Time is up. Ram has to depart, we have to get to Darwin. I’m glad she came but as much as her visit demonstrates how good we are together, it also highlights the differences after over two years apart. Ram is settled in Sweden, working the winter tourist season with dogs and owns two herself. I’m not a dog person and struggle with how dogs can dominate a person’s life to the extent that choices are restricted to ‘what’s best for the dogs’. Since they are huskies conditioned to working in the winter, living where the short Arctic summer is too hot for them, far, far too large and energetic to survive being cooped up in a tiny apartment typical of most of central and southern Europe, and as unsuitable for life in tropical northern Australia as shorts t-shirt and flip-flops are for the winter season in Arctic Sweden, ‘what’s good for the dogs’ has a geographic band above the 50o latitude.
Which, as the map with the 50th parallel superimposed on the globe shows, merely places us in central Europe and yet is waaay south of the entire continent of Australia.
It’s not just the temperature and climate. It’s the biodiversity, all the way from the microscopic bugs her two dogs have no exposure to, through to the macro-fauna which can cause the unwary and the inexperienced tragic consequences. Besides that, the paranoia of the Australian government means the poor dogs would spend weeks if not months in quarantine in Melbourne before being reluctantly released to us.
Dog people take deep exception to suggesting that they ‘are just dogs, can’t yer giv’ ‘em away?’ One way or another if I am to have a future with Ram I’ve godda take the dogs into account.
Once again we hole up in the Paravista Motel, a delightful hotel in Parup. It’s a survivor of cyclone Tracy, which flattened Darwin on Christmas Eve 1974 (paravistamotel.com.au).
There’s precious little time for anything more than brief forays to Mindil Beach along the foreshore of Fannie Bay taking in the Darwin Ski Club for a sunset beer overlooking the bay.
Ram may have agreed to my continuing to Epic up the Cape York Peninsular, but she’s hardly enthusiastic, pointing out it’ll be three years since I left by the time I return. An annoying part of me thinks she may have a point that it’s “too long to be away”. I supress such thoughts, since it clearly adds an opposing view to the fun and joys of another 8000 km riding outback Australia.
It is clear we’ve godda do a Darwin sunset cruise. Pretty much everyone who’s done one has told us it’s worth it. We can choose between a full-service dinner cruise or a more laid back bring-your-own. Boats range from modern catamarans through renovated schooners to an old-but renovated Broome pearling lugger. Menus range from extravagant seafood and meat dinners through fish-and-ships to bring-your-own. The cheapest is a 45$ berth on one of the catamarans allowing us the joy of hearing other people eat dinner (available, of course, should we change our mind on board) to over 100$ for the meal option.
The idea of an old pearling lugger with bring-our-own options proves irresistible. After all, we are expert at putting together delicious canapés and tapas-style dinner washed down with modest amounts of chilled white wine and beer. Can’t drink too much since we’ve godda drive back from Stokes Hill harbour across Darwin to Parap. The Australian road-police take a dim view of driving with a few too many drinks under a driver’s belt. For some inexplicable reason.
We end up on Streeter Cruises (streetercruisers.com.au).
From their website we know that Streeter is named after Edwin Williams Streeter ‘Father’ of Broome’s pearling industry. Streeter’s first crew were Malay with a Japanese diver named Mr Ejiri. Streeter wanted a career change so made its way Darwin to try its hand as a barramundi and mackerel boat, where a Japanese fishing company herding fish into their nets with robotic sharks. Not content at that, Streeter tried movies and stared in adventurer and film maker Malcom Douglas movie ‘Follow the Sun’ exploring the Kimberly’s and Top End.
The aft-deck offers more protection from the sun than the foredeck, which we imagine will also be the more popular. We join two other couples seated on the bench seats and who, in good typical Australian and New Zealand hospitality, welcome us to share their abundance of nibbles and the odd beer or three. It’s great. Lovely people. Curious about two foreigners, full of their own stories with endless recommendations of what we should see and where we should go should we ever decide to do more touring of Australia, and New Zealand. They are not convinced about the joys of Arctic winter thrills, no matter what kind of gloss we put on it.
Darwin conjures one of its famous sunsets, replete with mild seas, little wind, sparse thin clouds and stunning colours as the day swiftly gives way to night. The photos don’t do it justice, not the least because my Sony DSC-HX400V isn’t quite sophisticated enough to compensate for my lack of skills of dealing with the challenging changing light conditions on a boat wobbling from side to side.
Perhaps a couple of beers too many to satisfy Australia’s road-police and a thoroughly enjoyable cruise later we carefully make our way back to the Paravista.
6 July 2017
It’s a poignant protracted goodbye. Perhaps too much food for thought. Ram is right when she reminds me returning mid-summer to the Arctic makes far more sense than smack in the middle of the Dark Cold time late January. Which is when I’m likely to make it should I do the Cape York Peninsular.
Late-evening I take her to the airport. Ram is a nervous traveller and wants to be well in time to deal with the inevitable harassment of check-in, immigration and customs. Check-in goes smooth enough but the poignancy and lack of genial places for forlorn love-struck couples to deal with their angst of impending separation means we kiss our goodbyes with a good couple of hours before her flight departs. She heads into immigration to deal with her thoughts in the departure lounge whilst I return to mine in the Paravista.
As I lie on the large double bed enjoying a cold beer I can’t shake the feeling that maybe, just maybe, I’ve called this wrong. Banishing such thoughts I return to the process of planning The Next Bit. Whatever that is, it requires me to be cycling ready. Which means I godda get back on the ride.
Tomorrow a return to Jabiru.
Paravista Motel, 6 July 2017