Darwin has idyllic free camps spots down 4WD tracks on to beaches east and west of the city. Wandering through the landscape are entertaining characters, loudly profuse in advice about the attributes of the area and profane in description.
“I f#ck*!g left here for 16 f#ck*!g years and went to South Australia and all over the f#ck*!g place,” was the bright morning greeting near Waigat Beach. Jack had been for his morning stroll to the beach and had stopped to admire Isabel.
“How do you like my f#ck*!g backyard? F#ck*!g marvellous isn’t it?” I was still in bed and decided to lie low for a while. I couldn’t hear Tony’s reply but Jack’s words came through loud and f#ck*!g clear.
“Came back in ’98 and wondered why I ever left the f#ck*!g place,” he barked. “Why would you f#ck*!g live anywhere else? I can walk 60 metres out the f#ck*!g back door and drop a crab pot into the f#ck*!g creek. How f#ck*!g good is that?”
Eventually I slid out of bed and sallied forth to meet Jack. He wanted to know how I liked his f#ck*!g back yard. We wanted to know how to get to One Fella Creek and Two Fella Creek.
Jack told us to take the road out past the wartime Liberator plane wreck and turn right at pylon No. 32 for one and Pylon No. 52 for the other. We weren’t sure which was which but thanked him.
He advised us to try fishing at the Mandorah ferry wharf. “There’s some f#ck*!g big fish there. You’ll get f#ck*!g smashed.” He pushed off, hollering cheerfully that he hoped we would catch lots of f#ck*!g fish.
We examined the Liberator wreck and absorbed the sad deaths of US airmen returning to Darwin after a training flight. Two schools of thought surround the crash in January 1945. The San Diego-built Liberator Milady had flown more than 50 missions and might have been weakened by dropping so many bombs at low heights – or the pilot might have been a bit gung-ho and flying too low.
We pushed Isabel down some narrow and bumpy bush tracks from pylon 52 and seemed to be heading to a creek when an oncoming Cruiser pulled over. Derek jumped out. He had been to the same finishing school as Jack.
He said apologetically that he wasn’t trying to tell anyone what to f#ck*!g do but if we kept going ahead we would come to some terrible f#ck*!g soft f#ck*!g sand and we would get f#ck*!g bogged for sure “and I can’t pull you out because the f#ck*!g Cruiser’s got a f#ck*!g busted CV joint”.
One Fella Creek was ahead but it was f#ck*!g ratshit with no f#ck*!g water in it until you get a f#ck*!g five metre tide but Two Fella Creek back behind us was a better f#ck*!g bet.
Derek was an electrical contractor whore. “If they offer me enough f#ck*!g money I’ll go and do what they f#ck*!g want.” We nodded solemnly and absorbed boundless information about Two Fella and fishing off the wharf. He echoed Jack to the last syllable: some big f#ck*!g fish were under the wharf and you would get f#ck*!g smashed.
He waited up the road to guide us towards Two Fella. We found a close-to-perfect campsite overlooking the harbour entrance with a busy parade of yachts, freighters, luxury cruisers, commercial tour vessels and fishing vessels were almost outnumbered by American and Australian naval ships on duty and exercises. Overhead planes flew in and out of one of the nation’s busiest airports.
A few days earlier we had been camped on the beach at Gunn Point where we had view the planes from the east.
Over here on the west side the harbour traffic was even more entertaining. Then along came Bruce, rough and wide as he was tall, with three dogs in the Wrangler.
Bruce was also in for a friendly chat and plenty of advice. He had a strange high pitched bellow but, surprisingly, he used no profanities as he described his life and his dogs and told us six or seven times that if we wanted to catch big fish we should go to the wharf but “you’ll get smashed, man you’ll get smashed”.
Tony wasn’t interested in big fish or getting his gear smashed. He fished around the nearby rocks, swapped his lure for a bit of mullet and got smashed.
On the way out of Two Fella we came across Derek again. He had been at the wharf fishing the night before with some mates who had caught the ferry over from Darwin. We think he had been a little smashed after a few beers at the pub but certainly he was “f#ck*!g smashed a couple of f#ck*!g times by some f#ck*!g big fish”.
Sadly, he had also misjudged the sand around One Fella and was f#ck*!g bogged for four f#ck*!g hours and had to f#ck*!g dig himself out. We nodded solemnly as we commiserated with him and headed east again.