Darwin turned out to be a mixed bag for the Cusworths. Some great times were had along with a few disappointing ones and one that almost bought about my very first proper full scale melt down!
With Paul securing some work we opted to put the kids into school again for four weeks. We were lucky enough for them to be accepted for enrolment at Durack Primary School in the suburb of Palmerston. This is a fantastic little school and they had a great time and made some lovely friends. During their time there both the boys were even awarded Student of the Week!
After registering my details I managed to get some relief work which added up to about a couple of weeks in total. I enjoyed my time there and got to work with some great kids and staff.
As well school and work we also managed to fit plenty of fun stuff in too. We spent some time in the city having a good look around. We visited the WWII Oil Storage Tunnels, had some lunch in Bicentennial Park, checked out The Cenotaph, called into The Chinese Temple and whiled away some hours at the very fun and free Leanyer Water Park.
A fabulous time was also had at The Art Gallery & Museum. It is here that you can see Sweetheart, a 5.1m croc that was accidentally killed while being captured, so was stuffed and put on display. There is also a great kids interactive area with plenty of hands on things to do. The display, however, that had the greatest impact was that on Cyclone Tracey. This cyclone hit Darwin on Christmas Day 1974 and devastated the city in a few short hours with 71 people killed. The museum has a darkened sound room where you stand in complete darkness and listen to recordings of the cyclone. The noise is deafening and after leaving the room we were all quiet for a while – it really was very moving.
One of our favourite things in Darwin were The Mindle Markets. These are night markets held twice a week with lots of lovely stalls including; aboriginal art, didgeridoo artists, foods from all over the world, clothes, jewelery, toys etc.
There were a number of street performers with one of the kids favourites being Steve-O the Extremo! A fire artist who did all sorts of amazing tricks.
We were luckily enough to visit the markets one time with the lovely Wirtz family from Perth. We weren’t originally expecting to be in the NT at the same time as them and so were stoked to be able to spend a couple of days with them, catching up. One day we met up at Lee Point for a sunset barbecue. Although it has been wonderful to meet lots of great people on the road it really was nice to kick back and chew the fat with some familiar faces from home. We loved listening to some tales of their Gibb River Road experience and managed to bore them with a few tales of our own! Thanks Mark, Sooz and kids it was great to see you!
Speaking of catching up with great people, we once again caught up with the Rae family (them of the big blue bus who we first met in a free camp on our second day on the road). We caught up with them at Stokes Hill Wharf to check out the HMAS DARWIN which was in town and had an open day. We had a great time checking the frigate out and watching a helicopter winching display. The boys (being boys) thought it was great being able to pick up a real gun! Naturally it being such a hot day and all, after exploring the ship we headed off into the city for a nice cold beer (or two). It was fun to catch up again and we look forward to seeing them in Cairns where they have decided to set up base for a while.
As I mentioned previously, we needed to do some general maintenance and get new tyres for Patricia. Well after a bit of research, we organised for me to take the car into Casuarina about a 20 minute drive away and spend a few hours at the large shopping centre whilst the tyres were fitted and aligned. I made it pretty clear that the car would be needed by 2pm so I had time to get back and pick the kids up – it was even put in writing by the staff member who booked us in. After spending a mind numbing five hours wandering around shops I returned to pick up the car to find that it hadn’t even been moved from where I had parked it that morning! What a waste of a day. This was really frustrating and an example of a few suss customer service experiences we had. Now, to be fair, we also had lots of good experiences but at the end of our time here had truly discovered the meaning of getting things done in ‘Territory Time’.
Our second last weekend in Darwin was spent with Paul’s parents who flew into town for a visit. It had been over ten years since they last visited the Top End and so we had another drive around the city so they could check out some of the big changes in recent times. This was also the first time that we visited the The Wharf Precinct, which as expected, sits over the water and has lots of eateries. We also checked out the Wave Lagoon and beach area in the city. A lovely meal was had in Cullen Bay where we got to watch another beautiful sunset. For our final evening we did a bit of toad racing, which was lots of fun. Now, Paul’s mum really dislikes frogs/toads so we all had a bit (ok, a lot) of a giggle watching her having to pick up her racing toad. Paul got to try on a toadskin hat and vest and was promptly nicknamed Toad Dundee! Having a number of toads in the races we were stoked to win choccies, toad juice (wine) and the grand prize of a sunset Darwin Harbour cruise! All in all, a great weekend! (apart from having our TV stolen from the annexe, that is)
Yes, yes, you say but what about the meltdown?!
Well, on the last weekday we were in town things were getting a bit rushed in a bid to get packed and away on time. I woke the kids up early and stripped off all the bedding to wash it. The van looked a bit of a mess with bedding lying around as we walked back and forth getting ready. The kids are renowned for dragging their heels in getting ready in the morning so I was already grumbling at them to get a move on. Whilst getting there lunches ready I washed some grapes in the sink and then carried on grumbling. I had sent the boys off on an errand, which left just Emma and I. Well, all of a sudden there was a bubbling noise from the sink and to my horror water starting spewing up through the kitchen sink and over the bench. I yelled at Emma to go outside and get me a bucket so I could empty some of the water as it just kept coming. “I can’t” she said, “I’m naked!”. Well after a special look from Mummy she promptly returned with the fore mentioned bucket. By now the boys had returned from their errand so there were now the four of us running around flapping our arms as the water went everywhere and I mean EVERYWHERE! Now, I am sure that some of you are beginning to put two and two together, but not me, no. It was obvious that the washing machine water was not going down the drain for some reason and now would probably be a good time to turn the washing machine off. But no, that would be too obvious wouldn’t it. Well, as expected (apart from by me that is) the washing machine further worked its magic and now was up to its next rinse cycle wasn’t it. Yep, you guessed it, it started all over again! By now every bed sheet and towel that we owned were sodden messes strewn around the van, I had half an hour to get the kids to school and one and a half hours until I had to start work and I was still in my pj’s! I did what any self-respecting woman did and made a hysterical phone call to her husband for help. Within ten minutes Paul and I were kneeling on the floor side by side mopping up the mess. It was everywhere; on the floor, under the table, in the grill, through the drawers. Oi! What a disaster! After getting the kids to school poor Paul was under the van trying to work out the plumbing problems. Needless to say, from now on I will be super careful when washing grapes in the sink. Yep, the great Stanley flood of 2011 was caused by one solitary seedless red grape! So, after taking care of the kids, cleaning the mess, clearing the pipes and wiping away my tears Paul promptly returned to work.
What a champ!!
The final thing we wanted to get done was take the sunset cruise that we had won. Well, initially I had trouble getting hold of the tour operators and when I finally did was unable to make a booking as they were either fully booked or didn’t have the numbers to make up a cruise. We finally secured a spot on the boat but this wasn’t until the day after we were due to check out. As we didn’t want to miss out on the cruise we decided to pay for an extra nights accommodation in turn enabling Paul to get another days work in. There may or may not have been smoke coming out of my ears when the tour operator rang approx four hours before we were due to board the boat to inform us that the cruise had been cancelled! I think the lady was a little surprised that I was so indignant at this news and pointed out that we weren’t the only ones she had had to put off. There was no reply when I asked if it has also cost these people extra money NOT to go on their boat!
After another phone call to my hardworking husband (although with fewer tears), our somewhat jaded views on our NT experience were given an unexpected and very welcome boost, when on hearing of our latest experience Paul’s boss got on the phone and organised AND paid for us to go on a sunset cruise on the Pearl Lugger Annikki! What a guy!
The cruise was just great and a perfect way to spend our last night in Darwin. We all experienced going through a lock for the first time and Paul and I enjoyed the champagne served at sunset. Bliss! The Annikki has appeared in a few movies with the most recent being Australia with Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman. The boys were rapt that they have had a go at steering the same boat as Wolverine!
The following morning we said goodbye to some wonderful friends we made at the caravan and were well and truly ready to move on for our next adventure – Kakadu National Park!
Tune in next time for our awesome Kakadu experience and I WILL tell of the Travelling Beanie!