mindil Night Markets and Parap Markets. Had a hilarious time on the Toiur Tub with the commentary far too honest for the local tourism people. Markets are truly very very good and I rate them over their southern counterparts. Backpackers will have a great time on Mitchell St.
Truly the Mueseum and its Tracy exhibit. The map is stuffed and I totally missed the Marine and Boat part of the museum which has heaps of stuff.
Going back for
New govt house, Deck Chair cinema, Sunset cocktails at the ski club, High tea at Bennet House
Here's an excpert from the piece if you are interested
"Sitting in 34D on the Qantas flight to Darwin, the lack of attention we “southerners” give the NT’s capital smacks me in the face. The in-flight magazine has a lengthy feature on the Anzac Day ceremonies across the nation, with tiny photos of the war memorials and service times in each state and territory . . . except Darwin. How can that be? The location of more war action than the rest of Australia put together doesn’t rate a mention on Anzac Day?
When I told friends who’d been to Darwin where I was off to, there was a fairly standard response: “Oh, you’ll love it. You have to go to Kakadu, Litchfield, Katherine, try to get on one of the Arnhem Land tours and if you have some money get to Peppers at Seven Spirit Bay.”
“No, I’m not leaving Darwin.”
Awkward silence. “Wait, what?”
NOT LEAVING, STAYING
Even Bill Bryson in his epic Down Under pays Darwin little more than lip service, berating the accommodation and hospitality and offering some praise to the Museum and Art Gallery before beating a path out of town to the national parks down the road. Reading between the lines, I think he stayed only one night.
Darwin is definitely no ordinary capital city. It took white pioneers four attempts – count them, four – to make a permanent settlement in the Top End, and even then it wasn’t a raging success. Darwin and what we call the NT today was actually annexed by South Australia in the mid-1800s for its potential as an agricultural cash cow. It was eventually handed back to the newly federated Commonwealth when the ugly duckling failed to turn into a swan. Soon after in 1911 the town changed names, from Palmerston to Darwin.
After being bombed away in the ‘40s (the Japanese dropped more bombs on the city during WWII than on Pearl Harbour, in 64 separate raids), Darwin was blown away by Tracy in the ‘70s. The town was evacuated for the second time in 30 years, and the relative merits of even bothering to rebuild were debated. Since 1974, the most the rest of Australia’s heard about Darwin has been as backdrop to the Chamberlains and Peter Falconio. If Darwinites suffer from a “nobody cares about us but we don’t care” attitude it’s entirely understandable.
Darwin also runs on a different timetable to other cities. Most flights land at hours normally banned in other Australian airports, so my first impression is of a rather bleary eyed nightscape from a taxi.
DO MENTION THE WAR
I’ve timed my visit with impeccable precision, albeit more by luck than design. I’ve arrived at the very end of the wet season, so everything’s green but not sticky, and just in time for Anzac day. While many thousands of Australians are paying the big bucks to make their pilgrimage to the “home of the Anzac spirit” at Gallipoli, I’m paying far fewer bucks to visit the site of the Anzacs at home.
Darwin is absolutely littered with WWII history. It’s not entirely well organised but no other place in Australia has this sheer, in-your-face, touchable war history. Having flown in at 1:00am Anzac morning, I drag myself out of bed a scant few hours later to attend the Dawn Service. The speaker concentrates on Simpson and his donkey thousands of kilometres away while we sit perched atop the cliff overlooking the eight mass graves at the bottom of Darwin Harbour (eight ships were sunk in the first Japanese attack on February 19, 1942). Do Darwinites themselves even recognise their very significant and important history?
Back in town, a short five minute stroll, I sit at one of Darwin’s many excellent cafés and down a welcome and surprisingly good coffee at Moorish on Knuckey St to plan the days ahead. While I’m sitting there the Anzac March starts up. The Diggers and current service people parade is short but well attended. What could you expect in such a military town? Supporting army, naval and air force bases, Darwin is very, very strategic, the staging point for forces off to Timor and the first port of call for Aussies caught in the Bali bombings. The faces of the marchers demonstrate that Darwin is the multicultural place that every southern city pretends to be."