Isabel has been handling the heat of approaching summer remarkably well as we dawdled around Darwin. The Global Warrior does not have air conditioning but its design allows air to circulate freely through the raised roof, giving us reasonable sleeping conditions after days that have soared into the 40s.
We have always liked the city and with Isabel we relished the chance to explore the surrounding areas as well as soak up the ambiance of the tropical city. We tarried a lot longer than we intended and decided to take a rain check on a return to the Gibb River in the Kimberley.
Darwin has a seductive allure about it for Australians. It’s a laid-back city with a frontier feel accentuated by its courageous history.
Bombed by the Japanese during World War 11 and flattened by Cyclone Tracy on Christmas morning 1974, it rebuilt and returned to its role as our northern outpost. With both destructions the rest of Australia had only sketchy details of what had happened to Darwin: the bombings were heavily censored during the war and the communications wipeout on the awful Christmas Day meant news started filtering through slowly from Boxing Day.
Maybe that is part of the reason Darwin has a place in the hearts of Australians.
Finally we made the break and began to head west, wondering if we would meet up with Pat and Gary Pearson from the Fraser Coast. They were exploring the Kimberley with daughter Julie, son and daughter-in-law Gavin and Sandra and two grandchildren.
We had thought we would meet them along the Victoria Highway between Katherine and Kununurra as they headed home but it was a long shot. And we were later than expected.
We halted for the morning at Timber Creek for coffee and communications service. I thought I spied Julie Pearson as I drank coffee at the IGA store but then I thought “Nah”. I hadn’t seen her for years and have a sorry record of accosting strangers who looked vaguely like people I knew. Anyway the lookalike was heading west, not east.
We eschewed beer supplies at $74 a carton of cans at the hotel (Kununurra had specials of $78 for two cartons but that meant a few beer-less days at Keep River National Park on the way). After an hour or two on-line we decided to have lunch before heading off.
Into the IGA walked Pat and Julie. As temperatures soared towards 40 again Pat and I compared our feral levels; Gary and Tony compared fuel and beer prices; we all talked about the heat.
The Pearson gang had had a fabulous time but had barely slept for the last three nights in the heat wave. We waved goodbye as they headed east and we headed west to Jarnem camp in the Keep River. The heat meant it was sparsely populated: a Swiss couple who left early the next morning were our only companions.
That afternoon another Swiss couple, Ernest and Anita, appeared in a little motorhome that had proved way too hot. They had bought a little pop-up screened sleeping tent and were enjoying looking at the stars.
Ernest, a psychiatrist, was on his fifth trip to Australia. Anita, a nurse, was on her fourth. They were surprised by the heat and thinking about scooting down the Tanami track to Alice to at least get cooler nights in the desert.
We shared a wine in the moonlight and learned the Swiss don’t have quite the same reverence for the banks as they once did. Swiss mortals had about a third of their super swept away in the GFC – yet the gods in the banking fraternity were insulated.
Despite that we seem to be meeting an awful lot of Swiss people in the north of Australia.
Ernest said he had been getting a bit scratchy because of lack of sleep and heat. I pointed out that he was the psychiatrist but maybe the troppo stuff isn’t regular fare in Switzerland disorders.
Jarnem was a haven, with an ancient Aboriginal art gallery, red rock escarpments, a lookout and flood plains. It is like a mini Kakadu at a fraction of the price ($3.30 a night v $35 per person to camp) and minus mosquitoes and people.