Earth Quakes, Tsunami & Shoes

News Headline:

 Man saved by several pairs of Shoes ( read on)

Page 2

True story but we must start at the beginning.

This year's holiday was to be part business trip and part holiday. We planned to go to Germany and visit the Helmbold factory, then the UK and stop off in Zanzibar on the way home but the weather got in the way. Cindy has a complete aversion to cold weather so as our trip got nearer the thought of minus 5 degrees Celsius and she started to waver. I had visions of our last trip to the cold when I had to put up with her complaining constantly about how cold she was followed by comments like "why do people live here, when they could live somewhere warm"? We agreed to put off our business trip until it was summer in Europe and go somewhere warmer for Christmas. This was a chance to use up some of our Frequent Flyer points (air miles), now all we had to do was find a destination that had seats. We opted for a flight from Brisbane to Darwin then on to Singapore with a side trip to Penang in Malaysia then home via Singapore to Brisbane.

I can hear you saying Penang isn't that were the Tsunami hit, is the penny starting to drop yet? Now you can see where the earthquake and tsunami fit in, but what about the shoes? I'll get to that all in good time.

Our unit in Darwin

Cindy had booked us into the Palms City Resort right on the Esplanade in Darwin for our 4 night stay. Very nice place and as it was off season, we got a very nice self contained villa with its own private garden complete with hot spa in the garden. Now if you have ever been to Darwin at Christmas you will know why it is the off season. Darwin is possibly the hottest place in Australia and the worst time to visit is in December, just before the monsoon season. You can see why we could get Frequent Flyer seats, no one else was silly enough to go at this time. We arrived mid afternoon and as we stepped outside the airport terminal we were hit with the 38c (100 f ) temperature and humidity about 80% which makes it feel a lot hotter. You immediately turn into a blob of perspiration, well I do, Cindy chirps up with "Oh its not to bad". After an hour in air conditioning and a dip in the spa I was feeling a little better, but this was going to be a tough 4 days. We went for a stroll to find somewhere to have dinner that night and found an Italian restaurant in Knuckley St. The food was good, the wine was great and we wandered home to lay under our fans in the air conditioning.

Cindy in her spa

Old Court House Darwin

Botanical Gardens Darwin

We planned to visit the world heritage Kakadu Park which is about 250kms from Darwin, so I organise a hire car and set off to pick it up the next morning. Darwin is one of those frontier type towns its full of a real mixture of people, what with Chinese, Malays, Indonesians, Timorese, Indian and of course the native Aborigines it is not like the rest of Australia. Darwin is nearer to Singapore than Melbourne, its neighboring cities are Jakarta & Dilly, not only is it ethnically diverse but it does seem to have its fair share of eccentrics. I hope that's a nice way of saying "this place is full of nutters". As I walked to the bottom of Mitchell St, well I didn't exactly walk more sort of dodged from shadow to shadow, I paused at the edge of each shadow deciding which one to head for next. As soon as you walk into the sunlight you can feel the heat burning into you like a blow torch, making the sweat run down your back soaking into your shirt giving it that tell tale dark patch between your shoulder blades. The journey was only about 800 meters but in this short distance I passed some weird looking characters plus a few souls laying on the foot path that could have been dead, but the bottle in the brown paper bag next to them gave a clue as to the real cause.
I picked up our little car and headed back to the hotel were Cindy had packed a few thing for our over night stay at the Holiday Inn at Jabiru. We made good time stopping at the Bark Hut road house for lunch and arriving at our hotel about 2pm. The Holiday Inn at Jabiru is built in the shape of a crocodile and even in the off season charges $250 per night including dinner and breakfast. I told Cindy to pack a nice frock as I thought it might be a bit posh. Well wasn't I wrong, the place turned out to be almost empty, rundown and a big disappointment. The rooms were very third rate, it felt more like a prison cell block, we nicknamed it "cell block B". Let's not dwell on it it's depressing, the park itself was looking good. The last time we were here it was the dry season and it was nice to see everything looking so green. Some of the sites were closed as rain had washed out roads and other areas were flooded. We got to see the Aboriginal rock art and visit a couple of billabongs (lakes ), some had closed signs but like naughty tourists we went anyway. Once it starts to flood they are concerned that crocodiles will roam around and might take a fancy to a tasty tourist.

Crocodile Hotel Jabiru

Aboriginal rock art

Billabong - Kakadu Park

Nourlangie Rock - Kakadu

On the way back to Darwin we stopped off at Adelaide River to see the jumping crocodiles. We have done this trip before but couldn't miss out having another look. The trip lasts about 1 1/2 hours and takes you up the Adelaide River where wild salt water crocodiles come out to the boat and jump for pieces of meat lowered over the side. These are not small animals, we have seen a 5 1/2 meter (18 foot) croc on this stretch of river and they would make very short work of you if you fell overboard. Australia averages about 2 deaths every year to croc attack, the last close call was earlier this year at Bathurst Bay in Far North Queensland when a large croc entered a camp site went into a tent and grabbed a man dragging him outside. A 60 year old woman jumped on the crocs back which distracted him long enough for the woman's son to grab a gun and shot the animal. I can't imagine having the courage to attempt such a thing, most of us would just stand by and watch the animal drag its victim away, but if you will enter croc country then you can't be surprised if they see you as lunch. Animals learn quickly and the local Sea Eagles have tried to snatch the meat meant for the crocs so now they bring the Eagles right to the boat with small pieces of meat. It is quite a sight to see a full grown eagle snatch a meal in mid flight.

Salt water croc

Adelaide River

Jumping Crocodiles

On arrival back in Darwin we spend our last day visiting the Fannie Bay Gaol and the Military Museum which is housed in the old coastal fortifications at East Point. The huge 9.2 inch gun emplacements are still there, built to protect Australia from the advancing Japanese during world war 2, but never used. The irony is that several years after the war we sold the guns for scrap to (you guessed it) the Japanese! So the guns we hoped would save us from being over run by the Japs are now running around the country disguised as Toyota cars.

Today we are off to Singapore on Australian Airlines (the cheap off shoot of Qantas) it will be interesting to see how they perform. The flight is good, one of smoothest I've had, the staff are young and enthusiastic they even crouch down when talking to you so they are not talking to the top of your head. Qantas take note... the passengers are important not just a bloody interruption to your day. We touch down in Singapore at 6.40pm and catch a taxi to the Merchant Court Hotel at Clark Quay for our two night stay.

I know.. where do the shoes fit in?, patience I'm getting there.

Fannie Bay Jail - Darwin

Outdoor cinema - Darwin

East Point Military Museum Darwin

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