Backpacking Pensioners travel blog

Wartime gun from USS Peary

Naval Harbour from the Esplanade

View from Survivors Point

View from the Marina at Cullen Bay. Also the view from the...

View at East Point Reserve

Alexander Lake at East Point Reserve

An Ibis and a Peacock, inspecting the camp site

Pool at Howard Springs

A small camoflaged lizard at Howard Springs

The beach at Mandorah

Darwin from Mandorah


Darwin was named in September 1839 by Lieutenant Stokes of the British Navy in honour of his good friend Charles Darwin. How's that for a bit of name dropping by Stokes? The town centre is on the cliffs above the water front and the lay out is very similar to the centre of Perth, Scotland. Amongst the few differences are the sea and the temperature which is a bit warmer.

Our campsite was 14 miles out from the main town. Most people seem to live in areas outside the main city or in small townships like Howard Springs where we stayed. It is all classed as Darwin. Because of the spread of settlements there are many large green areas.

After driving through the shopping centre in search of car parks we stopped on the esplanade by the cliffs. Although only a half mile from the main shops, because of the heat it was a tedious walk along the cliff walkway. We took a path down to the beach and on arrival found there was little to do but walk back up the steep path; at least it was in heavy shade. Our first photographs were taken near the van; the subjects were the naval base and a gun salvaged from one of the ships sunk by the Japanese in 1942.

Darwin has an excellent deep water harbour. On 19.02.42 a Japanese air force of 81 medium bombers, 71 dive bombers and 36 fighters turned up unannounced. They killed 243 people, sunk 8 ships, destroyed 23 aircraft, damaged many buildings and left the township shattered. Information about this is well displayed on notice boards around a shaded lookout named Survivors Point which is near government buildings; and the Japanese Nation will not be allowed to forget it. I took the photograph of the Liquefied Natural Gas plant from this point. LNG is a new industry for the area. The building of the plant at Wickham point commenced in June 2003 and the first export was in February 2006.

All day parking bays were too small for our motorhome so we were in a three hour slot. After lunch in a mall café, we sought out a GP on the back streets as I need to replenish my prescribed indigestion tablets. No spaces today, I have to attend at 8am tomorrow or phone just after 8am for an appointment. Ah well, the War Time Tunnels don't seem to be so far away so that can be our next destination.

After the bombing of the harbour and town, the town council, or maybe someone else, realised fuel was going to be precious. Work on building 9 tunnels under the cliffs commenced to act as a fuel store. It was a convoluted round trip involving a walk through complicated road works and we missed 'The Tunnels' but found the car park. We couldn't have gone in as our three hours parking time was nearly up. The long walk back was achieved dead on time, with us suffering from exhaustion, (almost), and not a traffic warden in sight. We drove back to 'The Tunnels' car park.

We found them well hidden by the road works and discovered the tunnels had shut very early because the tourist season does not start until May. Oh yes it does, we are here. Anyway, we found out that the tunnels were harder to build than they originally thought and by the time the war had ended, only 5 and been built; they were never used. We did not go back.

Next was a journey out of town along to the harbour where the boat trips depart from and we had a walk round. What a seriously hot day. Fortunately we found a bar open and bought low strength beers. Our next Australian experience was to witness a tropical monsoon rain fall which seemed to last a long time; we ordered another beer and the rain kept coming. It was too early for them to serve an evening meal and too far away for us to wait for food, so we ordered some excellent dips as we did not want more beer, low strength or otherwise.

I was in for my next surprise. Sylvia had recognised this bar from a story in a book she had recently read and kept encouraging me to try the plumbing. I went to the gents, turned the corner inside to where men stand, and what a sight. In front of me was a clear view of the whole bar and the harbour. After the beers there was no turning back and logic said I could not be observed from the bar side. It did not stop me wondering if I was providing as good a show as the ones who had been before me.

A further drive took us to Fanny Beach and I have no idea how this got its name. An excellent park provided a path for walkers, skaters or bike riders and many people were out for exercise after the days work. There was a very good play area for children and a lake cordoned off for swimming in one part and water sports on the other. This day was our total Darwin experience. The next day would be a 58 mile journey round the large inlet to visit Mandorah, which is just across the mouth of the bay and accessible by ferry from Darwin. We wanted to experience the scenery.

First we went to Howard Springs Nature Reserve and watched the large Barramundi, (fish), and turtles in the lake before going on the nature walk; we should have used our fly spray. It was a very nice and peaceful area. Howard Springs was used by American Soldiers in the war time as a recreation area to help prevent the soldiers from 'going Troppo'. Well, that's the best part of the day over.

Our journey from the main highway to Mandorah past by some camp sites and then the few different trees or bushes on view by the road side were cloned for the whole of the journey. Mandorah is by a beautiful beach but you shouldn't go in the water in the Timor Sea. The big notices tell you there are stinging jellyfish which could kill you; but if you do go in the water have some vinegar with you. I'll try that one with Sylvia next time I encourage her to paddle with the crocs, "It's all right dear, I have vinegar with me".

Apart from the jetty and watching the ferry boat arrive, there is a resort of sorts which you can attend as a day visitor. We did not bother. After a look at the nearby small town we started our journey back. Twenty eight miles down the road is a turn off for Dundee Beach; should we check this one out, even if some of the road is unsealed. I asked two men who had been fishing what it was like at Dundee Beach. "Lots of people go to Dundee Beach to fish but there is nothing else. If you want to go some where you could go to Mandorah".

I said, "We have already done that and there is bugger all their". "I know", said the man. We set off back and did some supermarket shopping at the township where we joined the main highway. Almost a wasted journey but we did see a part of Australia we had chosen to see, even if we found out that we could have done without seeing it. Our next few days experiences should be much better, but I bet they don't have a toiled like the one in the bar at Darwin harbour.

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